Ed Davey says Lib Dems will not campaign for UK to rejoin EU but will call for closer ties

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey undertakes a 'shift' in Taylor's chip shop, in Stockport, during th

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey undertakes a 'shift' in Taylor's chip shop, in Stockport, during the start of his national listening tour. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire, . - Credit: PA

Sir Ed Davey, who was elected as leader of the Lib Dems last week, has said the party is in 'listening mode' over its policies.

The MP for Surbiton in Surrey said the arch-Remain party that campaigned for a second referendum is not arguing to re-join the EU but to be closer to Europe.

The 54-year-old said: 'This is the start of quite a long journey. I want to go around the whole of the United Kingdom talking to people, but mainly listening. It's a listening tour.

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'The main reason is because I think the Liberal Democrats have not been doing enough listening.

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'We've had three very poor election results – 2015, 2017 and 2019 – and the voters were sending a message.

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'They were saying 'You used to listen, you used to be on our side, but I don't think you are now.'

'I'm saying to the party and the country – 'We are going to listen. We are going to make your concerns our concerns.'

'This is the very beginning, you are here at the very beginning of what's going to be a long exercise, months and months and months.

'I think the party has been talking to itself too much and not talking to ordinary people and listening and reflecting their concerns, and that's what I'm determined we do again.

'The problem I'm going to fix is the perception of the Liberal Democrats at the moment.

'It's not a very good one, is it? Because people have not come to our colours in the last three general elections.'

Sir Ed said his key priority was to stop a no-deal Brexit.

He said: 'We've got to stop no-deal because no-deal would be a disaster and no-deal was not on offer at the referendum, people said there would be a deal.

'We also think we should be as close to our European friends as possible.

'Covid is causing a huge economic crisis and, if you put a very hard Brexit on that, which the government look like they want to do, that's going to make our economic problems even worse.

'So we are not arguing to turn back the clock.'

He added Boris Johnson's handling of the Covid crisis has been 'absolutely shambolic from start to finish'.

'We wish the government was doing a much better job.'

Asked what his party is going to offer voters, Sir Ed said: 'Come back in 10 months.'

A Lib Dem spokesperson said they would continue to be the home for those supportive of the EU and Europe, and said it would always be the most pro-European party.

They pointed to the pitches both leadership contenders made denouncing Brexit, but said the party needed to review its position given the change of arithmetic in the Commons.

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