Nick Clegg: Brexiteers are ‘avoiding second referendum because they fear they would lose it’

The former Deputy Prime Minister says voters would be much more alert ‘to the lies and fabrications’ deployed during the first EU referendum campaign 

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 02 May 2017 20:09
Comments
Clegg says Labour has ‘forgotten how to do the most basic job of holding the Government to account’
Clegg says Labour has ‘forgotten how to do the most basic job of holding the Government to account’

Brexiteers are avoiding a second referendum on the terms of Brexit because they fear they would fail in convincing the British public to accept a final deal, the former Deputy Prime Minister has said.

During a speech Nick Clegg said voters would be much more alert “to the lies and fabrications” deployed during the EU referendum campaign and that the prospect of Brexit might be “far less appealing” in two years’ time.

The former leader of the Liberal Democrats also said he believed that a leaked account of a dinner between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, at Downing Street last week sounded “very plausible”.

“At the end of the day we are dealing with a very complex set of negotiations with 27 other proud, independent governments and parliaments and they are not going to be barked at as if they are officials in the Home Office, which is the way Number 10 clearly runs things these days,” he said.

“You can’t yell ‘jump’ at Europe and expect the rest of Europe to jump on command.”

Speaking at the National Liberal Club in central London he said the Lib Dems will include two commitments in the party’s manifesto, including holding the Conservatives’ “feet to the fire to very end” in securing as many of the benefits of EU membership as possible and to secure a second referendum on the final Brexit deal. He said the Tories don’t want a second referendum, however, as they “fear they would lose it”.

“It is peculiar that Theresa May argues that supporting a referendum on the outcome of the Brexit talks is tantamount to thwarting the will of the people – it does the opposite, by entrenching the supremacy of the people – especially since it is a case made so forcefully in the past by ardent Brexiteers from John Redwood to David Davis,” he said.

“If Brexit is going to be as popular as they argue it will be, they should surely be enthusiasts for a referendum on the final deal?”

“It is becoming increasingly obvious that their refusal to countenance another referendum is because they fear they would lose it, not least since voters will be much more alert to the lies and fabrications so effectively deployed the first time round. It is the same reason that they brought the date of this general election forward: they know that come 2019, the prospect of Brexit might be far less appealing to many people than it appears today.”

In a scathing attack on the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the former Lib Dem leader, who stepped down following the party’s catastrophic results at the last general election, said it was Labour’s fault that Theresa May’s party now have a clear run at “their extreme version of Brexit”.

“An official opposition that has forgotten how to do the most basic job of holding the Government to account does not deserve to be the official opposition,” he added.

His speech comes after he was visibly irritated earlier on Tuesday after presenter Piers Morgan questioned his decision to raise tuition fees despite pledging not do so. Recalling the interview, Mr Clegg described it as a “baptism of fire” for his first major intervention in the general election campaign.

Mr Clegg, who is also the party’s Brexit spokesperson, accused the Conservatives of “hurting the very people who need most help” as the typical household will be £500 worse off this year than in 2016, according to analysis from the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Mr Clegg said the collapse in the value of sterling was increasing household bills and prices in shops and would be sharply felt by holidaymakers travelling abroad. “If you’re going on holiday to Spain this summer, everything you pay for in euros, from accommodation to ice cream, will be 17 per cent more expensive than it was two years ago,” he said.

“If you’re going to Florida this summer, it’ll feel like a 23 per cent hike.

“When prices go up and wages do not, that can only mean one thing: millions of people are going to be poorer. Our standard of living will be lower.”

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.

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 in