Heseltine: Urgent need for a new leader to make the case for Europe

PUBLISHED: 10:39 27 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:19 29 August 2017

Lord Heseltine speaks in the House of Lords as it debated the Brexit Bill

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There is an "urgent need" for a new political leader to make the case for Britain to ditch Brexit and remain in the EU, Lord Heseltine said today.

The former Deputy Prime Minister appeared to call for an Emmanuel Macron-type figure to emerge to unite pro-EU voices in what he described as "a period of volatility in politics".

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme, Lord Heseltine, who was sacked as a government advisor earlier this year after rebelling against Brexit in the House of Lords said: "There's an urgent need for a leader, a credible leader, to emerge to articulate Britain's self-interest in Europe."

Asked who it would be, he said: "I think it's impossible to tell. I think this is the interesting factor of Macron, that you can in their system of politics come from virtual obscurity to become president on a wave of public opinion. Now the French electoral system is very different to ours - I don't think it could happen here.

"It could come by a member of the present Conservative Party in the House of Commons making such a decision, and there are candidates, it could come from the Labour Party, but I doubt if it is conceivable for Mr Corbyn to do it, it could come from an unknown political source at a by-election. That would be a possibility, that that could happen.

"But this is just speculation - I mean, no-one knows the answer to these questions. But I think that we're into a period of volatility in politics and in those circumstances Europe could become the big issue of the time."

Lord Heseltine said he was "a sceptic" about the idea of a new party emerging, but added: "That doesn't mean to say that there cannot be groupings which remain within the political parties, but have associated on this one issue."

He also voiced his hope that Theresa May would be succeeded by a pro-European as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister. Saying he did not think Mrs May would fight the next general election as leader, he said: "Where is the person who is able to articulate Britain's self-interest in Europe?

"And you'll note the very strong emphasis on British self-interest - I'm not doing this for Europe, or for a gathering of our colleagues on the continent, I'm doing this because Britain is the one that has most to gain from staying within the European Union, and what is needed is someone who can express that self-interest in language which relates to people's personal day-to-day experiences."

Lord Heseltine expressed his pessimism about Britain's negotiations with the EU over Brexit, saying the British side had "very few cards".

He said: "They are being criticised for not having a negotiating position, but the problem they've got is that it's not what Britain wants, it's what Europe is prepared to let us have. That is what's going to determine the outcome of these negotiations.

"We have very few cards. We're the ones who are leaving, we're the ones that are abandoning the post-war settlement of which we've been a part. And the Europeans will ensure that what we have afterwards is not as good as what we had before. And they will do that because they care passionately about the security and the state of peaceful harmony that has evolved in Europe as a result of the European movement.

"They're not going to let it be wrecked by one country leaving and therefore creating a precedent for others to follow. That is the abiding determination which we face, and we'll pay a price for it."

Asked if Europe would deliberately give Britain a bad deal, he said: "We will get a deal which is worse than what we've got, and that is our fault.

"We should abandon the decision to leave Europe and my own view is quite clear: that as time passes and people realise the consequences, then that movement will gain currency."

Lord Heseltine was sacked as a government advisor in March after backing the demand for a parliamentary vote on any final deal to be written into Brexit legislation.

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