Nick Sandford, Lib Dem group leader, Peterborough City Council:
The favourite catch phrase of our new prime minister, Mrs May, seems to be: “Brexit means Brexit”. But when questioned further, it appears she has little idea what Brexit actually means.
Yes we had a referendum. And I have to admit our side lost, albeit by quite a small margin. The referendum decision says that in principle a majority of UK voters want to leave the EU. We have agreed on a departure....but no-one seems to know what the destination is likely to be.
The High Court has decided that the Government must allow a vote in Parliament on triggering Article 50: which starts the negotiation process for the UK’s departure from the EU. Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, has said that Lib Dem MPs will oppose the Government in the vote on Article 50, unless they agree to allow the British people a second referendum, this time on the terms of our exit from the EU, when they have been negotiated. The people have had a vote on departure from the EU: now we say they should also have a vote on our ultimate destination.
Lib Dems continue to believe UK would be better off in the EU: the institution that has delivered peace and prosperity in Europe for the past 50 years and more. But in a city like Peterborough, with the third fastest growing economy in the UK and with extensive trade with other EU countries, we believe that as a bare minimum we must continue to have access to free trade within the EU Single Market.
Some Tories, UKippers and fellow travellers live
in a dream world where a UK outside the EU can
negotiate separate free trade deals with France, Germany and a few other wealthy EU states. But every statement by every EU leader says this can’t happen and indeed the terms of membership of the Single Market require that it can’t happen. There is also no incentive for the other EU states to go easy on UK in the negotiations: they want to deter other states from following from heading for the Exit door.
It’s time for Mrs May’s Government to come clean with the voters. Tell us what your aims are from the Brexit negotiations. Do you want us to remain in the Single Market or pull out
of it? How “hard” or “soft” do you want the Brexit to be?
At the end of the day, your party gave us an unnecessary referendum, you have got the result that many of you wanted. Now you need to show us a clear way forward.