Vince Cable says hard Brexit 'can be stopped' upon becoming Lib Dem leader

New leader challenges pro-EU Tories to ‘stand up and fight’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 20 July 2017 18:37
Comments
Vince Cable became leader after no other MP challenged him
Vince Cable became leader after no other MP challenged him

The new Liberal Democrat leader has called on pro-EU Conservative MPs to show courage and fight a hard Brexit, saying: “This process can be stopped.”

Sir Vince Cable told The Independent he believed many Tories were “holding their fire” and could be persuaded to join a cross-party campaign to force Theresa May to change course.

“The question is how many will be sufficiently courageous and forthright to come out,” he said, just moments after being crowned leader.

“We will give leadership on this issue. We will reach out to them [MPs], left and right.

“But it’s up to them as to whether they are willing to stand up and fight. If they are willing to, then this process can be stopped and the damage can be massively reduced.”

The aim would be to to keep the UK in the EU single market and customs union, as well as preserve collaboration on research with European partners, he said.

He gave “credit” to the 50-odd Labour MPs who backed single market membership recently, despite Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to do so.

The 74-year-old also promised to offer voters the chance of an “exit from Brexit”, through a second referendum on EU membership, after any deal is agreed.

Voters should be asked “Do you wish to accept what is coming down the track, jumping off the cliff and hoping there’s a tree to catch you or do we want to stay within the European Union?” he said.

And he pointed to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, as a potential ally arguing for a softer Brexit against the hardline Brexiteers in the Cabinet.

“He is a political adult, you’ve got Boris Johnson in short trousers, and Dr Fox in nappies. In that company he deserves some qualified support,” Sir Vince said.

The former Business Secretary became leader after no other Lib Dem MP chose to challenge him – becoming the oldest leader in the party’s history.

The vacancy arose after Tim Farron quit, arguing he could not reconcile his Christian faith with the demands of leading a “progressive, liberal” party.

A disappointing general election campaign saw the party increase its tally of MPs by just three to stand at 12, despite its staunch opposition to Brexit.

At a press conference, Sir Vince said the Lib Dems had a real opportunity to occupy the “gigantic space in the middle of British politics” left by the two main parties’ move to the extremes.

The Brexit negotiations were being conducted by a “dysfunctional, disorganised, disunited” administration, led by a Prime Minister who had lost her “political authority”.

The new leader’s age has led to speculation at Westminster that Sir Vince will effectively be a caretaker leader, handing over to new deputy Jo Swinson as the next general election approaches.

But Ms Swinson told the BBC: “There’s been no kind of discussion like that. We will obviously work very closely together as we have before.”

Sir Vince also insisted he was not a stop-gap leader, saying: “I will serve for as long as I need to. I’m not here for the short term, I’m not here as a caretaker.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in