Transition deal could lead to Brexit reversal, Lib Dem deputy leader says

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A Brexit transition deal could be used as a strategy to reverse EU withdrawal, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats has said.

Jo Swinson told a fringe meeting at the party's Bournemouth conference that working with pro-European Tories and Labour on temporary post-exit trade arrangements would not be "giving up", but would keep the door open to EU membership.

Ms Swinson said a transition deal after official EU withdrawal in March 2019 would give business more stability and allow the country space to think again on Brexit.

"What transition periods also do is they give time. They mean that it is not this mad rush and there is the opportunity there for the country to take stock and to think.

"The closer we are to our EU neighbours, the easier it is, at some future point, to reverse the decision.

"Because, if you haven't then hugely diverged from everything, if you have still got the same rules in place, if you have still got the same trading arrangements, then actually the coming back becomes much easier. So, I think, strategically, that is important for us to try to achieve working with others."

Chancellor Philip Hammond has said the Government is seeking a transition arrangement for a set amount of time that would "look a lot like the status quo".

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable at the party's conference
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable at the party's conference (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said: "We are not in the business of trying to help the Government find an easy soft Brexit because it's not real. We are for Remain. We believe Britain should stay in the European Union. Period."

Sir Vince insisted Britain needed another Brexit poll which he said would be "the first referendum on the facts."

Brexit is set to dominate the four day gathering with debates on its impact, including on public services and NHS staffing levels.

However, senior MP Norman Lamb has warned the Lib Dems are in danger of becoming a single issue party by putting so much emphasis on Brexit.