Tim Farron writes: ‘renegotiation not a game changer’

Thursday 18 February

Arriving at St Pancras for the Eurostar early on Thursday morning, I found myself amongst a small gaggle of lobby journalists, all clutching tickets to the same destination – Brussels, presumably with ‘open returns’ with no one being sure how long the negotiations would take.

We were, of course, heading to Brussels ahead of the summit at which David Cameron would try and thrash out the last minute ‘grand deal’ that would allow him to campaign for Britain to stay in Europe.

The substance of the deal has been held up as the greatest political settlement of our time by his more loyal supporters and dismissed as entirely irrelevant by the usual Eurosceptic suspects in the Conservative party.

Neither styling is fair. The renegotiation is not a game changer, but it shows that our European partners are open to working together to achieve reform in Europe.

I was heading to Brussels to talk to the liberal leaders and Prime Ministers from across Europe at the ALDE Pre-Summit meeting.

The meeting was held at the Palais d’Egmont and saw 7 PMs in the ALDE and other leaders discuss Britain’s place in Europe, the refugee crisis and the situation in Poland where there has been an erosion of the independence of the judiciary and media.

It was a productive session with everyone agreed that Britain was stronger in Europe, and Europe was stronger with Britain in it. I encouraged them to support the UK renegotiation so the campaign to keep Britain in Europe can begin.

The reality is this referendum is not going to be fought or won on the narrow reforms that Cameron has focused on. Instead the referendum will focus on the big issues that are at the heart of our European membership- how we are wealthier and more prosperous, safer, and more able to tackle big issues like climate change by staying in Europe.

I also took the opportunity to present a petition at the European Parliament with Catherine Bearder MEP calling on the UK Government to apply for European funding to help fund flood repairs in the areas decimated by flooding over Christmas. The Government had stubbornly refused to apply for this money – a minimum of £125m – so I was delighted to see this week that the pressure we had applied hadpaid off with a last minute application being submitted by the Government.

After a media round to set out what we had discussed and hoped to see agreed, it was back to Brussels station for the train to Cologne, where I was going to see how the city was playing their part in helping tackle the refugee crisis.

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Feb '16 - 1:58am

    Excellent from Tim, very admirable, constructive approach, it probably made some real impact on the Liberal leaders, particularly the ones actually leading governments !

    A contrast to Corbyns trashing of the deal.Call this deal completely irrelevant and the in campaign is undermined.Plenty of others ,it is clear to see from the out campaign , are doing that , it is just what is not needed.

    I do not think the deal is a game changer, just as Tim put it , I doubt Cameron does.But it does have significance, and Cameron is making a good case for staying in.We are allies on this referendum at least .

    Politics can make strange bedfellows,but not so strange meeting room colleagues.I had been hoping to get to the manning of a stall my local party were attending for the in campaign, today, in time to be able to be there for the same period as my favourite Tory, one of our Nottingham MPs , ex SDP, Anna Soubry, but was not able to! Look forward to doing so , another time.Chatted with her at some length , ages ago, a very nice woman, a very good communicator, pro Europe, pro LGBT, and probably one of the most coalition friendly ex colleagues we had!

  • Neil Sandison 27th Feb '16 - 2:08pm

    Agree with Tim Camerons concessions are not a game changer but what would be a game changer ?
    I would suggest real treaty change ,but treaty change that made the EU a more dynamic and accountable body with real buy in at national and regional level .rebooting our energy and waste markets to produce low carbon fuels as coal and gas becomes an unsupportable fuel choice .Britain is still one of the dirty men of Europe we are still landfilling and incinerating too much which can be up cycled ,reused ,or regraded .The globalisation of food markets is destroying our farming industry adding many carbon miles to every product we purchase in our super markets and spreading unwanted desease to our indigenous plant and wild life.
    The EU still needs major reform and Great Britain using its expertise in soft power could be leading not following that debate .So as we go into this campaign what is our vision as Liberal Democrats for a genuinely reformed Europe that can face up to the challenges of the 21st Century and real treaty change ?.

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