• South Staffs Lib Dems


by Chris Fewtrell

Economic ruin, diplomatic isolation and government by anonymous briefing from unelected, not very special advisers. The morning news paints a stark picture of Britain on the brink. The Institute for Fiscal Studies’ latest report on the disastrous consequences of a No Deal landed hard on the heels of the latest rant to emerge from “a senior Downing Street source”. Given its crass, bully boy tone, most commentators are pointing the finger at Dominic Cummings. Predicting a No Deal outcome by the end of the week, the texts to ‘The Spectator’ magazine make all manner of crazed, empty threats to the rest of Europe - including the deliberate disruption of EU business - threats they must realise will only harden resolve in Brussels and make any kind of trade arrangement further down the line more difficult to achieve. Thankfully, like all sensible governments, it appears the EU27 do not intend to negotiate with terrorists.

The absurdity and arrogance the messages betray are jaw dropping. Warning of dire consequences for countries who won’t do our government’s bidding, the missives utterly fail to recognise how enfeebled Britain will be post-Brexit. We will be the seven stone weakling in any bullying scenario with the EU. They will be kicking sand in our faces, not vice-versa. Because our economy will be shattered by a No Deal withdrawal, the IFS report today predicting UK debt would soar to a fifty year high, with borrowing totalling £100 billion and debt amounting to an eye-watering 90 per cent of national income. In terms of security co-operation - cited as one of our major levers of influence - we will be the losers in any standoff. According to the Royal United Services Institute we will lose access to over 40 vital security databases, such as the Schengen Information System and the European Criminal Records Information System. We will no longer be members of Europol or be able to exercise the European Arrest Warrant. Former Head of MI6, Sir. John Sawyers, summed it up perfectly when saying “Any form of Brexit makes our security more difficult to manage… the harder the Brexit, the greater the damage. No Deal would be really, really damaging for this country.”

Yet this is the course the present Prime Minister and his eccentric, monomaniacal adviser have set. Perhaps it was always the plan, given the amount of money speculators who backed Leave have staked upon a No Deal outcome that would crash the economy and make them a hefty profit in the process. Crispin Odey funded both the Leave campaign and backed Johnson’s leadership bid. On the night we voted out, he made £220 million, having bet against our economy, profiting as ordinary people’s jobs and livelihoods were thrown into peril. In the tantrum texts, the Tories promise to head into an election where they will make a virtue of No Deal, blaming everyone but themselves for the failure to negotiate an agreement and pedalling a simplistic message, reflecting their utter contempt for the intelligence of the average voter.

But we in the Liberal Democrats believe the electorate is more than capable of looking beyond patronising, xenophobic slogans and pre-election bribes. We believe they will see this strategy, that will leave us economically dependent on the whims of an increasingly erratic US President, for the madness that it is. The IFS report demonstrates that Javid’s Spending Review consists of nothing more than pie-crust promises, made to be broken the morning after any Tory election victory, with the economy expected to flatline for at least two years after a No Deal departure. The IFS Director put it thus “An economy that turns out smaller than expected can, in the long run, support less public spending than expected, not more.” Johnson’s sudden conversion to ending austerity is therefore exposed as yet another barefaced lie.

Our economy is already smaller thanks to Brexit. Standard and Poors, the international credit rating agency, says we have lost £6.6 billion in economic activity per quarter since the Brexit vote. The Chief Economist at Citi concludes “The UK economy is already around £60 billion smaller than it would’ve been without a vote to Leave the European Union, with the UK missing out on a bout of global growth… A No Deal Brexit – even with a substantial stimulus – could mean no growth for the next two years… Remaining in the EU would be the best scenario for economic growth in the next few years.” So the message is clear. Our future prosperity would be massively enhanced by revoking Article 50, as the Liberal Democrats have pledged to do on taking office.

And that day cannot come too soon. The government has never been serious about getting a deal – as evidenced by its ludicrous two border ‘alternative’ to the backstop, at all times dependent on the sufferance of the DUP. They knew full well the EU could never sign-up to such a hare-brained scheme. They’ve doubled down on the inflammatory, provocative rhetoric both in Westminster and Brussels in pursuit of their No Deal exit, whether on October 31st or via an election. Johnson will happily threaten our economic future for generations to come, in order to please his financial backers and the swivel-eyed loons who’ve taken over his party. No price is too high to keep him in the job he has always coveted. He will happily alienate our closest friends and neighbours in a dangerous world, even though an expansionist Russia and China, not to mention rogue states like North Korea and Iran, stand ready to test our resolve at any moment. The latest noises from Downing Street, combined with the Institute of Fiscal Studies’ impartial report, absolutely confirm this slash and burn approach to our economy and diplomacy. In combination with Labour’s “all things to all men”, Brexit non-policy, it means a vote for the Liberal Democrats at the next election has never been more vital if we are to protect this country’s interests in the years that lie ahead.

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