20/01/2017 08:44 GMT | Updated 21/01/2018 05:12 GMT

Welcome To Our Ukip Government

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Just a few minutes after the PM's speech yesterday, a triumphant Nigel Farage rightly congratulated himself for his effective takeover of the UK Government.

Indeed Theresa May's address, aimed at appeasing the right wing tabloids, sounded like a UKIP conference speech. There can be no doubt it would have received a resounding and prolonged standing ovation there.

What happened to "We are clear about what we want from Europe. We say: yes to the Single Market", in the Conservative Manifesto in 2015?

What happened to her own speech back in April last year where she said ''"Britain can and often does lead in Europe: the creation of the single market was driven by Mrs Thatcher"?

The much anticipated speech, though, confirmed our greatest fears - that our unelected PM has chosen to ignore 16 million of her own citizens and will implement the most extreme form of Brexit imaginable. This path towards a reckless, hard Brexit, is not only throwing into doubt the future of millions of families, but that of millions of jobs and hundreds of thousands of companies that depend heavily on the Single Market.

I accept and respect that the British people voted to leave, but they did not vote on the destination.

Nor did they vote for the country's leadership. Britain's future, during one of the most significant moments in our history, cannot just be decided by a small group of people at the top of Government.

The Leave campaign's slogan was 'take back control', but the British people have never been less in control of their own destiny. Theresa May does not have a direct mandate, and the Brexit vote has been treated by her Government like a blank cheque to pursue whatever damaging outcome they choose.

And the vast majority of people disapprove because they want to stay in the Single Market. A recent poll suggested that, regardless of how they voted in the referendum, a staggering 90% of people favour remaining in the Single Market,.

That figure is not surprising when the single market consists of 500 million consumers, a quarter of the world's GDP, and buys 44% of British exports. We are simply never going to magic that trade from elsewhere, especially not in a two-year timespan. Around three million British jobs depend on those exports to the Single Market: how are the government going to guarantee those jobs without full access?

The answer is they can't, and they are taking a course of action which will harm our economy: in the PM's words, an act of 'calamitous self-harm'. What is so frustrating is that they know this: various members of the Cabinet have expressed their full support of the Single Market in the past, including Theresa May herself.

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, pointed out in May that "there is a world of difference between being inside such a market, with tariff-free access as of right, and being outside it, scrabbling around for a deal".

Our Government is now choosing to scrabble around for a deal, with the EU holding the strongest cards; we will be entering negotiations having already raised the white flag on the most significant issue to be addressed in the Brexit negotiations.

Theresa May has said that Parliament will get a vote on the final deal, but given the crucial importance of this decision, why should the British people not get a say too?

Liberal Democrats believe that people are sovereign, not a small group of politicians in Westminster, which is why there should be a referendum on the deal.

If we started the process with a referendum, the people must have the opportunity, through a popular vote, to decide on the direction that the country takes next. By providing a choice, the British public would be allowed to decide whether it is the right deal for them, their families, their jobs and their futures.

Meanwhile, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is completely failing as an opposition. There has never been a more important time to hold the Government to account, yet they cannot even agree on the big issues amongst themselves. It is no wonder that voters are deserting them in local elections up and down the country.

Theresa May and her Government are taking the British people for fools. Their various catch-phrases such as "Brexit means Brexit" and "Red, White and Blue Brexit" are utterly meaningless. Now they have revealed their plans, they could prove utterly devastating. They must be challenged, and the Liberal Democrats are the only party willing to do that.

I do not agree with the view that we should just remain silent during the negotiating process and accept any deal the Government come up with. Following a general election, should the opposition just accept and pass any legislation until the next election, without holding the Government to account? That's not how our democracy works.

If Brexit is going to be a good deal for everyone, that means remaining in the Single Market. And that is something I believe is worth fighting for. The Liberal Democrats, alone, will be fighting for staying in the Single Market and for an open, tolerant and united country.