Liberal Democrat MP LAYLA MORAN points out the government’s information Brexit blitz comes from the same politicians who have spent years spinning and lying about the reality of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Even by the standards we’ve come to expect from this government, the latest announcement of a £93 million Brexit publicity campaign is particularly brazen. At a time when the NHS urgently needs more support and people who rely on welfare are struggling to pay the bills, ministers are spending millions of pounds on a self-indulgent advertising blitz. This comes on top of another £705 million being spent on new infrastructure at the border to cope with leaving the EU customs union at the end of the year.
This is a shockingly irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money at a time we should be focusing our resources on tackling this pandemic. Ministers had to be forced kicking and screaming to spend £120 million on free school meals for deprived children over the summer. Yet when it comes to promoting the supposed benefits of Brexit, it appears that no expense is being spared. The government sadly seems more interested in promoting Brexit propaganda than helping vulnerable families get through this crisis.
The reality is though that no amount of slick marketing can cover for the fact that the government’s stubborn pursuit of Brexit is going to cost us all. The new campaign talks about ensuring we are all ready to ‘seize the opportunities’ that the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 will bring. But if you look at the detail, the only real opportunities being offered are to pay higher travel insurance and mobile roaming charges when going on holiday to the EU.
Back during the referendum in 2016, the Vote Leave campaign claimed that warnings about Brexit making holidays abroad more expensive was ‘talking Britain down.’ Now this Vote Leave government is spending millions of pounds telling UK citizens that’s exactly what’s going to happen. You really couldn’t make it up. This is a government led by people who built their careers on spin and lies. It’s vital that all progressive parties work together to hold them to account.
First of all, that means continuing to fight to stop a no deal Brexit at the end of the year. I have tabled legislation in Parliament that has received cross-party backing and which would give MPs a vote on extending the transition period. The official deadline to request an extension may now have passed, but as academics have pointed out there are still imaginative solutions that could be found to get round this issue. I am strong believer that in politics, where there’s a will there’s a way. We must not let the government steamroller us into a damaging no deal Brexit that the majority of the public don’t support and that nobody voted for.
Second, we must continue protecting the rights of EU nationals and others from abroad who have made the UK their home, including the thousands working in the NHS and social care. The announcement that care workers will not qualify for the government’s new Health and Care visa was a worrying sign of what is to come. It is disgraceful that those risking their lives each day helping vulnerable people during this pandemic are being told they’re not skilled enough to qualify for a visa. Our social care system relies on overseas carers, we should be welcoming them in not shutting them out.
Finally, we must keep up the fight to maintain close ties with our European neighbours, including in securing the medical supplies our NHS needs. On Friday, the Government inexplicably announced it would be walking away from a joint EU vaccination scheme that could have helped drive down costs and secure supplies of a vaccine once one is developed. It’s crucial that these decisions are properly scrutinised, and that opposition MPs work together to ensure ministers cannot get away with putting political dogma over public health.
• Layla Moran is a Lib Dem MP and a contestant in the party’s leadership race.