In full: Tim Farron’s speech in the Article 50 debate

Tim Farron spoke in the Commons debate on Article 50 this afternoon. Here is his speech in full:

She is not in her place now, but I want to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson) for her excellent maiden speech.

Liberal Democrats have always been proud internationalists. It was the Liberals who backed Winston Churchill’s European vision in the 1950s, even when his own party did not do so. Since our foundation, we have been champions of Britain’s role in the European Union and fought for co-operation and openness with our neighbours and with our allies. We have always believed that the challenges that Britain faces in the 21st century—climate change, terrorism and economic instability—are best tackled working together as a member of the European Union.

Being proud Europeans is part of our identity as a party, and it is part of my personal identity too. Personally, I was utterly gutted by the result. Some on the centre left are squeamish about patriotism; I am not. I am very proud of my identity as a northerner, as an Englishman, as a Brit, and as a European—all those things are consistent. My identity did not change on 24 June, and neither did my values, my beliefs, or what I believe is right for this country and for future generations. I respect the outcome of the referendum. The vote was clear—close, but clear—and I accept it.

But voting for departure is not the same as voting for a destination. Yes, a narrow majority voted to leave the EU, but the leave campaign had no plans, no instructions, no prospectus and no vision. No one in this Government, no one in this House and no one in this country has any idea of what the deal the Prime Minister will negotiate with Europe will be—it is completely unknown. How, then, can anyone pretend that this undiscussed, unwritten, un-negotiated deal in any way has the backing of the British people? The deal must be put to the British people for them to have their say. That is the only way to hold the Government to account for the monumental decisions they will have to take over the next two years.

The deal must be put to the British people for them to have their say. That is the only way to hold the Government to account for the monumental decision they will have to take over the next two years to ensure that the course they choose serves the interests of all the people, however they voted.

I will not take any more interventions because other people need to get in.

Here is the likelihood: 48% of the people will not like the outcome of the deal, and half of the 52% will feel that they were betrayed by the outcome of the deal. The only way to achieve democracy and closure is for there to be a vote at the end.

The fact is that the Prime Minister is the one making the strongest case for giving people a vote on the deal. She had the choice to pursue a form of Brexit that united our country, reflected the closeness of the vote, and sought to heal the divisions between leave and remain. Instead she chose to pursue the hardest, most divisive form of Brexit, which tears us out of the single market and leaves us isolated against the might of world superpowers. Never mind that six months ago she herself argued the case for remaining in the EU. Never mind that numerous leave campaigners championed the Norway and Swiss models and spent the referendum campaign assuring voters that we would not leave the single market. Never mind that 48% of people—16 million British people—wanted to stay in the EU. Never mind that Britain’s young people, who have more of a stake in our country than most of us here, voted three to one to remain.

The Prime Minister has made her choice—fine; she has chosen hard Brexit—but if she is so confident that what she is planning is what people voted for, she must give them a vote on the final deal. What started with democracy must not end with a Government stitch-up.

When all is said and done, the decision on whether the deal the Prime Minister negotiates is good enough will be decided by someone; someone will make that decision. Should it be the Prime Minister, should it be those privileged to be here, or should it be the British people who have to live with that decision?

I say that it should be put to the people in a referendum. That is why the Liberal Democrats are fighting for the British people to have the final vote on the deal that this Government negotiates. Democracy means accepting the will of the people, at the beginning of the process and the end of the process. Democracy means respecting the majority, and democracy means not giving up your beliefs when the going gets tough.

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49 Comments

  • PHIL THOMAS 1st Feb '17 - 6:00pm

    Unfortunately, it is Tim and most of the Lib Dem MP’s that have not been in the Chamber.
    Shame on them. Brexit has flushed out the MP’s the Party can rely on to bring on future success and the MP’s the activists are carrying ? The whip needs to be removed from the 2? rebels.

  • Sorry Phil.as a Liberal I know that when you between a rock and a hard place, personal judgement comes into play.I wish that we had been unanimous but the two have stated clearly why they have taken the view they have. Look at the position Labour has got itself into with three line whips, what a shambles. Liberals can never be lobby fodder or they would not be distinctive.

  • PHIL THOMAS 1st Feb '17 - 8:04pm

    Bob……………..Then why give the impression that the Party is 100% united behind the EEC ? It is called misleading people ? Lib Dem MP’s haven’t even been in the Chamber to listen to the debate. The other Parties have been mocking them FOR NOT TURNING UP. It is embarrassing.

  • Nicholas Cunningham 1st Feb '17 - 8:19pm

    As a new member and aghast at the notion of Brexit I would of liked to have seen a united front concerning article 50, but politics is never straightforward. Personally, I hate the idea of whipping MP’s into line, as Bob points out, just look at the shambles Labour finds themselves in. Tim and Nick and others made excellent speeches, made the case and the fact of the matter, there will be many Tory and Labour MP’s who tonight will not be happy with themselves. So we move on to the next phase, one battle lost, but with many to come, let’s just hope that all MP’s will ask those searching questions and scrutinise those simplistic answers that make up the Brexiteers pipe dream. I believe the Lib/Dems MP’s will be doing just that.

  • I do hope Phil Thomas’s comment is not representative of party membership. If it is then the party calling itself ‘liberal’ and ‘democratic’ no longer possesses either of those attributes and is no longer one I recognise.

  • @David Becket re: “Former Chancellor George Osbourne has stated that the economy is not May’s priority.”

    And the really telling thing is that no one from the government benches tried to deny it…

    I particularly liked his addition concerning the view from the EU, namely, the EU’s priority is the EU’s economy and not the UK’s. Thus the UK can expect the EU will take May at her word and only offer “statutory minimum” ie. “Hard Brexit”, given that is what she has stated she is looking for.

  • And now the fun begins. May will start the process and the claims of the brave Brexiteers will unravel. I always wondered what it would be like to be constantly carping from the side lines blaming everything on the EU no matter whose fault is was, now I fear the brave Brexiteers are about to take the EU’s place, from now everything that goes wrong is your fault, the boot is well and truly on the other foot. I expect they know that though, hence the attempts to shout down people who don’t agree with them. I think many of them will start to drop of this site and abandon the internet in their present guises as times get tough; lets see how many are still here in twelve months time.

  • David Evans 1st Feb '17 - 9:59pm

    arneig. The problem is the vast majority of people vote for a party because they have a clear idea what it stands for and so on balance trust it. When a quarter of our MPs do what they want on an issue as central to our party’s current position as this, all it does make it clear to those people that we are not a party they can rely on, except to do whatever we feel like at the time.

    The party’s name is the Liberal Democrats – we discuss, we debate, we vote, we decide. But for two MPs that maxim apparently doesn’t seem to apply. Perhaps the question we all have to decide is whether we are a party of Liberal Democrats serious about government or just a random bunch of liberal independents there to make up the numbers in the House of Commons?

  • Paul Murray 1st Feb '17 - 10:29pm

    @David Evans – so once again the Liberal Democrats tells a significant fraction of its supporters – about 30% according to many polls – that their support is no longer needed and that new recruits will fill the gap? Now tell me – when did you last hear this idea?

  • They didn’t need a three line whip……. just a bit more common sense, loyalty to the Leader and former Leader, and a bit less self indulgence.

  • 1. Trust & Integrity starts with honesty.
    2. Politician’s are mistrusted and engaged with poorly by the general public due to a perception that they ‘ blow with the wind’ and therefore “what’s the point in engaging” as part of a very bust life/day.
    3. I personally believe most people are smarter than we often give them credit for
    4. I attended the hustings in Nottingham and was impressed with both Tim and Norman equally – two very different skill sets, but two very passionate and genuine politician’s I thought. That is rare in my opinion!
    5. I do not believe the public at large will judge individual politician’s harshly for holding views they believe in and that are heartfelt and consistent.
    6. The vote was close, very close. The reasons have been discussed to death here over many weeks. I don’t find it surprising that 33% of Lib Dem’s voted leave (many I would guess reluctantly) or that 66% voted stay (many, including me, with reservations).
    7. The point is this: Surely integrity, trust and a genuine well thought though consistent position is what is most important in order to build trust and engagement in any political process.
    8. Brexit may fail, in which case the Lib Dem’s USP and general consensus will be given well deserved media coverage and Kudos. The party will no doubt flourish.
    9. Brexit may succeed eventually, in which case the Lib Dem’s will be just as relevant in seeking to ensure that fairness and equality of opportunity prevails in a brave new world.
    10. Policy committees are hopefully, at this very minute, working towards clearly thought through positions that will appeal, in the months and years ahead.
    11. People of principal will never agree on every stance. That is why they are people of principal. Surely that is going to be a much greater USP in the years to come.
    12. Celebrating difference and respecting diversity of views is surely the very point of the Lib Dem’s as a movement isn’t it?

  • Peter Watson 1st Feb '17 - 10:56pm

    @PHIL THOMAS “Unfortunately, it is Tim and most of the Lib Dem MP’s that have not been in the Chamber.”
    Not gone unnoticed.
    From the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-parliaments-38833310):

    Bit players need to play their part.
    The Lib Dems have sought to position themselves as the last champions of the Remain cause (although two of their MPs, Norman Lamb and Greg Mulholland have promised to abstain on the Article 50 Bill). But they can’t claim to be the arch-opponents of Brexit and fail to maintain a presence for the big debates on it – and their leader, Tim Farron, had a chastening time at PMQs when this was pointed out. In truth, their much-reduced parliamentary party has been pretty bad at showing the flag, since the last election. It’s rare to see all nine Lib Dem MPs on the green benches. This is one area where they are not very good at remaining.

  • The idea that our nine MPs should have sat in the chamber throughout the whole debate is crazy and nonsensical.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Feb '17 - 1:02am

    Phil Thomas

    What you write makes me worried I am in the minority that do not think staying in or with an institution ,has anything to do with Liberal Democracy itself, and for some , not me, is the opposite! Your attitude to fine mps is distressing.

    David Raw

    You now advocate loyalty to our former leader ?! I now think I am perhaps dreaming !

    Mike S

    If it were not for your comments and a few others ,this day ,I would be considering what do do as far as being in this party. It has made me so very sad to read some comments .

    And the attitude of the pro EU anti Brexit, is going so far, combined with the unnecessary move by Guy Verhovstadt to further federalise the institution that is , in its having not embraced reform,causing this division in our country, makes me see Brexit as almost inevitable, and the voice of reason is people like Norman Lamb, Gregg Mulholland, Anna Soubry. I support Tim in his desire for a referendum on a deal, but this obsession with the EU is driving me to re-think things in politics.

    Everything I believe is to do with advocating common sense , finding common ground. Where to now after such divisiveness, however small the minority on left or right of our country , or in this party in an even smaller way?

  • Bernard Aris 2nd Feb '17 - 1:37am

    @ Phil Thomas

    Are we Liberals or strict Communitarians, groupthinkers or free thinkers? If you were right about Liberal party traditions, David Alton with his personal distaste for the abortion David Steel had legalized should have lost the whip. The same goes for Scotish parliament MPs (MSP’s?) who disagreed a couple of years ago about euthanasia when it came up there.
    We in D66 always have agreed (and we’re celebrating being in the Dutch parliament 50 years this year) to tolerate dissenting voting MP’s on points of personal conviction; and Liberal MP’s could even go against their party platform if they so wished.
    The Militant Trotskyists (totalitarian!) brought in Deselection with Labour; and Monumentum repeats it with Corbyns consent. Not my kind of party politics.

    I only could see what the BBC News and Newsnight put out, and the wonderful summary of some speeches (“alice in Wonderland”) on the Guardian website; I thoroughly enjoyed Tims riposte to the Labour accusation and Nicks arguments there.

    Looking forward to the Brexit Petitions debate on February 20th!

  • David Pearce 2nd Feb '17 - 5:11am

    The conservatives have spent six months trying to form a strategy on Brexit, and the result is, ‘give us everything we want or we will walk away’. Anyone who suggests this is impractical is disparaged as defeatist. Why?

    Start from the premise conservatives are not stupid, and do have good advisors. They know this approach will not work. So why continue? There can be only one answer, that at least from their perspective, all other alternatives are worse.

    George Osborne politely chided his colleagues that the government had chosen not to prioritise the economy. The undertsatement of the decade. What they seem to have done is consider which immoveable and contradictory imperative they will respect, and therefore abandoned any attempt at preserving the economic one. They know the consequences this will have on the economy, and have chosen to embrace them.

    A yougov poll just published asks whether if there is no settlement acceptible to parliament, negotiations should continue untill there are. 50/30 supported this. There is no mandate to leave the EU at any cost and the government has always understood this. So why?

    The answer has to be they want the voters to face the worst case economic scenario. Their position is that voters have forced their hand, they will deliver what UKIP demanded. Then voters can decide what to make of what results, and whether they really want it after all. If it goes well, great for the conservatives. If it goes badly, as they seem to believe it will, then it was the voters that insisted they do. That is the reason for their central spin message, to put across that voters not conservatives are to blame for what happens next.

    It isnt true. Ken Clarke understood what the party is attempting, and quoted Burke to his colleagues, that an MPs duty is to do what is right for the nation, not what voters demand. The conservatives have prioritised staying in power over national interest, and there will be a huge price paid by the nation if Brexit goes through.

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Feb '17 - 7:52am

    People should get a dose of realism on here! You have to actually search head to find any mention at all about 2 of out MPs abstaining in the media. It is all about Labour splits! Main BBC story just says Liberal Democrats opposed the bill..
    Two MPs abstaining is just not news..

  • @frankie – “I always wondered what it would be like to be constantly carping from the side lines blaming everything on the EU no matter whose fault is was, now I fear the brave Brexiteers are about to take the EU’s place, from now everything that goes wrong is your fault, the boot is well and truly on the other foot.”

    I think you’ll find that everything will still be the EU’s fault. It will be the EU refusing to give us the deal we want, the EU refusing to compromise etc.

    The Brexiteers have absolutely no intention of taking responsibility for the outcome of the negotiations, or any detrimental effects on our economy or society.

  • Little Jackie Paper 2nd Feb '17 - 8:54am

    David Pearce – I saw Osborne’s comments on priority for the economy. That man really does not and never will Get It. He didn’t Get It during the referendum and he still Doesn’t Get why economic messages didn’t cut through. I put this up on LDV before, but it seems pertinent here – look at this graphic:

    http://inequalitybriefing.org/graphics/briefing_43_UK_regions_poorest_North_Europe.pdf

    That is where 40 years of the UK in the EU has ended up. That graphic shows what, ‘prioritising the economy within the EU,’ has meant to a lot of people in reality. If you can’t understand why some people are not at all happy with the status quo I think that graphic shows it.

    If you saw the economy crash 10 years before the referendum and never recover then economic menace really isn’t all that meaningful. The EU is wonderful if you have bubble-priced property to sell to a French banker and a villa on the Costas. For everyone else that graphic is where we are on the economy. And George Osborne wonders why it is that some people want a different set of economic priorities.

    Now, of course, there are likely things that successive UK governments (Coalition included) could/should have done differently. Possibly things that liberals mightn’t like very much. I don’t think anyone serious would say that this is all the EU’s fault.

    But surely the referendum was a loud and clear shout that people want something different to Osborne’s economic priorities.

    Indeed you say, ‘Then voters can decide what to make of what results, and whether they really want it after all.’ Isn’t that just another way of saying take back control?

  • There is a 7% drop in applicants to universities from EU students. So, a leading export industry is in decline despite the drop in value of the pound which Brexiters like to tell us should lead to a growth in exports.

    This is the grim reality of Brexit and its very obvious undertones. People don’t want to do business with us anymore.

  • Nicholas Cunningham 2nd Feb '17 - 9:52am

    Nick Baird is spot on, the Brexiteers take responsibility no chance. They have promised prosperity outside the EU, they will have to deliver. Did anyone read what the the Northern Ireland affairs select committee was informed yesterday concerning May’s plan for a ‘seamless, frictionless border” post Brexit in Ireland.

    Asked if Northern Ireland could get a “waiver” from the EU because of the special conditions pertaining to the island, lawyer Eric Pickett, an expert in World Trade Organisation rules and international trade law, said this was legally impossible. It would be a strict violation of WTO law,” he said.

    Example where political promises and the reality clash.

  • David Evans 2nd Feb '17 - 10:16am

    Paul Murray – No. The party’s membership has always had a diversity of views on almost every topic. That comes from being a liberal. We have a mechanism to cope with that – It’s called democracy. No one gets 100% of the Lib Dem party they personally would like. But overall we rub along quite well.

  • John Barrett 2nd Feb '17 - 10:17am

    If two out of nine MPs did not follow the party line, that appears to equate roughly with the number of Lib-Dem supporters who did not follow the party line on the referendum vote, so maybe Norman and Greg made the party appear more democratic after all.

    For those who are concerned that other parties may have mocked our lack of number on the benches, they should be aware that this is what the other parties have always done to us and it is what the Lib-Dems regularly did in the past, when we had more MPs and the Labour or Conservative were not in the chamber for what we thought were important debates.

    Very few, if any, MPs in the chamber yesterday would have actually changed their minds, or learned much at all from the debate, and sadly this is the same in many debates in Parliament. The way MPs vote is more or less 100% decided before the debate begins.

    The value of debates in Parliament, especially since the High Court ruling that there must be one over Article 50, ignores the reality of Parliamentary debates and how useful or useless many of them are.

    This is not to say that every debate is pointless in Parliament, just the ones where little is learned by anyone and most things have been said before inside or outside Westminster. The only difference is that until there is a debate, not everyone elected has yet had their chance to say it.

  • Little Jackie Paper 2nd Feb '17 - 10:22am

    John Probert –

    ‘Little Jackie Piper [sic] appears to blame the EU for Britain having most of the poorest regions in Northern Europe. How fair is that?’

    Sorry, I’ll just restate the part of my post that you obviously didn’t read – ‘Now, of course, there are likely things that successive UK governments (Coalition included) could/should have done differently. Possibly things that liberals mightn’t like very much. I don’t think anyone serious would say that this is all the EU’s fault.’

    ‘I believe that the EU is a net infrastructure contributor to most of those areas.’

    And the UK is a net contributor to the EU as a whole – which is rather more than can be said for a lot of the states currently handing out lectures on the European Ideal. The whole £350m argument is the reddest of herrings.

  • Lorenzo – at 1.02 am you should be dreaming.

  • Phil Thomas. 9 MPs cannot be everywhere. we shout when they are not at by elections campaigning etc. Clegg was ceratinly there the first day.They were certainly there yesterday. Actually the public are not concerned, they probably sympathised with Farron when the Cons tried to take the piss, he handles them quite well, almost cheers them on.

  • Big test today at Rotherham, big test for UKIP not quite so big for Labour, quite big for us, well in the Brinsworth seat, do not think we have campaigened at Dinnington.

  • Nicholas Cunningham 2nd Feb '17 - 11:04am

    The EU has contributed billions into areas right across this Country, money that would otherwise be distributed elsewhere if left to National governments. How some would argue that is taking back control, but tell that to communities up and down the land who would never in a million years would see the money and the re-sources set side for projects that are simply not a priority for Government. Governments left to their own devices have a zeal of allocating resources to achieve one end, power and will prioritise areas that will deliver that goal.

  • Phil Thomas: some who watched the tories trying to take the Michael have been sympathetic to us. One said only 9 they cannot be everywhere. Fair comment, also farron handles the shouting well, think they find it his seeming encouragement frustrating. Shows they are rattled by us.

  • @John Barrett
    “This is not to say that every debate is pointless in Parliament, just the ones where little is learned by anyone and most things have been said before inside or outside Westminster. The only difference is that until there is a debate, not everyone elected has yet had their chance to say it.”

    So what is the point of MP’s demanding a debate, if they are not actually going to bother to turn up to engage in it. We constantly hear complaints from MP’s that some policy or legislation should not go ahead because parliament has not given enough time to debate it.
    Surely a debate means that one has to participate in the form of listening as well as speaking. You don’t get anywhere just talking at people rather than too people.

    I would be interested to see and I am not referring to just Libdem MP’s who voted against the program and motion and whether these people actually then bother to turn up and engage in the debates.

  • John Probert
    “I believe that the EU is a net infrastructure contributor to most of those areas”

    Looks like you’re still clinging on to one of those ‘alternate truths’, that called itself ‘EU Funding’.
    We send the EU £19 billion per year and they recycle roughly £9 billion back to UK projects. I can’t see how giving us back our own [UK], taxpayers money for [UK], infrastructure can remotely label the EU as ‘contributors’.
    If you are correct about the EU’s generosity, wouldn’t you think that the EU would relish the idea of [stopping post Brexit], being NET contributors to our infrastructure, so they can spend that money on something more ‘EU’.? Surely,..more proof that the EU are not Net contributors, is the fact that Germany will in all likelihood, have to fill the cash shortfall post Brexit.
    Fact ~ The UK has never received one penny of EU funding,.. which didn’t originate from the UK taxpayer.
    If you still struggle to get it, send me a £20 note, and I’ll send you a £10 note of ‘J. Dunn Funding’, plus a better written explanation of the EU sleight-of-hand scam. Good value, I think you’ll agree,… A written explanation plus £10 to spend as you wish,.. What’s not to like.?

  • Peter Watson 2nd Feb '17 - 1:32pm

    @Nicholas Cunningham ” money that would otherwise be distributed elsewhere if left to National governments”
    But such a national government is accountable to its electorate at regular intervals. And isn’t localism an important principle for Lib Dems, devolving such decisions about how and where to distribute funding as far down as possible?
    I’m not disagreeing with you that governments might spend the money on the wrong priorities, but I don’t think that justifies passing money up to a supranational organisation and letting it choose which British region or priority to spend it on. Investing in things that cross international borders (such as climate change) would be more appropriate for such an organisation, but even that could lead to specific spending commitments that need to be spread around for political reasons rather than practical ones, and sub-optimal solutions as a result of multi-nation compromises.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Feb '17 - 2:00pm

    Martin

    You are as staunch a supporter of the EU as it is possible to find, you could not be a member of this party you said if Norman was leader, that says a lot more about being negative, but you presume I am not being positive,because I am not advocating a Federal EU.

    I am very demoralised by these couple of days. Ask me soon and I might have decided what to say and do about it ! I do advocate very different reforms to those adopted, why you think that what we have had are reforms anyone in this country would want, is not beyond me, but is very beyond what I wanted then or now.

    I was not in favour of the free movement overnight of the new members, I am not if, as now, in favour f the automatic free movement as essential to a free and fair market . nafta , does not require free movement through North America ! I do not see why we could not have done things differently, saying ok, to new countries, not immediate entry,but the arrangements that nearly every other country adopted. It is exactly those things which you call reforms , that I call mistakes, that put many off the EU in Britain, and rightly.

    We could reform it , to be a genuine association of friendly trading nations with common policies on security and co operation on such, as well as culture and education, Erasmus etc.

    But no, some prefer the united states of Europe.

    Not me.

  • Nicholas Cunningham 2nd Feb '17 - 2:32pm

    ‘But such a national government is accountable to its electorate at regular intervals.’

    Peter,
    Yes, but whole swathes of this Country are all intent and purposes have no real democracy, in terms that they can actually shape their communities or indeed their Nation. Take Scotland for an example, yes, on the one hand, they have devolution of some powers, on the other hand Brexit has proved they have no capacity whatsoever to shape it, even when the vast majority did not vote for it, they are told simply to get on with it. Government has no intention of actually listening or acting on the mandate which the Scottish people give at the last election, that’s been made very clear. Meaning millions of citizens left feeling angry and totally frustrated that real power is where it’s always been, exercised by the Tory shires. Money will always drift to where power can be gained and doing so millions wonder if they are second rate rate citizens. What’s the answer, devolution, but with the real powers that actually deliver and that means far less power exercise by Westminster.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Feb '17 - 2:45pm

    Martin

    I did read your comments, and again, if you think that insults are a good method, speculating that my views are hollow, it is strange that is an approach that is favoured and accepted .

    I actually did not mean you, when referring to a united states model, it is favoured by some OTHERS !

  • Nicholas Cunningham 2nd Feb '17 - 7:01pm

    Remember one of the core arguments concerning Brexit, the return of Parliamentary sovereignty.

    Now read these words from today’s White Paper, 2:1

    “Parliament has remained sovereign throughout our membership to the EU despite people not always feeling like that, the Brexit White Paper says”

  • John Barrett 2nd Feb '17 - 10:14pm

    Matt – It is sad but true that MPs often demand debates on items that need to be discussed, then if or when the debate takes place there are a couple of Lib-Dems, a few SNP, half a dozen Labour and often less than a dozen Conservatives in the chamber.

    Some MPs of all parties demand debates so that they can tell their local media that they have done so. It is way for MPs to show their local press, radio or TV station they have raised the issue in Parliament.

    Part of the reason for the poor attendance is that if the Government has a majority, there is no chance anything from the opposition will win any votes and most MPs conclude that their time is better spent on other things.

    With the exception of PMQs and major statements, a chamber which would hold 30 MPs would rarely be filled to capacity.

  • Gosh, where to start?

    First Lorenzo – a few weeks ago when I was getting a bit disillusioned, you told me to hang in there – I now say the same to you. Many of your comments I find refreshing, genuine, heartfelt and to me at least well thought though – by which I mean usually always seeking to unite people rather than pick to a fight. That is key now I think. Hang on!

    Martin – I do not presume to know as much as you about Europe as I don’t.
    However, it seems clear to me that the reason we are leaving the EU is due primarily to ‘free movement of people’. I have seen very few who would argue that this was not the overriding factor breaking for leave.
    I am going to challenge your view though that: “this is simply the concept of a single market and specifically on the question of labour………..” I don’t see this as you do.
    I do not understand this obsession with the free moment of people in order to be allowed access to the ‘single market. Why does this have to be the case?

    I made the following point a couple of weeks ago:
    Surely a single market (if that’s what the EU see’s as being desirable), can easily be set up without free moment?
    If we accept this , then it therefore surely follows that the real reason for the insistence of free moment is that the EU sees itself as a ‘Single Nation State’.
    The British people (including many Remainers) do not want to be part of an EU state!

    I think this is the key sticking point which is unlikely to change hearts and minds anytime soon.
    Mistakes were made in 2004 as you pointed out. Nevertheless, lets say we by some miracle we manage to turn say 5% of public opinion around in the next 2 years.
    What then, when maybe 70% of the Lib Dem’s are the 52%?
    Are we simply going to ignore the 48% who now feel robbed and betrayed, just because we are now on the right side of the fence?

    Some have pointed out today, that the ‘tories’ want to plant the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the electorate – I agree that is what they will do.
    However, with a vote as close as 52-48, it is difficult to see what alternative strategy would heal divisions other than let it unfold until it becomes clear to all, which way this will break?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Feb '17 - 12:00am

    David Raw

    I was dreaming, such a lovely vibrant dream , you were in it praising Nick Clegg !

    Mike S

    Thank you and you know that my comments to you were meant very strongly.

    I suppose after experiencing too much of the aspects of the everyday that make for disappointment , and as someone who yet, cannot be said to be negative, we , any , have days when not positive , in certain circumstances, we should brush off, but do not.

    I think we can agree or disagree, but to see two good people have their reputations and motivation questioned and denigrated bothered me .

    I struggle with one issue politics. This party is far from it. But , in keeping with David herein, we must move on or be involved in so much more than European political issues,my awareness is ye that effects much, but not all or close to it .

    What is vital is we recognise on a regular trajectory people are joining us, but we do not need some to feel alienated , whether new, or longstanding members.

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Feb '17 - 1:22am

    Mike S. Hi, Mike, I thought your 12 points were very well thought-out and helpful summaries. But you seem to worry a lot about free movement, and the implication of the EU wanting to be an integrated state. I think that the founding EU countries with their histories of the two world wars wanted to ensure their countries would never fight each other again, and they have succeeded in making this something taken for granted. After that free movement between the states seemed helpful to general growth and development, and so it surely was when the states were of comparable economic strength. But the accession of the poorer states of eastern Europe unbalanced this, causing a flow of people seeking work from the east to the west. With the economic crash of 2008 and globalisation, finding enough jobs became a problem. Now I understand there is realisation within EU states, helped by the refugee influx, that free movement must be managed to accord with the jobs market, and that welfare payments need some restrictions. This will therefore work itself out, it seems to me, and also ‘ever-closer union’ not be regarded as feasible. Job creation is still a problem though.
    Lorenzo, I agree with Mike in urging you not to be too downhearted. I also found many of the remarks about our two dissenting MPs rather depressing, but I think mutual tolerance with realisation of shared ends prevailed. You are right though that we must look beyond the EU for the improvements to seek for our society.

  • Martin:
    Thanks for the explanation.
    So then, if it’s too far down the line now to set up a single market without free movement of people, we don’t really have a solution to the main objections of the majority:

    1. I’ve read on here somewhere (apologies for not crediting), that well over 70% think that immigration is too high, which means a good proportion of remainers do too.
    If we can’t do anything about this now, we will never persuade enough people that *further* integration is desirable.
    2. I’ve also made the point before that you can either have a non contributory benefits system, or free movement of people, but that both is simply not sustainable?
    I don’t see any desire of the British population to surrender (or contribute to) our present system and no meaningful recognition of the position that places us in, or concessions seem likely from the EU.
    3. Yes, you can raise taxes to pay for the increased services needed, but people, many already struggling (whom we are supposed to be looking out for), have clearly said they don’t want their taxes raised to pay for more immigration, which is at an unprecedented level and they’ve already passionately said they don’t want!

    It appears to me, that unless we can get to grips with free movement in a meaningful and fair way, we don’t have a viable solution to bring the country together in a Liberal and democratic way, reduce inequality, respect diversity and unite a distrustful and angry nation?

  • Hi Katharine

    Agree with your chronological summary of events.

    However you say “This will therefore work itself out”

    How though?

    I’m hearing lots of debate on both side of the argument becoming more entrenched, scattered with a dusting of hope, a lot of crossed fingers, a fair bit of anger and lashing out, but precious few solutions that make sense and are not just as divisive as the situation we have now.

    I see little point in winning a second referendum and having the other half of the country just as angry and out for revenge/civil unrest?

    We need solutions to bring people together. I’m not hearing any. If we don’t have any, then we’re all in trouble – and that comes from an optimist!

    I’m listening…………….

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Feb '17 - 3:12pm

    Hi, Mike. I don’t think you can expect firm answers and solutions at the beginning of negotiations. In fact it can be argued that putting forward such solutions would close down proper debate at this stage. I think this is the case with free movement in the EU. I meant to suggest that as other EU nations are becoming more flexible over the practicalities of free movement, using various means of limitation in their own states, the prospect of Britain reaching agreement with the EU on managing migration if we remain in looks feasible.
    Actually, entrenched arguments bedevilled the approach to the Referendum and then became notable in the months since. Now is the time, I believe, for patient thought, and discussion with our European allies.

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