The Liberal Democrats are fracturing over the party’s new position to revoke Article 50, less than a day after it was agreed as formal policy.
Yesterday afternoon members overwhelmingly voted for MPs to stand on a manifesto promise to revoke Brexit without a referendum.
Under the plan, the Liberal Democrats would still support a second Brexit referendum with an option of remain, but would promise to Revoke Article 50 if Jo Swinson’s party won an absolute majority.
The move came just after former Conservative minister Sam Gymiah became the latest MP to defect, joining the likes of pro-Remain Chuka Umunna, Sarah Wollaston and Philip Lee.
But while Swinson said the new policy would allow the party to be “straightforward with people in an election”, it was immediately attacked by commentators on Twitter, who claimed the move was “neither liberal nor democratic”.
Swinson told The Marr Show: “As Liberal Democrats we have argued that a specific Brexit deal should be put to a people’s vote to give clarity. But if we end up at a general election then I think we need to be straightforward with people and give them an option for all this Brexit chaos to stop.
“But if instead we find ourselves in an election it would be bizarre for us to suggest that the main issue of that election will be anything other than Brexit.”
This morning outgoing MP and former minister Norman Lamb, who plans to retire at the next election, told the Today programme he warned it was “playing with fire”.
He added: “I don’t feel, personally, that there enough people out there trying to find ways of reuniting the people in our country and I think that the polarisation that we are seeing is actually incredibly dangerous. I think we are playing with fire in many ways.”
Lib Dem peer Paul Scriven agreed, tweeting: “Our new policy on Article 50 is wrong and we are boarding on becoming extreme on Brexit. We will not help to bring the country together if we unilaterally act in this way.”
Scriven added: “Our role is to look deeper than a way to stop Brexit which could widen the social divide that now is fracturing our country. Process to bring people together is just as important as outcome. We are not going to help heal the divide with this new policy.”
Main image: Getty