Fresh Remainer split as Lib Dems reject Change UK call to revoke Article 50

Posted On: 
19th May 2019

A fresh split has opened up between pro-EU Change UK and the Liberal Democrats as Chuka Umunna called for campaigners to revoke Article 50 instead of pushing for a second Brexit referendum.

Chuka Umunna has called for the revocation of Article 50
Credit: 
BBC One

The Change UK spokesperson claimed there was not enough time for a second referendum to be held before the UK's October exit date as he called for the Brexit process to be stopped in order to avoid the "national emergency" of a no-deal exit.

But Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said revoking Article 50 would not be the "best outcome" and insisted a so-called 'People's Vote' could still be organised before the current October deadline for Britain's exit.

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Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Mr Umunna said he had decided to back the controversial plans after the Prime Minister announced she would be bringing back her withdrawal agreement for a Commons vote in early June.

He said: "There are two very important things that have happened.

First of all, at the beginning of these European election campaigns, we had time to provide for a People's Vote on what happens on Brexit, which would take at least five to six months.

"We now no longer have the time to do that by the 31st of October when we are due to crash out.

"So we need to stop the clock to allow that to happen."

But Mr Umunna batted away claims that halting the Brexit process would disregard the votes of people who backed leaving the EU in 2016, and said there was "no mandate" for quitting the bloc without a deal.

He added: "What you see now is contenders for the Conservative Party leadership falling over themselves to say they will take us out come what may in October.

"So faced with that, no-deal and revocation, you have got to revoke."

CABLE: REVOKE 'UNSATISFACTORY'

But in signs of a growing split between Remain-backing groups, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince said the revoke option was "unsatisfactory" and should only be considered closer to the UK's exit date.

"If we get to October and there hasn't been any resolution of the issue then we may come to that. But it's not the best outcome," he said.

"It wouldn't be outrageous but it would be unsatisfactory."

Instead, he called for Mrs May to include a promise to hold a confirmatory referendum as part of her withdrawal agreement plans in order to win support from MPs.

"The Government is going to bring the withdrawal bill before parliament and what we have said is that if they attach a confirmatory referendum to it we will support it.

"I think it is quite likely we will get the referendum we are fighting for so we can argue for stopping Brexit.

"We talked to the Government about the practicalities and it can be done before October."

And he added: "We got into this mess as a result of having a referendum in the first place and that is the only satisfactory way of getting out of it."

CABLE: COALITION 'STRONG AND STABLE'

Meanwhile, Mr Cable took the opportunity ahead of the European elections to defend his party's record as part of the Conservative-led Coalition government which drove through sweeping public sector cuts.

"I think now people look back, they see that period as one of strong and stable government after the financial disaster and we've had three years of chaos since under the Conservatives," he said.

"I think a lot of people are now reappraising that period and we act as a massive restraint on the Tories over things like public expenditure. It could have been a lot worse as we now know it is."