Nick Clegg says Tories' Brexit stance has left ‘the clock ticking’ towards break-up of UK
The Conservative Party's hardline Brexit stance has meant the “clock is ticking” towards the break-up of the UK, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said.
The ex-Liberal Democrat leader said “aggressive and regressive” English nationalism had taken over the Tories as they are forced to compete with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.
When asked how he expected the next few years to unfold, Mr Clegg told the New Statesman: “It seems to me that the clock is now ticking for the end of the union of the United Kingdom.”
“I am afraid I’ve sort of come to the view I think that is now more likely than not. I think the Brexit demon has unleashed such an aggressive and regressive right-wing English nationalism.
“And that the Conservative Party is converting itself into an English nationalist party.
“It has so little representation in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and they have to compete with Farage.
“So I think the Conservative Party is condemned – whoever is leader – to be pulled in an ever more English and divisive direction.”
Mr Clegg also hit out at Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson by branding him “one of those classic examples, the more you see of him, the less impressive he is".
He added: "With familiarity, he diminishes.”
The former MP, who is now Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications, predicted that Mr Johnson would end up calling a snap election in a bid to prove his popularity, were he become PM.
“He’s going to really scratch away at that itch because that’s all he has got," he continued.
"I mean he’s literally reduced to saying I’ve got no plan for Brexit – ‘I have no answers to the questions about my character’.
“You know as I do that [Mr Johnson’s] journalism is about striking poses; that’s the whole point about it.
“That’s what columnists do – they’re trying to provoke thought. But that is not what government is about.
“Instead, you are trying to play Solomon on a whole bunch of really invidious choices where you will never keep everyone happy, where there’s no perfect solution.”
Elsewhere, Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems had “a real opportunity to hold the balance of power again”, after they finished ahead of the Tories and Labour at May's EU elections with their anti-Brexit stance.
It comes four years after they lost dozens of seats in a backlash over their role in the coalition government.
He added that Jo Swinson and Ed Davey, the two candidates running to succeed Sir Vince Cable as the next leader “will give some real energy” to the party.
“In the grand scheme of things for such an old political party, it’s only four years and we’re back in business and I think that’s very exciting,” he added.