Tim Farron to launch Lib Dem plan for Britain in Europe

Last week, I took part in a Conference call with Tim Farron and was very reassured at the strength of his resolve to ensure that the UK has the strongest possible role in Europe. Our commitment to campaign to stay in the EU, or rejoin if we leave remains at the heart of what we will offer the British people at the next General Election.

In that call, we found out that Tim would be doing something that the Government with all its massive resources hasn’t managed to get it together to do – launching an actual plan for Britain’s future in Europe which he will do tomorrow morning.

He sets out a seven point plan which covers everything from free movement and access to the single market, to environmental and law and order concerns. He insists that the British people should have the chance to vote on any Brexit deal before it becomes final. It has to be said that there’s not a huge distance between the criteria for negotiation and actually keeping Britain in the EU but all of these things are absolutely essential for the next generation’s future prosperity.

This plan should reassure those members who were concerned that we were stepping back from our earlier statements. IN fact, what Tim will say later today reinforces what he’s been saying since the referendum:

We demand that the British people should have their say on the final deal in a referendum. And in the meantime we will hold the Conservative Brexit Government to account and fight for the best possible deal for Britain.

Voting for departure is not the same as voting for a destination. Brexit means Brexit but we still don’t know if that means £350m a week extra for the NHS, immigration controls or membership of the Single Market. This is not an attempt to re-run the first referendum. It is to enable the public to vote on the final deal, reflecting that there is disagreement even in the cabinet over every major aspect of Brexit.

The British people should be allowed to choose what comes next, to ensure it is right for them, their families, their jobs and our country. Our relationship with Europe affects our economy, our security, climate change, our influence in the world and so much more.

“Our policy on Europe is simple: we want to stay in the European Union. We wanted that the day before the referendum, we wanted it the day after and we want it today.

The Liberal Democrats are now the real opposition to the Conservative Brexit government, and are fighting to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.

In Summary: The Lib Dem Plan for Britain in Europe

Introduction

Liberal Democrats continue to believe that the United Kingdom’s future is best served within the European Union, a position held consistently for over fifty years. However, following the referendum, the Liberal Democrats are setting out clear answers to some of the big questions and what we think should happen next.

Key constitutional questions

Should we re-run the referendum to overturn the results of the first?

No. We believe that the Leave campaign lied blatantly, leading many people to believe things such as a vote to leave would mean £350 million a week for the NHS. However, we should not keep re-running the last referendum in order to get the result we wanted.

Should the British people have the final decision on the government’s negotiated deal?

Yes. In voting to leave, there was no opportunity to vote for how future trading relationships should be, or how we should work with other countries over things like criminal justice, law and order, ease of travel etc. Voting for a departure is not the same as voting for a destination. When the deal is negotiated, in however many years’ time, the British people must have a chance to say if they would prefer the new arrangement, outside the European Union, or would prefer to remain inside the European Union.

Should young people (16-18) have a vote in a future referendum?

Yes. Liberal Democrats would introduce legislation to lower the voting age to sixteen.

Should Parliament vote on Article 50?

Yes. Parliament is the supreme law-making body in the United Kingdom. There should be a formal vote in Parliament to give notice under Article 50 and trigger the process for withdrawal. Liberal Democrats will decide how they will vote after they see the terms on which the government proposes to negotiate.

Key issues for negotiation

Protection of rights for EU citizens and UK citizens

Those who have made the United Kingdom their home should be allowed to stay. We will seek to secure the same for UK citizens living in European Union countries.

Freedom of Movement and the Single Market

Any deal negotiated for the United Kingdom outside the European Union must include membership of the Single Market and protect freedom of movement.

Maintaining environmental standards

We have a duty to future generations to protect our environment and tackle climate change. We will ensure that everything is done to maintain those high standards in UK law.

Law enforcement and judicial co-operation

We must maintain maximum cooperation to ensure criminals are pursued quickly and effectively.

Protection of Erasmus, investment in our universities and research networks

We should do everything we can to protect Erasmus, as well as other EU funded schemes increasing opportunities for young people. We will campaign to sustain the levels of investment in UK universities and their associated research networks.

Travel and tourism

We must make every effort to ensure that we retain ‘soft’ traveller benefits such as the European Health Insurance Card, reduced roaming charges and pet passports.

British industries

The City of London must retain full rights in EU financial markets.  We must also protect the support provided by the European Union to domestic industries such as farming, tourism and the creative industries, as well as regional support for deprived areas.

You can find out more – and see a video from Tim – here.

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

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24 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Sep '16 - 1:46am

    Stay in the European Union with the same conditions as we currently have?

    Pffttt. The EU enthusiast market was small enough as it is and it has only got smaller since the brexit vote.

    I don’t like being negative, but I predict Tim Farron won’t be Lib Dem leader at the next General Election.

  • Mark Goodrich 7th Sep '16 - 3:04am

    This is a good, strong and clear policy which we can be proud of. The only addition I would like to have seen in the negotiations is support for Scotland and Gibraltar remaining in the EU under the “Reverse Greenland” option.

  • Peter Sturdgess 7th Sep '16 - 5:18am

    A well considered position and one that David Davis could take lessons from, a plan, what a clever idea. The people and parliament of this country should have a role in our future relationship with the EU and Europe. Just relying on a flawed referendum is a recipe for disaster. We should also address the reasons for the referendum result, the fatal disenchanment felt for Westminster politics and the need for reform ot the EU. The first by making politics real, create a democratic second house and deal with the problem of malicious and fraudulent press manipulation. The second to work activley within the EU to bring about change.

  • Mick Taylor 7th Sep '16 - 5:49am

    Get real Eddy. Giving up on the EU before negotiations even begin is to accept a poorer future for the UK and it’s just not on. Tim Farron is arguing for what the vast majority of our party and many outside it who voted remain want. He is an excellent leader and will remain so until long after the next election, whenever it comes.

  • So Tim is still, even now, being Anglocentric and not prepared to see Scotland as an equal partner in the UK by requiring all four parts of the UK to vote to approve the leaving conditions before they are accepted. In fact, with his reference to the “British people” having the final decision it sounds as if he would not even allow the Northern Irish to vote let alone EU citizens resident in the UK.

  • Yellow Submarine 7th Sep '16 - 6:52am

    I think this looks very good. Accept the result of the referendum campaign in general but oppose varying bit of Brexit in particular. Then turn the details of Brexit into a series of single issue campaigns. There will be some Leave voters who will oppose bits of actual Brexit and it’s Leave voters we need to persuade to bog Brexit down. I’m actually very sceptical about the practicalities of a second one referendum but I suppose Farron needs to be seen to be democratic.

  • Simon McGrath 7th Sep '16 - 6:54am

    This is all fine and provides a good short term platform for us. But I am glad to see that it does not say anything about re-joining if the next GE comes after we have left, with all of the difficult questions about the Euro that would bring.

  • Simon Freeman 7th Sep '16 - 6:57am

    A clear set of ideas expressed in language the everyday person can understand. Whether we are in or out of the EU these principles must be adhered to.
    We need more of this sort of statement across all policy areas, House of Lords(should be elected by PR), NHS needs more funding generally and Mental Health in particular, Education(can we do something to reduce tuition fees?), Transport- Railways -if Southern Rail is failing it should be re-nationalised- but need to increase subsidies for busses and promote light rail schemes as well, the environment(pro renewables and nuclear power, anti-fracking).

  • Good ish

    “Liberal Democrats will decide how they will vote after they see the terms on which the government proposes to negotiate.”

    This part needs work. We need to oppose Brexit 100%, and not give tacit support to the government’s attempts to drag us out.

  • Conor McGovern 7th Sep '16 - 12:47pm

    Why make the choice between the EU status quo and Brexit? Why not a reformed EU – is it because the past 25 years have shown reform is made impossible? In fact, why have a second referendum just because Tim doesn’t like the first answer when we’re meant to be democrats?

  • Sue Sutherland 7th Sep '16 - 2:51pm

    Conor, I have sympathy with your views and find it difficult to turn my back on a democratic result especially when many people voted for the first time because they knew their vote would count. I think free movement has become a symbol for those who haven’t shared in the benefits from EU membership. Of course some people are racist but to paint all Leave supporters as such is wrong and will turn many decent people away from us. So as well as fighting to stay in the EU we must help those people who see no future in it for themselves. We have to argue against Thatcherite economics and austerity making it clear we have heard the message from those Brexiteers. Freedom of movement has made life more difficult for people living in some areas of high unemployment so I can see no reason why it can’t be managed until all EU countries are at a similar level of economic development. We have to listen to the message a democratic vote has given us.
    However, I do support a second referendum on the terms of Brexit which seems utterly sensible and reasonable to me.

  • Conor McGovern 7th Sep '16 - 6:20pm

    If we have a referendum on the Brexit negotiations then it should have multiple options, not a black-white choice ignoring the fact most people don’t want a Thatcherite tax haven approach or a corporatist EU approach either. My problem is Tim, Chuka Umunna etc only want a second referendum because they didn’t like the first answer. That’s a poor reason for a second vote if you call yourself democrats.

  • Conor McGovern 7th Sep '16 - 6:22pm

    Btw it would be interesting to discover how many of us in the Lib Dems voted Leave. I did so on the basis of austerity, democracy, sovereignty and the treatment of Greece, Spain etc. Not all of us are racists! 😀

  • An interesting list of demands from Tim Farron but he is ignoring the wishes of the majority of the electorate …. yes the majority!
    If the vote had gone the other way, we wouldn’t have heard a pip squeak from the pro-Remain parties. It would have been business as usual. No call for reform and no ear given to the concerns of millions of people. I no longer wish to belong to this party and have terminated my membership.

  • Philip Knowles 8th Sep '16 - 9:58am

    Not wanting to quibble but it wasn’t a majority of the electorate but a majority of who voted. There’s a significant difference. A BBC presenter questioning the BMA about the majority who voted for the strike said something like only in the 37% voted for strike action how can do this? The argument is often used by ministers to undermine strike action . But, by the same token, even with the large turnout, only 37.5% of the electorate voted for exit. That is hardly a ringing endorsement. That’s why super-majorities are used in the USA for constitutional reform.

  • Chris Lewcock 8th Sep '16 - 11:37am

    I must have missed it but (disregarding the merits or otherwise of the policy itself) when were the Party and membership consulted on this suddenly announced Liberal Democrat Party Policy for a second referendum? Could it not have been put to our very imminent Conference?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Sep '16 - 2:11pm

    Conor and Sue well done !

    I do not understand how Tim can keep saying the same thing ,which is the opposite of what the majority are saying for years, and expect a different answer ?!

    People on the whole do not want complete freedom of movement in Europe ! They have said so by 70%in some areas outside of Islington and Wandsworth !

    I do not think that a variation on the freedom of movement is unachievable even in the EU eventually .

    So why over egg the pudding ?!

    On principle , it is daft , after the election hammering our party has had over some elections , national and local and European , with a Labour party split between incompetence at best and Communism at worst , and the government having caused the mess that is so called Brexit , we need a mainstream party !

    If our party is not going to be that , but a one issue protest group , that is worse , in my view than anything they got wrong in a coalition at least meant to deal with a range of issues.

    I know Tim to be a decent , able , moderate and radical politician, At the moment he is frustrating me regularly !

  • nvelope2003 8th Sep '16 - 8:41pm

    Tim Farron is flogging a dead horse. Polls since the referendum show 62% to be confident about Britain’s prospects and only about 20% wanting another referendum. It seems that many of the 48% who voted to remain were either frightened of change, had a vested interest in remaining or believed the Government’s scare stories and those people no longer do so.

    The Liberal Democrats always did badly at the European elections despite them being conducted under PR. Remember – only ONE MEP was elected last time in a PR election, although strictly speaking on the basis of votes cast it should have been slightly more but even 5 out of 73 is not exactly a triumph.

    If we keep on banging on about Europe there is no hope for a revival at the next election. Out of interest will there be European Parliament elections in Britain if we are still in the EU in 2019 ? It would be an interesting test of public opinion before the 2020 election. Another hammering like 2014 should cure Tim of his European dreams and allow a change of direction.

    Having said all that I agree with most of the points made but the public are just not interested. To most of them the issue is done and dusted and the party must move on and put forward some genuinely popular policies which will appeal to the majority who are not bothered about what they regard as ancient history now. I am sure there are still Jacobites about, just as there are French Royalists but most people regard those issues as closed too. Sorry……

  • Alex Macfie 9th Sep '16 - 10:18am

    nvelope2003: We were not hammered in 2014 because we were too pro-EU, we were hammered because we had Nick Clegg lead our campaign, thus indelibly associating it with the Coalition. In previous Euro-elections under PR we got around 10-12 MEPs, not a marvellous total, but not disastrous either. Our fundamental problem was we did not give voters any reason to vote for Lib Dem MEPs; that is, we never said much about what our MEPs did AS LIBERALS to make the EU more liberal.

  • nvelope2003 9th Sep '16 - 8:22pm

    Alex Macfie: I seem to recall that we fought the 2014 European election as the party of IN and ended up with one seat while UKIP, the party of OUT, gained 11 seats. The not so fervent Labour party gained 7 and the unenthusiastic but divided Conservatives lost 6. The enthusiastic Greens lost votes but gained one seat because the long serving Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson lost his seat in the South West despite being an enthusiastic supporter of the EU.

    Obviously 10-12 Lib Dem MEPs is better than 1 but despite PR the party usually polled a lower percentage of the vote than at UK elections which to me indicates that support for the EU is not a vote winner. Nick Clegg’s unpopularity, largely whipped up by the Liberal Democrat hating Conservative press, did not help but he was not leader during the previous elections. The vitriol poured on Clegg by the Tory press must have had an effect and has only been equalled by their treatment of Corbyn and in former times of Aneurin Bevan, Lloyd George, Asquith and Gladstone. They hate anyone who threatens their privileges and of course many innocent folk are taken in by it.

  • Alex Macfie 9th Sep '16 - 11:33pm

    nvelope2003: The “Party of IN” campaign was a major mistake. But not because of the message per se. It was a mistake for two reasons: (i) whether you are pro or anti EU is a purely domestic issue, nothing to do with MEPs, and (ii) it was badly delivered, by someone who sounded establishment and was not equipped to debate with someone like Farage. By agreeing to debate with Farage , Clegg was essentially accepting the Faragista narrative on the EU, namely that the only permissible positions that anyone can take on the EU are uncritical support for everything it does, and total opposition. He did not even counter Farage’s lie that the EU is “undemocratic” by pointing out that it was an EU election in which we ELECT EU REPRESENTATIVES. Clegg AGREED WITH FARAGE that MEPs don’t matter, and that the EU debate is a binary debate between uncritical support and withdrawal. UKIP did well because NO-ONE, least of all our then leader, challenged his central narrative, which is one that NEEDED CHALLENGING. Also, because voters have been conditioned over many years to think that MEPs don’t matter, and not to take Euro elections seriously, they think it is safe and harmless to vote for loonies and fruitcakes like UKIP. If elections were fought on what MEPs actually do, and on the actual POLITICAL differences between the MEP groups in the European Parliament, then Farage & co would long ago have been exposed as the charlatans they are. By accepting the Faragista narrative that MEPs don’t matter, we fought the Euro election on Farage’s preferred ground, and thus let UKIP win.

  • Alex Macfie 9th Sep '16 - 11:35pm

    We had 10-12 MEPs under leaders before Clegg. Under Clegg and in the Coalition, we fell to 1 MEP. I think we could have saved a few more of our MEPs had we fought the election on the records of our MEPs and MEP candidates AS LIBERALS, and emphasised the independence of our MEPs from the Coalition. By having Clegg front the campaign, we squandered the best opportunity to differentiate us from the Tories and set out what we had done and would do as undiluted Lib Dems. And I don’t just mean on the EU per se, but on all those ordinary issues that happen to be discussed at a European level, like the CAP, trade, civil liberties, environment, consumer protection. Because there are political, ideological differences between the different parties in the European Parliament on their approaches to these things (in the same way as there are in national politics), which the political media ignores in this country. And we Lib Dems, instead of challenging this conspiracy of silence, meekly go along with it, which is why I say we don’t give people any reason to vote Lib Dem in European elections.

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