Liberal Democrats are open and outward-looking. We passionately believe that Britain’s relationship with its neighbours is stronger the closer we remain to the European Union. Whatever its imperfections, the EU remains the best framework for working effectively and co-operating in the pursuit of our shared aims. It has led directly to greater prosperity, increased trade, investment and jobs, better security, and a greener environment.
Now that Britain has left the EU, we must maintain the closest possible relationship to our nearest neighbours.
Liberal Democrats acknowledge the result of the 2016 referendum, which gave the Government a mandate to start negotiations to leave. The decision Britain took, though, was simply whether to remain in or to leave the European Union. There was no option on the ballot paper to choose the shape of our future relationship with the EU on vital issues including trade, travel or security.
It is now clear that the Conservatives, enabled by Jeremy Corbyn, are campaigning for a Hard Brexit. This means leaving the Single Market, ending freedom of movement, and abandoning the Customs Union – even though these choices will make the UK poorer and disappoint many leave voters who wanted a different outcome.
The effects of Brexit are already being felt. The value of the pound has plummeted. Inflation has risen.
Growth in the economy has slowed, and the government is already borrowing billions more to fill the gap in lost tax revenue.
Locally, farmers risk the prospect of unpicked fruit rotting in the fields, while the M20 and the M2 become lorry parks, and local exporters lose business as additional customs checks place an intolerable burden on their customers.
Young people at our universities, who voted overwhelmingly to remain, are being told their voices do not matter. Urgent problems, such as the future of the NHS, are being neglected because of the sheer scale of the challenge posed by Brexit.
A Hard Brexit will make all these problems worse. It is the wrong choice for the country. Liberal Democrats will fight to prevent a Hard Brexit.