Farron: There is no democratic mandate for a hard brexit

Tim Farron confirmed that Liberal Democrat MPs will vote against the triggering of Article 50 unless the Government agrees to a referendum on the final deal.

He added that Liberal Democrat peers would submit amendments calling for a referendum.

He was speaking to Andrew Neil on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

Here are ac couple of clips:

You can watch the whole interview here on the iPlayer.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Bill le Breton 15th Jan '17 - 7:27pm

    Reading Hammond’s de Welt article it would seem that ‘the plan’ is to offer that either the EU agrees that the UK can have its ‘cake and eat it’ – that is access to the Single Market at zero cost and independence over immigration – or it will turn the UK into Europe’s Singapore – that is creating tax inducements that more than compensate business for any added costs in exporting goods and services to the EU.


  • The protests over what Theresa May is expected to say in her speech on Tuesday only highlights the big problem with the endless demands for May to reveal her full strategy before the negotiations start.

    Any negotiations such as this are bound to involve bluffs and starting from a position of asking for more than one thinks one is likely to get. If we expect May to get the best deal for us, we would expect her to use those kinds of tactics. How is she supposed to do that if she has to give us the proverbial “running commentary” every step of the way? She can’t very well say the to the EU, “We want single market access and control over immigration, or we’ll set ourselves up as a Singapore-style rival to the EU”, and then turn round to Britain with her hand over her mouth and whisper, “Don’t worry, really I’m desperate to retain as much single market access as possible”.

    We should expect no more from May at the moment than the most general outlines of strategy – and then, in six months or a year when she has a good idea what the EU may be prepared to give us, that’s when the detailed scrutiny should begin.

  • It will turn London into Europe’s Singapore while the rest of the country becomes a wasteland.

    We have no chance of attracting much investment into any kind of manufacturing if we are going to be stuck outside a tariff wall while companies can’t employ the staff they need because the immigrant quota has been reached for that year.

  • UK as Euro-Said megapode will do more to exacerbate wealth inequality, dilute worker protections and generally benefit the role ch at the expense of the poor. London will continue to thrive. The rest of the IK will wither. Ironic that London voted to Remain.

  • The government is like a rabbit in the headlights. It understands nothing about the EU and really believes its own rhetoric about the EU and others just giving us what we want. To those who say we need a fuller platform than just no Brexit, I agree, but what the anti Brexit platform does give us – for the first time in may years – is a USP. It sets us apart from the other parties in a very desirable way. Of course we need a platform that includes devolution, political reform, fair taxation, a properly funded NHS plus opposition to racism (and all the other isms) and defence of immigration and I will be fighting for that too. Make sure you lobby FPC and get to conference to vote for the right policies!

  • Because of polling we actually know quite a lot about the attitudes behind the way people voted. We know that the great majority of Leave voters didnt believe there would be any Economic cost to Brexit, we know that more than half of Leavers are not willing to pay anything to leave. The market for Brexit seems to be like that for Newspapers – we love them if they are free.
    Only about a quarter of Voters are willing to pay to leave The EU, we can speak for the rest.

  • Mr Farron’s assertion that the public did not vote for a hard Brexit is simply not true. The theme of the Leave campaign was to take back control of our country. In order to control immigration, it is necessary to leave the single market and to negotiate our own trade deals it is necessary to leave the Customs Union.

    Mr Farron has fabricated his argument in an attempt to undermine the democratic result and effectively remain within the EU to a substantial degree.

    @Paul barker

    The Fear campaign was probably the longest, most relentless propaganda about catastrophic economic destruction ever experienced in the history of this country. Are you saying people did not realise there was any risk? (Not that there is much evidence of doom and gloom so far).

  • Peter,
    Let’s see when the bill comes due what voters actually want. I suspect it won’t be what you wish for, but then I expect you know that; hence your desperate plea for people not to point out you have no plan or clothes either.

  • Peter, you are half right. Yes, a theme of the Leave campaign was to control immigration. But another theme of the Leave campaign was that our economy would not suffer, because the EU would be bound to let us continue trading with them on unaltered terms. Now that this has been proven false, why should anyone place any credence in what you claim the British public voted for?

    They voted for a false prospectus. Nobody can deliver on the Leave campaign’s false promises.

  • grahame lamb 16th Jan '17 - 8:05am

    Mr Farron tells Mr Neil that leaving the Single Market ( or is it actually the Internal Market?) was not on the ballot paper in the Referendum.

    As I recall, the question was: Leave or Remain in the European Union. This Question was approved by the Electoral Commission. The EU comprises the Single Market and the Customs Union. The British people voted to Leave. Mr Farron seems to think that you can resign from a club but still pop in from time to time when you feel like it for a pint of beer and a plate of fish and chips on a Friday. Very nice. But you are either a member or you are not a member. Geddit?

    And anyway, what about democracy? Perhaps this is an issue which should be put into the “too difficult” tray. Yes, Minister.

  • Tim Farron is wrong….In any election there is just a name/party on a ballot paper…There are no bits which allow the voter to say, “I vote for ‘Smith’ on policy xxxx but, BTW, not if it involves policy yyyy, etc.”
    There had been plenty of coverage (highlighted by Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ efforts) of how access to the single market was inexorably tied to ‘free movement’…The public were bombarded with warnings about how they would be poorer if they voted to leave the EU, economic growth would be hobbled, unemployment would go up, the pound would plummet and British business would be left in a no man’s land outside the EU.
    The Bank of England raised the prospect of a recession while The Treasury said it would be forced to put income tax up and slash spending on the NHS, schools and defence.
    If that wasn’t enough, President Obama suggested the UK would go to the “back of the queue” in terms of securing a trade deal with the US……. but, in the end, the country weren’t convinced by what they were told and/or believed it was a price worth paying….

    To now say, in effect, “They didn’t know what leaving meant”, is NOT democratic!

    I’m sorry we are leaving but, leaving, we are…

  • Because only human beings (rather than propositions) are allowed to stand in elections you can always ask Smith where s/he stands on issues that matter to you.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 16th Jan '17 - 9:03am

    Mick Taylor, Our USP as a party is, and should be, liberalism. I also hope that, after Spring Conference, we may have the USP of being the only party that has a policy of scrapping Trident and opposing all nuclear weapons, but without combining this policy with extreme left wing economic policies.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Jan '17 - 9:06am

    Bill le Breton – Do you have a link to the article you refer to? I’ve found an online interview between Hammond and Die Welt am Sonntag and I read it completely differently to what you are saying here. The version I found, dated 15th January, (https://www.welt.de/english-news/article161182946/Philip-Hammond-issues-threat-to-EU-partners.html) doesn’t seem at all out of line, hysterical headline notwithstanding, and does not mention Singapore. It is the interviewer and not Hammond that uses the term, ‘tax haven.’

    Hammond says that future UK policy would be, at least in part, determined by economic circumstance. I don’t see that as even being particularly controversial.

    If anything I’m rather more bothered by the following line that is attributed to Hammond – ‘We have over three million European migrants working in our economy and we have full employment.’ I’d be curious to know what his definition of, ‘full employment,’ is.

  • grahame>And anyway, what about democracy?

    Helpful suggestion for the lovely people who run LDV. How about creating a side panel on the blog that answers the ‘will of the people’; ‘take the Democrat out of your name’ arguments/clichés/memes?
    Then anyone trying to shut down our views by posting them can be referred to the answers. Rather than us have to endlessly repeat the same explanations on every thread about Brexit. 🙂

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 16th Jan '17 - 9:15am

    It was rather a pity that Tim Farron avoided answering Andrew Neil’s questions, instead making what seemed too much like a pre-prepared speech. I know most politicians do this, but it would be nice to see our leader taking a different approach, and actually giving a full and honest answer to every question. I think Andrew Neil was trying to ask something along the lines of – if we stay in the single market, then in what sense have we really left the EU? Tim Farron does need to have a well reasoned answer to this question, if he is going to argue for a “soft Brexit”.

  • Arnold Kiel 16th Jan '17 - 9:39am

    I understand the party’s tactical dilemma in trying to remain in the EU in a way that cannot be called undemocratic, but, unfortunately, I must conclude that the LibDem demand for another referendum on the final deal is losing relevance and momentum.

    I wish to see every responsible MP to vote against triggering Article 50, and I do not need to repeat here all the arguments why this is democratic and legitimate. It is also tactically prudent because it is in the national interest:

    You are governed by people who have spent their professinal lives in public service and journalism and who now phantasise about trading with the world; they have never made anything or sold anything than their brains to domestic institutions. They do not understand markets and a closed Britain is their comfort-zone.

    The UK imports either the goods or the capital and management to make them, mostly from the EU; no corporate tax-cut will change that. It is competitive only in services, London is already like Singapore, but the rest of the country has no chance to aspire to such a model. I am stunned that the PM can square this vision with “an economy that works for everyone”.

    Unconditionally objecting the invocation of Article 50 is now called-for after it is clear that the Government is burning all bridges to the EU. The style in which the PM and, surprisingly, also the Chancellor are entering into these negotiations makes a return to the status quo, even if desired by the British public and its Government, impossible. This process will be destructive and irreversible and, therefore, can only be stopped at its outset.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Jan '17 - 9:51am

    Arnold Kiel – All a referendum on the exit deal would do is open the door to referendum 3, 4 and so on. It’s the worst of all worlds.

    My understanding is that Tim Farron takes the view that a referendum on the exit deal would not be a re-run of the 23rd June. That strikes me as a heroically optimistic reading.

    The only alternative that I can see is something like Denmark and Ireland where there was a second referendum on a qualitatively different proposal. I just don’t see any appetite for that either in the EU or in the UK. That proposal would almost certainly need something with teeth on free movement and I just can’t see it.

    Have any REMAINERs put forward any ideas for an alternative proposal for the voters to look at?

  • David Blake 16th Jan '17 - 9:52am

    I know it’s difficult when your constituency is miles away from London, but it’s a mistake to film Tim out in the open. I get distracted by the scenery and don’t remember anything he says.

  • Geoff Reid 16th Jan ’17 – 9:03am……Because only human beings (rather than propositions) are allowed to stand in elections you can always ask Smith where s/he stands on issues that matter to you….

    Apart from 1997 and 2015 I have always voted Lib(Dem)… Does that mean I agree with every LD policy? No! It means that I agree(d) with more LD policies than any other party. Had there been a party, whose policies ‘ticked more of my boxes’ THEY would have got my vote…
    The same with the EU..I don’t agree with everything but, on balance, I’m a ‘Remainer’ (Like Corbyn, I give it 7/10)…I have lived and worked in Europe, I read everything I could behind the ‘headlines’ on both sides of the argument, attended several meetings, asked questions and made, what I consider, an ‘informed decision’….
    The information WAS there. If others read the same information and made a different choice; fine. The ‘prospectus’ for the referendum was the same as any election, some read it, others didn’t bother…..

  • Jenny Barnes 16th Jan '17 - 11:15am

    ..Oh yes there is.

    It’s quite clear that Tm will want to leave the ECJ jurisdiction, free movement etc.
    the negotiation will be about what access we might get and at what price/compromise.
    WTO status is quite probable.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Jan '17 - 1:38pm


    I often agree with you and always admire your input. I cannot agree on nuclear weapons. With Trump in the White House , lukewarm on NATO, Putin in Russia, terrorist threats, leaving the EU, and France the only country with nuclear weapons in the EU, I think now is definitely not the time to eliminate all our independent nuclear deterrent ! Find a fudge . But to be unilataralist now, would let many potential and new voters from the Tories and Labour have an excuse to think again and stick with their original choice .And members like me shall be in the wilderness on this. I and over half the party according to polling , are multilateralists .

  • Went into William Hill on Saturday bit disappointed only got 20-1 Lib Dem to win Copeland thought might get 50-1! Blow me down this morning reduced to 9-1. 9-2 for Stoke Central with the Tories now the rank outsider. Suspect with our local superior campaigning abilty we shall emerge as second favourite in both seats, then watch.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 16th Jan '17 - 2:28pm

    Lorenzo, I’m sorry you disagree with me about nuclear weapons. I know that many people do sincerely feel the same way that you do. My opposition to nuclear weapons is a moral one. To use them is unthinkable. To do so would be the ultimate war crime, for it would inevitably result in the deaths of many thousands of innocent civilians.
    You suggest that a unilateralist policy would lose us votes, but some polls have indicated that the majority of the British population support a policy of scrapping Trident. But the arguments on this issue do have to be moral ones, not about whether it would win or lose us votes.

  • Mr Farron and many of his supporters favour remaining in the EU, but they lost the referendum and the country is now moving on. The argument that the majority of the electorate did not understand what leave meant is an insult. The argument that they didn’t understand the possible economic consequences is also wrong, given that the Remain campaign was entirely concerned with economic scare mongering.

    Mr Farron is free to campaign to rejoin the EU in the future, which would almost certainly require us to join the Eurozone and Schengen. That, at least, is the honourable, honest and democratic way ahead, though it may prove to be a massive vote loser.

    To continue with the current, dishonest, undemocratic strategy may pick up support from those bitter in defeat, but it does the party enormous damage.

  • Andrew McCaig 16th Jan '17 - 5:40pm

    Can you let us know when you are starting your campaign to abolish General Elections and make St. Theresa Prime Minister for life?

  • Peter Watson 16th Jan '17 - 6:17pm

    @Catherine Jane Crosland “Lorenzo, I’m sorry you disagree with me about nuclear weapons.”
    This strikes me as a good example of the problems faced by Lib Dems once we move out of the anti-Brexit echo chamber. The party must decide and clearly communicate what it stands for to avoid looking like a single-issue pressure group, but away from Brexit it is difficult to pin down or predict what is the Lib Dem position in many policy areas. Sometimes it looks like the worst sort of soggy centrist fudge (e.g. no more and no fewer grammar schools, a part-time replacement for Trident, etc.), sometimes it looks like it depends on which wing of the party had the best attendance at the most recent conference, sometimes it seems to be at the whim of the leadership (e.g. tuition fees), sometimes it is just unclear.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 16th Jan '17 - 6:27pm

    Peter Watson, It’s true that Lib Dems have a wide range of views on nuclear weapons, just as the Labour Party have.But I think my conversation with Lorenzo, which you quote, shows that Lib Dems tend to be much better than members of the Labour Party at respecting each other’s differing views.

  • @ Peter Watson That’s fair comment, Peter. Being nicey, nicey and all things to all men (and women) eventually butters no parsnips. It is not what a radical party is or ought to be. A vacuum inside a vacuum is……. a vacuum.

    @ Lorenzo I’m with Catherine on the question of renewing Trident. Putting aside the issue of whether you personally could press the button, the latest cost figure for replacing Trident is over £ 206 billion – which would go more than a long way to sorting out the Health Service.

    If it’s so necessary to have it, why does your ancestral homeland of Italy, or our economic competitors, Germany, not have it or think they need it ?

    Politicians who constantly look over their shoulders in case they offend people usually end up doing just that… offend people.

    There are huge major issues facing the world. If we don’t have clear relevant policy on these issues then we become an unclear irrelevance.

  • @Peter Watson
    How would you like being told that you didn’t understand what you were voting for and got it all wrong, so you will have to vote again?

  • Peter Watson 16th Jan '17 - 6:39pm

    @Peter “@Peter Watson How would you like being told that you didn’t understand what you were voting for and got it all wrong, so you will have to vote again?”
    Happened to me in 2010 and I got the chance to vote differently in 2015!! 😉

  • Tony Dawson 16th Jan '17 - 7:55pm


    “The public were bombarded with warnings about how they would be poorer if they voted to leave the EU, economic growth would be hobbled, unemployment would go up, the pound would plummet and British business would be left in a no man’s land outside the EU. ”

    Given that most of those who said those things expected the Article 50 letter to be moved three or four months ago, their predictions on several of those indicators are unlikely to be properly-assessable until a few months after the motion is moved (if it does get moved). But then it was just an advisory referendum was it not, as ALL MPs knew this well before it took place having, before the debates began, all received this clear briefing: http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7212#full

    which described our plebisite on the matter as “a type of referendum known as pre-legislative or consultative”. and continued: “This Bill… does not contain any requirement for the UK government to implement the results of the referendum, nor set a time limit by which a vote to leave the EU should be implemented.

    “Instead [the referendum] enables the electorate to voice an opinion which then influences the government in its policy decisions… The UK does not have constitutional provisions which would require the results of a referendum to be implemented”.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Jan '17 - 12:00pm


    As ever , reasonable ,your motive and manner , leaves me far more open to persuasion. Do continue to try .Actually I do agree on the voters , I mean we would lose many on a point of principle, but we must not pander , you are correct.

    Peter and David

    It saddens me that it might be considered better to disagree in a more angry and bitter way, like Labour , I have been there , no more of that for me , thanks !

    Or perhaps some prefer a unanimous policy stance like a sect ?!

    There is no way a political party can have one prevailing view on any issue.

    On this , question of nuclear weapons , my view is that we are not Italy or Germany! My ancestral home is as much England and Ireland, in ethnic origin I m a mixture of the three.

    It is precisely because of my awareness of my origins, my love of this country ,and it’s history, my love of the best of the United States, and it’s , and the fact that my wife’s origins are in America, but her mother was a refugee from Poland, that I believe this country has an important role in the world , out of proportion to the size of it.

    That does not have to be a nuclear one , I do not make that claim. But I do not like , or welcome , the view of us as some hanger on , and I am not keen on the French being the only nuclear power in Europe , and thus all the major players on the security council of the UN being nuclear powers bar us.And when some claim we should not be on the security council, I know I do not belong in a political party anymore, but have to stop voting altogether , or be politically homeless, or hope someone can give me a peerage so as to sit with Lords , Owen, Alton and , now, Carlile , and if not able to vote in an election, at least contribute !

    I would happily share weapons capability with France or even , previously, Europe. But I cannot easily accept us relegated to the status of irrelevant on these important matters in talks .

    I am a strong and enthusiastic supporter of the likes of Gaitskell, and even Bevan came round to the multi -lateralist view.

    If any argument convinces me it is not mainly the money . We waste on worse, that is if you do not believe the nuclear weapons a waste in the first place, it is not the convincing reason.

    The reason Catherine might be able to convince me , or others with her approach, is humanity . I like nice people . In , shall we say, young middle age , I especially like people who are nice to me !

  • Peter Watson 17th Jan '17 - 12:38pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    @Catherine Jean Crosland
    I might not have made myself clear: I have no problem with disagreement over policies, and even heated, passionate argument can be valuable as long as it is on topic and not personal. But in a political party, that debate needs to lead to a policy.
    My concern is that the Lib Dem position on a range of policies is often not apparent, consistent, or stable. For better or for worse, I can usually guess which side of an argument Labour and the Tories will fall and/or how the wings of those parties will split. With the Lib Dems it is often not clear what I would be voting for and whether that would be what the party chose to deliver if it were in power.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Jan '17 - 7:52am

    Lorenzo, thank you so much for your reply, and I’m sorry I’ve been so long getting back to you. You obviously feel very strongly about this issue, and if the Lib Dems do adopt a unilateralist policy, it would be a great pity if someone like you were no longer to feel at home in the party.
    I’m not sure that I fully understand why you feel it to be so essential for Britain to retain a nuclear deterrent, when the vast majority of nations do not feel that they need one. Do you really believe that having nuclear weapons makes Britain safer than, say, Switzerland? Surely we should have only the minimum amount of defence necessary to keep us safe? I feel afraid that possessing nuclear weapons makes us more, not less, likely to be a target.
    Arguments that Britain must continue to be a nuclear power often seem to be more about Britain’s position in the world, than about national security. I would like to see Britain have influence in the world, by being prepared to take a lead and say that there are are no circumstances in which we would use nuclear weapons, and therefore we no longer wish to own them.

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