Lib Dems pledge to rejoin EU's single market in manifesto 'to save the NHS'

The Liberal Democrats would seek to bring the UK back into the European Union's single market, the party says in its manifesto.

While policies on health and social care have been front and centre of their election campaign, the 114-page document also includes an aim "to place the UK-EU relationship on a more formal and stable footing by seeking to join the single market".

General Election latest: Lib Dem leader unveils plan to 'save the NHS'

The party also has a "longer-term ambition" to rejoin the EU.

This is a more muted commitment than their policy to "stop Brexit" in 2019 - a slogan emblazoned on the front of their manifesto that election year.

Like the other main parties, the Lib Dems have been relatively quiet on Brexit since then.

However, speaking during the manifesto launch, leader Sir Ed Davey called the Lib Dems "the most pro-European party in British politics".

"We're proud of that", he added.

Asked if rejoining the EU is something he wants to see in the next parliament, Sir Ed said it "is going to take time, regrettably because the Conservatives have done such damage".

"We believe in the long term we need to be back in the heart of Europe, but we aren't going to pretend that is going to be easy," he said.

£9bn plan to fix health and social care

The pledges on Europe come on top of a £9bn package of commitments to fix the health and social care system.

This includes plans to recruit 8,000 more GPs, the right to see a GP within seven days, and boost cancer survival rates

Sir Ed said it was "a manifesto to save the NHS".

The party plans to raise around £5bn from reforming capital gains tax (CGT), which is paid on profits from the sale of assets such as shares or property.

CGT is currently set lower than the rate of income tax, something seen by many as unfair.

Some £4bn will also come from reversing a tax cut given to big banks, the party said.

Carers central to manifesto

Sir Ed, who has spoken candidly of his experience caring for his disabled son and, as a child, looking after his terminally ill mother, has made carers central to his party's campaign.

He said his manifesto is the first in the party's history to include a dedicated chapter on care, with pledges including free personal care for the elderly and the disabled and a higher salary for care workers, set £2 above the minimum wage.

Sir Ed said: "Caring has been in the shadows for too long, and I'm proud that, as a party, we have brought it into the light."

The manifesto, titled For A Fair Deal, also promises not to increase income tax, VAT or national insurance.

Other pledges announced on Monday include:

• A plan to tackle the sewage crisis, ban bonuses for water company CEOs, and put environmental experts on company boards.
• A Burglary Response Guarantee to ensure every burglary is attended by a police officer.
• Free school meals for 900,000 more children living in poverty, and an ambition to extend this to all primary school children whenever the public finances allow.
• Scrapping the First Past The Post voting system and replacing it with proportional representation

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The polices will be funded by a series of tax rises which amount to £26.7 billion in 2028-29.

As well as taxes on banks and reforms to capital gains, this includes increasing levies on tech firms and oil and gas giants, a "super tax" on private jet travel, the removal of VAT exemptions for private, first-class and business-class flights and a tax on share buybacks.

However the Institute for Fiscal Studies said going after big companies might not raise as much money as hoped - as firms could change their financing strategies to avoid some of the charges, for example.

And independent health organisation the Nuffield Trust said while it welcomed the party having dedicated a chapter in the manifesto to the adult social care system, the proposed funding appears to fall short.

'Take a chance on us'

The Lib Dems are targeting traditional Conservative voters in the so-called "Blue Wall", with polls projecting they could quadruple their current number of seats in a parliament expected to be dominated by a huge Labour majority.

Asked how his ideas could have any impact on the next five years if Labour does win a landslide, Sir Ed said success "results in lots of Lib Dem MPs getting elected" - and urged people to "take a chance on us".

He said: " I want [voters] to see that we've got great ideas, great candidates. And the more of us they vote for, the more we can get real change because we are the party really offering change, whether it's in the political system or on health and care."

He added his manifesto was fully costed and the costings had been done "cautiously".

"An election should be about ideas. And we've got the best ones."

Following the manifesto launch, Sir Ed headed to Thorpe Park and boarded a giant teacup, saying he wanted to show a different side to politicians.

Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden said: "A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to put Sir Keir Starmer in Downing Street."