Lib Dems’ ex-leader at­tacks pledge to re­voke ar­ti­cle 50

The Observer - - News - Michael Sav­age Pol­icy Ed­i­tor

The Lib­eral Democrats’ pledge to re­voke Brexit with­out a se­cond ref­er­en­dum should it win power has been crit­i­cised by its for­mer leader.

Sir Vince Ca­ble, who stood down as leader ear­lier this year, said that the pol­icy had be­come “a dis­trac­tion and not a very help­ful one” in the party’s at­tempts to win over swaths of new vot­ers.

The Lib Dems for­mally adopted the re­voke stance at its con­fer­ence. The pol­icy states that the party would re­voke ar­ti­cle 50 to can­cel Brexit in the un­likely event that it won a ma­jor­ity. Se­nior Lib Dems have been pri­vately con­ced­ing that the pol­icy has ac­tu­ally put off some Re­main vot­ers from back­ing it, while oth­ers re­port that it has made it harder for them to win the back­ing of for­mer Tory vot­ers.

Speak­ing to BBC Ra­dio 4’s To­day pro­gramme, Ca­ble said that the party should sim­ply have fo­cused on be­ing pro-Re­main in any se­cond ref­er­en­dum. “I’ve al­ways ar­gued that ac­tu­ally [re­vok­ing ar­ti­cle 50] was wildly im­prob­a­ble,” he said. “We were never go­ing to get 350 MPs, so the pol­icy had been and should be to ar­gue for the People’s Vote, go­ing back to the pub­lic, to the ref­er­en­dum with sup­port for Re­main. So the re­voke was a dis­trac­tion, and not a very help­ful one.”

Ca­ble’s com­ments come with the Lib Dems ap­pear­ing to face a squeeze in the polls. Ear­lier this year Lib Dem in­sid­ers had been hop­ing that the elec­tion would hand the party its best-ever re­sult.

The Lib Dem leader, Jo Swin­son, has been forced to de­fend the re­voke stance. Dur­ing a dif­fi­cult grilling on a BBC Ques­tion Time spe­cial last month, she said: “I don’t think you could ac­cuse us of not be­ing upfront about want­ing to stop Brexit.”

Vince Ca­ble says his party should fo­cus on a se­cond ref­er­en­dum.

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