Saturday, June 15, 2024

Re-joining EU is our longer term objective – Lib Dems – BBC News

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  • Author, Kate Whannel
  • Role, BBC Politics

The Liberal Democrats have said they want to re-join the European Union, but have stressed it is a “longer term objective”.

The party’s 2024 manifesto, published on Monday, says it would first embark on a four-stage roadmap focused on fixing the UK’s “broken relationship” with the EU and renewing the “ties of trust and friendship”.

The gradual approach contrasts to the 2019 general election, when the words “stop Brexit” appeared in capital letters on the front of their manifesto.

Speaking at the party’s election manifesto launch, Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said he believed that the UK needed to be “back in the heart of Europe” but acknowledged it was “going to take time”.

He argued that the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU had been a “disaster” and had “undermined growth”.

The party’s four-stage roadmap includes seeking to agree partnerships with EU agencies including for Erasmus Plus, the scheme which allows students to study or do work placements across the union.

The final step would see the UK seeking to re-join the single market, which enables free movement of goods, services and people.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto, entitled For a Fair Deal, says these measures would boost the economy but are also “essential steps on the road to EU membership, which remains our longer term objective”.

Asked if joining the single market before joining the EU would mean the UK would have to accept rules without having a say in how they are made, Sir Ed said: “We are rule-takers now.

“The Conservatives try to make out they have somehow got out of that – they haven’t… they have not quite told the full truth.”

During the election campaign so far, both Labour and the Conservatives have largely avoided mentioning Brexit, a subject which dominated the last general election in 2019.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has repeatedly said he would not seek to join the EU instead promising to “make Brexit work”.

On announcing the election, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Conservative government had “seized the opportunities of Brexit to make this the best country in the world to grow a business, put record amounts of funding into our NHS and ensured it is now training the doctors and nurses it needs in the decades to come”.

The Scottish National Party has said they would re-join the EU and the Greens have said they favour the same approach when the political conditions are right.

Reform UK says the government has “failed to take advantage” of Brexit and has pledged to renegotiate the existing deals.

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