Ed Davey Says Liberal Democrats Accept Brexit But Not No-Deal

The new leader of the U.K.’s Liberal Democrats said his party will oppose a no-deal Brexit and focus on holding Prime Minister Boris Johnson to his promises over leaving the European Union.

Ed Davey, who was confirmed as leader on Thursday, said the Liberal Democrats accept the government has a mandate to deliver the U.K.’s split from the bloc but said the country needs a trade deal that minimizes the economic shock. This has become more critical, he told Bloomberg TV on Friday, due to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy.

U.K. Liberal Democrats Name Ed Davey Leader to Rebuild Party

“Boris Johnson said he wanted a deal, Boris Johnson said he opposes a no-deal — we want to hold him to account for that,” Davey said. “The government should be striving to minimize any economic damage that comes from Brexit, and a no-deal Brexit would add on to the economic disaster of Covid.”

The party have always been historically against Brexit, campaigning to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum. While traditionally having a fraction of the support of the U.K.’s main two parties, they went into December’s general election promising to cancel Brexit if they won.

Slumping Fortunes

That ballot was won convincingly on a get-Brexit-done platform by Johnson’s Tories, who now have a 78-seat majority in Parliament. The Liberal Democrats were left with 11 MPs, with even then leader Jo Swinson losing her seat. It’s a far cry from their recent high of 2010, when its 57 seats propelled the party into a coalition government with the Conservatives.

Davey, who served as energy secretary in that administration, said his party will not abandon its anti-Brexit values and wants a trade deal that keeps the U.K. in the EU’s single market and customs union.

He also said he’ll try to strengthen the party’s appeal with a commitment to rebuilding the pandemic-hit economy in a sustainable way. The recession should be used as an opportunity to create jobs in green energy and technology, Davey said.

“That can kick start our economy and also transition the economy to where we need to be in the longer term,” he said.

— With assistance by Annmarie Hordern

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