Jo Swinson has defended her plan to hold a general election on December 9th – before Brexit is resolved.
The Lib Dem leader, who together with the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has put forward a tightly-drafted Bill that would grant an election on December 9, said their plan is “sensible”.
She told the Today programme: “It seems to me a sensible way forward. We also understand from our contacts in the EU that putting forward this bill and sending the letter that we did has helped out EU friends have confidence that if they offer the extension that they’re discussing today that that will be time well spent.
“One of their big concerns was that they offered an extension earlier this year, said ‘don’t waste the time’, and then we had a Conservative leadership election and Boris Johnson mucked about not trying to get a deal, shutting down parliament, and you know, the very master class in time wasting so, understandably, they had a degree of reluctance, I think evidenced by the fact they didn’t grant the extension on Friday when many thought they would.
“So I’m hopeful that as a result of what we’ve done we will see that extension granted today because otherwise we’re still in the very real risk of crashing out without a deal on Thursday.”
She said it ties Boris Johnson’s hands about the election date and does not give him the “wriggle room” that his own plan would have.
“And because people can’t trust what this man says, I think setting that date in law is a very good idea,” she said.
She said there are various reasons why December 9 makes more sense than December 12 for an election.
“Clearly, it’s three further days away from Christmas and I understand that the public appetite for an election around Christmas is not necessarily high so I think from the point of view of the economy and retailers, keeping it as far away as possible is helpful.
“We also have the consideration that there will be many people that will be moving around the country around that time.
“Many students who live in two places but might only be registered to vote in one place.
“We wouldn’t want to see people disenfranchised and so having it earlier rather than closer to the end of term time for them I think makes sense as well.
“And also, it is the earliest possible date where we can pass this Bill, and then have an election, so it gets it done as soon as possible,” Swinson added.
Asked what she would say to the Labour Party, Swinson said: “Well, I’d say to people that advocate waiting is that they are waiting for something and I’m not really sure what they think is going to happen.
“And I think there’s a lot of wishful thinking going on there.”
She added: “Jeremy Corbyn has been missing in action on Brexit. He has let down the millions of people in this country who absolutely passionately want to remain in the EU.”
Swinson told the programme: “What waiting would do is risk no-deal, because if we waste this extension and we end up in January with that 31st of January deadline looming, assuming it is granted today, and we haven’t done anything with this time, then there’s no guarantee the EU will extend again and then no deal is back on the table.”