Sussex MP resigns party whip over Brexit stance

Mr Lloyd has said he would continue to press the issues of his constituents 'fiercely' in Parliament
Mr Lloyd has said he would continue to press the issues of his constituents 'fiercely' in Parliament

A Sussex MP has resigned his party whip amid a row over his position on Brexit.

Stephen Lloyd has cited ‘irreconcilable differences’ between keeping his promise to constituents to respect the referendum result and the Liberal Democrats’ official policy to oppose Brexit. Stephen Lloyd MP: I will not be bullied over Brexit

The Eastbourne MP said he made the decision despite ‘considerable pressure’ not to back Theresa May’s deal as he pledged he would honour the town’s vote to leave the European Union.

In a statement to this newspaper today (December 6) he said, “It is with great regret that I am today resigning the Liberal Democrat party whip in Parliament.

“I have come to the conclusion that I cannot honestly uphold the commitment I made to Eastbourne and Willingdon two and a half years ago, and reiterated since – to accept the result of the referendum, vote for the deal the Prime Minister brought back from the EU and not back calls for a second referendum – whilst supporting the Lib Dem parliamentary party’s formal position of voting against Theresa May’s deal and advocating a People’s Vote.

“Consequently, I have decided that the only honourable thing for me to do is resign the party whip in Parliament.”

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He said he will continue to be a member of the Lib Dems and has ‘nothing but respect and affection’ for party leader Sir Vince Cable MP and his Parliamentary colleagues.

Mr Lloyd also said he would continue to press the issues of his constituents ‘fiercely’ in Parliament.

“When it comes to representing my constituency, today’s announcement changes nothing,” the MP said, “Folk have always known that I put our town before Party politics.

“That was the case yesterday, it is today, it will be tomorrow, and will remain for as long as I have the privilege of representing Eastbourne in Parliament.”

Eastbourne and Willingdon voted to Leave the EU by 57 per cent in the 2016 referendum.

In the snap general election that followed, despite campaigning for Remain Mr Lloyd pledged to accept the result of the referendum, vote for the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement and not support calls for another referendum.

The Liberal Democrats are campaigning to stop Brexit, and are also leading the People’s Vote initiative.

Mr Lloyd’s full letter to Lib Dem Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael MP has been shared with this newspaper and is published in full below:

Dear Alistair - It is with regret that I am writing to you to tender my resignation of the party whip in Parliament. I have come to this conclusion because the pledge I made to my town cannot be honestly reconciled with the position of the Party over the Prime Minister’s EU Withdrawal Bill, and the People’s Vote.

Though I fought as a Remainer during the referendum, and still believe we would be better off in the EU, I also made a clear promise to my constituency, Eastbourne & Willingdon, at the time that I would accept the result, support the deal the PM brought back from the EU and not back calls for a second referendum.

And as we have discussed, I will be keeping my word to my town.

However, I appreciate me voting this way and not supporting a People’s Vote, are counter to the Liberal Democrat’s formal position. Consequently I have decided the only honourable thing for me to do is to resign the party whip in Parliament.

Rest assured though, that I will continue to fight hard for liberal values and press my constituents cases actively in Westminster, as I have always done. I am genuinely saddened to take this action as have nothing but respect and affection for you, my parliamentary colleagues and for our Party.

With best wishes - Stephen Lloyd MP