Willie Rennie: Tories and SNP '˜terrible twins of politics'

The Liberal Democrats are the only progressive alternative to the 'terrible twins of division' of Scottish and English nationalism, Willie Rennie will claim today.

WIllie Rennie, Picture, FPA
WIllie Rennie, Picture, FPA

The Scottish Lib Dem leader will use his speech to the party’s federal conference in Brighton today to warn against both the Tories and the SNP using Brexit to sow division.

Party members are expected to ratify proposals making it party policy to hold a second referendum on the terms of the UK’s Brexit deal, with a second question on staying in the EU if the deal is rejected by voters.

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“With the blow of Brexit and the threat of another Scottish independence referendum it means that divisive constitutional politics remain at the centre of our national debate,” Mr Rennie is expected to say. “Our future will be a divided one if we leave it to the Tories and the Nationalists, the terrible twins of divisive politics.

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“The Tories need nationalists to scare voters in England. The nationalists need the Tories to scare voters in Scotland. It’s a campaign based on fear, not hope,” he will claim.

UK Lib Dem leader Tim Farron will also go on the offensive against Labour today, accusing leader Jeremy Corbyn of having “thrown in the towel” over the country’s membership of the European single market.

Today he is expected to say: “Voting for a departure is not the same as voting for a destination. The British people should be allowed to choose what comes next to ensure it is right for them, their families, their jobs and our country.

Arguing that “nothing is more important to Britain’s economic future” than the single market”, Mr Farron will say: “Jeremy Corbyn has already thrown in the towel. He didn’t make an effort to keep us in Europe during the referendum campaign and now he has made clear he won’t fight for our membership of the Single Market.

“My message to pro-European Labour supporters is clear: Jeremy Corbyn is not on your side.”

Mr Farron’s message will be echoed by former leader Nick Clegg, who will warn that the UK is “entering dangerous waters” because of the lack of a commitment from the government to stay in the single market.

“The alternative to remaining in the single market is many years of chaos for our key export industries like cars, financial services and food and drink,” he will say.

Conservative ministers want to pull out of the EU customs union, raising the prospect of a ‘hard’ border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, it was reported yesterday.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have both backed a strategy document calling for withdrawal from the common customs area that ensures free movement of goods and places a single set of tariffs on products entering the EU.

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, said the plan would “causes all sorts of problems” and warned it could require customs checks at Scottish ferry terminals.

“Where would the border be between Northern Ireland and the south?” he said. “If you fudge that, as there seems to be an enthusiasm for, what does that mean for traffic between Larne and Stranraer? Are we going to have customs points at Stranraer?