The Liberal Democrats have issued an early set of pledges outlining its offering at the next UK general election, as it holds its annual party conference this week in Bournemouth, reports the BBC.
Leading the party’s plans for the country’s exports is a promise to reform Parliament’s role in UK trade policy “by ensuring it is consulted on and signs off on negotiating mandates and any completed international trade agreements”.
As well as “bringing down trade barriers”, it also aims to prioritise the “depth and quality” of new trade agreements instead of “just focusing on the number”, an accusation that the party levelled at the current Conservative government.
The new deal
The party promise to build “stronger future relationships with our closest trading partners”, which they say includes changes to “the Conservatives’ botched deal with Europe”.
That isn’t to say they want the UK to re-join the EU — leader Sir Ed Davey explained last week that it is no longer party policy as he believes voters’ priorities lie elsewhere. He said:
"We want Britain to be back at the heart of Europe but we're also realistic that's going to take some time. [Voters] just aren’t talking about Europe."
Nevertheless, he said, the Lib Dems will seek a “rebuild” of the UK’s relationship with the bloc, something that echoes Sir Keir Starmer’s ambitions for a “closer trading relationship”, as he outlined to the FT this month.
One component of the Lib Dem proposals is a set of “reciprocal deals” with the EU on “low-cost, fast-tracked work visas for key economic sectors” in a bid to fix labour shortages.
The ‘fair deal’
Also part of the ‘pre-manifesto’ offering - which they described as being its "fair deal" for voters - is an industrial policy promise that the party says “will incentivise business to invest in new clean technologies” which, they argue, will “grow the economy, create good jobs and tackle the climate emergency”.
The push for zero-carbon technology will be bolstered, they say, by participation in the EU’s Horizon Europe science scheme — though this has already been implemented by the current government as part of a new agreement with the EU.
Net zero the ‘minimum negotiating condition’
Should the party achieve power, it will demand a further “general duty of care” towards environmental and human rights issues from businesses, something which will encompass all business operations and supply chains.
Trade deals will also be defined by the party’s environmental concerns, they say, as they plan to place a 2045 target of net zero emissions “at the forefront of any international trade agreement” as something that “represents the UK’s minimum negotiating position”.
The party also pledges to “put human rights at the heart of trade”, with bans on imports from countries with “egregious abuses”.
Arms exports will be limited, meanwhile, to any countries deemed to have a poor record on human rights.