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Tim Farron wants to stay in the EU, but he won’t name his price

It’s all very well demanding what you want, but how much are you willing to pay for it?

That is essentially the question I put to Tim Farron more than half a dozen times today, but he just won’t name his price.

The Lib Dem leader is clear he wants the UK to remain in the single market (in fact, he’d love to remain in the EU full stop), but we know that doesn’t come cheap – namely, it almost certainly involves accepting freedom of movement.

So I asked Mr Farron whether he’d be happy to keep the current level of immigration if it meant we also kept all the free trade.

"We believe for the good of jobs and to keep prices low we need to be in the single market." Ah yes, but immigration… "Free movement is an important thing for British people," he replied. Not quite an answer.

I tried several times more, but Mr Farron would not be drawn. The closest I managed, was, "Given the advantage EU workers give to our health service and our economy, my personal belief is immigration is a good thing." A good thing even at the current level then? Well, he didn’t say no.

But the very fact that the Lib Dems are willing to effectively ignore the huge concerns about immigration that emerged during the referendum campaign is a sign of just how niche they are willing to become.

They clearly think there’s a space in the market for a party that campaigns to remain in the EU, pretty much whatever the cost. Hence their pledge at conference to hold a second referendum on the terms of Brexit, which could offer one final chance to remain as we are.

In fact, I asked Mr Farron if he’d even fight for Britain to re-join the EU after we’d left. "If the deal was good enough," he says. So that’s pretty clear then – he’ll fight to the bitter end.

David Cameron once told his party to "stop banging on about Europe". It would appear the Lib Dems are new EU-obsessives…though very much in a different direction.