Liberal Democrats believe that the British people should have the final say on any Brexit deal in a referendum. Voting for a departure (in June last year) is not the same as voting for a destination. Everyone should have the right to have their say on whether the deal they are offered is the right one for them, their families, their communities and our country.
Leave campaigners said leaving the EU would let the NHS have an extra £350 million per week, would enable a points based immigration system to restrict immigration, would restore sovereignty and could be done without damaging trade with the EU.
After the referendum they quickly ditched the £350 million for the NHS, Theresa may announced that a points based immigration system wouldn’t work, the government white paper admits sovereignty was never lost, and plans to withdraw from the single market and customs union will inevitably make trading with the EU more difficult – and that’s before the question of tariffs and regulatory differences are introduced.
The Leave campaign knew that their claimed £350 million per week cost of belonging to the EU was misleading – it is a gross figure, that doesn’t take account of the rebate (put in place under Margaret Thatcher), or the money that comes back to the UK, such as farm subsidies and research grants to UK universities and companies. The net cost of payments to the EU is around £120 million – but in the Autumn statement the Treasury admitted that leaving the EU is likely to cost £180 million per week in lost taxes to the UK. That’s a £60 million per week difference, that the government will have to borrow – or reduce spending on services such as the NHS. And that’s before taking account of the cost of running two new government departments to manage Brexit, or the damage done to businesses (and possible increased welfare bills).
Some Leave campaigners such as Ian Duncan Smith and multi-millionaire Aaron Banks admitted that leaving the EU might be bad for the economy, but said that was a price worth paying to be out of the EU – but unfortunately most of us, maybe unlike them, can’t afford to be out of a job, and do depend on public services such as the NHS.
Leave narrowly won the referendum by 17 million to 16 million votes. But many forms of Brexit were discussed during the campaign and Theresa May and the Tory Government have chosen to adopt a “Brexit at any cost” approach – not just leaving the EU, but abandoning any idea of staying in the single market and customs union.
Liberal Democrats are clear that in a democracy, people should be allowed to change their mind. Many claims were made by the “winning side” during the campaign, and when the negotiations are completed people should be able to have their say and decide if they want the deal – or if it is not what they were led to expect and they want to reject Brexit.
Frank Hindle believes that being part of the European Union brings many benefits – culturally and socially as well as economic. Many of the things that the EU is blamed for – from benefit tourism to bendy bananas to run down council estates – are inaccurate or could be dealt with by the British government if they chose to. Frank says that if there are enough like minded MPs elected on June 8th, then we should withdraw article 50, stay in the EU, and put our efforts into supporting people and businesses in the areas, towns and regions that have been neglected for too long, the areas that voted leave because they have been left behind by successive governments.
And if we can’t stop Brexit altogether, then every Lib Dem MP, and every vote for a Liberal Democrat will be used to press the case to let the people of this country vote on the Brexit Deal. This is a decision that should be made by the people, not by a “metropolitan elite”, and not by ministers meeting in secret or by Theresa May when she goes walking in Wales.