Every vote for the Liberal Democrats in the upcoming general election is a vote to “stop Brexit” and land the UK with a £50bn “Remain bonus”, party leader Jo Swinson has declared.
“Red or blue, it’s all Brexit. It’s all bad for our country,” she said.
Outlining her party’s pitch to voters, she said the Lib Dems would “stop Brexit and build a brighter future”.
Ms Swinson said: “The Liberal Democrats are the only party standing up to stop Brexit and build a brighter future for the UK.
“Brexit has taken far longer and cost far more than anyone said it would.
“But any form of Brexit will damage our jobs, our economy and our public services, starving them of vital cash as the economy struggles along.
“The Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit and then use the £50bn Remain bonus to invest in our public services.
“Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to stop Brexit, build a brighter future and invest the £50bn Remain bonus in our vital public services.”
The “Remain bonus” mentioned by Ms Swinson is a reference to the party’s assertion that stopping Brexit would generate billions for public finances.
Staying in the EU will see the economy grow faster than under Brexit and see higher GDP, the Lib Dems say.
Ms Swinson began her speech by saying she was “excited” to be addressing the audience as the party’s “candidate for prime minister”.
Such ambition has raised eyebrows in some quarters, given every government since the Second World War has been headed by either Labour or the Conservatives.
But Ms Swinson said she was being ambitious because “we can be and we have to be”.
The 2019 election could be a moment of “seismic change” where a “new and different politics” could emerge.
“Change is possible and you get to choose,” she said.
The Lib Dems hope to improve on the party’s 2017 performance, which saw it poll just 7% of the vote nationally.
Its numbers have been swelled in recent months by the defection of a number of former Labour and Tory MPs, with 20 Lib Dem MPs in the current parliament.
In her speech, Ms Swinson went on the offensive against Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, saying that she was “absolutely certain” that she could do a better job than them.
In an interview with Sky News last month, Ms Swinson said the Labour leader was “not fit” to be prime minister and there were no circumstances in which she would back a Corbyn government.
She repeated this on Tuesday, telling the audience that she was “absolutely, categorically ruling out Liberal Democrat votes putting Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10”.
She said Prime Minister Mr Johnson was “modelling himself” on Donald Trump, while Mr Corbyn “will not give you a straight answer” on Brexit.
Labour has promised to renegotiate a Brexit deal with Brussels and then put that to a referendum within six months, with the option to stay in the EU also on the ballot paper.
But Mr Corbyn has not yet said which side he would back in that public vote, with the party set to decide at a special conference ahead of the referendum.
Outlining his future approach to Brexit in a speech in Essex, the Labour leader promised to “get Brexit sorted within six months and build a fairer country that truly cares for all”.
He said the six-month deadline was “realistic”, adding: “We wouldn’t be saying it if we didn’t think it was do-able and possible.”
Dawn Butler, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary, said Ms Swinson had “let the cat out of the bag” with her comments.
“Vote Liberal Democrat, get Boris Johnson selling out our NHS to Donald Trump and blocking any chance of a final-say referendum,” she said.
Mr Johnson has said that if the Conservatives win a majority next month he will ensure Brexit happens “by the end of January” – the current deadline set by Brussels.
Paul Scully, Conservative deputy chairman, said a vote for the Lib Dems “means either another failing, gridlocked parliament or Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister”.
ANALYSIS, by Sky News’ Laura Bundock
One word probably sums up Jo Swinson – and that’s ambitious.
Even she admits she never thought she would be standing as a candidate to be the next prime minister – but that’s what the Liberal Democrats are aiming for at the launch of their election campaign.
Despite only having 20 MPs, and that figure’s thanks to recent defections, the party has its sights set on Number 10.
“Stranger things have happened,” claims Jo Swinson.
The Lib Dems say this is not a normal election, and voters are not facing a typical choice. They’re banking on the Remain vote to win them seats.
And their Stop Brexit message could not be clearer.
What’s less certain is whether it will be enough to win them the votes they’re after.
The Brexit Election: For the fastest results service and in-depth analysis watch Sky News live from 9pm on Thursday 12 December, with a KayBurley@breakfast election special on Friday 13 December