Obsessed with Europe? You should be!

European_flag_wavyThis EU flag flies better when it is alongside the St George’s Cross of England and the Union Flag of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

I was out canvassing in Childwall the other night when a lady on the doorstep suggested that she thought the Lib Dems were obsessing over the EU and Brexit. Interestingly she was voting for us and she thought the EU and Brexit was important but wanted to know why it is so much a feature of our local and national campaigns.

The answer is that at the heart of the whole future of our country are the discussions about:

  1. Whether we will or will not leave the EU after what was an advisory referendum of the people last June.
  2. What terms we will leave on.

Look at what the Tories are suggesting. Incredibly they haven’t actually costed their manifesto proposals but suggest that any additional costs (and there are a lot of pledges) will be met from growth. What growth? The figure for GDP announced today on a quarter by quarter basis is just +0.2%. In other words allowing for population growth the real annual growth per head GDP is about 0.4%. Not a lot there to pay for the increasing problems of the NHS and social care never mind anything else.

On the other hand Labour are promising to meet most of their manifesto commitments out of higher taxation on top earners and on corporation tax. BUT many high earners in the banking, IT and Hi-tech sectors are already leaving the Country. Many FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies are contemplating a move of their HQs to mainland Europe dependent on the negotiations. So less high earners and less corporation tax are likely to follow from Brexit.

But in fact every area is likely to suffer:

  • Northern Ireland will suffer because of the hard border that will be introduced with the Republic. This is already happening.
  • The NHS will suffer because the new doctors and consultants that we need are already going back to Europe because of employment uncertainty and new ones are not following in their wake. This is already happening
  • Our Universities will suffer as they lose their place in research collaboration, the Erasmus exchange of students and less foreign students choose to come here. This is already happening.
  • New employment growth will slow and reverse as companies either delay capital decisions because of the uncertainties of Brexit or will choose mainland Europe because of their position in a huge EU market of 540 million people. This is already happening. This is already happening
  • The Port of Liverpool will suffer as companies choose to land European based produce in mainland ports to avoid taxes and bureaucracy even for entre-pot trading. This is already happening.
  • Infrastructure projects like HS2 and housing will slow down as the tax revenues are reduced. This is already happening.

So why are the Lib Dems the only ones who are obsessed?  Because the leadership of both the Labour and Tory Parties are believers in the isolation of the UK. Retention of our Single Market status and the free movement of Labour which we so badly need are minor items to them compared to the jingoistic rhetoric that they both share.

Corbyn does believe in internationalism but not the EU. His rhetoric for 40+ years has been for an international socialist utopia where the market is a danger and the EU as currently constituted a rich man’s club.

The Tories think that the rest of the World is waiting to embrace them with open trading arms. This is despite the USA saying that negotiations will have to wait until the EU deal is done. Commonwealth Countries in Asia and Canada have made clear that the EU is a much more important prize than the so-called ‘Mother Country’.

When it comes to trade and money it’s the size of the market that counts most and its proximity and not some out-dated notion based on former Imperial possessions.

Complicating the matter is the undoubted fact that the other two main Parties are irredeemably split. Ken Clark and Tony Blair have more in common with the Lib Dems on this crucial issue than many if not most in their own Parties. The splits are obvious. The 3 women Labour MPs for our area voted against the triggering of Article 50 while the 2 male Labour MPs went into the Lobby behind Corbyn to trigger it.

Theresa May says one thing about the single market and Brexit and then slaps down the 3 muppets, Johnson, Hammond and Davies when they say things that often hugely contradict her. I suspect that the days of at least two of them are now numbered!

So whether you like it or not we will continue to champion the EU. We will do it philosophically because we believe it to be right. We will do it pragmatically because we know how much of our Country depends on it.

Sometimes obsessions are right and obsessives are doing the right thing. That’s certainly true for the Lib Dems today!

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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