The Liberal Democrats set out a roadmap to join the EU single market

The Liberal Democrats must draw up a roadmap for Britain to join the European Union’s single market – undoing the most damaging parts of Brexit.

The party’s Spring Conference is expected to back a policy on Saturday calling for the UK’s economic reintegration with the EU once “links of trust and friendship are renewed”.

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

The new bureaucracy introduced by leaving the EU has seen lines of lorries at ports, plummeting exports and companies leaving the market altogether.

A new policy paper backed by the party leadership says ‘the best option, bringing the most benefit to the UK economy and society, is to seek to join the single market’.

It would give the UK full access to the European Economic Area, reintroduce freedom of movement and solve problems with the Brexit deal in Northern Ireland, the party said.

The first stage of the roadmap calls for ‘immediate’ initiatives to mend UK-EU relations, including granting full settlement status to EU citizens and strengthening the UK presence in Brussels.

The party would then gradually build cooperation between the UK and the EU on issues such as the Erasmus Plus university program and cooperation regarding asylum seekers.

He would then push for a series of reciprocal agreements on issues such as the recognition of professional qualifications, accelerated work visas and a veterinary agreement.

Only then “once the UK-EU trade relationship is deepened and the bonds of trust and friendship are renewed” will the party seek to join the single market.

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

“For too long, our ties to Europe have been defined by petty squabbles and the government’s overly ideological approach,” she said.

“Britons and small businesses who are mired in bureaucracy are paying the price and they deserve better.

“The reality is that we need a way forward that works for Britain – a way in which we stand with our allies, cut costs for business and make people better off in the process.

“Our comprehensive roadmap will begin a new trading relationship with Europe – from which British businesses and families will benefit.”

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has argued for a coalition with Labor after the next election – and suggested he will not work with Boris Johnson’s Tories.

Labour’s EU policy is less ambitious than the Liberals’ and calls for relatively minor changes to the government’s Brexit deal, such as a new veterinary deal. The party refused to support joining the single market or free movement.

UK exports to the EU fell 12% between January and December last year, compared to the previous year, the main reasons being supply chain disruption, new trade barriers and the additional red tape caused by Brexit.

Sales to the EU fell more sharply in 2021 than exports to any other country in the world, the data shows. Non-EU exports also fell by 6%, suggesting that the rest of the world is not stepping in to fill the void.

Comments are closed.