We have less than a year left for the government to negotiate a Brexit deal. Theresa May’s government has wasted most of the time since the June 2016 referendum trying to find a formula that will unite her party.
We know that she intends to leave both the EU Single Market and the Customs Union. This is the most extreme form of Brexit, with fewer links to our closest neighbours than Norway, Switzerland or Turkey. But we don’t know yet what sort of new future relationship she wants. The economy is flying blind to an unknown destination.
The outcome is critical to the future of greater Bristol. Over 30,000 EU nationals live in the area, many working in key industries, such as aerospace, or in the NHS and other public services. Our four universities have EU nationals among their academic staff and there are thousands of EU students at both undergraduate and post-graduate level. Many research programmes are dependent on this international mix of brain power. The government should guarantee their right to remain indefinitely in Britain, irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations. There are alarming signs already that many now feel unwelcome in Britain. If many leave and few arrive to replace them, it will be disastrous for Bristol.
Liberal Democrats are ready to work with like-minded pro Europeans in other parties to persuade the government to change course and negotiate the closest possible relationship with our European friends. At the moment, the Corbyn led Labour party prefer to follow the government. We hope they change their minds soon.
Liberal Democrats are clear that once there is a final deal, it should be put to the people for a vote. The public started the journey so only the public can decide whether to finish it in the way Mrs May recommends.