‘Brexit may never happen,’ says incoming Liberal Democrat leader

Vince Cable invites political ‘refugees’ to jump ship from pro-Brexit Labour party

Brexit may never happen because of the difficulties it will cause, according to Vince Cable, the next Liberal Democrat leader.

The former business secretary, who is the only candidate to replace Tim Farron as head of the pro-EU party, said he was beginning to think Britain would never leave the European Union – especially if the economy crashes.

"There is an imminent issue, which is whether the government continues to pursue the so-called hard Brexit – leaving the customs union and single market. We have got to work with other people. We did last week – there was a motion in parliament led by some Labour MPs [that] we supported, to try to head of that disastrous outcome."

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that “the whole question of continued membership will once again arise” if people saw their living standards suffer and increased unemployment. A recent Survation poll suggested 53 per cent of people would back a second referendum on whether to accept the terms of the final Brexit deal, with 47 per cent opposed.

“I’m beginning to think that Brexit may never happen,” he said. “The problems are so enormous, the divisions within the two main parties are so enormous I can see a scenario in which this doesn’t happen.”

Younger voters

Mr Cable also invited “refugees” from Labour to join the Liberal Democrats, arguing that Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity could fall when younger voters realise how strongly he backs Brexit.

“[Corbyn] is very pro-Brexit, and a hard Brexit, and when that becomes apparent the divisions in the Labour party will become more real and the opportunity for us to move into that space will be substantial,” the MP for Twickenham argued.

He claimed supporters of Mr Corbyn were trying to “expel” 49 unsupportive MPs, referring to list published on a local Facebook page of the leftwing Momentum group, but which was disavowed by the national leadership.

“We have a generous policy to refugees and if they come they will get food and accommodation,” Mr Cable said. “I don’t know what will happen, it’s a symptom of very, very deep division.”

Mr Cable said he backed higher tax rises than the 1p proposed in the Lib Dem manifesto, saying increases were needed to avoid more cuts to public spending and continue to target a balancing of the books.

He was recently criticised for claiming Theresa May's rhetoric on "citizens of nowhere" was like something from Hitler's Mein Kampf. But Mr Cable said he had accidentally compared her to the wrong murderous dictator: "I got my literary reference wrong – I think it was Stalin who talked about 'rootless cosmopolitans'."