Top business leaders back Lib Dems as ‘voice of the people’ on Brexit
In a letter to the Times, the business figures said that despite not agreeing with the party on all its policies, they would still support the Lib Dems on June 8 because of their commitment to the EU single market.
The signatories also warned of the dangers of the UK being led by a group of ‘hard Brexiteers’ who fail to recognize the will of the people.
Announcing the Tory manifesto last week in Halifax, Prime Minister Theresa May reiterated she would be pursuing plans to drop out of the single market and customs union.
“The Conservatives’ failure to even mention a transitional deal threatens Britain’s status as one of the best countries in the world with which to do business,” the letter reads.
“While we may not have voted Liberal Democrat in the past and we may not agree with the party on all issues, they are now the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election.”
The news comes as the Conservatives have scrapped the electoral tradition of publishing a letter signed by supporters from business.
Vince Cable, a Treasury spokesman for the Lib Dems, said: “The Liberal Democrats now have support from a large number of serious figures in the business community showing that we are rapidly emerging as the party of business, big and small.”
He added that May’s intention to draw the UK out of the single market would have disastrous effects.
“Theresa May’s determination to take us out of the single market would devastate our financial sector, while taking us out of the customs union would cause incalculable disruption to our manufacturing sector,” Cable said.
The letter comes as a new report reveals that withdrawing from the single market in services could cost the UK up to £36 billion (US$46.8 billion) a year.
While evaluating the potential impact of a trade deal that covers goods but not services, the Centre of Economic Business Research (CEBR) for the Open Britain organization, which campaigns against a hard Brexit, said the UK could suffer a loss of between 1.4 and 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) – or £25 billion to £36 billion a year.
Former deputy prime minister and ex-Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said: “Truly free trade is not just tariff-free; it reduces rules and red tape, something that is particularly important for services, which make up 80 percent of our economy.
“Only being within the single market and customs union gives Britain full, unfettered trade access to all sectors in our biggest export market,” Clegg said, according to the Independent.
The report calls into question Tory Brexit secretary David Davis’ previous commitment “to deliver a trade deal with the exact same benefits as membership of the single market.”
Clegg said the government should snap out of its “rhetoric” and face reality.