Judith Rogerson and other Camden Liberal Democrats joined the People’s March for Europe on 9th September...
We’ve got to stop this hard Brexit
Our party leader, Vince Cable spoke to the assembled crowd before the march began. Vince said, “We’ve got to absolutely stop the Brexit which this rather incompetent, dysfunctional, disunited government are trying to force upon us.” He listed the damaging effects of Brexit that we can already see. Valuable non-UK EU nationals are starting to leave the country, living standards are squeezed, the currency has been devalued and companies are beginning to stop investing. He said, “There is a lot of uncertainty, and this can be stopped if we stop the process of Brexit.”
The crowd swelled to an estimated 50,000 people and we all marched on to Parliament Square. There was a range of speakers reflecting a variety of local and religious community groups, people from the EU whose right to remain in the UK is threatened and pro-European groups that have sprung up around the country. Lib Dem MPs Ed Davey and Tom Brake made speeches as well as other politicians from across the spectrum.
What we are doing is even more important than we think
Many of us will have shared the emotions Ed Davey described that he felt after the referendum – anger, distress, fury and despair. On top of that we now face the embarrassment of our country’s leaders who are supposed be representing us but can’t even negotiate properly. Ed had two overriding messages. First, that what we are doing is even more important than we think. Second, that what we are doing is going to be even more difficult than we might fear.
Why is it more important than we think? Because this is not just about Brexit. It’s not just about the EU, the Single Market or the Customs Union. It is about what country we want to be. It’s about our principles, progressive politics and our liberal values. Who would have thought there would be such threat to these values around the world?
Why will it be more difficult than we might fear? Because the Parliamentary arithmetic is not in our favour. Ending on a positive note, Ed said we need to think ahead and prepare for a possible referendum on the deal. Those opposed to Brexit need to work together, to reach across the divide and listen to those who voted to leave the EU (the vast majority of whom are good people), to reach out to them, to heal the wounds and to reunite our country.
A consequence of Brexit that the Brexiteers did not talk about
Tom Brake spoke about the benefits of the EU. The freedom of movement that allows people to live, work and study in 27 other EU countries, a right our children and grandchildren could lose. Tom highlighted the fact that the connections we have with other EU countries are valuable, but “Unfortunately we have in the Brexiteers a group of people who understand the price of everything but the value of nothing.”
Tom pointed out how Brexit is already damaging the NHS. The nurses we need from other EU countries are no longer coming, partly because of the weaker pound, but also because the country is less welcoming. A hospital within his own constituency has had to pay for expensive visas for nurses to come from outside the EU to meet staffing demands, pointing out that this was, “A consequence of Brexit that the Brexiteers did not talk about.”
It’s a bit like staring at an empty building site and saying we’ve made progress because we’ve made a cup of tea
In the six months since Article 50 was triggered there has been virtually no progress in reaching agreement over the enormous number of issues that need to be sorted out, if we are to avoid a chaotic departure. As Vince Cable said before the march, the government is, “…leaving perilously late some very very important negotiations.”
The shambles that is the negotiations led by David Davis was summed up perfectly by Nick Clegg last week when he said, “It’s a bit like staring at an empty building site and saying we’ve made progress because we’ve made a cup of tea.”
The British people must be given the chance to vote on any deal
The Lib Dem position is clear. The British people must be given the chance to vote on any proposed deal. Public and political opinions are already shifting and, as the prospect of a chaotic Brexit looms, it is only right that the people should be given the democratic chance to decide on the country’s direction.
Over the coming months Lib Dems in Parliament will continue to argue for our key priorities: protection of the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU; continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Union; freedom of movement; continuing co-operation in law enforcement and security; and maintaining the rights and standards derived from the EU, such as workers’ rights and environmental protection.
Parliament is about to vote on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. The government is proposing that all EU law will be automatically incorporated into UK law. This might seem sensible but the government’s Bill has a number of very worrying proposals. The most troubling is the suggestion that ministers should have the power to change our laws without the agreement of Parliament. So much for Brexit being an opportunity for Parliament to ‘take back control’! If the government gets its way, control will be left in the hands of a small number of ministers without thorough scrutiny from MPs. Lib Dem MPs and peers will do all they can to stop these proposals going through without safeguards.
The Lib Dems will fight for an exit from Brexit
We Lib Dems we have always said that leaving the EU will damage the UK. Sadly, the Labour Party position is muddled. Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly, and incorrectly, said that it is not possible to be a member of the Single Market outside the EU. Yet now Labour are saying that the UK should remain in the Single Market and Customs Union, but only during a transitional period. This is not as dramatic a change in policy as they would suggest. All it does is put off a damaging hard Brexit for a short period.
As Lib Dems we will always stand by our strongly held view that the UK is far better off being a full member of the EU rather than being outsiders. The best possible deal that can be achieved is the revocation of Article 50 and an exit from Brexit.