Lib Dems offer to work with ‘progressive parties’ to fight for soft Brexit

Ed Davey speaking after the general election. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA.

Ed Davey speaking after the general election. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Acting Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey has offered to work with 'progressive' parties to push for a softer Brexit now that the fight to Remain is over.

He told supporters he wanted opportunities for British citizens to study and receive free healthcare in Europe to continue after the transition period ends in 2021.

Making his pitch for Boris Johnson to sign up to a soft Brexit during the trade talks with Brussels, due to start in March, Sir Ed said the Lib Dems wanted to see the continuation of the European Arrest Warrant, the Erasmus university study programme and British access to European Health Insurance Cards after the UK's departure.

"Liberal Democrats will be on a damage limitation exercise to stop a hard Brexit hurting British people," he said in his speech at the Science and Industry Museum.

The former energy secretary said the 11 Lib Dem MPs would be prepared to "work with anyone" in the UK to "reunite our country".

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But any bid to enable a soft Brexit demands would require a heavy rebellion from the ruling Conservative benches to overturn the government's 80-seat majority.

"We cannot let small disagreements or tribal labels stand in the way of our common values: compassion, fairness, equality, internationalism," Sir Ed argued.

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"To defend these values - and to start winning again - we must regroup."

While Sir Ed said Friday would be a "heart-breaking" day for pro-Brussels campaigners, he called for the divisions of the referendum to be put to bed, adding: "We must no longer be a country that is divided by Leave and Remain."

He continued: "As I accept that tomorrow at 11pm our campaign to stop Brexit is over, I do so standing shoulder to shoulder with the millions of pro-Europeans I have campaigned with over the past four years.

"Tomorrow will be a celebration for some, but for us it will be a heart-breaking day.

"Whilst some may relish this Tory Brexit experiment, many will be anxious and upset, worried about what the future holds for them, their families, communities and businesses."

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