Liberal Democrat leader says other government business has ground to a halt over Brexit
PUBLISHED: 22:57 31 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:45 01 February 2019
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has warned how a swathe of other issues in the UK were being ignored as MPs argued about Brexit.
Speaking at The Atrium at North Walsham High School on Thursday evening, at an event where he criticised the Brexit process, Sir Vince singled out social care as one example of problems which had gone by the wayside.
He said: “We are desperately waiting for a white paper but we’re told this is no longer government priority, the priority is Brexit.”
The event was organised by the North Norfolk and Great Yarmouth Liberal Democrats, and the public were able to ask Sir Vince a number of questions after he had set out his stall on how the UK is progressing with leaving the EU.
He took aim at those who felt the UK could operate under World Trade Organisation rules in the event of a no deal. He said: “It’s a bit like saying let’s get rid of our armed forces, NATO and the UN will come to our aid, I’m not sure people would like that. I’m afraid it’s put us particularly in a very exposed position.”
Questions from the public varied from queries on a second referendum, to rights of Britons living in the EU, to healthcare. Sir Vince has publicly said he would like to see a second referendum, with the options of Theresa May’s deal or staying in the EU.
And he said any result would have to be respected and he would not expect a third vote to be held. But he said: “If we stay in the EU and made it very clear [the single market and freedom of movement] were an issue for the UK, we would get some agreement. The reason this is a question is because when the Berlin Wall came down the British government took a very literal view of relaxing immigration controls.”
One member of the public told how he had lost a friend of many years over disagreements over Brexit, and his nieces and nephews accused him of being “racist and out of touch”. North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb told the man: “I feel for you because when you talk about when it breaks friendships and makes it difficult in families, many people talk in this way. He added: “I find this the most depressing time in politics in all the time I’ve been involved in this work. It feels like we’ve got two tribes hurling abuse at each other.”