Jo Swinson admits U-turn over Brexit as she concedes Liberal Democrats will not win majority

Tim Baker
PA

Jo Swinson today admitted the Liberal Democrats have changed their Brexit policy while conceding the party is unlikely to win a majority on Thursday.

Ms Swinson, speaking on Today on BBC Radio 4, said that the “most likely way” her party could stop Brexit would be through a people’s vote.

Speaking to Justin Webb she said: “It’s only in the circumstances of a Liberal Democrat majority government which of course in itself would be democratic.

“But where we are right now that obviously doesn’t look likely.”

She added: “The most likely way we can stop Brexit is through a people’s vote and the Liberal Democrats have led the campaign for a people’s vote for three-and-a-half years.”

The Liberal Democrat leader was also questioned about her party’s stance on transgender and women’s rights.

Their manifesto promises a “complete reform of the Gender Recognition Act” including the introduction of an “X” gender on passports.

Asked by Mr Webb if she believes biological sex exists, Ms Swinson said: “Not on a binary, from what I’ve read - and I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert in the subject - I don’t think things are as binary as they are presented.”

Mr Webb then asks: “You don’t believe biological sex exists? That there are men and women? Males and females and a vanishingly small amount of people who possibly are indeterminate because of chromosomal abnormalities.

“But actually, most people are male or female. You don’t believe that?”

To this Ms Swinson said: “I believe that most people are, but as you said there are differences in chromosomal abnormalities and different levels - I’ve read papers.

“As I say, I’m not a scientist on this. This is not a scientific debate. This is a debate about people and their lives.”

It comes after the Sunday Times revealed a company that markets drugs in gender-identity clinics donated £100,000 to the Liberal Democrats.

The payment was made on November 22 by Ferring Pharmaceuticals, according to the Electoral Register.

Stonewall are campaigning for the Gender Recognition Act to be reformed (PA Archive/PA Images)

Stonewall, an LGBT rights group, says that the term “intersex” can be used to describe someone “who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female”.

Ms Swinson and Mr Webb went on to talk about safe spaces and refuges for victims of domestic violence.

Mr Webb said: “It should be possible to say - and to say clearly, as the law suggests at the moment - that someone who is anatomically, chromosomally male, should not get into these spaces.

“Is that something you will keep to or not?”

Ms Swinson replied: “The most important thing is to keep people safe.

“When someone is admitted to a refuge, obviously there has to a degree of risk assessment. What risks that person faces, who there might be that poses them a risk.”

Dr Nicola Williams, from Fair Play For Women, told the standard: "It doesn't matter how many times Jo Swinson says "transwomen are women" it doesn't change the material reality that transwomen are male and that matters too.

“This fact has to be acknowledged so we can find solutions where everyone's rights can be carefully and sensitively balanced.

“The Lib Dems blinkered approach on this issue is now a road block to progress".

Josh Bradlow, Head of Policy, Stonewall said: "Reforming the Gender Recognition Act will simply make it easier for trans people to live their day to day lives, by making it less complicated for a trans person to update their birth certificate to reflect who they are.

"Replacing the current bureaucratic and dehumanising process with a system of self-determination would be life-changing for many trans people."

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