UK Politics

Lib Dem leadership rivals defend anti-Brexit slogan

Liberal Democrat MEPs wearing "Stop Brexit" T-shirts Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Lib Dem MEPs wore "Stop Brexit" T-shirts - with a controversial slogan on the back - on the first day of European Parliament

Lib Dem leadership rivals Jo Swinson and Sir Ed Davey say they support the move by their MEPs to wear yellow anti-Brexit T-shirts in European Parliament.

Ms Swinson said the MEPs were involved in proceedings "in a respectful way" and it was a "light-hearted" slogan.

Sir Ed also defended the slogan as the 16 MEPs were voted in on that mandate.

However, Ms Swinson said The Brexit Party MEPs turning their backs "smacked more of disrespect" - a move defended by their leader Nigel Farage.

He in turn has criticised the Lib Dem display.

Mr Farage said his 29 MEPs were "cheerfully defiant" during the EU's anthem on the first day of the parliamentary session on Tuesday.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBrexit Party MEPs turned their backs as Ode to Joy was performed

When asked about her party's actions, current deputy leader Ms Swinson told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "I think what you had in the Lib Dems MEPs was wearing a T-shirt with a slogan with a slightly light-hearted term on the back.

"But nonetheless being involved in the proceedings in a respectful way."

Referring to the "Bollocks to Brexit" slogan included on the T-shirts, Sir Ed, former energy and climate change secretary, said: "Let's remember, they had been voted back to parliament on that mandate, so they were only saying what their mandate is.

"I just think people are making way too much of this."

Some have criticised their decision, though. Conservative MP Nicolas Soames said both parties had displayed "pathetic oafish childish behaviour", while Change UK's Anna Soubry said there was no need for the Lib Dems to go into "that sort of territory".

Just over 106,000 Lib Dem members have been sent ballot papers to decide their next leader and the poll will close on 23 July - the same day the new prime minister is expected to be revealed.

Image copyright PA Media/Getty Images
Image caption Jo Swinson and Ed Davey are competing to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats

Sir Ed said his vision was "very strong on the environment", he wanted education to be a "key spending priority" and he wanted to address the economic causes of Brexit and inequality.

Ms Swinson said: "I think it's about reaching out to the millions of people who have not previously been Liberal Democrat members, or in many cases voters, and bring them to our party."

Both agreed they would not support a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn.

"At the moment Labour are a Brexiteer party," Ms Swinson said.

"Jeremy Corbyn is a Brexiteer, but he has also failed to deal with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party."

Both candidates also criticised Mr Corbyn's general economic policies, with Sir Ed saying they would "bankrupt the country".

Mr Corbyn has backed another Brexit vote in certain circumstances, but has come under increasing pressure to go further and campaign for another referendum now and wholeheartedly fight to remain.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Lib Dem MEPs wore the T-shirts on the first day of European Parliament

More on this story