Scottish election 2021: Willie Rennie – ‘We want to join the European Union’

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has insisted that his party wants to re-join the European Union, despite his Westminster counterparts stepping back from Europe.

Speaking in BBC and Sky interviews on Sunday morning, Mr Rennie said that he supported Britain re-joining the EU, but not in the coming Scottish parliamentary term, due to a need to focus on recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

He said he believed it was “democratic” to block a future referendum on Scottish independence.

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In response to questions on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Rennie said: "I think we should put the divisions of the past behind us.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie meets Daisy an English bull terrier during a visit to the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home while campaigning for the Scottish Parliamentary election.

"Of course I want to join the European Union, I want to be a member. We were the leading party across the United Kingdom against Brexit, we've campaigned every single step of the way, but I accept that for the next five years you should focus on recovery.”

Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrat party in Westminster, has previously said the Liberal Democrats is “not a re-joining party” and stated “our campaign to stop Brexit is over".

Mr Rennie added: “The party's policy is clear. We want to persuade people, over a period of time, to join the European Union.

"We want to make sure we keep close, of course, in the meantime, so that we have good trading relationships, so that people have the opportunities that we previously had with the European Union.

"But for the next five years, I absolutely agree with Ed Davey – we need to focus on the recovery, because thousands of people are on the verge of losing their job. That should be the priority.

"I talk about Europe a lot. I think you'll find that I am a dedicated European, but the most important things in the next five years is to put recovery first, and the divisions of independence behind us.”

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In a separate interview with Sky News broadcaster Sophy Ridge, Mr Rennie defended previous comments that he would vote against holding another referendum on Scottish independence, even if the SNP win a majority in Thursday’s Holyrood election.

He said: “It is certainly democratic that I follow what my voters tell me to do.

"I'm against another independence referendum because I think it will distract the country at a time when we need to build the country. If people vote for me on the basis that I'm clear, crystal clear, in an election campaign, it would be bizarre I did the opposite after the election.

"All the polls are showing that there's a decline in support for independence and for the SNP. Now is not the moment to choose another independence referendum because we've got so many challenges to overcome.”

Mr Rennie said last week that he was confident his party would make gains in the Scottish election and insisted he had the ambition to lead the country.

He offered a "progressive home" to voters who had previously backed the SNP, but were now concerned that a second independence referendum would take priority over recovery from the pandemic.

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