The Liberal Democrats have unveiled a manifesto with a referendum on the UK’s Brexit deal at its heart, promising to give voters a chance to reject Theresa May’s “cold, mean-spirited Britain” and stay in the EU.
Launching his party’s prospectus in London, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron told voters they do not have to accept an “extreme version of Brexit” that would “wreck the future”.
Under the Lib Dems’ proposals, voters would get the final say on the terms of the UK’s Brexit deal, with an option on the ballot paper to remain a member of the EU.
The manifesto also includes plans to legalise cannabis and raise £1 billion in duty from controlled sales of the drug, a pledge to welcome 50,000 Syrian refugees, and a scrappage scheme for diesel cars.
Mr Farron said: “You don’t have to accept Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s extreme version of Brexit that will wreck the future for you, your family, your schools and hospitals. In the biggest fight for the future of our country in a generation, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has let you down by voting with Theresa May on Brexit – not against her.
“The Liberal Democrats want you to have your choice over your future. You should have your say on the Brexit deal in a referendum. And if you don’t like the deal you should be able to reject it and choose to remain in Europe. We want to give all our children a brighter future in a fairer Britain where people are decent, with good schools and hospitals, a clean environment and an innovative economy. Not Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain.”
Mr Farron was again forced off message over his religious views and had to confirm he supports a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy after a 2007 interview resurfaced in which he reportedly said abortion was “wrong”.
The Lib Dem leader said he did not recognise the interview, which came to light after he had to clarify that he does not believe gay sex is a sin.
The Lib Dems would assemble a constitutional convention to “deliver home rule to each of the nations of a strong, federal United Kingdom”.
And a written UK constitution would include a provision that the Scottish Parliament can only be abolished “by the sovereign will of the Scottish people”.
The party says its plan to keep Scotland and the UK in the EU single market no matter what will “remove the basis for the SNP’s divisive proposed referendum on independence”. And the manifesto pledges to give 16-year-olds the vote in all UK-wide elections and referendums.
The Lib Dems also say they will end the “anomaly” which sees Police Scotland charged VAT despite regional forces in England and Wales escaping the charge. The Scottish Government says Police Scotland loses £35 million per year because of the rules on VAT.
North-east Scotland will get additional help to reduce its reliance on the fossil fuel industry and diversify its economy as the North Sea declines.
And Scotland would be connected to a high-speed rail network with approval for the HS2 and HS3 developments.
Across the UK, the manifesto says the Lib Dems would end the 1 per cent cap on pay rises in the public sector, and reinstate housing benefit for people under the age of 21.
Lib Dems would remove the two-child cap on tax credits and abolish the “rape clause”, end the “bedroom tax” and cancel the freeze on benefits.
Income tax would rise by 1 per cent in England and Wales to pay for additional NHS and social care funding, with a 1 per cent increase in the tax on dividends across the UK.
Conservative Party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin said: “This manifesto makes one thing abundantly clear: a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote to put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.
“From increasing taxes to borrowing more – from putting our security at risk to scrapping Trident – these policies are an echo of Corbyn’s manifesto earlier this week.”
SNP candidate John Nicolson, who is facing a Lib Dem challenge in his East Dunbartonshire constituency, said voters couldn’t trust the party to keep its word.
“The Liberal Democrats cannot be trusted to stand up to the Tories – and as we know their manifesto pledges are not worth the paper they’re written on.
“Scotland has not forgotten the Lib Dem record of betrayal propping up the Tories in government.”
Scottish Labour election coordinator James Kelly said the Lib Dems had “nothing new to offer”.