Essentially, the book offers the status quo anteby Anand Menon / November 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Never let it be said that centrist politicians lack passion. Nick Clegg oozes it on every page, making his book, for the most part, a cracking good read—although his pops at assorted Brexit funders and newspaper owners smack more of settling scores than making his case.
What of the substance? Despite its title, this is not a book about stopping Brexit but about altering its end point. Clegg starts from the assumption that the EU is about to significantly reform, creating an opportunity for Britain’s relationship with its partners to be redefined. But the notion that the EU is in any position to make treaty changes, further integrating its core while engineering a “concentric circles” model for semi-detached neighbours is for the birds.
Indeed the biggest problem is that Clegg doesn’t want to reverse Brexit. As he puts it, “the people who voted ‘Leave’ cannot be ignored.” Rather, he wants people to persuade MPs to vote against a Brexit deal next autumn. This, he argues, will give us a chance to negotiate a new deal, one that sees us become “neither a core member of the EU, nor stuck on the outside, looking in.”
This raises two questions. First, why would the EU want to give us such a deal? If one thing has been clear from the Brexit debate to date, it is that states are adamant that non-membership should be inferior to membership. Why would they reward us by creating a special kind of “almost membership” for us? Particularly as Clegg seems to think a review of free movement would be on the table too. Having one’s cake and eating it comes to mind.
Second, how does this count as listening to Brexit voters? Clegg proposes a tier of membership in which the UK would remain in the Single Market (and hence abide by ECJ rulings, and presumably continue to pay into the EU budget) and the customs union (hence not sign its own trade deals), while continuing to have voting rights and to send MEPs to Brussels/Strasbourg.
Essentially, the book offers the status quo ante, disguised by the fact that the EU would have a core of member states driving forward with eurozone integration. Would that wash with either Brexiteers or the EU?
How to Stop Brexit (And Make Britain Great Again) by Nick Clegg is published by Bodley Head (£8.99)