Tag Archives: brexit

17 November 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems commit £6 billion per year to strengthen welfare system
  • Lib Dems: Unholy alliance signs up to Johnson’s disastrous deal
  • Lib Dems: Tory migration policy panders to Farage
  • Swinson: Clueless Corbyn cannot answer the most basic questions on Brexit
  • Labour pursuing Brexit makes their dentist policy ‘undeliverable’
  • Lib Dems: Tory nurse tax ballooning due to immigration health surcharge rise

Lib Dems commit £6 billion per year to strengthen welfare system

The Liberal Democrats will today (Sunday 17 November) announce bold proposals to invest £6 billion per year to strengthen the welfare system over the next Parliament. This forms part of the party’s ambitious plans to build …

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Luciana: EU staff critical to our NHS

Lib Dem Health Spokesperson Luciana Berger has spoken out about how Brexit would harm our NHS, emphasising how reliant we are on EU doctors and nurses. Analysis done by the Labour Party highlights that NHS staff work a million hours of unpaid overtime every week.

That doesn’t surprise me. When my husband was seriously ill three years ago, in the 51 nights he was in hospital, only once did I see one member of staff actually leave at the end of their shift. And the situation has got much worse since then as we lose thousands of EU nurses every year.

Luciana criticised Labour’s approach to Brexit:

A key reason NHS staff are working overtime is because of the serious shortages in the number of doctors and nurses working in the NHS. Part of that shortage is due to the net loss of 5,000 EU nurses in the last two years alone.

Only yesterday, Labour failed yet again to confirm their position on freedom of movement. With the NHS reliant on 10,000 EU doctors and 20,000 EU nurses, Labour’s support for Brexit is baffling as it will be so damaging for our NHS and hardworking staff.

In the past week we have learnt about the Conservative plan to impose a Nurse Tax on any new EU health professional coming to treat NHS patients. The stakes could not be higher. Labour and the Conservatives must stop being so irresponsible with our NHS.

The Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit to protect our NHS. We will build a brighter future by investing an extra £35 billion in our NHS by adding a penny on income tax. In addition we will implement a national recruitment strategy to ensure we never again suffer shortages of nurses, doctors and other health professionals.

If Labour are bad, the Tories are terrible. They would charge nurses who come to this country to use the NHS they work for. This would cost their families thousands of pounds.

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16 November 2019 – the overnight press releases

  • Lib Dems announce plans to plant 60 million trees a year
  • Lib Dems: EU staff crucial to our NHS

Lib Dems announce plans to plant 60 million trees a year

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson will plant a tree in Hampstead today (Saturday 16 November), as the party announces ambitious proposals to undertake the largest tree-planting programme in UK history. A Liberal Democrat government will plant 60 million trees every year, increasing UK forest cover by 1 million hectares by 2045.

Just 13% of the UK is currently covered by woodland, far below the European Union average of 35%. The Conservatives …

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15 November 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

  • Tories pushing ‘Trumpian agenda’ on immigration
  • Lib Dems: Record waiting times show Tories “dismal record” on NHS
  • Tusk comments show there is “light at the end of the tunnel” for Remainers
  • Tories pushing ‘Trumpian agenda’ on immigration

    Responding to Priti Patel’s comments regarding cutting overall levels of immigration, Liberal Democrats Shadow Home Affairs spokesperson, Christine Jardine said:

    This country needs people to come here to keep our NHS and so many sectors properly skilled and staffed. The Conservatives’ approach to immigration is an insult to the millions who have come to the UK and made it their home. Immigration brings so much to our

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13 November 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Tesla announcement demolishes Johnson’s Brexit fantasy
  • Jane Dodds: Our benefits system is broken
  • Wollaston: Farage voting Tory shows Johnson has drifted to extremes

Lib Dems: Tesla announcement demolishes Johnson’s Brexit fantasy

Responding to the announcement that Tesla will be investing in a new factory in Germany and not the UK due to Brexit uncertainty, Liberal Democrat Shadow Brexit Secretary Tom Brake:

On Boris Johnson’s first day in Downing Street, Dominic Cummings was pictured wearing a T- shirt picturing a company founded by Elon Musk. Now the very entrepreneur Cummings idolises has chosen not to invest

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Why Lib Dems should not stand aside in favour of Labour Remainers

Last night, Liberal Democrat PPC for Canterbury Tim Walker announced he was stepping aside in favour of Rosie Duffield, the sitting Labour MP. 

There is no doubt that Rosie Duffield is a good person who supports remaining in the EU. She holds values that are compatible with ours and, should she ever choose to join the Liberal Democrats, she would be warmly welcomed. However, she represents a party that is not committed to Remain. To stand aside for her would send the wrong message to the millions of people who are relying on Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats to stop Brexit.

Liberal Democrats have already stood aside in 20 seats, 17 as part of the Unite to Remain initiative and 3 against prominent independent remainers. Our willingness to work with others to achieve a remain objective is not in doubt.

There is one thing in common with the people we have stood down for. They represent parties who wholeheartedly support remain or are running as independents. We are the strongest voice of remain and in no circumstances should we stand aside for a representative of a party which is not committed to Remain.

Let’s go through that Labour policy again. They would go back to the EU, negotiate another deal, put that to their conference to work out whether they support the deal or remain, and then have a People’s Vote. Would they really negotiate a deal and campaign against their own efforts? I doubt it. Labour would deliver Brexit and any Brexit damages the country.

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12 November 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Refusal to publish Russian interference shows Johnson morphing into Trump
  • Gyimah: Labour plans fail meet the needs of working people
  • Lib Dems set out plans to strengthen support for survivors of violence and abuse
  • Lib Dems: Johnson’s speech shows he is misleading voters again
  • Lib Dems: Selection of Chris Davies shows Tories’ contempt for voters

Refusal to publish Russian interference shows Johnson morphing into Trump

Following the reports that Hillary Clinton has said it is “inexplicable and shameful” that the UK government has not yet published a report on alleged Russian interference in British politics, Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary Chuka Umunna said:

No-one knows the extent

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12 November 2019 – the overnight press releases

  • Liberal Democrats pledge to invest in flood defences
  • Jane Dodds to Unveil Lib Dem Plan for a Brighter Future
  • Corbyn can’t afford lifelong learning if he doesn’t stop Brexit

Liberal Democrats pledge to invest in flood defences

The Liberal Democrats have announced plans to create a £5bn flood prevention and adaptation fund.

As the world grapples with a climate emergency, the Tories are turning their backs on communities most at risk by failing to provide adequate flood defences. The Tory’s Brexit agenda risks the UK losing access to vital EU funds for improving flood defences and flood relief. This would starve local communities of …

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11 November 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Gwynne’s comments reveal Labour’s hand on Brexit
  • British Steel takeover an ‘alarm bell’ for Tories’ Brexit Britain
  • Lib Dems: Brexit to blame for ‘anaemic’ economic growth
  • Davey: Conservatives and Brexit party are now one and the same
  • Lib Dems file proceedings at High Court for judicial review of ITV debate
  • ERG and Brexit Party talks show Farage is now pulling the strings

Lib Dems: Gwynne’s comments reveal Labour’s hand on Brexit

Responding to comments by Labour’s Campaign Coordinator, Andrew Gwynne, that Labour would seek to create “reciprocal agreements with the EU27 that allow British citizens to enjoy some of the freedoms that they will …

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8 November 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: If the PM thinks NI deal is so good – why doesn’t the rest of the UK have it?
  • Lib Dems: BBC now complicit in establishment stitch-up to exclude Remain voice

Lib Dems: If the PM thinks NI deal is so good – why doesn’t the rest of the UK have it?

Responding to comments made by Boris Johnson that Northern Ireland has got a great deal by keeping access to the Single Market and free movement, Liberal Democrat Shadow Brexit Secretary Tom Brake said:

The Single Market and freedom of movement are a great deal – even Boris Johnson

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7 November 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems are the party of real change, not Labour
  • Davey: OBR pulling public finances forecast “smacks of political interference”
  • Unite to Remain agreement will deliver Remain MPs across England and Wales
  • Davey: Tories and Labour writing promises on cheques that will bounce
  • UK growth prospects suffer as a result of Tory Brexit chaos
  • Brake: Labour offers nothing to the millions of people who voted Remain

Lib Dems are the party of real change, not Labour

Ahead of Labour’s unveiling of the slogan ‘it’s time for real change’ on their campaign bus, Chuka Umunna, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary for Foreign Affairs, said:

Jeremy Corbyn’s claim to

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The Lib Dems’ two aims in this election

Liberal Democrats should have two main aims in this Election. The first should be to convince a majority of the electorate that to remain in the EU is right for our country, and that no form of Brexit is acceptable. The second must be to point out why this diseased Tory government needs to go, to be replaced with a government where Jo Swinson and our party have major influence which can address the causes of the Brexit vote.

Focusing on the European Union, we need to make the point much neglected in recent debates: the absolute value the EU gives our country, in the past, now, and, if we succeed, in the future.

This is the greatest alliance of peace-loving nations that the world has seen. It has kept the peace in Europe and promoted its prosperity since its foundation. It has protected the freedom and rights of its citizens, promoted good employment and environmental standards, fostered the economic growth of member states, furthered international co-operation for refugees and migrants, developed scientific advances, and shown how democracy and freedom can co-exist with order and security, through shared institutions and respected legal systems.

Britain led by Brexiteers has been prepared to disregard all this, including the benefits of the single market which makes the EU our largest economic partner. Currently we are valued by countries such as Japan as a means of access to the whole EU.  Once we are no longer in the single market the benefit for international companies of moving production to the UK will be lost. The Brexiteers claim that FTAs with individual countries will generate the same amount of trade and UK production as will be lost by leaving, yet the EU has already made 67 free trade agreements which we share.

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Jeremy Corbyn embraces his inner Brexiteer

Jeremy Corbyn suggests today that we could leave the EU without damaging  our economy and public services. He’ll tell an audience in Essex, according to the Independent:

Mr Corbyn will say: “If you want to leave the EU without trashing our economy or selling out our NHS you’ll be able to vote for it.

He’ll outline a Labour policy that involves negotiating a new deal and then the Government will decide after that whether it will back the deal in a referendum or vote for Remain.

Kier Starmer sounded very uncomfortable as he explained all this on the Today programme this morning. When asked if Corbyn was a leaver or a remainer, he sounded very hesitant as he told us that Jeremy said he voted remain last time.

Starmer has spent the last couple of years being undermined by his party’s leader at every turn.

It’s significant that Corbyn is talking up Brexit the day after Nigel Farage said that his Brexit Party  was going explicitly after Labour votes. In fact, Labour stands to lose far more by failing to come out full throttle for remain. There has been a steady stream of Labour people coming across to the Liberal Democrats because  of our unequivocal position on Brexit.

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Lib Dem campaign launch: £50 bn Remain Bonus

We launch our general election campaign today.  We haven’t yet had time to get fed up of our new slogan –  Stop Brexit, Build a Brighter Future  because it was only unveiled last weeK. We start to talk about what that brighter future might look like – in the form of more money to spend on public services that is directly linked to deciding to remain in the EU.

Stopping Brexit, we argue, will generate a Remain Bonus for the public finances because under Remain, the economy will grow faster than under Brexit, leading to higher GDP and consequently higher public sector current receipts. This adds up to £50 billion over 5 years.

That is there or thereabouts where   the Institute for Fiscal Studies was  in its Green Budget 2019.

Jo said:

The Liberal Democrats are the only party standing up to stop Brexit and build a brighter future for the UK.

Brexit has taken far longer and cost far more than anyone said it would. But any form of Brexit will damage our jobs, our economy and our public services, starving them of vital cash as the economy struggles along.

The Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit and then use the £50bn Remain Bonus to invest in our public services.

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2-3 November 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Lib Dems lodge election debate complaint with ITV
  • Lib Dems: Dithering Labour leadership shows they’re not fit for office
  • Lib Dems: Labour have no plan to tackle the climate emergency
  • Election debates should be set independently – Liberal Democrats

Lib Dems lodge election debate complaint with ITV

The Liberal Democrats have lodged a formal complaint to ITV for excluding Jo Swinson from their election debate and warned “failing to have Liberal Democrats in the debate is misrepresenting the current political reality.”

In a letter to ITV Chief Executive, Dame Carolyn McCall, the President of the Liberal Democrats Sal Brinton said “voters of this country deserve …

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Labour’s refusal to back Remain is “Red meat for Lib Dems”

Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey, talking to Sky News presenter Sophy Ridge, refused to say whether Labour would back Leave or Remain in a referendum on any deal.

The Labour position is that they would form a government, negotiate their own deal and then put it to the public, but can’t say at this stage whether they would back Leave or Remain in that referendum. They don’t dare say Remain because their leader is not committed to that position and they daren’t say Leave because they will lose even more votes to us. But if they have negotiated a deal, the presumption has to be that they will back it. I mean, they aren’t going to say to the people “Don’t back this great deal we’ve done”, are they?

And they think that this is credible? They want their voters to do the equivalent of buying a lucky bag.

Sky News reporter Rob Powell said that this was “red meat for the Liberal Democrats.”

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1 November 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Farage warns Tories of Lib Dem General Election threat
  • Trickett’s comments show Labour are a Brexit party
  • Swinson: Liberal Democrats can win in seats we have never won in before
  • Lib Dems: Johnson and Corbyn running scared of Swinson

Farage warns Tories of Lib Dem General Election threat

Commenting on the Brexit Party’s campaign launch, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Ed Davey said:

Nigel Farage is correct that the Conservative Party should be very worried about the Liberal Democrats in this election. We are the strongest national party of Remain and we are ready to take the fight to Boris Johnson as well as Jeremy Corbyn.

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31 October 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Stop Brexit. Build a brighter future.
  • Brexit hinders growth in green, clean cars
  • Davey: Labour’s spending plans “can’t be squared with the cost of Brexit”
  • Self-harm and assaults in prisons preventing rehabilitation
  • Lib Dems: Donald Trump and Boris Johnson both unfit for office

Stop Brexit. Build a brighter future.

Today, Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats are launching their slogan for the General Election campaign: Stop Brexit. Build a brighter future, alongside a campaign poster launch.

This election is a once in a generation opportunity to reshape our politics, and give hope to the millions of people who want a fairer, brighter future.

The Liberal Democrats’ slogan reflects a positive …

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“Get Brexit done” – the historic big lie

In the General Election campaign, the electorate will be presented with a Tory promise to ‘Get Brexit Done’.

This is one of the slogans that will be repeated over and over again.

The message is that ‘chaos has reigned’, and now voters have a chance to vote Tory and ‘get it all over with’. The proposition is that if re-elected, PM Johnson’s regime will approve the two key pieces of Brexit legislation, and then immediately pull the UK out of the EU.

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Fortune favours the bold


And so we head into an election campaign as ‘the goose is getting fat’ and Brenda from Bristol boards up her front door to keep out invading journalists.

We’ve whirled around and around the entire gamut of constitutional and Brexit permutations many times, and so we end up with a general election when the Rubic’s Cube of parliamentary arithmetic will be re-spun. Then the whole darn thing will start again.

It is somewhat forbidding to face the prospect of knocking on doors in the ‘deep mid-winter’.

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Sunday morning media open thread – Chuka on Sophy Ridge, Jo on Marr

UPDATE: Summary

3 things about Lib Dem plan for election on December 9th:

Rules out no deal as it only comes into force if EU grants an extension

Prevents the PM changing the date of the election

Makes sure that PM can’t ram his awful bill through Parliament.

Conservatives dismiss it and Labour is in two minds – Diane Abbott says maybe and Jon Ashworth says it’s a silly stunt to get us on the telly.

Both Chuka and Jo emphasised how our preferred solution is a people’s vote but it doesn’t have the numbers because Labour won’t support it. They also point out that if the Withdrawal Agreement Bill gets through it will be on the basis of Labour votes.

Here’s the blow by blow account.

We have two Lib Dems on the main Sunday morning politics programmes this morning. No doubt they will end up being interviewed simultaneously, but we’ll have the details here.

Sophy Ridge will interview Chuka Umunna on Sky News and Jo Swinson will be on Marr.

So far on Ridge, Nicky Morgan has dismissed the Lib Dem calls for an election pre Brexit and says that if the Government doesn’t get its way, it will keep asking to see if MPs will change their mind.

Yet they won’t give the people the chance to change their mind on a decision made by a narrow majority 3 years ago when things have massively changed since then.

It’s also interesting that a common Tory theme is that we’ll spend 2020 on two referenda – a People’s Vote on Brexit and on Scottish independence. Of course, stopping Brexit would make demands for an independence referendum much less likely.

And, obviously, people need to be told that spending a few months of 2020 on a people’s vote is much better than spending much of the 2020s on trade negotiations and a potential no deal crash out at the end of next year.

Philip Hammond now saying that he wants to get Brexit sorted before an election. He says that he will run as an independent in any election if he doesn’t get the Tory whip back. And he makes clear that he won’t be toadying to the current leadership in order to get it.

He says that he expects that Parliament will amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to give itself more powers and in ways that are going to be difficult for the government.

The highlights of Chuka’s interview:

Loving how Chuka has got into the Lib Dem habit of outlining three things:

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Lib Dems seize election initiative – calling for pre-Brexit poll on 9th December

The Observer’s Michael Savage reports tonight that the Liberal Democrats have a plan to allow Boris Johnson a pre-Christmas election. But it would mean that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would be taken forward by the next Parliament. Or maybe not. If the Lib Dems win a majority in a December 9th poll, PM Jo Swinson would revoke Article 50.

If the Conservatives lost the election, there would almost certainly be a majority for a People’s Vote so either  way the path to stopping Brexit once and for all would be clear.

This plan is great because it means that Boris Johnson can’t accuse us of being scared of an election. Why would we be when we have the chance to make the biggest gains in our existence?

It also shows up the so-called official opposition who have been less than pro-active in trying to find a way out of this mess.

See Michael Savage’s Twitter thread here.

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ALDE Party Congress – Boris Johnson’s best friend speaks…

Even for those whose interest in, and knowledge of, European politics is limited, the identity of the Prime Minister of Luxembourg recently became rather better known after a recent intervention in the Brexit debate.

Xavier Bettel is here in Athens, and was one of the speakers at the opening of the Congress. Here’s what he had to say…

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Wiliam Wallace

On Saturday, William Wallace closed the debate in the Lords for the LIb Dems. He said that during all the hours of debate, he’d not heard any positive arguments for the deal. People were just saying that we needed to get Brexit done.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, has just said that remainers do not admit that the EU is not just an economic project. The European Union has always been a political project. The memorandum presented to Harold Macmillan in 1961 made it very clear that it was in our political interests to join the European Economic Community and that the Washington Administration were strongly of the opinion that Britain should do so. In Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s speech moving the Second Reading of the European Union accession Bill, he also spelled out that there was a political dimension to it. It was never the case that we were never told that it was more than just a common market. This is a peace project. It is how we deal with our neighbours, and it is important that we do deal with our neighbours.

This has been a long debate. I have listened carefully but have found it extremely difficult to hear any positive arguments for the deal. The arguments are mainly of exhaustion—“let’s get Brexit done”—or that there is too much uncertainty and at least this will end it, or that at least it is better than no deal. Another argument is, “It’s not too damaging economically. Well, it’s a bit damaging but not as damaging as some of the economic forecasts have suggested”. So what are the Government promising us that we will gain in return for these economic costs, whether they are modest or severe?

Here, I fear that we enter a looking-glass world in which facts and evidence are turned on their head. I heard Jacob Rees-Mogg on the radio yesterday saying that leaving the EU with this deal will strengthen the UK. No one in this debate has agreed with that idiotic remark. Many of us are deeply concerned that this is the beginning of the break-up of the United Kingdom. It takes us towards the potential reunification of Ireland, and certainly it takes us further towards the independence of Scotland. As the son of a Scot and as someone who has a son currently living in Edinburgh, this is a matter of personal, as well as national, concern.

We are told that we will regain sovereignty over regulations and standards but it has not been explained why that is so important. We are also assured that we want not to lower any of the standards but to raise them. However, perhaps we want not to raise them idiosyncratically so that we have different good ones compared with those of the European Union and America. Why that is so important, the Government have totally failed to explain.

The Prime Minister says in his Statement that,

“the greatest single restoration of national sovereignty in our parliamentary history”,

is part of the aim. I much prefer what was said by Geoffrey Howe—a man I much admired on the Conservative Benches—when he talked about the need for Britain to learn how to share sovereignty and how we would hold on to greater influence over our own affairs if we learned to share with our natural friends and partners. After all, we do not control our future prosperity. That lies in the hands of companies such as Hitachi, Nissan, Tata, Mercedes-Benz and Airbus, with their headquarters outside this country. When, and if, we leave the European Union, we will discover whether they are willing to stay committed to this country. If they move out and if foreign investment dries up, we will be in deep trouble and the economic assessments will prove to have been too modest in their gloom.

Then we are told that we can negotiate our own free trade agreements to our greater advantage. With whom? With India, China, Russia and the United States? Would the United States be more generous to the UK than it has been with the EU? That looks extremely unlikely. The world is at present moving away from free trade, as is the United States, and we in our turn are moving away from the world’s largest free trade bloc and single market.

Then we are told that leaving the EU will free us from bureaucracy. We have heard about the need to have new rules of origin, VAT receipts and refunds, ​and customs checks. That is a substantial extra collection of bureaucracy on cross-border trade. The withdrawal agreement and the future framework talk about a Joint Committee with a range of specialised committees that will manage our new relationship. We will need very large numbers of extra officials to manage those, as well as doubling the staff in our bilateral embassies because we will no longer be able to negotiate multilaterally in Brussels.

I want to turn to the future framework. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, that there has been a remarkable lack of attention to this document, although it is extraordinarily important. The Prime Minister has offered us no coherent vision of the future relationship. Someone has to look at this to see where we are going. One hundred and forty-one paragraphs of the political declaration cover a very wide range of issues, including data protection; participation in European programmes on science and innovation, culture, youth exchanges and education development; the European Neighbourhood Policy; intellectual property; family law co-operation; transport; energy; fishing; global co-operation on climate change; sustainable development; health and epidemics; foreign policy, security and defence; the UK contribution to joint defence operations; intelligence exchanges; whether we have access to the European Union Satellite Centre; space co-operation, about which it says very little because we have not got very far; cybersecurity; illegal migration, counterterrorism; et cetera. That is all to be negotiated, ideally by December 2020. That is not going to be very easy, but it is at least the intention.

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Ed Davey: Lib Dems will push for a referendum

We are trying our best to win a People’s Vote, said Ed Davey tonight.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, he talked about Boris Johnson’s failures, and said that Lib Dems would continue to work with other parties to try to secure a People’s Vote. Watch here.  He added that the important thing was to hear about an extension to Article 50 first then work out where to go next.

He pointed out that an election wouldn’t necessarily solve the Brexit issue but a People’s Vote would.

He noted that Labour had failed to support our amendment to the Queen’s speech today. It called for a People’s Vote but wasn’t called because it didn’t have Labour support.

So all that fuss last night was simply a smokescreen to detract from their failure to do what most o their supporters want.

Channel 4 later reported that the Government was going to go on strike if it didn’t get its own way on Monday.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday Julie Smith: This deal is not in the national interest

We continue with our Lords speeches on the special Saturday sitting. This next one is highly significant. Julie Smith had not voted against the triggering of Article 50 because she felt that we would have to leave. She has changed her mind and explains why;

My Lords, it is normally courteous to thank the Leader of the House for repeating Statements from the Prime Minister. However, on this occasion, I rather wish she had not. The Prime Minister articulated a view, reiterated by the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, that he hopes that the two halves of our country—the 52% and the 48%—can now speak with one voice. I made a similar comment in July 2016, straight after the referendum.

I am a democrat and was willing to respect the result of the referendum. It is a matter of record that I did not vote against triggering Article 50. During the referendum, like the Government, I was very clear and said time and again that a vote to leave meant that we would leave. However, the fact that I believe in democracy does not necessarily mean that I have changed my mind, any more than any of my fellow Liberal Democrats have done, about the importance and value of membership of the European Union. That the Prime Minister could stand in the House of Commons this morning and say, “I have not heard anybody over the last three and a half years make a case about Brexit other than in practical terms” is deeply disingenuous. The fact that people have been arguing on the basis of the situation we are in does not mean that we have changed our minds. I have not rehearsed the pre-referendum arguments over the course of the last three and a half years, because we had already had that debate. That does not mean that I do not think that membership of the European Union is by far the best thing that this country can aspire to.

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Of course the Lib Dems oppose exposing our NHS in future trade deals

If you’re seeing attacks from Labour types on social media tonight, saying that we didn’t vote for their amendment which, amongst other things, called for the NHS to be protected in future trade deals, ignore them.

Political parties often do this. It’s a silly game and I don’t like it when we do it, either.

It goes like this.

You lay down an amendment that has a bit of good stuff in it, and you combine it with something that another party just isn’t going to go for. Then when they don’t vote for your amendment you go after them on social media.

Today Labour’s amendment read as follows;

At end add ‘but respectfully regrets that the Gracious Speech does not repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to restore a publicly provided and administered National Health Service and protect it from future trade agreements that would allow private companies competing for services who put profit before public health and that could restrict policy decisions taken in the public interest.’

Now I know that many, including me, in this party had concerns about the reforms in the 2012 Act. But there was some good stuff in there, on social care and on mental health, both issues very important to us. So even if we think that the Act isn’t perfect, we would go with amending rather than appealing it.

So we didn’t vote for the amendment.We didn’t vote against it either. We abstained.  However, we have good form on the NHS and trade deals.  For a start, we have on very many occasions challenged the government on exactly this point. We do not want to see the NHS undermined by Donald Trump, thank you very much. Vince Cable used to challenge the government on this all the time. Look at this from February last year:

The Prime Minister’s non-answer to my question today can only infer that our NHS is indeed for sale under the Conservatives.

Her pathetic non-committal response, failing to even mention our health service once, stands in stark contrast to guarantees given in 2015 by the EU trade negotiator with the US during the TTIP negotiations that our NHS would be protected.

Unfortunately Brexit Britain, standing on our own, will be in a far weaker negotiating position.

 

Ed Davey said here that “we must make sure that the NHS is not up for grabs in any trade deal.”

Jo Swinson also talked about the danger to the NHS during the leadership campaign in an interview with the Standard. 

At the time of the Brexit vote we had Obama. Now the world is much more unstable. There’s the rise of China, Putin, strong men leaders — do you want to be at the mercy of these superpowers? They aren’t going to be giving us great terms on a trade deal; there’s chlorinated chicken, the NHS is on the table. Frankly that is a cause for concern.

We need to be a wee bit careful when we are under social media attack from Labour or (or SNP types for that matter). We can be inclined to think they must somehow be right – when in fact the trolls are at best grossly misrepresenting the facts.  It is hardly surprising that Labour want to throw some mud to deflect attention from the fact that their MPs helped get the awful Withdrawal Agreement Bill over its first parliamentary hurdle last night.

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Time for a fresh start

My former boss, Tim Farron, was frequently heard to say that a party never lost a general election because its manifesto wasn’t long enough.

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto process, whilst very democratic, has one fundamental weakness.  It starts from the bottom up with dozen of policies on top of which the party will then attempt to impose a central message, rather than with a core narrative, which it will then illustrate with a series of eye-catching retail policies.

For the European elections the party communications staff very successfully circumnavigated this difficulty by ignoring the content of the manifesto altogether and simply plastering “Bollocks to Brexit” across the cover.

But the challenge of making a general election manifesto short enough to win an election still remains.   The devil has all the best tunes and there is no doubt that the Conservative message of “Get Brexit Done” seriously resonates on an emotional level.  We are seeing it in their steady climb in the polls and in the willingness of nineteen Labour MPs to endorse a Withdrawal Bill which they surely know is even more deeply flawed than Theresa May’s.  And we see it in the Labour party’s ambivalence both to a general election and to opposing the Withdrawal Bill outright.

At the same time, the Lib Dem message seems to have lost some of its emotional appeal.   It is still a vow to ‘stop Brexit’ but it feels more resigned “We will fight on” but lacks an imperative for the public to support it.

So what should be the Lib Dem equivalent to “Get Brexit done”?  The attractiveness of the slogan is that it speaks to the overwhelming sense that this has all dragged on too long and that we are all just desperate to make it stop.   Of course, getting the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed would in no way “make it stop” – it would merely just trigger the next stage in the negotiations which would drag on years.

What the Lib Dems need to be shouting from the rooftops is that the only way to “make it stop” is to revoke or overturn the referendum result. Whatever way you look the sense is that the last three years have been an unmitigated disaster for Britain: whatever way you want to go we are currently headed in the wrong direction with politicians at war with each other and ignoring the people.

But “make it stop” is not enough.  It is an instruction not an impulse.   Instead, the sentiment that most attunes with people’s emotional need to rewind and start again is a fresh start.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Jeremy Purvis on the potential break up of the UK

At the weekend, Lib Dem Lords basically tore apart Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, highlighting its danger to our prosperity and to the very make up of our country. Jeremy Purvis highlighted the threat to our country.

For the first time in our union’s history, part of our union will be under the legislative authority of a foreign entity in which the people living in that area will have no representation. Part of our union will have the laws governing its economic policy and trade regulations set by a foreign entity whose rules they will have no say in. Taxes affecting businesses and consumers will be set by that foreign entity but their representatives will have no vote on them. To be clear: according to the schedules to the new backstop, 371 laws and regulations that would not apply to Great Britain would automatically be applied to Northern Ireland. On 1 October, the noble Lord, Lord Duncan, stated:

“Any deal on Brexit on 31 October must avoid the whole or just part—that is, Northern Ireland—being trapped in an arrangement where it is a rule taker”.—

That is what the Government propose today. The Conservative Party frequently lauds the fact that it is the Conservative and Unionist Party owing to its role in the defeat of Irish home rule, but it now puts in front of us a proposal for the UK to be one country with two systems. We can see elsewhere in the world how effective that is. Yesterday, this “one country, two systems” Brexit was hailed by the Foreign Secretary as terrific news for Northern Ireland because it will stay aligned with the EU. Presumably, he will now say that doing so is also open to Scotland.

The deal is utterly contrary to the Government’s position when they adopted the UK internal market framework, which this Parliament debated, and when they explicitly said that there would be no division within the four nations of the union. Given that it is also the opposite of what Boris Johnson presented to ​the DUP conference, when he said that this would never happen under a Conservative Government, there is little surprise that the lines in the sand have been washed away by waves of duplicity. As my noble friend Newby said, in January the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, stated:

“We will give an unequivocal commitment that that there will be no divergence in rules between … Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.—

The House can make its own mind up about where equivocation lies. Yesterday, the Home Secretary spoke doublespeak with alacrity on the BBC. She claimed that the deal takes back our laws—but not the 371 of them that apply to Northern Ireland and, therefore, the jurisdiction of the European court. She said that it takes back our borders— but it creates a new border between the nations of our island and, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, indicated, a new European Union border within the United Kingdom for the first time in our history. She said that it takes back control over our money—but we will be a tax collector for the EU, and the UK bodies in Northern Ireland will be forced to apply EU taxes that they have no role in determining.

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Sam Gyimah MP writes: Why it would be a fatal error for Parliament to pass Boris Johnson’s Deal in three days

In the almost 10 years I have been an MP, I have never seen the timetable for debating a Bill become such an issue.

But, it’s not just because it’s to do with Brexit.

Let’s be clear…the Deal we are debating is a constitutional treaty between the UK and the EU and its 27 member states that will set the foundations for our lives for decades to come. It is not like any deal that most people have been familiar with or negotiated in their time.

There are actually two deals here – two Brexits being negotiated. We have the deal for Northern Ireland, which is soft-Brexit, and the deal for the rest of the UK which is clearly a hard-Brexit.

So, we are being asked to analyse each deal on their own, how they interact together and how they link us with the EU in three days?

It shouldn’t be acceptable for the Government to give us this little time to properly scrutinise their plans. Nikki Di Costa, an expert on Parliamentary procedure and close advisor to Boris Johnson, said only a few months ago that four weeks isn’t enough time to debate Theresa May’s deal, so 72 hours is absolutely shocking and an affront to our democracy.

To put this in perspective, we will have spent longer discussing the Wild Animals in Circuses Act, something which affected 19 animals at the time of debate, than debating the future of our country.

A line often used by Brexiteers is that we have had three years to debate this. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

This is the first time we have seen the actual wording of the deal. What we have been debating up until now are the different ways we could leave the EU, but the Deal we have been presented with this week is the first time we have seen the actual plan and the legal consequences that flow from that and it needs proper scrutiny.

The Government is trying to weaponise the emotional aspect of this debate by saying ‘Get It Done’. But we have to get real and understand what this Deal will mean in the months ahead.

Boris Johnson will be able to go for No Deal in December 2020 and Parliament will not be able to stop it – all he has to do is fail to present any Free Trade Deal to Parliament and we will simply crash out.

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