Liberal Democrats

Read Tom Brake's Speech to #LDConf in full

By Liberal Democrats, Sep 15, 2018 4:09

Government vision of UK outside of EU

Conference, I am both incandescent and incredulous at the wilful damage that is being inflicted, and is to be inflicted on this country.

It is becoming clearer what the United Kingdom, in a Tory post-Brexit No Deal scenario, would look like.

David Davis, our own Inaction Man, who spent just 4 hours with Michel Barnier since the beginning of the year, was keen to state that predictions “that Brexit could lead to an Anglo-Saxon race-to-the-bottom, with Britain plunged into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction” were exaggerated.

Now, although the Government are promising petrol won’t run out and anarchy will be avoided after Brexit, their uplifting vision of a No Deal Brexit, the only one they are currently willing to lay out, includes stockpiling medicines, 17 mile tailbacks, shortages of sperm, depriving UK citizens in the EU of their pensions, house prices falling by a third and the UK becoming a dumping ground for banned chemicals.

Not quite, a lawless, murderous, free-for-all in which those with access to fuel and a V8 will rule our highways and byways, but hardly a bucolic picnic in Hyde Park either.

If that is our PM’s vision of No Deal Brexit Britain, what is the Brexit Britain vision of the man widely tipped to be the future leader of the Tory party, Boris - punishment-beatings, Road to Mandalay, prosecco - Johnson. (Thank Stewart Lee from the Observer for inspiring this sobriquet).

We don’t know. Because he is a man of many words, but no Brexit plan. All mouth and no trousers. A charlatan who spent more time currying favour with Steve Bannon and sucking up to Donald Trump than he did reading his Ministerial briefs.

For Boris, there has always only been one agenda – the one that puts the blonde bombshell, with the so-carefully manicured tousled hair – into no 10. Nothing is to get in the way of that preening ambition. Truth, principle, loyalty, friendship, all are expendable, as long as he secures the keys to that famous shiny black door.

The other half of this dastardly duo of Brexit doom, JRM, is busy puppeteering his ERG members to torpedo the PM’s deal below the waterline. He pays scant regard to the consequences of his actions. He doesn’t have to, he is a man of means. He is not juggling two jobs to make ends meet.

Well actually he is, but he manages to make those ends meet rather comfortably with his MPs salary, and Somerset Capital Management monthly payments and dividends. For a man proud of his knowledge of history, Jacob seems to have a lacuna when it comes to the history of the Irish border and its importance in the peace process. A video has emerged in which he suggested a return to checks “as we had during the Troubles”.

He is also seen on the same footage suggesting the government could “keep an eye on” the border, “there would be an ability … to have people inspected.” His Brexit vision of borders and security checks – chimes with his social vision – taking Britain back to the 1920s.

He could be an extra from Downton Abbey, but this is no period drama, this is about the country’s future.  

Chequers

With No Deal such a car crash, the Chequers proposal must surely deliver the sunny upsides the Brexiters promised.

Far from it.

It’s unlikely we will be allowed to know the full extent of the damage a Chequers Brexit deal will inflict. Because, although the Government have pledged to provide a full impact assessment before the meaningful vote, the time between the conclusion of the negotiations and a parliamentary vote will be incredibly short, meaning any assessment is likely to be very sketchy.

But the earlier impact assessment, leaked to the government’s great embarrassment, confirmed the UK economy will take a hit and will be weaker for it.

This will not stop the Govt giving Chequers a real hard sell.

But we know, soft Brexit, hard Brexit, red, white and blue Brexit all will hurt.

But the reality is the Chequers deal is dead in the water, the Government’s strategy is without a chief strategist and the ship of state is rudderless, damaged by relentless blue-on-blue strikes.

Global Britain is disappearing down a devastating and destructive whirlpool, its lethal currents whipped up by the egos and imperial delusions of the rich, bickering, visionless and talentless Brexit elite. And the flames of a destructive No Deal Brexit are getting closer.

There is an alternative way forward for the UK, a Lib Dem path, because we demand better than the bleak future offered by the Tories and Labour.

Lib Dem vision of UK inside EU

My vision of a better Britain is one that will be delivered by using the real Brexit dividend, the financial dividend liberated by cancelling Brexit, freeing up cash to boost skills, training, education, infrastructure, housing, productivity.

If we secure a final say on the deal, and if the country backs remaining in the EU, we must pledge to use every penny of taxpayers’ hard earned money, such as the £3 billion earmarked for Brexit, plus the tax boost of up to £5 billion per year from avoiding the economic hit of Brexit, to regenerate the towns, cities and communities in the greatest need.

The money the Government are going to squander on more customs and border officers, building unnecessary infrastructure, duplicating badly the work of European agencies, will instead be used productively investing from Blackpool to Belfast East, Birkenhead to Boston, Banff and Buchan to Bridgend.

So we can make a start on tackling the reasons why many voted Brexit in the first place. Reasons this Govt have done nothing, zilch, nada to address.

And we would commit to an all-out campaign to reform the EU and make it more responsive and relevant to our, and indeed Europe’s needs.

We are not simply promising more of the same when it comes to the EU.

Our vision secures the rights of EU citizens in the UK - the Tory one relegates them to the bottom of the pile of Brexit priorities.

You would not hear the words ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ from the lips of a Lib Dem negotiator. Ring-fencing the Withdrawal Agreement’s Chapter on citizens’ rights, without caveat, qualification or equivocation, will both protect EU citizens and maximise the chances of UK citizens in the EU maintaining their rights.

Our vision goes further and enhances EU citizens’ rights. We will ensure the right to full participation in civic life, including the ability to stand for office or vote in UK referendums and General Elections, is extended to all EU citizens who have lived in the UK for five years or longer.

Those who will be most affected by Brexit were those deliberately excluded from the vote 2 years ago. They were not just EU citizens in the UK, but also UK citizens, long-term resident in the EU, and young people.

We will ensure all UK citizens living abroad can vote for MPs in separate overseas constituencies, and vote in UK referendums.

Finally, we will grant 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in all elections. No one has the right to deny them the rights I have had for all of my adult life – and my mother and father had for most of their working lives - to live, work and study in any EU country. That was my birth right, it should be that of every young person now too.

We are at a fork in the road, or more accurately a cliff edge, where a choice between these visions must be made

This is why the people must be given a final say on the deal, so they can make their choice.

The challenge for the political parties and their leaders is to make this choice a reality.

So I have a challenge for the four parties, Tories, Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrats

My challenge to Theresa May – who has repeatedly failed to say she’d vote for Brexit now - is to:

  1. admit any Brexit is bad for Britain
  2. extend Article 50 to provide time for a final say on the deal.
  3. trust the will of the people.

My challenge to the other Tory Remainers is simple.

Time is running out for Tory MPs, like Chris Philp, who shared a platform with me during the EU ref campaign. You must break cover, stand up and be counted now. Your concerns about the economic damage Brexit would inflict on the UK were valid two years ago and are just as valid today. So

  1. Back a final say on the deal and
  2. Trust the will of the people.

Time is also running out for Tory Ministers who discretely share their concerns with fellow remainers in other parties, whilst publicly endorsing the Government line. You have to break cover too. Abandon the Ministerial limo, hand back your red box. Put the country’s interests first, as you did 2 years ago in the EU ref campaign.

  1. Back a final say on the deal and
  2. Trust the will of the people.

Labour

My challenge to the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is straightforward too.

Are you leader or a mouse? Can you give a clear statement on where Labour stands on Brexit or, as with your position on anti-semitism, do you need a 500 word addendum to qualify it?

Prove you’ve outgrown the prejudices you have harboured against the EU for all of your political career. The EU is not perfect, but it isn’t a corporate conspiracy enabling a ‘business free-for-all across Europe’ as you have claimed.

Stand up for your party members, particularly younger members and trade union members and

  1. Back a final say on the deal and
  2. Trust the will of the people.

The challenge for Labour Remainers and Labour party members could not be more topical, with your party conference next week.

Labour has a straightforward choice. At your conference, continue to assist and condone the actions of an ideological Conservative party, which through its pursuit of a reckless Brexit is systematically destroying this country and damaging the communities you represent,

Or if Jeremy cannot change his spots, depose him and

  1. Back a Final Say on the Deal and
  2. Trust the will of the people

And if Jeremy cannot be shifted, walk away, and join a party which has been consistent in battling Brexit.

SNP

The SNP won’t be let off the hook.

The First Minister is right to warn that a no-deal Brexit is unthinkable. But that is what the Tories have in the pipeline. This presents an immediate threat to our economy and public services including in Scotland.

It is therefore rampant hypocrisy for the SNP to lament the consequences of Brexit whilst doing nothing about it.

With the prospect of a disastrous no-deal on the horizon, I find it bizarre that the SNP are still refusing to stand up to the Tories. Like Brexiters, they are putting their nationalist agenda ahead of the interests of the country and the people of Scotland.

But there is still time for the SNP to join the fight and

  1. Back a final say on the deal and
  2. Trust the will of the people.

Lib Dems

The challenge for Lib Dem Remainers and unaligned Remainers couldn’t be clearer. On the 20th October there is a march in London calling for a final say on the deal, a vote of the people.

We need any Lib Dem member or supporter who is available to help make this the biggest demonstration so far in our mission to secure an Exit from Brexit.

We have done the heavy lifting in this campaign. We have taken the flak for a policy which was on the fringes two years ago, and now, is mainstream. We must be at the heart of that event, ensuring our voices are heard loudly in Whitehall, Westminster and the media.



Conference we cannot go on like this.

The way things are today are not the way they have to be.

Our country deserves better than the mess the Tories are making of Brexit, aided and abetted by a weak Labour leadership. The Liberal Democrats demand better.

We are the only party taking on the power and privilege of the Brexit elite with their country mansions, gold bullion investments, inflated expense accounts and offshore wealth.

If you demand better for our country, join us.

Join the Liberal Democrats.

Join the battle for a Final Say on the Deal and a chance to Exit from Brexit.

You have nothing to lose and we have everything to gain.

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