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We have had our moments, I do not deny it, but we sit here as a shadow Brexit team that is still entirely intact from the date of formation. I look over to the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Mr Walker, who now casts a lonely figure on the Government Front Bench, as the sole survivor on his own team.
The Lib Dems have been calling for a referendum on membership of the EU since 2009—I could find it as far back as that, but it may well go further back than that. The Lib Dems, with their usual political foresight, argued back then that only a real referendum could settle the question of our relationship with the EU once and for all. A decade later, they still think that another referendum is the answer. I am certain that, in 2028, Lib Dem MPs will still be debating whether they should call for another referendum. This motion is a kind of greatest hits of Lib Dem policies over the last decade. I can only assume that an earlier draft had a promise not to raise tuition fees, but that must have been ruled out of scope.
There is no parliamentary majority for the Prime Minister’s cumbersome and costly facilitated custom arrangement and it would be a nightmare for business. It would mean the UK acting as the EU’s customs official and it relies on technology that does not currently exist to make it work. For perhaps the first time in history, I agreed with the now former Foreign Secretary when he described it in his resignation letter as an
“impractical and undeliverable customs arrangement unlike any other in existence”,
and these are the lengths that the Government have gone to in order to reject a comprehensive customs union.