I voted Leave in 2016, here’s why I’m now backing the Liberal Democrats

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In 1964 then prime minister Harold Wilson said that a week is a long time in politics — that is still true today. British politics remains in constant flux with the Lib Dems written off as a serious political force just a week prior to the local elections and then hailed as the leading Remain party just a week after.
The Brexit Party, a force for hardline pro-Brexit sentiment has also shot up in the polls in just a matter of weeks. And it was only this week that we had official confirmation that Britain will take part in the 2019 European elections on May 23. A week in politics is certainly a long time but it is crucial to remember that many things still remain consistent and have been brewing for a while longer.

Almost three years ago I had taken part in the Brexit referendum and after much deliberation I took the choice to vote to leave the European Union. I became one of the 17.4 million who have been quoted multiple times by those supporting a narrower and harder interpretation of Brexit as the exit process unfolded. Although I was a Conservative at the time, as many as 30% of 2015 Lib Dem voters had opted for ‘Leave’. Unlike the nationalists, populists and anti-immigration fanatics now clamouring for a No Deal Brexit- at the time many of us held our noses and voted Leave on liberal and internationalist grounds. I am still the same sort of liberal I was in 2016- I wanted free trade, I wanted efficient governance and I wanted a more prosperous and entrepreneurial Britain. I had hoped, in vain, that a softer arrangement not unlike Norway or Switzerland could be achieved out of a vote to leave. An unpopular and damaging deal became the result of months of negotiation, something I would certainly have not voted for had I known it would be the end result back when I cast my vote in the 2016 referendum. The Brexit process has disappointed us all, but to moderate Leave voters like me it rendered my vote null and void.

Many voters like me feel regret for the situation that has unfolded. What was once a relatively mainstream and popular sentiment for a step back from a more political and centralised EU into a more economic “common market” arrangement has now withered away and instead been replaced by an eruption of stark (and sometimes nightmarish) options that pleases some and enrages others:

  • A botched Frankenstein’s monster of a Brexit deal led by the Tories and bailed out by Labour- hard and economically damaging which still leaves the UK much of a rule-taker and a diminished nation
  • A catastrophic No Deal Brexit which would see a completely avoidable recession and untold economic uncertainty led by a collapse of the systems which allow for smooth, uninterpreted trade
  • Remaining in the EU which, for all its faults, is a state of pre-2016 normality and our best bet for jobs, free trade with Europe (also the rest of the world where EU collectively has deals with) and competency

From these, for someone who cherishes liberal values and our country’s economic future, only stopping Brexit can reasonably deliver this. I would rather have no Brexit than a botched one, and that is the primary reason for choosing to vote Liberal Democrat on May 23.

Leave voters may find it disappointing and difficult to express a will to overturn their decision three years ago but if you value economic prosperity and still want to send a message to the Tories and Labour for their incompetence- the radical choice is no longer to back Brexit but to achieve a referendum, and a rejection, of this hated deal.

The Liberal Democrats may not be the only party backing a vote on the deal, I applaud the efforts of the Green Party, dissident Labour members and Labour parliamentarians for this issue- but voters of all kinds, Leave and Remain, who reject Theresa May’s dodgy deal bailed out by Jeremy Corbyn and who reject Farage’s extremism need to back the Lib Dems on May 23. The unfortunate effects of the regional list electoral systems for European elections means that if Remain parties are split then seats are lost- only by voting Liberal Democrat can people angry with this Brexit process be sure that their voice is counted and heard.

Britain is only a few weeks away from the European Elections, and while a long time in politics, the disappointment and embarrassment of Theresa May’s Brexit has been brewing a while longer. I believe all people, regardless of how you voted in the 2016 referendum, must vote Liberal Democrat now to let the government know that we will not accept this fumbled deal nor a sleepwalk into a No Deal calamity.

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