Britain and Europe

Seizing the argument

11 December 2017

How Labour can save Britain from Brexit distaster

Roger Liddle
Image credit: Dominic Dudley /

In a passionately argued new paper, Policy Network’s co-chair Roger Liddle sets out why he believes now is the moment for UK Labour to seize the argument on Brexit and take a stand to prevent Britain heading for a Brexit disaster.

Roger – Tony Blair’s former European adviser – calls on his party to ‘step up to the plate’ and take responsibility for shaping both the final Brexit terms and Britain’s future relationship with Europe. He believes that last week’s ‘deal’ mustn’t lull the country into a false sense of conclusion but that it does offer an opportunity for Labour to ‘get off the fence’ and outline a detailed vision for Brexit and beyond.

‘Seizing the Argument’ outlines why Labour should:

  • Argue to suspend the present Brexit talks and demand a more coherent and inclusive national strategy.
  • In a choice between a Hard Brexit and keeping the status quo of our existing EU membership, have the courage to argue that a Hard Brexit is not the “will of the people” and oppose it legitimately in democratic terms.
  • If in Opposition it cannot stop Brexit, then it should seek, at the very least, to neutralise its most economically and socially damaging aspects by unequivocally committing now to remaining in the EU single market and customs union. (Which would prevent the Brexiteers achieving their central goal of deregulating and disarming the human rights, social, environmental and consumer standards that EU membership has cemented in British law.)
  • If – as seems far from unlikely when fudge turns to hard choices – the Tory government and its DUP deal implodes and Labour comes to power before March 2019 then Labour should introduce a ‘Brexit Pause’ – suspend Article Fifty and extend the length of the two year negotiating process for withdrawal. If Labour takes office after March 2019 and we are still in a process of Brexit ‘transition’ or ‘implementation’, Labour should notify Brussels that it wants to use this opportunity to allow for a rethink of where our national interests lie.
  • Stake a claim to be the ‘true party of the national interest’ by clearly and quickly outlining a positive vision of how, in power, it would engage with the EU.


Roger writes:

“This paper constitutes some unsolicited advice from a former political adviser in the Blair and Brown governments, offered in good faith to a party  under a completely different leadership – a leadership with a totally contrasting ‘world view’ to all its Labour predecessors. Despite Sir Keir Starmer’s best efforts as Labour’s front bench Brexit spokesperson, Labour is still in search of a coherent Brexit strategy. For all my many and fundamental disagreements with what Jeremy Corbyn stands for, the hope is that by shaping Labour’s policy on Europe positively, a more forceful Labour opposition and perhaps with the potential implosion of the Conservatives, a new Labour government can succeed in shaping a positive European future for Britain. “

The full paper can be read here.