Swinson: No-deal Brexit like burning your own house down

The Liberal Democrat leader will call Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy ‘sickening’ in her closing speech to the party conference.

Jo Swinson
Jo Swinson

A no-deal Brexit would be like “burning your house down”, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson is preparing to tell her party conference.

The East Dunbartonshire MP is set to close her party’s four-day conference in Bournemouth with stinging criticism of the Prime Minister and his pursuit of a no-deal Brexit.

Boris Johnson has vowed to take the UK out of the European Union by the October 31 deadline “do or die” and has even previously hinted he could break the law to do so.

The Conservative Party leader has said publicly he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask Brussels for an extension to the negotiations.

But Ms Swinson is set to tell Lib Dem members on the Dorset coast that Mr Johnson’s spending on no-deal preparations is “sickening”.

“The truth is you can’t plan for no deal. Planning for no deal is like planning to burn your house down,” she is expected to say on Tuesday.

“You might have insurance, but you’re still going to lose all your stuff.”

Ms Swinson predicted that Brexit would “hurt” the country’s economy – one of the core reasons the party this week agreed to adopt cancelling Britain’s EU exit if it wins power at the next election.

The former minister is preparing to say: “The first task is clear. We must stop Brexit.

“And we are crystal clear: a Liberal Democrat majority government will revoke Article 50 on day one because there is no Brexit that will be good for our country.

“Brexit will put lives at risk. Brexit will hurt our economy. This Brexiteer Government wants to pay for their ideology with other people’s jobs.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to come under fire in Jo Swinson’s leader’s speech (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

She will also condemn Mr Johnson for sacking 21 Tory rebels – one of whom, Sam Gyimah MP, has since joined the Lib Dems – and his decision to suspend Parliament for almost five weeks with the Halloween Brexit deadline looming.

“Silencing critics, purging opponents, ignoring the law – for someone who proclaims to hate socialist dictators, he’s doing a pretty good impression of one,” Ms Swinson is set to say.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also expected to come under fire, with Ms Swinson set to accuse him of continuing to hold on to Eurosceptic views.

“Even now, when faced with all the clear and obvious dangers that Brexit brings, Jeremy Corbyn still insists that if Labour win a general election, they will negotiate their own Brexit deal to take us out of the EU,” she will say.

“Nigel Farage might be Brexit by name, but it is very clear that Jeremy Corbyn is Brexit by nature.”

But the Conservative Party said the Lib Dem position would see the party “trample over democracy”.

Party chairman James Cleverly MP said: “The Liberal Democrats’ extreme policy on Brexit is neither liberal nor democratic. The Lib Dems are determined to cancel the largest democratic vote in British history without so much as a whimper.

“It’s shocking that a party which was once such a keen advocate for a referendum is now so eager to trample over democracy.

“They won’t get Brexit sorted and instead will, just like the Labour Party, create more dither and delay.”

Davey rejoin
Sir Ed Davey says he would want to rejoin the European Union if Brexit goes ahead (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Sir Ed Davey, the Lib Dem deputy leader, told reporters on Monday that, should Brexit go ahead, he would advocate for rejoining the EU.

The party’s Treasury spokesman said he would want to see the UK readmitted on “relatively similar” terms to those it has as a member state, ruling out the possibility of joining the euro or agreeing to light-touch border controls under the Schengen Agreement.

He predicted that European leaders could agree to such a U-turn because “they’ll want it to stop”.

“Even though (Brexit) won’t be as costly for them as it is for us, it will still be costly,” said the former environment secretary.

Members on Monday also voted to bring forward the UK’s net zero carbon emissions target by five years to 2045 if the party takes power.

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