Open Britain Background Briefing: Liberal Democrat General Election Manifesto

  • Open Britain welcomes the Liberal Democrats’ call for Britain to stay in the Single Market, as well as its positions that there should be no re-imposition of customs checks. The manifesto does not explicitly call for remaining in the Customs Union, however. 
  • Although Open Britain is not pushing for a referendum on the final say of the Brexit agreement – as this manifesto does – we still believe that people should keep an open mind on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.  
  • Open Britain agrees with the need for the UK to have the highest levels of co-operation with the EU on the European Arrest Warrant and Europol as well as for UK scientists and students to participate in EU-funded programmes. Open Britain can also support the Liberal Democrats’ aim of upholding standards when EU legislation is transposed into UK law.   

Background 

Single Market & Customs Union: Open Britain welcomes the fact that the Liberal Democrats have underlined in their manifesto that leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union was not on the ballot paper at the 23 June 2016 referendum and that to do so will make the UK worse off. Open Britain agrees with the stated aim of the manifesto for the UK to stay in the Single Market. 

“While much remains uncertain about Theresa May’s approach, it is now clear that the Conservatives 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. Young people, 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. While much remains uncertain about Theresa May’s approach, it is now clear that the Conservatives 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.”

We believe that any deal negotiated for the UK outside the EU must ensure that trade can continue without customs controls at the border, and must maintain membership of the single market, which smooths trade between the UK and the continent by providing a common ‘rule book’ for businesses and a common mechanism to ensure that everyone abides by the rules.”

“The City of London is Europe’s financial capital and must retain its full rights in EU financial markets.”

Referendum on final outcome: Whilst Open Britain are not campaigning for a referendum on the final say at the end of the Brexit negotiations, nevertheless, Open Britain believes that it is important for people to keep an open mind on Brexit, as voters did not choose to make themselves poorer at the ballot box on 23 June 2016.

“At the end of negotiations there will be a decision on the deal. The Conservatives want the decision to be taken by politicians. Liberal Democrats believe the British people should have the final say. That’s why, when the terms of our future relationship with the EU have been negotiated (over the next two years on the Government’s timetable), we will put that deal to a vote of the British people in a referendum, with the alternative option of staying in the EU on the ballot paper.

Immigration: Open Britain can endorse the Liberal Democrats’ aims of taking into account the key role played by EU migrants in the UK economy. On free movement, Open Britain believes that free movement reform is something which needs to be discussed.  

“We support the principle of freedom of movement – to abandon it would threaten Britain’s prosperity and reputation as an open, tolerant society. Any deal negotiated for the UK outside the EU must protect the right to work, travel, study and retire across the EU. Any restrictions sought by the government must take account of the vital importance of EU workers to the British economy, including public services.

All options outside the EU worse than membership: Open Britain strongly believes that by remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union, the UK can continue to thrive and prosper.

We continue to believe that there is no deal as good for the UK outside the EU as the one it already has as a member.”

UK & EU citizens: Open Britain fully supports the aim of the Liberal Democrats to guarantee the rights of EU27 citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU27. This is an issue we have been pushing for as an organisation.

“Protection of rights for EU citizens and UK citizens: We will press for the UK to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK, ending their ongoing uncertainty. We will call for the overhaul and simplification of the registration process and the requirements for EU nationals to obtain permanent residence and UK citizenship, as the current system is not fit for purpose. We will urge the government, and use our influence with Liberal leaders in European countries, to secure the same rights for UK citizens living in European Union countries.”

Continued participation in EU agencies and programmes: Open Britain supports the Liberal Democrats’ aim of looking to keep the strongest ties possible with the EU on justice and crime. Whilst the Liberal Democrats do not call for the UK to remain in either Europol or the European Arrest Warrant, in any case, this would have to be agreed by the EU27. Open Britain fully endorses the idea of upholding scientific and research opportunities for UK researchers and students, including, but not limited to participation in the Horizon 2020 and ERASMUS programmes, and also supports the Liberal Democrats’ call for the retention of the EHIC card. 

“Law enforcement and judicial co-operation: Europol, the European Arrest Warrant and shared access to police databases have helped make Britain’s streets safer. We will fight to maintain maximum co-operation to ensure criminals are pursued quickly and effectively, and police are not frustrated by huge amounts of red tape.”

“Opportunities for young people: In an increasingly globalised and complex world, it is vital that our young people are afforded the same opportunities their parents enjoyed to work, study and travel abroad. To that end we will do everything we can to protect Erasmus+ and other EU-funded schemes which increase opportunities for young people.”

“Science and research funding: Research is vital for our long-term prosperity, security and wellbeing – but the Leave vote has already started to affect existing and proposed research programmes. We will campaign against any reduction in investment in UK universities and for their right to apply for EU funds on equal terms.

“Britain is an outward-looking country with commercial and leisure interests around the world, particularly in Europe. We will strive to retain traveller and tourist benefits such as the European Health Insurance Card, reduced roaming charges and pet passports, all of which are at risk by leaving the European Union.”

Maintaining standards: Open Britain welcomes the Liberal Democrats’ commitment not to lower standards as EU legislation is transposed into UK law and that current government support to various sectors is not harmed by the Brexit vote. The vote on 23 June was not one to have a bonfire of regulation on rights and protections.  

Defending social rights and equalities: Many important protections such as the right to 52 weeks’ maternity leave and rights to annual leave are currently based on EU law, and many of these rights have been upheld at the European Court of Justice. Liberal Democrats will fight to ensure that these entitlements are not undermined. “

“Maintaining environmental standards: The European Union has created the highest environmental standards in the world. We have a duty to future generations to protect our environment and tackle climate change. Liberal Democrats will ensure that everything is done to maintain those high standards in UK law, including the closest possible co-operation on climate and energy policy.” 

“British business and jobs: We must protect support for domestic industries such as farming, tourism and the creative industries, as well as regional support for deprived areas.

Northern Ireland and Gibraltar: Open Britain fully supports the Liberal Democrats’ aims of looking to oppose moves that will threaten the stability in Northern Ireland, although the manifesto could have gone further to have called for no introduction of a hard border. Open Britain supports the manifesto’s stance on Gibraltar.

“Respect for the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: We will fight to ensure that the priorities and long-term interests of the nations of the UK are fully taken into account during negotiations. We will oppose any moves that threaten the political stability of Northern Ireland. We will also campaign to protect the rights of the people of Gibraltar.”