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Lib Dem manifesto pledges to take UK back into EU single market

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey stressed that his party has ‘put health and care at the heart’ of its manifesto, but the document also includes the aim to ‘fix the UK’s broken relationship with Europe’ (Lucy North/PA)
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey stressed that his party has ‘put health and care at the heart’ of its manifesto, but the document also includes the aim to ‘fix the UK’s broken relationship with Europe’ (Lucy North/PA)

The Liberal Democrats would seek to eventually take the UK back into the European Union single market, the party said in its General Election manifesto, which centres on health and social care.

The document, titled For A Fair Deal, sets out that the Lib Dems would fund a £9.4 billion package for the NHS and social care in England by increasing taxes for banks and closing loopholes used by the super-rich.

While leader Sir Ed Davey stressed that his party has “put health and care at the heart” of the manifesto, the 116-page document also includes the aim to “fix the UK’s broken relationship with Europe”.

“Once ties of trust and friendship have been renewed, and the damage the Conservatives have caused to trade between the UK and EU has begun to be repaired, we would aim to place the UK-EU relationship on a more formal and stable footing by seeking to join the single market,” the document’s international section says.

With all the main parties largely seeking to avoid the topic of Brexit in this election campaign, this is a more muted pledge than the Lib Dems’ key promise in their last manifesto in 2019 to “stop Brexit”.

On health, the Lib Dem manifesto promises everyone in England “the right to see a GP within seven days, or within 24 hours if they urgently need to, with 8,000 more GPs to deliver on it”.

The party plans to boost cancer survival rates and introduce a guarantee for 100% of patients to start treatment for cancer within 62 days from urgent referral.

The Lib Dems also want to guarantee access to NHS dentistry for those in need of urgent care, and they promise to implement the recommendations of the Infected Blood Inquiry in full, including “full and fair compensation to all victims of the scandal in a timely and transparent manner”.

Improved mental health access is also part of the party’s offer, with mental health hubs for young people proposed for “every community”.

Some £1 billion a year would be earmarked for capital investment in hospitals, equipment and other health infrastructure.

Another £1 billion would go to public health, with the aim of helping people spend five more years of their life in good health.

And there would be £3.7 billion for social care – a subject close to Sir Ed’s heart.

Speaking at the manifesto launch in central London on Monday, Sir Ed said: “Caring has been in the shadows for loo long, and I’m proud that, as a party, we have brought it into the light.

Pointing to his own experiences as a carer for his disabled son and terminally-ill mother, he said: “The truth is, unless we properly value care, unless we properly support carers, we will never be able to fix the crisis in our NHS or get our economy back on track.

“And that’s why I’m so proud the Liberal Democrats have put health and care at the heart of our campaign in this General Election, and at the heart of our manifesto too.”

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey at the manifesto launch
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey launches the party’s General Election manifesto (Lucy North/PA)

The party promises to raise the money needed for its investment plans, including the £9 billion package of commitments to fix the health and social care system, by:

– “Reversing Tory tax cuts” for banks, restoring bank surcharge and bank levy revenues to 2016 levels in real terms.

– Increasing the Digital Services Tax on social media firms and other tech giants from 2% to 6%.

– Reforming capital gains tax – paid on profits from selling an asset – to “close loopholes exploited by the super-wealthy”.

– Introducing a 4% tax on the share buyback schemes of FTSE-100 listed companies, to incentivise productive investment, job creation and economic growth.

Other pledges in the manifesto include ending the sewage crisis “by transforming water companies into public benefit companies, banning bonuses for water bosses until discharges and leaks end, and replacing Ofwat with a tough new regulator with powers to prevent sewage dumps”.

Among the economic measures the party also pledges to enact is “long-term help with the cost of living by cutting energy bills through an emergency Home Energy Upgrade programme, tackling rising food prices through a National Food Strategy, and getting mortgage rates under control through careful economic management”.

The Lib Dems have vowed to maintain the triple lock on the state pension, in a similar move to Labour and the Conservatives, and also pledged to ensure women born in the 1950s who have been affected by pension age changes are “treated fairly and properly compensated”.

On political reform, Sir Ed told the launch his party would end the first-past-the-post voting system in favour of “fair votes with proportional representation”.

He said this would also involve “getting big money out of politics with a cap on donations to political parties, shifting power out of the centre”.