By Tom Brake MP
Three years on from the 2016 referendum and we are still in the EU. This in itself is a huge achievement. It is also a fact that I find myself reminding journalists and political figures of fairly frequently.
In three years we have come a long way. On the devastating morning after the referendum, I was numb. It felt like it was a foregone conclusion that Brexit would happen, and our country would inevitably have to undergo the associated irreparable damage. Very quickly it became clear that wasn’t the case.
The day after that referendum, then Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron announced that our party would campaign to give the people the final say on whatever deal came out of the Brexit negotiations. This final say would ensure that people were happy with the deal and that if they weren’t, we could stay in the EU.
Since then we have campaigned tirelessly to secure that people’s vote. Our growing number of members and supporters have been passionate and inspirational in their resolve. Our party is unapologetically pro-EU and we have fought tooth and nail for the last three years to keep the UK’s place in Europe.
We have knocked on doors, set up street stalls, taken part in local debates. We have had a huge presence at one of the largest marches the UK has ever seen. At every stage of the arduous Parliamentary process, we have tabled amendments for a people’s vote. Liberal Democrat MPs have at times marched through the voting lobbies alone, defiant, knowing that we cannot bear to look back and feel we could have done more.
Increasingly, our voices have been heard. More and more parliamentarians from all parties have joined us. The last people’s vote amendment received more votes in favour of it than any other option ever had – including the Prime Minister’s deal. This momentum is huge and it’s growing all the time.
It’s become clear that Brexit is not what we were promised. The process has been messy, costly, and long. The deal we were presented with was shoddy. Now potential new Prime Ministers are suggesting that the best option is to crash out of the EU. Something no one was advocating in 2016. Liberal Democrats remain certain that the UK belongs at the heart of the EU.
We have been unwavering in this belief for three years and longer. We have always been internationalist, open, democratic. We have always believed we should be tearing down walls, not building them.
In the recent Local and European Elections, Liberal Democrats shouted this message loud and clear. Bollocks to Brexit was in bold across our EU manifesto. It paid off. We secured incredible results in both elections and now have a strong base of new members, Councillors, and MEPs ready to keep fighting the good fight.
The immediate battle in Westminster is now focused on stopping Conservative efforts to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal. We know how catastrophic this would be for our NHS, jobs and the environment. We will block the dangerous antics of the likes of Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Esther McVey and meanwhile the fight to give the people the final say continues.
We are closer than ever to stopping Brexit and Liberal Democrats will not rest until we do. Three years on from that 2016 referendum, we are still in the EU and our voices are growing stronger and louder as each day passes. Liberal Democrats won't let up until we have won this battle for the heart and future of our country.