Ed Davey: Leave voters have turned their backs on Brexit
Many Leave voters in the West Midlands have turned against Brexit and would now vote to stay in the EU, a Lib Dem leadership contender has claimed.
Ed Davey said the “cost, complexity and chaos” of the UK’s protracted departure from the bloc has led to Brexit supporters “changing their minds” and coming over to the side of Remain.
The MP for Kingston and Surbiton wants a second referendum as he says the first one “didn’t accurately portray the full facts”.
His comments came during a campaign visit to the region, where he met with party members, councillors and school leaders in Solihull.
The West Midlands was the biggest Leave area in the country in the EU referendum, with 59.3 per cent of voters backing Brexit.
But according to Mr Davey, who is the outsider in a two-horse race to lead the Lib Dems, the party’s ‘stop Brexit’ message had resonated with people all over the country – and not just traditional Lib Dem voters.
“People who voted Leave originally are beginning to change their minds,” he told the Express & Star.
“They are seeing the cost, the complexity and frankly the chaos of Brexit.
“They are seeing that the Conservatives are very divided – they can’t even agree amongst themselves about what Brexit means – and I think that has influenced people’s opinions and they are changing their minds.
“One of my core messages is that as a party, we are listening to Leave voters and their communities.
“I strongly believe we need to heal our country’s divisions. What has distressed me the most about the whole Brexit debacle is how the country seems divided.
“It’s essential for Remain politicians to not just make the case for Britain staying in the EU, but to also make the case that some people in Leave communities feel forgotten by Westminster, that they haven’t shared in the prosperity of the country in recent years.
“We need to help those communities and regions that feel left behind.”
Asked if he believed that ignoring the result of the EU referendum would be viewed as a further abandonment of Leave voters, he said: “We’re really clear that the only way you could not have Brexit is if the British people made that decision.
“It would be completely wrong for Parliament to cancel Brexit unless the British people had a final say in a vote and said that on reflection they had changed their minds.
“We have to try and take on the concerns of Leave voters as much as possible. I’m sure we won’t satisfy every Leave voter.”
Mr Davey says that under his leadership the party would continue to push for a second referendum, adding that he would accept the result should Leave win again.
“Many people felt the 2016 referendum didn’t actually portray the full facts,” he said.
“If Leave won a second referendum we wouldn’t argue for a third, although it wouldn’t change our overall view that Britain should be in the EU.”
Mr Davey said the Lib Dems had “turned their fortunes around” after the “difficult” years of the coalition government, in which he served as Energy Secretary.
He said that as leader he wanted to build on recent surges in membership and improved performance in elections, with pledges to quadruple Britain’s green energy and transform the Lib Dems into “the party of education”.
He said he was confident he could defeat favourite Jo Swinson, claiming that “the momentum has come all my way”.
The winner is due to be announced on July 22.
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