Business leaders: Only Lib Dems are speaking for business and the people

In a letter, more than 50 business leaders, including Nicola Horlick and the founders of EBookers and Innocent Drinks, have said that they will be voting Liberal Democrat because of our stance on Brexit.

From the Times (£)

The 53 signatories who say they intend to vote Lib Dem include senior players in the investment and IT sectors, two industries that could be hit by a poor Brexit deal. They represent small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) rather than FTSE 100 companies.

“The Conservatives’ failure to even mention a transitional deal threatens Britain’s status as one of the best countries in the world with which to do business,” the letter reads. “While we may not have voted Liberal Democrat in the past and we may not agree with the party on all issues, they are now the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election.”

Richard Reed, the co-founder of Innocent Drinks and board member of Britain Stronger in Europe, Dinesh Dhamija, the founder of the Ebookers travel site and the businesswoman Nicola Horlick are among the signatories.

In response, Vince Cable said:

The Liberal Democrats now have support from a large number of serious figures in the business community, showing that we are rapidly emerging as the party of business, both big and small.

Theresa May’s determination to take us out of the single market would devastate the financial sector, while taking us out of the customs union would cause incalculable disruption to manufacturing .

Theresa May herself warned of the Brexit dangers to our exports in a speech at Goldman Sachs. Since then she has taken on the agenda of Nigel Farage, who has understandably declared himself delighted with her.

That is scary. It is vital that the next parliament contains enough Liberal Democrat voices to argue for Britain’s future in the world’s most lucrative single market. The more Liberal Democrat MPs, the better the deal we can secure on Europe.

The text of the letter is below:

Sir, We represent a broad range of businesses across the UK collectively employing tens of thousands of people. As business leaders and owners, we believe that leaving the single market and the customs union would be destructive to the British economy and to our businesses.

At present, we have full access to a market of 500 million customers and the best and most skilled workers across the EU. If we leave the single market, thousands of businesses would lose their competitive edge.

We cannot stand by while our country’s future is hijacked by hardcore Brexiteers who do not represent the views of the majority. Polls show two thirds of voters believe staying in the single market should be the priority, and three-quarters want EU citizens working in the UK to continue to be allowed to do so.

The Conservatives’ failure to even mention a transitional deal threatens Britain’s status as one of the best countries in the world with which to do business. While we may not have voted Liberal Democrat in the past and we may not agree with the party on all issues, they are now the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election.

The simple fact is that we can’t have both a hard Brexit and a strong economy. We choose a strong economy. That’s why we will be voting for the Liberal Democrats.

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  • Sue Sutherland 22nd May '17 - 1:29pm

    This is good news. I hope we make good use of it. If businesses suffer then we can’t afford to pay for the policies we hold dear but we may be attacked if any of those businesses signing have a poor record on corporate tax or pay very high salaries at the top and very low salaries to most of their workforce.

  • Alastair Ross 22nd May '17 - 1:50pm

    It’s quite clear. Prosperity depends on the state of our economy. The economy depends on businesses large and small. Businesses look constantly to the future, because that is how they survive and grow. For the most part businesses not like what they see in Brexit, and now they see that there is only one political party that shares their fears for our future. No wonder they are looking to us as a beacon of hope.

  • Alastair Ross 22nd May '17 - 1:52pm

    * missed a word there “… businesses DO not like …”

  • Alan Depauw 22nd May '17 - 3:01pm

    This support is obviously welcome.

    However, it risks being swamped by the notion that a big majority will enable Theresa May to face down her party’s fanatics and so be free to choose a sensible Brexit outcome.

    Already on 1st May, an article in the Financial Times said, “Business in the UK believes the general election has reduced the likelihood of a ‘cliff edge’ Brexit as it will give Theresa May the mandate and flexibility to negotiate a smoother EU exit.” (behind a pay wall).

    Large numbers of Remainers apparently share this view and are turning to Tories as guarantors of a mild Brexit. Expressed as such, the idea seems ridiculous; but surely that is what the national polls, with their lack of Lib Dem take-off, are telling us.

    Lib Dems must remind voters that it is Theresa May herself who has decided on a hard Brexit route, as defined by leaving both the single market and the customs union.

    She must be pressed continuously on what would be the costs. Despite her seeking no doubt to evade the question, we already have some idea. The OBR forecasts, due to Brexit, an increase in government borrowing from £3.5bn this year to £15.2bn in 2020/21, or £61.7bn over the whole period.

    Additionally, a report today says, “Losing access to the single market in services after Brexit could cost the British economy up to £36bn a year and have a particularly negative impact on financial services, telecoms and transport.”

    Lib Dems should constantly hammer out that these costs are due to Theresa May’s chosen policy route and the reason why her manifesto points bleakly to a poorer, smaller Britain.

  • Sue Sutherland – well, then we should use the voice of the CBI as a whole to support our position rather than from a specific corporate.

  • Nom de Plume 22nd May '17 - 3:18pm

    I doubt May will be able to “face down her party’s fanatics”. Not much of a precedent. Vote for what you believe in. Ignore the spin.

  • Libdem can update their business policies with pledges like below:

    “We will give more backing to exports using the Export Credit Guarantee Department and the Aid and Trade Provision (funded from the DTI) more effectively than the present Government has done in recent years because of its ambivalent attitude towards public sector support. We will press the EU to take stern action against dumping” (based on Libdem 1987 manifesto)

  • > Alan Depauw wrote:
    > [May] must be pressed continuously on what would be the costs [of hard Brexit].

    One thing that has surprised me about the Lib Dem campaign is how little I have heard in the way of sharp, repetitive lines about Brexit costing jobs.

    I mean something like the “strangle jobs, strain exports” construction in this sentence:

    “A strong and stable government is not one that strangles jobs and strains exports.”

  • Richard Easter 22nd May '17 - 4:38pm

    The last thing the party needs to be associated with is Goldman Sachs.

  • David Allen 22nd May '17 - 6:23pm

    “Large numbers of Remainers apparently share this view and are turning to Tories as guarantors of a mild Brexit. Expressed as such, the idea seems ridiculous..”

    It sure does. Today has shown that the only thing May can guarantee is to put her own survival and Tory survival first, and to do absolutley anything at all that she thinks will achieve that. Hard Brexit, Soft Brexit, Remain, Stick Head up Trump’s backside, Dementia Tax, No Dementia Tax, War on Little Wotting. You name it, she’ll go for it, if it looks like a vote winner today. And she’ll drop it like a ton of bricks tomorrow, if it starts to look like a vote loser. Costings? They’re what we tell Labour to do. We Tories, we just wing it, all the time!

  • I ask this question yet again. If we get a bad deal from the EU, we vote again, this time electing to remain in the EU.

    How is this policy in any way compatible with negotiating Brexit, given that the EU is desperate for us to remain as the second largest net contributor of funds?

    They would give us a terrible deal and correctly think we were stupid.

  • Nom de Plume 22nd May '17 - 7:41pm

    Peter, you comment is off topic, anyway:

    *I don’t think they are interested in giving us a bad deal – it is a lose- lose situation. They simply will not give us a better deal than say, Norway, has.
    * I am not sure they want as back in as full members. The UK has been awkward.
    *Any referendum will be on an agreed deal between the UK and the EU. The EU can not impose a deal.
    *The Party has decided to offer a referendum on any such deal, a fair position.
    *Any reentry would take time and on different terms, requiring yet another referendum. The outcome of which is uncertain.
    *The biggest obstacle I see is intrasigance and amateurism by the Tories. They have already rejected the single market. I expect they will have further, unreasonable demands.

  • @Nom de Plume
    Thank you for your reply, but I don’t see the logic. If they think we will vote to remain on receipt of a bad deal, they will give us a bad deal. Simple.

  • Peter,

    Depends if they want to keep us. At this point in time we are much more useful as an example and a hard Brexit will kill any desire for any other country to follow our lead.

    After all Peter “Ya gotta bust some eggs to make an omelet and ya gotta bust some heads to make a deal”, pity it’s going to be our heads and eggs.

  • Nom de Plume 22nd May '17 - 8:17pm

    Peter, the option to remain on rejection of a deal is not on offer. Reapplication is a separate process. The UK is in the process in of leaving. In the event of no deal or rejection of a deal the result is chaos. The UK’s negotiating position is weak. Fortunately, I don’t think the EU is punitive or small minded. Unlike some.

  • Again, thanks for replies, but I still cannot see any logic in the Lib Dem policy prior to a Brexit negotiation. There is no negotiating position in saying that if you give us a bad deal we will have another vote to remain.

    It is madness.

  • Nom de Plume 22nd May '17 - 8:55pm

    Peter, you don’t get it. There is no further vote to remain. All the cards are held by the EU. I only assume the Party will back any deal we get with the EU. I personally am not in favour of the referendum on a the Deal, but the Party wants the electorate to give their approval, which is a reasonable position.

  • Nom de Plume 22nd May '17 - 8:58pm

    Peter’s confusion is one of the reason’s why I object to the policy.

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd May '17 - 9:27pm

    Nom de Plume – ‘I am not sure they want as back in as full members. The UK has been awkward.’

    This keeps cropping up again and again. The UK has been a significant net contributor to the EU. It opened its doors in full on day 1 of A8 accession. That is rather more than can be said for a number of the member states currently handing out lectures on the European Ideal.

  • Nom de Plume 22nd May '17 - 9:41pm

    They may prefer something like EFTA, where the UK still contributes, but can not be awkward.

  • “There is no further vote to remain”. So, if by some miracle, the Lib Dems were in power or held the balance of power there would be no question of a referendum on the Brexit deal? That is not what the manifesto claims.

  • Nom de Plume 22nd May '17 - 9:48pm

    There would be a referendum and a better deal.

  • @Nom de Plume

    The Lib Dem position is that after the Brexit negotiation and when a deal is established, the Lib Dems demand that a second referendum is held in order that the British public can vote to accept or reject the deal that was struck. If they reject it, the default position is that the UK remains in the EU. This is the same as the EU habit of saying vote again until you get the right answer, but I know you will not accept that.

    Nevertheless, what sort of negotiating tactic would involve entering a negotiation with that scenario whereby a bad deal would lead to a reversal of the Leave vote?

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd May '17 - 9:52pm

    Nom de Plume – Personally I think some sort of EU OUT EEA IN would dance through a referendum. Both hard-core leavers and remainers would hate it – but to be honest I’m at the point now where that’s actually part of the appeal.

    But the idea that the UK is uniquely awkward really needs to be put to bed.

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd May '17 - 9:55pm

    Peter – ‘This is the same as the EU habit of saying vote again until you get the right answer’

    That’s rather stretching the point. I think it is not unfair to say that multiple referendums do leave a bad taste in the mouth. No question. However the ‘second’ referendums in Ireland and Denmark have been on qualitatively different proposals.

    I’d have no problem with a referendum on a so-called Norway Option because that is not the same thing as we voted on last year.

  • Nom de Plume 22nd May '17 - 10:10pm

    I consider constantly arguing about the terms of the agreement but not getting on with constructive work as being awkward. I doubt Farage was popular.

  • Nom de Plume 22nd May '17 - 10:37pm

    “If they reject it, the default position is that the UK remains in the EU.”

    I hadn’t read that. It is not for the UK to decide, but is consistent with LibDem policy. It has always been pro-EU. Perhaps we can return there one day. I would still vote Remain.

  • @Peter: It is no longer possible for the UK to remain in the EU. An Article 50 notification was submitted and the clock is ticking. If the public rejected a Tory Brexit deal, the options would either be to work out a different deal, petition the EU to extend the timeline, or leave with no deal. There is no legal option at this point for the UK to remain in the EU other than by leaving and immediately rejoining — but upon the same conditions as any other new member.

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