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- Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable used his speech in Brighton to call on Theresa May to hold a second Brexit referendum.
- The former Business Secretary insisted that May knows “deep down” that Brexit “can and must be stopped.”
- He also said Jeremy Corbyn should back another Brexit referendum or resign as Labour leader.
- His speech comes after weeks of speculation about his leadership.
- Cable is expected to stand down next year following changes to leadership rules that allow a non-MP to become leader.
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – Theresa May knows that Brexit “can and must be stopped,” Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable declared today, as he called on the prime minister to abandon the “whims of the extremists” in her party and back a second referendum on leaving the European Union.
Cable said that May, who campaigned to remain in the EU, secretly agreed that the country should think again.
“Deep down, the Prime Minister knows Brexit is a bad idea,” Cable told Lib Dem delegates in Brighton. “Even now, Theresa May could shock us all, by displaying true leadership. She could admit that the Brexit project has gone badly wrong by conceding that the deal – any deal, or no deal – that she will bring back from Brussels is not going to be better for Britain than remaining in the European Union.”
However, Cable’s big moment was overshadowed by an unforunate slip of words near the start of his speech.
In words which dominated early coverage of the speech, briefings ahead of Cable’s speech suggested he would accuse Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg of having an “erotic spasm” for the hardest possible break from the EU.
However, Cable appeared to fluff the line and instead suggested that they had an “exotic spresm”.
The slip was immediately mocked by former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron who tweeted that his successor had been guilty of an “anti-climax.”
Former Lib Dem press spokesman Ben Rathe added: “I mean, we’ve all got to the big moment and been unable to deliver, right?”
Cable goes on the attack
Cable also went on the attack against the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who resigned over May’s Brexit strategy earlier this year, who he said now posed a “real danger to Britain” and was increasingly resembling US president Donald Trump.
“He doesn’t just resemble Trump – large, loud and blonde – he behaves more like him by the day,” Cable said. “Their cynical disregard for the truth, their treatment of women, and their inflammatory divisive language make Boris and Donald the Terrible Twins of the Rabid Right.”
He also took aim at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying that he had failed to represent the pro-EU views of his party membership; and should resign as leader if he isn’t willing back a People’s Vote on the final deal.
“Next week hundreds, thousands, of Labour members and MPs will demand he [Corbyn] changes course and backs a public vote on the final deal. “If Jeremy Corbyn will not say ‘I will support a People’s Vote and I will fight Brexit,’ Labour members should wave him goodbye,” the Lib Dem leader party members in Brighton.
Cable addressed the Liberal Democrats’ annual autumn conference after weeks of speculation about his leadership.
This month the former minister confirmed a Business Insider report that he plans to quit as leader prior to the next scheduled general election in 2022, with 2019 being the most likely year of his departure. A senior Lib Dem source on Tuesday refused to say that Cable would address the party’s 2019 conference as leader.
The Lib Dems are set to pass reforms which will allow non-MPs to stand in future leadership contests, and people who aren’t full party members vote in them, in a bid to modernise the party and attract more supporters.