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  • Antony Hook
    Article: Apr 25, 2018

    Liberal Democrats have called on the county's MPs to put Kent and the country's interests first, and support remaining in the customs union.

    As a Commons vote looks increasingly likely, MPs are being urged to put party politics aside and vote to protect more than 45,000 Kent jobs directly related to European trade.

    Any disruption to free-flowing trade with the continent could have catastrophic consequences for the county. Many sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, fishing and transport rely on the customs union to be able to trade freely and easily with European customers and suppliers.

    And as the UK's gateway to Europe, Kent will bear the brunt of delays and disruption caused by border checks. About 11,000 lorries pass through Dover every day and there are fears the county could face almost permanent Operation Stack if customs checks are imposed, gridlocking Kent's roads and causing untold damage to livelihoods and the economy.

    Councillor Antony Hook, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Economic Development, said: "As the catastrophic implications of Brexit become clear, our MPs owe it to the people of Kent to defend their interests in the face of the government's disastrous and short-sighted policies.

    "Remaining in the customs union would go some way towards protecting jobs and businesses, but we will continue to campaign for a people's vote on the final deal once we know the facts."

    Last year Kent Liberal Democrats tabled a motion calling for Kent County Council to write to ministers asking them to "take all necessary steps to ensure to continued free flow of freight between Kent and continental Europe, at least as seamlessly as present."

    It asked Parliament to consider all legal possibilities for Kent and the UK outside the EU, including retaining membership of the single market and customs union. The Channel Islands, which are not EU members yet retain access to the customs union, offer a potential model.

    A lorry from within the EU typically takes two minutes to clear customs at Dover, while a lorry from outside the EU takes 20 minutes. At the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee last month, Chancellor Phillip Hammond sent his clearest warning yet that Dover could 'grind to a halt', if customs checks were imposed.

    In July 2015 Operation Stack gridlocked Kent for several weeks, with queues of lorries stretching more than 30 miles down the M20. The cost of the disruption to the UK economy has been estimated by the Freight Transport Association at more than £250m.

    Kent Police also faced a hefty bill of more than £700,000 for managing the closures.

  • Article: Apr 25, 2018

    Upskirting is the act of taking a photo up a woman's skirt without her consent.

    In 2009 it was made illegal in Scotland but shockingly it remains legal in England and Wales.

    Authorities can ask a perpetrator to delete the photo but under current law no further prosecution is possible.

    Police have managed to prosecute some people for upskirting for outraging public decency. But this is patently absurd as it should not matter how public it was or who else saw it. This also ignores the fact this is a crime with a victim.

  • Palace of Westminster.
    Article: Apr 23, 2018

    In the face of further defeats on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, and following further pressure from Peers across the House of Lords, the government has brought forward amendments to ensure that the UK still has the ability to refer to and apply EU guidance for legal matters in our courts going forwards.

  • The House of Lords. Image: UK Parliament
    Article: Apr 23, 2018

    Liberal Democrats have voted with a majority of cross-party Peers in the House of Lords to inflict another defeat on the government.

    An amendment to retain the Charter of Fundamental Rights in UK law was successfully moved and is the third defeat for the government in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords at Report Stage.

    The Charter of Fundamental Rights has been a key component of EU law since 2000 and has set the bar on civil, political, social and economic rights.

    The UK's continued use of this piece of legislation shows the rest of the world that we are still committed to the highest standards on human rights and the principles of the Charter going forward.

  • A pile of leaflets to be delivered in a Liberal Democrat Office
    Article: Apr 20, 2018

    The Liberal Democrats won two of the council by-elections that were held last night (with one still to declare!), gaining two seats from the Conservatives!

    The Liberal Democrats, under Vince Cable, are winning seats up and down the country and against all opposition - because people know when they elect Liberal Democrats, they're electing someone who'll get things done for their community!

  • Vince Cable in Twickenham
    Article: Apr 19, 2018

    He criticised the effective monopolies enjoyed by the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon - comparing their market dominance to that of big oil companies in the past - and suggested ways they could be broken up.

    "Data is the new oil. Data is the raw material which drives these firms and it is control of data which gives them an advantage over competitors. These companies have acquired their pivotal position by providing a service or platform through which data can be extracted, collected and used.

    Just as Standard Oil once cornered 85% of the refined oil market, today Google drives 89% of internet search, 95% of young adults on the internet use a Facebook product, Amazon accounts for 75% of E-book sales, while Google and Apple combined provide 99% of mobile operating systems.

    National government and, even more so, supranational bodies like the EU can and should look to break up enterprises where size is detrimental to the economic well-being of the country, its citizens and its capacity for innovation.

    There is a case for splitting Amazon into three separate businesses - one offering cloud computing, one acting as a general retailer and one offering a third-party marketplace. Other examples would be Facebook being forced to divest itself of Instagram and WhatsApp as a condition for operating in the EU, creating two new social media networks. Divesting Google of YouTube would be another.

    What is striking that the most effective competition authority in the capitalist world - the European Commission - is probably the only body with the clout to take these decisions. The UK could quite obviously never do it alone.

    Britain commits an act of serious self-harm by doggedly setting itself apart from the power of shared sovereignty with our neighbours.

  • The House of Lords. Image: UK Parliament
    Article: Apr 18, 2018

    Having sat through over 100 hours of debate so far in the House of Lords on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, I have been angered by the combination of arrogance and incompetence which has characterised the Government's response to a very wide range of concerns expressed.

    From how we continue to regulate and licence the supply of over-the-counter medicines to working with our European neighbours on security policy; from how to maintain reciprocal roaming charges to protecting our hard-won rights and freedoms, the Government has displayed indifference and the inability to answer the most basic of questions.

  • Palace of Westminster.
    Article: Apr 18, 2018

    The Government has tonight been defeated in the House of Lords on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

    An amendment on the customs union supported by the Liberal Democrats, Crossbenchers, Labour, and Conservative peers has passed by 348 votes to 225.

    The defeat forces the government to lay a report before Parliament outlining the steps taken to negotiate a customs union as part of the framework for a future UK-EU relationship, and prevents the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 until these steps have been taken.

    This is a hugely significant moment, the House of Lords has come together to show the government that remaining in a customs union is key to the UK's future prosperity.

    Securing this win on a cross-party basis rams home how out of touch the government have been on this issue and that they drastically need to change tack from the destructive hard Brexit they are pursuing.

  • Palace of Westminster.
    Article: Apr 18, 2018

    An amendment providing enhanced protections for employment, equality, health and safety entitlements, rights and protections, and consumer and environmental standards has been passed in the Lords.

    This is the second defeat today for the government in the EU Withdrawal Bill.

    This defeat is a key step in ensuring that parliament plays the key role in Brexit and not just a handful of Ministers altering standards via the back-door.

    Guaranteeing that standards relating to equality, employment law and many other things can only be altered via primary legislation is extremely significant and essential to the democratic process.

  • Sal Brinton speaking at Lib Dem conference.
    Article: Apr 18, 2018

    April already, so local government election campaigns are getting underway!

    Thanks to all our candidates and their teams, out knocking on doors, putting up poster boards and preparing for getting out postal votes later this month ahead of polling day on 3 May.

    If you haven't got elections near you, please offer to help somewhere nearby - every pair of hands is vital, with plenty of different jobs to be done.