Liberal Democrats pledge second Brexit referendum

Party leader Tim Farron says electorate last year did not vote to pull out of single market

Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron: “There was nothing on the ballot paper that said that people and families from Europe who have made this country their home would be left in limbo, not knowing if they can stay in the country they raise their kids in. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron: “There was nothing on the ballot paper that said that people and families from Europe who have made this country their home would be left in limbo, not knowing if they can stay in the country they raise their kids in. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

 

The Liberal Democrats have promised to hold a second referendum on Brexit at the end of the forthcoming negotiations, which would include the option of remaining in the European Union. Launching the party’s manifesto in London on Wednesday evening, leader Tim Farron insisted they were not seeking to overturn last year’s referendum.

  “In June last year we voted for a departure, but we didn’t vote for a destination. So I want you to have your choice over your future. Someone is going to have the final say over the Brexit deal. It could be the politicians or it could be the people. I believe it should be the people,” he said.

  The Liberal Democrats have ruled out entering government in coalition with any party but they hope to increase their representation at Westminster from the nine MPs they had going into the election. The manifesto promises to put pressure on the government to remain in the European single market, avoid customs controls and retain freedom of movement within Europe.

  “There was nothing on the ballot paper last June that said we were choosing to pull out of the single market. There are other countries that are outside the EU but inside the single market – just look at Norway or Switzerland, ” Mr Farron said.

‘Left in limbo’

“There was nothing on the ballot paper that said that people and families from Europe who have made this country their home would be left in limbo, not knowing if they can stay in the country they raise their kids in. And there was definitely nothing on the ballot paper that said we would turn our allies into enemies. Yet here we are, with our government making accusations of our neighbours and even threatening war with Spain. ”

  Earlier, Theresa May claimed that Brexit was not to blame for the the 17 per cent fall in the value of sterling since last year’s referendum because the currency started to fall before the vote. And her chancellor, Philip Hammond, said the inflation which is outpacing wage increases in Britain is a temporary phenomenon.

  “Yes, we have seen inflation passing through the economy. But this will be transient. It’s a result of currency movements last year. And the [office of budget responsibility] forecasts that in every year of the five-year forecast period real wages will continue to increase,” he said.

  Ms May and Mr Hammond were speaking at a joint press conference in London during which she refused to confirm that he will remain chancellor after the election. There have been reports of tension between Mr Hammond and the prime minister’s senior advisers in recent weeks.

Immigration figures

The Conservatives will publish their manifesto on Thursday and Mr Hammond’s predecessor as chancellor, George Osborne, used his new position as editor of the Evening Standard to call on the party to abandon its commitment to bringing annual net immigration below 100,000. Mr Osborne defended the target while in office but his newspaper on Wednesday described it as “politically rash and economically illiterate”.

  Meeting the target would require immigration from both inside and outside the EU to be reduced by two-thirds, a goal the paper says is both impractical and bad for the economy.

  “Ms May knows all this. She knows that a sensible immigration policy is driven by clear principles not arbitrary numbers. If one of those principles is no longer to be the freedom to move to work between Britain and Europe, we need to hear what its replacement will be. Recommitting to a failed immigration pledge, without knowing how to achieve it, is merely wishful thinking. She still wants to be a new broom. She should use the Tory manifesto tomorrow to sweep away this bad policy from the past,” it says.