Last Friday Lord Kerr gave a powerful speech confirming that the UK’s notification of the intention to leave the EU can be withdrawn at any time before 29th March 2019. This intervention was a firm challenge to the Brexiteers’ narrative that the decision to leave the EU is irreversible now that Article 50 has been triggered.
If anyone knows the intentions of those that drafted Article 50 then it is Lord Kerr. Why? Because he wrote it. He told the audience that, “The Article is about voluntary withdrawal. It is not about expulsion. We don’t have to go if at any stage within the two years we decide that we don’t want to go.”
Brexit is not a foregone conclusion
He is not alone in this interpretation which is shared by lawyers and politicians alike. Indeed, in recent weeks the government has come under pressure to publish legal advice that it has been given on this precise point. Some may argue that the status of Article 50 is a purely legal concern, yet the question of whether the UK can undo its decision to leave is really a matter of politics. If there is the political will for the UK to remain it can and will happen.
Significantly, a number of EU leaders have made clear that, if the UK wants to change its mind, they will not block us from remaining. Brexit is not a foregone conclusion.
On the same day that Lord Kerr gave his speech, Theresa May published an article saying that she intends to fix in law the date and time that the UK will leave the EU. Another attempt to give the impression that the decision cannot be undone. Yet the reality is that Parliament is, and always has been, sovereign. Whatever is passed into law today can be repealed in the future. So enshrining a leaving date in law counts for little. It does not make leaving any more inevitable.
EU Withdrawal Bill puts our rights at risk
The next significant event in the Brexit process is Parliament’s debate of the EU Withdrawal Bill. Contrary to statements from some members of the Conservative Party, seeking to amend this Bill is not an attempt to circumvent ‘the will of the people’. Those that took part in the referendum voted, by a small majority, to leave the EU. But there was nothing on the ballot paper about how this should happen. How can it legitimately be argued that the vote to leave the EU was a vote to give the government the power to take away many of our rights and protections without proper scrutiny and debate by our elected representatives? It can’t, but that is ultimately what will happen if the Bill passes unamended.
A re-think is needed
Every day we hear more news reports of how the economy is being affected by the decision to leave the EU and how our international reputation is being damaged. Despite a binding vote in Parliament, the government has so far refused to publish the 58 impact studies we had been assured existed. By no stretch of the imagination can it be said that negotiations with the EU are going well. A re-think is required as it becomes increasingly apparent that the promises made by Brexiteers during the referendum campaign cannot possibly be delivered.
It is crucial that in the coming weeks and months MPs argue and vote for what they know to be in the best interests of the country, not what is in the short-term interests of their own party. That is certainly what our Lib Dem MPs will be doing.
Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat MP and former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, paid a visit to Camden to support Jill Frasers campaign in Gospel Oak.
Ed said, "I've known Jill for many years. I know what a great councillor she was in the past, and she will be again if she gets elected."
"She won't walk away, or turn her back on Gospel Oak."
"If you want an opposition to this huge Labour majority, only the Lib Dems can beat Labour."
Click here to read Ed's interview with the Ham & High.
More and more residents are backing Jill Fraser to be their local champion in the council by-election on Thursday.
Lib Dem candidate Jill is a former Mayor of Camden, and she has the clout and credibility that is needed to get Gospel Oak back on the map. Jill has deep roots in the local community having lived here for 30 years and working in the chip shop on Queen’s Crescent Market.
Jill has a track record of representing council tenants and leaseholders and fighting for better services for young people.
People are fed up of Labour taking Gospel Oak for granted. Two of the councillors have walked away in the last few months and it seems that the Council are neglecting the area.
Jill says, “One more Labour councillor won’t make any difference. I promise to hold the Labour Council to account and get a better deal for Gospel Oak. I hope you will give me the chance to be your voice at Camden Town Hall. I will not let you down.”
Everyone knows that London is facing a housing crisis.
Here in Camden Labour promised 6,000 new homes in Camden between 2014 and 2018, but so far only 1,680 have been built – and only 40 were built by the council.
Local resident and Lib Dem by-election candidate Jill Fraser said, “Two of my three children have already had to move away from London because they cannot afford to live here, the third is planning to leave shortly.”
“Labour’s record on housing in Camden is a disgrace – they promise a lot, but don’t deliver”.
Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable has spoken out as it becomes clearer that the Conservative Government’s plans for a Hard Brexit, even a “No Deal” Brexit, will be damaging for the national economy and for London.
He said, “The Liberal Democrats are the only party that represents the millions of people alarmed by the direction the country is taking: people, whether they voted remain or leave, who hate the intolerance, division and uncertainty facing the country. People want a brighter future.
“The Lib Dems are a voice of sanity on Europe and the economy. I have a track record of getting the big calls right on the economy and will put the long-term future of our country, our economy and our young people first.”
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to use this month’s Budget to fund additional police officers.
Crime was falling before 2015 but since then Conservative cuts have eroded the police force’s strength and crime is increasing again in London.
Local campaigner Stephen Crosher says, “One of the main worries of residents in Gospel Oak is the increase in crime, particularly thieves on mopeds.”
“We need more police officers back on our streets, and more youth services to keep kids away from crime.”
Liberal Democrat campaigners were joined in Gospel Oak last week by London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon.
Caroline is working to raise the profile of private renters across London. Here in Camden, there are over 25,000 private renters, about 25% of residents, and across London about one-third of privately rented homes fail to meet the Government’s Decent Homes standard.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to give the 3 million EU nationals living in the UK guarantees about their future.
Parliamentary Spokesman Stephen Crosher said, “The Conservative Prime Minister could have used her recent speeches to give more certainty about the future of EU citizens. But she didn’t. The Conservative Government is wrong to be using EU citizens as a bargaining chip – they are our friends, our neighbours and in many cases the backbone of our local services and they deserve better.”
You can support the Liberal Democrats campaign for the rights of EU nationals at https://www.libdems.org.uk/right-to-stay
Across the Gospel Oak estates, the number one concern on the doorstep is about young people hanging around with nothing to do. There is real anger that the Council has protected youth services in Highgate and Somers Town, but pulled them out of Gospel Oak.
Jill Fraser, Liberal Democrat candidate for Gospel Oak, said “The staff and volunteers at Queen’s Crescent Community Association do a great job of running a youth club during the week, but it relies on donations and grants – it can’t replace the Council-run youth and careers service that the Labour Council cut last year. The Liberal Democrats believe that councils should be required by law to provide youth services - young people deserve good local services like the rest of us!”
The council has started yet another consultation on the future of the Wendling Estate, with new plans to be available by the end of the year. Local residents have told Liberal Democrat campaigner Jill Fraser that they are fed up of all these consultations.
Jill says “Local people are telling me they are fed up of the council wasting their time and money on expensive consultants. They are fed up that basic repairs aren’t being done because everyone’s too busy coming up with grand plans.”
“Camden’s Labour Council are all talk and no action.”