Among the many deeply worrying things about Theresa May's Brexit strategy is that it showed more clearly an ever that the Conservative Party is no longer prepared to listen to business. That is why it's never been more important that the Liberal Democrats, as a party that knows we need a strong, sustainable, fair, free trading economy, listens to the concerns of those who create jobs and drive our economy.
It is also why, on Tuesday, as debate took place in Parliament on the Bill to trigger Article 50, Liberal Democrats MPs and Peers held a 'Business and Brexit day' - a day specifically focused on meeting businesses and business leaders from across the country.
Brexit represents one of the most potentially damaging changes in generations to the way British companies must operate. Every decision taken during the negotiations will, in every part of the country, affect every business sector. So we wanted to hear their thoughts on the Government's Brexit strategy and what they need to see from the negotiations for their businesses.
The day kicked off with Tim Farron leading a roundtable of high profile trade bodies, from sectors such as tourism, food, technology, finance and the creative industries, alongside bodies representing businesses both big and small.
Later in the day Lib Dem MPs and Peers met a range of business people from industries as wide ranging as pharmaceuticals, defence and construction, while Susan Kramer, our Shadow Chancellor, and Jeremy Purvis, our International Trade Spokesperson, met with the President of the CBI.
In the coming weeks, we will be pulling together what we heard, and using it to help inform how we respond to the Brexit negotiations. But what was very clear from all our discussions was the scale of the challenge facing businesses.
We heard time and again that businesses could struggle post Brexit to get the skills they need, at every skill level and in every industry. We heard fears that the rules businesses operated under could change almost overnight, leaving smaller businesses struggling to reassess how they work. And we heard clearly that no amount of trade deals with New Zealand, Japan or even America will make up for the decision to cut the UK off from its biggest trading partner and the biggest market in the world- the EU.
One thing that has become very clear during our conversations with business, is that the Conservatives, the Party who once prided themselves as 'the Party of Business' are now anything but. That is a gross abdication of duty. Meanwhile the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn is now an anti-business party, and has no intention of standing up for business on Brexit or any other issue.
Our Brexit and Business day is just the start of a process that must continue through the Brexit process, and long into the future. The true effects of Brexit may take years to be really understood and during that time business, workers and the public will need the Liberal Democrats to champion and protect their interests.
That's why I am urging Liberal Democrats across the country to ensure that they too are going out to businesses in their communities to find out, and report back, how Brexit will affect them. By listening to those who make our economy thrive, we can ensure that Liberal Democrats are not just the only Party prepared to challenge the Government on Brexit, but also that we are the Party of business
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