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Liberal Democrats

F13: Rebuilding Trade and Cooperation with Europe

Motion as Passed by Conference

Proposed by: Federal Policy Committee

Mover: Layla Moran MP (Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Europe).

Summation: Duncan Brack.


Conference recognises that Boris Johnson’s Brexit is failing to deliver any benefits for Britain and bears no resemblance to the promises made by the Leave campaign in 2016.

Conference notes that the consequences of Johnson’s Brexit deal are becoming steadily clearer, and include, among others:

  1. New barriers to trade, leading to significant falls in UK exports and imports, rising food prices and empty supermarket shelves.
  2. Severe threats to traditional farming and fishing enterprises and communities, and the likelihood of lower standards as a result of the government’s free trade agreements ending altogether exports of some British food products to the EU.
  3. Shortages of HGV drivers and of staff in the healthcare, farming and hospitality sectors, and the loss of British citizens’ opportunities to work, to be together with their loved ones, to study and retire anywhere in the EU, as a result of the ending of freedom of movement.
  4. Lasting damage to British cultural, educational and medical and scientific research sectors.

Conference notes the evidence that the supposed benefits of Brexit have proved to be a fantasy, and recognises that Britain now exercises less control over the forces that determine its future than it did inside the EU, at a time when the challenges the world faces, from the climate and nature emergencies to an aggressive Russia and an assertive China, require more international cooperation, not less.

Conference therefore reaffirms the Liberal Democrats’ support for a longer-term objective of UK membership of the EU, as set out in the September 2020 conference motion, ‘The UK and Europe’.

Conferences notes with dismay, however, that the Conservatives have wrecked Britain’s good relations and bonds with Europe, to the point that there is no indication that the EU sees Britain as a good neighbour, nor that it would want the UK back in its current state.

Conference therefore recognises that as the UK seek to build a closer partnership with Europe, it must first convince EU member states that the UK is serious about rebuilding the relationship and forging stronger links, which can only be built back gradually over time.

Conference reaffirms existing Liberal Democrat policy on the UK’s relationship with the EU, as set out in the spring 2021 conference motion ‘The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Future of the UKEU relationship’, which included developing policy proposals to:

  1. Demonstrate the benefits to UK citizens and businesses of a much closer relationship compared to the government’s inadequate measures.
  2. Recommend roadmaps for the UK to rejoin the Customs Union, Single Market and other EU agencies and programmes as appropriate.
  3. Maximise public support for eventual UK membership of the EU.

Conference therefore resolves to adopt the proposals set out in policy paper 144, Rebuilding Trade and Cooperation with Europe, on the UK-EU trading relationship and Single Market membership, and in particular its roadmap to re-establishing good relations, and rebuilding the associations between Britain and its European neighbours, to the benefit of both, and maximising the chances of the UK ultimately rejoining the EU:

  1. Immediate UK initiatives to begin to repair the UK-EU relationship, including:
    1. A clear declaration of a fundamental change in the UK’s approach, setting out the intentions to act as a good neighbour to the EU and to repair the damage caused by the Conservatives.
    2. Reforming and increasing funding for the Turing Scheme.
    3. Automatically granting full Settled Status to all EU citizens and their families who were living in the UK as of 31st December 2020.
    4. Establishing channels beyond those created in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, on an EU-wide and bilateral basis.
    5. Increasing the UK’s presence in Brussels and major EU capitals, not only through central government but by devolved governments, local authorities, cultural organisations and civil society; improving relations with individual EU member states; and establishing the UK–EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly.
  2. Further steps to rebuild confidence, including by:
    1. Seeking association or cooperation agreements with EU regulatory framework agencies such as the European Chemicals Agency, European Aviation Safety Agency, European Medicines Agency and European Food Standards Authority
    2. Improving educational and cultural links by returning to Erasmus Plus and seeking to participate fully in Creative Europe.
    3. Supporting UK and EU research and innovation by pressing for an agreement with the EU on UK associate status in Horizon Europe.
    4. Working together with the EU to tackle the climate and nature emergencies by associating the UK Emissions Trading System (ETS) with the EU ETS and applying to join the European Environment Agency.
    5. Seeking to provide support to EU civilian and military missions and operations under the Common Security and Defence Policy, and formalise this support with a Framework Participation Agreement.
    6. Improving cooperation on crime and policing, and seek to reach a UK-EU agreement on asylum seekers.
    7. Working together with the EU to address crises and disasters throughout the European continent, culminating in Participating State status in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
  3. Deepening the trade relationship with the EU, including by:
    1. Making an explicit commitment to maintaining the level playing field and not to lower standards of labour, environmental and consumer protection in the UK.
    2. Maintaining dynamic alignment with EU legislative and regulatory changes in order to avoid regulatory divergence between the two jurisdictions, and aiming to reach mutual recognition agreements to avoid doubletesting.
    3. Aiming to open negotiations on a comprehensive agreement guaranteeing enhanced access for UK food and animal products to the Single Market.
    4. Exploring ways to simplify procedures for UK exporters, and the possibility of a specific UK-EU agreement on small businesses.
    5. Seeking to ratify the memorandum of understanding with the EU on equivalence for financial services.
    6. Open negotiations for reciprocal deals with EEA member states on low-cost and fast-tracked work visas for key economic sectors.
    7. Initiate conversations to establish mutual recognition of professional qualifications.
  4. Once the trading relationship between the UK and the EU is deepened, and the ties of trust and friendship are renewed, aim to place the UK–EU relationship on a more formal and stable footing by seeking to join the Single Market, thereby bringing full access to EU and EFTA economies for UK goods and services, resolving many of the problems around the Northern Ireland Protocol, helping to create a more united UK, and opening up freedom of movement, helping to relieve the pressures caused by Brexit for British enterprises and public services, including the NHS and social care, and enlarging opportunities for British citizens.

Applicability: Federal.


Mover and summation: 16 minutes combined; movers and summation of any amendments: 4 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes.

For eligibility and procedure for speaking in this debate, see page 9. To submit a speaker’s card go to: www.libdems.org.uk/speakers-card.

The deadline for amendments to this motion is 13.00, Monday 28 February; see page 12. Amendments selected for debate will be published in the Conference Extra and Saturday Conference Daily updates to the Conference Agenda.

The deadline for requests for separate votes is 11.00 Friday 11 March; see page 9.


The FCC has agreed to make the following drafting amendment to the motion:

In 3. b) (line 88), delete ‘Continuing to mirror EU regulatory standards in UK law’ and insert ‘Maintaining dynamic alignment with EU legislative and regulatory changes in order to avoid regulatory divergence between the two jurisdictions,’.


Amendment One - Passed

Proposed by: Lib Dems in Europe

Mover: Hannah Bettsworth

Summation: Rob Harrison.

After d) (line 81), insert:

e) Seeking to provide support to EU civilian and military missions and operations under the Common Security and Defence Policy, and formalise this support with a Framework Participation Agreement.

After e) (line 83), insert:

g) Working together with the EU to address crises and disasters throughout the European continent, culminating in Participating State status in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.