Forget this Tory imperialist Government, it’s time for a People’s vote

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Forget this Tory imperialist Government, it’s time for a People’s vote

Liberal Democrat MEP candidate, Dinesh Dhamija, says the Tory Government is composed of imperialists consumed with a fairy-tale past where trade policy was focused around the Commonwealth. He believes the British people deserve a second referendum and should vote to remain in the European Union.

Another week and more businesses come into difficulty. Thomas Cook blames its unprecedented £1.46 billion half-year loss on Brexit uncertainty. British Steel has asked for a £75 million bailout from the government, blaming them for causing the uncertainty that has led to their financial problems.

As Brexit uncertainty continues, headlines like this will only become more frequent. If those in charge of negotiating our exit from the EU had any understanding of business they would have done everything in their power to ward off uncertainty. It is a cancer for business. As one of the few politicians to have built and led a FTSE  250 business, I know that more than anyone.

British Steel is a classic example of a Brexit casualty. Because of the prospect of no-deal, there has always been a chance that the UK will revert to WTO rules. Calculating what the default trade tariff will be for steel is no simple task. There are 25 different categories of steel tariffs. With that sort complexity, why would any foreign company order say 100 tons of steel from the UK if they don’t know what the tariffs will be?

This is an issue affecting the whole of the manufacturing sector. Honda this week announced it will close its Swindon plant by 2021. Although it says the decision is not due to Brexit, it’s hard to disconnect the two things. It seems an unlikely coincidence that Japan and the EU implemented a deal for zero trade tariffs on Japanese car imports earlier this year. If the UK isn’t part of the EU, why would anyone in Europe go for a Japanese vehicle from Swindon and pay 10 per cent more, when they can get a tariff-free one straight from Japan.

British Steel has turned to the government for its loan with undertones of blame for its dithering over Brexit. Local MP for Scunthorpe Nick Dakin has explicitly blamed the government’s failure to secure a deal for the industries current economic woes.

He is right. If the Tory party really were the party of business as they say they are, they wouldn’t have continued to kick the can down the road over the sort of deal we could get. I refer to my business experience again. I founded eBookers. I built it from scratch in a kiosk at a tube station in Earls Court. I expanded into European markets and eventually sold the business for £200 million company. So I have experience leading a company from a tiny start-up to an industry leader. In all stages of business growth, a business needs certainty.

The only reason I could grow my business was because I had access to a large market – Europe. And there was stability in that market. In my view, it should be mandatory for everyone serving in government –from civil servants to MPs – to shadow a business executive in a different sector each year for 2 – 4 weeks. A work placement for politicians, if you will. I can guarantee that if they did this, they wouldn’t make a quarter of the hostile business decisions that they have made over the last three years since that referendum in 2016.

There is a lack of business clout in Westminster. Channel 4’s FactCheck took a look at the career backgrounds of serving MPs in the UK and found that only 14 per cent had business backgrounds. The most popular background? Career politicians. That means that those making key decisions to how our economy evolves are people who’ve never worked anywhere other than the bureaucracy of Westminster, where it takes weeks to make any decision. What’s worse is that the number of so-called ‘career politicians’ is going up each year.

I’m standing to be a Liberal Democrat MEP for London. If elected, I’ll be applying my business experience to every policy under discussion. It’s about time someone brought business sense to important negotiations.

Obviously, I wish David Cameron’s government hadn’t brought in the prospect of a Brexit at all. But since it did, the first thing a savvy government could have done to mitigate the damage was to introduce a second vote at the first sign of the complexities. Instead of dithering and trying to present the same deal over and over again while businesses wilted and more than 200,000 jobs moved from the city of London to Europe, it should have arranged a second vote.

Ireland did this twice. Voters rejected the Treaty of Nice in 2001 before approving it in 2002. Then in a similar change of heart it rejected the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 but then passed it in 2008. Denmark also held a second vote on the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 after rejecting it in 1992. Why? Because the respective governments realised that stepping away from Europe was way more damaging and complex than anyone had anticipated at the time of the first vote.

That could not be more true of our circumstances now. Who could have predicted the legal complexities of executing Article 50 back in 2016? Who could have known that the Leave campaign lied and overspent on their campaigning budget? This week Theresa May has put her withdrawal forward for a vote for a fifth time. The name Einstein comes to mind here. Did he not once say “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” To anyone it is clear that the only way to reach a decision on Brexit is to have a People’s vote with Remain as a very clear option.

Unfortunately, our current government is full of imperialists stuck in a fairy-tale past where we mostly did trade with the Commonwealth. We now do less than 10 per cent of trade with commonwealth. Europe is our nearest, friendliest, easiest and largest market. No wonder that the prospect of leaving it is causing companies to crumble everywhere.

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    Dinesh Dhamija
    Dinesh Dhamija is the Liberal Democrat deputy treasurer and the no 2 London MEP candidate. He is also vice chair of the party’s Federal Board. http://www.dineshdhamija.com/
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