Jo Swinson says transition good time to reverse Brexit ref

Sir Vince Cable tonight opened the Liberal Democrat conference with a vow to offer Britain an ‘exit from Brexit’. 

In his first address to activists as party leader, Sir Vince said under his leadership the party was still the ‘party of remain’. 

In defiance of the historic referendum vote last year, the Liberal Democrats gathered in Bournemouth today plotting ways to halt Brexit.

Deputy leader Jo Swinson earlier told activists she believed a transitional deal could be used to halt Brexit before Britain ever leaves the EU.

Leading Brexiteers told MailOnline the Lib Dems ‘can’t or won’t get the message’ from the electorate.

New Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable (pictured at conference in Brighton today) will use the conference to make clear his party is still firmly committed to frustrating the referendum 

The Lib Dems gathering in Bournemouth are set to review why they failed to make major process at June’s general election, going from eight to just 12 seats despite targeting the Remain vote.

Speaking at a rally to launch the conference, Sir Vince said: ‘We are the party of Remain. We believe membership of the EU is in the interest of our country.

‘Nobody has yet come up with a plausible explanation about how we will be better off leaving.

‘Divorce is messy and often nasty and I fear this will be. We are not looking for soft exit – we are the party of Remain. 

‘We want the public to have a choice. Once we know the outcome… we want people to have a vote. 


Sir Vince Cable tonight joked he would swerve any future dinner invites from George Osborne after the ex-chancellor said he wanted the PM ‘chopped up in his freezer’.

Mr Osborne was reported to have made the graphic vow in an major Esquire profile this week.  

Sir Vince recalled his election campaign and repeated a story about George Osborne’s son campaigning for him in Twickenham.

He joked: ‘I have had a very long political career and i don;t intend to end it at the back of George Osborne’s freezer, waiting to be consumed along with a bottle of chateau Rothschild.

‘Do you want to go ahead with what the Government has negotiated or do you want an exit from Brexit.’

He added: ‘We have to argue the people can be trusted.

‘There is a battle ahead we have got to fight.’ 

Sir Vince struck a sombre note at the start of his speech to reflect on the terror attacj in Parsons Green.

He said: ‘We just had a major terrorist incident in London. Its a reminder to us of the backcloth of our discussions here.’ 

The Lib Dem leader attacked President Donald Trump over his tweet criticising British police with not a ‘not a shred of evidence’. 

He said: ‘I was in the cabinet for five years, we have probably the best security services in the world.

‘We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorists’ 

Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson (file image) told party activists today they could use the time offered by a transition deal to frustrate Brexit 

Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson (file image) told party activists today they could use the time offered by a transition deal to frustrate Brexit 

Speaking earlier on the conference fringes, Ms Swinson urged activists at her party conference in Bournemouth to make use of any transitional period. 

After a summer of infighting the Cabinet has broadly agreed on a time-limited transition to Britain’s final Brexit settlement. 


The ‘time is probably coming’ for a universal basic income, Paddy Ashdown claimed today.

The former Liberal Democrat leader told a fringe event at the party’s conference he had previously been in favour of a citizen’s basic income.

A universal basic income would introduce a regular cash payment for all citizens, regardless of their working status.

The idea has been considered and vetoed in several countries on the grounds of vast expense.  

But Lord Ashdown said: ‘I thought the citizen’s basic income, it’s time would come, and I think it’s time probably is coming,’ he said.

‘Whether it’s right now is a different issue.’

Lord Ashdown said the growth of things like artificial intelligence and robotics would make the issue even more prevalent.

He also urged activists to help the party improve its online campaigning.

Lord Ashdown told activists that some political movements were growing ‘where ours are dying’, citing the examples of pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group Momentum and En Marche in France.

‘Actually, the ones that are thriving are the ones who have adopted an internet strategy,’ he said.

‘We have got to start moving in that direction. If you go on doing what you have been doing, you’ll go on getting what you’ve got.’ 

But the nature of how any transition will work remains hotly disputed, with Chancellor Philip Hammond urging a deal in which little changes and Trade Secretary Liam Fox calling for a more abrupt departure. 

Ms Swinson told a meeting on the fringes of the conference that the transitional deal offered ‘time’ to those seeking to frustrate Brexit.  

She said: ‘They mean that it is not this mad rush and there is the opportunity there for the country to take stock and to think.

‘The closer we are to our EU neighbours, the easier it is, at some future point, to reverse the decision.

‘Because, if you haven’t then hugely diverged from everything, if you have still got the same rules in place, if you have still got the same trading arrangements, then actually the coming back becomes much easier.

‘So, I think, strategically, that is important for us to try to achieve working with others.’ 

Senior Conservative MP Michael Fabricant told MailOnline: ‘The Liberal Democrats are determined to defy the national will.

‘It didn’t work for them in 2017 but like a runaway train without the brain of Thomas the Tank Engine they keep steaming in the wrong direction.’ 

Brexit-supporting Conservative Simon Clarke added: ‘Yet again the Liberal Democrats have shown they just can’t or won’t get the message.

‘In the week Jean-Claude Juncker set out the EU’s plans for a superstate, Jo Swinson’s comments reveal her party’s refusal to respect the wishes of the British people.’  

A Ukip spokesman said: ‘The benefits of Brexit will be visible when we leave fully. 

‘If we delay all we will see is the negatives and none of the positives. That’s what they are trying to do.

‘They are terrified that once we leave, things will get better.’  

Sir Vince arrived at the four day conference in Brighton today (pictured) and will address the party faithful for the first time at leader tonight 

Sir Vince arrived at the four day conference in Brighton today (pictured) and will address the party faithful for the first time at leader tonight 

In his first intervention of the annual gathering, Sir Vince insisted 'we believe Britain should stay in the European Union - period' 

In his first intervention of the annual gathering, Sir Vince insisted ‘we believe Britain should stay in the European Union – period’ 

As the conference began, Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said his party remained committed to trying to stop Brexit.

Sir Vince will addressed the party faithful as leader for the first time at a rally tonight ahead of his keynote address on Tuesday. 


A former rising star of the Conservative Party received a standing ovation at the Liberal Democrat conference tonight after defecting.

Azi Ahmed spoke to introduce Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon at last year’s Tory gathering.

But she quit the party in disgust at Theresa May’s pursuit of a hard Brexit.

Ms Ahmed, a Territorial Army veteran, spoke at a rally to launch Liberal Democrat conference tonight.

After hailing the Liberal Democrat’s pro-remain policies, Oldham-born Ms Ahmed won a standing ovation.

She told activists: ‘Only the Liberal Democrats will give the power to make the decision on the final Brexit deal to the people, not the politicians.’ 

When her defection was announced in June, then Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: ‘No wonder sensible, talented Conservatives such as Azi are questioning how they could possibly have a future in a Conservative Party hell bent on an extreme Brexit that will wreck the future for you, your family, your schools and hospitals.’

On arrival at the annual conference the leader said: ‘We are not in the business of trying to help the Government find an easy soft Brexit because it’s not real. We are for Remain.

‘We believe Britain should stay in the European Union. Period.’

Sir Vince insisted Britain needed another Brexit poll which he said would be ‘the first referendum on the facts.’

Brexit is set to dominate the four day gathering with debates on its impact, including on public services and NHS staffing levels.

However, senior MP Norman Lamb has warned the Lib Dems are in danger of becoming a single issue party by putting so much emphasis on Brexit.

The first policy motion at the Liberal Democrat conference today set out a series of demands for Theresa May’s Florence speech next week.

The Prime Minister is due to make a major intervention on the Brexit negotiations and could try to break the deadlock in the talks between London and Brussels.

Lib Dem activists backed a policy resolution today demanding Mrs May use the speech to set out guarantees for EU nationals living in Britain.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said:The Conservatives’ insistence on an extreme Brexit poses a clear threat to our public services.

‘Already the government’s stubborn reluctance to guarantee the rights of EU nationals is making thousands of nurses and teachers from Europe question their future here.

‘Plans to double the immigration skills charge and clamp down on EU migration risk making the recruitment crisis facing teaching and nursing even worse.

‘The Government should urgently publish a review into how its policies on Brexit and immigration will affect staffing shortages in the public sector.

‘Theresa May must also use her Florence speech next week to guarantee the rights of EU nationals and prevent a damaging Brexodus from our schools and hospitals.’