WATCH: EU Human Trafficking Day 2016

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Moving forward

It's been a dreadful time for all of us who believe in the European ideals of cooperation and trade between nations, building peace and security, protection of the environment and cultural exchange for both young and old.  The vote to leave the EU by the British people must be respected, or we risk diminishing our faith in democracy. But we know that it was made for a myriad of reasons and followed a campaign packed with lies that itself followed on from years of misinformation by the British media.

As if the referendum result was not bad enough, the rapid resignations and disappearance of those responsible for this debacle was undignified and left the UK the laughing stock of Europe.

On my return to work the week following the vote, I was overwhelmed by the love and support from friends from across the EU who had wanted us to stay. But the result will have a profound affect on the EU, the balance of power, continuation of current projects and overall direction. They need to start planning for their future, just as we need to be getting on with sorting out our own government and opposition. There is a feeling amongst some in the UK that the longer we wait, the better the outcome may be. But the remaining members of the EU are anxious to get on with the planning for their future. I am concerned that the longer we leave them in limbo, the worse the deal we will eventually get. We don't have a lot of cards in our hand at the moment. You can see my speech in the debate in the European Parliament here.

Here at home we must mend our broken politics. That is why I am immensely proud of the response of the Liberal Democrats and of our leader Tim Farron.  We are an internationalist, pro-European party. We want to work with our nearest neighbours and want to mend our relationship with the EU. Nothing has changed in our position and we will continue to fight for this. But in the meantime in the UK in the last few days we have seen the government change hands, swiftly and smoothly, with the Tory MPs making an immense decision that should be left to the people.

It isn't just the Lib Dems who think that a change of circumstances as great as our future relationship with the EU and a new Prime Minister deserves a General Election. Both Theresa May and David Cameron called on Gordon Brown to go to the country and get a mandate for his new government back in 2008. We will continue to call for an election to have a democratic debate and mandate for the profound changes to our country that lie ahead. The people of Britain deserve no less. 

Finally, on the changes in government that Mrs May has made, the most ridiculous of all was to give the Foreign and Commonwealth office to Boris Johnson. This is the person who will represent the UK around the world, who is about to go to friends around the capitals of Europe seeking cooperation in the negotiations. But the first response was disbelief, from the Americans who see him as a joke and from the French foreign minister who declared Boris to be a "liar with his back against the wall." At a stroke this new Conservative government has reduced our international standing to that of a banana republic.

There was never a more urgent time for a moderate, internationalist central party with top environmental standards to cut through. Thankfully the Liberal Democrats are still out fighting, recruiting new members, winning by-elections and sending out a clear and optimistic message that another future is possible. Until the UK actually leaves the EU I will continue to represent my constituents, sit and vote in the parliament with my liberal colleagues from across Europe and stand for the things that are important to me and you.  I hope you will continue to follow me in that work.

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