Based on the reviews, I almost didn’t want to read it – it would have been too painful. When Nick Clegg’s book How to Stop Brexit first came out, the media focused on Clegg’s advising people to join the Labour Party. As this isn’t what one would expect from a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, it made for attention-grabbing headlines and news-straps. Finally, I braced myself and read the book – and saw his remarks in the context they deserve. What he actually does is first to acknowledge that Britain is well and truly a two-party country at the moment and that it in within the two main parties that Brexit could be stopped. By joining Labour or the Conservatives (he says that too), a voter will have more opportunities to effect change in those parties, bearing in mind that both parties are internally divided between Leavers and Remainers. Clegg isn’t asking anyone to leave the Liberal Democrats. Instead he’s appealing to those who are inclined towards Labour or the Conservatives to join those parties and become more involved in their Brexit positions. This is especially the case for the Labour-inclined as this is the current party of opposition – well, at least they’re supposed to be. Joining the Conservatives is less helpful as most of the Conservatives MPs who voted Remain have been whipped into line to follow the disastrous path towards Brexit.
Clegg also makes a good point by reminding us that in 2004, when the EU expanded by including countries from the former Soviet Union, the pre-existing EU countries had a choice about whether and how to receive immigrants from these new EU-member states. Only the UK, Ireland and Sweden had an open-door policy. Other countries, such as France and Germany, imposed restrictions on the number of immigrants and the employment sectors they could work in. In other words, for those pro-Leavers for whom immigration from the EU has clearly been an issue, we cannot blame the EU for choices that we made. Of course, I, like Nick Clegg, think that these were good choices, filling in sectors of our workforce – on top of the many ways British life has been enriched by these other cultures.
Other points in the book were ones that any Pro-Europe activist has heard before. A bit of preaching to the choir, though I did enjoy Clegg’s turn of phrase: ‘The battalion of greying Conservative MPs you have never heard of, the shady financiers of the Brexit elite, the loopy rantings of Paul Dacre… all of these people fought relentlessly for Brexit, over many years, long before the term ‘Brexit’ had even been invented.’
Another quote that made me nod in agreement and wish I had said it in my little blog: ‘By choosing the hardest of Brexits, by attacking them [remain voters] as “citizens of nowhere,” Theresa May made the extraordinary choice to de-legitimise and ignore the millions of people who voted for a different future.’ It was indeed extraordinary and angering as such remarks cut against the structure of our democracy, implying that we have a winner-take-all approach to elections. I’m surprised that more people haven’t caught out Theresa May on this.
Of course, I recommend this book but given its bold title, I fear that the only people who will take me up on this recommendation are those Pro-Europe activists who don’t need to read it.