Events of the week highlight the courage and clarity of Tim Farron’s stance

It’s been quite a week in British politics. The Tory conference and the UKIP self-combustion serve to crystallise a distinct change. A sea change, if you like.

We heard Amber Rudd saying companies will have to register “foreign” employees (next step getting them to wear badges?) and Theresa May hard Brexiting.

We see that the Tory party have pulled the rug from beneath the feet of UKIP. The Tories have stolen the immigration obsession spotlight from UKIP, who are consequently showing all the signs of looming self-immolation.

The Tory party, whether it be through Cameron’s hapless referendum gamble or through May’s shameless and shocking nationalism, are failing to lead. They are following.

We are in the century of Asia and of fighting climate change. The government should not be chasing Daily Express headlines by threatening even to leave the European customs union.

This all highlights the wisdom and courage of Tim Farron’s very clear stance on the EU and the post-Brexit questions.

The course which the Tories are following is utterly crazy – both economically and socially. Full marks to Tim for firmly setting our party’s sails in the opposite direction.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Tim Farron’s stance is to disrespect the Referendum result. The UK voted to leave the EU and leave it must.

    However, it did not vote to leave the Single Market as that was not on the ballot. The Lib Dems should be campaigning for a Soft Brexit – as supported by 3/4 of MPs – including most Tory MPs. And by most people

    Actually a Soft Brexit has a number of advanatges over EU membership.

  • “We heard Amber Rudd saying companies will have to register “foreign” employees (next step getting them to wear badges?)”

    Rudd’s rhetoric still sounds more liberal than your party’s 2010 immigration policy, which, if you recall, also involved the registering of “foreign” workers, but in addition included restrictions on which parts of the country these workers could actually work in. Some Lib Dem MPs were telling voters that immigration would be curtailed in their areas because, among other things, there was not enough drinking water to go around (see )

    Why was that OK but Rudd’s comments are offensive?

  • Richard Underhill 8th Oct '16 - 12:49pm

    Theresa May’s government intends to allow British citizens abroad to vote in UK elections in their previous constituency. The removal of the 15 year limit will need legislation and may be expected to benefit the Tories. David Cameron’s failure to allow these people to vote in the EU referendum is entirely his fault.
    He personally signed an agreement for the Scottish referendum which included a lower age limit. Not agreeing to do so for the EU referendum is inconsistent to put it mildly.
    Roy Hodgson was embarrassed by England football fans chanting
    “We voted leave and we don’t care”. They had presumably paid for tickets for travel, for the games, hotels, food and drink, etc.
    Hopefully they will behave differently in the World Cup qualifying match against Malta today. Malta is a member of the EU and the Commonwealth. We need all our friends.
    There is

  • Martin, actually I am a “liberal”. We’ve had the referendum. I don’t expect Tim Farron or “Hard Remainers” to like the result – but accept it and move on.

    If you want to oppose anything – oppose Hard Brexit and campaign with Tories, Labour, SNP and Greens for a Soft Brexit. The reality is by the time of the next election (assuming its 2020) we will have left the EU. To re-join, we’d have to accept the euro at some point, Schengen and further political integration. If that’s what Lib Dems want fine – just stay at sub 10% in the polls.

    Richard Underhill – I don’t see why UK citizens (sorry, “subjects) who have lived away from the UK for more than 15 years should have the vote in the UK. As for 16-17 year olds in Scotland having the vote for the Scottish referendum but not a UK-wide referendum is totally compatible with the principle of devolution.

  • Barry Snelson 8th Oct '16 - 4:25pm

    I agree with your theme but troubled times have the upside of new opportunity.
    My penn’orth is that the Tory honeymoon will be brief, The Brexit team are serial failures and are of the most limited talent.
    I agree Tim is doing well but I would encourage more exploitation of the shocks and surprises of this Brexit process. ‘Events’ will play into our hands and relentless attacks on May and these three, rather than general expressions of humanitarian based concern, I think, would be more advantageous to our poll ratings.
    If the party stands on the ground that we don’t believe that Brexir will happen and that a further referendum will reverse it all, I fear that might be perceived as sulking or offering an implausible solution. I feel we would do better to have ready an alternative stance as Atricle looks likely to be signed and implmented before the next GE. If our demands for a second referendum are ignored (as seems inevitable) what would be our counter move?
    So I would suggest for this period, exploit every opportunity to expose Tory incompetence and ‘sell’ the pitch that we stand ready to ‘repair our relationship’ with Europe when the craziness of Tory actions, which you rightly observe have done their inevitable damage.

  • John Peters 8th Oct '16 - 6:00pm

    What is the agreed Lib Dem policy on Brexit?

  • Barry Snelson 8th Oct '16 - 8:25pm

    I think the question was whether your interpretation of the Constitution meant that the LibDem election campaign for 2020 will be a proposal to the British public that we immediately begin the process of joining (this will be a matter of weeks after we leave in March 2019).
    I concede that we don’t change our beliefs just because the electorate has rejected them and I also believe Brexit should never have happened but what do we offer the British public if it already has?

  • Eventually a party will need to lead and do the true but not potentially unpopular thing. I don’t think May’s government is willing to do that (more bogeymen, more ridiculously big changes that don’t speak to anyone but a minority within the Tory conference, more rhetoric that is opposed by their actions) and labour is in an eternal civil war so left to the lib dems.

  • It seems that, although a referendum in the 1970s has been overturned in 2016, we have to say again and again that a vote by a very small margin in 2016 is in no way a mandate for what happens in 2020 General Election, when incidentally the number of voters who did not have a vote in 2016 will be more than the majority for Brexit.

    Continual elections and votes is democracy and it is those who refuse to accept that who are not just disrespectful of democracy but its declared enemies.

  • Barry Snelson 9th Oct '16 - 7:22am

    Well at least no senior LibDem has promised to eat their hat if Brexit actually happens.

  • By 2020 we will have left the EU. What it seems the Lib Dems want to offer is a Referendum in which a return to the EU would be one of the options. By this time a Return would be a “Hard Return” – accepting the Euro, Schengen and further political integration. The UK public simply won’t vote for that.

    The public is not divided simply by Leave or Remain….

    Hard Leavers – such as the Tory Right and UKIP want is to leave ASAP and aren’t bothered about any economic impact.

    Hard Remainers – which include the Lib Dems want further political and economic development. They are quasi-Federalist.

    Most people fall somewhere between those two extremes – “in Europe not run by Europe”. People want the advantages of single market – but without the political disadvantages of the EU.

    48% voted Remain – and a minority of Leave voters are favourable towards the single market (even if that means free movement of people).

    A Soft Brexit option could be viable – and popular with the majority. We don’t have to do what the majority of Brexit voters want – but what the majority of UK voters want. That is, leave the EU – but stay in the Single Market

  • It seems to be the only “principles” and policies the Lib Dems stick to are the STV voting system and being a “Hard Remainer” of the EU. Everything else seems to be up for negotiation, compromise, and abandonment and U turns.

  • Peter Galton 9th Oct '16 - 11:22am

    A soft Brexit may be a good option for us, but I do not think that Europe will let us have our cake and eat it.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Oct '16 - 12:40pm

    Open government is something we have become used to with reductions in disclosure periods under the Official Secrets Act, The Freedom of Information Act, more frequent use of Urgent Notice Questions, etc.
    The UK government is repeatedly saying that they “will not give a running commentary on Brexit negotiations”. This is totally unrealistic. There is an obvious risk of leaks on the UK side, speculation in the media and hacking. The 27 other member states have individual needs, Spain over fishing, France over champagne, Czech Republic over cars, etc. They will need to talk to each other and to their own electorates.

  • Peter Galton 9th Oct ’16 – 11:22am…………….A soft Brexit may be a good option for us, but I do not think that Europe will let us have our cake and eat it………………..

    Boris Johnson said, “My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.” So perhaps he hopes to charm his EU colleagues into agreement…What could possibly go wrong?

  • John Peters … ‘What is the agreed Lib Dems policy on Brexit?’

    Good question, John …. What is it?
    What are campaigners saying on the doorsteps?

  • Simon Banks 9th Oct '16 - 5:30pm

    I get a little tired of hearing that we must drop opposition to “Brexit” because we must respect the referendum result. The vote went one way. We continue to campaign for what we believe in. Same as any party that loses an election and doesn’t ditch its entire programme. Same as the anti-EU people after the previous EU referendum.

    As for the second referendum argument, it seems to me there are fair points on both sides. The 52% did indeed vote to leave the EU knowing this was a leap in the dark and vital points would have to be settled subsequently. But if you admit the validity of one referendum on the EU, why not another? The question would not be the same. On balance, I am unconvinced about the second referendum so soon, but I see no problem with us campaigning for the EU (remaining in or returning) and, failing that, for a “soft Brexit”.

  • Peter Watson 9th Oct '16 - 6:18pm

    @Simon Bnks “On balance, I am unconvinced about the second referendum so soon, but I see no problem with us campaigning for the EU (remaining in or returning) and, failing that, for a “soft Brexit”.”
    I agree with much of what you are saying. My problem with the current Lib Dem position is that it comes across as “anti-Brexit” rather than “pro-EU” and looks like a continuation of the dismal Remain referendum campaign that handed victory to Brexit.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Oct '16 - 8:36pm

    As Paul Walter wrote, the events of the past week have indeed highlighted the ‘courage and clarity of Tim Farron’s stance’. More than that, it is shown to be right. There is a gathering demand for a Parliamentary vote to precede activating Article 50, and gathering outrage about the Government’s statements, whether because of its xenophobia or its dismissal of the needs of business and industry. It makes sense to ask for a second referendum, as the dire terms of any Brexit, whether ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, become plain.
    Yes, Peter Watson, we should be anti-Brexit as well as pro-EU, I believe, because Brexit would be harmful to our country’s future well-being. There is a chance now perhaps of a majority of MPs agreeing on that, and of a sufficient majority of the country’s voters coming to see it too.

  • Tim is proposing a third referendum. The first, in 1975, gave a decisive 67% vote in favour of EEC membership.

    Unfortunately, some refused to accept that clear democratic result and campaigned for years for a second referendum………

  • Denis Loretto 9th Oct '16 - 10:54pm

    It is quite clear from the resolution passed at the Lib Dem conference last month that the party acknowledges (with deep regret) the referendum result to leave the EU, demands a parliamentary vote on the triggering of Article 50, calls for negotiation of a deal including single market membership and other important protective measures and commits to giving the British people the final say through a referendum on whether the terms of the deal agreed for the withdrawal of Britain from the EU should be accepted. However how can any pressure be put on a government seemingly determined to give no further say either to parliament or people?

    The general flavour one hears as to the attitude of the opposition parties to “the Great Repeal Bill” is that they will not stand in its way because of the inevitability of the repeal of the ECA in time for the ultimate implementation of brexit. However it is clearly unnecessary to push the GRB through parliament immediately after the Queen’s speech. The hurried timescale is clearly only contemplated to pacify the Tory right wing.

    If the government insists that no opportunity for a parliamentary vote on any other aspect of brexit will be allowed can the opposition parties (strengthened by pro single market Tories) not retaliate by refusing a majority for the GRB unless and until a more meaningful vote on the shape of the brexit deal itself is conceded?


  • The government has a majority of 11 at present and may face a backbench revolt on the brexit process and other issues.

    Peston on Sunday today highlighted potential opposition from Tory MP’s as follows:

    Grammar Schools: 20-30 MPs
    Brexit – Lords opposition
    Heathrow – 20 MPs

    If Lords opposition delays Brexit beyond 2020, we may well need to elect UK MEPs in 2019 and face a de facto referendum in the General Election.

    We need to be front and centre in marshalling parliamentary opposition on all three of these issues.

  • Peter Watson 10th Oct '16 - 12:33am

    @Katharine Pindar “we should be anti-Brexit as well as pro-EU”
    But there is a lot of the former and little if any of the latter.
    Too much of the failed referendum campaign was spent scaremongering about Brexit without presenting a positive case for being in the EU, and this disastrous approach has been continued by Lib Dems. When Tim Farron appears on the TV it is to call for a second referendum on the terms of Brexit, accepting that the country has voted for departure but not chosen a destination, and the impression is given that Lib Dems believe that remaining in the EU is simply the least bad of two unpleasant options. If being in the EU is brilliant, if the price of membership is a bargain for what it buys, if freedom of movement is good for everyone, then why can’t Lib Dems put more effort into making that case?

  • Peter Watson 10th Oct '16 - 12:45am

    @Nick Baird “Unfortunately, some refused to accept that clear democratic result and campaigned for years for a second referendum………”
    Doesn’t that include the Lib Dems, who at various times have been in favour of an in/out referendum and/or a referendum on treaties which have changed the nature of the EEC from how it was perceived in 1975?

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Oct '16 - 1:32am

    Peter, the Liberal Democrats campaigned more vigorously than any other party to vote Remain in the Referendum, and after the result Tim Farron immediately voiced the belief of most of our members that we ought to stay in. Unfortunately we often are not heard. Yes, most of us do believe in the four freedoms, but it is also the case that we are not uncritical of the way the EU is run. Any subtleties we offer, such as suggestions for alleviating any hardships suffered by the large-scale immigration from the EU, tend to be missed. We are aware, I think, that the present Government line if carried through will hurt the poorest citizens first, as costs rise and jobs are lost. Brexit should be resisted.

  • Peter Watson 10th Oct '16 - 9:48am

    @Katherine Pindar “after the result Tim Farron immediately voiced the belief of most of our members that we ought to stay in … most of us do believe in the four freedoms”
    I don’t think that there is any doubt about that, but what the party does not communicate sufficiently well is why it believes it.
    Brexiters made preposterous claims about a price of £350 million per week, but Bremainers’ response was (and is) to bang on about that precise figure, continuing to emphasise the cost rather than the value of what it buys.
    Even now, every rune is read and interpreted as a sign that post-Brexit the sky is falling down and the party looks like it is sitting back with its arms folded saying, “You made your bed, now lie in it” without seeming to appreciate that we are all in the same bed. For better or for worse (probably worse), the Tories give the impression they’re rolling up their sleeves and trying to make the best of a bad job, aided and abetted by a sympathetic media. And Labour will probably do the same if they can be bothered to oppose things outside their own party (but without the sympathetic media). Meanwhile the Lib Dems look to be stuck in groundhog day on 23 June, fighting the same battle with the same failed strategy, and we risk ending up with the sort of Brexit few want.
    It should be possible, alongside calls for a second referendum on the terms and consistent with preferring full membership of the EU, for the party to make a case for a soft Brexit that retains the benefits it perceives EU membership offers. And, taking on board the result of the referendum, the party should demonstrate how these benefits can be for all, not just a “middle class” or “elite” with the resources to employ people, rent out property, travel freely, etc.

  • Joseph Bourke 10th Oct '16 - 1:10pm

    The Economist leader this week has some practical suggestion such as prolonging the existing arrangements or or interim EEA membership (Norway style) as a means of providing adequate time for more careful consideration of longer-term arrangements

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