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Tim Farron: 'I am a proud Brit - and a European'

February 1, 2017 7:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Tim Farron has declared that he is a "proud Brit and a proud European" as he appealed for Brexit talks not to end in a "government stitch up".

This was the Liberal Democrat leader's speech to the House of Commons today:

"Liberal Democrats have always been proud internationalists.

Since our foundation, we have been champions of Britain's role in the European Union and fought for cooperation and openness with our neighbours and allies.

We have always believed that the challenges Britain faces in the 21st century- climate change, terrorism, economic instability- are best tackled working together as a member of the European Union.

Being proud Europeans is a part of our identity as a party - and it's part of my identity too.

I am a proud Lancastrian, Northerner, Englishman, Brit - and I am a proud European.

My identity did not change on the 24th of June. And neither did my values, my beliefs and I 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 vision those millions had for the future was not collective.

It was not united.

There were no plans, no instructions. No prospectus. No vision.

No one in this government, no one in this House, no one in this country has any idea what deal the Prime Minister will negotiate with Europe - it is completely unknown.

So how then can anyone pretend that this undiscussed, unwritten, unnegotiated 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.

To ensure that the course they choose serves the interests of all people- whether they voted leave, remain or didn't vote at all.

It is not a complicated proposal.

In fact, it is the Prime Minister herself who is making the strongest case for giving the people a vote on the deal.

Because she had the choice to pursue a form of Brexit that united our country. One that reflected the closeness of the vote and sought to heal divisions between leave and remain.

But instead, the Prime Minister has chosen to pursue the hardest, most divisive form of Brexit. A Brexit which tears us out of the single market, that leaves us isolated against the might of world superpowers.

Never mind that six months ago, she herself was arguing 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 wouldn't leave the Single Market.

Never mind that forty-eight per cent of people - 16.1 million people - wanted to stay in the EU.

Never mind that Britain's young people - who have more of a stake in our country's future than most of us - voted 3 to 1 to remain.

Fine. The Prime Minister has made her choice. She has chosen hard Brexit.

But if you are so confident that what you are planning is what people voted for, then you must give them a vote on the final deal.

What started with democracy must not end up with a government stitch up.

When all is said and done - and plenty has been said - 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 Parliament? Or the people who have to live with that decision.

I say it should be the people in a referendum.

Both the Labour frontbench and the Conservatives don't want to give the British people their say; they think they know better.

It is an arrogance. It is anti-democratic and that is why Liberal Democrats are fighting for the British people to have a final vote on the deal that the government negotiates.

That is what our reasoned amendment to this bill intended to do. And because that amendment will not go through, Liberal Democrats today will vote against this bill."