Liberal Democrats will halt Brexit ‘on day one’ if they win parliamentary majority in snap election

Jo Swinson says she is standing as ‘candidate for prime minister’ in election which may come within the next few months

Jo Swinson says Lib Dem conference will decide whether to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit

Liberal Democrats will halt Brexit “on day one” if they win a parliamentary majority in the snap election expected within weeks, leader Jo Swinson is promising.

After delegates at the party’s annual conference voted overwhelmingly to fight the election on a platform of cancelling Brexit, Ms Swinson will make clear that she will not delay in revoking the letter sent by Theresa May in March 2017 to notify Brussels of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU under the Article 50 process.

In her first conference speech as Liberal Democrat leader, the 39-year-old, who succeeded Sir Vince Cable only in July, will claim she is ready to take over the reins of power at 10 Downing Street, telling activists in Bournemouth: “I am standing here as your candidate for prime minister.”

With a snap election expected in November or December at which new recruit Chuka Umunna suggested the Lib Dems could win as many as 200 seats, Ms Swinson will say the party has no time to lose.

“Our country needs us, at this precarious time,” she will say.

“We do not have 10 or 15 years. We need to seize the opportunity now.”

She will promise: “The first task is clear. We must stop Brexit.

“And we are crystal clear: a Liberal Democrat majority government will revoke Article 50 on day one.”

In a scathing attack on Boris Johnson, she will compare the prime minister to a “socialist dictator” for his suspension of parliament, his purge of internal party critics and his threats to ignore a law barring a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

And she will cast doubt on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s conversion to support for a second referendum, making clear she blames his lukewarm campaigning for the Leave victory in 2016.

“If he had campaigned to Remain in 2016 with half of the energy he put into the 2017 election, we may have seen a different result,” she will say.

Deriding Labour’s convoluted promise to negotiate a Brexit deal only to put it to a referendum, she will say: “Nigel Farage might be Brexit by name, but it is very clear that Jeremy Corbyn is Brexit by nature.”

And she will make a special plea to voters in strongly Remain-backing Scotland to rally round the Lib Dems as the only national party in the coming election standing unequivocally for blocking Brexit.

“A big vote for the Liberal Democrats in Scotland at the general election will give us the final push that we need,” she will say.

“The energy is with us. Come with us to stop Brexit.”

Jo Swinson joins Liberal Democrat delegates in Bournemouth in voting to block Brexit

Ms Swinson will describe as “sickening” Mr Johnson’s willingness to consider a no-deal Brexit in spite of the gloom-filled warnings of potential chaos set out in the government’s own Operation Yellowhammer planning document.

“The truth is, you can’t plan for no deal,” she will say.

“Planning for no deal is like planning to burn your house down. You might have insurance, but you’re still going to lose all your stuff.”

And she will add: “There is no Brexit that will be good for our country.

“Brexit will put lives at risk. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, doctors are worried about the impact that delays at borders will have on the supply of time-sensitive radiopharmaceuticals. That’s cancer patients waiting longer for scans and treatments as a direct consequence of government policy.

“Brexit will hurt our economy. Thousands of car manufacturing jobs already lost: Honda in Swindon; Jaguar Land Rover in Birmingham; Ford in Bridgend; Nissan in Sunderland. And more, if we leave.

“This Brexiteer government want to pay for their ideology with other people’s jobs.”

Ms Swinson has had to fend off allegations at the Bournemouth gathering that her willingness to revoke Article 50 is “anti-democratic”.

Senior Lib Dem MP Sir Norman Lamb warned that the policy was “playing with fire” and risked breaking the social contract with voters.

Norman Lamb warns Lib Dems are "playing with fire" over Brexit

But she told Sky News: “If we win a majority in parliament on the very clear position of stopping Brexit then that will be a mandate to do that. People would expect us to do what we’ve said we would do in that election campaign.

“Democracy did not end on 23 June 2016. I’ve spoken to plenty of people who have changed their mind since that time.”

But Conservative chair James Cleverly said: “The Liberal Democrats’ extreme policy on Brexit is neither liberal nor democratic. The Lib Dems are determined to cancel the largest democratic vote in British history without so much as a whimper.

“It’s shocking that a party which was once such a keen advocate for a referendum is now so eager to trample over democracy. They won’t get Brexit sorted and instead will, just like the Labour Party, create more dither, and delay.”

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