Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Brexit, one year on

A lot can change in a year.

On 23rd June 2016, I was left heartbroken after a tough and exhausting referendum campaign saw a victory for an insular nationalist vision of Britain.

The vote to Leave has divided our country in a way even ‘Project Fear’ could never have imagined.

After the referendum, we were told that the populist right was on an unstoppable rise. Geert Wilders, Netherland’s answer to Donald Trump, would storm to victory in the Dutch general election; Marine Le Pen would triumph over the established political consensus in the French Presidential election; and the Liberal Democrats’ fight to keep Britain in Europe was laughed off.

But a lot can change in a year.

Our ALDE sister Party, VVD, secured victory in the Netherlands with a lead of over 8 points. Voters in France chose a pro-European liberal vision of hope as Emmanuel Macron overwhelmingly won the Presidency and obtained an absolute majority in the French Parliament.

And in the UK, it’s still all to fight for. Theresa May called a general election to ask the electorate to force through her destructive Brexit and the public refused to give her the mandate.

The latest polling on Brexit shows big movement – 53 per cent of people now back the Lib Dem position for a final say on the Brexit deal.

Opposition to hard Brexit is increasing as the lies of the Leave campaign unravel and the reality of Brexit begins to bite.

This opposition to Brexit is being led by the Liberal Democrats and there is still all to fight for.

Together, we must fight to keep Britain in the Single Market and Customs Union. We must fight to give European citizens the right to stay. We must fight to protect our science, research and education programmes, such as ERASMUS, and we absolutely must remain a full member of the Euratom Treaty.

And when all the deal making has been done, before the signatures go on the paper, we must give the people the final say over the deal in another referendum vote.

A lot can change in a year. Let’s make sure it’s for the better

* Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Leader of the European Parliament Liberal Democrat Group.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Tristan Ward 23rd Jun '17 - 6:49pm
  • Clemens P.B. H. 23rd Jun '17 - 7:00pm

    Yes, 1 year certainly changed a lot.
    Inadvertedly Britons gave “us Europeans” the motivation to fight off further attacks from right-wing parties in some countries, as we all could see what became of your political ventures so far. No irony intended.

    So, thanks for your sobering example!
    Brexiteers meant this to get a wave rolling in other countries to also leave the EU.
    Quite the opposite has happened: they started a wave that might even wash Tories away.

    Actually the UK leaving will make a lot of improvements possible that have been prevented by “you” for so many years – the charm being that the UK will have to grudgingly go along with these if it wants to keep access to our markets… 😉

    Apart from that a lot of Europeans –I guess– feel some schadenfreude that the UK may have to pay back –symbolically speaking– some of the 111£ of rebates you “wanted back” since your (really) Iron Lady demonstrated quite bluntly an attitude of opportunity-grabbing that to me –as a European– doesn’t seem to fit in with the UK’s image of “British queuing”.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Jun '17 - 7:19pm

    Thanks for this. Two points:

    1. Free movement should remain open for the self-employed, employed, retired and spouses. I don’t mind if there are some restrictions on people who want to come over with no ties, no work and no ability to speak the language.

    2. I think the poll you quote is for an “accept or reject” referendum, not an “accept or stay in” referendum. A poll released around the 19th of June says 57% oppose a second referendum after the negotiations and 38% support it. It depends on the wording.

  • Paul Newman 23rd Jun '17 - 7:51pm

    I think Catherine might remember me shouting at some Daily Telegraph journalistrat a Brexit debate she attened in Lewes . I went on to join the Lib Dems and have eben campaigning since
    I share her sense that the tide is turning .

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jun '17 - 10:21pm

    “Voters in France chose a pro-European liberal vision of hope ……”

    It was a pro EU vision actually. Or maybe a pro-EU mirage?

    If the EU is so successful why was it necessary to elect a complete outsider, fill up a political party with newbies, and pension off the previous generation of politicians who’d taken France to where it now is? It’s like the French electorate had previously bought a car, they’d realised it was badly designed and unreliable. So they’ve taken it back and been given a nice shiny new one but the design flaws are still there under the bonnet.

    Just what is going to change? Emmanuel Macron may be a handsome looking new car salesman but he’s isn’t capable of fixing the fundamental problems of accommodating the requirements of the French economy to the rules of euro membership. He’d need to take on Angela Merkel to force changes to the hideously misnamed Stability and Growth Pact. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong but I can’t see him doing that.

    Give it a couple of years, and the paint will be peeling off the new model. Nothing will have changed.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jun '17 - 10:48pm

    Anthony Wells always offers an intelligent view on claims such as ” people now back the Lib Dem position for a final say on the Brexit deal.”

    he writes:

    “I should also add an update on polling about the second referendum. In my last post I mentioned the Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday which found that the balance of opinion was in favour of having a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal. This was the first time any poll had shown this, and I said it was worth looking to see if other polls found the same. Well, so far they haven’t – Survation also had a poll for Good Morning Britain on Monday, that also had a question on a second referendum, and it found 38% of people supported it and 57% were opposed.”

  • Elaine Woodard 23rd Jun '17 - 11:35pm

    How can the tide be turning when we’ve just been hammered at the election? I think we’re deluding ourselves if we think that. Yes, we should carry on campaigning to stay in the single market and customs union but for goodness sake let’s stop giving the impression we’ve turned into a single issue Party.

  • William Ross 24th Jun '17 - 5:43am

    Catherine seems to have a very selective memory.

    She has forgotten about Trumps incredible victory ( not that I welcomed it), the lost Italian referendum, the rise in support for Wilders in Holland, the fact that a re-distribution of some 4% of French first presidential round votes would have produced a Le Pen v Melanchon contest, the fact that Le Pen plus spoiled ballots was a higher vote total than Macron in the second round, the fact that Greece is entering yet another crisis, that her own party, the only UK party of Remain were crushed in the 2017 GE
    ( doing EVEN worse than 2015) that nearly 90% of British electors voted for parties supporting Lancaster House Brexit, that the current most popular British politician is the longest standing Brexiteer in the House of Commons, that Parliament ( both Houses) overwhelmingly voted to trigger Article 50.

    But apart from all of that, yes Brexit has had a torrid time.


  • Tony Dawson 24th Jun '17 - 8:09am

    Catherines appearance here so shortly after the General Election is a timely reminder of the true situation in which our Party presently finds itself.Catherine is our only MEP and she is only there because our pexuliar election system for Europe allows a Party which was virtually wiped out electorally to have a seat in the huge South East region. Great MEPs such as Chris Davies were flushed away by our mismanagement of Coalition. Ir is great, however, that Catherine is still there tofly the flag for a progressive Liberal Democracy.

  • Until we’ve got anything else distinctive to offer people, that they will associate with us alone, it would be daft to ditch this ‘single issue’. It’s the only thing that makes us stand out at all.
    Elaine: the point is the GE was too soon. The tide hadn’t turned, has barely begun to since: but the Brexit negotiations hadn’t started then and have barely got anywhere since.
    To abandon our USP now, if that tide does truly turn in a few months or so, would be crazy, and leave us on the wrong side again.
    It would also look like dumping our principles to chase votes. Which the two main (being pro-Brexit) parties have sewn up anyway.
    It would also leave Remainers totally disenfranchised.

  • Tony, do you think Wales and Scotland, therefore, have a peculiar electoral system? (Or New Zealand, and everywhere else that uses list PR)?
    This GE was never about parties, btw: the word ‘Conservative’ was hardly visible on their literature. They made it all about ‘the keys to number 10’ and ‘it can only be me or him’ (May or Corbyn). This backfired for the Tories, as millions thought ‘yeah, that’s true… if we don’t want a Tory landslide, we have to vote Labour.’

  • Cassie,

    I think you are missing the double irony in Tony’s post.

  • William,
    So near and yet so far. All your hopes dashed, no one’s following but still you dream. Just a thought what would discourage more to leave Brexit as a disaster perhaps, but I think you know that and that looks more and more likely.

  • William Ross 25th Jun '17 - 2:15pm


    Nearly 90% of the UK population voted for Lancaster House Brexit which is, simply, Brexit. Your party, the only UK party of Remain, got 7%. Still, as one of your friends once said ” There is no democracy against the EU treaties”

  • Andrew McCaig 25th Jun '17 - 3:57pm

    William Ross

    “the fact that Le Pen plus spoiled ballots was a higher vote total than Macron in the second round”

    You seem to have the usual Leavers approach to truth.. Spoiled ballots were 12% in the second round of the French election, far smaller than the huge gap between Macron and Le Pen. Of course there have been some headlines in the Daily Mail trying to make a point about the turnout using the fact that people who do not vote at all are listed as “abstentions” in France. In fact the second round turnout was 75%, higher than in any election in the UK (including the referendum) since 1992. The “spoiled” ballots were largely a result of far left candidate Melenchon effectively calling on his voters to do just that.

    There is no doubt that for the time being voters in France have given Macron and his pro-EU vision a big mandate, while in Britain they refused to endorse Theresa May’s vision on Brexit. The polls are contradictory on a further referendum, but pretty clear that people would prefer to stay in the Single Market if and when it becomes clear that we cannot “have our cake and eat it”

  • William Ross 26th Jun '17 - 9:27am


    Am I right in saying that Tories, Labour and DUP were in favour of Lancaster House Brexit? What about some Remainer’s honesty?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Mick Taylor
    SOME of our so called privatised rail companies are owned by people outside the country, but so are car companies, utilities, football teams and so on. BUT at ...
  • Simon McGrath
    Still no actual costing - always seems to be missing from UBI articles....
  • Gwyn Williams
    “However, since then Wales has regained its Principality status.” I must have missed that. Wales was established as a Principality of the Kingdom of England...
  • Chris Perry
    It would be nice to hear from a few people in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, please?...
  • Marco
    In my view we should keep the 1p rise whilst raising the income tax threshold to about £16000. Then we could present ourselves as a tax cutting party for low e...