PM using food shortage threats ‘to make Chequers plan more palatable’, Willie Rennie

Threats of food shortages are now the only way Theresa May can make her Brexit deal palatable, Lib Dems have heard.

The damaging effects of a no-deal are being cynically played up to try and win public support for a bad deal, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie has told his party conference.

Speaking without notes, the Fife MSP warned the prime minister was trying to engineer “a stitch-up” and her government could not be trusted.

He said: “The Chequers plan is so damaging to our country they have to threaten a no-deal Brexit to make the British people like it.

“Threatening food shortages to make chlorinated chicken more appealing.

“We can’t trust a government that offers us a false choice between economic damage and economic damage.”

Riffing on media reports that Remain campaigners were traitors to their country, Mr Rennie sought to turn the attack back.

He said it was Leave voters who had been betrayed by their Brexiteer leaders, reneging on their promise of “taking back control”, and who should be demanding their democratic right to a second referendum.

“If we do not turn back this will be the biggest surrender of power this country has probably ever seen,” he said. “What a betrayal that would be.

“This Brexit process started with democracy – it should not end in a stitch-up.

“Trust in democracy. Give the people the final say.”

Mr Rennie warned a bad Brexit was on its way, with the Chequers plan leaving the UK as a “rule taker not a rule maker” after 40 years of co-operation.

“After 40 years of setting the rules, the common rule book will be written by European countries, not Britain,” he said.

“And when they make a rule that’s not in our economic interests we will just have to suck it up. Democracy ripped out of Britain.”

The Scottish leader offered hope to his party that Remain could “turn the tide” with even the totemic Scottish fishing industry, which has been near-unanimous in its demand to leave the EU.

Mr Rennie said he had spent a day on a prawn trawler, the Sanela, with Brexit-backing fishermen who “just want rules and laws that make sense” and “kick back” when they are not listened to.

Listing issues with fishing grounds being destroyed by cables from wind energy giants or delays due to a lack of dredging, Mr Rennie said the fishermen were pragmatists and could easily turn against a bad Brexit.

“Fresh seafood has no value if it’s stuck in a lorry park in Kent,” he said.

“Picture the chaos of lorries arguing to get a place on choked up motorways heading for the Channel because a distant, foolish UK government has let it get this far.

“If we want to turn the tide against the easy, populist slogans from the extremes on the left and right, we need to listen.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Gareth Fuller / PA Wire.