Sir Vince Cable was accused of a ‘pathetic’ attempt to interfere in Brexit yesterday by falsely claiming that eight EU leaders backed a second referendum
Sir Vince Cable was accused of a ‘pathetic’ attempt to interfere in Brexit yesterday by falsely claiming that eight EU leaders backed a second referendum.
The Lib Dem leader was humiliated after they said it was a botched PR stunt.
Sir Vince, 74, faced criticism last night as opponents said he used improper tactics to impede Britain’s divorce from the EU.
It came days after he faced a backlash for claiming that older Brexit voters were driven by nostalgia for a world in which ‘faces were white’.
The latest furore began when he said the eight prime ministers had agreed to back a British vote on the final Brexit deal.
Sir Vince said the group had sent a ‘clear signal’ that Brexit should be challenged by supposedly agreeing to a joint statement published by the Lib Dems.
It said: ‘We regret Brexit, but acknowledge the choice made by British voters for the UK Government to negotiate withdrawal. We further acknowledge and support the Liberal Democrats’ call for the British people to have the final say on the Brexit deal.’
The Lib Dems said the statement was signed by the leaders of the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands.
It was allegedly agreed at a working lunch of liberal prime ministers in Brussels attended by Sir Vince before the EU leaders summit yesterday. But Belgian PM Charles Michel, who was named in the Lib Dem list, was not even present.
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group (ALDE), to which all the leaders belong, issued a furious response, saying such a statement was never signed.
ALDE said: ‘At the leaders meeting of March 22 no statement has been agreed upon or released.’
The Lib Dems said the statement was signed by leaders of the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Netherlands. It was allegedly agreed at a working lunch of liberal PMs in Brussels attended by Cable before the EU leaders summit yesterday. But Belgian PM Charles Michel (above), named in the Lib Dem list, was not even present
A source within the group added: ‘Somebody has obviously decided to become a little bit creative in London after the meeting.’ A diplomat working for one of the countries involved said: ‘Why in the world would we do something like that? It looks pathetic.’
They said that the leaders at the lunch had all given their backing to Sir Vince but stopped short of weighing into UK politics.
The Lib Dem leader accompanied the declaration with a statement, in which he said: ‘The message is clear: Brexit is not inevitable.
‘This is a clear signal from our European friends that they want us to remain in the European Union and would welcome an exit from Brexit with open arms.’
In a separate video message to his followers online, he repeated the claims by suggesting the leaders were ‘very much on board’.
However, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte publicly backed away from suggestions that he had signed a statement explicitly backing a second Brexit referendum.
He said: ‘If some way or another the UK would decide to change its position it would be highly welcome by the liberal prime ministers – my impression is of almost everybody in the EU.’ But he added: ‘Whether it happens is up to the UK itself and UK politicians.’
The row came as EU leaders prepared to sign off a Brexit transition deal lasting until December 2021 at the summit today.
Addressing EU leaders at the summit in Brussels last night, Theresa May said Brexit gave Britain and the EU ‘the chance to create a new dynamic and work together to find new solutions’.
Tory former cabinet minister Priti Patel accused Sir Vince of trying to ‘subvert democracy’, adding: ‘It would have been extraordinary for governments of other countries to interfere in our democratic process. But it seems Vince Cable lied about that to mislead the public.’