Lib Dems seek SNP support for second EU referendum ‘on facts’

Willie Rennie address delegates at the Lib Dems conference in Bournmouth. Picture: JP
Willie Rennie address delegates at the Lib Dems conference in Bournmouth. Picture: JP
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The Liberal Democrats have called on the SNP to join their campaign for a referendum on the UK’s Brexit deal, the party’s Scottish leader has said.

Addressing his party’s conference in Bournemouth, Willie Rennie revealed he would open talks with the Scottish Government this week to argue that voters should be given a chance to “exit from Brexit”.

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie (centre) listens to a speech by Tim Farron MP at the Liberal Democrats conference. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie (centre) listens to a speech by Tim Farron MP at the Liberal Democrats conference. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The Scottish Lib Dem leader will write to Nicola Sturgeon asking for a meeting, claiming “the door is open” to a joint effort between their two parties on Brexit.

• READ MORE: Opposition’s ‘peak Nat’ claim realised as SNP membership falls

Sir Vince Cable will close the conference today with a call for “sensible grown-ups” in other parties to help bring about a soft Brexit and keep the UK in the single market and customs union. And he will insist the proposal for a new EU vote is “not a call for a re-run” but a “first referendum on the facts”.

In a BBC interview at the weekend, the Scottish Government’s Brexit minister Michael Russell suggested the SNP was open to the idea of a referendum on the terms of the UK’s Brexit deal.

“I don’t rule that out by any manner of means but I think we need to sit down and talk about it,” Mr Russell said. The Scottish Government is set to hold separate talks this week with Conservatives in a bid to reach a single position on amendments to Brexit legislation at Westminster.

• READ MORE: Brexit: SNP hint at support for second EU referendum

In his speech in Bournemouth, Mr Rennie said the Lib Dems were taking a “unique stand” on Brexit to combat an “age of isolation and divisiveness”.

He said: “This is an exciting time to have the opportunity to lead on liberal values. And I can announce today that we will open talks with the Scottish Government this week to ask them to back our campaign to give the people across the UK the chance of an exit from Brexit.”

However, despite holding out an olive branch on Brexit, Mr Rennie spent much of his speech lambasting the SNP over their record in power.

Echoing complaints that the Repeal Bill was a Westminster “power grab” that would “wreck devolution”, the Scottish Lib Dem leader accused the SNP of stripping powers from local government and centralising them at Holyrood.

An SNP spokeswoman said: “Willie Rennie’s calls for a second EU vote would be more credible if he had not backed the Tories in imposing Brexit on Scotland by trying to deny the country a choice on its future.”

• READ MORE: Tories and SNP offer to broker Brexit deal for more powers