Britain must “tear down” trade barriers with Europe if it wants the economy to thrive again, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has warned.
In a keynote address at the party’s spring conference in York on Sunday, Sir Ed will say Boris Johnson’s “broken” Brexit deal has been a disaster for British business.
He will argue that the country needs a far more ambitious agenda than what he says is Rishi Sunak’s aim of “mere economic survival”.
His attack comes as MPs prepare to vote this week on a key part of Mr Sunak’s revised deal with Brussels on Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade arrangements.
Ministers hope the Windsor framework will pave the way for better relations with the EU after the turbulence of recent years.
Sir Ed, however, will say a more radical approach is needed if the UK is to enjoy a “strong and sustainable” economy.
“If you want to improve our economy, you have to fix our broken relationship with Europe,” he will say, according to previous excerpts of his speech.
“I don’t need to tell you what a disaster the failed Conservative deal with Europe is for our country.
“That’s why we campaigned against it. Why, when Boris Johnson brought his terrible deal to Parliament, when even Labor backed it, the Liberal Democrats stood alone and voted against it.
“And that’s why the Liberal Democrats are now the only ones with a real plan to fix British trade – to tear down the Tories’ trade barriers, tear up their red tape and rebuild bonds of trust and friendship with our European neighbours.”
Sir Ed will also underline his party’s reputation as “proud internationalists”, condemning the government’s “anti-refugee law”.
He will also attack Mr Sunak’s decision when he was chancellor to abandon the commitment – first introduced by a Conservative-Democrat coalition – to devote 0.7% of national income to international aid.
“Our 0.7% commitment has survived three Conservative chancellors. But then came Rishi Sunak, who tore up that proud commitment of the UK to lead the world in helping the poorest. How cruel, counterproductive and unpatriotic”, they will say.
“So Liberal Democrats, we’re going to put the UK back where it belongs. Leading the fight against poverty, hunger and disease – everywhere in the world.”