General election: Jeremy Corbyn to argue leaving EU with no deal would be ‘economic disaster’ – live

1 Jun

Jeremy Corbyn has taken Labour to the loony left, proposing the heaviest tax burden since the second world war. The Conservative prime minister, Theresa May, promises a hard exit from the EU. The Liberal Democrats would go for a soft version, or even reverse it.

The party leaders could hardly differ more in their style and beliefs. And yet a thread links the two possible winners of this election. Though they sit on different points of the left-right spectrum, the Tory and Labour leaders are united in their desire to pull up Britain’s drawbridge to the world. Both Mrs May and Mr Corbyn would each in their own way step back from the ideas that have made Britain prosper – its free markets, open borders and internationalism. They would junk a political settlement that has lasted for nearly 40 years and influenced a generation of western governments. Whether left or right prevails, the loser will be liberalism …

We want a government that maintains the closest ties with the EU while honouring the referendum, and that uses Brexit to reassert the freedom of Britain’s markets and society – the better to keep dynamic firms and talented people around. In their different ways, both Labour and the Tories fail this test.

No party passes with flying colours. But the closest is the Liberal Democrats. Brexit is the main task of the next government and they want membership of the single market and free movement. (Their second referendum would probably come to nothing, as most voters are reconciled to leaving the EU.) They are more honest than the Tories about the need to raise taxes for public services; and more sensible than Labour, spreading the burden rather than leaning only on high-earners. Unlike Labour, they would reverse the Tories’ most regressive welfare cuts. They are on the right side of other issues: for devolution of power from London, reform of the voting system and the House of Lords, and regulation of markets for drugs and sex.

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