Soft Brexit Tory MPs who sign up for a hard Brexit manifesto will be responsible for an historic mistake

In August 2016, unusually, I made an appointment to see my MP. I wanted to talk to him about Britain, after Brexit, being part of the EEA and EFTA – in other words “a soft Brexit”.

My Conservative MP unequivocally explained that he campaigned for “remain”, his constituency voted “remain” and he wanted to salvage a good deal for local companies from Brexit. He spoke about making sure there are no extra barriers for local businesses exporting abroad. He enthusiastically received a paper I gave him from the Adam Smith Institute advocating EEA/EFTA membership after Brexit.

I cannot believe that this MP, to all intents and purposes a passionate “soft Brexit” advocate, is now going to sign up to a “hard Brexit” manifesto for the June 8th election.

What kind of insanity has overcome this country, that we are going headlong into a situation which will make exporting to other countries a painful and expensive business for companies? May is even intent on leaving the customs union – which is insane. – Talk to anyone who has tried to export things without the ease of the single market or customs union processes. Multiple and long forms have to be filled out, strange “jobs worth” processes have to be followed for individual countries. It is madness that we are even contemplating this for a modern economy the UK’s. That’s not to mention the pain for people as jobs are lost as firms relocate overseas to stay within the single market.

But if this goes ahead, the responsibility for this historic disaster must sit squarely with Tory “soft Brexit” MPs who defy logic and their consciences and stand for election on June 8th on a “hard Brexit” manifesto.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is a councillor and one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • William Ross 21st Apr '17 - 12:30pm


    About 60% of our current international trade is done outside the Single Market.

    How awful it must be for our companies exporting to the US? Most of our economy is services which is hardly impacted by the Single Market. Inside the Customs Union we cannot do our own trade deals.

    Why keep on spouting this propaganda?

  • Also we only polled 2.1% at Harrow yesterday, even less than at Blacon. Reality , reality is what the figures are. We cannot claim to be the main opposition on these dreadful figures.

  • Todd Lazenby 21st Apr '17 - 1:05pm

    In response to ‘theakes’, we did but people like yourselves who belittle our party are doing absolutely nothing to help. Sorry to use the brexit term of ‘unite’ but this is what we need to do away from May’s version of the word. C’mon guys…

  • Alan Depauw 21st Apr '17 - 1:17pm

    @ William Ross
    Your argument implies accepting terms similar to those of TTIP. And if Britain did so and the EU did not, how exactly would that improve Britain’s trading position relative to, say, Germany; which currently exports twice as much to the US? And are we to accept imports of dubious quality from sweat-shop economies without expecting the standards now required by the EU?

    As for services, the extent of the impact of Brexit on the financial sector has been much discussed but no-one has suggested that it will be anything other than negative. Moreover it is hard to see how other services will benefit. Those provided to consumers can only suffer as the euphoria of debt-fuelled consumerism meets the reality of rising prices and stagnant wages.

  • Andrew McCaig 21st Apr '17 - 1:17pm

    Of course we can do international trade outside the EU..
    The difference is that within the EU we have companies that manufacture things in a multistage just-in-time process involving components made in several other EU countries. These components can arrive with no customs checks and no queues at the channel ports. This efficiency is what is threatened by Brexit.

    It is true that we export the most to the USA, but the next 4 biggest export markets are in the EU. Of course we will be able to focus on importing more from China..

  • What part of “the EU is geographically closer” do some people not understand

  • I looked up our exports on the internet and found a website that stated that 13% of our exports go to the US, 9.3% to Germany, 7.6% to Switzerland and 6.5% to China for 2015 ( It stated exports were $425B out of a total economy of $2.86T, which I make 14.86%.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Apr '17 - 1:43pm

    It is important to differentiate between (manufactured) goods and services in this context.

    Service exports are performed by highly skilled and paid Londoners. Quite some of that, and the accompanying tax base, will be lost, but no need to worry about these folks (who are mostly remainers); they will find a way to make money.

    Manufactured products will be hit much harder and affect an increasingly rare species in modern Britain: the well-paid, low skilled blue-collar worker (mostly leavers); they have no chance to ever recover from Brexit.

  • Arnold – I am one of your highly skilled Remainers although not a Londoner. I have worked in Canada US India Belgium Germany France Spain Netherlands Sweden Denmark Czech Republic amongst other places. I will be “alright”. But there is a fair chance I will just move myself and my business out of the UK after Brexit because being based here will place me at a huge competitive disadvantage. I dont want to weekly commute to US, visas have generally proved unpredictable and time consuming for me in most instances. The Tories are putting up barriers. There will be some substitution but overall trade and jobs will be reduced. There will be an exodus… there is absolutely no doubt.

  • @William Ross
    Tell me you want Brexit and for Scotland to stay in the union and I will take you seriously. Otherwise I will assume everything you say to support Brexit is just to promote Scottish Independence.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Apr '17 - 3:35pm

    Alistair, I am sorry. Nobody’s fate should be taken lightly. Best of luck from another citizen of nowhere.

  • Laurence Cox 21st Apr '17 - 4:24pm


    As the Election Agent in the Kenton East ward by-election you referred to, I can tell you that this is one of our ‘black hole’ wards. We put up a candidate so that the electors would be able to vote for a Liberal Democrat (for the first time since 2010) and did no work in the ward. Seen in this context, 2.1% support is not unreasonable. In the 2015 General Election our Parliamentary Candidate received the same level of support across the whole constituency, so this is evidence of a recovery not grounds for despair.

    You have also ignored the real surprise of the by-election, the Tories winning it from Labour. This is a ward that Labour held even in the “Falklands-factor” council elections of 1982, and ever since then. The Labour vote may prove to be very soft indeed.

  • Nicholas Cunningham 21st Apr '17 - 5:02pm

    Come on ‘theakes’ don’t get down hearted over one result. Politics is never straightforward, just imagine what some Labour supporters are going through. They are staring at the death of a once proud political party, rich in history and it’s going down the pan on the back of a few dreamers. The Lib /Dems will do well in this coming election, if I’m allowed to say so without the ridicule. So let’s look at the reality, May and Tories are about to enter the stark reality of Brexit, today’s UK retail sales have tanked, earnings in real terms are dwindling, inflation is about to go beyond 3% with all the repercussions on growth and to top it all, personal debt has gone through the roof. So when the Brexiteers say we are heading for a golden age, trade deals far and wide, the world’s nations falling over themselves to get here and sign on the dotted line, when the the stark reality is we will be up the creek looking for good will from others and asking what happened to the dream.

  • William Ross 21st Apr '17 - 5:07pm


    I was one of some 420,000 SNP supporters who voted for YES ( 2014) and LEAVE
    ( 2016) . Brexit must be carried out properly ( more power to May in London) but a subsequent Scottish referendum must happen ( more power to Nicola in Edinburgh)

    Interesting times.

  • Laurence – well done for putting up a candidate. It was the right thing to do. Same goes for our colleagues in Chester.
    Theakes – Don’t just look at two council by elections and extrapolate. These just happened to be in two very weak wards. Look instead at the entirety of all council by elections over the last few months. They tell a VERY different story about what we can achieve…. IF WE WORK.

  • @William Ross – “About 60% of our current international trade is done outside the Single Market.”

    It should be remembered that we currently use arrangements agreed, maintained, policed and enforced by the Single Market.

    Whilst a ‘sovereign’ GB could and will need to do similar, it will do so with far greater overheads (since we won’t be able to pool resources with other nations) and our ability to firstly agree fair arrangements for both imports and exports is reduced as is our ability to enforce sanctions, because we won’t have the clout of the Single Market behind us.

  • richard underhill 22nd Apr '17 - 12:09pm

    Former Chancellor Ken Clarke is standing again.

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