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What Tim Farron said in the Commons on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

February 5, 2017 9:29 PM

Article 50

Tim Farron, speaking in the House of Commons on 1st February 2017, on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill (video available here):

[...] Liberal Democrats have always been proud internationalists. It was the Liberals who backed Winston Churchill's European vision in the 1950s, even when his own party did not do so. Since our foundation, we have been champions of Britain's role in the European Union and fought for co-operation and openness with our neighbours and with our allies. We have always believed that the challenges that Britain faces in the 21st century-climate change, terrorism and economic instability-are best tackled working together as a member of the European Union.

Being proud Europeans is part of our identity as a party, and it is part of my personal identity too. Personally, I was utterly gutted by the result. Some on the centre left are squeamish about patriotism; I am not. I am very proud of my identity as a northerner, as an Englishman, as a Brit, and as a European-all those things are consistent. My identity did not change on 24 June, and neither did my values, my beliefs, or what I believe is right for this country and for future generations. I respect the outcome of the referendum. The vote was clear-close, but clear-and I accept it.

But voting for departure is not the same as voting for a destination. Yes, a narrow majority voted to leave the EU, but the leave campaign had no plans, no instructions, no prospectus and no vision. No one in this Government, no one in this House and no one in this country has any idea of what the deal the Prime Minister will negotiate with Europe will be-it is completely unknown. How, then, can anyone pretend that this undiscussed, unwritten, un-negotiated deal in any way has the backing of the British people? The deal must be put to the British people for them to have their say. That is the only way to hold the Government to account for the monumental decisions they will have to take over the next two years.

[...] The deal must be put to the British people for them to have their say. That is the only way to hold the Government to account for the monumental decision they will have to take over the next two years to ensure that the course they choose serves the interests of all the people, however they voted.

[...] Here is the likelihood: 48% of the people will not like the outcome of the deal, and half of the 52% will feel that they were betrayed by the outcome of the deal. The only way to achieve democracy and closure is for there to be a vote at the end.‚Äč

The fact is that the Prime Minister is the one making the strongest case for giving people a vote on the deal. She had the choice to pursue a form of Brexit that united our country, reflected the closeness of the vote, and sought to heal the divisions between leave and remain. Instead she chose to pursue the hardest, most divisive form of Brexit, which tears us out of the single market and leaves us isolated against the might of world superpowers. Never mind that six months ago she herself argued the case for remaining in the EU. Never mind that numerous leave campaigners championed the Norway and Swiss models and spent the referendum campaign assuring voters that we would not leave the single market. Never mind that 48% of people-16 million British people-wanted to stay in the EU. Never mind that Britain's young people, who have more of a stake in our country than most of us here, voted three to one to remain.

The Prime Minister has made her choice-fine; she has chosen hard Brexit-but if she is so confident that what she is planning is what people voted for, she must give them a vote on the final deal. What started with democracy must not end with a Government stitch-up. When all is said and done, the decision on whether the deal the Prime Minister negotiates is good enough will be decided by someone; someone will make that decision. Should it be the Prime Minister, should it be those privileged to be here, or should it be the British people who have to live with that decision? I say that it should be put to the people in a referendum. That is why the Liberal Democrats are fighting for the British people to have the final vote on the deal that this Government negotiates. Democracy means accepting the will of the people, at the beginning of the process and the end of the process. Democracy means respecting the majority, and democracy means not giving up your beliefs when the going gets tough.

Source: [accessed 05 Feb 2017]