Nick Clegg's speech: Five point plan to make UK the biggest economy in Europe

March 9, 2015 12:39 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have set out plans to build a stronger economy, with a target of making the UK the largest economy in Europe by 2035.

Announcing the plans Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg said:

"When the Liberal Democrats took the decision to step up to the plate and enter government in May 2010, Britain's economy was on the brink.

"It may not feel like it now but we could have been Greece. In 2010, their deficit was 11% of GDP, ours was 10%.

"Britain desperately needed stability and the Liberal Democrats provided that by forming the only Government capable of delivering it: a strong, stable coalition government.

"Since then we have led an extraordinary success story.

"We now have one of the fastest growing economies in the developed world.

"We have more people in work than ever before.

"We have more women in work than ever before.

"A record 2m people have started apprenticeships.

"Unemployment, and youth unemployment in particular, is falling and shows every sign of continuing to do so.

"And all this in the wake of the biggest shock to our economy in generations, while uncertainty and instability has gripped our biggest export market - the Eurozone.

"Make no mistake, the recovery would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats.

"If this parliament was about rescue, the next must be about renewal, about rewiring our economy so that it can flourish in the 21st century.

"And as we do, we can raise our sights and begin to think big about what Britain can become.

"The Liberal Democrats believe that by building a strong, modern, open economy we can become the powerhouse of Europe.

"We believe that we can leapfrog France and Germany to become the biggest economy in Europe within a generation.

"That is hugely ambitious but absolutely possible.

"It means growing at a faster rate than both France and Germany for years to come.

"As we do, we can overtake France in a few short years.

"Germany is further ahead but we can catch them too - overtaking them as the biggest economy in Europe by 2035.

"To do it we need two things: to secure the recovery; and to put in place an ambitious long-term strategy that harnesses and encourages the skills and dynamism of British workers and British businesses.

"In Government, we have laid the foundations of that future economy.

"We knew that as we rebuilt the economy we had to do more than simply return to business as usual.

"We knew we had to rebalance our economy, away from its over-reliance on the financial sector in the City of London and towards growth across the whole United Kingdom.

"We knew we needed a real long-term strategy to boost British industry and put high tech manufacturing and cutting edge green technologies at the heart of a new economy.

"And we knew we had to invest in the skills of a new generation of talented and enthusiastic British workers.

"That is exactly what we have done.

"Through the Regional Growth Fund, City Deals and Local Growth Deals we have put our money where our mouth is and helped to kick start businesses and growth all across the country.

"Through Vince Cable's industrial strategy, a Liberal Democrat Business Secretary has created a truly long-term approach to building a modern, open and liberal economy, supporting key sectors where British innovation can lead the world and putting Britain's manufacturing industry on the path to where it belongs - at the heart of our economy.

"Through the Business Bank and the Green Investment Bank, we are supporting Britain's small and medium-sized businesses and the clean, green technologies that we can lead the world in.

"And by helping businesses to create more than two million apprenticeships we are helping to train the workforce of the future.

"We have rescued the economy and started the work of rebuilding and reshaping it for the future.

"Now we need to secure the recovery, finishing the job of deficit reduction, in full and on time, but doing so fairly.

"That means a stable, centre-ground approach that balances the books and, once the deficit is cleared, allows us to start to bring down the national debt and invest again in our world class public services.

"That stable foundation is the platform on which we will build the strong, modern and innovative economy Britain needs to compete in the 21st century.

"Shortly, Vince will set out our five-point plan for the long-term sustainable growth that can power the British economy in the coming decades.

"This is a plan that only the Liberal Democrats can deliver.

"Both Labour and the Conservatives will put our future prosperity in jeopardy.

"Labour has no coherent economic plan.

"Despite paying lip service to the need for deficit reduction, they have not given any indication how they intend to do it.

"A Labour majority government would borrow billions more and put our stability and our recovery at risk.

"They would borrow £70bn more than we will by 2020, leaving us paying £4bn a year more just on the interest on our debt. That is money that could be spent on schools and hospitals.

"And the Conservatives, despite claiming they will 'stick to the plan', are actually proposing to veer away sharply from it.

"They propose huge cuts to public spending, far beyond what is needed to balance the books, not because they are necessary but because they see an ideological opportunity to shrink the state.

"In 2020, the Conservatives will cut £38bn more than we will - cuts that will hit everything from schools and nurseries, to the police and the armed forces.

"The last thing Britain needs is the shock of a lurch to the left or right.

"What Britain needs right now, what business need right now, is stability. We must not take that for granted.

"Without stability we cannot plan for the future.

"That's why the Liberal Democrats will borrow less than Labour and cut less than the Conservatives.

"Only the Liberal Democrats can keep the government in the centre ground and secure our economic recovery, finishing the job but finishing it fairly.

"Only the Liberal Democrats can build the strong, modern, open economy we need to become the biggest economy in Europe in a generation.

"Only the Liberal Democrats can build a stronger economy and a fairer society, with opportunity for everyone.

"Thank you."