Thursday 15 February 2018

The final deal: what would we say?

First published in LibDemVoice on 12th February.

If there is a referendum on the final deal about leaving the European Union, what would we say? Here is my starter:


We recognise that the vote to leave the EU was fuelled (in part) by dissatisfaction with growing levels of inequality, and felt pressure on cultural values and identity. So we need to address a) the reasons why staying in the EU is better than leaving, as well as b) how we are going to address inequality in the UK and the identity issues tied up with some of our suspicion of foreigners. I think it is also important to make the point that staying in the EU is not the goal. It is a step towards our goal of ensuring that this country works for everyone, and not just the élite.

This is not just about the EU, it is about how we run this country, and about the fact that we can run this country better for the benefit of everybody in the EU rather than out of the EU.
1) The EU is not perfect, but neither is the UK. Leaving the EU would not take back control for us, it would take back control for the elites who want to rule us unfettered by considerations like human rights. An example is discussions within the EU about measures to combat tax avoidance by multinationals and the super rich, measures which have consistently been resisted by the UK government. Staying in the EU is actually more likely to help us make our own country work for everyone.
2) As the EU is not perfect, we need to work with other countries on securing reforms which are in the interests not just of British people, but of ordinary people all over the EU. These would include rules on tax avoidance, which we should embrace rather than resist; making rules of agricultural production and fishing more sustainable and fairer throughout the EU; ensuring that the single market works better for everyone.
3) While we work more closely with the EU, we will not allow that to be a distraction from solving the problems caused by selfishness within this country, for many of which the EU has been wrongly held to blame:
  • We will rebalance funding to reduce regional inequalities throughout the UK.
  • We will build more houses where they are needed, including a significant expansion of genuinely affordable housing
  • We will reverse policies that have plunged millions into poverty or misery, and particularly the punitive policies being directed at unemployed, sick and disabled people
  • We will end the deliberate underfunding and the creeping privatisation of the NHS
  • We will change educational policy so that teachers can teach rather than constantly attending to targets
  • We will work with the EU and with every other country in the world to reduce tax avoidance
  • We will amend employment law to bring security and minimum standards to the gig economy
  • We will attend to the pressures caused by immigration, including organising a fairer and more responsive system for funding local services put under strain by population growth
These policies reflect the standards and the approach we have always brought to our policies, as exemplified in our constitution:
The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.
Our relations with the other members of the EU and our commitment to work for the people of this country are not in opposition to each other.
They are part and parcel of the same thing.