The referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union on 23rd June was top of the agenda when Paddy Ashdown visited Chester on 19th April. The pro-Remain campaigner came to Bishop Lloyd’s Palace to meet local members, outline the case for Britain to remain in the EU to the assembled local media, and to lead the local Lib Dem In:Together campaign into action at The Cross.
Paddy told the gathered media that the UK’s decision on 23rd June will “go down in the history of our age” and stated that it is about keeping the Great in Great Britain. This he meant literally as well as metaphorically, as he pointed out that a win for the Leave campaign would only increase the likelihood of another Scottish independence referendum.
The former diplomat also stressed that voting to leave the EU would place Britain’s membership of the G20 under question and so too would Britain’s seat on the UN Security Council be challenged. “Our friends don’t want us to leave”, he told local party members, as he foresaw Obama’s comments on the issue during the US President’s recent visit to the UK. Paddy went on to say that the Commonwealth wants the UK to stay in the EU and that “only Putin wants the UK to leave the EU”.
Turning his attention to economic arguments, Paddy warned that the pound has plummeted due to the referendum, government debt interest is beginning to rise and that the UK’s credit rating would be lower outside of the EU. He also rebuked the argument from the Leave campaign that the EU is undemocratic, by providing a reminder that the Council of Ministers are “our own elected ministers”, and that the structures are set up in “exactly the same as in Britain. No difference.” He regrets, however, that, “they make a decision in private, return to Britain, then blame the EU.” Bureaucrats in Brussels? No – bureaucrats in Whitehall, he pointed out.
Before leading local members to The Cross to win support from the Chester public for the remain campaign, Paddy also pointed out that crime is international and is only tackled by international organisation – citing the European arrest warrant – and that it is a fallacy that putting up walls around our island will stop bad things happening. He buoyed the local party activists by claiming that the Liberal Democrats are the only united and undivided party and that “liberalism is the only creed that makes any sense in our time”.