• chrisfewtrell1969


Updated: Nov 1, 2019

The General Election’s upon us and so we move into the next, perhaps decisive phase of the fight against Brexit. I know an election in the lead up to Christmas is the last thing many of you will have wanted – it’s a busy enough time as it is, without candidates jostling with carol singers on your doorstep! However, the alternative was to let Boris Johnson – and the 19 Labour MPs who backed the new Withdrawal Agreement in the Commons – take us out of the European Union, on terms even worse than Theresa May’s car crash of a deal.

We simply could not let that happen. Far from being a triumph of diplomacy, the agreement our Prime Minister obtained is a masterpiece of capitulation. In terms of Northern Ireland, he effectively gave the EU what they’d asked for in 2018, a Northern Ireland only backstop which Theresa May had said “No UK Prime Minister could ever agree to.” This was a view echoed by Johnson himself at the DUP conference later that year. Small wonder Arlene Foster and her colleagues feel betrayed.

Worse still, Johnson’s deal moved the commitment that environmental protections, workers’ rights, and food standards would remain in line with those of the EU out of the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement and into the Political Declaration, which is little more than a statement of intent. It not only means he envisages much looser ties with the EU going forward than his predecessor did, it also leaves him free to tear up these rights and protections in a bonfire of regulations. It allows him to put our NHS and chlorinated chicken on the table when he goes to Washington, cap in hand, to strike a trade agreement with Donald Trump. And don’t hold your breath for a good deal from the ‘America First’ President, not when he knows he has his foot on our throat.

Only today, the respected, independent think tank, The National Institute of Economic and Social Research revealed the economic impact of Boris Johnson’s deal. Within ten years, our economy will be £70 billion worse off than it would’ve been had we stayed in the EU. That’s the equivalent of £1,100 per year for every man, woman and child in this country. This is Johnson’s triumph, to suppress growth, to shrink our economy. Now we understand why the Government refused to publish any analysis of the Bill’s likely effects. Now we know why he wanted to ram the legislation through the House of Commons in double quick time, thereby denying MPs the ability to properly scrutinise his pitiful, back of an envelope proposals.

It is time for the Brexit madness – which has already cost our nation £66 billion in economic activity and more than £6 billion in No Deal preparations – to stop. Like you, we Liberal Democrats are heartily sick of it. The endless wrangling, the waste of time, money and resources on a project born of lies, and which can only make us poorer. We recognise, even if Brexit happens, it won’t be ‘done’. Far from it. It took Canada, a much smaller economy than ours, seven years to strike a simple trade deal with the EU. And that was with goodwill on all sides. So, to borrow Johnson’s mountaineering analogy, we are merely in the foothills of Brexit, with the peak shrouded in uncertainty and the long, long climb fraught with peril at every turn. It will dominate our politics and our airwaves for years to come. And we will be worse off at the end of it.

So we must change course. But don’t look to Labour to do it. Even assuming Jeremy Corbyn could convince enough voters he would make a credible Prime Minister, Labour’s policy is a complete muddle and a sure-fire recipe for more Brexit stalemate. Why? Because their approach from the very start has been one of calculated ambiguity. They want to appear to be Leavers in Leave voting constituencies and Remainers in Remain voting areas. It is a stance as devoid of sense as it is of principle. They say they would go back to a Brussels fed up to the back teeth with the UK’s vacillations and negotiate ANOTHER deal. Then they would return in triumph and put that deal to a Referendum. Except they don’t know whether they’d back their own deal or support Remain in that vote! It’s bonkers and gives the EU absolutely no incentive to offer Corbyn the sweetheart deal he craves. Labour is trying to be all things to all people and is no use to anyone!

That’s why I urge all of you who care for the economic wellbeing of our country, now and for decades to come, to lend your support to the Liberal Democrats. Ideally we would’ve liked a People’s Vote to decide this issue, but the Brexiters and Lexiters were determined not to allow you, the people, to have a final, informed say. Well we are now giving you that opportunity, by vowing to Revoke Article 50, thereby putting Remain on the ballot paper on December 12th. If we win a Commons majority, that will give us an overwhelming mandate, decisively signalling that opinion in the country has shifted and Brexit must be stopped.

The voters of South Staffordshire can be a big part of that process. Thirty-five per cent of us in this constituency voted Remain in 2016. With people changing their mind, and younger voters (overwhelmingly Remainers) coming onto the electoral roll every day, those numbers are swelling. But we need to gather this Remain sentiment in one place, under one banner. The Liberal Democrats received the largest number of votes of any notionally Remain party in South Staffs at the European Elections. We are also the natural home for traditional Conservative voters who – unlike Gavin Williamson - cannot endorse the extreme economic recklessness of Brexit, and those Labour voters who despair at their party’s lurch to the Left. We are the only party committed to stopping Brexit dead in its tracks, on DAY ONE of a Jo Swinson government.

Together, we can send a message that the people of South Staffordshire have had enough of Brexit. Together, we can demand a return to government from the centre, a moral centre a million miles away from the grubby manoeuvring and divisive language of our Prime Minister. Together, we can start to heal our fractured country. Together, we can do something amazing. Join me.


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