Within hours of the big victory in the Richmond By-election the Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats met the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator to press for a break clause that would allow the UK to change its mind on Brexit.
Willie Rennie met Guy Verhofstadt at the European Liberal Congress (ALDE) in Warsaw. The 45 minute meeting explored the by-election, the proposal for a Brexit deal referendum, the financial consequences of Brexit reported in the recent Autumn Statement and the falling support for Scottish independence, and even lower level of support for another Scottish independence referendum.
Mr Rennie urged Mr Verhofstadt to develop a plan for how Europe would accommodate the UK if it changed its mind in a referendum on the Brexit deal. A break clause could be triggered at any time, but importantly would come into force after the public expressed their view in a referendum after the details of the Brexit deal negotiated between the UK Government, European Parliament and the European Council become public.
After the meeting Willie Rennie said:
"I was keen to seize the opportunity presented by the growing momentum behind a Brexit deal referendum. The growing list of significant people backing the Liberal Democrat proposal together with the by-election win in Richmond means that it is now a real possibility. The British people could have an opportunity to express their view on the Brexit deal when it is finally agreed between the EU and the UK.
“If the British people do reject the deal and decide to remain in the EU I want to know that the EU negotiators are prepared for that. Some kind of break clause would be necessary to respect the result of that decision.
“I urged Guy Verhofstadt to consider building in a such a break clause into the article 50 process after it has been triggered if the UK decides it wishes to stay in the EU.
“As a fellow liberal he was delighted by the victory in Richmond. He always enjoys it when pro-European liberals make progress. Because of the recent referendum vote this was especially significant.
“It was an excellent meeting as we were able to cover the full spectrum of issues in some detail.
“As you would expect he closely studies the developments in UK including the autumn statement and the Scottish Government's efforts. I told him about the public response to the autumn statement and the financial hit as a result of Brexit.
“I brought him up to speed with the building momentum behind the campaign for a Brexit deal referendum including from former Prime Ministers and significant opinion leaders.
“I told him that support for Scottish independence was falling and the support for another independence referendum was even lower.
"He is a substantial political figure as a former Prime Minister and now leading MEP. I know he will be looking for ways to work constructively with the UK to get the best possible arrangement. It won't be easy but he is someone who has the ability to make it happen."