Liberal Democrat conference: What are their Coalition red lines?


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Welfare cuts

George Osborne announced £3.2bn of welfare cuts last week and wants a total of £12bn. Nick Clegg admits some savings needed but argues that the nation’s books “should not be balanced on the backs of the poor”.

Red rating: double red line

Possible outcome: Most working age benefits could rise by one per cent rather than be frozen for two years as Chancellor proposed.

Tax rises for the rich

The Lib Dems want to maintain current ratio in which 80 per cent of deficit reduction comes from spending cuts and 20 per cent from tax rises. Osborne wants no more tax increases.

Red rating: double red line

Possible outcome: Tories might limit tax relief of pensions for high earners in return for Lib Dems allowing some welfare cuts.

EU Referendum

David Cameron has promised an in/out referendum in 2017. Nick Clegg insists that it should happen only when Britain cedes more power to the EU.

Red line rating: dotted red line

Possible outcome: Lib Dems would give the go-ahead if Tories agree to reforms such as proportional representation in local council elections, votes for 16 and 17-year-olds, and a mainly elected House of Lords.

European Court of Human Rights

The Tories want to reassert Britain’s supremacy over the Strasbourg-based court and may leave the convention which it implements. The two coalition parties will row about this before the election.

Red Rating: single red line

Possible outcome: The Lib Dems sign up to British Bill of Rights and seek reform of court, while the Tories drop threat to withdraw from convention.


A decision on whether to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system is due in 2016. The Tories (and probably Labour) want a £25bn like-for-like replacement, while the Lib Dems want to reduce the number of submarines from four to three.

Red rating: Dotted red line

Possible outcome: Replacement goes ahead, with Lib Dems winning unilateral cut in number of missiles and warheads. Labour might cut the number of boats.