Tim Farron writes to Jeremy Corbyn: will you clarify your position on Article 50

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has written to Jeremy Corbyn to call on him to clear up ‘once and for all’ his party’s position on Article 50.

Dear Jeremy,

I am writing to you about the upcoming vote on the triggering of Article 50 in Parliament.

As we both know the Government will shortly bring forward a Bill to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of negotiating our departure from the European Union.

The result of the referendum was close and no one has had a say on what type of Brexit the government should seek to pursue. There will be many people who voted ‘Leave’, who like the former Conservative MP Stephen Phillips, nonetheless want to remain members of the single market.

Theresa May has decided to take the result of the referendum last June and use it to try and impose a hard, extreme Brexit which has no democratic mandate. I am concerned that Labour seems to be supporting this action.

I am clear that the Liberal Democrats will not vote to trigger Article 50 if the public are not guaranteed a referendum on the outcome of the government’s negotiation, where people can decide to accept the deal the Government makes and leave the European Union, or reject the deal and remain within the European Union. That is a red line.

The public needs clarity on what you will instruct your MPs to do.

There are reports that you will impose a three line whip to vote for Article 50 – something that seems extraordinary given the lack of safeguards or detail the government has offered in regard to key areas of any renegotiations.

Will you now clarify your position on MPs voting for the triggering of Article 50?

Once we have seen the Bill we will seek amendments in a number of areas including measures to guarantee membership of the Single Market (not just access to it). I hope that you will reconsider your support for the government in leaving the Single Market, and join with us in arguing that we need to remain a member of the world’s largest marketplace.

There is nothing progressive about giving Theresa May a blank cheque to decide what form of Brexit she thinks is best and impose it on the country.

So far, Labour have said they will seek to make amendments to the Bill, but have said they will not vote against it even if they do not secure key amendments – this isn’t good enough. If Labour believe amendments are needed then surely if they do not pass you should vote against the Bill? How can you vote for triggering Article 50 if it sets in train a hard Brexit that will damage our economy, cost jobs and goes against the will of those who voted Remain, and likely a large number of those who voted leave too?

I look forward to hearing from you, and hope that you reconsider your stance.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Farron MP

Leader of the Liberal Democrats

To be fair, Jeremy Corbyn has been quick to condemn the low regulation, tax haven vision of Brexit mooted by the government as a way to keep economic growth going despite Brexit, particularly if a favourable trade deal with the EU is not agreed.

But Jeremy, what on earth did you expect?!? This was the Patrick “Economists for Brexit” Minford’s only plan to try to make Brexit an economic success – the only basis, weak as it was, that the costs to GDP were disputed – and you might have been a bit more firmly against all that before June 23rd.

Still we can ask again: are you even going to consider voting against it? We await the reply.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

Read more by .
This entry was posted in News.


  • Aright Tim we get the point. You want the UK to stay in the single market and to do that we have to accept the “four freedoms”. If we accept the four freedoms we may just as well forget about the referendum result. At least have the courage to tell the voters you will not accept any outcome of a referendum unless your side win.

  • Joe
    I don’t know any leavers who want stay in the single market if it involves the four freedoms and EU law. The thing about some of you remain bods is that you keep insisting that you know what your opposition want. As a leave voter I would never be so arrogant as to suggest that remain voters don’t know what they voted for and really they meant they wanted this that or the other. Part of the reason you lot lost, aside from the reality that Britain as always been iffy about the EU, is that Remain seems to be the default setting of political types who won’t do what the electorate tell them to do and think everything is about messaging. You want to leave the EU. No that can’t be true, what you really mean is you want to us to stoke your belly and say there, there, there.

  • Patrick Minford’s opinion on the future of the economy seems to have shifted, as the outcome of negotiations led by this government becomes clearer.

    Ahead of the referendum, he argued that whereas manufacturing would suffer from Brexit, the UK overall would benefit by concentrating even more on services. He repeated this view in the Financial Times on 3 January, forecasting that whereas manufacturing would be under pressure because of the elimination of EU ‘protectionism’, something he called ‘traded services’ would grow.

    However, just ten days later, the FT quoted him predicting that UK manufacturing could have ‘a good time’.

    This is quite a turnaround. Perhaps it is due his taking into account the Chancellor’s threats of turning the UK into a fiscal paradise. After all, ‘freed’ from EU employee and social provisions, subject to very low rates of corporation tax, undercutting competitors even further with a weak pound, a kind of low-cost manufacturing could indeed have a future.

  • Little Jackie Paper 24th Jan '17 - 12:50pm

    Otten – ‘You might reasonably have expected the four freedoms question to be a central aspect of the negotiations’

    Can you elaborate on that? I thought that the four freedoms were sort of totally non-negotiable ever? I don’t see that there ever was a reasonable expectation.

    For what it’s worth my guess is that there were informal pre-negotiations/talks and May’s speech was in light of that. But I’d be interested to know what makes you think that the four freedoms were actually negotiable?

  • Joe,
    Open Britain would say that wouldn’t they. They’re a pro-EU organisation and the fact that you seem to think they are unbiased perfectly illustrates my point.

  • It would be good if Labour and the Lib Dems could agree some common ground on what we would want to keep after the inevitable invocation of article 50.

    I don’t think staying in the single market is realistic but what about the customs union? Why do we have to leave the customs union when it is immigration that dominated the decision to leave? This would simplify the situation in Ireland.

    We could still have freedom of movement for skilled workers. Otherwise if EU nationals have to apply for group 2 visas like non-EU nationals currently do then it will harm the economy.

    Once we leave the EU we will never get the rebate back even if we rejoin so it is important we try to stay in until the last possible moment, however I hope we will campaign for a sensible arrangement once article 50 is invoked.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Jan '17 - 1:26pm

    Aaron Banks’ view was also echoed by Nigel Farage.


    I was out delivering a ‘Remain’ newspaper the morning before the vote and I came upon an NHS voter who was waiting for a lift to get to hospital. She told me, when she saw what I was delivering, that she was one of only two people in her ward who was voting ‘Remain’. All the others were voting ‘Leave’ to get that promised money back into the NHS. 🙁

  • ethicsgradient 24th Jan '17 - 2:46pm

    Glenn makes a really good point.

    I do find it irritating that significant voices for remain keep telling me (a leave voter) why I voted leave. I think it is fallacy to keep saying that lots of leave voters wanted to remain in the single market.

    No, what we wanted was ideally tariff-free access to the single market through a trade agreement.

    I would still say the majority of leave voters would take being outside the single market in return for full sovereignty and ability to control boarders.

    This feeling has not gone away. People who voted leave, knew what they were voting for and that is not going to change no matter how many times we get told, we did not know what we were voting for.

    I find Farron’s position on this as essentially a protest position. It does the Lib Dems well in picking up fed-up Labour supporters and remain-leaning Tories. It gives you a USP and a clear stance. It does not however reflect where the majority of the country are on the issue of Brexit (that’s not just me hoping, go out, chat to people in the street, beyond you natural friendship circles, it is enlightening).

  • Andrew McCaig 24th Jan '17 - 3:42pm

    “I would still say the majority of leave voters would take being outside the single market in return for full sovereignty and ability to control boarders.”

    I don’t think anyone disagrees with that (except perhaps those obsessed with spelling!) But Leave voters were only 52% of those who voted, and presumably all Remain voters were happy to stay in the Single Market. It only takes 4% of Leave voters to take a different view from you and Glenn (not to mention the undecided voters who did not vote at all) and there is a majority for a Norway-style soft Brexit..

    This question has in fact been asked several times since the referendum and the majority of all voters have said that being in the free trade zone is more important than having complete control over our borders. The recent polls full of leading questions like “do you prefer a bad deal or no deal” have not yet given further insight into opinion.

    However it is true that the continued peddling of the lie that the EU is about to “punish us” if we do not get our way may well have sufficient effect on public opinion. After all the Tories, UKIP and the Press peddling lies about the EU for 40 years is what got us to the position we were in on June 23rd.. Blaming the EU for everything bad that happens has become so familiar.. And yet the bananas somehow remain resolutely curved!

  • @LJP – re: ‘You might reasonably have expected the four freedoms question to be a central aspect of the negotiations’

    Can you elaborate on that? I thought that the four freedoms were sort of totally non-negotiable ever? I don’t see that there ever was a reasonable expectation.

    There was room for a little negotiation over the differences between the EEA Single Market freedoms and the enhancements made by the EU (eg. the EEA has the movement of workers which the EU enhanced to the movement of people). Additionally, things have and are changing in Europe over the details of the four freedoms (eg. does the freedom of movement really mean indefinite residency and retirement?).

    But as Joe points out, because May has decided to go for a ‘hard’ Brexit, she has ruled out such negotiations. I suspect in part because such negotiations would be much easier if the UK were remaining and thus able to threaten the holding of an in/out referendum…

  • Robert Stallard 24th Jan '17 - 4:13pm

    I voted leave despite my business being based in europe. The eu are the enemies of democracy and I am quite prepared to accept a few personal hardships (if it even comes to that, which I don’t think it will) to be rid of them. Unlike some collaborators on the remain side, I value freedom above selfish personal gain.

  • @Joe
    “we are a democracy either way”

    Though if Tim Farron had his way, I’m not sure how much longer that would be true.

    Let’s just remind ourselves that Leave won the referendum.

    Then consider the fact that many of those Leave voters would be very, very happy to walk away from the EU with no deal whatsoever. In fact, two Yougov polls in the past week indicate that people with this view form by far the largest single group. 39% want “full control” even if that means no deal. 48% say they would prefer no deal to a bad deal. Only 23% think we should try to stay in the EU.

    Yet if Farron got his way, those ultra-hard Brexiteers would not even be offered their favoured option in a second referendum – despite being on the winning side last time, and forming the largest single group now. While the Remainers, who lost last year, would get another chance to vote for full-on Remain again.

    Even I, as a Remain voter, can see what a “stitch-up” (to borrow Tim’s phrase) that would be. How can it be right?

  • Peter Watson 24th Jan '17 - 6:20pm

    Tim Farron: “I am clear that the Liberal Democrats will not vote to trigger Article 50”
    Does this mean that Lib Dems will vote against triggering Article 50 or will the party line simply be to abstain?

  • “It only takes 4% of Leave voters to take a different view..”

    The same applies to Remain voters. Of the 16.1 million Remains, how many voted :

    1. An EU pretty much as it is now (as per Nick Cleggs prediction)
    2. A Reformed EU
    3 An ever closer political union, culminating in a Suprastate
    4 An EU with its own army, (as Nick Clegg told Farage on public television, was a ridiculous suggestion.!)

    Suppose 4% of Remainers only voted remain on the assumption of getting a Reformed EU (option 2), only to find themselves lied to, and trapped in an ever growing sovereignty sucking Superstate (options 3 or 4).?

    Which one of the above Remain options were you expecting, when you put a cross on the ballot,.. and what happens when you find you were duped [again], as happened in 1975.?

  • Support for leaving the EU seems to be growing stronger – findings of a ICM poll published yesterday:

    First people were told that Brexit negotiations are starting soon and were then asked which of these three options they would prefer.

    UK leaving, regardless of what happens: 53%

    Parliament to decide whether the UK leaves, based on the outcome of negotiations: 12%

    A second referendum to let people decide, based on the outcome of the negotiations: 26%

    Don’t know: 9%

    Then people were asked what should happen if the UK and the EU failed to reach an agreement in the time allowed for the Brexit talks (two years). They were given two choices.

    End talks and leave without a deal: 49%

    Postpone or suspend the UK’s exit from the EU: 33%

    Don’t know: 18%

    Then people were asked which of these two options they thought was best.

    Leaving the EU without a trade deal: 63%

    Leaving the EU with a bad trade deal: 8%

    Don’t know: 29%

    Finally, people were told that, if May is offered a bad Brexit deal by the EU, she has threatened to retaliate by cutting business taxes to encourage businesses to move to the UK, or changing “the basis of Britain’s economic model” as she puts it. They were asked if May was right or wrong to do this.

    Right: 59%

    Wrong: 18%

    Don’t know: 23%

  • grahame lamb 25th Jan '17 - 9:04am

    I should be interested to read Mr Corbyn’s reply, which I assume I shall be able to read here.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Chris Moore
    Hello Mary, you say this, "he party made a huge tactical error – when they could have had massive influence on a vote by vote basis – and betrayed millio...
  • Gwyn Williams
    As a student some 44 years ago, I delivered leaflets in a byelection in a new(ish)housing estate on the outskirts of Reading. It was uneventful until a furious ...
  • Steve Trevethan
    Might we please have a pamphlet or three on the harsh harm done to so many in our policy-deprived, not-rich fellow citizens and the some 25% of our children w...
  • David Blake
    Leaflets work, but they have to contain more than just 'Labour can't win here'. We need to get people voting for us because of our policies and values, not jus...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Mary Fulton: Confidence & Supply would have had the same risks for us as a full-blown coalition. It would have looked like we were just propping up the Tor...