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Supporting an unelected Prime Minister on a half-baked plan for Britain’s future is not way forward

February 2, 2017 2:13 PM
By Nick Hopkinson, chair of the Liberal Democrat European Group in Shoreham Herald

The article below is a letter to the editor of the Shoreham Herald, which appeared in tioday's edition and was written by Nick Hopkinson, LDEG Chair:

Dear Sir,

Your editorial (Crucial role in Brexit - 26 January) asks readers to make a success of the Prime Minister's January 2017 Brexit statement. Whatever the prevailing policy of the Government of the day, we all want to advance our country's success. However, demanding we support an unelected Prime Minister speaking outside Parliament proposing what she knows to be a half-baked plan for Britain's future is not best for Sussex.

Your editorial notes the British people have decided. Yet there remains no consensus on Brexit and what it means. The British people also made a decision in the 1975 referendum, and by a far larger majority then, to remain. With the narrow majority last June, it is clear there is no 'settled will' of the British people as to how we associate with our European neighbours and our largest export market. Given the losers of the 1975 referendum did not stop trying to reverse that decision, why should remainers be asked to do so now?

Democracy is far more than just one or two votes. We have institutional checks and balances such as Parliament, an expert civil service, an independent judiciary, and independent media (which in our case is sadly dominated by non-dom billionaire owners). There is no finality in any democracy. When a political party loses an election, the opposition does not stop arguing for what it believes in.

It is true the "sky has not fallen in" on the economy. However, the past is no guide to future performance. The past seven months is a short time frame, and is one in which we are still benefiting from being in the EU Single Market. The Prime Minister has come back from trips to India and the US with no trade deals. Much investment in the UK is on hold.

The stock market has indeed soared. However, that is primarily because the main index (FTSE 100) is comprised of companies whose operations are mostly outside the UK. Market values have been inflated by the 15% depreciation in sterling. Your leader downplays the 'little dip' in the pound which "will nudge inflation a smidge" but let's see how the Just About Managing (JAMs) and others enjoy the resulting 3% inflation and forecast decline in real living standards as Brexit unfolds.

British citizens currently enjoy the freedom to travel to, study in, work in and export to the other 27 EU member states. Why should many who have enjoyed these EU benefits over the past 40 years, deprive future generations of those very same opportunities? It is quite possible that in 20 years, today's youth are in power in Westminster, and will seek to ensure our country is prospering and confidently leading in Europe, rather than retreating from it.

Concerned readers may wish to write to their MPs to express their opposition to the invocation of Article 50, or at least press them to advocate an amendment to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, in particular retaining access to our largest export market. Readers may also wish to press for another referendum on the actual departure terms the Government negotiates. Hard working readers deserve the right to know exactly what Brexit means, and have a chance to confirm whether or not they are happy the Government has achieved a better deal with the EU than what we enjoy now.

Nick Hopkinson