Lib Dems gather for March for Europe

My Twitter and Facebook timelines are full of people heading to march for Europe today. Tim Farron and Nick Clegg are speaking at the march in London. Tim Farron is on second and the Cleggster is on last. Alex Cole-Hamilton is speaking for us, as he has done so movingly on so many occasions, in Edinburgh.

It’s such a poignant, emotional day. It’s 60 years since the Treaty of Rome was signed. It’s the Diamond Jubilee of a real diamond of international co-operation and collaboration and partnership. In just four days, Theresa May will set in train the process of us leaving it. That absolutely breaks my heart. And, in time, it will cause real hardship for everyone in this country, but most of all, the poorest, who mainly voted Leave.

In London, Lib Dems will be meeting at 10 am at Marble Arch. In Edinburgh, meet at Waterloo Place at 1pm.

Tim Farron will touch on the tragic events of Wednesday before going on to talk about Brexit.

“The unspeakable outrage that happened in this city on Wednesday will not defeat us, or silence us or divide us. Democracy continues, free speech continues, our way of life continues. Terrorism will not win.”

He will then move onto Brexit and will say:

“We respectfully say that Parliament is not enacting the will of the people, it is interpreting the will of the people.

“Theresa May could have chosen a consensual Brexit… she’s chosen the most extreme version… divided the country.

“Departure not destination. The choice is who should decide the final deal. Should it be politicians or the people? The Liberal Democrats say the people.

“We can turn the tide of populism and we can change the direction of our nation – liberals and progressives can and will win again.

“I am not prepared to accept that our country is inevitably to become meaner, smaller, poorer. If you believe in democracy then you accept defeat with good grace… and you keep on campaigning for a better Britain.

“Our job is to win hearts and minds over these coming months, to win support for a referendum on the deal, to change the direction of the debate and to change the direction of our country.

“If you love your country, then you do not meekly sit by while it turns a dangerous corner. Instead you keep fighting, you keep believing.

“With the triggering of Article 50 this week, some will despair, this week of all weeks they will despair. We are here to say defiantly, we are up to here with despair, the future is yet to be written, we stand together to say that we are determined to write it.”

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

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Bill le Breton 25th Mar '17 - 5:37pm

    OK, but according to the organizers this is ‘Why we are marching’ …

    “We call on the Heads of State and Government meeting in Rome on 25th March 2017 to approve a roadmap to relaunch and complete Europe’s economic and political unity.

    “As the European Union has a single currency, the Euro, there should be a European economic policy with European own resources to modernise and relaunch the European economy. As the European Union has a common external border, it should be managed jointly by a European border force. As wars and instability afflict the regions around Europe, European defence forces should protect Europe, help to pacify our neighbourhood and contribute to managing international crises and conflicts. As threats of international terrorism and international crime increase, they should be prevented and combated through European cooperation and with European support. As national democracies can’t govern political and economic forces beyond national borders, only a European government and a truly European democracy would allow European citizens to control their own destiny.”

    Do we really want economic and political unity? To belong to a state with a single currency? A European economic policy? European defence forces?

    This March will not affect Brexit one bean, but it will give energy to those who want to use this anniversary to reinvigorate the EU’s drive to become a comprehensive Union.

    I opposed joining the Euro back in the 1990s and 2000s and I suspect most of those Lib Dems named above were in favour. They were utterly wrong then and they are utterly wrong again now, for the same reasons.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Mar '17 - 5:46pm

    Douglas Carswell MP has resigned from UKIP. He does not want a by-election, but UKIP does.

  • Most Remainers I know are concerned about the financial risks of leaving the single market and customs union. I have never met anyone who actually likes the EU political project or thinks that we should join the Euro. They all dislike the idea of political union or ever closer integration.

    Tim Farron seems to be fudging the issue. He is trying to differentiate his approach from the simple EU tactic of saying that the referendum got the wrong answer, vote again. He argues that deal, which doesn’t exist yet, is the wrong answer, so vote again.
    Yet, at the same time, he claims that the Lib Dems is the only party that supports our membership of the EU.

    Why doesn’t he just stand up and say that he wants this country to be at the heart of the EU, in the Euro, with full political union, supporting a federal finance minister, central taxation, own military, members of Schengen and the wealthier countries wiping out the debts of the poorer ones , such as Greece?

    If the Lib Dem dream is to play a full role in the EU project dream, then why doesn’t he say so?

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Mar '17 - 7:51pm

    We can attach our own meanings to the March for Europe, as Tim did – thanks, Caron, for publicising his speech, of which I heard a tiny bit on Radio 4 after doing some leaflet delivering for one of our county candidates. To me, if I had been able to join the London March, it would have been in solidarity with and to celebrate the EU’s glorious 60 years of peace, stability and progress, as Tim and Nick were surely doing. Of course there is sadness today as well, that the 27 leaders meet to celebrate without a British presence, and I feel anger and frustration at the whole wasteful, ridiculous farce of Brexit.

    Let us reverse it if we can. It was encouraging that the final question of last night’s Any Questions was on the possibility of a referendum on the final deal, and there was some support for that from both a panel member and the audience. Our case is gaining ground.

    Bill and Peter, it’s obviously true that we in Britain won’t be supporting complete political and economic union for the EU. I don’t believe the 27 will ever agree to that: it will never happen. Anyway, all the more reason for us to be in the EU to help shape its future the way we prefer – perhaps with inner and outer rings of states, as effectively is the case now, and various reforms.

  • Peter, I am surprised you say you haven’t met anyone who likes closer integration or ever closer union. There are many of us – certainly in the Lib Dems – but in the wider world too. I recognise it is not a view which equates to the 48% who voted to Remain, but it would probably be up around 10% of the population.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Mar '17 - 11:00pm

    I understand and sympathise with the march.

    I do so with Bill above criticising the march to.

    As with the EU unless it reforms it remains in a very unpopular space in many thoughts.

    Those who organised the march from EU perspective got it wrong. The integrationists took it over. This could be a celebration of what is. Oh , no, the ardent federalists want only what they do.

    It is why we are leaving the EU.

    Verhovstdt and co are not helping the cause of the EU at all, you need to hear real believable voices for Liberal reform to really believe it.

    Loosening of controls, liberalising of restrictions, harmonising of entitlements, socialising of responsibilities.

    None of that. Instead , ever closer economic and political union , even defence!

    The British people do not want it.

    Including many of us who are Liberals!

  • Tim 13.
    It’s about 8% of the Remain vote accord to the Ashcroft polls, which means its about 4% of those who voted and not really that close to 8% of the population.

    As a Leave voter, I found the March for Europe oddly moving in an end-of-an-era sort of way.

  • Philip Craxford 26th Mar '17 - 7:39am

    I find it odd that further integration is seen as a bad thing. With the UK (temporarily in my view) out of the way it is likely that many of the hindrances caused by the UK’s one-foot-in one-foot-out approach will disappear. This will leave the EU free to consolidate many aspects of the Union that previously caused problems for it’s currency. I.e. Greater harmonisation of tax and trade within the EU zone and notably also with the USA and Canada. The Euro will remain strong. Not only do the EU have a clear plan for the future, driving reforms that inspire certainty in the markets but adoption of the currency by .5 billion people means it now carries as much weight as the dollar. Also, a better joined up response to the issues of border patrol and immigration are largely seen as sensible measures on the continent.

    Unfortunately, on these issues the outlook for the UK is an almost diametric opposite.

    So is this the end of an era – or the beginning of a new era?

  • Philip Craxford.
    Usually, the end of an era is also the beginning of a new one. I don’t see the EU collapsing. However, I don’t see deeper political/financial integration because whilst it would make sense for the poorer nations of the EU the drive in the wealthier nations is not really there. I think lots people in both camps are expecting big dramatic changes because they put lots of heart, soul and hope into a vision, but most of the changes will be technical/modest.

  • Laurence Cox 26th Mar '17 - 9:33pm

    I wish that the ultra-europhiles in our party would not assume that everyone on the Remain side wants to see an european super-state. We need to remember that the Treaty of Rome was designed to ensure that France and Germany would never go to war again, as they had three times between 1870 and 1945. Britain was not involved in the first of these at all and was involved in the second and third through our commitment to protect the territorial integrity of small countries (Belgium in 1914 and Poland in 1939).

    When we joined, nearly a couple of decades after the Treaty of Rome, we joined the European Economic Community, which was sold to us on the basis that it was like having a bigger home market. It was only those at the extremes of both left and right, like Tony Benn and Enoch Powell who opposed it:

    When we look back at the arguments in 1975, we can see that they are similar to the arguments made during last year’s referendum (loss of sovereignty from the Right and loss of jobs from the Left).

    The principle of ‘ever-closer union’ is part of the problem; it means that the EU can only progress towards an european super-state, whether or not that is in the interests of the people living in the EU (it is clearly in the interests of the bureaucrats on the Commission). There is no possibility of admitting that any change made is wrong and the answer to any crisis is always ‘more Europe’. We need to be in the EU, not because we want a super-state, but because the voice of pragmatism needs to be heard more loudly in its corridors. Along with the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy, the introduction of the Euro ranks among the worst decisions ever made by the EU and its forerunners. ‘Ever-closer union’ means that we cannot go back and unpick these policies or replace them because those who benefit from them hold a veto over change. And so we see whole countries crucified by mass unemploment and austerity because they are locked in to what is effectively a modern form of the Gold Standard.

  • Laurence Cox.
    That’s not entirely true. Labour was very split on membership of the EEC and joining was mainly driven by the Conservative Party. Tony Benn was on the Left of the labour party, but extreme? Opposition to the common market also came from people like Peter Shore.

  • Laurence Cox 27th Mar '17 - 11:29am

    You do realise that Shore was one of the Cambridge Apostles, amongst whose number were the Cambridge spy ring. He would certainly been considered a Marxist then. As with so many left-wing figures he moved further to the right as his influence in the Party waned.

    Support for the EEC came mainly from the right of the Labour Party (Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams) as well as from the Liberal Party and the Tories, who were much more a one-Nation party then, still cleaving to Harold MacMillan’s legacy. You should not be confusing the Tories of the 1970s and earlier, with Thatcher’s Tories. Their conservatism was more paternalistic than Thatcher’s market-driven version.

  • The Cambridge Apostles historically was a discussion group. Peter Shore is 13 or more years younger than the spy ring that you allude to being born in the 1924 as opposed to 1911 to 1912 for the Cambridge 5. He was about 6 to 9 years old when they were there. You can put a sinister to spin on it all you like, but the fact remains he on the right of the labour party and like Tony Ben was a mainstream politician not a fringe extremist .

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