ICYMI: Tim Farron at PMQs: When will she put the interests of hard-working British people ahead of an extremist protectionism that absolutely nobody voted for?

Courtesy of Channel 4 News:

A strong question from Tim:

The Prime Minister appears to have made a choice, and that choice is to side with the protectionists and nationalists who have taken over her party, as surely as Momentum has taken over the Labour party. She has chosen a hard Brexit that was never on anybody’s ballot paper and she has chosen to turn her back on British business in the process. As a result, petrol and food retailers have warned of huge price rises at the pumps and on the supermarket shelves in the coming days. When will she put the interests of hard-working British people ahead of an extremist protectionism that absolutely nobody voted for?

May’s answer showed that she thinks she doesn’t have to bother at all about the almost half the country who don’t want us to hurtle towards the disaster of a hard Brexit.

The hon. Gentleman asks about who we are siding with. I will tell him who this Government are siding with. We are siding with the British people, who voted to leave the European Union. It is high time the hon. Gentleman listened to the vote of the British people and accepted that that is exactly what we are going to do.

The derision with which Tim was received was reminiscent of the treatment handed out to Charles Kennedy when he stood up against the Iraq war. And he turned out to be right.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • The core problem here, is he begun talking about protectionism, where the Government’s rhetoric is free trade, which is the opposite of protectionism. Of course the reality is, it is optimistic to think free trade will be possible. And we expect opposition leaders such as Tim to criticise the government. While May’s response implies she is not listening, she can also not be oblivious to the mounting pressure she is under. It will be intriguing to see what the autumn statement does in regards to the economy.

  • Keith Sharp 14th Oct '16 - 3:13pm

    If Tim and the party stay consistently on this theme, we will have an impact in time, both on this crucial issue, and on our party’s prospects. We do though have to be persistent and patient. If we stay steady and articulate, we will expose the hollowness of this unelected PM’s stance, claiming to speak for the British people, when the fact is that only 52% of 72% voted leave.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Oct '16 - 3:28pm

    I’m getting closer but I still don’t understand the Lib Dem position. Is it to stay in the Single Market and accept the four freedoms? If Brexit has to happen that is.

    It’s hard to get outraged if so because the public didn’t vote for the status quo on immigration either. Regards

  • I watched a bit of question time last night and the main point made by remainers was that the leavers didn’t know what they were voting for and were divided. The response from the leavers was overwhelming, they knew exactly what they voted for. They voted to regain sovereignty knowing full well that this could – and almost certainly would – mean leaving the single market. That’s exactly what I am finding from my own area, rightly or wrongly they want out. It seems to be only the remainers that are confused about what the leavers voted for. The main worry for the brexiteers is not whether we stay in the single market, it’s whether they can trust the politicians to take us out of the EU.

  • Andrew McCaig 14th Oct '16 - 4:56pm

    Of course most leavers want an end to freedom of movement and many want out of the single market too.
    But 52% of VOTERS (according to the poll earlier this month) will accept freedom of movement to stay in the single market

  • Christopher Haigh 14th Oct '16 - 5:01pm

    Does anybody know why the BoE started quantitative easing again after 23/6 as this just seems to have forced up share prices again ?

  • John Peters 14th Oct '16 - 5:20pm

    @Andrew McCaig

    We want out of the EU, which includes out of the Single Market. 52% in a referendum rather trumps 52% in an opinion poll.

  • Andrew McCaig

    “But 52% of VOTERS (according to the poll earlier this month) will accept freedom of movement to stay in the single market”

    I’m sure that’s true, in fact I’m a little surprised it isn’t more than 52%. However, we don’t know if that’s on the table do we. Tusk said it’s either “Hard Brexit” or no “Brexit”. The only thing that is totally in our control is whether we leave or stay – that’s what the people voted on. So at the moment it’s leave and hope the government can negotiate a decent deal on trade.

  • As malc mentioned, Donald Tusk has been very forthright and said that there is no “soft Brexit” option on the table – only hard Brexit or no Brexit. Since the voters have already rejected “no Brexit”, that leaves us with hard Brexit.

    Those who want soft Brexit are wasting their time putting pressure on Theresa May – they need to be lobbying the EU instead, since it’s the EU who seem to be taking a very intransigent line.

  • Malc.
    Exactly. However, I don’t think Remain campaigners are confused by this at all. I think they just can’t accept the result. To a great extent a lot of people in the progressive Centre and on the Left have more or less banked the future on internationalism and variations on identity politics. This is a bitter pill for them.

  • Allan Brame 14th Oct '16 - 6:29pm

    “This is a bitter pill for them.”

    Maybe so. But more importantly, and of greater concern than the feelings of the progressive centre, a tanking economy will prove a far more bitter pill for all of us

  • @Glenn
    It’s ironic that those who set great play by “internationalism”, and held up the EU as a fine example of it, and even claimed during the referendum that staying in the EU would make it easier for us to negotiate trade deals, now seem to have zero faith in the ability (or inclination) of the EU to negotiate a trade deal with Britain that will be beneficial to both parties.

  • Peter Chambers 14th Oct '16 - 6:34pm


    Interesting result from your fieldwork.

    So there is no particular value of loss to your or my living standard that would cause them to hesitate?

    This is a serious question. A few weeks ago I asked a friend who knows rather more economics than me about what was likely to happen. He said, wait until the buffer stock and hedges run out. Then I saw the headline about Tesco and Unilever. This is not Project Fear. This is a rational prediction that came true. Or have we had enough of experts?

  • Allen.
    There are economic problems and tanking economies in the EU. We’ve had close to zero interest rates since 2008 decade, stagnant wages, dismal productivity, record personal borrowing, a massive trade deficit etc. So it’s not like being in the EU was doing a great deal of good. Let’s be honest fighting on the economy when the economy was in a poor state and people felt squeezed was not exactly the sharpest move. David Owen, of all people, ended up turning against the EU on the grounds that it’s record was actually pretty poor. The other problem you’ve got on this score is that the Tories do not show signs of lurching further to the economic Right and are in no mood for punishing the voters who somewhat unexpectedly delivered what many of them wanted.
    Remain actually should have gone with pomp and power. The world stage and all that stuff. Made people feel like they are world beaters in the super league. But instead they went with we know it’s bad but it could be worse, we’re too weak on our own and you’re all beastly populists.

  • Peter Chambers

    “So there is no particular value of loss to your or my living standard that would cause them to hesitate?”

    I don’t think they believe there will be a long-term loss. Many people – perhaps the majority – think Unilever were just a greedy company who’s CEO was an angry remainer. They remember the dollar being almost 1 for 1 under Thatcher and just a few years ago the euro was trading at around 1.15 to the pound. Rightly or wrong they look at the future – especially long-term – with more confidence that those who voted remain.

  • If there are 170 questions to answer about the UK’s position (I’m not sure how many of those answer how a PM not willing to allow Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish voices at the negotiating table can pretend to care about British people) then that will happen before we are ready to re-negotiate with the 27 EU states and the rest of Europe. We will then be in a position to take our position to the rest of the world and re-negotiate with the Australia’s, China’s, India’s, Brazil’s etc. If this is going to a hard-Brexit then it will be a long process where the almost continued uncertainty will further distress our economy and scare European citizens making their living (it is not just about the economy) in the UK. How can leave voters claim to know what they voted for when there is so much to answer?

  • Liberal Manifesto 2015 https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/libdems/pages/8907/attachments/original/1429203979/Liberal_Democrat_General_Election_2015_Manifesto_-_Plain_Text.txt?1429203979

    How many people read and understood that before casting their vote for the Lib Dems?

    Lib Dems don’t seem to like change.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Oct '16 - 12:50am

    Brexit would be bad for Britain. Even if the ‘will of the British people’ represented more than that of the 52% of the 72%, and could be shown to have a single major focus, it still could not be a will to harm our country. Profound damage to our economy if we left the EU was anticipated: as David Cameron and Brendan Barber wrote in a Guardian article in April, Britain’s GDP will be permanently lower than it would otherwise be, and the economic downturn will mean people losing jobs, having lower wages yet facing higher prices. Profound damage to our economy continues to be expected by leading economic forecasters if we leave the single market, and Lord Dick Taverne has just written in a Guardian letter that in that case ‘domestic and foreign investment will decline, companies will emigrate, London will probably cease to be the financial centre of the EU and we are likely to face a severe recession.’

    If all that economic harm happens, the letter of October 13 continues, ‘In time that is likely to cause a major change in public opinion, as many voters for leave will feel they were conned. This change will fully justify a rerun of the referendum, after the conclusion of the negotiations.’ Just so, as Lib Dem policy proposes.

    The Brexiteers’ promise of jam tomorrow, or rather many years hence when separate trade deals have been painfully negotiated, is pretty thin gruel. Surely we should wait for the mounting evidence to change people’s minds, but meantime denounce as Tim has done the Government’s harmful ‘hard Brexit’ approach.

  • jedibeeftrix 15th Oct '16 - 5:51am

    @ katharine – “David Cameron and Brendan Barber wrote in a Guardian article in April, Britain’s GDP will be permanently lower than it would otherwise be”

    It is just a choice, and political choices are always a trade off. After all, if all we cared about was gdp growth we’d have adopted a singapore style social, fiscal, and industrial policy. A more rigidly self reliant country in both individual and national terms, with low regulation and taxation, and elements of government such as education explicitly directed to support industry.

    If the trend growth of the uk was ~2.5% over the last quarter century, we might have added another 0.5%. And yet we chose not to do so…

  • John Peters 15th Oct '16 - 9:44am

    On the contrary Brexit will be great for Britain. It will profoundly help our economy. Our GDP will grow more strongly than it would have done within the straightjacket of the EU. London will go from strength to strength as a world league financial centre.

    We mustn’t aspire only to the lost decades of growth achieved by the EI in the guise of Italy and Greece.

    The Lib Dems are beginning to realise they have been lied to for decades about the EU. They are understandably angry. Don’t last out at those intelligent enough to vote Leave. Lash out at those who lied to you. Perhaps start with that great friend and expert of the EU, the IMF. The IMF which has repeatedly underestimated UK growth and has had to make repeated grovelling apologies to the UK.

    You need to choose your experts more carefully. Unlike yours, I have no proven track record of being wrong.

  • Can I ask if Remainers would `bother about the 48% of those that voted Leave` if the voting had been reversed? Would there be any policies designed to lift up those in regional poverty? What about trade agreements – would there have been a concerted effort to turbo-charge them? EU army – what would the Lib Dems say about that?

    Also, would you have said `let’s tackle these things and come back with a 2nd referendum?`

    No of course not.

  • @James – the fundamental issue was that the UK got the referendums the wrong way round!

    It was well known prior to 2015 that the EU was going to be presenting some new reforms in the coming years (ie. prior to 2020), these would have given the UK government the opportunity to hold a referendum on the resulting treaty and then (most probably) having voted it down, begin considering it’s alternatives, including leaving the EU.

    So to my mind whilst the fanatics would have ignored the Leave vote, just as they are ignoring the 2-in-3 who didn’t vote leave, many (who voted remain) would be looking see what reforms the EU actually delivers. So as has been mentioned by others on LDV, the best result would have been 52% remain, as that would have enabled the UK government to both claim it had listened to the electorate but also use the narrowness of the result as leverage in the negotiations about the direction of the EU.

    The key difference is that one way we influence the direction of reform from the inside, the other we walk away and hope that whatever reforms that may be decided are beneficial to a UK outside of the club…

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Oct '16 - 10:31pm

    @John Peters: are you joking, John? That optimism isn’t held by any commentators I have read. Only look at Tory journalist Matthew Parris in his comment column in The Times today for example – headline We’re heading for the biggest crisis since Suez.
    @jedibeeftrix: personally, as no economist, I don’t feel strongly about GDP, any more than I felt strongly about The Deficit. But I do care about ordinary people facing job losses, lower wages and higher prices. And isn’t it ‘The economy, stupid’ which is most reputed to affect voting? Poorer people may surely turn against the prospect of economic catastrophe, if it begins to happen, and demand a rethink.

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Oct '16 - 10:48pm

    John Peters,

    My cat also has no track record of being wrong on economics, so I am going to listen to her from now on..

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