Sir Nick claimed that an extension to Brexit negotiations could be used to legislate for what he said was the “growing case” for a so-called ‘people’s vote’.
He said: ”I think there’s a growing case for this — holding a people’s vote, so the people can have a say, not just politicians— possibly negotiating further reforms on freedom of movement to make remaining in the EU more attractive, all of that is possible under EU rules with the consent of the other governments.”
Senior Government ministers have said in the past that any extension to Brexit negotiations would be a “complete betrayal” of the British public.
UK trade secretary Liam Fox has said that British voters were growing impatient with the length of Brexit negotiations and warned that there could be a ‘major’ rebellion of Tory MPs if Ms May tried to extend the two-year negotiating period.
European Research Group chairman and arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg agreed with Dr Fox’s statements in July, saying that an extension to Article 60 would be “the definition of failure for the government”.
The former Leader of the Liberal Democrats claimed that more time was needed so that the UK could “negotiate further reforms”.
He said: “All this is possible under EU rules with the consent of the other governments.”
Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme after the Liberal Democrat Party Conference this weekend, Sir Nick baulked at the suggestion that the country was facing a choice between Ms May’s Chequers deal or a so-called ‘no deal’ Brexit, and suggested that the EU could agree to allow the UK more time to reach a deal.
Today programme listener Jeff Gaines, responding to the interview, wrote on Twitter: “Clegg, has been, liar, delusional and undemocratic. He speaks for no one.”
Sir Nick said: “Of all the con tricks we’ve been subject to in this whole sorry Brexit saga, the lies of the referendum to the so-called virtues of an inelegant fudge on Chequers, I think the worst is now to come.
“We’re now going to be told that it’s my way or no way, it’s either the Chequers fudge or a cataclysmic cliff-edge. The idea that the only thing this country should accept is a fudge or the abyss is not only an insult to the intelligence of British voters, it’s simply not true.”
Reflecting on his time as a European Commission official and former MEP, Sir Nick told the BBC that the EU could be willing to allow the UK a more flexible time-scale in which to negotiate a withdrawal deal.
He said that during his decade-long career in Brussels, “not a single negotiation I was involved in during that ten year period ever ended on time.”
He said: The clock can definitely be changed… The one thing that is very elastic in Brussels is time. They’ve got a name for it, it’s called ‘stop the clock’.
“This is provided for in the EU treaties. In other words, if the United Kingdom were to say, I’m sorry, we’ve got a bit stuck here, we need a bit more time to straighten ourselves out to decide what we’ll do next.”
This weekend, it was revealed that Sir Nick was in talks with an array of ex-politicians and European leaders in an attempt to persuade them to join forces and stop Brexit.
Sir Nick has allegedly been in talks with ex-politicians such as Tony Blair and John Major.
He told the Guardian: “The aim of the visits is to persuade EU leaders that British politics has made the option of remaining inside the EU viable.”
“My primary purpose has been to get European politicians just prepared for the possibility that Britain is not capable of delivering a workable Brexit and they may need to be ready for that.
“It is a question of pressing them to keep open the extension of the article 50 process beyond the March deadline to give UK negotiators more time including to prepare legislation on a people’s vote.”