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We must not let racists hijack the referendum result

August 31, 2016 11:45 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Tim Farron and Remain campaignersEarlier today, I gave a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in Manchester.

Since the referendum, I have been absolutely horrified to see the forces of racism, intolerance and hate claim the EU referendum result as their own - and to see them use it as an excuse for violent abuse.

People have been let down for decades by short-termist politicians who put the needs of one part of society above the rest.

Now, in the wake of the Brexit vote those divisions are more exposed than ever before.

With our country facing huge challenges, from inequality and injustice to an NHS in crisis and an economy in jeopardy, we are left with a reckless, divisive and uncaring Conservative Government and Labour fighting among themselves with no plan for the economy or the country.

That's why the Liberal Democrats are needed more than ever.

We are the real voice of opposition to the Conservative Brexit Government and the only party fighting to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.

I've been distraught to see how the referendum has left a country bitterly divided by the result. On the divisions in our country, here's what I had to say:

We, the political classes, have left a country bitterly divided as a result. Between parents and children, families, neighbours. Between the nations of our own union, who have worked and fought together for centuries. Between us and our continental neighbours.

And now the biggest danger of them all.

That because of those divisions, we are in danger of letting malevolent forces hijack the result.

Plenty of my mates voted leave and I can tell you that the majority of those who did vote leave are utterly appalled that Farage, Le Pen and their ilk now seek to claim the result as a victory for their hateful brand of intolerance, racism and insularity. Britain is better than that.

But we must not ignore that the referendum has begun to reshape British politics:

Because there's a new battle emerging. Between the forces of tolerant liberalism and intolerant, closed-minded nationalism.

And, of course, you know, as leader of the Liberal Democrats, which side I'm on.

Since the referendum, we have also seen some horrifying rhetoric about EU citizens who live, work and love here. They have been described as bargaining chips, insulted and abused. To EU citizens in the UK, I have this to say:

We will stand by you, no matter what.

And to you, EU citizens, who have made your lives here and are contributing to our country, I make this absolute promise:

We will use what power we can muster, to make sure that those who have committed their lives and families to this country will be protected. That no kneejerk populism will be allowed to threaten them or uproot you.

I am absolutely determined that Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen will not dictate our policy, our direction, or our morality. Our party will not stand idly by - and we will fight, tooth and nail for the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

If you agree, that EU citizens right to stay must be guaranteed, please sign the petition at http://www.libdems.org.uk/farron-referendum-speech