When Tim Farron first put together his Shadow Cabinet team, Nick Clegg turned down the offer of a post, judging – rightly – that it was better to give a new party leader more space to build up their own profile first.
Now, however, Clegg is returning as a front bench spokesperson as a party statement explains:
Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is returning to the Liberal Democrat front bench as the party’s European Union spokesperson in order to hold the Government to account over its plans for Brexit.
Nick Clegg is uniquely well placed to challenge the Conservatives on their plans for Brexit. Not only did he sit around the cabinet table with Theresa May, Liam Fox and others, he was also a leading Member of the European Parliament and a trade negotiator in the European Commission under Leon Brittan. During the coalition years he established himself as the highest profile pro-European voice in British politics and is well known and respected in capitals across the continent.
Nick Clegg is kicking off his role by announcing his ‘Brexit Challenge’ project. Over the coming months the former Deputy Prime Minister will be working with a range of experts, including academics and lawyers, to set out the difficult questions the Government has to answer in a host of areas that will be affected by Brexit. In the coming weeks and months he will publish a series of papers detailing the challenges and dilemmas facing the UK in a wide range of areas, from our trading relationship with the EU, the issues surrounding freedom of movement, policing and anti-terror co-operation, agriculture, university research funding, environmental standards and many other areas.
Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said:
“There is no-one better placed in British politics to hold the Government to account over Brexit than Nick. When it comes to facing down Theresa May – whether it’s over the Snooper’s Charter, immigration and loads of other issues they crossed swords over in government – Nick has been there and got the T-shirt.
“Now that Theresa May’s Brexit government is a reality, I’ve asked Nick to take on a formal role in holding them to account. Over the next months I expect him to be the leading voice in this debate, taking them to task and flushing out what Brexit will really mean for Britain.
“No one is better placed than Nick to challenge Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis. I’m proud to have him by my side as we lead the Lib Dem fightback in the months ahead.”
Nick Clegg said:
“Theresa May says Brexit means Brexit but no one actually knows what that means. Will we be in the single market or cut off from it, with all the implications that has for British jobs and our economy? What does it mean for immigration? What about the Brits who live abroad and the Europeans who have made our country their home? How will we co-operate with our neighbours to tackle terrorism, cross-border crime and climate change?
“With no meaningful opposition from the Labour Party, no exit plan from the Government, Whitehall unprepared for the Brexit negotiations, and above all, Theresa May’s refusal to seek a mandate from the people for what is in effect a new government, there is a real risk that she and her Brexit ministers won’t be subject to the scrutiny and accountability which voters deserve.
“Whatever your views on Brexit, it is in everyone’s interest to make sure what happens next is debated openly and scrutinised properly. So I want to make clear that we will work openly and collaboratively with people of all parties and none who believe that Britain must remain an open economy and a tolerant, outward-looking nation.”