Lib Dems to vote against Article 50 “stitch up”

Unsurprisingly, the Liberal Democrats have confirmed that the party’s MPs will vote against any motion which backs the unconditional invocation of Article 50. Tonight’s vote will be a test for the SNP, too. Will they back the Liberal Democrat amendment calling for:

 the Prime Minister [to] commit to a referendum on the final deal following the negotiations and prior to the UK departing the EU.

Tim Farron said:

We cannot support a parliamentary stitch up that would deny the people a vote on the final deal.

An amended motion would fail to include any meaningful commitment from the Conservative Brexit government to produce the equivalent of a White or Green Paper setting out its position on such fundamental questions as to whether it wants Britain to remain in the Single Market.

I call on the Labour Party to remember it calls itself the Official Opposition. It should not cave in to Conservative attempts to deny the public a final say on the most important question facing the country in a generation. It is appalling that a so-called opposition could allow itself to be muzzled by the Government on an issue that will face this country for years to come.

It is now clear that the Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to the Conservative Brexit government, striving to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.

At the moment, the SNP seems to be revelling in the constitutional mayhem. Willie Rennie called on them to back a referendum on the deal:

Alex Salmond’s comments confirm that the SNP are only using the European issue to advance independence.

He spent much of the EU referendum arguing about independence rather than making the case for Europe.

It shows the SNP will say and do anything to advance independence even if it means constitutional, economic and social turmoil.

If Alex Salmond was genuinely interested in EU membership he would join the Liberal Democrats to advocate a Brexit deal referendum for the British people.

You have to wonder why the SNP is being so reluctant to back Lib Dem calls for the people to have their say on the deal? Perhaps they don’t want to set a precedent in the increasingly unlikely event that they should win a referendum on independence for Scotland.

Going the people the chance to say whether the government has interpreted their Leave vote correctly is entirely democratic. The Tories don’t want it because they are split and they also know that any hard brexit deal would be virtually unsellable. Labour are just all over the place. On something so crucial to the future of the country, they should be giving the government a really hard time, not a free pass.


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

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • Eddie Sammon 7th Dec '16 - 3:18pm

    The question in a second referendum should be “Do you accept or reject” the new deal. Tim is calling for “Do you accept or reject and want to stay in the EU?” (Approximately) when we’ve already had a referendum on whether people want to stay in.

    It will lead to a third referendum because leavers won’t accept a 1-1 draw if remain wins this time.

  • Eddie: depend on the size of the majority. 60 – 40 or more either way there will not be any calls

  • Farron…”Labour are just all over the place. On something so crucial to the future of the country, they should be giving the government a really hard time, not a free pass.”

    Starmer….The government must now prepare its plan and publish it. And I put the government on notice, that if it fails to produce a plan by the time we are debating article 50 legislation – if we are, assuming the government doesn’t win (the supreme court appeal) – amendments from this side and possibly from the other side of the House will be put forward setting out the minimum requirements of a plan. In other words, we’re not going to have a situation where the government seeks a vote in a vacuum, or produces a late, vague plan…..

    Basically, we’ll wait and see….Difficult to see how, with no real indication from the government of its plans, he could say much more…

  • @ Eddie Sammon
    Initially David Cameron pre-empted the referendum with a set of concessions from the EU. The vote then became do you want to Stay on these terms or Leave. The Leave campaign never defined fully the Leave option. We had the Norway Model, the Iceland Model, WTO and even some who said that the EU would offer more concessions and a give us all a chance to vote again (think it was Boris). Having gone through the Leave negotiations and agreed the definition of Leave, I would have thought it logical to offer the Vote based on ‘Do you want to Stay or Leave on these negotiated terms’

  • Unsurprisingly, the Liberal Democrats have confirmed that the party’s MPs will vote against any motion which backs the unconditional invocation of Article 50.

    So does this mean the LibDems will be voting against the government’s current attempt to emasculate Parliament? By trying to link the possibility of the government telling Parliament about its Brexit plans before invoking Art.50 to Parliament committing to support the invoking of Art.50 by the end of March.

  • David Evershed 7th Dec '16 - 4:59pm

    The public have already voted in a referendum to leave the EU.

    Any second referendum will be a choice between leaving on:

    a) the negotiated agreement terms or

    b) default World Trade Organisation terms

  • Joseph Bourke 7th Dec '16 - 5:14pm

    British influence has an interesting take on the legislative position around Brexit arguing that exiting the EU does not mean exiting the EEA

    Lawyers for British Influence – the pro-single market think tank – are to write to Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Rt. Hon. David Davis MP, asking his department to clarify its position on the UK membership of the EEA after Brexit, at the beginning of a process which may see a Judicial Review of the Government’s stated position that “As the UK is party to the EEA Agreement only in its capacity as an EU Member State, once we leave the European Union we will automatically cease to be a member of the EEA.”

    The courts may be kept busy for quite a while yet with Brexit issues.

  • All the leaver voters I know – and it’s a fair few – voted to leave the EU. There were no “if’s or but’s” they wanted out of everything to do with the EU. If we made a trade deal with the EU after we left then great, if there was some sort of transitional period on trade until an agreement could be made then that was fine. However, make no mistake they want out of every aspect of the EU and they want out as soon as possible. If you think people are having second thoughts watch what happens in Sleaford tomorrow night.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Dec '16 - 5:59pm

    David Evershed, I don’t agree with “do you want to leave on these terms or WTO terms”. It should simply be “accept or reject the new deal” and if the public choose reject we should stay in until we get a better deal for leaving, but this isn’t the same as what Tim Farron wants which would be “stay in and forget about leaving completely”.

    I feel that some uber pro European Unionists like Nick Clegg have encouraged Tim Farron to adopt this second in-out referendum thing. It doesn’t make strategic sense because there are more popular options, such as soft-brexit. It’s like the SNP with their second referendum.

  • “…such fundamental questions as to whether it wants Britain to remain in the Single Market”

    I’m surprised Farron thinks there is any doubt about this question. Theresa May has been crystal clear that free movement will come to an end. The EU are equally adamant that no free movement = no single market. So we’re out, unless you can persuade either the government or – here’s a novel suggestion – the EU to back down.

  • I really don’t understand how Tim’s proposition of accept the deal and leave or forget the whole thing and stay is anything but a second referendum on membership. Voting against triggering article 50 because of it seems undemocratic to me.

  • lynn robertson 7th Dec '16 - 7:40pm

    Despite Wallington & Carshalton (Sutton) voting Leave ( 54%) MP Tom Brake has every intention of voting against the triggering of Article 50. In my opinion MP’s should be mirroring the opinion of the majority and he needs to either abstain if this happens he should stand down) or support the motion.

  • I dont recall in 2008 the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party calling for a referendum with various options attached.
    In 2008 Nick Clegg imposed a 3 line whip on the party to vote against the then Torys Party’s opposition motion for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
    3 front bench LD MP’s had to resign as they voted in support of the referendum.

    Nick Clegg was instead calling for a full in / out referendum on our EU Membership, he even orchestrated a walk out of the commons in protest and wrote articles in the guardian.
    Tim Farron in 2008 was calling for an in / out referendum ““To deny Parliament the chance to vote on our proposal to allow the public to have a real say on Britain’s membership of the European Union is an outrage.”

    They were not calling for a referendum question to include
    The truth is, Liberal Democrats are and always have been pro EU and the party always believed that they could make the arguments for staying in the EU and would win such a vote. Turns out they were wrong and the people voted leave.
    Now they want to try and stifle the result, re-ask the question with multiple choice answers in the hope that they split the vote and gain a victory for remain.

    It really is shameful politics and flys in the face of democracy

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Dec '16 - 10:42pm

    Tim reacted with this stance not Nick. If one is more pro EU in reaction it is Tim. Norman Lamb had he been leader would , I believe , be doing what Sir Keir and co are.

  • Andy, that’s not the point I am making. I have no problem with parliamentary scrutiny or even a referendum on the deal, but Tim’s suggestion that the choices should be leave or stay grates on me, and it seems to me that it stems from a desire to have a do-over in the hopes that we’d get a different result that’s more to our liking. And forgive me, but I find the idea undemocratic and I can’t support it.

  • Leekliberal 7th Dec '16 - 10:58pm

    Are the BBC correct in reporting that only five of our nine MPs voted against the Government’s Brexit amendment tonight? If so, why so few?

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Dec '16 - 11:40pm

    The four Lib Dem rebels appear to be Normal Lamb, Thomas Brake (interesting one), Greg Mulholland and John Pugh.

  • David Allen 7th Dec '16 - 11:48pm

    This second referendum. Everyone agrees that one option is “accept this deal and leave”. But some say it’s obvious the other option means “reject this deal and stay in “, some say it’s obvious the other option means “reject this deal and leave on WTO terms”, some say it’s obvious the other option means “reject this deal and go back and renegotiate the terms of leaving”.

    Actually, whatever we might try to say, the other option actually means “reject this deal, and then find out how the EU want to proceed”. If the EU throw their hands in the air and tell us to leave in chaos with nil agreed, then that is what will happen. If the EU want to let us stay in, then that is what will happen.

    What will the EU actually say? My guess is that if it ever got that far, if we had a second referendum in prospect, and the EU were about to finalise a Brexit offer, then the EU would indeed want to indicate what a “reject this deal” vote would mean. My guess – though it’s only a guess – would be “If you reject this deal, we will let you slink back, with your tails betwen your legs. You will be punished for causing us a load of grief we could have done without. If you are lucky, we’ll merely make you pay more. If we’re really feeling nasty, we’ll foist the euro on you as well.”

    Pity we started this lark, isn’t it!

  • was their a whip on this vote?

    Tom Brake abstained on the lisbon treaty referendum motion in 2007 against the party whip.
    Tom was on record in 2008 calling for an in out referendum and demanding people be given a say.
    Greg Mulholland and John Pugh also previously defied the whip on the Lisbon treaty referendum.

    It will be nice to see if these gentleman have indeed stuck to the same set of values as they held back then and continue to support belief in putting the power and decision back into the hands of the people.

  • Road – testing a theory which has gradually developed in my thoughts over this, the issue of “cake and eat it”, and the idea that we are in some kind of “negotiation” with other players on the EU scene here. There seems to be a continuity leading from our regular exceptionalism, of perpetual opt-outs, through to David Cameron’s pre-referendum discussions on terms. People in this country, and that includes mainstream politicians, have been very slow to catch on that there is no negotiation (possibly later on trade deals, but not at present on what we can take with us, and what we can leave.

    In that sense I agree with Andy Hinton, only would press his point further, that there will be no “deal”, just leaving. Judging by comments made in Europe, there may well be no or minimal “transitional arrangements” either. From this position, it is apparent that we should delay article 50 as long as possible – Labour are playing fantasy politics by the way. If cake and eat it were possible, then I could see why it might be sensible to let the Government timetable run, but it isn’t. The longer the delay, assuming Article 50 is irrevocable, the more obvious it will become how impossible a position hard Brexit puts us all in, at which time public opinion will be vociferous in calling for a reversal. If we are forced into it by tide of events, we will, as others have said, have much less favourable re-entry terms, and it would be questionable whether people would wish reversal if little improvement in our situation would be likely. By the way, the ECJ should be asked to test the idea of whether or not a country can pull out of Article 50 after it has been triggered. That would seem to be a very prudent piece of planning. Can we PLEASE get away from the cliche that setting in place safety nets is defying democratic will – it is merely common sense, on a road no country has yet trod.

    Who created this mess, for goodness sake??

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Dec '16 - 12:32am

    Tim 13 – Hi, Tim, I think as you are thinking here, that no negotiation will be possible: European leaders keep telling us that we can’t cherry-pick, that we accept the Four Freedoms together or we leave empty-handed. And I also had thought that we must therefore delay Article 50 as long as possible, till the catastrophe of our leaving becomes widely realised. But it seems that the date is fixed for evoking the Article now by both major parties. Unless the tide can be turned in the next three months, we will have to rely on the Article 50 revocation being reversed, which may be legally possible (you will have read the arguments here on that as I have), but will be hard going. What a terrible waste of the country’s resources all this is.

  • So in the end reportedly only 5 out of the 9 lib dem MPs, barely half, voted against the Brexit stitch up while the SNP turned out in their numbers to oppose it. Coupled with the Liberal Democrat’s petulant failure to even support membership of the single market in the Scottish parliament, most likely against the wishes of their members, it is clear that the Liberal Democrats are failing the test on Brexit. It is instead, the SNP who are standing up for internationalism and the interests of those who voted to remain in the EU.

  • Tim; I did-:
    As I have asked in a few threads, all through the different treaties, and whatever your belief, or political opinion, when exactly and after which treaty was it that according to Brussels and the people who want the U.K. to remain did it become disastrous for us to leave. Why were we never actually told, from this point it is too difficult and too damaging too leave, if that is the case for us, then probably the only country that ever could would be Germany… imagine that! As I have said before shame on the goverment that took us beyond the no return point without actually stating it.

  • Andy Hinton 7th Dec ’16 – 11:57pm….It is not undemocratic to reserve the right for the people to change their mind. Indeed, that is essential to democracy as I understand it….

    What IS undemocratic is to say ( no matter how you word it) “You didn’t understand what you voted for; so we’ll have another go!”….

  • Oh dear …. I think the Lib Dems are definitely backing the wrong horse! The party is taking a huge gamble in calling for a another referendum under the pretence of giving the public a chance to think again albeit in the guise of ‘how rather than if’ Britain leaves the EU.

    It is so obvious the SNP will do anything they can to frustrate/obstruct the process of leaving the EU because the SNP’s main (may be more accurate to say only) focus is Scotland’s independence. I listened to the Parliamentary debate yesterday with interest and was pleased the vote overwhelmingly supported the government. That’s my reading of what happened although I’m sure some LD voices will interpret it differently!

    Hopefully, Parliamentarians will now start pulling together and send a strong signal to the EU that we are not going to roll over and accept a few crumbs from their ‘high table’. No wonder 17.4m Brits want out.

  • John Peters 8th Dec '16 - 9:27am

    I used to tour the Scottish on-line papers post Referendum to try to judge the electorates mood. I stopped when it became apparent the SNP weren’t going to ask for a second independence referendum anytime soon.

    I get the impression the SNP have peaked. I’m not sure their little Brexit games will go down that well with the majority of Scots.

  • Pat. The Liberal Democrats require a clear issue seperate and distinct from the other parties. They seem to have it, in England and Waled anyway. Whether you like it or not it is what they need as a political party. I believe16.3 million voted to stay in.

  • Sorry Wales not Waled!!!! My apologies to my mothers side of the family.

  • PHIL THOMAS 8th Dec '16 - 11:06am

    No one has yet answered why only 5 of the Lib Dem MP’s voted against Article 50 ?

  • John Peters 8th Dec '16 - 12:09pm



    Alistair Carmichael
    Nick Clegg
    Tim Farron
    Sarah Olney
    Mark Williams


    Tom Brake (for the Noes, I guess he was the Noes teller of the pair)


    Norman Lamb (Norfolk)
    Greg Mulholland (Leeds)
    John Pugh (Southport)

    I don’t know if the absentees were present for the debate.

  • ethicsgradient 8th Dec '16 - 2:06pm

    fascinating, Macdonalds are moving their non-American headquarters out of Luxembourg to the UK.

    I would love for the UK to become a big version of Honk Kong or Singapore. A dynamic fluid business friendly Economy. It’d be great. So since Brexit inward investments from Nissan, Facebook, google, apple, MacDonald’s, Astra Zencia and others. I am very happy with Tech companies, Biotech companies and manufacturers coming to the UK. Plus good economic data since June.

    I’m very positive. Lets see how those economic forecasts are looking compared to reality in 3-6 months.

  • Christopher Haigh 8th Dec '16 - 4:14pm

    Typical Daily Mail attempt to discredit Tim. Greg and John paired with supporters of the motion, and Toms vote doesn’t count cos he was a teller for the opponents.

  • Good to see the Daily Mail and I hoppe the Express as well attempting to “discredit us”. Demonstrates we matter and they are worried.

  • Joseph Bourke 8th Dec '16 - 5:36pm

    A parliamentary vote or referendum that rejects any proposed deal at the end of negotiations, does not automatically mean staying in the EU or exiting on WTO rules.

    The British influence argument appears to be well constructed. Remaining in the EEA is fully compatible with the Brexit referendum “red lines” of ending budget contributions to the EU, repatriating legal sovereignty and, to a significant extent, free movement of people.

    If the decision about if and when to leave the EEA rests with the UK Government, and is not an “automatic” consequence of leaving the EU, then UK Government has been presented with a golden opportunity to enhance its negotiating position because we cannot be forced to leave the EEA, and the EU cannot hold access to the single market over the UK as a bargaining chip.
    There is no legal consensus over whether the UK is a Contracting Party to the EEA only as a member of the EU, and there are strong reasons to suggest membership of the EEA will continue after we leave the EU until such time as we formally trigger our withdrawal from the EEA Agreement by invoking Article 127 of the Agreement.
    There is no need to leave the EEA in order to remain within the “red lines” the referendum established.

    If the British people voted for leaving the European Union, repatriating legal sovereignty, establishing greater control over freedom of movement, and ending direct budgetary contributions this can be done without exiting the EEA.

    EEA membership preserves the option to leave the customs union and make separate free trade agreements, and repatriate control over agriculture and fisheries – all while continuing to be members of the single market, which guarantees jobs, economic prosperity, and free, efficient trade with our biggest market.

    Membership of the EU is a gateway to join the EEA, but is not a pre-condition of continued membership of the EEA. The UK is a contracting party to the EEA in its own right and must itself trigger Article 127 of the Agreement to in order to leave the EEA, which is a voluntary act and not an obligation upon leaving the EU; and that Article 127 implicitly excludes other means of leaving the EEA, such as leaving the EU.

  • Richard Worrall 8th Dec '16 - 7:34pm

    It worries me a little to see, even here, real concerns that our Article 50 position is undemocratic.

    I disagree with the majority. As a Lib Dem, I’m always a minority voice. At what point am I allowed to use my voice, if the referendum exempts me from my opinion? Is there a time limit?

    I want to overturn the referendum result. The means by which I want to do it are democratic. If we can succeed, I wouldn’t begrudge Brexiters fighting back. What is wrong with that?

  • Andrew McCaig 8th Dec '16 - 9:13pm

    All l those people on here (and everyone else around the country) who think that another referendum with the option to Remain would be “undemocratic” could you please answer this one question:

    “If it becomes clear in the polls in two years time that a majority of the British people have changed their minds and now want to Remain, would it be democratic to take them out of the EU based on a single vote in June 2016??”

    Because I am afraid if you say yes to that you would have to be in favour of a Party staying permanently in office, once elected….

  • Andy, I don’t know what it should be. I don’t know what the deal is going to be and whether I will support it. I’m just saying that a referendum where the choices are leave or stay is nothing more than a repeat, and refusing to commit to triggering article 50 on the basis that the amendment for a referendum on those terms wasn’t granted seems to me to be undemocratic.

    If the argument we put forward is that we don’t know what kind of brexit people voted for, then we should ask that question. But if we want a second referendum on membership we should just say so, anything less is dishonest.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Dec '16 - 9:32pm

    Andrew McCraig, a second in-out referendum is fine if opinion polls clearly change, but there is not much “brexit remorse” in the polls, at the moment.

    In fact I think that such flexibility in thinking and approach is key to governing countries.


  • @Joseph Bourke – The EEA is an agreement between the EU, its member states and (three out of the four) EFTA member states. It is based on the 4 freedoms – including FoM (which most Leave supporters reject). Any attempt by us to claim we can continue on in an EU deal when we leave can be quickly countered by the EU member states announcing they will trigger Art 127 of the EEA, leave it en masse and then offer the three EFTA member states a “New EEA” deal which excludes us.

  • @Joseph Bourke re: EEA – I see you’ve read or been properly briefed on the source documents; they do make interesting reading… I would be prepared to leave the EU and challenge the other parties to make the legal case for why the UK cannot continue being a member of the EEA.

    What is also interesting is David Davies remarks in one of his Leave the EU speeches, where he makes the totally valid point that once you accept there is a cost in having access to the EEA/”Single Market”, you then have to look at the additional cost of having a seat at the “Single Market” decision-making table and ask if the premium is worth paying particularly if it means you can more effectively protect UK interests – certainly Margaret Thatcher did, otherwise she wouldn’t have committed the UK to the negotiations that John Major completed when he signed the Maastricht Treaty… I’m sure you can imagine the problems this must be causing the Conservative party, where many still regard themselves as Thatcherites… 🙂

    Re: Referendum on the deal

    Whilst this sounds nice, I just can’t see it working in practice. In 1975, the UK had joined the EEC and thus had previously finalized the membership agreement, meaning the deal was done and it was wholly in UK hands whether to accept or reject. With Art.50 there is no such beneficial situation; for a referendum to have meaning, the default “no agreement” position would need to be an unconditional remain. Hence the only sensible way forward is for Parliament to debate the government’s Brexit plans and decide whether they are in the nation’s interest and given events whether the time is right to enact the plans and thus give consent to the government triggering Art.50 and agreeing a deal on behalf of the nation.

  • @Paul – I suggest you read the EEA agreement, it is an agreement between sovereign nations not between the EU and the EFTA. Whilst you are quite correct in saying that EU and EFTA member states could leave the EEA and create EEA2, I suggest that such a move would not be without repercussions and hence as with all negotiation a lot will depend on how close to the wind you’re prepared to go. Personally, I would be prepared to remain in the EEA and take the risk and use it as an indicator of how much the EU really values a UK trade relationship…

  • @Andrew McCaig

    ““If it becomes clear in the polls in two years time that a majority of the British people have changed their minds and now want to Remain, would it be democratic to take them out of the EU based on a single vote in June 2016?”

    And what would the criteria be for that type a poll? are we talking about a yougov poll of about 2 thousand people?
    And besides the polling companies have really shown themselves to be accurate of late haven’t they?

    Parliament chose to put the decision of our membership of the EU out to Plebiscite, they gave people the choice, the people chose, they want out.

    Liberal Democrats have been calling for an in / out referendum since 2008, look back on your history to what Nick Clegg said in 2008. To what Tim Farron said and Tom Brake, amongst others in the party.
    They were not calling for referendum to include in / out / EEA / EFTA. They were simply calling for an in / out referendum. They believed they could make the arguments for staying in the EU and they believed they could win the arguments for staying in the EU.
    Problem was, they were wrong, the public decided, they wanted out.
    Now Liberal Democrats, amongst others want to try and block the vote and change the terms of the question, giving so many possibilities in the question / answers, in the hope of splitting the vote for leave and thus delivering a win for remain.

    It is clear as day what remainers are up to, It is undemocratic and it’s ugly politics

  • @matt
    The people have spoken! And you’re happy so they must never be allowed to speak again.

  • @Andrew

    I never said that.

    I never said that LD should not be able to “campaign” to rejoin the EU, after we have left.
    We have to implement the democratic decision of this vote first. That’s democracy.

    If libdems wants to continue after that, as a party that believes we should rejoin the EU and campaign for it, then that’s up to them.

    What you should not be doing is trying to filibuster Brexit and get the referendum rerun by changing the question and giving more multiple choice answers, until you get the result that you want.
    That’s not democracy in any shape or form

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 9th Dec '16 - 10:20am

    This article from Independent throughs some light on the reason three Lib Dem MPs chose to abstain.
    Greg Mullholland is quoted as saying that he did not want to vote in a way that would suggest that he did not respect the referendum result. John Pugh has said that he does not think the Lib Dems should behave like sore losers and try to prevent negotiations from commencing. The article also quotes Norman Lamb, in an interview with his local paper, saying that as he voted for the referendum to be held, he did not feel that it would be right now to vote against article 50

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 9th Dec '16 - 10:31am
  • Re: reasons why three LibDem MP’s chose to abstain.

    All very weak excuses based on woolly thinking that don’t stand up to examination…

  • matt
    We honour the result of the referendum by triggering article 50 and proceeding to negotiate our exit. However if there were, in a couple of years, a sea change in public opinion and a large majority wanted to remain I don’t see how it could be right to drag the British people out of the EU against their will.

  • @AndrewR

    Whats the criterion of judging that sea of change?

    A couple of opinion polls, based on a couple of thousand responses to a telephone poll?

    I am curious.

    Then what is the question you would want to put on the referendum ballot. The same as the last question or something else?

  • Opinion polling is pretty accurate within a 2-3% window. If there was a sustained period during which Remain was polling 60% or more then I think it would be right to have another referendum before we make a final irrevocable decision.
    I don’t however back the Lib Dem amendment. Clearly no government could accept it as it incentivises the EU to give us the worst possible deal. And everyone knows the amendment won’t pass. It might most charitably be described as a bit of political symbolism.

  • AndrewR
    Why wait for a sea change in public opinion…. Tim isn’t bothering with a wait-and-see approach.?

    Didn’t Tim Farron already declare that his key manifesto policy going into the 2020 election, was to request access back into EU membership, even if it came after the completion of Brexit.? [Andrew Neil interview ~ Sunday Politics]. So, voters in 2020, will get to have their rethink, exactly as you wish. If voters decide to change their mind on EU membership in 2020, and democratically install a new Lib Dem government, then Tim can,.. [with a valid majority in the Commons], have a new EU referendum ever fortnight, or until we [surrender in exhaustion], and give him the answer that he approves of.?

    And by letting Tim stake the whole Lib Dem future on the next GE as ‘the party of Remaining IN [or returning to], the EU’, it is very much a democratic and honourable position. But before that,..I guess the first thing on Tim’s to-Do list, is get the other 45% of his wavering liberal MP’s onto the same page.

    I think we’re going to need a bigger whip.?

  • J Dunn
    I didn’t say I wanted a second referendum I simply described the circumstances under which no democrat could rightly refuse one.

  • @matt
    Re: Whats the criterion of judging that sea of change?

    I would have thought that was obvious: the same as that which resulted in the referendum.

    However, I don’t see any reason why the campaign shouldn’t start now, because as we all know Brexit only means whatever Teresa May and the Conservative party will agree it to be and I wouldn’t rule out that including remain for a little longer – just like the UK was always going to join the Euro, only when the time was right… 🙂

  • @Roland
    “I would have thought that was obvious: the same as that which resulted in the referendum.”

    That does not make any sense.

    The referendum was not held because the opinion polls showed a majority of people wanted to leave the EU. Had that been the case there is no way that either the Liberal Democrats or the Labour party would have voted through the legislation to hold one.
    The referendum was held because it was in the Conservative Party manifesto,
    The Liberal Democrats even had it in their EU Manifesto.
    Nick Clegg, Tim Farron and other leading figures in the party had been calling for an in / out referendum for years did they not?

    So what you say makes no sense I am afraid.

  • @Matt – “The referendum was held because it was in the Conservative Party manifesto,
    The Liberal Democrats even had it in their EU Manifesto.”
    Precisely! 🙂

    The criteria is you only need a lobby group who can convince a party of government to commit to holding a referendum… Naturally, if you think the bar should be higher, then you are effectively saying the 2015 referendum was incorrectly called and thus void…

  • @Roland

    I think your back paddling somewhat, I am not sure that is what you meant when you were referring to a sea of change.
    AndrewR was referring to the sea of change, as a move in the polls towards remain.
    I believe you were also referring to the same.

    That’s why i asked what the criterion was for a 2nd referendum, because the first referendum was not brought because of anything to do with the polls

    “The Liberal Democrats even had it in their EU Manifesto.” Precisely! ”
    Exactly, you wanted the in / out referendum, you got it, and you lost. You thought you could make the case for remain and win the argument, but you didn’t.
    The public had there say, they voted to leave the EU.

    Now if a party that campaigned for a plebiscite in / out referendum, now wants to ignore and overturn the result of that referendum, it really has no business using the name democrat in it, in my opinion.

  • Gary Peacock 15th Dec '16 - 12:17pm

    I’ve been a party member for over 30 years. I was a fully supportive remain supporter. However sad and disappointed I am at the result of the EU vote, I cannot support not being willing to allow Article 50 to proceed. It is failing to respect the result of the referendum, something that here in Scotland we are constantly calling on the SNP to do with regard to the the 2014 Independence referendum (and rightly so).
    Of course, parliament should scrutinise and vote on the result of the negotiations, but putting these to a further referendum would be meaningless, with people voting against because they didn’t like the terms, wanted to stay in, wanted a harder brexit etc, etc, etc.
    The party’s stance may make sense in seeking to revive our vote in UK, but for me it is not coherent, nor respectful of the recent vote.

  • Gary: it is about having a distinctive position politically. I am inclined to share your stance but politically as a party it is a good electoral move and todays Ipsos Mori poll appears to confirm that. The public like a clear postion, Yes or No, Greyness bores them and they are not interested.

  • Jayne Mansfield 15th Dec '16 - 1:11pm

    @ Gary Peacock,
    As someone who would have preferred that Remain had won the day, I have to agree with you.

    I have seen very little respect for the people who voted leave, just lip service, before speculation as to the causes of their aberrant behaviour.

    I declare an interest, in that I now believe that Labour’s position as articulated by Keir Starmer is the only appropriate response in a democracy.

  • I have to say I agree with theakes on this one, at least for now.
    As I’ve said on other threads, idealism is great and noble.
    However, being the ‘nice’ party did not help during the coalition years (yes I know people will raise the “that which must not be mentioned issue”, but there was much else achieved which the Lib Dem’s did not get credit for and there are signs now that a significant proportion of the electorate are willing to move on).
    My point is, that without a position of influence, you can achieve little.

    So, the pragmatic stance at the moment is to appeal to the remain vote, especially since it appears to be having three effects which are crucial to electoral success:
    1. giving the leadership much needed positive (generally) media exposure and recognition, which will be crucial later on when a platform is needed for getting other messages across which will appeal across the divide.
    2. presenting a clear unambiguous stance (cf: labour’s position at present)
    3. moving the polls for the first time in years. 8% to14% is significant in a short period of time. Yes I know it’s debatable, but that’s a 75% increase in support (albeit from a low base) and is likely to be a trend in the right direction at the very least. Lets not try to put confidence intervals on it at least for now.

    So, the point is to achieve ideals in the long term, you have to be pragmatic in the short term, even if it doesn’t sit too well. That, some would say, is the burden of being a political party who needs power to achieve its objectives, rather than simply a pressure group.

    I do however, very much agree, that Lib Dem policies that appeals across the divide to the 52% are absolutely crucial for medium/long term success, as I’ve argued on other threads.

  • Jayne Mansfield 15th Dec '16 - 5:53pm

    @ Theakes,
    Do you not realise that such a cynical position is why politicians are held in low esteem..

    What is interesting is that only five of the nine Liberal Democrat MP including Tim Farron voted against, in what has been billed by the Liberal Democrat’s as an important vote. I am aware that Mr Brake acted a Mr Brake acted as teller.

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