Below is a letter that Baroness Sarah Ludford and I recently sent to the Prime Minister ahead of her speech in Florence.
Dear Prime Minister,
In Florence on Friday, you have the opportunity to set out an approach to Brexit which would command the majority support of both 17 million Leave supporters and the 16 million Remain supporters (whose views have been unrepresented and disregarded by your Government since 23rd June 2016).
If you are intent on pursuing a self-harming Brexit, which you and a majority of your Cabinet Ministers thought would hurt the UK’s interests before the EU referendum (the damage that will be caused has become even clearer since the Referendum), then the following should be the key planks of the UK’s negotiating stance from now on.
- Clamp down on dissent within the Cabinet
- Seek to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union
- Try to secure the greatest possible degree of Freedom of Movement
- Ring-fence the negotiation on EU citizens’ rights
- Indicate how much the UK is willing to contribute to settle liabilities and participate in EU projects
- Rule out the so-called ‘No Deal’ option which would have devastating consequences for UK Plc
- Announce you will legislate for a ‘Vote on the Facts’ (a referendum on the deal) before the UK leaves the EU
Boris Johnson’s attempt to force the Government into adopting a hard Brexit stance, 15 months after the Brexit vote and with just 12 months to go before the terms of any deal have to have been agreed, has left many of our friends in Europe astounded at the lack of unity and purpose shown by the UK Government. Such dissent is causing serious harm to the UK’s prospects in the negotiations. Boris Johnson must be sacked and other Ministers put on notice that they will be dealt with harshly if they destabilise the UK’s negotiating stance.
Finally of significant importance is the Vote on the Deal. This is the Government’s only chance of uniting Leave and Remain voters. The ‘facts’ claimed by the Leave campaign during the EU referendum have now, without exception, been proven to be lies: £350 million for the NHS, new trade deals would be delivered within a couple of years, no need for a Settlement Bill, no risk at the Northern Ireland border etc. Allowing people to vote, with a much clearer understanding of the consequences of leaving or remaining, would give the Vote on the Deal credibility the 23rd June 2016 vote now lacks.
Rt Hon Tom Brake MP, Lib Dem Brexit Spokesman in the House of Commons
Baroness Sarah Ludford, Lib Dem Shadow Brexit minister, House of Lords