Nick Clegg is set to return to frontline politics as European spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats 14 months after resigning as party leader following a disastrous election result.
The former Deputy Prime Minister under the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition, has maintained a relatively low profile in Westminster since stepping down as leader after his party lost 49 MPs – leaving them with just eight – at the 2015 general election.
In his new role he will be expected to “challenge” his former Cabinet colleagues Theresa May and Liam Fox on their plans for Brexit. Mr Clegg will begin his role by publishing a series of papers outlining the dilemmas facing the UK in a range of areas – including the trading relationship with the EU, university research funding and agriculture. “When it comes to facing down Theresa May,” said Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, “Nick has been there and got the T-shirt.”
Mr Clegg said: “Theresa May says Brexit means Brexit but no one actually know what that means. Will we be in the single market or cut from it, with all the implications that has for British jobs and our economy?”
He added: “With no meaningful opposition from the Labour party, no exit plan from the Government, Whitehall unprepared for the Brexit negotiations, and above all, Theresa May’s refusal to seek a mandate from the people for what is in effect a new government, there is a real risk that she and her Brexit ministers won’t be subject to the scrutiny and accountability which voters deserve.”
The former Lib Dem leader said that “whatever your views on Brexit”, it is in everyone’s interest to make sure what happens next is debated openly and scrutinised properly. Mr Farron, who earlier this week indicated that the calamitous environment of British politics presents a “historic opportunity” to build a new political party or alliance, added: “There is no one better placed in British politics to hold the Government to account over Brexit than Nick.”
He said: “Now that Theresa May’s Brexit government is a reality, I’ve asked Nick to take on a formal role in holding them to account. Over the next months I expect him to be the leading voice in this debate, taking them to task and flushing out what Brexit will really mean for Britain.”
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