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Weekly Whip

by Peter Munro on Fri, 15 Jan 2021

Welcome to the Weekly Whip. Your one-stop shop for Lib Dem Parliamentary updates, covering the week that was and the week to come.

For up to date information from the Lib Dem Whips Office, follow us on Twitter: @LibDemWhips

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For years, this Government have promised our fishing industry a sea of opportunity, but, today, our boats are tied up in harbour, their propellers fouled with red tape manufactured in Whitehall.

Our boats are tied up in harbour, their propellers fouled with red tape manufactured in Whitehall.

Boats that are able to go to sea are landing their catches in Denmark—an expensive round trip of at least 72 hours, which takes work away from processors and other shoreside businesses in this country.

Our Fisheries Minister describes promises made by Ministers as “dreams” and apparently did not think it was worth reading the agreement as soon as it was made, even though every second counted.

How on earth was it allowed to come to this? The EU trade agreement allows a grace period on customs checks for EU businesses.

So yesterday, in an Urgent Question to the Fisheries Minister, I asked:

"Why was there no grace period allowed for our exporters, and will the Government engage with the EU as a matter of urgency to make good that most fundamental of errors?

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee that compensation is being considered for our fishing industry.

Who will be compensated, for what, and by how much? When will our scheme be published and what steps will be taken to help processors, catchers and traders in the meantime?"

Can the Secretary of State explain how the literally hundreds of producer organisation to producer organisation swaps done every year will be done on a Government-to-Government basis?

Finally, what will happen at the end of a five-and-a-half year transition period? A transition normally takes us from point A to point B.

This transition takes us from point A to point A with a new negotiation. Is zonal attachment still the Government’s policy on quota shares?"

I offered to convene a virtual roundtable of all the affected sectors.

This is a shambles of the Government’s own making; there is no one else to blame now.

The Minister must start listening to the fishing industry. That's why I offered to convene a virtual roundtable of all the affected sectors.

The time for complacency has passed.

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I tabled the Immigration (Health and Social Care Staff) Bill 2019-21, which was due for its second reading on Friday.

Lib Dems will continue to fight for healthcare workers’ rights

But the Government have decided to axe all sitting Fridays until the end of March, meaning dozens of Private Members Bills will effectively be shut down.

My Bill proposed that all health and social care staff from outside the EU would be granted indefinite leave to remain, giving the peace of mind about their immigration status and granting them rights enjoyed by British citizens.

Like the rest of our wonderful NHS and care staff, hundreds of thousands of people from other countries are on the frontlines of the Covid pandemic, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure we get the care we need.

Those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it.

The UK should say, loudly and unequivocally, that those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it.

That’s what my Bill would do, and I am deeply disappointed that the Government is not even letting it be debated in Parliament.

I am not giving up. I will urge Ministers again to make Government time available to pass this urgent legislation, which has cross-party support.

The idea that anyone who has worked so hard to save lives during this emergency might one day be forced to leave should be unthinkable.

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Happy Pongal

by Edward Davey on Thu, 14 Jan 2021

It’s been a huge privilege to come to know many Tamil people in my constituency and across the UK since being elected to Parliament back in 1997, and I can therefore say with total certainty, that the contribution of British Tamils to our country and society has been exemplary, with the hard work, intelligence and dedication of so many amazing British Tamils.

Celebrations like this are an opportunity to remember the exceptional contributions we witness everyday from entrepreneurs, public servants and of course our frontline workers. Thank you for all you do.

Current lockdown measures mean this year’s Pongal celebrations will feel distinctly different as so many of us remain separated from friends and loved ones. Despite these challenges, let us look to the future with hope and let us strengthen our collective efforts to beat this virus.

To everyone celebrating, I wish you overflowing happiness and good health for the year ahead. Iniya Thai Pongal Nalvazhthukkal!

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It is completely unacceptable that parents have received woefully inadequate food parcels in place of free school meals. 

 The Secretary of State must urgently investigate this situation.

The amount of food parents have received to feed their children is not anything like enough to provide an adequate, nutritious lunch every day.

Nor do they appear to represent value for money, given what the parcels should theoretically be worth.

These abysmal hampers must be urgently replaced with food vouchers.

I have written to the Secretary of State asking him to investigate the situation urgently and replace these abysmal hampers with food vouchers.

Time and time again, this Government has let children and families down on the issue of free school meals, which are critical to the education and future of so many children.

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11 Lib Dem bills the Tories are killing today

by Liberal Democrats on Tue, 12 Jan 2021

Over the past year, Liberal Democrat MPs have tabled a number of Private Members’ Bills that would make important changes to help build a fairer country, tackle deep-rooted inequalities and ensure a more effective response to the Covid pandemic.

Eleven key Liberal Democrat Bills were due to have “Second Reading” – the next stage of their progress through Parliament – over the next three months.

Some have been waiting for over nine months. But today, Jacob Rees-Mogg is pushing through a government motion in the House of Commons that will end any chance of them becoming law in this parliamentary session.

Here are the eleven crucial new laws that the Conservatives are blocking today:

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Daisy, diversity & deliveries

by Lisa Smart on Mon, 11 Jan 2021

Last month's Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC) kicked off with a productive Q&A with deputy Leader Daisy Cooper. Daisy's approach to collaborative working across parts of the party was warmly welcomed and FCEC expressed its support, and desire to assist, Daisy's ongoing work to support a diverse range of candidates to stand. 

We were pleased to note the progress made by the State Parties on the approval process for parliamentary candidates, which has needed to adapt to the online-only world in which we are currently living. The Thornhill Review specifically pointed to the need to select strong candidates early in a Parliament, to maximise their chances to campaign, and we wish to thank the unsung heroes doing the behind the scenes work to make it all possible

Looking ahead, we considered the latest analysis of our prospects in the next few General Elections. It remains vital to take a wholistic view, which means planning not just for 2024, but 2028 and beyond. This is not the space for a full explanation, but the party must remain realistic about what can be achieved in a single election and watchful of developments to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act

Encouragingly, progress on our communications strategy continues apace. To win elections, we need to be heard by the public, more importantly we need the public to hear how our values relate to solving the problems that matter most to them

We meet again on the 27th, our first meeting since the country returned to lockdown. Ed's response to the government's shocking failure to act sooner has set the groundwork for a Lib Dem vision for a fairer, safer, and economically more sensible approach to the crisis. For activists, please read our latest advice on campaigning; for everyone, stay safe! 


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The Government must catch up with cancer

by Tim Farron on Fri, 08 Jan 2021

In the early months of this pandemic, the Government’s messaging was clear. ‘Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.’ And so it is once again. Monday’s lockdown announcement, although belated, was absolutely right.

But why must we protect the NHS? So that it can continue to tackle COVID, but also, equally, so that the NHS can carry on its life-saving work in every other area.

We must protect the NHS to tackle COVID and help the NHS carry on its life-saving work in every other area

Cancer research UK report that we will see 35,000 excess cancer deaths because of the Coronavirus pandemic. For every 2 people who have so far lost their lives due to COVID, another will unnecessarily lose their battle with cancer.

Screenings and treatments are being cancelled, delayed and disrupted until it is too late. Usually, we see a 70:30 split between curative and palliative care. This year, it’s 50:50.

The answer is not to exhort our heroic frontline staff to work harder.

It is not to carry on doing what we have always done, just doing it a little better. This requires some new thinking.

As Chair of the Radiotherapy APPG, I met with Matt Hancock in October and asked him to back both Catch Up with Cancer’s 6-point plan to boost radiotherapy services and the APPG’s submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Radiotherapy is a clean form of cancer treatment.

It does not affect immunity or open up a patient to infection. It therefore holds huge potential to boost cancer treatment services to 120% of pre-Covid capacity, the levels required to clear the backlog within 2 years.

So, following the Spending Review on 25th November, there was a collective gasp of disbelief across the oncology and radiotherapy sector. It was baffling. There was no investment for, or no reference made to, COVID-safe radiotherapy treatment.

The Government must act urgently to catch up with cancer

Next week, I am meeting with the Under Secretary of State for Health, Jo Churchill, to remind her of the ever-increasing need for ring-fenced investment into radiotherapy services.

Thousands of people could have their lives lengthened, their lives saved, their families spared unspeakable grief, if the Government acts urgently to catch up with cancer.

But, most importantly, if you have even the slightest hint of a doubt that something might be wrong or unusual with any part of your body, the NHS is open to protect you.

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Democracy and freedom can never be taken for granted

by Layla Moran on Fri, 08 Jan 2021

Like you, I watched domestic terrorists and insurrectionists storm the US Capitol last night with a sense of horror and shock.

I watched with a sense of horror and shock

A symbol of democracy worldwide was shown to be fragile, vulnerable.

It is a stark reminder that will remain etched in our memories.

Donald Trump failed to fulfil his oath to protect the US Constitution, inciting his supporters to engage in violence and attack elected officials in Congress, backed up by Congressmen, Congresswomen and Senators afraid of being deselected in primaries and willing to undermine faith in democracy to save their own skins.

There is new hope with the inauguration of Joe Biden on the 20th

An attack on democracy anywhere is an attack on democracy everywhere.

All I could think was: if this could happen there, this could also easily happen here.

We often see the US as a bastion of stability. To see how easily that was threatened and attacked should remind us that democracy and freedom can never be taken for granted. The Liberal Democrats can and will lead the fight to protect and defend them every single day.

That is my duty as an MP, and it is all our duties as citizens.

News that members of Trump’s cabinet may be discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution, making Pence Acting President until 20 January, reaffirms what we already know: Donald Trump is not and never has been fit to hold the office of President of the United States.

Frankly, the Tories should be ashamed of how they cosied up to Donald Trump and his administration. How they stood by as he flouted the international rules-based order. How they have mimicked his populist agenda.

While it comes too late to avoid the damage Trump has done in the US and beyond, there is new hope in the inauguration of Joe Biden on the 20th.

Liberal Democrats call on the Prime Minister to end Britain’s long walk towards isolation and to seize this opportunity to re-enter the world stage as a strong ally in the fight to promote peace and end climate change and injustice.

Democrats must stand together against those who would seek to undermine and end our way of life, whether they are members of a violent mob or politicians in positions of responsibility.

As Senator Mitt Romney said on the Senate floor when Congress reconvened late last night:

“Today was heart-breaking.

And I was shaken to the core, as I thought about the people I met in China, and Russia, and Afghanistan and Iraq and other places who yearn for freedom, and who look to this building and these shores as a place of hope.

And I saw the images being broadcast around the world, and it breaks my heart.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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The May elections

by Mark Pack on Thu, 07 Jan 2021

The chaotic incompetence of a government that declares schools safe on a Sunday, sends children back for a day and then closes them is the sort of thing that should be the domain of political fiction.

Sadly and tragically, it’s the government we suffer from in Westminster. It is a reminder about how important it is that we recover as a party, and a spur to our efforts to ensure we do our part in defeating the Conservatives at the ballot box.

The elections due in May across England, Scotland and Wales are an important part of that.

The May Elections

Will the elections be delayed? The simple answer is, we don't know. But we do know that we need to campaign to do well in them whenever they happen. Other parties can gamble on trying to win an election without much time to campaign beforehand. We can’t.

That is why we need to continue with our preparations and build-up as if the May elections will happen, and treat any extra time as a bonus. Better that than be caught out thinking something wouldn't happen and then not having time to prepare when it does.

Of course, our work should always take into account coronavirus health risks, and always carefully follow the party's advice, which is regularly reviewed and updated when necessary.

There is a wide range of free training available to help you hone your campaigning skills and learn how to campaign best in the face of coronavirus. Do take a look at the listings on the party website and on the ALDC site.

Election Rumours

One other thing to bear in mind is that, as with previous questions about whether elections would be delayed or whether a government would call an election early, a lot of rumours circulate. They often appear to be based on credible insider information - e.g. 'someone who spoke to a former colleague at the Electoral Commission...' But in reality they are not nearly as credible as they may seem.

The thing to bear in mind is that the decision to delay an election can be made suddenly by the Prime Minister (in England, similar considerations for other nations). As we've seen with the fiasco of children going back to school in England for just one day before schools being closed, there's no reason to think that an election decision either way will be made carefully, in good time and with all the right preparations in place.

Or for another example, when Gordon Brown was dallying over calling a general election in 2007 the news that Labour had started printing special election leaflets sounded like it was dead-cert insider information showing the election would go ahead... and then he didn't call it. So what someone says the Electoral Commission is doing, or what Whitehall civil servants are preparing, can sound credible... but really isn't much of a clue at all to what will happen.

Rumours can be fun to talk about. But don’t be misled by them into thinking someone has the inside track on what is going to happen. They don’t, which is why we need to keep preparing.

Party Awards

It’s award time again soon! Recognising the amazing volunteer effort across the party is something we do not do nearly enough. Which is why I’ve asked the Federal Conference to have time at our spring conference to add in a round of party awards. We always do some at autumn conference, but having awards in spring too will mean we can recognise more of the wonderful contributions made by so many.

The plan is to have three awards at spring: a new Leader’s Award to recognise those who show leadership in whatever form in the party, the Bertha Bowness Fischer Award to recognise the contribution of a newer member and a revived Albert Ingham Award to recognise our election agents and campaign managers. More information, including how to nominate someone you know, is on the party website.

Supporting Party Bodies

January sees the first meeting of a new ‘party bodies forum’, one of the practical steps we’re taking to implement the party bodies review into how we support and work with those parts of the party which do not fit into the standard local/regional/state party structures.

Groups such as Green Liberal Democrats and Liberal Democrat Women are an important part of the Lib Dem family. The forum should help us improve the way the party and party bodies interact, something which has often been a cause of frustration in the past.

It’s the first of many recommendations that we’ll be implementing from the review, with the chair of the Federal People Development Committee, Bess Mayhew, taking the lead in making sure they happen.

Improving the way we fill posts in the party

I mentioned last time the progress we’ve already made in improving the way roles are filled in the party. We need to get better at getting high quality, diverse teams in places rather than simply people who happen to know people.

So one item from the January Steering Group is looking at the next steps we can take, both to improve what we do in the Federal Party and also how we can support other parts of the party. 

I know many members have experience of how to best fill roles in volunteer organisations, so suggestions and feedback are very welcome. In particular, for those of you reading who haven’t put yourself forward before for a role - what would motivate you?

Parliamentary Boundary Review 

The official review is underway, and expected to come into force for the next general election. However, that is no reason to hold up getting on with selections in our most winnable seats. One of the consistent lessons from previous Parliaments - and one that comes through clearly in the Thornhill Report into the 2019 election - is about the need to get prospective candidates in place early. That gives them more time to get known by voters and to help build up the sort of local party infrastructure required to run a winning campaign.

The party’s response to the boundary review will be coordinated by our Director of Field Campaigns, Cllr Dave McCobb, and his team.

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Lib Dems back high standards for British food and farmers

by Liberal Democrats on Thu, 07 Jan 2021

The Conservatives have consistently failed to support such a measure, risking future trade deals that could permit the import of food that fails to meet the UK’s high standards.

Farmers across the country are worried about their future

This puts significant pressure on British farmers.

Farmers across the country are worried about their future - they’re worried that the UK will be flooded with poor quality food that undercuts the food they produce to high environmental and animal welfare standards. 

Liberal Democrats back British farmers and will continue to fight to protect our food standards and their livelihoods.

The Conservatives have continually failed to protect our farmers from these risks.

This amendment will ensure that our farmers are protected and can continue to produce high quality food for our tables. That’s why Liberal Democrats in the Lords supported this amendment. 

British farmers have a vital role to play in helping us tackle climate change and protect our natural environment, driving them out of business will be damaging for everyone.

Liberal Democrats back British farmers and will continue to fight to protect our food standards and their livelihoods.

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Britain must re-enter the world stage

by Layla Moran on Thu, 07 Jan 2021

Reports that the 25th amendment may be invoked to remove Donald Trump from office reaffirm what we already knew: Donald Trump is not and has never been fit to hold the office of President.

The Tories should be ashamed of how they cosied up to Trump and his administration, how they stood by as he flouted the international rules-based order and how they have mimicked his populist agenda.

While this comes too late to avoid the damage Trump has done in the US and beyond, there is new hope in the inauguration of Biden on the 20th.

Liberal Democrats call on the Prime Minister to end Britain's long walk towards isolation and to seize this opportunity to re-enter the world stage as a strong ally in the fight to promote peace and end climate change and injustice.

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Make someone amazing smile - nominate them for an award!

by Jack Coulson on Thu, 07 Jan 2021

Party Awards recognise publicly those who have given the party outstanding service and commitment in the past year. They are presented at Conference  and each winner receives a trophy to keep. 

You can watch last autumn's presentation ceremony here! 

We present three awards at Spring Conference, and five at Autumn Conference. You can nominate someone by clicking here. The upcoming awards are:

The Leader’s Award

Eligibility: any member of the party.

Criteria: awarded to those who have shown exemplary leadership skills while working or volunteering for the Party. Ranging from long-standing service at the Head of a Council, to effective rallying of new and exciting campaigns for the Party, or even guiding a local Party through a difficult time, anyone is eligible and the Party seeks to recognise leadership in all of its shapes and sizes.

The Albert Ingham Award

Background: this award is named for one of the Party's great Election Agents, Albert Ingham. Albert’s work, much of it in his home county of Yorkshire, was prodigious and his impact on the Party ranged from organising to fundraising to promoting fresh talent.

Eligibility: Any election agent or senior member of a campaign team

Criteria: awarded to those whose most recent campaign, through its excellence, fastidiousness, tenacity or novelty has been a model for others to follow.

The Bertha Bowness Fischer Award

Background: this award is named for the Country’s first woman to become a qualified election agent - who as a Liberal is a testament to our traditions of equality, inclusion and campaigning rigour.

Eligibility: any newer (less than two years) member of the Party.

Criteria: awarded to those who have shown outstanding energy and/or ingenuity in supporting their new-found political home. It seeks to welcome those people who may well be the future of the Party, no matter their background. It is named for a trailblazer for women in not just liberal, but all politics, and recognises the contributions of new friends from outside of politics and from other parties alike.

More details about the individual awards and who is eligible can be found here.

Candidates must themselves be party members, and be nominated and seconded by two party members.

All nominations should be completed using this nomination portal.

What is the deadline and when will I find out?

Nominations will close on Monday February 15th at 17:00.

All nominators will receive confirmation of their nomination shortly thereafter. If your nominee is selected for an award, they and you will be informed by March 8th.

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Stand up for Carers - Facebook Ads Bulk Buy

by Robin Rea on Thu, 07 Jan 2021

Unpaid carers are doing a remarkable and important job in very difficult circumstances. They deserve our support.

But many carers are facing extreme financial hardship.

900,000 full-time unpaid carers rely on Carer’s Allowance – but at just £67.25 a week, it’s just not nearly enough.

In November, the Liberal Democrats launched a campaign calling on the UK Government to immediately raise Carer’s Allowance by £1,000 a year, the same as the uplift in Universal Credit. To make this campaign a success, we need local parties up and down the country to make it part of their campaigns.

That’s why we’re offering a new bulk-buy deal on digital advertising.

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Johnson has waited till the eleventh hour to act

by Ed Davey - Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Mon, 04 Jan 2021

This is the public health policy the Prime Minister should have announced before Christmas.

But yet again, Boris Johnson ducked the difficult decisions, failed to listen to experts and acted too late.

Just yesterday morning Johnson was telling parents that schools were safe and children should definitely go. Today he is telling us that they must all move to remote learning but without any proper future plan.

The Prime Minister’s failure to act earlier means we are seeing record numbers of new infections, a rising death rate, hospitals overwhelmed and NHS and care staff exhausted.

With this new lockdown, Liberal Democrats believe it’s urgent that the Government:

  • announce a new comprehensive economic plan for businesses and the self-employed
  • introduce a plan to increase Carer’s allowance in line with the increases in Universal Credit
  • and fully take account of the impact of these developments on the mental health of young people and vulnerable individuals who are going through an incredibly difficult time

All around the world, the evidence is that acting early is critical to minimising damage to the economy and protecting public health.

We need a Prime Minister who can act in time, not one who acts when it is too late.

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Johnson has completely lost control of the Covid-19 crisis

by Ed Davey - Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Mon, 04 Jan 2021

Boris Johnson has completely lost control of the Covid-19 crisis.

Boris Johnson's dither and delay continues to cost lives and livelihoods

This government has abdicated its key responsibility, which is to make the tough decisions for the future good of the country. Over and over again, Boris Johnson has ducked the hard choices.

His dither and delay continues to cost lives and livelihoods.

Now is the time to show leadership and get ahead of the spread of this awful disease by announcing a new national lockdown in England coupled with a clear plan for schools and exams; comprehensive support for small businesses and the self-employed who have been left out of the furlough scheme; additional support for communities and a recall of Parliament to properly hold the government to account.

We are going into the worst weeks of the Covid crisis to date.

The infection rate is spiralling, hospitals are overwhelmed and a virulent new strain is spreading across the country.

The government must act now to minimise uncertainty and risk for millions of people.

Liberal Democrats are calling for:

  • A comprehensive economic plan to support small businesses and the self-employed in the period to Easter.
  • A clear plan for schools and for this year’s exams.
  • Additional support for communities to deal with the additional burden of the new variant.
  • Parliament recalled to properly scrutinise the government’s handling of this crisis.
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Our intervention comes amidst growing concern for safety in schools, including headteachers launching legal action to force ministers to reveal data behind the decision for some schools to reopen.

 Time and time again, this Government has squandered opportunities to get ahead of the virus in schools.

With the government’s own scientific advisors saying that they cannot provide any analysis on what is required to control the new strain of the virus until mid-January, the Government must think again and adopt a plan to get ahead of the virus.

Time and time again, this Government has squandered opportunities to get ahead of the virus in schools and left pupils, parents and teachers understandably anxious if not terrified about returning next week.

For months, Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Government to come up with a proper plan to keep schools open safely.

Instead, this latest botched decision and the Tories top-down attitude has once again led to last minute and inconsistent decisions that are wreaking havoc on people’s lives. 

For months, Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Government to come up with a proper plan to keep schools open safely.

Given this new strain of the virus transmits faster, Ministers must think again to get ahead of the virus. 

Moving primary schools to remote learning until 18 January (except for vulnerable children and children of key workers), would create time to work out new pupil bubbling strategies, ensure that all school-transport is single-school only, and build trust in the Government’s school COVID testing strategy so schools can open safely.

The Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to review testing strategies in schools and publish a plan that includes a move to single-school transport and a new pupil bubbling strategy to tackle the new more transmissible strain.

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Today, we have tabled a series of amendments to the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill that demand the Government protect British businesses, the rights of UK nationals and ensure Parliament has proper scrutiny over the future relationship agreement.

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Liberal Democrats will vote against this threadbare deal

by Ed Davey - Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Wed, 30 Dec 2020

It is clear that this is a bad deal that will make people’s lives poorer.

Liberal Democrats will vote against this deal

So the Liberal Democrats will vote against it.

This botched deal leaves the services sector in limbo and is the only ‘free’ trade deal in history to put up barriers and increase red tape, bringing long delays and higher costs.

We all are desperate to move forward, to see our country united again, to restore our economy and our communities after a terrible year.

Even by his own low standards, Boris Johnson’s deal just makes that more difficult.

The only way forward is to agree an adjustment period to ease the pain for businesses and quickly get to repairing the UK’s damaged relationships with our most important international partners.

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This threadbare deal risks livelihoods

by Ed Davey - Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Sat, 26 Dec 2020

Boris Johnson promised to make people better off, but his deal will make us all poorer.

This is a threadbare deal - bad for jobs, security, and our environment

This deal is threadbare, bad for jobs, business, security, and our environment. It is the only ‘free’ trade deal in history to put up barriers to trade and leaves the services sector in limbo.

This botched deal confirms that the UK’s trade with Europe will now be wrapped in red tape – bringing long delays and higher costs. With so many businesses teetering on the brink of closing due to Covid, Johnson’s deal will push many over the edge.

We all are desperate to move forward, to see our country united again, to restore our economy and our communities after a terrible year.

But Boris Johnson’s deal just makes that more difficult.

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