Lib Dems continue to call for General Elections
On a pledge to stop Brexit, the Liberal Democrats want to offer voters the chance to call for General Elections, writes Catherine Bearder MEP, Liberal Democrat Member of European Parliament for South East England. Echoing the thoughts of the leader of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron, she argues that Britain must carry on working with its nearest neighbours to tackle common challenges
It’s been a difficult time for all of us who believe in the European ideals of cooperation and trade between nations, building peace and security, protecting the environment and promoting cultural exchange for both young and old. The vote to Leave the EU by the British people must be respected, or we risk diminishing public faith in democracy. But it is clear that this vote stemmed from a variety of factors, many of which have nothing to do with the EU membership. It also followed a campaign packed with lies and distortions, which followed on from decades of misinformation by much of the UK media. As if the result of the referendum wasn’t bad enough, the rapid resignations and disappearance of many of those responsible for this debacle was undignified and irresponsible, leaving the UK the laughing stock of the world.
On my return to the European Parliament the week following the vote, I was overwhelmed by support from colleagues from across the EU. But the result will have a profound effect on the rest of the EU: the balance of power, continuation of current projects and overall direction. Some in the UK may feel that perhaps the longer we wait, the better the outcome may be. However, in reality, the remaining members of the EU are anxious to get on with planning for their own future. I am concerned that the longer we leave them in limbo, the worse the deal we will get eventually. The stark truth is we don’t have a lot of cards in our hand at the moment.
To make matters worse, a number of leading Tory Brexiteers have been elevated by Theresa May to the highest offices of the state. We have seen Brexit minister David Davis pledging to create a free trade area ten times larger than the EU, which would be one and half times the size of the entire global economy. Unless he’s counting on a boost in interplanetary trade, even the most optimistic Brexiteer will struggle to explain how that could be achieved. And now we have Andrea Leadsom, who once had to ask if climate change was real, in charge of protecting our environment and facing the unenviable task of explaining to UK farmers how they will be able to thrive in a post-Brexit Britain. But, of all the changes in government that Mrs May have made, the most damaging of all was to give the Foreign and Commonwealth office to Boris Johnson. Whether as a journalist or leading Brexit campaigner, he has made a career out of inventing myths about Brussels. Now, he is expected to play a leading role seeking cooperation in the upcoming negotiations from his counterparts in capitals across Europe. Why should European leaders trust a man who has such scant respect for the truth? This appointment risks doing further damage to Britain’s standing in Europe and the world.
In this difficult context, there was never a more urgent time for a moderate, internationalist and centrist party. That is why I am immensely proud of the response of the Liberal Democrats and of our leader Tim Farron. We have been clear that Britain must carry on working with its nearest neighbours to tackle common challenges such as protecting the environment, tackling cross-border crime and managing globalisation. That is why we will be fighting for the closest possible relationship with the rest of the EU to continue, most vitally full access to the single market. Secondly, it cannot be right that a handful of Conservative MPs decide what our future relationship with the EU will look like. This is a momentous decision that must be put to the public for a renewed mandate, particularly as Leave campaigners failed to agree on an alternative to EU membership throughout the referendum campaign.
It isn’t just the Liberal Democrats who think that a change of circumstances as great as these should require a General Election. Both Theresa May and David Cameron called on Gordon Brown to go to the country and get a mandate for his new government back in 2008. The Liberal Democrats will continue to call for an election to have a democratic debate and mandate for the profound changes to our country that lie ahead.
The people of Britain deserve no less.