Baroness Susan Kramer, shadow business secretary, told IPSE: “The Liberal Democrats see small businesses, including the self-employed, as the backbone and future of the British economy. We are now the only pro-free trade, pro-business party and we will build a strong economy in which people and businesses can thrive.
“Our focus is on providing opportunities for small businesses without exploitation by big business - that includes helping start-up entrepreneurs with a £100 a week living allowance and using the British Business Bank to push funds down into the financial system for both capital and loans.
“We will continue our long history of investing in skills and training, and reward creativity and hard work. We will encourage a strong work ethic and reward entrepreneurs who take a risk and enter the business world.
“One of the reasons we oppose the Theresa May version of Brexit is that it's small entities that will find it hardest to overcome the new barriers to EU markets and skills. We believe that for a strong economy, Britain must remain members of the single market – and it’s why we oppose a hard Brexit.
“Britain’s future can be bright; we don’t have to settle for a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and put up prices, or for run down schools and hospitals. We deserve a better future. By backing the Liberal Democrats you can have the final say on the Brexit deal and you can change Britain’s future.
“We want to make the tax system fairer, which is why when we were in Government we raised the Personal Allowance from £6,475 to £11,000, saving most workers £900 a year and taking more than 3 million of the lowest paid out of paying income tax altogether.
“At this election we are being honest about the fact that a small tax increase is necessary to secure the future of the NHS. By putting an extra 1p on income tax rates, we will be able to invest the £6 billion our health and social care services desperately need. This is the fairest way of raising this money: someone earning £15,000 would only pay an extra £35 a year, while those earning £100,000 will contribute an extra £885.
“Over the long-term our goal is to lift the starting level at which people pay NICs as we did with income tax. We appreciate the risks & uncertainties that face self-employed people. However, we recognise that the NHS & social care are facing a funding crisis which has led us to commit to a 1p rate increase in income tax specifically to rescue those services.
“We will toughen up the enforcement of employment rights, so that employers cannot deny their staff the rights and pay they’re entitled to by falsely classifying them as self-employed. We understand that, in many cases, flexible employment contracts work well for both employees and businesses. But employers should not be able to take all the benefits of flexibility while tying their workers into deals which disadvantage them.
“The Liberal Democrats are fully committed to staying members of the single market. We don’t just want access to it; we want to remain members. Businesses of all sizes will be hit if tariffs are imposed, and new trade deals will be a hugely costly and time-consuming process – and they will not result in a better deal than we have now, through the single market.
“Many self-employed people are selling services across the EU relying on the e-commerce directive, an issue seemingly ignored by the May Government. Any down-turn in the economy from a hard Brexit will tend to hit the self-employed first as bigger businesses retrench.
“Liberal Democrats are calling for a referendum on the final Brexit deal, so that the public can decide whether or not the deal that has been secured is the one they want – if membership of the single market is a deal breaker for you, you will have a chance to say so.”