Is there room in this party for a pro-Brexit liberal?

Since the result to the EU referendum result was declared on 24th June last year, one thing that has been crystal clear is that of the three main Britain wide political parties the Lib Dems are the party of the 48% whose driving ambition at the moment it seems is to fight to remain in the EU. If a man or woman on the street were approached by a pollster and asked which of the main nationwide parties has the most defined position on Brexit it would be the Lib Dems and that it is very much the most pro-EU national party.

Maybe because of this (or because of the contemptible joke the Labour party has become) the Liberal Democrat fortunes appear, at long last, to be on the up. For this I am very happy. This country needs a strong and vocal opposition and one that is capable of opposing the Tories across the length and breadth of Britain. Labour clearly either can’t or won’t do this, so the Lib Dems appear the only sane voice of reason opposing the increasingly extreme Tory government across England, Scotland and Wales.

I believe passionately in wanting a health care system the envy of the world which is open to all irrespective of their ability to pay. I believe in education being the driver of social mobility and want the best quality schools for all our young people. I want an economy that is healthy and vibrant but not at the expense of the environment or those who earn the least. I believe in freedom of expression and the liberty of the individual. I believe that our foreign policy shouldn’t come at the expense of others but from cooperation rather than confrontation. I believe that when I cast my vote, it has the same value as anyone else’s. I believe power and responsibility should be devolved down to the lowest possible level to empower and enthuse all.

All of these qualities I believe are written large in the belief system of the Liberal Democrats much more so than the current Labour or Conservative parties. The problem I have marrying these beliefs with the current state of British party politics is that I voted for and still believe in Brexit (probably more strongly now than I did when I voted). Is there still room for someone like me – one of the 52% – in the Liberal Democrat Party of today?

At this point my natural reaction is to try to justify my vote in the referendum because my current perception is that to be seen as one of the 52% is to be identified amongst the insular and xenophobic little Englanders who voted this way because of unease with anyone and anything foreign. I’m going to restrain myself. I shouldn’t and don’t feel dirty for the way I voted – even if some would have me feel this way. What I will say is that Tony Benn summed up perfectly, in his final two of five questions you should always ask to the powerful, as to why I voted the way I did: “To whom are you accountable? How can we get rid of you?”

Take it as read that I am not xenophobic and actually like Europe (but not so much the institution of the EU). I will ask my question again – not a rhetorical question but an honest question of which I’d like an opinion from the good people that read this site – is there room for someone like me, a pro-Brexit liberal minded person in the modern day Liberal Democrats?

* Wayne Chadburn is a member of the Liberal Democrats and Penistone Town Council

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  • Yes

  • I did a blog piece on this as I am no longer a party member. For me the party is ill-serving those that it seeks to help through wishful thinking that being 110% for the EU is the same as being `tolerant, open-minded and not alone` or some such tunnel-visioned guff Tim said on the 24th June. It reminds me of the 2011 onwards for Labour. Opposing for oppositions sake – all things to all people without spelling out a proper plan that adds up – great for local elections hopeless for a GE.

  • Short answer: Yes.

    Slightly longer answer: I was met with this question myself on the doorsteps the other day. I was speaking to a voter who seemed bang in line with our cause – on health, income inequality, constitutional reform, civil liberties etc. I was surprised when he revealed that he voted Leave later in the conversation. He made a pretty reasoned case for voting leave and I made mine that I still think he is wrong. But importantly, he seemed open to debating the point and I’d say that’s a pretty liberal attitude.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 11th Apr '17 - 1:05pm

    The reason anyone voted pro or against should remain their choice. So yes, there is a place within libdems for everyone. We may disagree on a number of issues but the principles of being a Libdem will always stand.

    When this or anything else is held in the light, the interests of a country will then have different priorities and interests which become apparent.

    Therefore, your beliefs, or even mine, are superseded and the bigger picture should be the issue on details that is to be made clear to be worked out for all concerned is the action that all expect to happen.

    The latter of my comment is where we are at currently regarding Brexit and other national matters of politics. Libdems either way can’t afford to be sitting on the fence, wall or on the ground in any issue.

  • No party perfectly fits anyone. There will be policies I disagree with, in the end at the moment I judge that none of the policies I dislike disbar me from being a member. Even if there was such a policy I disliked that much, I would have to consider if I was able to help to change it. I suspect we all fall into this predicament, only you can say if the good bits of the party out weigh the bad and if you wish to stay and fight your case.

  • David Evans 11th Apr '17 - 1:46pm

    There is an assumption in a number of posts that one side has to be wrong and the other right. Of course as any Liberal knows both sides can be right and for very good liberal reasons.

    Contrast two individuals, the first being young, living in London and is reasonably well paid, working in the European head office of a multinational company which trades almost everywhere. He/she gets a good pay rise every year and a partner born elsewhere in the EU, takes foreign holidays each year. Many of their friends are from overseas and their families are well educated and all the people they care about benefit from internationalism in general and the EU.

    Then consider someone from a remore rural area, where wages are generally are low and most only rise in line with the rises in the minimum wage. There are few events to go to that are within reasonable travelling distance and public transport is poor. The only EU citizens they see are workers many of whom work for the minimum wage for a number of years while living say 8 in a house and save enough to set themselves up when they return home. The two communities barely mix at all. He/she has seen many of his family and friends lose jobs or have wage cuts in real terms. Holidays are in Skegness in a caravan if anywhere and international travel is unaffordable.

    Indeed everything that the person from London regards as an advantage of the EU is either immaterial or a negative for the person from the countryside. Are they wrong to support different views? Should we even think of saying one of them was wrong?

    Or is it true that internationalism has been a boon to this country, but the benefits have been gained almost entirely by the educated, and those from the home counties and a few big cities, while the people of those fortunate areas regard these benefits as theirs by right and have actually done nothing to help those other less well off areas?

  • Sue Sutherland 11th Apr '17 - 1:49pm

    Yes there is room for people who voted Leave in this party. I’m a passionate Remainer but over the years have wished that our party was a little more critical of the EU. No movement or organisation is without fault and it seems to me that the larger the organisation, the slower it is to implement change but for me the idea of working together and overcoming differences between nations is very appealing. I also think we will be less prosperous out of the EU and that will affect the sort of society we as Lib Dems hope to build.
    I know the the Remain Facebook groups often refer to those who supported Brexit as ignorant and xenophobic but it’s clear to me that some people voted Brexit for Liberal reasons. I think it would be good for our party for these people to form a Lib Dem group and thrash out the ways in which the EU falls short of Liberal values so that if we do manage to stop Brexit or take us back into the EU after Brexit, we will have constructive suggestions about reform that we can work on.

  • Peter Martin 11th Apr '17 - 1:52pm

    I feel pretty much the same way. Ideally I’d like the Lib Dems to be the party of Keynes and adopt wholeheartedly his economic policies. Keynesianism is very much about making capitalism work for everyone. That’s why the ultra left don’t like it! But the EU has effectively outlawed his style of economics in favour of a neoliberal approach, or more accurately, a German style ordoliberal approach. The result is very high levels of EU employment which has created a fall-out in the UK too. That’s what has led to Brexit. There would have been a comfortable Remain majority otherwise.

    It may take some time for the Lib Dems to rediscover Keynes though! I’d just sound a note of caution against the party being too pro-EU at the next election. We’ll have been out for over a year by the time it happens. What is the Lib Dem position going to be? That Brexit was a disaster and we’re all doomed? Who’s going to vote for anyone who says that?

    Or, are you going to stand on a policy of reapplying for EU membership? That’s very likely to mean the UK having to adopt the euro and sign up to Schengen. I can’t see that being a vote winner.

  • David,

    I agree many of the leave voters I know actually saw there vote a F you vote to the establishment. It was a desperate cry of pay some attention to us. Unfortunately it won’t bring them attention, it will just give power to the brave Brexiteers and looking after the poor and dispossessed is not on their agenda. The rest of the leave voters all have their wish lists, the problem is most are contradictory and few are obtainable. I expect the leave voters to split. Some will claim it’s not their sort of Brexit, others that it is and many will return to the apathy and despair they emerged from. By far the most dangerous are those who are in despair, because next time they emerge from that they are unlikely to be throwing flowers at those they regard as the favoured elite.

  • Andrew McCaig 11th Apr '17 - 2:12pm

    Liberal Democrat policy on the EU has been the same throughout my lifetime so anyone who is a member and supports Leave has to put up with that policy. What is more it is our only really distinctive policy and therefore is going to continue being hammered at every opportunity. The Party is also becoming more Remain since it is the main reason new members are joining.

    Having said that, no Party fits anyone perfectly, and most of our actual campaigning is nothing to do with the EU. We believe in local democracy and community politics and all our MPs and councillors represent Leave voters just as much as Remain. There should be no place in our Party for dismissing Leave voters as ignorant or stupid, because they are no more so than Remain voters. As pointed out above, many people do not see much personal benefit from the EU and when they see rich privileged people like Cameron (and Nick Clegg) promoting it they draw the obvious conclusion.. As campaigners we just have to focus on people’s real concerns and do the best we can for everyone…

  • Dave Broadway 11th Apr '17 - 2:28pm

    Given the damage your vote will cause, and the terrible effect that will have on the people that liberal principles should be supporting, No, there is no place for a Brexit supporter in this party. If there is, then maybe it’s not the party for me. There is also no justification for your view of the EU.

  • @ Martin “Pro hanging Cyril Smith thought there was room in the Party for him, so on that basis, why not?”.

    Without going into any detail….. what a mistake that was.

  • paul barker 11th Apr '17 - 2:47pm

    Of course there is room for a Pro-Brexit Libdem as long as they dont disrupt The Partys Anti-Brexit campaigning. I know its uncomfortable being in a small minority but no-one is going to push you out, its your choice.

  • Chris Bertram 11th Apr '17 - 2:58pm

    Frankie: “No party perfectly fits anyone. There will be policies I disagree with, in the end at the moment I judge that none of the policies I dislike disbar me from being a member. ”

    Second that. For example, I find myself out of tune with most of the party on the subject of urban traffic planning (I deplore the rapid spread of 20mph limits and believe speed humps cause more problems than they solve), but I think I can get over that when there is so much more that I do agree with. In the light of that, I find Dave Broadway’s comment above rather regrettable, and would urge him to think that over again.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Apr '17 - 3:15pm

    I voted remain, but , please , Wayne , from me , the answer to the question in your terrific article,
    Yes ,yes, yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes……………………….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    When a political party takes one view only , that is not unity , that is unanimity.

    When a political party has unanimity that is not a party it is a cult.

    This is a political party.

    Encourage others with your view to join and it can be a party with wider views ans greater chances.

  • Sure. but it’s minority view.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Apr '17 - 3:56pm

    “I believe that when I cast my vote, it has the same value as anyone else’s.” Should be but that depends on the electoral system. Referendum? First past the post? party list PR? STV?

  • Wayne – Of course there is room for you. If any member tells you otherwise, it is they who should consider whether they’re in the right party, not you. One of the things I love about this party is that we genuinely thrive on debate. And that requires having people to challenge the orthodoxies – and them having the freedom to do so.
    That said, you have to understand that you are in a minority. The party at conference has voted overwhelmingly to adopt the anti-Brexit position. That is our policy. It is not of course our only policy, and you clearly support our position on all the other issues you mention (health, education etc). Obviously Brexit is the big issue of the day, but its worth remembering there are other things that unite us.
    Maybe the best way to approach this is to ask yourself this question: supposing the party had taken the opposite view and was now adopting your position on Brexit. Then imagine if I came on here as an un-repentant Remoaner and asked if there was room in the LibDems for /me/, what would /you/ say in response?
    Your third paragraph convinces me that you are exactly the same kind of Liberal as I am. I agree with every word of it. So I reckon this is the place for both of us.

  • Of course there should be room, and as mentioned above no party will ever capture all of a person’s views. Sadly, I have left the party after the vote since the party is now obsessed by Brexit as a single issue force nationally. I can’t stay in a party where I object to a self selected cornerstone policy, even if I could stay if disagreeing with a particular manifesto commitment in one cycle. As is often said, the Lib Dems are the party of the EU now, so I can’t remain a member.

    On an emotional level, also not nice to be labelled repeatedly as ignorant, selfish and racist for disagreeing on how best to structure political arrangements – a trope repeated from Tim Farron to this site on a regular basis.

    Still vote Lib Democrats locally, of course!

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Apr '17 - 4:29pm

    “At this point my natural reaction is to try to justify my vote in the referendum because my current perception is that to be seen as one of the 52% is to be identified amongst the insular and xenophobic little Englanders who voted this way because of unease with anyone and anything foreign.”

    This Remainer is quite prepared to accept that many who voted Brexit did so for reasons other than xenophobia. However in my view the Brexit campaigns were being lead largely by the insular and xenophobic – those supporting the “w–s begin at Calais” mentality.

    I’m not claiming everything in the EU is perfect – far from it. But we only have one planet (sorry Elon Musk – you’re only going to get a handful of people off it – leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves) – and we need to learn to co-exist on it much better than we and our forefathers have been doing to date.

    By the way @Chris Bertram – agree with you about speed humps but not about 20 mph limits.

  • clive english 11th Apr '17 - 4:43pm

    there is certainly room for anyone who is prepared to accept that not every one can agree on everything AND is prepared to treat opponents with civility. Those who cant do so such as John and David and offer only abuse do need to reflect on what they think Liberalism is. It is certainly not tribal condemnation of those who we disagree with in lieu of any attempt at reasoned discussion from either side.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Apr '17 - 5:37pm


    If anyone has said those words to you or about you , or to anyone who is in this party and for Brexit, they do not belong in this party !

    If you are interpreting things thus, you should think on it, and re join, we need those of different views to build policy for a Liberal Democratic Brexit !

    The EU is deeply flawed. I want us in it to reform it , not applaud it !

  • Nom de Plume 11th Apr '17 - 5:44pm

    For a democracy to work there needs to be an opposition. For the EU issue the LibDems fulfill this role. It is important, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations. Democracies have plurality of opinion, dictatorships have Alternativlos.

  • John Medway 11th Apr '17 - 5:46pm

    My answer is “Yes”

    I voted to remain and I believe as strongly as ever that I made the right choice. I like the idea of co-operating with our European neighbours as fully as possible and of removing as many as possible of the petty inconveniences arising from our division into nation states. The EU is currently the most effective platform we have for that co-operation.

    It also goes deeper than that. I feel I have a strong European as well as a British (though not English) identity. I like the idea of an “ever closer union” though I see a limit to its achievement. All this feels very much in accord with the social democratic and liberal values I hold dear.

    These feelings outweigh but do not negate the impressions I have about the EU itself. The eurozone, for instance, has been a disaster for a number of reasons, one being the unreadiness of some participants to take on the obligations entailed in a successful currency union. This is symptomatic of a more fundamental problem – that the EU has tried to become wider and deeper at the same time and too quickly. A group of twenty-eight countries must necessarily be a looser assembly than a group of six. Therefore I sympathise with the view that European co-operation should take a more flexible form than the EU as it now is.

    This doesn’t, in my view, mean that the UK is better off outside the EU. In any case, leaving the EU, in the way we are setting about it, looks very much like sticking two fingers up to our European neighbours, to the detriment of future co-operation. However, I respect an opposing view: that the EU, in the way it is currently set up, is virtually unreformable and that leaving it is a necessary first step towards creating a more successful and sustainable framework for European co-operation and development. I don’t agree with this opposing view but I believe that it can be compatible with social democratic and liberal principles. Hence I believe there is a place for some Brexiteers in the party.

    Lastly, taking into account the real strengths and weakness of the EU as it now is, perhaps we should be taking a lead and thinking hard about the framework of European co-operation and development that we would like to see.

  • Ashley Cartman 11th Apr '17 - 5:59pm

    YES!! We need more people like you.

    After all if we are to be open,tolerant and UNITED, then we need to build a broad church based on liberal values.

    Sometimes being a lib dem feels like being an EU fundamentalist where you’re not allowed to voice any significant doubts about the EU for fear of being called a heretic! For me it wasn’t a straight forward choice, I voted remain despite some of the concerns you allude to.

    Please, you may want to leave the EU but a least remain with the Lib Dems

  • Julian Barratt 11th Apr '17 - 6:28pm

    Yes, even though I and many members do not agree with your Brexit positioning, but this acceptance exists because tolerance and respect are the pervading values of liberal democracy.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Apr '17 - 6:45pm

    John Medway

    I agree with everything you wrote above, from a much less pro Eu perspective, I reach exactly the same viewpoint.

    I think Verhovstadt is not helping the cause of Liberal EU reformers. At no point has he accepted your excellent statement , as true, that 28 countries need loose union than half a dozen !

    Ashley Cartman

    Your posting is very welcome and slightly troubling.

    The one because your views are to be commended.

    The other because the attitudes of those who turn us into an EU fan club are to be criticised!

    Any Liberal Democrat who expresses the level of love for the EU that seems to signify fandom, is not much of a liberal and not likely to get far with their view as far as democracy goes !

    To not see the warts is to not love warts and all, but to love something that does not exist .A perfect image of a wartless EU, rather than a flawed one we can improve , with more than cosmetics !

  • Yes, debate and opposing opinion is healthy. Unfortunately, some want to shout it down, usually with angry Caps Lock posts.

    However, you must be prepared to change your opinion if it proves itself false, as I will if Brexit is a success, but I’m not hopeful. If you can’t, then you are probably in the wrong place as you can see the damage the dogmatists are doing to both main parties and more worryingly to the future of Britain, without a care it seems for the impact on the ordinary person.

  • As a leave voter I was thinking exactly like the writer of this article. It’s good to know I am still welcome in the party by most of the responders. As Guy Verhofstadt said the UKs involvement in Europe has never been a love affair.

  • Laurence Cox 11th Apr '17 - 9:33pm

    I think that what the referendum brought to the fore is the division in this country between what David Goodhart calls the “anywheres” and the “somewheres”.

    I believe that most of our party are in the former group and do not really understand the concerns of the latter group.

  • Of course it is your decision as to which party most represents your political beliefs, but as you so clearly agree with Nigel Farage and co. on the biggest issue of our lifetimes you might feel more at home as a member of UKIP. Not all UKIP members share the same views, but you will have a great deal in common with them. You supported them in the referendum so they should be happy to accept you.
    You also share the UKIP members’ misunderstanding of sovereignty. Tony Benn was wrong. Michael Heseltine is right. Leaving the EU will represent the greatest loss of British sovereignty ever. We shall no longer be masters of our own destiny. The EU will decide our future & we shall no longer be represented at the meetings where these decisions are made. We have also already lost influence on the world stage. As a leading member of the EU we had enormous respect. Following the referendum Boris is largely regarded as a laughing stock by the rest of the world.
    I hope you will one day see the light.

  • Wayne, a great many people have tried to pretend that the Lib Dems are a broad church. Probably they are more keen to increase their voter base.

    I’m sure you have witnessed many posts from distraught LD supporters who regard Brexit as a catastrophe. Tim Farron’s policy assumes that those who voted Brexit are stupid, deluded, didn’t understand what they were voting for, or believed a pack of lies, or simply made an enormous mistake and must have another opportunity to vote correctly.

    The LDs don’t just support membership of the customs union and single market, they support the whole EU dream of a single currency, shared sovereignty (i.e. give up ours), and ever closer integration, financially and politically.

    That is not to say that all the good people who earlier gave you advice are telling porkies. I’m sure their comments are genuine. You have asked a question which I believe splits the party. However, Tim and his supporters, some of whom regularly make their position on the EU crystal clear on this site, probably cannot contemplate having members who do not believe in the holy grail of EU membership.

    I have challenged people on this forum on the subject of the EU for many years and the position of the party is probably more Europhile and hardline today (because of Brexit) than ever before. Remaining in, or rejoining, the EU is the primary LD objective.

  • David Evershed 11th Apr '17 - 10:01pm


    A fundamental principle of liberal thinking is that free trade is good for the economics of countries in the long term. It means consumers have access to lower cost products and services and businesses have to repond to strong competition from outside their own country. In the long term, businesses protected from foreign competition will die because they can not offer customers the right products at the right price.

    Some countries in the EU, like France, are very protectionist and have resisted much of the free trade agreements which the EU has looked to establish. The UK seems to have failed to persuade the majority of EU countries to overrule France and others on protectionism, especially on food imports and revising the Common Agriculture subsidies.

    So from an economic viewpoint, the liberal thing to do is to exit the EU.

    Sometimes the Lib Dems are not liberal in their policies. So there is room for Brexir supporters in the Lib Dems, especially for those prepared to speak up for free trade, as Glastone did when helping repeal the Corn Laws which kept the price of wheat (and thus bread) high through heavy import tax on wheat.

  • @alan, do you realise that your comment has a number of contradictions?

    I think you misunderstand the concept of sovereignty which means we shall be in control of our destiny. The EU, as a future external customer, will specify their trading requirements, as all customers do. That is normal trading practice. Currently, giving up our sovereignty is condition of the trading relationship. So are the arrangements for the trade. After Brexit, we shall be able to make our own laws and will no longer be subservient to EU law, as at present.

  • We are the Party of openness and tolerance and free speech. Of- course we would tolerate dissent. Just wish the Brexiteers would do,the same. Most of them won’t – their comments on many websites are laced with hate.

  • Nom de Plume 11th Apr '17 - 10:29pm

    @David Evershead

    I am more from the ordoliberal school, which Peter Martin complains about. What you describe in outline is closer to classical liberalism. I doubt you will find that there is any governing party (any party?) in the western world which has that as a majority view. Not Trump.Perhaps a few Tories and Republicans. Maybe, we are wrong.

    EU trade and political policies deserve a much longer discussion. Germany is certainly not protectionist – ask Trump. CAP is a known point of contention.

  • The Lib Dems are and must remain anti brexit and pro EU, because we know that there is a bleak future outside. I am often against parts of party policy – Nuclear weapons for example – but I know that my views are accepted and treated with respect. However, on Brexit, I really wonder if on something so fundamental to the economic and political health of our country that Wayne actually wants to be in our party. There is now a fundamental divide in our society between those who wish to be insular and shut out the world and those who want to engage and make common cause with others. Wayne, you are on the wrong side of that divide. If, recognising the huge divergence between your views and the vast majority of party members, you still want to be in our party that’s a decision for you, not for the wider party. The Lib Dems tolerate a wide variety of views – and we do have some very odd views if my 53 years as a party member are anything to go by – and i have never been keen on denying people party membership. So, if you want to be a party member that’s fine by me, but please don’t get across the party wide campaign to stop Brexit and stay in the EU.

  • David Boynton 11th Apr '17 - 10:42pm

    please search for liberal leave online or Facebook , it will be of interest to you.

  • Wayne, being a liberal leaver is theoretically possible, but does not work in practice: 1. Leaving was a project conceived by and carried through by illiberal people; the UK now has a very illiberal Government. 2. The resulting poverty will prevent the UK from pursuing your policy goals. 3. The UK’s new non-EU friends will be illiberal, and the UK will assimilate.

  • Diane Reddell 11th Apr '17 - 11:13pm

    Yes, as Brexit is only one thing the Lib Dems campaign about. There are many other issues to support.

  • Torrin Wilkins 12th Apr '17 - 12:02am

    As a Liberal Democrat Brexit supporter myself I would say that there is definitely a place for you within the Liberal Democrats. No one will ever agree with any major political party 100% of the time. We have disagreements within the party just like with the debate on nuclear weapons at the Lib Dem conference and we should also have more debate on the EU. I currently chair a group called Liberal and as David Boynton said, please visit our Facebook and Twitter (@LiberalLeave) accounts. Finally I will say that you wont be alone if you chose to remain a member of the party. 30% of our voters in 2015 and an ex Liberal Democrat MP voted to leave during the EU referendum.

  • Laurence cox.
    Except Europe is quite specifically not just anywhere and the argument was really about whether or not Britain should stay in the organisation known as European Union. What came across to me was that his ideas seemed to be based on lots of assertions about concepts such as open v closed, comfortable v uncomfortable which in truth cannot be substantiated because they are subjective feelings not provable objective realities.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Apr '17 - 1:24am

    Peter. at 9.53 pm, wrote that ‘the LDs don’t just support the customs union and internal market, they support the whole EU dream of a single currency, shared sovereignty … and ever closer integration, financially and politically.’ Where do you get that idea from, Peter? I’m a passionate Remainer and have always loved Europe, but I certainly don’t support joining the single currency or backing ever-closer integration. If the party ever did way back, I don’t think it’s policy now. Shared sovereignty is also an interestingly wide concept, as somewhat explored above.

  • Mark Goodrich 12th Apr '17 - 3:14am

    I don’t want to deny party membership to anyone with liberal values. And nobody agrees 100% with party policy in the Lib Dems (or even pretends to). Also, I would like you to stay and be persuaded that you are wrong on this one….

    However, I agree with the people above who note that our position is strongly pro the UK being a member of the EU and is likely to become more so because the influx of new members feel this more strongly than some of the older members. So you will have to live with that reality.

    Incidentally, being pro the UK being a member of the EU is not the same as being uncritically pro the EU. It is a myth that the Lib Dems are uncritical supporters of the EU – in fact, we are very strong critics of aspects of it because we want it to work better. However, it is also clear to many of us that leaving will damage our economy and place in the world irreparably. I fear that it will eventually become clear to others when it is too late……

  • 52% wanted change. Some of those change from low and stagnating livings standards-the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis. Clearly there were some who didn’t expect change i. e. they felt Remain would win even if they voted leave.
    Desperate trade missions to India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia shows the reality of what leaving the EU really means.

  • Bill le Breton 12th Apr '17 - 8:02am

    Wayne, courage mon brave !

    Back in the 80s,90s and 2000s I was one of the very very few Liberal Democrats against the notion of a single currency with its surrender of the ability to issue and control our own currency.

    On the Party’s present strategy, Mark Wright, above, has articulated precisely my fears when he writes, “In the long term I must admit that I fear that the party harnessing the energy and power of zealots for a cause (i.e. the EU) will end the same way it did for Labour when they harnessed the energy and power of zealots for a cause …”

    Also, good to find a reference to David Goodhart. Prior to 2007, our practice of Community Politics meant that although many of us are more ‘anywheres’ than ‘somewheres’ we had daily contact with people who were much more ‘somewheres’ than ‘anywheres’, which served to keep our feet on the pavement (literally as well as metaphorically) and our empathy in perfect pitch.

    That is what brought us our extraordinary success. Leaving our communities for the glitter of the Westminster village brought our downfall.

  • Paul Murray 12th Apr '17 - 8:30am

    I would agree that all political parties are a broad church, but as of this moment, opposition to Brexit is the sine qua non of the Liberal Democrats. In fact as a long-standing party member and political anorak, I have to admit that I no longer know what this party stands for except that one thing. And almost all of the new members have joined explicitly because of that stance and (as several comments above show) are quite hostile to sharing heaven with heretics.

    So as of this moment I would say no, there is no place in the Liberal Democrats for anyone who voted Leave in the referendum. Hopefully the Liberal Democrats will not have become such a one-trick pony that – like UKIP – they implode after the UK leaves the EU because nobody can see the point of voting for a single-issue party whose single issue is settled.

  • Dave Broadway 11th Apr ’17 – 2:28pm
    “Given the damage your vote will cause, and the terrible effect that will have on the people that liberal principles should be supporting, No, there is no place for a Brexit supporter in this party. If there is, then maybe it’s not the party for me. There is also no justification for your view of the EU.”

    That’s it in a nutshell – the bombardment of Leave voters continues on LDV and the anger of Lib Dem Remain voters is not subsiding even 9 months after the referrendum result. They call it passion and holding on to a belief but can you imagine standing on doorsteps with Remainers explaining the entrenched anti-Brexit stance of this party?

    Wayne – thank you for writing this article. Some of the responses reminded me why I chose to terminate my membership.

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Apr '17 - 9:01am

    I think we need to ask ourselves where is the common ground between LibDem leavers and Remainers?

    I would suggest that might lie in common recognitition of:
    – the fact that the EU is not a ‘alien’ grouping in which UK participation was ‘wrong’ or ‘doomed to fail’.
    – the possibility that re-entry might be legitimate in future, with a democratic mandate.
    – the determination for the UK to continue to participate in many common European institutions, particularly the ECHR.
    – the commitment to full and proper parliamentary scrutiny of the Brexit process.
    – the recognition that many of the perceived ‘failings’ of the EU were in fact contained in or exacerbated by past UK governments’ failure to devolve power within the UK.
    – the recognition that many opportunities for multi-lateral democratic reform of the EU (rather than unilateral UK calls for more vetoes) were not taken in the past.

    I would say that if someone who voted Leave concedes those points, there is the possibility for unity across the divide!

    I don’t want Brexit, but it sticks in the craw that the Tories should be able to define it entirely on their terms and become in their mind’s eye the refounders of the nation.

    Equally, LibDem Remainers need to find a way to avoid stating that the UK should never leave the EU under any circumstances. As federalists, the right of a member of any federation to secede should it so choose, should be recognised. This is the same gripe I have about some of the anti-Scottish secession rhetoric within the party, which seeks to build up the argument that nationalism is wrong at all times in all circumstances, failing to differentiate between liberal nationalism and narrow national-chauvinism, and failing to recognise that the drive for national self-determination was in the past a driver for liberalisation in Europe, rather than a block to it.

  • I disagree with Mr Murray. As Bill reminds us with his point re the Single Currency, the party has long had a very clear view on the EU.

    I can recall several years ago when I chaired a debate on the EU I called a speaker who was strongly critical of the EU. Just one in a 45 minute debate, but that was still enough for more than one person to question my judgment in calling an anti EU speaker. Never mind that the purpose of debate is to hear a range of opinions before making a decision, or the Liberal commitment to freedom of speech, it appears that uncritical support for the EU has long been woven into the fabric of the party.

    It has always been possible to accommodate disagreement with party orthodoxy; Liberals are after all a group of people who are more tolerant of disagreement and dissent than most other groupings.

    However what’s important at this time is that the party continues to articulate a liberal vision for a fair free and more equal society without turning everything into an argument about brexit.

  • The usual accusation against Lib Dems is we are too wishy washy, so it’s strange to read words like ‘zealots’ in some posts. Were we ‘zealots’ for standing up against the Iraq war?

    The Lib Dems are the only UK-wide party representing the views of ‘the 48%’ on a massive issue that affects everyone’s future. Would Leavers deny us representation?
    So Wayne, of course, you are welcome to differ, but don’t expect those of us who are Remainers to shut up about it any time soon. It’s not like we started it!!

    Peter: The idea that Remainers think the EU is perfect and have the same ‘dream’ is as daft as the idea that all Leavers are ignorant, or all live in deprived areas. June 23 was a binary choice, Remain or Leave.
    You say: “I have challenged people on this forum on the subject of the EU for many years.”
    It’s not a trick question, just curiosity.

  • AC Trussell 12th Apr '17 - 9:53am

    Of course there is room for such a view- you may become enlightened. 🙂

  • But the LIb Dems are deluded if they think that the 48% is one monolithic bloc.

    also and

  • What I will say is that Tony Benn summed up perfectly, in his final two of five questions you should always ask to the powerful, as to why I voted the way I did: “To whom are you accountable? How can we get rid of you?”

    A bit strange, coming from a member of the LibDems, who’s party organisation etc. make the EU look positively streamline and accountable…

  • There is definitely a place for you in the LIb Dems.

    I am a Remain supporter, but there are many things wrong with the EU and I understand the motivation of many Leave voters.

    The Lib Dems become a single issue party at their peril. Liberals can take opposed views of the essentiality and performance of the EU and of its relationship to citizens in different EU countires.

    I am a passionate liberal, yet I disagree with various Lib Dem shibboleths – attitude to soft drugs, to punishment etc. However, no other party comes close to representing the bulk of my views.

    Stay in this great party and feel welcome to express dissent! Good article.

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Apr '17 - 10:34am

    Picking up Wayne’s point about votes being equal and power needing to be devolved, all Lib Dems pontificating about this issue need to recognise that if we believe that our political process is flawed (as we do), therefore both the process of our participating in the EU in the past and the process of our implementing any form of Brexit – even the semi-mythical ‘liberal Brexit’ that the Tories are unlikely to give us – will be similarly flawed.

    If you do not recognise that, and feel that a sufficiently acceptable and definitive Brexit (whether the test if democratic acceptability to the country, or acceptability on the grounds of liberal principles) can be achieved by the Tory party on its current ‘mandate’ acting semi-unilaterally as the government using our existing processes, then, I guess I would question that person’s compatibility within the party…

  • Kevin Hawkins 12th Apr '17 - 10:56am

    However important the issue of Europe may be to us at the moment we are not and I hope never will be a single issue party. Brexit supporters are welcome in our party so long as they broadly agree with our position on a whole range of other issues. This is the fundamental difference between real political parties such as the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, and even the Conservative Party (Ken Clarke seems to have no difficulty with being a Tory and a Remainer) and single-issue parties – would a Remainer be welcome in UKIP even if he agreed with them on other matters. Same goes I imagine for unionists and the SNP.

    I would like to have included Labour among the ‘real’ parties but I’m not sure what their stance on Europe is at the moment.

  • Yes, to me it makes sense , you say ” I believe power and responsibility should be devolved down to the lowest possible level to empower and enthuse all.” … I absolutely and fundamentally agree with this point and it is for this reason I too joined the Lib Dems in 2010. I can perfectly understand how people think the institution of the EU does not fit this. Cracking this localism will and can be the Lib Dem symbol into why we are different and can answer the criticisms of government from the 52%.
    I am also in favour of the current party policy on the EU, yes we want a second referendum, yes we want to retain the same rights we have as being part of the EU and the single market, however we need to define to the British people what a Liberal Democrat EU looks like and put in in BIG BOLD yellow paint on every social media, newspaper, billboard that exists. This should include localism, influencing and negotiating with EU partners their responsibilities and the responsibilities of national states down to responsibilities of local government. This argument is maybe for another day, as we need to keep the momentum going for the Lib Dems being the champion of openness, tolerance and being united with countries in the EU and everywhere else.
    However , on your main point please stay within the party as it is voices such as yours that will enable us to extend beyond the 48% and into the voters who agreed with you and voted leave.

  • Denis Loretto 12th Apr '17 - 12:10pm

    I see from archive material that Wayne Chadburn left the Labour Party and joined the Liberal Democrats in 2014 – at a time when that was not a particularly prevalent trend. Judging by his list of basic beliefs he was a welcome recruit. He also must have been well aware of the overwhelming Lib Dem support for EU membership (albeit the willingness and indeed desire to improve what is clearly not a perfect union as set out in many posts above). But he still joined. So he must not be surprised at the strong defence of EU membership that our party has taken both in the referendum campaign and subsequently. I do not think anyone is suggesting that Lib Dem members who decided on balance to vote “leave” last June should be expelled from the party so where is the problem?

    In other words the decision is his and I wonder whether his piece here is really displaying a dilemma in his own mind –
    should he stay in a party which is overwhelmingly pro EU? I hope his answer is “yes” but he must certainly not expect that the acknowledged presence of party members who are out of kilter on the highly important campaign to salvage the closest possible relationship with our 27 partners will mean any watering down whatsoever of this campaign.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Apr '17 - 1:18pm

    Chris Moore

    Very good statements of why you are a Liberal and yet disagree with some policy tendencies. I am the same, not on soft drugs but on some other areas, you picked punishment, one of the daftest aspects of our leaders is only articulating one side of an issue.

    Free the jails of soft drug takers ,to keep the heinous inside, would be utterly compatible with Liberalism, nobody says it enough, it would win us more votes than the EU policies !

    We must find ways of saying what the very vast majority of even our supporters would feel, we should be open, tolerant and united, in favour of the good and the decent and the harmless, and open , tolerant and united around policies of coming down like a ton of bricks against the cruel, bullying and harmful!

  • rita giannini 12th Apr '17 - 1:32pm

    short answer: no. Am I biased, as an EU citizen with 30 years of UK public service? Yes

  • Andy Johnson 12th Apr '17 - 3:55pm

    “I do not think anyone is suggesting that Lib Dem members who decided on balance to vote “leave” last June should be expelled from the party so where is the problem?”
    The problem is that there is more than one way of being expelled from a party. To have not a single parliamentary spokesperson – Commons or Lords – for your view which is shared by 30% of the party’s voters, to be not listened to, to be not engaged with on the issues, to be described by other members the way the party leader describes Leave voters (see many comments above), is a type of expulsion. And far more effective than mere withdrawal of a membership card.

  • Peter Watson 12th Apr '17 - 4:49pm

    From the outside, it does look like some Lib Dems see the organisation as a single-issue pressure group rather than a political party, but reassuringly they appear to be in a minority.

  • The simple answer to Wayne’s question is this?
    Is there room in UKIP for a Remainer?

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Apr '17 - 5:47pm

    Alan –

    Whilst we do have more similarities to UKIP and also the SNP than we would wish to acknowledge, in that we tend to see constitutional matters as key to the healthy functioning of the state, and are discontented with political solutions that do not address the constitutional programme we are proposing.

    Up until the last few years, you could argue that our constitutional programme of ‘essential proposals’ for the country included federalism, fairer voting and devolution, with retaining EU membership a key secondary point but not necessarily seen as a life-or-death issue – because it was not seen as being at critical threat (in the a similar way to disestablishment of the CofE being a long-held LibDem aspiration, but not usually identified as vital to the party’s identity due to the recognised impracticability of the proposal under current circumstances).

    Clearly, EU membership – or at the very least, a continuing close partnership with the EU – has joined that older ‘holy trinity’ of lib dem concepts about the UK’s identity and structures, and given us 4 priorities, or possibly even pushed one of the others down the list a bit.

    I support that, to an extent.

    But we must remember that the party’s official policy is not to remain in the EU at all costs – it is to offer a referendum on the terms of the deal, and if the country remains committed to Brexit, to campaign for a ‘soft Brexit’.

    I would contest your proposal that EU membership is the only thing that now defines the party. UKIP existed originally only to campaign for an EU exit – it continues to exist because of other issues giving it further momentum, but take away the first issue and it has little coherent narrative.

    If the EU was not under current discussion – or if Britain had not joined the EU – the Lib Dem / Liberal / SDP inheritance would still be there, and we – or something like us – would exist. That is why we are different from UKIP.

    I hope that gradually there will be a process like the Round Table conference which reconciled some Liberal Unionists (eg GM Trevelyan) to Home Rule in the 1880s and 1890s, when, and much more noticeably, the party split on a constitutional question which caused wider chaos in British politics.

  • paul holmes 12th Apr '17 - 6:06pm

    You only need to read Wayne’s thoughtful, intelligent and tolerant article and contrast it with the (very small), number of intolerant responses above, to see which contributors should be uncomfortable about being a Member of the Liberal Democrats.

    We must not succumb to being a single issue pressure group rather than a mainstream political party. Neither must we follow the disastrous path Labour took for the 1983 election (and almost certainly for 2020), of retreating into a purist ideological world that takes no regard of what voters are actually primarily concerned about.

  • paul holmes 12th Apr '17 - 6:56pm

    Martin -yes it was a bit of a mistake really to write in a commitment to a probably transient historical organisation. At the time of merger in 1988, although I was in the SDP, I did agree with those in the Liberal Party who did not want to let David Owen write in a commitment to NATO as part of the Party constitution. After all, as those Liberals pointed out, NATO was historically a fairly recent creation and might not exist for ever -few organisations do over say a century.

    PS -for the avoidance of doubt I am 100% pro NATO (although the sole thing I agree with President Trump on is that all members should contribute their share, as agreed). Also, as you know, I did campaign and vote to Remain in the EU. In the democratic Referendum which our side lost.

  • Steve Deller 12th Apr '17 - 6:59pm

    The answer is no and having be made to feel unwanted I have with a heavy heart terminated my membership after 25 years.

  • Steve..I simply cannot understand your leaving the party. There have been many times in my 50 year membership of the party that I have despaired but my “liberalness” kept me in. There are two years to achieve a brexit which is aceptable to both sides of the debate. The Liberal position would always be pro Europe, has been since I was a boy. To leave the party when so much else in our policy workings on NHS,Social Care, Housing etc etc is being debated and formulated , where we could use your views it is a shame that you want to walk away…where do you go Steve…wait for the furore to die down in 2 years and make a decision then. If you have been a member for 25 years then this is the time when your voice would be so important

  • Torrin Wilikins. Certainly if you like your liberalism with just a touch of racism and bigotry I would recommend Liberal Leave.

  • Philip Knowles 12th Apr '17 - 8:00pm

    Yes there is room for a Leaver in the party but they have to accept that their view sill be a minority one but as LibDems we are used to that!
    The viciousness (by minorities) of both sides of the divide are sad but inevitable. I maintain my right to question the way the government is going about leaving the EU, I have the right to question the way the campaign was run but I have no right to say that you were wrong to vote leave – that is your democratic right. And, more importantly, no one knows yet.

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Apr '17 - 8:07pm

    Paul holmes – political parties themselves – and nation-states like the UK – could also be accused of being ‘transient organisations’.

  • I started supporting the Liberal Party in 1945, when 7 years old. By the time of the1950 General Election I was buying policy booklets from the Liberal Publications I needed to be able to state Liberal policy in arguements with all the Conservatives at school. Booklets on Proportional Representation, Co-Ownership, Site Value Rating, and Free Trade.
    I helped my brother to fight as a Liberal in local council elections in my teens, and after National Service joined the Liberal Party. After being an election agent for local and county council elections 4 times I became a candidate and won a council seat from a Conservative. After that I was a council candidate four times, a GLC candidate once, and an election agent for parliamentary candidates twice. I have also helped in numerous parliamentary by-elections.
    Now, after voting Leave for purely Liberal reasons (I am a Free Trader) I have resigned from the Liberal Democrats because of the intolerant attacks by Liberal Democrats on anyone who voted Leave. Whatever happened to the tolerant, moderate, Free Trade, Liberals? I now feel all those years working for the Liberal/Liberal Democrats were a complete waste of time.

  • Neil Sandison 12th Apr '17 - 9:52pm

    Loads of room in this party .I am pro Europe for sound economic reasons since most economies operate within a local trading bloc.Not a fan of the commission which is too autocratic or the CAP on environmental grounds .Personally think the referendum was at the wrong time because now the negotiations will be hampered by the French and German Elections and felt it was too much a blue on blue contest where truth and facts became distorted to the point the public did not know what to believe hence the very narrow margin in the result .

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Apr '17 - 7:26am

    @ CassieB,
    My memory of the Liberal Democrat Party’s position was that it did not oppose the Iraq war. The party made clear statements about the conditions that were necessary for the party to support the war, but then supported it when the conditions had not been met.

    Some individuals like myself who were at that time Liberal Democrat supporters did oppose the war, absolutely. But as government’s know only too well, if they rush to war,, one inevitably has to go along with it because one has to support our troops.

  • Martin:

    I found both Leave and Remain campaigns unattractive. More scaremongering than anything else.
    Free Trade is an ideal. What is wrong with idealism?
    The EU is a.Customs Union of European countries discriminating against the rest of the world. I love Europe but am an Internationalist, rather than a Little European.

    I voted against joining the Common Market when the matter was debated at the 1961 Liberal Assembly. Most Free Traders left the Liberal Party after the majority of delegates voted in favour of joining, but I foolishly stayed on. Other Liberal policies such as Site Value Rating (abandoned in favour of local income tax), and Co-ownership (dropped), left just Proportional Representation, yet when the Liberal Democrats had a chance of a referendum on that what did they do? Went for the Alternative Vote!

  • paul holmes 13th Apr '17 - 8:55am

    Matt -true but not on quite the same time scale. The League of Nations lasted around 20 years, both NATO and the EU are relative ‘spring chickens’ at around 60 years. The Tory/Cons and Whig/Liberal Parties have over 200 years of history and Labour over a century.

    As for Nation states England at least marks up around 1,000 years.

  • Geoff English 13th Apr '17 - 8:58am

    There always has to be room for diversity of opinion within the Liberal Democrats. Without that, whatever we are, we would not genuinely be Liberal Democrats at all. And on the question of membership of the EU there always has to be an element of doubt. Corbyn was mocked for his alleged 70% support for remain – but I was a remainer at about 85%!- in other words, I have an element of doubt as to to the right course of action.
    But we are also political, and in the end that means deciding on a course of action, nearly always on the basis of least worse, and following through to the end.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Apr '17 - 9:06am

    Wayne, there is certainly still a place for you in the party, and I very much hope you will decide to stay.
    The Lib Dems have always been pro EU, but it is only since the referendum result that the party has begun to place so much emphasis on this one issue. Before that, I don’t think many people in the party regarded the EU as the most important issue, or even as one of the most important issues.
    Ironically, in the time leading up to the referendum, the party seemed quite laid back about the whole thing. It is interesting to contrast Tim Farron’s speech to Spring Conference in March 2016, with the speech he gave at the following Spring Conference in March 2017 (you can find both on You Tube). In the speech in March 2016, he made only a brief mention of the imminent referendum. But in March 2017, almost the entire Leader’s Speech was about the EU. At some point in the 2016 Spring Conference – I think it was at the end of Tim Farron’s speech – The Clash’s “Should I stay or should I go” was played – “If I go there will be trouble/ If I stay it will be double” – a surprisingly Eurosceptic message! It was only on the 24th June 2016 that the party position seemed to change overnight to unquestioning adoration of the EU, to the extent of appearing to be a single issue party.
    It is very sad to see that several of the comments above are from people who have left the Lib Dems because of the party’s response to the referendum result. We hear a lot about the new members who have joined the party because of the policy of opposing Brexit, but what we are not being told, is how many long-standing members may have left over this issue.

  • Asking “is there room for me” can end up being rather manipulative.

    The alternative question, which applies particularly to people leaning towards “Leave” but actually applies to all of us is “How much do you know about the EU?”

    For me, I had mixed views until taking part in an Anglo-Dutch church consultation in the early 1990s. One of the people there worked in Brussels. I voiced some of my uncertainties, and his answers established that I had got a distorted picture via the British media. Subsequently I read up for and sat the exams to work for the Commission and also for the Parliament, which involved a lot of reading. A recurring frustration since then has been how distorted and inaccurate the picture we are offered by our media and public discourse.

    For me, a particularly horrifying moment was to hear a radio debate while the proposed EU constitution was under debate in just over a decade ago and hear comments about how dreadful the proposed constitution was because it introduced “unacceptable” things — and to know that these had come in the Single European Act or the Maastricht treaty — so they had caused so little problem that people didn’t realise we had been living with them for (then) either 20 or 13 years.

    For me, the Liberal response to the EU is not around whether one supports Brexit, but whether one supports EU reform. The Liberal critique of the EU as it now is would begin with supporting the reforms advocated by Guy Verhofstadt and ALDE.

    The tragedy, which should be a source of national shame, is that building that more liberal EU might actually be easier if the UK is not at the table and obstructing reform.

  • frankie, I agree with you on most of your points, but I fear you are over egging it a bit when the first thing you focus on is the “voters I know actually saw there vote a F you vote to the establishment”.

    Those people are there but there is a much bigger group who have been let down by politicians for decades and earnestly want a better sort of politics. Often they were the people who voted for us up to 2010 because they saw us doing good things in local councils and believed us when we said “an end to broken promises.”

    Sadly our leaders sacrificed them the moment they got into power by believing they knew best and pretending it was grown up government to jettison a promise just because it was inconvenient. It will take a lot of huge amount of hard work by the poor troops over many years to get them back. They won’t just magically return to us when they find out that Brexit was even worse.

    The biggest problem we all face is that there are sadly a lot of people who regard support for the EU as an article of faith and essential to be a Lib Dem. In fact the one thing that should preclude someone being a Lib Dem is a belief that it is essential to support the EU in order to be a Lib Dem.

  • Geoff English 13th Apr '17 - 11:39am

    David Evans – I really don’t think your last comment is right, however clever a summary it seems. People are indeed entitled to state their belief that only remainers should be in the party – it is up to the rest of us to point out how illiberal a point of view that is.

  • Geoff indeed my comment could be regarded by some as incorrect, but I simply ask, Is it really liberal to accept someone as a member of the Lib Dem family if they exhibit (using your own words) such an “illiberal point of view.”

    The expression “no-one shall be enslaved by conformity” comes to mind.

  • Martin:
    Free Trade within a Customs Union is not real Free Trade. How much do the high tariff barriers against the rest of the world contribute to unemployment and poverty elsewhere, leading to the need for handoutsin the form of aid?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Apr '17 - 1:56pm

    This is very disconcerting.

    Catherine Jane Crosland, as to be expected , she is such a decent and humane member, sees it in the tail of her comments . Veteran members, like Steve , above , and especially Libereal, are saying they are leaving the party because they are made fo feel put upon or unwelcome !

    That cannot go ignored. Either they, hands down to them, through no fault of their own, have misunderstood the attitudes around them, or, have directly experienced untoward comments or treatment!

    We need to have more knowledge and understanding of what is happening.

    This is not the Labour party !

  • @Libereal – But do we really want “Free Trade”?
    How much do the zero tariff barriers against the rest of the world contribute to unemployment and poverty, leading to the need for handouts in the form of aid? I’m thinking of the banana, tea and coffee and cocoa bean growers, where ‘free trade’ has been used to keep various countries in poverty… Because Free Trade within a Fair Trade union is not real Free Trade.

    Personally, I see a fair customs union as a better market for growth and social development than a laissez-faire free market, because to join the fair customs union a country has to adopt standards.

  • Peter Martin 13th Apr '17 - 2:31pm

    @ Nom de Plume

    “Germany is certainly not protectionist – ask Trump.”

    Pardon me, I wouldn’t ask Mr Trump the time of day! Never mind his considered opinion on anything of significance. But what does protectionism mean? In the context of the EU, and few would doubt that Germany largely calls the shots on EU policy, we can see the imposition of large trade barriers which indicate protectionist intent. Why should we in the UK have to pay tariffs on Australian wine when we can’t even make it ourselves in anything like sufficient quantity? To ‘protect’ German, and other EU, wine producers is of course the answer to that!

    Another key feature of a protectionist country is its unwillingness to allow the value of its currency to rise to market value. When Germany had the DM it could easily prevent this by selling DM to whoever wanted to buy them cheaply. The supposedly totally independent Bundesbank could create as many as they liked to hand out to us in the USA and UK to buy all their lovely exports. Thank you Bundesbank!

    Now Germany has the euro they rely on the relative economic weakness of other euro using countries to keep it cheap and keep German exports ‘competitive’. On the other hand, we in the UK, certainly not a protectionist country, like to keep our pound as high as possible to make our imports as cheap as possible. We like to be able to go abroad on holidays and buy things for a fraction of the price they would cost back home.

    So maybe we should be slightly more protectionist than we are, but on the other hand it would greatly benefit world trade if the EU scrapped the euro and switched to national currencies which weren’t artificially manipulated. Then we could say that Germany and all other EU countries also weren’t protectionist.

  • Torrin Wilkins 13th Apr '17 - 9:36pm

    Hywel. Do you have any evidence at all to back up that claim? Anything that either I or Liberal Leave have said or done that constitute “racism and bigotry”?

  • I would say check out some of the other threads.
    I would be fascinated by an answer from Nick or Tim.
    From what I have read on this site and some of this thread the answer would have to be no.
    Which is quite sad, as someone who could be convinced to change my vote if I truly believed that the leadership would actually challenge the E.U. I find Tim and Nick to be verging on an evangelical almost hysterical support for the E.U.
    I think if they could stop Brexit without a vote they would use that power and then campaign that they were right to do so, I may be wrong.
    Thank God they do not have that power.

  • George: Thanks, I would like to think you are right and I am wrong.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Apr '17 - 12:07am

    Yes to George , and Tynan, do check out the other threads as advocated,like one on a divided country in which I get insulted , and by insinuation from he doing so , so do many of us on here searching for a reasonable attitude to Brexit , and Brexit Liberal Democrats !

  • Wayne Chadburn 14th Apr '17 - 6:19am

    Part 1
    I posted this piece a few days after much thought over a number of weeks of should I or shouldn’t I? I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of comments it has received and the really interesting debate it seems to have generated. I was sort of expecting a vitriolic diatribe from most and this was my main worry at actually posting it. Instead, with a few notable exceptions, my piece seems to have received a generally welcoming response and as I say has provoked a debate which I hope will continue and maybe be picked up by those higher up in the party.

    Look I’m open to having my views challenged. I’m not arrogant enough to say I know I’m right – I may be wrong. At the moment I don’t think I am wrong and the ‘evangelical rhetoric’ coming from some at the top of the party (and from the small minority of illiberal comments to my post) is not persuading me or others like me. The Lib Dems need to be leading the fight for a humane and Liberal Brexit. Instead, certainly to the people in areas like mine, they come across as sore losers. The danger with this approach is that you are leaving the whole direction of Brexit open to those on the Tory right who want us to become the low tax, low regulation Macau of Europe.

  • Wayne Chadburn 14th Apr '17 - 6:20am

    Part 2
    The Lib Dems are in danger of becoming a one-issue party. This will probably work well in the heavily remain areas of the country – the University areas, the metropolitan middle class areas. Unfortunately, long term, this will not work well in most other areas – certainly not mine. If the Lib Dems are happy again to be the party of protest at by-elections and restrict themselves at others to small enclaves of the country and be seen as the mouthpiece of the metropolitan elite, the vehemently anti-Brexit path the leadership appears to want to continue on is the way to get there.

    Personally I want the Liberal Democrats – the only nationwide party I believe truly chimes with my own belief system – to be more open to those who maybe voted remain but did it grudgingly and in particular those, like me, who voted to leave but not because of illiberal thoughts and views. There are a lot more of the 52% who fall into this category than the arch-remainers who brand us as racists, xenophobes and closet-UKIPers realise. This should be fertile ground for the Lib Dems.

    I’ve read enough from the comments here give me hope that the Lib Dems can do this and I want to fight to persuade those from the 52% that the Lib Dems are the party for them too. So much so that I have renewed my membership for another year.

  • John Barrett 14th Apr '17 - 11:40am

    Wayne – Thanks for a very interesting article and for generating some very interesting replies.

    Of course there is room in the party for pro-Brexit Liberals.

    Just as there is room for those of us who are strongly against university tuition fees and have remained so from back when it was our party policy. Just as there is plenty room for those of us who oppose nuclear power and did so when our party policy was to provide no financial subsidy for it. Now our current policy effectively including a massive public subsidy to it.

    There is plenty room in the party for those of us who oppose renewal of Trident and and have done for many years – including when we opposed the replacement for Polaris. There is plenty room in the party for those of us who think that all-women shortlists are not the best way to improve our elected representation. There is plenty room in the party for those of us who do not think a second referendum on the EU is a good idea.

    I have voiced my views on all the above issues before and have been consistent in my stand on a number of party policies for decades, despite the party making complete U-turns on some of them and leaving me in a minority on many issues.

    During my time as a community activist, Lib-Dem Councillor or as a Lib-Dem MP nobody has ever suggested that not holding the majority view was a reason for me to leave the party. At many times and during elections those same views (such as on tuition fees) were the majority view in the party.

    As in many other areas, the party policy may well change on any issue, but if you hold Liberal principles you are welcome in the party.

    What surprises me most is that there are people in the party who consider that one particular view on this one particular policy makes any member unsuitable.

    Whether or not people feel comfortable remaining in the party is another issue and one that we should all give thought to.

    If we ever go down the road of thinking that only those who support any particular party policy should be in the party, we will follow the Labour Party into the wilderness.

  • David Evershed 14th Apr '17 - 11:44am


    I am with you. When I was fourteen I cycled to the next town to hear Beveridge speak at a 1959 election meeting. Social Democrats seem to have crowded out the Gladstone Liberal Free Traders in the Lib Dems. But we should keep calm and carry on for liberalism.

    I am with you, especially on Free Trade. Many EU countries, like France, are more protectionist than the UK and have blocked the increased free trade of services within the EU and the free trade of all goods and services beyond the EU borders.

    I am with you. We have tried to make the EU more free trade orientated but failed. Time to take a different approach.

    Note to Remainers: Free Trade does not involve the free movement of people. Even the free movement of labour is dubious.

  • Peter Martin 14th Apr '17 - 2:50pm

    @ George,

    You say “I’d be astonished if Tim and Nick said anything other than: ‘Yes, there is plenty of room for a pro-Brexit Liberal within the Liberal Democrats (or indeed a pro-Brexit social democrat)’ ”

    Really? Even when the party produces election leaflets associating all Leavers with UKIP?

  • @David Evershed “We have tried to make the EU more free trade orientated but failed. Time to take a different approach.”

    But other than Heath (who took the UK in) and Thatcher (one of the founders of the EEA) did we really try? given the level of investment T.May is having to make in Brexit, I suggest not. But also have we really failed; have things gone backwards in the EU and so markets are less free today than they were pre-EEA; does the UK do more and significant trade with say France today than it did prior to it joining the EEC?
    I think you are falling into the same trap as those in the EU who want to go further faster and hence have contributed to the viewpoint that the EU is out of touch, namely forgetting real change takes time, in the case of the EU and society, I suggest time is measured in generations, not in terms of office.

    I agree the time is right for a different approach, regardless of whether the UK had decided to remain instead of Leave, the question is just what is that approach, because all we have been getting so far are variations on the theme “trust me I’m a politician”… which as we know is worthless, as if we really could trust politicians we wouldn’t of been in the mess of having to hold a referendum…

  • Simon Banks 16th Apr '17 - 9:43am

    There should always be room in the Liberal Democrats for anyone who is a Liberal. It’s perfectly possible to make a Liberal case for Brexit, though not, I rather think, for a hard Brexit. Devon and Cornwall voted heavily LEAVE, yet this region contains more bedrock Liberal Democrat voters than anywhere else. So my appeal to Wayne is to stay.

    “Brexit” is the number one political issue of the moment (not the most important, which is climate change, but the defining and determining one) and I’m delighted our party has got on top of it. As for John’s decidedly ungenerous comments, what Tim has said expresses very clearly just why most Liberals are pro-EU and very much anti a hard Brexit. They’re informed by those values – and expressing our position in terms of being open and so on helpfully reminds people we’re not just “The European Party” Richard Dawkins suggested for a new name, but a party whose Europeanism flows from more fundamental values that will inform our position on other things.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Apr '17 - 11:50pm

    Rebecca, what further EU reforms do you think desirable? I’ve not been able to discover anything about reforms we’ve helped to bring about or wanted to go further.

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '17 - 8:03am

    @Rebecca Taylor “what do you think can be done to stop the hard right Tory/UKIP Brexit Britain?”
    One answer would be to campaign for a liberal and democratic Brexit rather than to campaign against Brexit per se, but for a number of reasons that is not the strategy the Lib Dems have chosen (and I think the party’s message is weakened if/when it tries to do both at the same time).

  • nowpolling7pc 3rd Jun '17 - 3:59pm

    Comment from a prominent former LibDem councillor in a large borough – my fromer colleagues won’t talk to me since I ‘betrayed’ them by coming out against the EU.
    Enough said.

  • I left the Liberal party in 1992 due to their view on the EU and joined the Lib Dems (having been a member of the Liberals since 1979) mainly due to the Pro EU stance of the Lib Dems. Any Liberals not happy with the Pro-EU stance of the party have a ready made alternative and don’t have to become an internal faction of the Lib Dems.
    Don’t start Liberal Leave, leave and join The Liberals.

  • Yes, of course. There is no reason why finding you are in accord with the party in general, more than with other parties, should mean you happen to like membership of the EU. If you are a lib dem voter living in wisbech, boston, spalding, holbeach etc, you very likely don’t agree with freedom of movement, due to its local consequence in terms of changes that have been too fast and too marked. And feeling that, isn’t racist, or illiberal. Vince is too focussed on the EU in his 2018 conference speech today, and risks repelling liberals who want to leave the EU. On the other hand it is a distinctive identity for the lib dems which may gain new votes and members. Nb i realise that party activists are far more commonly remainers, but ordinary voters for the party are from those i know, far more of a mixed bag on this issue

  • Justin Wright 15th Sep '19 - 2:44pm

    Finally, Jo Swinson raises the ugly head of Liberal, no longer can you call yourself Liberal Democrats, having single handedly wiped out any respect for those voters that exercised their democratic right to vote leave. Shame is upon you, all liberals, allowing the party to vote for an obvious undemocratic position in defaulting on the referendum vote. You all have put your own ideological views above those of the referendum mandate. Truly believing, that there are not thoughtful people who made their decision to leave, rather demonising anyone who will not submit to your extreme form of liberalism. If you believe this will create unity in a nation not already severely damaged by extreme nationalism. You have just provides another example of how disgraceful the political arena has become. Today, Jo Swindon has just shown how nationalism comes in many forms, this is an example of inter-nationalism, with no concern for the majority that for whatever reason (as this is democracy), made their decision at the ballot box.

  • Geoffrey Dron 15th Sep '19 - 3:51pm

    @David Dobbie – yes, but what sort of EU? An empire which will replace nation states?

    A lot of us 2016 remain voters would reject Verhofstadt’s vision and question why LibDems seem able to applaud it.

    OK, I’ll be voting LD at the next GE, but I’ll need to see the manifesto before deciding whether to apply for membership.

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