Lib Dems set out roadmap for rejoining EU single market and want to ‘end petty Brexit squabbles’

The proposed policy would ultimately reinstate free movement and trade

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Saturday 12 March 2022 06:15
Comments
<p>European Union flags fly outside the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels </p>

European Union flags fly outside the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels

The Liberal Democrats are to set out a roadmap for Britain to rejoin the European Union single market – reversing the most damaging parts of Brexit.

The party’s spring conference is expected on Saturday to back a policy calling for the UK’s economic reintegration into the EU once “the ties of trust and friendship are renewed”.

The plan is a response to the widespread disruption to trade between Britain and the EU that has followed the government’s “hard” Brexit.

New red tape introduced by Britain leaving the bloc has seen queues of lorries at ports, plummeting exports, and companies quitting the market altogether.

A new policy paper backed by the party’s leadership says that “the best option, bringing most benefits to the UK economy and society, is to seek to join the single market”.

This would give UK businesses full access to the European Economic Area, reintroduce freedom of movement, and resolve outstanding issues with the Northern Ireland protocol, the party says.

The first step of the roadmap calls for “immediate” initiatives to repair the UK-EU relationship, including granting full settled status to EU citizens and ramping up the British presence in Brussels.

The party would then gradually phase in UK-EU cooperation on issues like the Erasmus Plus university programme and the caring for of asylum seekers.

It would then push for a series of reciprocal deals on issues such as the recognition of professional qualifications, fast-tracked work visas, and a veterinary agreement.

Only then, “once the trading relationship between the UK and the EU is deepened, and the ties of trust and friendship are renewed”, would the party seek to join the single market, while remaining outside the European Union itself.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrats’ Europe spokesperson, cited the war in Ukraine as an illustration of why the UK and EU “cannot afford to be disunited”.

“For too long, our ties with Europe have been defined by petty squabbling and the government’s overly ideological approach,” she said. “British people and small businesses who are tangled in red tape are paying the price, and they deserve better.

“The reality is that we need a way forward which works for Britain – one where we stand with our allies, reduce costs for businesses, and make people better off as a result. Our comprehensive roadmap will start a new trading relationship with Europe – with British businesses and families benefiting as a result.”

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey made a pitch this week for a coalition with Labour after the next election – and has previously suggested he would not work with Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

Labour’s Europe policy is less ambitious than that of the Lib Dems, and calls for relatively minor changes to the government’s Brexit deal, such as a new veterinary agreement. The party has declined to back single market membership, or to work to reintroduce freedom of movement, despite a pledge by Sir Keir Starmer during the leadership election to do so.

UK to EU exports fell 12 per cent between January and December last year, compared to the previous year – with supply chain disruption, new trade barriers, and additional red tape caused by Brexit cited as the main reasons.

Sales to the EU dropped more sharply in 2021 than exports to any other country in the world, according to the data. Non-EU exports were also down by 6 per cent, suggesting that the rest of the world is not stepping in to fill the gap.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in