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Hustings: Mark Argent's closing speech

June 2, 2017 11:00 PM

In the background Mark Argent - Hertfordof all that is going on at the moment is the profound change being brought by globalisation, and in particular, the changes that arise from the people of China and India rising out of poverty, so that these countries take on the importance that follows from their size.

When we created the single market, the case for bringing together all the national EU markets was that no one European nation had a big enough domestic market to enable to compete with Japan or the USA, whose populations then were 110 million and 270 million respectively. Now the populations of the US, EU and Japan together are less than either China or India (1382 and 1326 million respectively).

This re-frames everything. Donald Trump made promises about bringing jobs back to the US, and his supporters were wearing hats that said "Make America Great" - but inside was a "Made in China" label.

In the UK, the biggest loss of national sovereignty in many years came when George Osborne agreed Chinese investment and involvement in the Hinckley nuclear power station - giving away huge influence over the UK with barely a murmur from the press.

That's a far bigger change than the pooling of sovereignty in the EU - where the governments we elect send people to the Council of Ministers and appoint the Commission, and the European Parliament we elect has a key role in making decisions.

Globalisation does bring up lots of fears. The changes are enormous. What we need now is the wise leadership that enables us to steer through difficult times, not the posturing that makes people more anxious.

In the details are important commitments, such as the fully-costed manifesto commitments to more money for the NHS and social care from a 1p rise in income tax, and reversing cuts to schools. But the big picture of globalisation puts Brexit into a perspective, and highlights the folly of a hard Brexit.

The Liberal Democrat vision is of a "fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity" (quoting our constitution). That's an agenda that offers benefits at home and abroad. It changes Britain's future from something narrow, frightened and isolationist, to something open, tolerant and united. It is a vision to vote for in this election.