Lib Dems in open “defiance” of the public’s democratic decision on Brexit

Lib Dems in open “defiance” of the public’s democratic decision on Brexit

The Liberal Democrat conference is in full swing and today the assembled delegates have passed a motion effectively refusing to accept June’s EU referendum result.

Their policy now is that we would only leave the EU if a second referendum endorsed that position at the conclusion of negotiations – and even then the Lib Dems would campaign to remain members of the EU, regardless.

What’s more, they say that any deal (which I emphasise again, they will oppose anyway) must include membership of the Single Market, including unfettered freedom of movement, and that Article 50 must not be triggered until after Parliament has voted to do so (and I assume here that their eight MPs and 105 peers would intend trying to scupper this too).

Speaking at the conference, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – now politically reincarnated as his party’s Brexit spokesman – said it was essential for British prosperity to remain in the single market, which allows free movement of trade and labour:

“I think, under pressure from their swivel-eyed backbenchers, under pressure from the, sort of, Brexit press, under pressure from their own internal contradictions, they [the government] will move remorselessly towards a hard Brexit. Not only taking us out of the European Union, but taking us out of the single market as well. And when they do that they will do untold damage to the British economy.”

Given his time as an MEP and European Commission staffer, does he have an EU pension he ought to be declaring as an interest whenever he speaks on these matters, I wonder?

Meanwhile, his fellow former leader Menzies Campbell, now Lord Campbell, openly took his frustration at the will of the British people to the level of defiance, telling the conference:

“My disappointment and frustration has now been replaced by defiance. What about the defiance of the 16 million people who voted to remain in Europe? Who will speak for them? We alone can do so.”

At June’s referendum 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU. In May 2015, 2.4 million people voted Lib Dem.

The former Business Secretary, Sir Vince Cable, however, did urge his party to drop the calls for a second referendum, telling Press Association that:

“I’m not criticising [Mr Farron], I would just like to see more emphasis on what it is we want from these negotiations rather than arguing about the tactics and the means. We must accept the public have voted on the matter.”

4.30pm update:

Further reaction from Sir Vince Cable, courtesy of PA:

“There are people in the party who don’t accept the outcome, who feel incredibly angry and feel it’s reversible, that somehow we can undo it. The public have voted and I do think it’s seriously disrespectful and politically utterly counterproductive to say ‘sorry guys, you’ve got it wrong, we’re going to try again’, I don’t think we can do that. That’s a personal view, and a lot of people won’t share that view.”