THE Liberal Democrats have played down talks of a split in the party after a former minister said plans to campaign for a second EU referendum were “seriously disrespectful and utterly counterproductive”.
Former business secretary Sir Vince Cable has come out strongly against his party’s bid to reject the June 23 vote at its autumn conference in Brighton.
Leader Tim Farron, backed by his predecessors Nick Clegg and Lord Campbell, said he will campaign for the public to be given a vote on the final Brexit deal - including an option to remain in the EU.
Speaking at a fringe event on the third day of the conference, Sir Vince said: “There are people in the party who don’t accept the outcome, who feel incredibly angry and feel it’s reversible, that somehow we can undo it.
“The public have voted and I do think it’s seriously disrespectful and politically utterly counterproductive to say ‘sorry guys, you’ve got it wrong, we’re going to try again’, I don’t think we can do that.
“That’s a personal view, and a lot of people won’t share that view.”
On Monday party members passed a motion supporting Mr Farron’s campaign to secure a second referendum once the final deal has been negotiated by the Government.
Mr Farron has said that there is no deal that would be better than remaining in the EU and his party would campaign to stay.
Asked about a split, a party spokesman for Mr Farron said: “Vince joins the five other people who voted against the motion today, where the party leader managed to secure it.
“We’ve always said that we accept the referendum result, but we haven’t changed our principles.
“We believe that Britain should be at the heart of Europe.”
Defending a second Brexit referendum, he added: “We’re not saying that it is trying to overturn the referendum, we’re saying that people should have their say.
“The public should have their say on the deal.”
Sir Vince has urged the party to focus on what concessions it would be willing to make, including on the free movement of people, and what it would fight for.