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Former senior Lib Dem MP quits party over Brexit position

Former north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Former North Norfolk MP and senior Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb has admitted he has let his membership lapse over the party’s Brexit positioning.

Lamb, who was the runner-up in the leadership contest in 2015, has told the Politico news website that he holds no grudges with his former colleagues but was heavily critical of the party’s pro-Remain politicians.

He explained: “I was a Remainer but a Remainer who believed we had to find a compromise”.

Criticising pro-Europeans in the Labour Party too, the former health minister said he believed it was a “historic miscalculation” that politicians supported a second referendum stance to attempt to cancel Brexit without looking at alternatives.

He said: “I worked alongside Stephen Kinnock and many others to make the case for that close relationship with the EU rather than intransigence.

“And I felt that the stance of the party, together with the pro-Europeans in the Labour Party… was a sort of historic miscalculation because we’ve ended up in a far worse position than we would have been in had we been willing to compromise.

“We would have avoided, for example, the massive risk in Northern Ireland.”

Referencing the series of indicative votes proposed to parliament in March 2019, Lamb said MPs’ failure to compromise led to a hard Brexit.

He was the only member of his party to vote for a plan that sought to continue membership of the single market, while he was one of just two that backed a customs union proposal.

He added: “The straw that broke the camel’s back was those indicative votes. I worked with Oliver Letwin as part of that little group of cross-party MPs… to get an opportunity for parliament to vote on alternatives.

“And then parliament spectacularly managed to vote against every alternative. And for the pro-Europeans to vote against the customs union to vote against a Norway option, I just found it massively dispiriting.

“And I found myself very isolated. So I just wanted to take a step back.”

In April 2019 Lamb warned that his party risked becoming the “mirror image” of the European Research Group (ERG) because of its stance on Brexit, saying they were “stuck in a trench not moving”.

The Lib Dems went on to enter the 2019 general election campaign with a policy to revoke Article 50, but later insisted it would only happen if they were elected with a majority.