Sir Vince Cable Lib Dem conference speech focuses on Brexit

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Media captionLive: Sir Vince Cable’s party conference speech

Brexit “fundamentalists” will cause the UK “years of economic pain” to justify the “erotic spasm” of leaving the EU, Sir Vince Cable is set to say.

In his speech to close his party’s conference he warns that those “least able to afford it” will suffer most.

The Liberal Democrat leader will call on Theresa May to “shock us all” and back a referendum on the Brexit deal she strikes with Brussels.

Mrs May has ruled out another referendum “under any circumstances”.

The prime minister told the BBC that MPs would have a choice between her proposed deal with the EU – the so-called Chequers plan – or no deal at all, ahead of the UK’s departure on 29 March.

Sir Vince has rejected this choice, arguing that there are “better alternatives”, and vowed to do everything he can to stop Brexit in Parliament.

He will say he is “starting to feel sorry” for Mrs May who is “dutifully delivering a policy she doesn’t really believe in”.

And he will urge her to admit Brexit has “gone badly wrong” and “open her mind” to another public vote.

The Lib Dem leader is part of the cross-party People’s Vote campaign for another referendum and claims support for it is growing, although he has put its chance of success at about “30%”.

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Media captionI’m going to be around for quite a long time – Cable

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It is Sir Vince’s second leader’s speech to conference

In his big speech to the party conference in Brighton, Sir Vince will say it “beggars belief that the army and the police are now being asked to prepare for riots in the chaotic aftermath of a botched Brexit”.

Taking aim at Conservative Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, he will say: “For the ‘true believers’ – the fundamentalists – the costs of Brexit have always been irrelevant.

“Years of economic pain justified by the erotic spasm of leaving the European Union.

“Economic pain felt – of course – not by them by those least able to afford it.”

Of his former coalition cabinet colleague Theresa May, he will say: “She is dutifully delivering a policy she doesn’t really believe in; failing in negotiations; losing public support; and all to appease a dwindling group of angry people in her party who will denounce her as a traitor, whatever she comes up with.

“But when we feel sorry for the country’s prime minister, something is seriously wrong.

“Our sympathy can only extend so far, while she puts the interests of the country second to the whims of the extremists in her party.”

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The Lib Dems want to stop the UK leaving the EU

He will claim that Mrs May, who voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum but has vowed to deliver on the will of the people, knows “deep down” that Brexit is a “bad idea” whose “time has gone”.

He will urge her to show “true leadership” by admitting that staying in the EU will be better than any deal she can get in Brussels.

“Instead of kowtowing to her enemies in the Conservative Party, she could lead her party and the country by opening her mind to a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final deal,” he will say.

Sir Vince is also expected to take aim at the Labour leadership, who have so far resisted his calls to get behind another EU referendum, in his keynote address to party members.

The Lib Dem leader, who has said he will step down when Brexit has been “resolved or stopped”, is talking to those Labour and Conservative MPs, who do back another referendum, about how to get their way in Parliament.

He has also set out plans to transform his party, which has 12 MPs and has languished in the opinion polls since being in coalition with the Tories, into a “movement for moderates” and open up its next leadership contest to non-MPs.

But anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, who praised the party’s efforts to fight Brexit in a speech from the main stage on Monday, ruled out joining the party or standing for leader.

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