Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has been pressed on the fact that her party must vote for any Brexit deal Boris Johnson brings home from Brussels in order to secure a confirmatory referendum.
Swinson was faced with the awkward point that her MPs would have to vote for the deal to get a People’s Vote on it – something that stands in stark contrast to her party’s anti-Brexit position.
The prime minister needs all the numbers he can get if he is to succeed where Theresa May failed three times by getting a Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons.
Speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley, she insisted that in voting for the deal, her MPs would not be “agreeing to the deal” but would be making only move possible to give the public a final say.
She said: “It’s not agreeing to the deal, it is agreeing to give the public the final say, and that is fundamentally what is necessary.”
.@KayBurley presses Lib Dem leader @joswinson on whether she would agree to a #Brexit deal 'no matter how bad a deal it is' as long as it had a second referendum attached to it.— Sky News (@SkyNews) October 16, 2019
Watch #KayBurley live https://t.co/cMHO7fsDYJ
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Earlier, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s no deal that is better than the deal we have as members of the European Union, so of course we are not going to be supportive of any deal.
“But what we will do, and what we want to happen, and what we have been arguing for for more than three years, is for whatever Brexit deal that is negotiated is put to the people.
“We will back a referendum whether it’s on Boris Johnson’s deal, whether it’s on Theresa May’s deal, because we think it should be the public that are in charge and are having that say.”
Johnson must first get a deal finalised so it can be presented to the summit of EU leaders starting in Brussels on Thursday.
The Lib Dems have tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling for any Brexit deal to be put to voters in a referendum.
If the amendment backing a people’s vote is selected by the Commons Speaker, it could be voted on by MPs as early as Tuesday.
Swinson said: “The Liberal Democrats are the strongest party of Remain and have been the leading voice in the People’s Vote campaign.
“Boris Johnson is determined to have a general election, but the best way to resolve the Brexit chaos is to have a People’s Vote and give the British people the final say about their future.
“The best deal we have is as members of the European Union and we want to give the people the chance to choose to stop Brexit.”
The amendment reads: “Instruct the government to prepare for a people’s vote in which the public will have the choice between the latest Withdrawal Agreement and remaining in the European Union.”
The Conservative Party’s deputy chairman said MPs “can’t pick and choose which votes they respect”.
Paul Scully said: “Yesterday the Liberal Democrats wanted to ignore 17.4 million voters by revoking Brexit, today they want to do it by holding a second referendum.
“Whatever they wake up saying tomorrow, it’s clear that what you’ll get with them is more delay, gridlock and uncertainty.”