Tom Brake MP's Conference Speech on Europe

Conference, we shouldn't be having this foreign affairs debate. There is a crisis in Syria, climate change threatens global irreversible change and the USA might be about to elect their own, permatanned, Nigel Farage.

But our foreign policy focus is elsewhere. The angry, mainly white men of British politics, Davis, Fox, Johnson, Farage, Cameron and Corbyn have forced the whole of the government's diplomatic and economic machine down a Brexit cul-de-sac.

But at least it gives me the opportunity to proclaim, I am English, British and European and proud of it.

When I was a teenager, I went to school near Paris.  Some of the teachers were ‘mutilé de guerre’, wounded in the Second World War and in the case of one teacher at least, he had a metal plate in his skull to prove it. They had lived in Europe pre Common Market and European Union. They had experienced war, they understood the point of the EU. It was and still is, about building and preserving peace. That is what the vainglorious Brexiteers have put in jeopardy.

To anyone who says war in Europe will never happen again, remember Bosnia.  I have friends, who live in Croatia, who remember all too well, hiding in cellars when the air raid sirens went off. 1940s? No, 1990s. Zeljko, my friend, served in the Croat army during that war.

How has our new PM responded to the destructive instability Brexit has created for a whole continent? She has appointed the three leading Brexiteers Johnson, Fox, and Davis to lead the Brexit negotiations.

Is she serious? They got us into this fine mess in the first place.

They are already making their suitability for their roles plain.  Fox is leading the charge for British business by blasting them for being fat and lazy and telling them to invest outside the UK. Davis has broken his first major deadline - a pledge that the Prime Minister would have initiated a round of trade negotiations with our major trading partners by 9th Sept. 2016. As for Johnson, he’s had more flip flops on his stance on the EU than he has had flip flops in his Daily Telegraph column on his stance on the EU.

The Prime Minister, since she was anointed by that exclusive electorate, Tory MPs, hasn't had many masterstrokes, but allocating Chevening to be shared between the three Brexiteers was a genius ploy.

I can imagine them sitting around an open fire, swords and lances fanned out on the wall above the stone mantelpiece, bourbon or whisky in hand, each boasting 'mine's bigger than yours'. It is too sickening to contemplate. I doubt even Chevening is capacious enough to accommodate those three massive egos.

And as they down glass after glass, they scoff at how easy it was to hoodwink people into believing post-Brexit, £350 million a week would be pumped into the NHS. At Prime Minister's questions a few weeks ago, I put in a bid that the first two weeks, £700 million, should be reserved for the reconstruction of my hospital, St Helier Hospital. The Prime Minister didn’t even offer a new polymer £5 for St Helier.

Corbyn cannot escape criticism either. While Tim Farron, the Lib Dems and even Cameron were on the ‘Stronger In’ barricades, where was Corbyn? Deliberately sabotaging Labour’s Remain campaign according to leaked emails.

We must of course be critical of Cameron too. This is a man so sure of his powers of persuasion, that he was deluded enough to think that in 4 months he could overturn the previous 30 years of vitriol that he, and senior Tories, had dripped on the EU. Always blaming, never commending.

But people did vote for Brexit and I respect that.

And I respect Parliamentary Sovereignty, the battle cry of many a Brexiteer, and Parliament's right to debate and vote on the Government's proposed negotiating stance before it seeks to invoke Article 50.

And I respect the people's right to vote on our destination at the end of the Article 50 deliberations - a destination which could be the Brexit deal or the status quo. We will fight to ensure people’s voices are heard.

Conference, since the EU referendum, the Lib Dems have not been idle in Parliament.

We have introduced a 10 Minute Rule Bill, ‘EU citizens in the UK (Right to Stay)’ Bill. This seeks to try and force the Government to provide certainty for the millions of hard working EU citizens here, whose lives have been upturned more quickly than you can say “take back control”, and lance the racist boil the Leave Campaign has given permission to grow and fester.

We’ve helped establish an All Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Movement. Both initiatives will help support the 1.5 – 2 million UK citizens in EU countries who face being used as bargaining chips by other EU countries, in the same way the UK Government is using EU citizens here.

Conference, the country is yearning for a party that is open, tolerant and united and equipped to deal with the ructions caused by Brexit. The Tory Party, the nasty party, can never satisfy that need and Labour is too focused on internal purges.

The Liberal Democrats are that party. Join us.

Conference support the motion.

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