Farron: We must not let racists hijack the referendum result

As the Cabinet gathers rather awkwardly at Chequers to discuss the implementation of Brexit, Tim Farron makes a keynote speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research in Manchester this morning.

It will be interesting to see if and how he tackles the question of the Open Britain organisation, much discussed on here in the last couple of days.

The advance extracts of his speech concentrate on the need to do something about the increase in hatred and open racism since the referendum and he again emphasises that the Liberal Democrats will stand up for those EU citizens already living here.

He also addresses the real concerns and disadvantages faced by many of those who voted to leave the EU.

Here’s what he is going to say on these topics:


We, the political classes, have left a country bitterly divided as a result.

Between parents and children, families, neighbours.

Between the nations of our own union, who have worked and fought together for centuries.

Between us and our continental neighbours.

And now the biggest danger of them all.

That because of those divisions, we are in danger of letting malevolent forces hijack the result.

Plenty of my mates voted leave and I can tell you that the majority of those who did vote leave are utterly appalled that Farage, Le Pen and their ilk now seek to claim the result as a victory for their hateful brand of intolerance, racism and insularity.  Britain is better than that.

But I’m not so blinded by those emotions that I don’t see the new divisions that are opening up between us.

New political boundaries which chop the old certainties of Tory and Labour into little pieces.

Because there’s a new battle emerging.

Between the forces of tolerant liberalism and intolerant, closed-minded nationalism.

And, of course, you know that, as leader of the Liberal Democrats, which side I’m on.

To EU citizens

We can say to those from other countries who have committed their lives alongside us in the UK: we will stand by you, no matter what.

Let me just say that again.

We will stand by you.

As we stood by each other across Europe in the Second World War.

We will stand by you, who have chosen British communities to live in.

Not only that but we need you.

If the tens of thousands of people who make it possible to run our schools and health service were to worry about our commitment to them…

So much so that it threatens their commitment to us…

It would seriously undermine services that are used by some of the most vulnerable people in this country.

The Conservative and Labour parties may have so forgotten themselves that they’ve missed this urgent consideration.

But we haven’t.

So I make this absolute promise.

To use what power we can muster, to make sure that those who have committed their lives and families to this country will be protected.

That no kneejerk populism will be allowed to threaten them or uproot them.

And I ask now all the many candidates for high positions in Westminster to join me in this undertaking.

We will not stand by to let Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen dictate our policy, our direction, or our morality.

Anger in the country

And though we might argue about the reasons for it, their anger is justified.

We have banking institutions that have let them down, suffocating their businesses.

We have an economic policy that favours the rich over everyone else, middle class, working class alike.

We have a housing crisis that’s consuming our children.

We have a Treasury so cut off from reality that they urged people not to vote for Brexit – because it might mean property prices would rise more slowly.

As if people weren’t struggling now to get a foot on the housing ladder.

To help their children scrape enough together to rent a place of their own.

We have people treated like cattle with zero-hour contracts.

We have those who worked as pillars of their community all their lives…

Running small businesses.

Managing farms…

Making a difference…

Only to see themselves gazumped by salaries ten or a hundred times as much by cash-hungry bankers in their twenties.

In short, we have an underlying, aching discomfort which goes to the heart of the reasons for the immediate crisis.

And we have a political class, which I don’t particularly like having to accept I’m a member of, which has abandoned people disastrously to their fate.

We’ll have more coverage later.

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  • Eddie Sammon 31st Aug '16 - 9:30am

    This is good but I object to the negative description of (investment) bankers in their 20s. Tim Farron, and many other politicos and commentators, could do with working a day in the City to see what it is like. I don’t mean 8-5 on a trading desk, I mean 9:30am to 11pm at night on a merger. Attitudes would soon change.

  • We are being given strokes of luck at last, the Brexit vote has given us a clear coherent platform whever its rights and wrongs and the coming Corbyn victory will probably mean Labour falling in line behind him, again another opportunity. At last the winds seem to be starting, enough to move us out of the doldrums to who knows where.

  • We do need Farron to reaffirm his initial commitment that the party will seek to derail Brexit and/or take ua back in to the EU at the earliest possible opportunity.

    We have had a membership surge on the back of articles like this: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-eu-referendum-result-lib-dems-remain-liberal-democrats-live-policy-stay-leave-a7103186.html

    However in recent weeks we seem to have changed language to “getting the best possible Brexit deal”. Our Brexit spokesperson – Clegg – has even joined Open Europe to make this case.

    I really hope we can reaffirm our commitment – either today or at party conference – to being utterly opposed to Brexit in all its forms.

    If we do not we will have let members (new and old) and the British public down.

    I have asked Tim on twitter if he finds the reporting in the Indy article fair, and agrees that we will derail Brexit. He said that this is the case.

    So let’s hope he can repeat all this publicly.

  • Simon McGrath 31st Aug '16 - 10:04am

    At the risk of interfering with Tim’s rhetoric most people on zero hours contracts are happy with them http://www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/research/zero-hours-contracts-myth-reality.aspx

  • Stephen Howse 31st Aug '16 - 10:22am

    “I really hope we can reaffirm our commitment – either today or at party conference – to being utterly opposed to Brexit in all its forms.”

    *If* Brexit happens then we need to be prepared for it. Once Article 50 is triggered, our line absolutely must be “we need to get as good a deal for Britain as possible, and the best deal is EEA membership”. Until it’s triggered, then our line can continue to be “we don’t think we should be leaving the EU and we want Parliament and/or the British people to have their say on any proposed Brexit deal, this should not be left to the government to ram through”.

  • Chris Nelson 31st Aug '16 - 10:36am

    Simon McGrath, the same report also says that 1 in 5 people on zero hours contracts feel penalised by their employer if they do something that aggravates them. This report was done in 2013 and their use has expanded since then.

    There are of course many situations where zero hours contracts are completely normal – such as people in the NHS who sign up to ‘the bank’ as a means of doing overtime or people looking to gain experience in a field by doing some agency work. But what is concerning is the proliferation of companies that are moving their entire workforce onto zero hours contracts which then means they don’t have a regular income, they don’t have job security, they dont get benefits like maternity pay and they aren’t as well protected from bad bosses who can penalise them without having to give a reason.

    It can also make it harder for employees to get a mortgage or a bank loan (who like to see a regular income) or even to rent somewhere (as many landlords will demand a guarantor if you don’t have a regular income).

    They have their place but should not be used for a job which is for all intents and purposes permanent.

  • David Evershed 31st Aug '16 - 10:48am

    I hope Tim will be rasing the issue of the way the current UK immigration law discriminates against Asian, African and American immigrants and in favour of Bulgarian, Romanian and Greek immigrants.

    Exiting the EU gives us the opportunity to stop the discrimination against those from Commonwealth countries such as India, Nigeria or South Africa.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Aug '16 - 10:54am

    Tim Farron’s statements about Brexit often seem to contradict each other. He apparently told William on twitter, as mentioned above, that he still wishes to “derail” Brexit. He actually told me on twitter that he respects the result and claimed that he had always made this clear. I can’t help getting the feeling that he was telling us both what he thought we wanted to hear.

  • @Catherine: that’s my fear too. I think as members we have a right to know what our leader thinks here, on the most pressing issue our country is facing.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Aug '16 - 11:27am

    David Evershed We have free movement of people within the UK and a historic relationship with the Republic of Ireland which continues to improve up to and including Head of State level. Extending that freedom to citizens of EEC member states was the art of the possible at the time, despite a multitude of anomalies such as people in South America who are citizens of France, etc.
    It was not the EEC or the EC which installed immigration controls on Commonwealth countries, but a series of British governments, so if the UK leaves the EU, after the EU referendum, the relevant UK laws would be unchanged. This was imaginative politics by Nigel Farage, but we should note his inconsistency and doubt his sincerity.
    The rights of would be immigrants to join family members resident in the UK relates to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, legislated in the UK through the Human Rights Act. The former Home Secretary has made statements about her intention on that. She is now Prime Minister. The European Convention on Human Rights is under the Council of Europe, a body which has more member states than the EU, including Russia and Turkey.
    Tim Farron could be more specific about NATO member states which are not member states of the EU. Norway appears to be included by “We will stand by you. As we stood by each other across Europe in the Second World War.” Norway has a frontier with Russia because of the annexation by the former USSR of part of Finland and ‘the north coast of Finland’ became a cynical joke.

  • I want to see a clear message of opposing leaving the EU and a clear statement that we believe the future of the UK is in shared partnership with its EU neighbours. The mechanism for this is, of course, in the EU. We have to explicitly reject an inward looking mentality (yes, TF does say that) and clearly state that many of the problems Tim Farron cites cannot be resolved at the expense of our neighbours, but can be in partnership.

  • Tom Papworth 31st Aug '16 - 12:14pm

    “He also addresses the real concerns and disadvantages faced by many of those who voted to leave the EU”

    I do worry when politicians claim to know “the real concerns and disadvantages faced by many of those who voted to leave the EU”, as though it is axiomatic that they could not have voted to leave the EU out of a genuine desire for a different future for Britain.

    Not only is it patronising, it also utterly fails to address what may very well be the actual concerns and disadvantages faced by many of those who voted to leave the EU. It lets him continue to promote the same platform that he was promoting before, as though nothing has changed.

    Great for consistency; not so great for winning round those Leave voters.

  • Vince Cable demonstrates acres more wisdom than Farron! It’s like Gandalf being led by Frodo. If his ‘mates’ did not vote due to racism then why assume anyone outside of a tiny minority did? Surely being French even puts Le Pen on a UK xenophobes hate list too. As for the now toothless Farage, calling him racist was always only a puerile strawman argument. He debated Clegg on the EU 3 times and by popular consent he won every debate. Many EU politicians are also now admitting that unrestricted migration is unsound and that does not make them racist either.

    Of course the population has problems that occupy their minds far more than being in or our of the EU. Farron just assumes that Leavers voted because of those other problems, rather than the far more plausible idea that the EU was just another perceived problem on top. Well perhaps that is the view of his (probably imaginary) ‘mates’ but it doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny.

    If he had some concrete solutions to these issues he raises it might qualify as more than just another anti-capitalist rant. Perhaps Labour is not alone in having Trot entryists taking over the party.

  • David Allen 31st Aug '16 - 1:48pm

    “Tim Farron’s statements about Brexit often seem to contradict each other.”

    Why on earth should we beat ourselves to death over this quite unnecessary conflict? We will raise principled objections to all the manifold mistakes we risk making with Brexit. As far as our limited strength will take us, we will push Government to minimise the mistakes and retain our trading, financial, educational, cultural and scientific links. This will derail the wilder ambitions of the Brexiteers. It could lead to a less bad Brexit. It could equally help enough people recognise that Brexit should be derailed altogether. Who knows?

    If Tim says he simultaneously seeks to minimise the pain of Brexit and if possible to derail it, he is not being self-contradictory or dishonest. He is simply playing it savvy. Owen Smith is playing it savvy. Those who demanded an instant re-run referendum were not playing it savvy, and those who would abanson hope of reversing Brexit are not playing it savvy, either!

  • Bankers and zero hour contracts are not the enemy – UKIP, Corbyn, junior doctors and RMT / ASLEF members are.

  • Stimpson 1st Sep ’16 – 8:15am………………..Bankers and zero hour contracts are not the enemy – UKIP, Corbyn, junior doctors and RMT / ASLEF members are…………

    You must be getting soft; you missed out the ‘unemployed’, ‘disabled’ and the ‘public sector’….

  • Dave Orbison 1st Sep '16 - 6:33pm

    Stimpson – wow quite a hit list you have there. “UKIP, Corbyn” are the enemy because..? What, they have opposing political views to you?

    Or “junior doctors are the enemy” because? They do not like having their contracts unilaterally changed by their employers and because they have the temerity to question how we will achieve the 24/7 NHS cover supposedly behind Hunt’s imposition of the new contract. This by the way whilst Hunt simultaneously presides over the NHS currently heading for a £22bn cut, I’m sorry ‘efficiency savings’.

    Well and as for those RMT/ASLEF lot? Presumably they are on your list as you do not think as workers they have any rights not least the right to strike.

    I just hope your paperboy doesn’t put your newspaper through the wrong door otherwise he may find himself in your little book.

    Meanwhile, bankers and zero hours contracts cause no issues? Well I’ve seen plenty of evidence of people suffering through zero hour contracts and the uncertainty and stress that brings them and their families. Do you think the ‘banking crisis’ had nothing to do with bankers ? Really?

  • I hope we can support fast track prosecutions and exemplary sentences for racist violence and hate crime, with public naming and shaming of offenders. It’s importnat to get across swiftly the message that this type of behaviour is unacceptable and has not been licensed by the Brexit vote.

  • Simon Banks 2nd Sep '16 - 8:54am

    There is no logical conflict between committing ourselves to campaigning for EU membership (to stop Brexit if there’s a snap election; to reverse it if not) and in the meantime working to minimise the damage, particularly in terms of worker and consumer protection and environmental protection (“red tape”). After all, not only may there be no election till 2020, odds are if there’s a snap election the Tories will win it, and in 2020 or now Heaven knows what the Labour line will be.

    So it’s a question of balancing the emphasis.

    I do wonder if Norman Lamb and Nick Clegg discussed committing themselves to Open Britain with the Parliamentary party and at least Sal Brinton. I can see why Nick Clegg likes it: the declaration says “we in the centre ground”.

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