Remainer CIVIL WAR: Desperate Lib Dems turn on each other – major vote today

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Sir Ed Davey won the Lib Dem leadership race last month and he has committed to changing the party’s notorious anti-Brexit stance. To mark the move away from its pro-EU rhetoric, the party has put forward a motion to ditch its goal of rejoining the EU at the start of the Lib Dem’s four-day virtual conference.

But the proposal has sparked a furious internal row, as several Lib Dem members oppose the change in party policy.

A member of the party’s federal policy committee (FPC) has accused the leadership of a “stitch-up” after the motion suggested that rejoining the EU should be an “option on the table” rather than a formal goal of party policy.

A major vote on the matter is set to take place later today, which could highlight a key split within the party’s ranks.

Party rebels will attempt to scupper the motion and instead install a commitment to a “longer-term objective of UK membership of the EU”.

But Sir Ed may shy away from the shift in policy, as a Lib Dem source told the Independent that several key party spokespeople are expected to back the amendment.

Olly Craven, a FPC member and former parliamentary candidate, said he and several other members of the group were shocked to see the motion had been tabled.

He told the online newspaper: “We thought we had agreed one thing at the FPC meeting and then it was written up by officers, I suspect with a slight nudge from the leadership, as something much weaker.

“There has been a considerable rebellion over it.

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“About half of the entire committee have signed up to the amendment to restore the original wording we thought we were approving.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen members of the committee amending their own motion before.

“It does feel like a stitch-up.

There was considerable anger when we saw what had been submitted, and emails have been flying back and forth ever since.”

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The motion tabled in the FPC’s name says the party will seek the closest possible relationship between Britain and the EU, but breaks with long-standing policy by making membership an “option” rather than a commitment.

It appears to reflect Sir Ed’s intention to move the Lib Dems away from being seen as a single-issue pro-EU party.

After winning the leadership election on August 27, the MP for Kingston and Surbiton suggested he will not campaign to take the UK backing in the EU anytime soon.

He said Britons had no appetite for reigniting the Leave and Remain debate.

Wera Hobhouse, the Lib Dem shadow leader of the Commons has said the party needs to campaign to rejoin the EU at some point in the future.

She told the newspaper: “I’m firmly in the camp who believe we should have a policy which talks about our aspiration of EU membership at some point in the future, without putting a date on it.

“Ed has every right as leader to put forward what his thinking is on the right way forward, but I think we Liberal Democrats can be the ones to keep the flame alive, even if the subject is not popular at the moment and non-membership is now the reality.”

She did not consider that the motion was a leadership stitch-up.

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