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  • Tim Farron
    Article: Apr 14, 2017

    Real incomes down - Tim Farron responds

    Following news that wages fell behind inflation in February, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has said that the government can no longer deny that British workers are in the grip of a growing Brexit incomes squeeze.

    Tim Farron said:

    "Workers are now suffering a real fall in living standards. This is not a claim, it is a fact, and the blame lies firmly at the doors of Downing Street.

    "The economy has been kept on the life support machine of consumer credit, but people are now clearly in the vice-like grip of a Brexit squeeze. A falling pound and rising prices are depressing sales, and wages simply can't keep pace with inflation.

    "Even at this late hour the Conservative Brexit government could steer the economy away from the rocks by announcing it wants Britain to remain in the single market. Philip Hammond knows what has to be done, and it is about time he laid it on the line to the Prime Minister.

    "If the Chancellor and the governor of the Bank of England both know you can't have a strong economy and a hard Brexit, why is the government steering the economy to disaster? The Conservatives have lost the right to call themselves the party of business and they have lost the last shred of economic credibility."

  • Tim Farron
    Article: Apr 13, 2017
    By Tim Farron Lib Dem leader and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in The Guardian

    In the lead-up to Brexit, we should be strengthening ties with key allies. The foreign secretary has shown himself incapable and must be sidelined

  • Polling station
    Article: Apr 13, 2017
    By Antony Hook in Liberal Democrat Voice

    In 3 weeks most of the UK has a chance to vote in an election.

    The 2017 elections are a national opportunity to push back against hard Brexit. Unlike so much else that supporters and opponents of Brexit can cite as evidence of public support for their side, the success or failure of each side is measurable, public and real.

  • Susan Kramer
    Article: Apr 13, 2017
    By Paul Walter in Liberal Democrat Voice

    Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Susan Kramer, has reacted to news from the Office for National Statistics that food prices saw the biggest increase for three years in the year to March:

    The Brexit squeeze of a falling pound and rising import costs is hitting families across Britain, with higher prices in the shops denting incomes and leaving us all poorer.

  • .uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2009/8/12/1250093214292/Vince-Cable-001.jpg
    Article: Apr 12, 2017

    Vince Cable has warned that young people in Manchester are being robbed of opportunities by the Government's push for a hard Brexit and that Labour is failing to stand up for them.

    The former Business Secretary today attended a drop-in session for young people to discuss careers and training at The Place, a community centre in Fallowfield, before campaigning alongside the Liberal Democrat candidate for Manchester Gorton Jackie Pearcey.

  • Susan Kramer
    Article: Apr 11, 2017

    Food prices saw the biggest increase for three years in the year to March, figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed.

    Food and drink prices rose by 1.2% and overall consumer inflation remained at 2.3%. Meanwhile wage growth is expected to slow, leaving people worse off in real terms .

  • George Smid, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for South Holland and the Deepings at the 2015 general election.
    Article: Apr 7, 2017
    By George Smid in Lincolnshire Reporter

    Leaving the EU was offered as the magical solution to all of Britain's problems. None of them as emotional as immigration. None of them as divisive as the difference between 'the people' and 'the elite'. The elite talked about the economy. The people talked about their neighbourhood.

    Living in Lincolnshire you might recognise this: English kids are a minority in the school; you've been treated in a hospital where everybody from the consultant down is obviously not English, the streets are full of foreign speaking people, you have nothing common with your neighbours. High street shops metamorphosed into 'Sklep'.

  • Anita Day
    Article: Apr 5, 2017
    By Anita Day in Postcard from a Lincolnshire Liberal

    Last Wednesday was a sad day for many people. For those of us concerned about Theresa May's decision to trigger Article 50, we had feared that day ever since 24 June last year.

    Of course, we had always known that it would come. But at various times, some of us had started to hope that perhaps it wouldn't actually happen… perhaps the legal challenges would halt, or at least delay, the process?.... perhaps Labour would finally vote against the government (and in line with their rhetoric about safeguards)?….perhaps the realisation that triggering Article 50 might lead to the break-up of the UK would cause the government to re-consider?...... perhaps the march of 100,000 people in central London (shockingly almost ignored by the BBC) would weaken Tory resolve? Or at least, if it had to happen, perhaps the government wouldn't go down the UKIP-inspired 'hardest of all' Brexit routes? But of course, they did! And for those of us incredulous that the ministers in charge of negotiations are as ill-informed and ill-prepared as they seem to be, it was hard to accept.

    So we mourn, and wonder what we should do now. Some say we should continue to fight to overturn the decision; others that we should accept the reality and focus on making the best of a very bad job. Lib Dem policy is that the people should vote on the terms of the final Brexit deal in another referendum. It's a good idea in many respects- I believe many Leavers didn't understand the implications - but I worry about how practical it would be, given that a 'no' vote could potentially mean more uncertainty - would we then revoke Article 50, leave the EU without any deal, or force the government to re-negotiate?

    I also worry that a majority of the British people - who have only a passing interest in politics and do not follow events avidly on Twitter as I do - may now become bored of the whole thing, and start to 'move on'. If they do, they might not engage with a second referendum even if it were called, and in the meantime, we end up being seen, not as the party leading the Remain cause, but the party who become irrelevant because that's all we talk about!

    It's a tricky problem, and I don't know the answer. I will, however, say that in my campaign literature for the Stamford West County Council elections, I do not mention the word 'Brexit' once (although there are vague references to the 'uncertain world' now facing our children!) That's primarily because it's a local election and I want to focus on the local issues where I think we can make a difference to people's lives. But it's also because I reason that Remainers already know where we stand, & I want us to be known for other things apart from just Brexit. Am I right to have taken that approach? I've no idea… but time will tell, I guess!

    Take care, and speak soon


    PS: If you are interested in any of my previous Postcards, you can find them here: https://southlincslibdems.org.uk/en/page/postcards-from-a-lincolnshire-liberal

    Membership Development
    South Lincs Liberal Democrats
    Tel: 07410 709338 / @AnitadayA / FB: Anita.Day.LD
  • Vince Cable
    Article: Apr 5, 2017
    By Vince Cable in The Guardian

    The government is ardently pursuing bilateral deals with the subcontinent and other non-EU countries - but why not just do business with our neighbours?

    I still recall the stinging rebuffs I received as a teenager pursuing some beautiful young woman with whom I was besotted: "Can't you take a hint?" The British government is similarly failing to take the hint that the Indian authorities are not going to succumb to ardent wooing for a bilateral trade deal. A few months ago Theresa May was despatched from Delhi in a rather humiliating manner, and either the message has not yet reached the Treasury or the PM wants to see her chancellor sent packing in a similar way.

    Throughout the coalition government, great efforts were made to open up the Indian market to British exports and, at the same time, to secure an EU-India trade agreement similar to the one negotiated with Korea. In his first major overseas visit, David Cameron took me, several other cabinet ministers and a trade delegation. I went four times in all. The Indians were unfailingly polite and perhaps flattered by the attention. But British exports remained a pathetically small share of Indian imports.

    In addition, the trade agreement made no progress for reasons which had little to do with the rest of the EU and a lot to do with Britain. The British were pressing for better access for banking and other services but - thanks to May at the Home Office - maintained a consistently restrictive and negative approach to visas for Indian visitors and overseas students. India's modest request under what is called Mode 4 relating to visas for IT specialists was firmly rebuffed. The message to India that "we want your money but we don't want your people" was, to say the least, not a great pitch.

    And post-Brexit, the pitch has remained the same but has become increasingly desperate, a point the Indians haven't been slow to notice.

    More generally, the government's post-Brexit obsession with non-EU bilateral trade deals represents a touchingly naive faith in what can be accomplished through trade diplomacy to offset the certain losses which will come from raising trade barriers against our own exporters by withdrawing from the EU single market and customs union. After Brexit, we shall face tariff and non-tariff barriers which previously did not exist, not just in the 27 countries of the EU but the 50-odd countries of Africa, the Caribbean, Pacific, the Mediterranean region and elsewhere with countries that the EU currently has preferential arrangements with.

    The government's hope appears to be that other countries of significance - the US, China, India, Japan, Australia - will agree to reduce their trade barriers to UK exporters of goods and services to such an extent as to offset, and more, the self-inflicted losses in Europe.

    This has even led Liam Fox to the Philippines, where he is seeking a trade deal from its leader Rodrigo Duterte. When our trade minister is reduced to soliciting trade deals from a man whose main claim to fame is, allegedly, organising death squads, you understand how desperate the government really is.

    The one serious argument for believing that progress may be possible is that there are some sectors, notably temperate and tropical agriculture, where EU, non-UK, vested interests have stood in the way of a wider multilateral agreement in the WTO or bilaterally. But that has to be weighed against the far greater bargaining power of the EU as against the UK acting alone and the simple, practical, point that it is easier to trade with neighbours than countries on the other side of the world.

    For reasons I have already given, India will play hard to get. China may see advantage in "divide and rule" in its dealings with the west, reversing its own historical experience. The UK may provide a useful foil in undermining the EU 27 and the US on issues like China's recognition as a "market economy".

    But the areas where there is potential for closer links with China - infrastructure investment in the UK, creative industries, use of the City for renminbi trades - do not require a bilateral trade agreement. Japan is deeply discomfited by Brexit, having hitherto seen the UK as a platform for its companies to export to the EU. And it isn't at all clear why the difficult barriers of language and business culture, which inhibit exports to Japan, will yield to a British trade offensive when they haven't before.

    The Home Office message to India that "we want your money but don't want your people" was not a great pitch.

    Then there is what is rather archly called the Anglosphere: the handful of countries where people sound like us Brits. No doubt, Australian and New Zealand farmers would welcome an opportunity to reverse the barriers thrown up against them 40 years ago. But that, and a dwindling pool of colonial sentiment, don't take us very far.

    These countries have long since adapted to regional markets dominated by the US and China and British exporters will find them in no hurry to revert to our product and process standards, long since abandoned. Canada has only just reached, painfully, a bilateral agreement with the EU and has absolutely no intention of tearing it up to do more with the UK.

    That leaves Trump's America. A lot hangs on keeping the president's attention for several years on what is, for him, a peripheral issue. ; on his ability to steer a deal through Congress (and a less friendly Congress in two years' time); on successful attempts to neutralise the influence of "economic nationalists" like Steve Bannon, who will have noticed that the UK runs a trade surplus with the US; and on UK negotiators being more successful than anyone else's in finding a way through a morass of state-level, non-tariff barriers and buy-America preferences. Come to think of it, why not maintain the relationship with our neighbours instead?

  • Catherine Bearder MEP
    Article: Mar 30, 2017
    By Catherine Bearder MEP in Huffpost Politics

    If I thought I had the ear of Mrs May this is what I would have written to her this day as she takes the country down the most dangerous of paths:

    Dear Prime Minister,

    This weekend I had the pleasure of joining the tens of thousands of people marching in London against your vision of a Britain after Brexit.