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Brexit: Lib Dems won't campaign to rejoin EU, signals new leader Ed Davey

Revisiting Brexit issue is ‘for the birds’ 

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Sunday 06 September 2020 13:47 BST
Ed Davey was energy secretary in the coalition
Ed Davey was energy secretary in the coalition (PA)

The Liberal Democrats' new leader has signalled that his party won't campaign to rejoin the EU, dubbing the matter "for the birds".

Ed Davey said his party would remain "pro-European" and push for closer ties with the bloc but said there was no appetite to revisit the Brexit issue.

The announcement is a bid to move the liberals beyond the Europe issue, which dominated the party's campaigning in the last parliament but failed to bear electoral fruit.  

“Look, I can’t see us at the next election being anything other than pro-European, but I also think we need to face the situation as it is," he told Sky News on Sunday morning.

"Britain will have left the European Union, I think the idea that people want to re-visit this in two or three years’ time, I think that’s for the birds but we will remain passionately pro-European, determined to get the benefits of working with our friends and neighbours.”

Under former leader Jo Swinson the party initially backed a second referendum on EU membership, but ultimately moved to a policy of revoking Article 50 without another vote.

But despite netting the party an excellent result in the European Parliament elections, the strategy ended in disaster at the 2019 general election, where it failed to gain any seats and saw its leader ousted in East Dunbartonshire.

Layla Moran, Sir Ed's recent leadership contest rival, had said the party needed to "make the positive case to the public" for rejoining the EU, though she said it was not a "short-term" priority.

Sir Ed beat Ms Moran, who is seen as to his left flank, by 63.5 per cent of the vote to 36.5 per cent in a leadership content with the result announced on 27 August.

Speaking on the same programme on Sunday morning Sir Ed, a former coalition cabinet minister under David Cameron, criticised the government's handling of trade negotiations with the EU, branding them "very reckless and risky".

In May this year Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, also said the Brexit issue was over and that his party would not campaign to rejoin the EU. 

Britain left the EU in February this year and is currently in a transition period, negotiating a trade agreement with the bloc. The transition period is set to expire on 31 December, and Boris Johnson has rejected suggestions that it should be extended. 

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