Lib Dem Brexit spokesperson criticises PM’s progress on EU withdrawal talks

Newly re-appointed Brexit spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats Tom Brake has branded Theresa May’s open letter to EU nationals in Britain and UK nationals abroad as “too little, too late.”

The MP for Carshalton and Wallington has publicly spoken out against Brexit, calling for a second referendum, in line with his party, despite 32% of Liberal Democrat supporters voting to leave the EU in last year’s referendum, according to a YouGov survey.

Mr Brake believes in-fighting within the Conservative Party risks turning Brexit negotiations into a free-for-all.

He said: “We are seeing a government and Cabinet that is critically split on the issue and this has weakened the UK government’s position dramatically in the negotiations because frankly, the EU do not know what it is that the UK actually wants to get out of these negotiations.

“We are now six months into triggering article 50 and it is clear that the government still do not have their own agreement.”

Mr Brake has claimed that, according to research from PwC, the UK economy will not recover from Brexit until 2030.

However, Mr Brake believes that even after 13 years of recovery, the UK economy would still be smaller and be operating from a position of lesser influence.

In his new role, the Carshalton and Wallington MP has outlined his aims for the upcoming year, aiming to obtain more information about the economic ramifications of exiting the EU, mobilising groups working to maintain rights, and pushing for amendments to the withdrawal bill.

It was announced this week that the withdrawal bill is not likely to be put before MPs until mid-November, following 300 tabled amendments.

Mr Brake has commissioned a number of Freedom of Information requests to ascertain the impact of Brexit on the pharmaceutical, automotive, creative and IT sectors, believing these industries to be most affected.

Despite the government commissioning reports into the implications of Brexit on industry, Mr Brake does not believe they have taken the potential ramifications seriously.

“They haven’t even published which sector that they conducted the reports into. So far, they haven’t even been willing to do that,” he said.

“I am absolutely certain that they will have conducted reports into and go some very bad news about the consequences.”

Statistics released this week by the Home Office showed an increase of 29% in incidents of hate crime from the previous year, marking the largest annual rise since records began six years ago.

Hate crime data showed peaks of incidents after terrorist activity and following the EU referendum last year.

“What has happened in the last 15 months is that many EU citizens have felt completely demoralised, unwanted,” Mr Brake said.

“The UK is no longer seen as being a welcoming country and that is rather reflected in the statistics for hate crime.

“There has been a huge spike in the number of crimes of that nature, which I would say is directly linked to the Brexit campaign and the permission it gave to some people to talk down foreigners and attack foreigners verbally which has led to some acting physically.”

Mr Brake also claimed Brexit will lower the UK’s importance globally, as Britain will no longer act as an intermediary between the United States and the EU.

Furthermore, he dubbed US president Donald Trump “an openly protectionist president whose focus is putting America first”, saying that he believed that Britain would be less likely to obtain favourable trade deals unless the US were first catered for.

During his 20-year parliamentary career, Mr Brake has also served as Environment Spokesman Shadow Transport Minister, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport and Shadow Minister for the Home Office.

In September 2012, Mr Brake was promoted to the position of Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.

Regarding his reappointment, Mr Brake said he was pleased, and with his strong background in foreign affairs, this was a “plum position” for him to occupy.

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