Swinson: I’m not anti-democratic for vowing to cancel Brexit

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has told Sky News she “would love” to cancel Brexit as prime minister – without a second EU referendum – and denied such a move would be anti-democratic.

During the Lib Dems’ annual conference in Bournemouth, party members have backed Ms Swinson’s call for them to campaign at the next general election with a promise to revoke Article 50 if they form a majority government.

The party had previously supported staying in the EU, but via a majority vote for Remain at a second referendum.

Challenged about the Lib Dems’ policy switch by Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby, Ms Swinson said: “Where we find ourselves in a general election – that might be the last chance for the public to have their say on Brexit – as a party that strongly believes in our place in the EU… we have to give the people that clear choice.

“A Liberal Democrat majority government would stop Brexit by revoking Article 50.”

Ms Swinson “fundamentally disagrees” with suggestions the outright cancellation of Brexit – without a fresh referendum – would be anti-democratic.

“If we win a majority in parliament on the very clear position of stopping Brexit then that will be a mandate to do that,” she said.

More from Jo Swinson

“People would expect us to fulfil what we’ve said we would do in that election campaign.”

She also disputed the accusation that her position was now as “extreme” on the EU referendum result as that of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who has challenged Boris Johnson to deliver a no-deal Brexit.

“We are clear on our position on EU membership, but I respect the views of people who take a different view,” she said.

“I recognise they hold those in genuine good faith. But, perhaps most importantly, I believe that every single person in our country is valuable and should be respected and should have equality.

“Nigel Farage is prepared to stand in front of a ‘Breaking Point’ poster that is designed to stoke fear and hatred and division in our communities.

“What we are proposing in terms of an inclusive fair and liberal society is fundamentally different to that.”

Jo Swinson and Sky News' political editor Beth Rigby
Image: Jo Swinson spoke to Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby in Bournemouth

The East Dunbartonshire MP insisted the Lib Dems have a “very consistent position”, despite being opposed to a second referendum on Scottish independence.

“We think we are better working with other countries, we are better working with our closest neighbours to solve our shared problems.

“It is the same argument for Scotland being part of the UK family of nations, as for the UK working within the EU where we can better address the challenges that we face.”

Ms Swinson did not rule out ditching the Lib Dems’ promise to revoke Article 50 if the party entered a coalition government – but stressed the party would still campaign to stop Brexit through a second referendum if they did not win a majority at the next election.

She also claimed politicians should not attempt to “second guess” the electorate and appeared to quash the idea of the Lib Dems doing a post-election deal with either of the two main parties under their current leaders.

“There is no reason to assume that there has to be a scenario where either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn has to be prime minister,” she said.

“Neither of those men are fit to be prime minister. I will not vote to make either of those men prime minister.”

She added a referendum on a “specific Brexit deal” was still her preference for breaking the impasse, in order to ask voters: “This is what Brexit looks like, do you want to go ahead with that?”

Party leader Jo Swinson hugs her new MP Sam Gyimah
Moment Tory was revealed as Lib Dem

The Lib Dems would need to add around 300 MPs to their current tally to form a majority government, despite having been boosted by the defection of six former Tory and Labour MPs to their party.

The latest of those, former Conservative minister Sam Gyimah, was unveiled on the first day of the Lib Dems’ conference in Bournemouth.

And Ms Swinson suggested more MPs could come across the join her party.

“Yes I am having conversations with other MPs,” she said.

“In Labour and the Conservatives there’s a lot of unhappy MPs who feel that their parties have deserted them.”

She added: “These things take time, but I’m certainly optimistic the Liberal Democrats will continue to grow.”

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