Clegg's bold move on spending cuts

Lib Dem leader's promise not to ring-fence departmental budgets will split the Tories.

I'm rather impressed by Nick Clegg's confirmation that the Lib Dems will not ring-fence any departmental budgets. It's one stance, along with his party's pledge to raise the income-tax threshold to £10,000, that deserves serious attention.

He told Radio 4's The World At One:

We're not entering into this Dutch auction about ring-fencing. Good outcomes aren't determined by drawing a red line around government departmental budgets.

This is shrewd politics as well as good economics. The line that all government departments should share the pain equally is likely to appeal to voters and it gives the Lib Dems a chance to split the Tories.

David Cameron's pledge to ring-fence spending on international development ("we don't hate foreigners") and the NHS ("it's not a 60-year mistake") has angered many on the right of his own party. And with good reason.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that the Tories' promise to protect spending in these areas, combined with their pledge to reduce the deficit faster than Labour, means that all other departments face cuts of 22.8 per cent by 2014-2015.

As the implications of this (especially for defence) become clearer, we can expect Cameron to come under a great deal of pressure to change his stance.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Article 50 deadline: Nick Clegg urges Remainers to "defy Brexit bullies and speak up"

The former deputy Prime Minister argued Brexiteers were trying to silence the 48 per cent. 

On Wednesday 29 March, at 12.30pm, Britain's ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, will hand deliver a letter to the European Council President, Donald Tusk. On that sheet of paper will be the words triggering Article 50. Nine months after Britain voted for Brexit, it will formally begin the process of leaving the EU.

For grieving Remainers, the delivery of the letter abruptly marks the end of the denial stage. But what happens next?

Speaking at an Open Britain event, former Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg had an answer. Responding to the concerns of a scientist in the audience, he declared:

“The most important thing of all is people like you make your voice heard. What the hysterical aggression from the Brexiteers means is they want to silence you.

"That’s why they attack everyone. The Bank of England - how dare you speak about the British economy? How dare judges make a judgement? How dare Remainers still believe they want to be part of the EU? 

"What they systematically try to do is bully and delegitimise anyone who disagrees with their narrow world view.

"It’s a ludicrous thing when 16.1m people - that’s more than have ever voted for a party in a general election - voted for a different future, when 70 per cent of youngsters have voted for a different future.

"It is astonishing these people, how they give themselves the right to say: 'You have no voice, how dare you stick to your views how dare you stick to your dreams and aspirations?'

That’s the most important thing of all. You don’t get bored, you don’t get miserable, you don’t glum, you continue to speak up. What they hope is you’ll just go home, the most important thing is people continue to speak up."

He urged those affected by Brexit to lobby their MPs, and force them to raise the issue in Parliament. 

After Article 50 is triggered, the UK positioning is over, and the EU negotiators will set out their response. As well as the official negotiating team, MEPs and leaders of EU27 countries are likely to give their views - and with elections scheduled in France and Germany, some will be responding to the pressures of domestic politics first. 

For those Remainers who feel politically homeless, there are several groups that have sprung up to campaign against a hard Brexit:

Open Britain is in many ways the successor to the Remain campaign, with a cross-party group of MPs and a focus on retaining access to the single market and holding the government to account. 

Another Europe is Possible was the alternative, left-wing Remain campaign. It continues to organise protests and events.

March for Europe is a cross-Europe Facebook community which also organises events.

The People's Challenge was a crowd-funded campaign which, alongside the more famous Gina Miller, successfully challenged the government in court and forced it to give Parliament a vote on triggering Article 50.

The3million is a pressure group set up to represent EU citizens in the UK.

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.