Call them the Remain Party.
Today the Liberal Democrats published their manifesto for the upcoming general election. In it, they pledged to legalise cannabis, raise £6bn to be spent on the NHS, social care, and public health, and to hold a referendum on the Brexit deal.
Labour’s manifesto, which was published yesterday, stated that they wouldn’t fight the referendum result, but would campaign for a ‘Brexit that works for everyone.’
The Lib Dems, however, are unequivocal in their desire to remain in the European Union.
In a campaign video released today, party leader Tim Farron addressed the British public: ‘if you accept [the Brexit] deal, then that’s what Britain gets, and if you don’t, you should be entitled to vote to remain in the European Union.’
<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/217796831?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
With the Conservatives ‘take it or leave it’ approach to the Brexit talks, and Labour’s acceptance of the split, the Lib Dems are not only trying to appeal to remainers, but also to the leave voters who they believe are disillusioned with Theresa May’s tough Brexit stance.
They are hoping to build on their 9 MPs in parliament by harnessing what they see as the untapped pro-EU sentiment and embodying ‘Remainia.’
However, a recent YouGov poll showed that growing numbers of Brits feel the government has a duty to leave the EU, 23% more than in last years’ referendum in fact. ‘Forget 52%,’ this new demographic – knows as ‘Re-leavers’ – means the ‘pro-Brexit electorate’ now stands at 68%.
In what has been dubbed the ‘Brexit election,’ the success of the Liberal Democrats’ campaign to replace Labour as the UK’s official opposition rests largely on their Brexit stance.
In the manifesto, the Lib Dems clearly state their belief that ‘Britain is better off in the EU: it has led directly to greater prosperity, increased trade, investment and jobs, better security, and a greener environment.’
In the aftermath of Brexit, they say, ‘the value of the pound has plummeted, inflation has risen, growth in the economy has slowed, and the government is already borrowing billions more to fill the gap in lost tax revenue.’
And to make matters worse, the message being sent to young people is that their vote counts for nothing, while priority issues – ‘such as the future of the NHS’ – have been put on the back burner as the government concentrates on leaving the EU.
According to the Lib Dems, the Conservatives campaign for a ‘Hard Brexit will make all these problems worse.’
So what are they proposing?
Fighting a hard Brexit.
During Brexit negotiations, the Lib Dems say they will commit to using their ‘strength in Parliament to press for keeping Britain as close as possible to Europe,’ and will fight to:
Hold a referendum on the final Brexit deal, ‘with the alternative option of staying in the EU on the ballot paper.’
Protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in Europe, and simplify the requirements for EU nationals to obtain permanent residence and British citizenship whilst urging European leaders to do the same for Brits living abroad.
Maintain membership of the EU Single Market and Customs Union.
Support Freedom of Movement – ‘to abandon it would threaten Britain’s prosperity, and reputation as an open, tolerant society’ – so Brits are able to live and work in the EU.
Protect Erasmus and other EU-schemes aimed at young people.
Preserve EU-derived social rights and equality laws such as ’52 weeks’ maternity leave and rights to annual leave.’
Cooperate as closely as possible on climate and energy policy with the EU, which has ‘the highest environmental standards in the world.’
Maintain ‘maximum cooperation’ with Europol, continue sharing police databases, and retain the European Arrest Warrant.
Safeguard support for British industry, such as ‘farming, tourism and the creative industries,’ and ‘regional support for deprived areas.’
Allow London to retain its ‘full rights in EU financial markets: The City of London is Europe’s financial capital.’
Reject any decrease in investment in UK universities, and campaign for their right to apply for EU funding.
‘Retain traveller and tourist benefits such as the European Health Insurance Card, reduced roaming charges and pet passports.’
And finally, the Lib Dems say they will ‘oppose any moves that threaten’ Northern Irish political stability, and ‘campaign to protect the rights of the people of Gibraltar.’
The Lib Dems increased their vote share from 7% to 18% in the recent local elections.
But they also lost 28 seats, and the growing ‘Re-leaver’ trend is cause for concern. In the run-up to the elections on June 8th, the last thing that the Lib Dems want to hear is that Remainers have moved on.