Working out how to rejoin the Customs Union, Single Market and EU: Lib Dem conference motion passes

As Layla Moran has written on the party website:

Liberal Democrat members have voted to update our party’s policy on Europe and reaffirm our commitment to a closer relationship with our friends and neighbours on the continent.

The motion they’ve passed:

❌ utterly condemns Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal

✔️ thanks Liberal Democrat MPs for voting against the deal

✨ commits us to working to strengthen ties with the EU in the short term, including Customs Union or Single Market membership.

I am proud that as a party we have always had the courage of our convictions when it comes to Europe.

We are internationalists to the core. We pride ourselves on the principles of peace, prosperity and freedom. We believe that global problems need global solutions.

Here is the text of the motion:

Conference believes that the Conservative government’s EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement:

  1. Is a threadbare deal, bad for jobs, business, security, and the environment.
  2. Is the only ‘free’ trade deal in history to put up new barriers to trade instead of pulling them down, and leaves the UK services sector in total limbo.
  3. Represents a comprehensive betrayal of the promises made by the Leave campaigns during the referendum and by the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto.

Conference further believes that this botched deal will make the British people poorer and less safe by, among other things:

  1. Erecting new and significant non-tariff barriers to trade in UK goods and services with the EU, putting at risk at least 3.3 million jobs, and pushing many businesses already struggling as a result of COVID-19 over the edge.
  2. Putting up barriers to future foreign investment in the UK through creating permanent uncertainty over the UK’s potential future divergence from EU standards.
  3. Withdrawing from Europol, Eurojust and the Schengen Information System database.
  4. Removing the rights to free movement of UK citizens to live, work, study and retire within the EU.
  5. Failing to put in place any frameworks for UK-EU cooperation on foreign, external security or defence policy.
  6. Ending UK participation in the Erasmus Plus programme.

Conference notes with alarm that many highly negative impacts have already become apparent, even before full restrictions are applied, including: higher business costs in all sectors, especially those exporting to the UK’s main European market, through the extra burdens of red tape and higher transport costs; rising job losses in the fishing, agricultural and financial services industries; a rise in skill shortages across the British economy, and key services, notably health and social care, as an ‘expert exodus’ gathers pace; and the creation of significant barriers to musicians and actors performing in the EU.

Conference condemns the UK Government for risking its commitment to uphold the Northern Ireland Protocol, potentially undermining the beneficial impacts of the Good Friday Agreement and eroding trust in the UK as an international partner.

Conference condemns the UK government for ensuring that the bill implementing the new treaty was pushed through Parliament with only a charade of democratic accountability and no opportunity to scrutinise its flaws.

Conference accordingly congratulates the Liberal Democrat parliamentary parties in the Commons and Lords for opposing the bill.

Conference notes that the Labour Party supported the bill, leaving the Liberal Democrats as the only major UK-wide pro-European party in Parliament.

Conference further notes that the new Agreement will be reviewed every five years and that, in any case, provides for the UK to join EU programmes by mutual agreement.

Conference believes that the future UK-EU relationship must be strengthened, to the benefits of both the UK and EU, and recognises that there are many ways in which this could be achieved, including, but not limited to, UK membership of the EU Customs Union, the European Single Market or both, and closer cooperation over health, climate change, environment, crime and policing, education, scientific research, foreign, security and defence policy.

Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrats’ support for a longer-term objective of UK membership of the EU, as set out in the September 2020 conference motion ‘The UK and Europe’.

Conference therefore:

  1. Instructs the Federal Policy Committee to carry out a programme of work, including consulting widely within the party, to determine the best possible future framework for the UK-EU relationship across all policy areas, with the aims of:
    1. Demonstrating the benefits to UK citizens and businesses of a much closer relationship compared to the government’s inadequate measures;
    2. Recommending roadmaps for the UK to rejoin the Customs Union, Single Market and other EU agencies and programmes as appropriate; and
    3. Maximising public support for eventual UK membership of the EU.
  2. Calls on the Liberal Democrat parliamentary parties in the Commons and Lords to expose the inadequacies of the government’s arrangements and to promote the benefits of closer relations between the UK and EU.

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