Ed Davey calls to rip up red tape on trade with Europe

However some Liberal Democrat members felt it was 'better late than never'

Liberal Democrat conference

During his final speech at the Liberal Democrats spring conference, Ed Davey called to ‘tear down trade barriers’ and ‘rip up the red tape’ on trade with Europe, which received the biggest reaction from members all weekend.

There was a standing ovation and cheering as well as calls to do ‘more’ during Davey’s speech when he announced that, ‘if you want to boost our economy, you have to repair our broken relationship with Europe.’

The leader said the Lib Dems were the only party with a real plan to fix Britain’s trade, calling to tear down Conservative trade barriers and rip up their red tape to rebuild trust with Europe.

However, on the ground, there were members who felt the party had shied away from talking about Europe for too long. Some members expressed frustration about an apparent avoidance of the Brexit subject.

According to one member, today was the first time in five speeches from the leader in over three years that a clearer direction towards Europe has been expressed.

Some members believed the party was playing it safe in order to target blue wall swing seats, but at the expense of ignoring member’s wishes for a clearer stance on the Party’s post-Brexit policy.

Mark Johnson, a Lib Dem member from Reigate told LFF: “On Europe, it’s better late than never, members have been waiting for this moment for a long time, but we need to be clear about the specifics.

“The economy is important but how exactly are we going to fix it.”

Davey told LFF at the conference that his party had ‘fought the Brexit fight’ and would now work on building back trust with Europe.

Davey said: “We’ve done a year’s consultation about how we build back a relationship with Europe, because you can’t do it over night. Europe doesn’t trust us anymore. We’re going to have to build back trust in Europe and as importantly, we have to build the case for European cooperation.

“We need to make the case for cooperation, on trade, climate, dealing with human traffickers, on security, so many different things that Europe did well.”

In his speech, which rounded off the weekend’s spring conference events in York, Davey emphasised the Liberal Democrats as a party of ‘proud internationalists’, who acknowledge that ‘foreign policy is not secondary to economic and social policy’.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

Comments are closed.