Brexit will bring years of stalemate, infighting and indecision, Rennie warns
Brexit negotiations will “cripple” the UK for years, even if Theresa May does manage to get a Withdrawal Agreement approved by Parliament, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has warned.
Willie Rennie said there would be “years of stalemate, infighting and indecision” even if the UK does manage to leave the European Union on March 29.
And he insisted the only way to “make this torture stop” was by holding a second Brexit referendum.
Speaking at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Hamilton, Mr Rennie said: “History has its eyes on us.
“We need a people’s vote, the country needs a people’s vote.”
He argued: “If even the Brexiteers can’t agree amongst themselves what Brexit actually means surely we should put it back to the British people to decide.
“We can’t trust government so let us trust the people.”
With the Commons to vote again on the issue this week, Mr Rennie issued a blunt warning: “This won’t be over on March 29.”
He stated: “The negotiations over a proposed free trade agreement will cripple our country for month after month, year after year.
“But there is a way to make this torture stop.
“We can break out of this stalemate by letting the people decide.
“That would be what democracy is actually for.”
Disenchantment with the Tory and Labour stances on Brexit has this week prompted several sitting MPs to quit their parties and set up the new Independent Group.
Mr Rennie said he was “full of admiration” for them, as he urged rival politicians to “come and talk with me” if they too have been left unhappy by the UK’s two main parties, saying these were “no longer broad churches but narrow sects”.
He likened the case for Brexit to the case for Scottish independence, telling the audience: “Two forms of nationalism are gripping our country, with their easy slogans, their lazy facts.
“Their divisive rhetoric, their false patriotism. There are striking parallels between the claims of the Brexiteers and those who argue for independence.”
Rather than seeking “more chaos” with the break up of the UK, he urged Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to focus on her responsibilities at home.
“Instead of wasting our time and money on yet another independence campaign the First Minister must deliver on her promises,” he demanded, pointing out commitments to end the practice of bed blocking and close the attainment gap had not been met.
He attacked the SNP on the issue of children’s rights, saying there had been more than 2,600 cases of disabled children having to be restrained in school in just one year.
“It’s supposed to be the last resort,” Mr Rennie said.
“But 2,600 incidents doesn’t sound like a last resort to me.”
He was also critical of the SNP administrations tax plans – with the Budget approved by Holyrood last week allowing local authorities to raise council tax by almost 5%, doubling the charge on plastic bags and allowing councils to introduce new levies on workplace parking and on hotel stays.
All this created “an impression of a government that is ramping up tax at every budget,” he stated.
“The Scottish Government are being reckless and cavalier with taxes and taxpayers. Any reputation for sound financial management has been lost.”