Why the Lib Dems are supporting a UCATT initiative

jaguar

Jaguar Cars, produced in Liverpol City Region by an Indian owned company, will be one of the first to suffer if there international trade barriers put in place

Two weeks ago I received an e-mail from the building trades union UCATT asking for my views on the draft motion here:

Motion – British Referendum upon Conclusion of EU Exit Negotiations

This…………. believes that there is an unassailable logic in the argument for a second EU referendum upon the conclusion of negotiations by the British Government.

The uncertainty and lack of open discussion makes this all the more important.  This is not a second bite at ‘a poor decision’ but a real necessity if the national interests are to be best protected.

We call upon constituency ………….. Parties to make this an urgent priority and ensure the widest possible debate with potential ‘coalition’ partners.

We also call on ……………………………………to pursue the above with the utmost vigour.

UCATT had initially written this draft to be presented for support to Labour Constituency Parties but had realised that there needs to be built a partnership of the willing if we are to make any sense at all from the Brexit vote.

I am delighted to say that both the Liverpool City Council Liberal Democrat Group and the Liverpool Liberal Democrat Party have both agreed this motion and have offered to work with UCATT and its partners to bring about what we believe to be necessary – a second Referendum to approve, or not, the terms by which we leave the EU.

It is quite clear that there are no easy answers to what is happening nationally, in Europe or worldwide. The Brexit vote has caused many problems which UCATT members are beginning to bear the brunt of. Major capital works have already been shelved or abandoned. That has not resulted in many job losses yet in the building industry but will do when existing contracts reach completion.

Most of the promises of ‘Leavers’ have proven to be built on sand. It was always clear that there was no extra £350 million per week for the NHS. It was always clear that the remaining EU would not let us go out with penalty. This is just obvious. If you are in a club of any sort you reap the advantages. If you are not you don’t.

To add to this lack or precision from the Leavers the May Government clearly hasn’t got a clue how to take things forward. “Brexit means Brexit” is in itself a meaningless statement. Talk to any Brexiteer and you find that although they want to leave they want to end up in different places. Some want a Norwegian style relationship; some want to be in a Customs Union; some want to be in free trade zone; some want some immigration of some sorts and some want some immigration of other sorts. There is no clear, consistent Government policy and when the 3 Ministers in charge fall out they appear to be less the three Musketeers than an expanded Chuckle Brothers. To add insult to injury they are making fools of themselves and our country with many of the things that they are saying to Countries that we need as our partners inside the EU or not.

But the EU situation has been made much, much worse by the election of Trump in America. This morning he announced that he would immediately halt the Pacific Trade agreement forged over three years with 11 other countries when he becomes President. We have now moved from a position of UK absurdity to one of international lunacy. Let us be clear that if countries put up obstacles to free trade just to protect their own industries then growth world-wide will falter and reverse. Some countries are better at doing some things than others. Some have natural advantages; some have locational advantages; some have educational advantages. Whatever those advantages are it is better that we mutually take advantage of them then regress into a past that is not replicable.

If we leave aside the work of the World Trade Organisation or the EU and others such as the Africa Union; if we abandon any attempt to work together we will retreat into a dog eat dog scenario where none will benefit.

We can see that in so many ways in our Country. We are a major producer of cars yet very few of them are made by a company which is British owned. We have tremendous technical expertise to offer both in the design of cars and the manufacturing of them. But we need access to the international markets so that we can sell those products.

This is true not only of products but also of services. The banking industry needs reform and there is a massive greed within it. BUT on the good side it is a major payer of taxes to the Treasury. We are in danger of losing huge numbers of jobs if our banks cannot passport their services to the EU and now possibly if Trump has his way to the rest of the World. Either we do less or our best brains will leave these shores. Either option leads to diminished revenues for the NHS and all other services.

Our academic institutions are world renowned and rightly so. Liverpool has at any one time 10,000 foreign students pouring money into the city’s and the UK’s economy. Many of those students will not come if we are isolationist. Much research work which is undertaken jointly with institutions around the World has already been threatened by potential Brexit- a situation that can only get worse.

That is why UCATT is entirely right to demand a second EU referendum. Things have changed globally since June and things have become clearer. The people of the UK and only the people of the UK as a whole have the right to decide the way forward based on the new circumstances and the new knowledge.

I don’t know what support UCATT are getting within the Labour Party for their campaign. Labour seem to be as confused as the Tories. Some people might consider that a trades union like UCATT and the Lib Dems are strange bed-fellows indeed. But there comes a time when you have to put aside past histories to come to terms with new realities. For UCATT and the Liberal Democrats that time is now. Join with us both to demand a second referendum on the terms for BREXIT.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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