WATCH: Tim Farron on Sky News: “It’s a dark day”

Tim Farron was on Sky News this evening just before MPs voted for the final time on the Article 50 Bill before it goes to the Lords. He could not conceal his anger at the Tory and Labour MPs who had simply given the Government carte blanche to pursue a hard Brexit that “wasn’t on the ballot paper.” He called those MPs who had defied the Tory and Labour whips noble and suggested that history would be kind to them.

He outlined what would happen next in an email to members and supporters:

Tonight’s vote isn’t the end of the process. Over the next few weeks, Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords will seek to make changes to the government’s plans.

Our goal will be to protect Britain’s membership of the single market, protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and to give the people the final say on Theresa May’s deal.

If we do not succeed and the people will not get a final say on the deal, then when MPs get to vote on these plans again Liberal Democrats will again vote against triggering article 50.

Even once the Government has triggered Article 50 we will keep on campaigning all the way through the negotiations.

Nick Clegg has said, through the Open Britain organisation:

The Government have made a political decision to pursue a hard and destructive Brexit and the Bill that has passed unamended gives them a blank cheque to do so.

There is no mandate for the hardest of hard Brexits the Government favours, which risks leaving us poorer, weaker and more isolated.

Ministers must now be properly held to account for the course they have charted and the end result must be a more meaningful role for Parliament than a false choice between a bad deal and no deal at all.

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  • Eddie Sammon 8th Feb '17 - 9:42pm

    The Conservative Party has created another generation of hatred against itself by refusing to guarantee the rights of migrants who came here before the 23rd of June 2016.

  • I now support the lib dems. Unfortunately I can’t vote as I live in Rome. Any progress on the Tory promise to allow British citizens abroad to vote?

  • @Eddie Sammon

    How can we guarantee the rights of migrants unless there is EU agreement to afford the same protection to Brits living in other EU member states.
    We might not like the fact that migrants are being used as bargaining chips in negotiations, but it is the EU who refused to commit to these protections or even discuss them until after article 50 was invoked. It was not a UK decision.

    You might argue that the UK should have agreed unilaterally to the rights of EU migrants but that would have been a betrayal of UK Citizens living abroad with no such agreement / protections.

    Further more, how do we go about proving who arrived AFTER the 23rd June vote? there are no passport stamps to show when an EU citizen entered the country. It is not a simple cut and dry process and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.
    The Government has to act in the interests of UK citizens living abroad as much as they do EU citizens who are settled and living here and that can only be done properly through negotiations with the EU

  • Dear Matt,
    You effectively voted to revoke the rights of EU residents in the UK and UK residents in the EU, blaming someone else for the potential fate they face is wrong. You need to face up to the fact you voted for this, even if you didn’t mean too. Votes have consequence, often not the ones we expected, but we should face up to our responsiblity as should you.

  • “Liberal Democrats will again vote against triggering article 50”

    Well, seven out of nine of them.

    It’s time for Lib Dems to move on from this and put more energies into trying to shape post-Brexit Britain rather than carrying on this futile fight against what most people seem to want. While the Lib Dems bang on and on about Brexit or no Brexit, the Tories are quietly getting on planning for life after Brexit – and the way things are going, they’ll get a completely free run at it.

  • @frankie

    “You need to face up to the fact you voted for this, even if you didn’t mean too. Votes have consequence, often not the ones we expected, but we should face up to our responsiblity as should you.”
    Your seem to have the impression that I regret my vote, I can assure you that is not the case. I am a very passionate leaver through to my very core.

    What I effectively said to Eddie, was that in my opinion, he was being unreasonable with regards to the Conservatives and guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens. Like it or not it is the EU who is using them as bargaining chips, Merkel has been asked numerous times about the rights of UK/ EU citizens and she has refused to be drawn on the subject until after article 50 was invoked.
    Our Government and the Prime Minister has a responsibility to negotiate reciprocal agreements for UK citizens living in EU member states, had they not Liberal Democrats would be the first one’s shouting from the rafters betraying Uk citizens living abroad
    Since the EU insisted that article 50 was invoked before any discussions could take place on migrants, then the UK could not guarantee unilaterally the rights of EU citizens.
    That is just common sense.

    I have no doubt that some agreement will be reached on settled migrants, after all, I believe there are international laws that effects peoples rights from treaties that they lived under previously. That’s not to say it is going to be a simple process, it will however make up part of the EU negotiations.

  • Richard Butler 8th Feb '17 - 11:52pm

    This ‘liberal’ main focus on immigrants rights is exactly why ‘progressives’ have lost the people. Whilst we all hope everyone’s rights are respected and posses the common sense to know this will be so, the rest of us are focused on the British people’s rights abroad, the need to create dignified jobs based on rebalancing the economy via earning hard currency through exports, redirecting a good portion of the daily £28 millions foreign aid budget and so on. Trust ‘liberals’ to put identity politics and minority interests top of thier list. I guess it makes you feel even more awesomely Saintly than you already do.

  • Martin – thank you for your support. You may not be able to vote here, but you can join the party. Our membership is rocketing upwards at the moment, and it’s because people like you are making a stand by signing up to the only pro-EU party fighting a hard brexit. Come on – we need every member we can get, and this is where you belong.

  • @Andrew Hickey

    “you voted to destroy people’s lives. Don’t blame anyone else for that.”

    I don’t blame anyone for anything, least of all myself 😉

    I am fully at ease with my decision to vote to leave the EU, in fact I could not be more delighted.

    The EU / UK will negotiate the terms of the withdrawal, which will include an agreement on settled migrants.

    What would you be shouting if the UK agreed to protect the rights of EU migrants, but then the EU refused to accept the rights of UK nationals living in EU states and said they all had to move back to the UK or were no longer entitled to health care / benefits? you would be screaming that the Government has let down UK Citizens by failing to negotiate a deal for them.

  • Richard Butler
    For a start the rights of all who have moved around Europe (because they have had up till now, a RIGHT to do so) is indivisible surely. In other words, it matters not from which country they come, or where they live and/or work? Why are you so focused on one group of people’s interests – aren’t we in politics to make things all round as good as we can, faced as we are with many huge challenges. It is not those you describe as liberals who are responsible for pushing “identity politics” – it appears to be your argument that you wish to push for people with a “British” identity, whatever that might mean. And I would ask, do you feel saintly pushing like that?

    The lack of creation of “dignified jobs” in this country as you call it (and I agree that we should have better jobs, and new ways of enhancing life chances, self image etc of those denied those jobs) is not down to the EU, in fact the EU, as a political entity has pushed for ways forward for everybody within it. Actions of the British Government at least since Thatcher’s time have taken economic and political actions accelerating situations brought about by one sided globalisation – on the side of big business – advanced automation etc. By all means rail against them, but your isolationist, British identity politics (?little englandism?) will help accelerate the trends you dislike.

  • Matt (Bristol) 9th Feb '17 - 12:37am

    The scene now moves to the Lords. The government seems to think it has done enough in the Commons to prevent the secret consensus in favour of ‘soft brexit’ as a minimum from asserting itself.

    Anyone reading out there who might happen to be a member of the HoL want to spend time putting down an amendment separating exiting the Customs Union from the Article 50 process, and requiring a separate referendum to do so? (a similar clause could apply to the ECJ or ECHR)

    Something like that might motivate the pro-Remain Tories, though they seem to be hiding.

  • David Allen 9th Feb '17 - 12:56am

    Let’s just get this issue into perspective.

    A century ago, Britain led the world. A year ago, Britain in an alliance of equals with its European partners was one of the leading nations of the world. Five years hence, we are set to become an isolated mid-Atlantic island with no real friends.

    We cannot feed ourselves. We had industry, but we mostly closed it. We had oil, but we mostly burnt it. We do have arms, to sell to the undeserving. We do have financial expertise, but we have just rejected its main legitimate customers. We do sponsor tax haven dependencies. Our Brexit government clearly recognise that we will ourselves need to become a tax haven, and a global pariah. That is the way they want to go, since it will free their kleptocrat donors and sponsors from constraints on their personal enrichment.

    We have allied ourselves with twenty-first century New Fascism. We have bowed the knee to Trump, Putin, and Erdogan. As global resources run out, and climate change wrecks our planet, a new generation of Ruritania-First world leaders takes power, with no aim higher than that of being the last nation to starve.

    The EU is the last bastion of international collaboration. That is why Trump, Putin and May are determined that it shall be destroyed.

    The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.

  • @frankie – “Dear Matt,
    You effectively voted to revoke the rights of EU residents in the UK and UK residents in the EU, blaming someone else for the potential fate they face is wrong.”

    Err no, this is effectively saying that we should treat immigrants like children (when it comes to residency), rather than as adults capable of making decisions and living with a degree of uncertainty. I think part of the problem with EU citizens is just like many employees, they get used to the monthly pay cheque and begin to regard their employment as a “job for life”, forgetting about the termination clauses that were in the contract…

    I agree with George Osborne when he said the government had chosen “not to make the economy the priority in this negotiation, they have prioritised immigration control”, while the EU’s priority would be to “maintain the integrity of the remaining 27 members of the European Union”. I suggest this means firstly, the government of it’s own free will has decided what “Brexit” means and secondly that if the EU decide giving UK nationals residency rights is a threat to the integrity of the remaining members then they will deny UK nationals those rights.

    Like it or not, we are all being held to ransom and having to suffer the consequences; firstly of the referendum result and secondly from whatever Brexit May and her backers have agreed upon and can negotiate…

  • Bernard Aris 9th Feb '17 - 3:31am

    The past few days,
    *) Dutch TV news (both actual news bulletins and talkshows) and
    *) many Dutch papers
    have been flooded with news about the misadventures, troubles and hatemail from the Home Office experienced by long-standing Dutch inhabitants of the UK; and
    the enormous difference between
    *) what the British Home Office demands of those applying for a residence permit (a 85 page, detailed questionaire, with the obligation to add 20 years of bank notices, airplane tickets, salary statements from companies, etcetera; thast can amount to a stack of a meter high of paperwork) and
    *) what the home offices of Belgium and other EU countries demand (questionaires and application forms of just a few pages, without all the documentation).
    *) An elderly lady suffering from ME (the sleepiness & chronic fatigue syndrome) and who thus hasn’t been able to work continuously, is kicked out because of her illness. I know the NHS is overburdened, but this is stretching that point. Human treatmant to be sure!

    The D66 MEP Sophie in’t Veld, darling of the 2015 Autumn LibDem Conference, is advancing with her effort to get the European Commission to prosecute London for this overbearing bureaucratic nonsense. She also gets plenty of coverage.
    By the way, London better get out of the Council of Europe and the European Convention of Human Rights (article 8 & 12: right of family life & marriage…) if she pursues her present policy against EU inhabitants.

    Oh, how much sympathy for the British people is Her Majesty’s government fostering in her old Dutch ally nation by her open-minded, humane and caring treatment of continentals who’ve married Britons and lived there for decades. NOT.

    All Dutch trust May’s Assurances about EU citizens rights… NOT A BIT.

    If May wants to have have a fighting divorce from Holland, she will get it this way for sure.

  • Matt,
    Your happy to put peoples future in jerperdy, a true summation of the brave Brexiteers philosophy. Why do I think when it starts to effect you it will be someone else fault, probably the EU’s.

  • @ Bernard Aris. I share your grief and anger Bernard.

    As you may remember my Dad and his friends of 175 Typhoon Squadron spent six months at Volkel during the horrible winter of 1944/45. They shared their rations with local people who were starving and friendships were formed that lasted many years. Some gave their lives (look up young Bill Cain on the internet to see how he sacrificed himself at Nijmegen). More recently my daughter married a Dutchman who has a senior post in London.

    Underneath that civilised veneer there is a ruthless chillness to Mrs. May. We are being taken where we don’t want to go.

  • Oh dear. I terminated my membership of the Lib Dems because of the party’s unyielding stance on Brexit and repeated call for another Referrendum. I followed the pros and cons (from many sources) before deciding to vote to leave on 23 June and I have no regrets. The vitriolic responses I read on LDV against people who voted to leave or express any pro-Brexit views is disgraceful …. disgusting might be a better description. It’s probably now time to stop reading LDV.

  • Nicholas Cunningham 9th Feb '17 - 8:34am

    Never thought I to see the day when the House of commons would vote for a blank piece of paper.

  • Alex Macfie 9th Feb '17 - 8:51am

    @Stuart: The Lib Dems are not the ones giving the Tories a “free run” on Brexit.

  • a fighting divorce from Holland

    Oh dear. Again: it is not a divorce of any kind, because it was never a marriage.

    It is simply the invoking of the termination clause in a contract that no longer serves our interests.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Feb '17 - 9:44am

    Frankie – ‘You effectively voted to revoke the rights of EU residents in the UK and UK residents in the EU, blaming someone else for the potential fate they face is wrong.’

    No one ever said that this was permanent forever. Indeed, in all sincerity, what do you think the purpose of A50 is in that treaty? That article isn’t secret.

    In years to come I will probably go and live in my wife’s country and to that end I am working towards citizenship. I may yet need to do some national service in that country. I’m doing this Frankie because a) I love my wife and b) I have exactly zero guarantee that my right to be in that country on the basis of a UK passport is forever and for keeps.

    Don’t get me wrong here. I think that for people here upto the referendum date there should be a relatively simple process put in place (albeit that the EEA route is considerably more benign than the routes in UK law). And I’m rather surprised at how many EU people seem to have made no effort to understand EU law as it applies to people relying on EU free movement.

    But no one ever said this was permanent.

  • Nick Collins 9th Feb '17 - 9:58am

    @ Nicholas Cunningham

    “Never thought I (should live?) to see the day when the House of Commons would vote for a blank piece of paper.”

    They did that when they voted to hold the referendum. I’m afraid that it is becoming a habit.

  • Denis Loretto 9th Feb '17 - 10:30am

    Could I just gently ask why on earth could our 9 MPs not have acted together on this highly important vote? The party’s position is clear and is gaining increasing understanding among the electorate – judging by the Richmond by-election result and the remarkable gains at local government level. It is that we should only vote for continuation of the brexit process if a referendum is conceded on the destination negotiated by the government – the electorate decided that the journey should be to leave the EU and only they should decide whether the destination (of the many different options that could be negotiated) is acceptable to them.

    Having failed to get this crucial concession what on earth do two of our MPs think they have achieved by deciding to abstain on the vote to trigger Article 50? Do they really think their local electorate will regard that as a decisive move on their behalf? Do they think it will curry favour with some of the leave voters in their constituencies? Might firm party unity not have been a stronger stance?

  • @Dav
    ‘Oh dear. Again: it is not a divorce of any kind, because it was never a marriage.’

    For many remainers, it is. There is an emotional dimension to this that Brexiteers just will not acknowledge. That is why the two sides are so irreconcilable.

  • @ Denis Loretto, Agree with every word, Denis. To sum it up in one word………………. Self-indulgence.

    We have a leader making a huge effort and he needs (and is owed) team players. Anything less reinforces the impression that the party is non-serious, not ever fit to govern, and all over the place with a different policy for every day of the week.

  • Pat: I am sorry you are leaving and we all would prefer a more reasoned debate on the subject. BUT Liberal Democrats cannot give up on this subject because we strongly believe that what is occurring is a scenario which will be damaging for our children and grandchildren. You may have voted for leave and I am sure you thought carefully about it. But did you vote for what is likely to occur. If you did then you are probably right to question your membership but there are so many other issues which the party is campaigning on which seperates us from Tory and Labour .

  • Nick Collins 9th Feb '17 - 11:17am

    ” … what is occurring is a scenario which will be damaging for our children and grandchildren. ”

    Quite so: a bit like a divorce really.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Feb '17 - 11:26am

    Bernard Aris: You might also mention that citizens of Cyprus and Malta were allowed to vote in the referendum. Others were not and told us so. The leave vote has also created problems for Gibraltar which strongly voted to remain in the EU. Please do not take us back to the Treaty of Utrecht, times have changed.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Feb '17 - 11:40am

    Nick Collins: ” a bit like a divorce really”
    The rotating Presidency of the EU was held by Slovakia in the second half of 2016.
    Czechoslovakia had achieved a “Velvet Revolution” in which they freed themselves from communist control without violence (learning from Romania) and Vaclav Havel became President of a democratic Czechoslovakia. This was followed by a “Velvet Divorce” in which the Czech Republic and Slovakia separated into two democratic countries without violence. Both countries then applied to join the EU and joined at the same time (as did Poland and Hungary). Having been part of the same country they do a lot of trade with each other. Although Slovakia is in the euro and the Czech Republic is not the trade continues.

  • @Frankie
    “Your happy to put peoples future in jerperdy, a true summation of the brave Brexiteers philosophy”
    No I voted for my rights and with my freedom to chose the type of country that I wish to live in. It just so happens that my vote went in wit the majority.

    It is also my right not to conform to you and your parties ideological view of the EU, it is in your constitution, you should look it up, along with Andrew Hickley, because your language towards me has been appalling and goes against everything your constitution stands for.
    Maybe you should ask conference to vote on an amendment to the constitution and remove the passage if you insist on attacking and insulting people who voted to leave.
    Whilst you are there take a look at, maybe that needs removing too?
    “We therefore acknowledge their right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and commit ourselves to the promotion of a democratic federal framework within which as much power as feasible is exercised by the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.”

  • Andrew McCaig 9th Feb '17 - 12:00pm

    Our MPs have the right to vote with their conscience. Forcing MPs to do otherwise is what we have many many times criticised other parties for doing.

    What is more, the stance of the “Brexit 2” is not being noticed except by obsessives.. I read the whole of the BBC report on the vote this morning and while there was plenty on Clive Lewis resigning from the Shadow Cabinet (and on Diane Abbott putting party/personal loyalty above the interests of her electorate), the Lib Dems were portrayed as united.

    Lets just suspend this witch hunt against 2 of our MP’s. Drawing attention to it serves no useful purpose whatsoever

  • Andrew McCaig 9th Feb '17 - 12:07pm

    It is also really important to realise that Party Policy (as expressed by Tim Farron) is NOT to vote against Article 50 come what may, thus ignoring the referendum result, even if some people in the Party would like that to be policy..

    It is to vote against Article 50 unless there is a referendum that few people expect to happen, and which may not even be possible. I happen to like that policy which has ensured none of our MPs voted in favour of article 50, as some of them would otherwise have done, I suspect

  • Peter Watson 9th Feb '17 - 12:09pm

    Mobilise the Lords and block Brexit.
    Harness the anger over that to secure reform of the House of Lords.
    Double whammy! Two birds with one Lib Dem stone.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  • Denis Loretto 9th Feb '17 - 12:40pm

    @Andrew McCaig

    I was not arguing for strict whipping on this vote – I was questioning the judgement of those who abstained. However I agree that it was important that none of our MPs voted against the party line as distinct from abstaining. That is why I “gently” asked the question.

    As to your assertion “What is more, the stance of the “Brexit 2” is not being noticed except by obsessives” , by-election results and increasing party membership say otherwise. I agree that the media try to play us down (what’s new?) but importantly the Observer leader last Sunday endorsed our “destination referendum” policy.

  • Andrew McCaig 9th Feb '17 - 1:55pm


    Yes, exactly, we are perceived and having the most distinctive Reamin stance and I dont think the abstention by Lamb and Mulholland is affecting that (except possibly in N Norfolk and Leeds NW)

    Peter: yes, when I saw the Tories threatening “don’t vote down article 50 or we will abolish you” I was put in mind of Br’er Rabbit and the Briar Patch!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Feb '17 - 3:32pm


    Excellent piece, can you say more about the ME sufferer that we can know detail

    David Allen

    I did not agree with it all but the sentiment and eloquence are superb.


    Very sad people like you are leaving, the party needs to be a broad one of shared values not homogenised milk ! There must be room for the milk of human kindness, some of us show, yes, even , can you in any way believe it , to Norman Lamb and Gregg Mulholland !

    David Raw

    It is lousy to call anyones principles self indulgence if they are clearly motivated by their own consideration. You cannot say it of these two mps. It is not fair. Tim does not deserve any loyalty that conflicts with conscience. Justin Trudeau is not going to make people like me support twenty eight week abortion on demand because he says unless I do I cannot be a Liberal if in Canada, selected as a candidate . That is not what Tim Farron is at all, he is understanding of , his runner up for leadership, and his campaign manager !

  • Lorenzo. Please explain what the great issue of conscience they had to wrestle with was. Was it really on a par with abortion?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 9th Feb '17 - 4:54pm

    Sadly there seems to be a growing intolerance in the party towards anyone who disagrees in any way with the current policy on the response to Brexit. I agree with Lorenzo that what the party needs right now is a bit more kindness !

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 9th Feb '17 - 5:07pm

    David Raw, For the two MPs who abstained in the Article 50 vote, respect for democracy was very much a matter of conscience. Surely respect for democracy is (or was), as central principle of our party – hence the second word of our party’s name. Do you really feel comfortable at the idea of living in a country in which the electorate are asked a question in a democratic referendum, and promised that their decision will be implemented – and then their decision is ignored because they gave the “wrong” answer? I find it disturbing that so many in the party do not seem to have any understanding of how truly outrageous this would be.

  • Catherine Jane – I think you are extraordinarily hardline in your interpretation of democracy. When you’re in the frontline as an elected representative, in my experience, you often have to interpret what people desire. Often things cannot be done the way that people vote for if they are asked a straight yes-no question. In this huge and complex question there are so many important angles. And then there is the issue of necessary compromises. Back to the idea of a representative, not a delegate. You use your judgment. In this case it’s pretty clear, as has been said many times, there are no deals that are better for Britain than the current situation. Personally I think we would be better off not opting out of EU things so often.

    Also – this is a political club, not just an economic one. It gets my goat when dav (or others of his views) regards this as just “a contract” – it was a club meant to reduce conflict by substitution of sitting round tables rather than resorting to more muscular negotiation. What we seem to have embarked on now is just the opposite of “binding us all in” to an agreed way forward, including more prosperity and choice for all. Britain, after all, being one of the key protagonists in European wars over the years, needs to be bound in more than many others!

  • Catherine, I normally respect your comments.

    However, I’m still waiting for a proper explanation of what the great issue of conscience is for the two who failed to support the leader. Mr Cherin, apart from (“kindly”) saying my comments were “lousy”, has still not answered this. Tim, sensibly, played it down – but he was challenged on it in the ‘Daily Politics’ and looked very uncomfortable.

    I support the principle of individual conscience in parliamentary votes, but there have to be common sense limits when it concerns a distinctive main plank of party policy. in the long run the party’s credibility will be damaged if we are perceived to be divided. Our opponents in this miserable government will no doubt be using it as a stick to beat us with and we can hardly criticise Labour for being divided if we’re all over the place ourselves.

    There’s a huge difference between an amateur local park football team and the Premier League. Either we’re a functioning mature political party with a purpose or we’re nothing.

  • @David Raw

    “I’m still waiting for a proper explanation of what the great issue of conscience is for the two who failed to support the leader”

    What if it was the case that 2 liberal democrat Mp’s actually supported Brexit and wanted to leave the EU? Should they be kicked out of the party for having this view?
    Is there no place in the party for those who actually support brexit and want to leave the EU?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Feb '17 - 10:42pm


    I respect your views on a lot of things , but to imply that my calling the questioning someones principles, lousy, is me not being worthy of my own call for kindness, when it is me calling for more of it to people like Norman Lamb or Greg Mulholland, is not the sort of robust line you as a seasoned member take ! Of course you are , as often, able to see the merit in your own argument , implicit in your point , you are correct to question whether I would say abortion is on the same list of conscience as Brexit, and I would say most certainly not too me or many. But , as mostly , herein, Catherine explains, very well indeed, why to some , democracy and the defence of it , is a morality of its own and a principle too.

    Well done Catherine ,

    even though I am not as fired up on any of this, mainly because I find the whole thing a yawn, I think you are becoming the finest exponent of the side of what is now the underdog in this party ! I mean it when I say unlike any so far you could bring me part way to your view on nuclear weapons with your sort of understanding, and already contribute to keeping me keener on party politics !

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Feb '17 - 10:47pm


    You took the words right out of many a mouth on here who should say it. It is actually a bit odd we did not have a stronger Liberaleave campaign, it is , as a remainer only just, something many should see , like me, is in keeping with Liberal values too, for localism, democracy , against corporate impersonal governance etc., suspicious of many aspects of the EU.

    We as Liberal Democrats are meant to see other points of view !

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Feb '17 - 11:22pm

    Our Leader has set out for us a clear and strong way ahead, stressing the importance of the single market for the negotiations, the need to protect the rights of EU people to continue living and working in the EU countries they have chosen, and the democratic right of the British people to have a final say on whether to accept the negotiated settlement. The last point has become even more significant, now that the Government has rejected the idea of Parliament having a choice other than acceptance or reversion to WTO rules.

    I would be very happy to defend this stance of our party in canvassing in Copeland, though the obvious excellence of our candidate Rebecca Hanson, her articulacy and strength on major issues, makes it unlikely I shall need to. The fact that two of our MPs voted differently from the rest over Article 50 seems unimportant, since they support the party policy. The process of delivering the result of the Referendum was so difficult that we have seen swathes of Labour MPs and even some Tory MPs conflicted by it.

  • @Katharine Pindar

    “The fact that two of our MPs voted differently from the rest over Article 50 seems unimportant, since they support the party policy.”

    I actually agree, at the end of the day all the MP’s did were to abstain on the vote and refused to support the parties position of voting against triggering article 50. They did however state that they agree with the party policy.

    However, my question to David and others who have been extremely angry and vocal is, What if it were the case that these MP’s actually supported Brexit and wanted to leave the EU? Would they be booted out of the party for having this view?

    Is there any future in the party for anyone hoping to climb up through the ranks of the party, possibly becoming candidates if they were supporters of brexit? Or would these people have to keep their silence through fear of being denigrated for their views?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Feb '17 - 9:36am

    David Raw, You say that you still do not understand why the Article 50 vote was an issue of conscience for Norman Lamb and Greg Mulholland. It is often assumed that “issues of conscience” will be “life and death” issues like abortion, assisted dying, and nuclear weapons. But issues that are not actually issues of life or death, can still be very much moral issues.
    For the two MPs who abstained on Article 50, this was not so much about the issue of EU membership, as about the principle of democracy. I am sure that you would agree that the principle of democracy was very much a moral issue at the time that the Chartists, and later the Suffragettes, campaigned for universal suffrage. The Chartists and the suffragettes faced a situation in which those who held power believed that large sections of the population – the working class and women – were not fit to vote. Nowadays, no-one would dare to openly challenge the principle of universal suffrage. Yet it is clear that many, deep down, consider that large sections of the population are not fit to make political decisions. Voting against Article 50 is basically saying that the public “got it wrong”, so Parliament should just ignore their decision. This is dangerously undermining to the principle of democracy. Surely if democracy is under threat, this is a matter of conscience, just as democracy was an issue of conscience to the Chartists and the Suffragettes.
    Also, do you feel that Tim Farron was wrong when he “rebelled” and voted against the rise in tuition fees? Do you consider that he was being “self indulgent” to follow his conscience on this issue, and that he should just have shown unquestioning loyalty to the then leader, Nick Clegg?

  • Sorry Catherine, Tuition fees was not only a moral issue but a breach of an election pledge.

    By no stretch of imagination can Norman and Greg be compared to chartists or suffragettes and certainly don’t face force feeding (by a Liberal Government !).

    They made a mistake… end of.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Feb '17 - 10:06am

    Lorenzo, thank you for your kind words and your support 🙂

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Feb '17 - 10:18am

    David Raw, You may feel that my comparison with the Chartists and the Suffragettes is rather over the top. Obviously the situations are very different, but I mentioned the Chartists and the Suffragettes to make the point that defending the principle of democracy is very much a moral issue. We need to protect the legacy of the Chartists and the Suffragettes, and ensure that it is not undermined. I wasn’t making a direct analogy between Norman Lamb and Greg Mulholland’s situation and that of the Chartists and Suffragettes – that would be over the top. But Norman Lamb and Greg Mulholland could be compared with the small number of brave and principled Parliamentarians at the time who did speak out in support of the Chartists and the Suffragettes.

  • @ Catherine. “But Norman Lamb and Greg Mulholland could be compared with the small number of brave and principled Parliamentarians at the time who did speak out in support of the Chartists and the Suffragettes.”

    You’ve got a very warm and generous heart and it grieves me to cross swords with you. But, oh dear, I’m afraid not Catherine. They didn’t even vote. The best that can be said is they didn’t pretend to have a migraine. There is nothing heroic in abstaining.

    There have been many brave and principled parliamentarians in the past : John Bright and Crimea, Bradlaugh and the oath, Charles Trevelyan and his friends in the Union of Democratic Control who opposed the war in August, 1914 (including Morel who was imprisoned on a trumped up charge during the LLoyd George Government – but went on to defeat Churchill in 1922). These people were giants.

    We still haven’t had a serious explanation why they sat on the fence, and as that old rascal LL.G. once said, “If you sit on the fence too long it means that the iron enters your soul”.

    Let’s leave it there.

  • @David Raw

    ” They didn’t even vote.”

    David, I did ask you before, what would you say if they actually voted for article 50 and actually supported brexit and leaving the EU?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Feb '17 - 2:29pm

    David Raw, Thank you for your reply. Do you mean that you would have more respect for Norman Lamb and Greg Mulholland if they had actually voted *for* Article 50 rather than abstaining? Well, perhaps truly respecting democracy would have meant voting for Article 50 despite their personal support for Remain, as most Labour MPs did. I assume that the reason they abstained, rather than voting for, was to try to avoid the very thing you were accusing them of – causing embarrassment to Tim Farron and making the party look divided.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Feb '17 - 2:31pm


    You understanably do not relate to Catherine’s mentioning of these scenarios and chartists etc., as with me on abortion. Fair point, we both allude to these issues to try and understand the members involved and their stance.I take a position between yours and Catherine’s on this.

    I was and am not keen on the EU as is, and, as you know , feel all the important but worthwhile institutions, the BBC, the NHS, are deeply flawed but should be changed , adapted and improved , but not abolished.I think this particularly as to not explain it even t Liberal Democrats , is to invite the too often present misconceptions.

    I do value the considerate understanding of other opinions, and when I am at my most staunch, is when defending the underdog who is innocent or worthy of particular defence. I do not feel that defence is owed to Norman and Gregg , anymore than loyalty is to Tim, unless I feel something particularly on the issue, but I like and respect these parliamentarians , so they have my understanding, not owed , in obligation,given with enthusiasm.

    I think the point Matt raises is sensible. Would it not be a very Liberal policy to also be against the EU and vote thus, wanting an alternative, like , for example , Tony Benn and his Commonwealth for Europe idea. Is it not acceptable to be suspicious of huge monolithic spendthrift organisations, if there are more local, efficient alternatives?I do not advocate that necessarily, at all, herein, but I do yearn for more ideas , even those I not only do not share , but do not agree with, if they add to understanding.

    The two mps have explained their stance eloquently and that is enough for me.

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