Stephen Lloyd has spoken to the Herald about being at the ‘centre of a firestorm’ after resigning from the Lib Dem party whip yesterday over Brexit (December 7).
The Eastbourne MP said he quit the whip so he could honour Eastbourne’s Leave result by voting for Theresa May’s deal on Tuesday (December 11).
We caught up with Mr Lloyd at Shades café in The Beacon to interview him about his mad 24 hours.
He says the reaction from people in Eastbourne has been ‘stunning’, “I started this morning at a meeting in the town hall, lovely people were coming in being very supportive.
“People were just wonderful, it’s so humbling. People have been very sweet.
“For two and a half years I have said exactly the same thing: I’m a Remainer, I still believe we’ll be better in the EU, but I made an absolute promise that I would accept the result, would support the deal the PM brought back.”
Does he regret making that promise?
“I regret being in the centre of a firestorm,” he said, “But I don’t regret my decision. People are fed up with politicians breaking their promises.”
For the past few weeks, Mr Lloyd said he has received thousands of ‘pretty abusive’ messages on Twitter about his decision to back the Brexit deal.
A van was seen driving around town at the weekend with his photo on it and prominent Remainer Lord Andrew Adonis has been criticising Lloyd for his stance.
Yesterday the MP’s name was trending on Twitter – and the opinions came flooding in.
“It’s pressure but that’s what I’m paid for,” he said, “I respect people’s strongly-held views around remaining in the EU and leaving. My job is to listen and do what I can.”
A Remainer who says he still believes we would be better off in the EU, Mr Lloyd says he believes people voted for Brexit because they feel ‘let down and angry’.
He said, “The key reason I made that promise is, though I totally disagree with Brexit, I understand other people’s anger at feeling ignored by ‘the establishment’.
“Eastbourne is a town with a great sense of self. The world has gone a bit crazy at the minute, I see it as my duty and responsibility to try as much as I can to protect Eastbourne from that rage and anger.”
Mr Lloyd said he could see the party was not going to remove the whip from him, so he resigned instead to ‘take the pressure off’ his colleagues.
He says he hopes to rejoin the party at ‘an appropriate time’ and in the meantime will vote with the Lib Dems for ‘99 per cent’ of the time.
He will ‘never’ support a no-deal Brexit and has no intentions to call a by-election in Eastbourne, he said.
When asked whether he believes his Eastbourne constituents even want Theresa May’s Brexit deal, he said, “My promise was very clear. It wasn’t if I like the deal or if others like the deal.
“I promised to accept the result of the referendum and the deal the PM brings back from Brussels. Even if it’s difficult for me I keep my word.”
Finally, he reflects on his job as Eastbourne’s MP. “It is the most interesting job I have done and the greatest privilege I will ever have up until the day I keel over.
“It’s very full on and there are difficult times for people and I do my best to help them. It’s a 24/7 job but it’s great.”