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