The leader of the Liberal Democrats has denied suggesting Brexit supporters are racist after attacking white nostalgia in a major speech.
Sir Vince Cable faced criticism after telling his party’s spring conference that too many of those who voted for Brexit were “driven by a nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white, and the map was coloured imperial pink”.
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Conservatives attacked the comments as “unfair” and called for him to apologise.
Sir Vince denied he had indicated that Brexit voters were racist, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I didn’t suggest that at all.”
But he insisted that “nostalgia for that world” was a factor in how people had voted.
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“One of the factors was indeed nostalgia,” he said. “Why else has so much fuss been made about the change in the colour of the passport?”
He said one of the most effective pieces of “propaganda” during the referendum had been an advertisement unveiled by then Ukip leader Nigel Farage showing a queue of non-white people with “breaking point” written in large letters.
Sir Vince also used his speech on Sunday to warn the “toxic” fall-out of the Brexit referendum was fuelling the rise of the populist right in Britain.
He told the conference in Southport that the divide opened up by the June 2016 vote had left the country mired in a “protracted, non-violent civil war”.