Nick Clegg tore into Conservative Brexiteers on Wednesday, accusing them of lacking “courage” and abandoning their previous commitment to parliamentary democracy.
The former Lib Dem leader, along with the Labour Party and many pro-EU Tory MPs, want Theresa May to grant the Commons a vote on the terms under which the UK will leave the EU. However the prime minister has refused.
Speaking in a Commons debate on Brexit today, Clegg accused May of being a hypocrite for having demanded MPs be given a vote on previous EU negotiations as home secretary - only to refuse one now she is the prime minister.
Clegg said of pro-Brexit Tories who did not want a vote: “I could always rely on them to marry their loathing of the EU to their passion for the traditions and prerogatives of this House. That was their raison d’être, that they hated Brussels as much as they loved the House of Commons.
“They still hate Brussels, but they now appear to be comply tongue-tied, completely mute, silent when they have an opportunity to speak up of the traditional prerogatives of this House.”
He added: “Where is the courage, where is the clarity, where is the willingness to be put country before party?”
After the Lib Dem’s disastrous 2015 general election result which saw the party reduced to just eight MPs - Clegg resigned as leader and retreated from frontline politics.
However he was recently brought back to the Lib Dem frontbench by his successor Tim Farron as the party’s Brexit spokesman and delivered one of his most passionate ever speeches.
Clegg told the Commons that when he was deputy prime minister and May was home secretary, she had insisted MPs be given a vote on the UK’s opt out of EU judicial and home affairs rules.
He said he did not understand why May was now refusing to grant “exactly the same” right to vote on the much more significant issue of Brexit.
Clegg attacked the prime minister for having “cast aspersions” on the 48% of British people who voted ‘Remain’ at the referendum and for lacking a mandate to decide the terms of Brexit.
“Apparently the referendum on the 23rd June was an overwhelming vote in favor of Brexit apart from a few misguided members of the liberal elite - everyone else apparently voted Brexit,” he said.
“For mem the dictionary definition of ‘overwhelming’ does not confirm to a very narrow vote in which one side got 17.4 million votes and the other got 16.1 million votes.”