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Liberal Democrat vow to cancel Brexit not 'realistic', says Ed Davey

3 min read

The Liberal Democrats' policy of revoking Article 50 and cancelling Brexit was not "realistic", Sir Ed Davey has admitted.

The Lib Dem co-leader - who stepped into the role following the election defeat of Jo Swinson - said that while the pledge had only been "marginal" to Lib Dem plans, it may have confused the presentation of the party's anti-Brexit platform.

The Lib Dems ended up with 10 fewer MPs after election night, losing high-profile names including Ms Swinson and the party's EU spokesperson Tom Brake.

Every MP who defected to the party from Labour and the Conservatives over the course of the past year was also defeated in a torrid night for the Lib Dems.

Sir Ed told the i he had ordered a panel, including a team of independent experts, to investigate the result, as he cast his verdict on the pledge to revoke Article 50 if the Lib Dems secured a majority.

"One of the issues may well have been how it was presented, because in all realistic scenarios we were a People’s Vote party," he said.

"The revoke position was actually much more marginal than I think people were hearing.

"So we do need to look at it... but I think there were other issues that were playing badly on the doorsteps."

The pledge to revoke Article 50 without another referendum has already come under fire by former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, who called it "a distraction and not a very helpful one".


Sir Ed, who has been tipped to permanently succeed Ms Swinson, warned the Lib Dems not to be "seen as a one-message-only party", even as he argued that "history will prove us right" on the issue of qutting the EU.

The former Coalition-era Energy Secretary added: "I strongly believe we need to be talking about a green economy, green society, tackling fuel poverty, reducing people’s energy bills through the green revolution and creating new jobs for the future."

The Kingston and Surbiton MP also tore into Jeremy Corbyn, arguing that the Labour leader's unpopularity had pushed swing voters into backing the Conservatives.

"If there’s another Corbyn, we’re going to have to work out how to do well when the Tories and the Tory media are scaring everyone rigid about the impact of a left-wing Labour leader," he said.

Sir Ed added: "If it had been a Tony Blair, Keir Starmer if you like, what do we think the result would have been? It would have been very different."

Party president Sal Brinton is also leading the Lib Dems alongside Sir Ed. She said in the wake of the result that the party would elect a new leader in "the weeks ahead".

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