Tim Farron: My message to Yorkshire – only Lib Dems can save Britain from hard Brexit

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, addressing his party faithful in York.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, addressing his party faithful in York.
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I AM glad Theresa May seems to have finally come to her senses after her Easter break, and realised that she does not have a mandate for the destructive hard Brexit her Government is pursuing.

The reckless choice to opt for the hardest of hard Brexits, tearing up Britain’s membership of the world’s largest market on which so many jobs and businesses in Yorkshire rely, was not on the ballot paper last June.

But it certainly will be on the ballot paper this time round. This is a huge opportunity for voters in Yorkshire to change the direction of our country. The Liberal Democrats are determined to be the rallying point for all those who want to prevent a hard Brexit, keep Britain in the single market and ensure Britain has a strong and decent opposition.

There can be no doubt that this will be biggest general election in a generation. But we should be under no illusion as to why Theresa May has decided to call it.

The Conservatives know that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn are weak and divided. They see this as a chance to increase their narrow majority and ram through a hard and divisive Brexit on the country. The Liberal Democrats are determined to stop them. Already May is running scared and trying to duck out of taking part in a TV debate.

She debated me back 15 years ago when we both stood in North West Durham. So why is she refusing to do so now? Whatever the reasons, she should know that we will be taking our message to people in Yorkshire and across the country, and that the Conservatives cannot take any votes or seats for granted.

It is not just jobs and our future economic prosperity that is at stake. It is people’s living standards and funding for education, infrastructure and hospitals. Conservative cuts to our public services are already starting to bite in Yorkshire, from cash-strapped schools being forced to lay off teachers to local hospitals cancelling operations.

Meanwhile people are seeing a hit to their living standards from a Brexit squeeze caused by the falling pound, stagnant wages and rising prices in the shops.

But this is nothing compared to the pain to come if this Conservative government is permitted to take our country off a cliff towards a damaging hard Brexit. The respected Office for Budgetary Responsibility has predicted that Britain will face a £100bn ‘black hole’ in its public finances because of the Government’s hard Brexit plans.

Meanwhile workers are expected to see their disposable incomes cut year after year, with the biggest squeeze on pay for 70 years. But luckily it’s not too late for voters to stop a hard Brexit and protect our economy, public services and living standards. The Liberal Democrats are standing on a clear platform to stand up for Britain’s’ membership of the Single Market and give the people the final say on the Brexit deal.

Already the momentum is clearly with the Liberal Democrats. We have been winning council seats week in and week out, including a stunning win in Labour’s former heartland of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, in February.

Just today, the party has put on over 5,000 members, bringing us to over 92,000 members. This means we have doubled our membership since the last election. Labour is clearly in no state to take seats off the Tories. They have backed the Conservatives by voting for a hard Brexit and are too divided to hold the Government to account. It’s clear only the Liberal Democrats can deprive the Tories of their majority and provide the decent opposition our country so desperately needs.

So my message to all voters in Yorkshire is clear. If you don’t agree with the direction this country is heading in, if you want to help prevent a hard Brexit and protect our public services, then join the Liberal Democrats. We are the real opposition to this Conservative Brexit government and the only party fighting for a Britain that is open, tolerant and united.

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.