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[1st Day]

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 21st June 2017.

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Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Leader of the Liberal Democrats 5:37 pm, 21st June 2017

For what it is worth, I absolutely accept all that. However, DUP Members do not need me to tell them how sensitive perceptions are. The reality is one thing, but perceptions might as well be reality. My concern is how this will be viewed, and what it means for this most sensitive time in the history of Northern Ireland and, in fact, of the island of Ireland. We all ought to be concerned about that. I do not say that to make a partisan point, or to deny DUP Members the right to represent their constituents or, should they choose to do so, to form some kind of arrangement with the current Government.

We, as Liberal Democrats, could have supported a Queen’s Speech that set out a Brexit negotiating position that would keep us in the single market and the customs union, with a referendum on the final deal once all matters were negotiated. A cross-party approach to the negotiations should have been pursued in the first place. I have called in recent days for a joint Cabinet Committee, to be chaired and led by the Prime Minister and to include Labour Members, Liberal Democrats and nationalists into the bargain, so that a deal could be negotiated on behalf of us all. We would have voted for a Queen’s Speech that set out a real-terms increase in schools funding, gave a cash injection to the NHS and social care and invested an extra £300 million in police officers to keep us safe, as we had argued for. We would have voted for a Queen’s Speech that set out real action on climate change and air pollution and supported renewable energy. But that is not the Queen’s Speech that the Prime Minister has set out, and so my party will not support it.