The only time there is issue is the case when the children completely fill the parent so that there is no parent white space to select. In that case, you can select the parent in the tree and then drag it in the design view by its border.
Yes, I have layouts (using SmartGWT layouts, e.g. using HLayout and VLayout) where the children completely fill the parent, which is surely not an unusual case. And indeed I tried selecting the parent layout and then going to design view - and there is *no way* to "grab" the border. It de-selects the parent and selects the nearest child instead. So I still fail to see why it does *not* need fixing.
Also, why I try <Esc> as you suggest, it does not switch to the design view, it simply de-selects the layout (I am using Galileo SR2 in OS X).