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The Liberal Democrats will fight Brexit. Labour is not doing its job

September 8, 2016 10:32 AM
By Tim Farron MP in The Guardian
Originally published by High Peak Liberal Democrats

Tim Farron in WhitehallMore than two months have passed since the referendum and those of us who campaigned to remain have had some long, hard thinking to do.

For Theresa May and the Conservatives, the painstaking task of delivering Brexit has begun - or at least it should have. For Labour, it is still deciding whether it's even a pro-European party. Owen Smith has made clear he wants it to be, but Jeremy Corbyn's ambivalence was plain for all to see in the referendum campaign, and he has already made clear he wants to see the Brexit process get underway.

The Lib Dems are different. We have always been proudly pro-European. If Labour won't do its job as the opposition to the Conservative Brexit government, then we will.

So on Wednesday I am setting out the Liberal Democrat plan for Britain in Europe. First and foremost, we demand that the British people should have their say on the final deal in a referendum.

To be clear, this would not be a rerun of the last referendum, but an opportunity for the British people to have their say on what comes next. Voting for a departure is not the same as voting for a destination. May's "Brexit means Brexit" mantra actually doesn't mean very much at all. We have still had no answers the big questions about Britain's future. Will our businesses still have access to the single market, with all the benefits it brings for British jobs and our economy? What will happen to freedom of movement, not just for Europeans who want to live and work here but for Brits who want to live and work in Europe? What will happen to the British citizens who already live, work and study on the continent or EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK? What will it mean for the science and research funding that keeps British science at the cutting edge?

These are just some of the hundreds of unresolved questions. Our relationship with Europe affects our jobs and our economy, our security, our ability to tackle terrorism and climate change, and so much more. The British people have a right to know the answers and the right to have their say on whether the deal on offer is right for them, their family, their community and our country.

In the meantime, the government needs an opposition, and Labour has abandoned the field. Under Corbyn the party is hopelessly divided, has no plan for the economy and is clearly unfit for government. The opposition just isn't doing its job.

So if Labour won't, we will. We will be the real voice of opposition to the Conservative Brexit government. We will hold May to account over Brexit, expose the lies that Boris Johnson and co told during the referendum, and make sure that whatever deal they try to do is as good for the UK's economy, security and standing in the world as possible.

And let me be clear: I don't believe there is any deal that May can do that will be better for Britain than being a member of the EU. So when people are given that choice, we will make the case loudly and clearly that we believe Britain should stay in the European Union.

We believed that Britain is better off inside the EU the day before the referendum, we believed it the day after and we believe it today. We may have lost the referendum but that doesn't change what we believe is right for the UK.

People have been let down for decades by short-termist politicians who put the needs of one part of society above the rest. Now, in the wake of the Brexit vote, those divisions are more exposed than ever before. With our country facing huge challenges - from inequality and injustice to an NHS in crisis and an economy in jeopardy - we are left with a reckless, divisive and uncaring Conservative government, and Labour MPs fighting among themselves.

That's why the Liberal Democrats are needed more than ever. We are the real voice of opposition and the only party fighting to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.

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