Tim Farron compared the Lib Dems' position on Brexit to their opposition of the Iraq War
Mr Farron claimed the Liberal Democrats will be “vindicated by history” in their calls for a second EU referendum and for Britain to remain part of the Brussels-based bloc.
His party are currently using the passage of the Government’s Article 50 Bill through Parliament, which would hand the Prime Minister the authority to trigger EU divorce talks, in order to push their demand for a UK-wide vote on the final Brexit deal offered to Britain.
Speaking to reporters in Westminster, Mr Farron suggested his MPs are now facing down “attack and vilification” as the Liberal Democrat's late leader Charles Kennedy had done in the run-up to war in Iraq.
In March 2003, the Liberal Democrats overwhelmingly rejected then-prime minister Tony Blair’s recommendation the UK join US president George W. Bush in invading the Middle East state.
Ahead of the first House of Commons vote on the Article 50 Bill tonight, Mr Farron said: “I watched the Iraq debate from outside, two years before I became an MP. It reminds me very much of it.
“Everybody looks back at Charles Kennedy then and says, of course he was right.
“You ask most people, did they support Tony Blair or did they support Charles Kennedy? They say 'oh I supported Charles Kennedy'. That's absolute rubbish.
"If you look at opinion polls at the time, we took the minority position.
"If you look at the House of Commons there were 500, I think, Labour and Conservative MPs who voted against us.
"And the 'will of the people' was to go to war hand-in-hand with George W. Bush.”
I watched the Iraq debate… it reminds me very much of it.
Mr Farron, who was first elected to Parliament in 2005, hailed Mr Kennedy’s decision to oppose the Iraq War as a “brave, bold and arguably risky thing”.
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He added: “I take courage and comfort from that example because I'm as certain as I can be we're in the same kind of place now.
“I think we're in a situation where we are taking a decision as a party to campaign in a way which will open us up to attack and vilification.
“We get even more stick in the House of Commons than [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn and that's because we're clear what we think.
“We think democracy does not involve lying down and giving up. If you believe in democracy you've got to carry on fighting for it.
“I'm increasingly convinced we will be vindicated by history, hopefully soon enough for us to do something about it.”
Theresa May's 12 point Brexit plan
Mon, January 16, 2017
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Continued cooperation with the EU to tackle terrorism and international crime.
Liberal Democrat MPs are set to vote against the Article 50 Bill tonight during its second reading in the House of Commons.