As the Lib Dems kicked off annual conference season, one topic of conversation dominated the Sunday politics shows. You guessed it – Brexit.
But it was Sadiq Khan’s call for a second referendum in particular which set the agenda, with the Mayor of London insisting the public are currently stuck between and rock and a hard place when it comes to Brexit.
Khan told Andrew Marr that the government’s poor negotiations with the European Union had led to two possible outcomes when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019: “A bad deal – and by that I include leaving the EU without knowing the terms of the future relationship, a blindfold Brexit, – or no deal.”
Having initially argued against having a second vote on EU membership, Khan said recent research had revealed that crashing out of the EU without a deal would leave the UK with 500,000 fewer jobs and £50 billion less investment.
“It’s really important that this is not a re-run of the referendum but the British public having a say for the first time on the outcome,” he told Marr, adding that voters should be given the option to remain in the EU.
The mayor had earlier written in the Observer that people didn’t vote Leave “to make themselves poorer, to watch their businesses suffer, to have NHS wards understaffed”, adding: “I don’t believe Theresa May has the mandate to gamble so flagrantly with the British economy and people’s livelihoods.”
But Khan’s calls for a ‘people’s vote’ sparked anger on both sides of the political divide.
Appearing on Sky’s Ridge on Sunday, Labour’s Barry Gardiner said a second referendum would “throw this government a lifeline” if Theresa May was unable to get a Brexit deal through Parliament.
“If this government cannot do what it is supposed to do and govern, then we need actually to change the government,” the shadow international trade secretary said.
Meanwhile, Michael Gove criticised Khan for attempting to “frustrate the vote we had in 2016”, dubbing his calls for a second referendum “interesting and troubling”.
But Gove also offered a hint that he is less than delighted with the PM’s Chequers plan for Brexit, telling Marr it is the right approach “for now”.
Suggesting he wants the deal with the EU to be revisited and toughened up after Brexit, the environment secretary said: “A future Prime Minister could always choose to alter the relationship between Britain and the European Union.”
However, his Cabinet colleague Liam Fox was much more ardent in his support of the Tory leader.
Asked by Sophy Ridge about May’s future after a powerful group of Conservative MPs reportedly met this week to discuss a coup, the international trade secretary said the Prime Minister “is doing a great job in difficult circumstances”.
“I think supporting the Prime Minister now is in our national interests and certainly if she wants to continue on to the next election she will have my support and I think that a British Prime Minister who delivers a successful Brexit will have the support of the British public.”
Fox also appeared to backtrack on his previous claim there is a 60% chance of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal, saying he is currently much more positive about the country’s prospects.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve certainly had more reassuring noises from the European Commission and some of our European partners,” he told Ridge.
The North Somerset MP also used his appearance on the show to demand that freedom of movement must end with Brexit.
Arguing the decision will “create a more level playing field” for non-EU migrants, he said “its about not having a system that’s skewed towards EU citizens”.
However, he insisted the government’s pledge to reduce immigration to the “tens of thousands” will remain post-Brexit.
Meanwhile, as the Liberal Democrat’s annual party conference kicked off in Brighton, Vince Cable told Marr that he believes it “improbable” he will still be in charge by 2022.
However, as he discussed his controversial plans to allow non-MPs to stand for party leadership, Cable insisted he would remain in position until Brexit is over.
“I want to see the party through the whole of this Brexit argument,” he said. “If there is a general election in the turbulence generated by Brexit I will be there to lead us through the election and after it.”
Finally, on the radio shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics that despite fears a Labour government could lead to a crash in sterling, having the party in power would be good for business.
Denying claims Labour wants to overthrow capitalism – as the party’s chancellor John McDonnell recently described as his job – Long-Bailey said there is “nothing to shock or worry businesses” in Labour’s manifesto.
However, MPs do want “democracy within our capitalist society”, she said.
“We also want to make sure that the prosperity that we can create within our society is shared by everybody, every single community,” she told Pienaar. “For too long, we have seen communities which have been held back.”