Europe

 
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Protect Britain's place in Europe


Liberal Democrats are open and outward-looking. We passionately believe that Britain is better off in the EU. We will fight against the Conservatives disastrous hard Brexit - their choice to make the UK a poorer place.

We acknowledge the result of the 2016 referendum, which gave the government a mandate to start negotiations to leave – but we believe the final decision should be made by the British people, not by politicians.

OUR PLAN FOR EUROPE

Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to give the final say to the British people in a referendum on whether to accept the deal or remain in the EU.

Keep the UK in the single market and customs union - trade must continue without damaging customs controls at the border.

Protect the rights of EU and UK citizens living abroad - ending the uncertainty for millions of people.

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Liberal Democrats are open and outward-looking. We passionately believe that Britain’s relationship with its neighbours is stronger as part of the European Union. Whatever its imperfections, the EU remains the best framework for working effectively and co-operating in the pursuit of our shared aims. It has led directly to greater prosperity, increased trade, investment and jobs, better security, and a greener environment. Britain is better off in the EU.

Liberal Democrats campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU. However, we acknowledge the result of the 2016 referendum, which gave the Government a mandate to start negotiations to leave. The decision Britain took, though, was simply whether to remain in or to leave the European Union. There was no option on the ballot paper to choose the shape of our future relationship with the EU on vital issues including trade, travel or security.

While much remains uncertain about Theresa May’s approach, it is now clear that the Conservatives are campaigning for a Hard Brexit. This means leaving the Single Market, ending freedom of movement, and abandoning the Customs Union – even though these choices will make the UK poorer and disappoint many leave voters who wanted a different outcome.

The effects of Brexit are already being felt. The value of the pound has plummeted. Inflation has risen. Growth in the economy has slowed, and the government is already borrowing billions more to fill the gap in lost tax revenue. Young people, who voted overwhelmingly to remain, are being told their voices do not matter. Urgent problems, such as the future of the NHS, are being neglected because of the sheer scale of the challenge posed by Brexit.

A Hard Brexit will make all these problems worse. It is the wrong choice for the country. Liberal Democrats will fight to prevent a Hard Brexit.

At the end of negotiations, there will be a decision on the deal. The Conservatives want the decision to be taken by politicians. Liberal Democrats believe the British people should have the final say.

That’s why, when the terms of our future relationship with the EU have been negotiated (over the next two years on the Government’s timetable), we will put that deal to a vote of the British people in a referendum, with the alternative option of staying in the EU on the ballot paper. We continue to believe that there is no deal as good for the UK outside the EU as the one it already has as a member.

Every vote for the Liberal Democrats in this election is a vote to give the final say to the British people.

During negotiations, we commit ourselves to use our strength in Parliament to press for keeping Britain as close as possible to Europe. Our priorities will include:

  • Protection of rights for EU citizens and UK citizens: We will press for the UK to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK, ending their ongoing uncertainty. We will call for the overhaul and simplification of the registration process and the requirements for EU nationals to obtain permanent residence and UK citizenship, as the current system is not fit for purpose. We will urge the government, and use our influence with Liberal leaders in European countries, to secure the same rights for UK citizens living in European Union countries.
  • Membership of the Single Market and Customs Union: We believe that any deal negotiated for the UK outside the EU must ensure that trade can continue without customs controls at the border; and must maintain membership of the Single Market, which smooths trade between the UK and the continent by providing a common ‘rule book’ for businesses and a common mechanism to ensure that everyone abides by the rules.
  • Freedom of movement. We support the principle of freedom of movement – to abandon it would threaten Britain’s prosperity and reputation as an open, tolerant society. Any deal negotiated for the UK outside the EU must protect the right to work, travel, study and retire across the EU. Any restrictions sought by the government must take account of the vital importance of EU workers to the British economy, including public services.
  • Opportunities for young people: In an increasingly globalised and complex world, it is vital that our young people are afforded the same opportunities their parents enjoyed to work, study and travel abroad. To that end we will do everything we can to protect Erasmus+ and other EU-funded schemes which increase opportunities for young people.
  • Defending social rights and equalities: Many important protections such as the right to 52 weeks’ maternity leave and rights to annual leave are currently based on EU law, and many of these rights have been upheld at the European Court of Justice. Liberal Democrats will fight to ensure that these entitlements are not undermined.
  • Maintaining environmental standards: The European Union has created the highest environmental standards in the world. We have a duty to future generations to protect our environment and tackle climate change. Liberal Democrats will ensure that everything is done to maintain those high standards in UK law, including the closest possible cooperation on climate and energy policy.
  • Law enforcement and judicial co-operation: Europol, the European Arrest Warrant and shared access to police databases have helped make Britain’s streets safer. We will fight to maintain maximum co-operation to ensure criminals are pursued quickly and effectively and police are not frustrated by huge amounts of red tape.
  • British Business and Jobs: We must protect support to domestic industries such as farming, tourism and the creative industries, as well as regional support for deprived areas. The City of London is Europe’s financial capital and must retain its full rights in EU financial markets.
  • Science and research funding: Research is vital for our long-term prosperity, security and wellbeing – but he Leave vote has already started to affect existing and proposed research programmes. We will campaign against any reduction in investment in UK universities and for their right to apply for EU funds on equal terms.
  • Travel and tourism: Britain is an outward-looking country with commercial and leisure interests around the world, particularly in Europe. We will strive to retain traveller and tourist benefits such as the European Health Insurance Card, reduced roaming charges and pet passports, all of which are at risk by leaving the European Union.
  • Respect for the interests of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland: We will fight to ensure that the priorities and long-term interests of the nations of the UK are fully taken into account during negotiations. We will oppose any moves that threaten the political stability of Northern Ireland. We will also campaign to protect the rights of the people of Gibraltar.