Tim Farron calls for a ‘progressive political alliance’ on Europe

The Liberal Democrat leader has called on the leaders of other parties to work together to make the positive case for Remain

Image: Alex Folkes/Fishnik.com

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has called for a ‘progressive political alliance’ ahead of the European referendum.

‘This is a decision too big for tribal loyalties,’ Farron said last night, in a speech launching the party’s  #INtogether campaign. ‘Progressives need to come together, and be seen to come together, to build a progressive political alliance.  

‘Because this is a choice between liberals and progressives on one side — and on the other, nationalists, who suspect foreigners of conspiring all the time to do Britain down.’

Speaking to Left Foot Forward ahead of the speech, Farron expressed hope that different parties could work effectively together ahead of ‘the most important vote in a generation.’

While he acknowledges the dangers of Brexit and understands David Cameron’s approach — widely described as ‘Project Fear’ — Farron believes that a strong positive campaign from Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and the Greens is essential.

‘If we’re going to get a [Remain] vote it’ll be down to progressives voting to stay in. And so my encouragement to the other leaders — Nicola Sturgeon, Jeremy Corbyn — is don’t prevaricate. Let’s get out there together.’

While Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of being ‘half-hearted’ about the referendum campaign, that’s not a word that could be used to describe Farron, who is emphatically pro-EU.

In a speech covering questions of peace, the economy, the environment, tax evasion, nationalism and climate, he called for Britain to be an an ‘outward-looking country that works with its neighbours to build a more prosperous and secure world.’

He also returned repeatedly to the generational aspect of the referendum, insisting that older voters have a responsibility to take the prospects of young people and future generations into account when casting their votes.

‘Let me be really blunt. You may be grumpy about Brussels. But I suggest that you have no right to prejudice the future of your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.’

While Lib Dems have welcomed Farron’s positivity, the potential advantage of the Corbyn approach is that it will speak to voters who have doubts about the EU, but can be persuaded to reluctantly vote Remain.

Asked if he was concerned that his upbeat approach would not resonate with those voters, Farron acknowledged the need for reform and said his party has called for it ‘more vociferously than anyone else’.

But he defended the ‘positivity and enthusiasm’ of #INtogether, suggesting that ‘if it looks like it’s “Yes, but…” you can be sure the electorate will only hear the but’.  

While he did mention his party’s success in last week’s local elections — the Lib Dems gained more council seats than any other party — Farron made it clear that his priority is the referendum.

‘If you lose an election, you lose an election, you’re going to get another one in four or five year. If we lose this one, well Britain is stuffed, let’s be honest.’

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward 

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