Lib Dems will offer an optimistic alternative to Brexit Britain

It’s been a tough few weeks for all of us who believe in the European ideals of cooperation, openness and trade between nations. But as if the referendum result was not bad enough, the aftermath has left the UK the laughing stock of the world. First there was the resignation and disappearance of many of those who led the Leave campaign and the shameless disowning of key pledges on the NHS and immigration. Then last week a number of leading Tory Brexiteers were elevated by Theresa May to the highest offices of the state.

We have seen Brexit Minister David Davis pledging to create a free trade area ten times larger than the EU, which would be 1.5 times the size of the entire world economy. Unless he’s counting on a boost in interplanetary trade, even the most optimistic Brexiteer will struggle to explain how that could be achieved. And now we have Andrea Leadsom, who once had to ask if climate change was real, in charge of protecting our environment and facing the unenviable task of explaining to UK farmers how they will be able to thrive post-Brexit.

Yet of all the changes in government that Theresa May has made, the most ridiculous of all was to give the Foreign and Commonwealth office to Boris Johnson. A man who has made a career out of inventing myths and making jokes is now to be our trusted envoy to the world. The first response has been one of disbelief, from the Americans who see him as a joke and the French foreign minister who declared Boris to be a “liar with his back against the wall.” Yet gradually our close allies are waking up to the absurd reality of Brexit Britain. At a stroke, this new Conservative government has reduced our international standing to that of a banana republic.

There was never a more urgent time for a moderate, internationalist party with a clear commitment to fixing our broken politics and protecting the environment. Thankfully, the Liberal Democrats are still out fighting, recruiting new members, winning by-elections and sending out a clear and optimistic message that another future for our country is possible.

* Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Leader of the European Parliament Liberal Democrat Group.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jul '16 - 1:14pm

    A very good article by a very able representative of our party.

    I believe it is this constructive and critical stance we need to develop.

    Nothing against us believing that a longer term future in the EU is not a possibility or even a goal. But not a promise or a commitment .

    We must also be the ones with a measured tone , which is reflected in this piece .The the passionate Tim has more impact.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jul '16 - 1:15pm

    Then the passionate Tim has more impact.

  • Barry Snelson 19th Jul '16 - 1:37pm

    There isn’t an alternative “to” Brexit Britain. That is exactly what opinionated men and women are hard at creating right now (and they have the legal power and authority to do it).

    Please come up with an alternative “for” Brexit Britain because that is now the real world situation.

  • John Peters 19th Jul '16 - 2:13pm

    I’m sure this plays pretty well with some Liberal Democrats who are passionate for the EU, and they may well give their vocal support.

    In a way I can see similarities with Corbyn supporters who are large in number and pretty vocal in their support of his policies (even when they are not Labour Party policies).

    It seems to be conventional wisdom that Corbyn is unelectable though, not helped by the relentlessly unfair press he receives in ALL UK papers.

    I’m not sure how you plan to spin your passion for the EU with the UK electorate, or have you just decided you are unelectable so why bother?

  • Alex Macfie 19th Jul '16 - 2:31pm

    “and they have the legal power and authority to do it”

    “They” have “legal power and authority” to do whatever they want (subject to approval by Parliament and operating within our constitution). Equally others have the legal power and authority to campaign for and seek a mandate for any alternative they wish. The referendum result has no legal significance at all. In particular, it does NOT mean that opponents of its outcome are obliged to stop campaigning and start supporting a policy they oppose. To suggest that is to support dictatorship.

  • David Evershed 19th Jul '16 - 2:50pm

    Catherine says “the European ideals of cooperation, openness and trade between nations”.

    Surely the protectionist continental Europeans are the ones who impose tariffs on trade with non EU countries like the Commonwealth countries and will block any free trade agreement with the USA (known as TTIP) later this year?

    It is the Uk which has a world wide trading tradition and our Conservative and Liberal parties that have free trade policy traditions, not continental political parties.

  • paul barker 19th Jul '16 - 2:51pm

    One of the most fundamental & unpleasant facts about Democracy is that its a moving target, every vote annuls the one before. Results are not for life. We found that last May & The Brexiteers will find out next May, if not sooner. Lets see how UKIP do in The Local Elections, that should be a good indicator if the 52% are standing firm.

  • John Peters 19th Jul '16 - 2:59pm

    paul barker

    I’m not sure why you think the UKIP vote is particularly relevant. As long as my Tory MP maintains his change from Remain to Leave I will happily support him.

  • paul barker 19th Jul '16 - 3:24pm

    Thinking about ups & downs of Democracy, Eagle & Smith are supposed to decide this evening which will remain as the sole candidate to stand against Corbyn. Theres a Legal Challenge to the decision to allow Corbyn to stand without MP nominations, suppose it succseeds & Corbyn cant get enough MPs to back him. Eagle or Smith could be declared Leader without a vote, on the grounds that they were the only candidate. Unlikely but possible.

  • Catherine Bearder – Your title promises “an optimistic alternative to Brexit Britain” but then you spend the rest of the article simply slagging off the Brexiteers (admittedly the lowest of low-hanging fruit) and May’s apparently bizarre appointments.

    So where is that “optimistic alternative” of the title?

    It’s all very well to talk of “fixing our broken politics” etc. but that is just a word salad that any politician of any party could say and therefore devoid of political meaning until and unless you link it to a specific plan that credibly offers a route to that result.

    May must be a very canny operator to have survived so long at the Home Office so perhaps even those bizarre appointments have an ulterior motive. Many possibilities exist but what strikes me is that Tory members are strongly pro-Brexit but the City and other key Tory backers aren’t. So is May plotting setting up the Brexiteers for a big fall leading to a second vote in the context of a falling economy? Time will tell but the simplistic version is not likely to be correct.

  • David Evershed 19th Jul '16 - 3:32pm

    Apparently Nick Clegg is returning to the Lib Dem front bench as EU spokesperson.

    Lets hope he can make some sense out of Tim Farron’s policy proposal to rejoin the EU after BREXIT.

  • I would feel happier if our MEPs recognised that they share some of the blame for recent events.

    Our MEPs should have been in there as ‘outsiders’ arguing from the beginning for fundamental EU reform. As every new LibDem councillor is told by ALDC, your job is to represent your residents to the Council, not the other way around. Yet the internet is awash with videos of UKIP speeches in the EP that (whilst often offensive in tone) clearly set out the deficiencies of the EU as is and have proved very good rallying points for its wider campaign. Where are the equivalent passionate speeches from LibDem MEPs calling for reform from a pro-EU perspective?

    Sadly the truth is that, when we had a batch of them, our MEPs got sucked into the cosy consensus in Brussels and were, as far as the wider party is concerned let alone the public, pretty much invisible.

  • David Allen 19th Jul '16 - 4:00pm

    If we believe Britain belongs in Europe, then we simply have to campaign to stay there. Because Europe has had it up to here with Little Englanders and Brexiteers who repeatedly demand British rebates, opt-outs, special terms, extra concessions and watered-down European projects – and when given these things, chuck them all back in Europe’s face and send a special rude goodbye message from Boris!

    If we leave, they just won’t ever let us back. They’re not that stupid.

  • Leave The EU 19th Jul '16 - 4:25pm

    @David Allen – with respect, can we differentiate between “Europe” and the “EU” – Iceland is in Europe and not in the EU – as is the UK scheduled to be as well.

    “Iceland is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), a grouping of four non-EU European countries” –

    Finally, the UK is (was) a net contributor to the EU.

    P.S. If you want to strengthen Brexiter’s intent, keep calling them “Little Englanders”.

    All the best.

  • Leave The EU 19th Jul '16 - 4:27pm


  • Richard Underhill 19th Jul '16 - 5:34pm

    paul barker 19th Jul ’16 – 3:24pm Angela eagle has withdrawn today.

  • Can the author above please stop referring to the nonsensicle climate change; the climate has been changing for billions of years.

    Could we please say what we mean and use the correct description – Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)

  • @jedi – it doesnt say when 😉

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