Former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg has accused Theresa May of presenting Britain with a “con trick” choice on Brexit.
Sir Nick, who is back in the political spotlight on Monday with an address to a meeting at the Lib Dem conference in Brighton, insisted the Prime Minister was offering either a “fudge or the abyss” on EU exit by claiming the only alternative to her Chequers proposals is a no deal withdrawal.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it is a deep disservice to our democratic traditions to have a Prime Minister now saying: ‘You’ve got no choices left, it’s my fudge or the abyss’ – that is not true.
“We always have more choices if only we are prepared to take them.
“Of all the con tricks we have been subject to in this whole sorry Brexit saga – from the lies in the referendum to the so-called virtues of what is nothing more than an inelegant fudge in Chequers – I think the worst is now to come.
“We’re now going to be told: ‘It’s my way or no way’ – it’s either the Chequers fudge or a sort of cataclysmic cliff edge.
“The idea that the only thing this country should accept is a fudge or the abyss is not only, I think, an insult to the intelligence of British voters, but it’s simply not true.”
Sir Nick insisted that his experience as an MEP taught him that Britain would be given more time by the EU to reflect on what it wanted to happen ahead of the slated withdrawal date of March 29 2019.
He said: “The clock is ticking, but the clock can definitely be changed. One thing that is very elastic in Brussels is time. They’ve got a name for it. It’s called ‘stop the clock’ and it is provided for in the EU treaties.”
Sir Nick said the UK could tell Brussels: “I’m sorry, we’ve got a bit stuck here, we need more time to straighten ourselves out and decide what we want to do next.”
The ex-Lib Dem leader called for a pause in the withdrawal process so that the UK can hold a “people’s vote” on Brexit.
Sir Nick was scathing about the current Brexit situation, saying: “It’s the equivalent of leaving your home, locking your front door, chucking your key away and having absolutely no idea where you are going next.”
The ex-deputy PM said he had been holding talks with European leaders on the Brexit situation to ensure the UK had more choices on what to do about its relationship with the EU.