THE Welsh Liberal Democrats vowed to create 'a fair, free and liberal Wales' and fight for a referendum on the Brexit deal at the first day of their spring conference today.

Members and supporters also got the chance to quiz education secretary Kirsty Williams, discuss motions on plans to bury radioactive waste off the coast of Wales and hear speeches from a number of other party leaders at the first day of the two-day event in Cardiff.

The party has had a rough time in the most recent elections, losing all but one of their AMs in the 2016 Assembly Election and their only Welsh MP in last year’s snap General Election.

But the mood at today’s conference was upbeat, with a keynote speech by new leader Jane Dodds, who was appointed in November last year, replacing Mark Williams, who resigned after he lost his Ceredigion seat to Plaid Cymru’s Ben Lake last June, going down particularly well.

While she didn’t shy away from the party’s recent troubles, saying “There’s no denying we’ve had a difficult few years”, Ms Dodds added: “While the wounds of the last few years are still visible, we are still fighting.”

And she said one of the party’s top priorities must be to battle homelessness and poverty.

“As the nasty party in Westminster doggedly pursue deeper cuts in public finances, we see vulnerable people scraping by to survive, without access to public services, with no hope for their future,” she said.

“We need to give them that hope.”

On Brexit, she said: “We have to be clear in our opposition to this government’s disastrous handling of the biggest decision our country has faced in a generation.

“And, that whether we like it or not, Wales voted to leave the EU.

“But, and it’s a big but, it was not on the basis that we would leave under any circumstances.”

Concluding, she said: “We need to make sure we have the ideas in place that address the needs of communities and people living in Wales, and we have to translate these ideas into winning votes.

"Not power for the sake of power, but power so we can change people’s lives for the better, putting us back at the heart of Welsh politics where we belong.”

Earlier in the day Ms Dodds also presented a motion calling for the creation of ‘a fair, free and liberal Wales’, saying the party’s mission for the immediate future should be to work to develop new policies to work towards this goal.

“We need to make sure we have an economy and a society which offers opportunities to all,” she said. “A Wales of hope and optimism.”

Cardiff’s Cllr Rhys Taylor also spoke in favour of the motion, saying: “We know what we stand for, but we’re not always very clear about articulating that.”

Calling the motion “an aspirational vision for Wales and our society”, he added: “A lot of it is obvious to us but it is important we set it out”.

Anglesey’s Cllr Aled Morris Jones also spoke in favour of the motion, which was supported overwhelmingly, saying: “Never has there been a time when there has been a greater need for liberalism.

“We must stand up for moderation because it is under threat, both here and across the world.”

Today also included a panel discussion on Brexit with Ms Dodds, Ms Williams, Lib Dem peer Baroness Sal Brinton and former MEP Peter Price, during which members agreed key to battling Brexit was working across party lines with all Remain supporters.

Ms Dodds said: “We’re not going to be popular and I think we need to go to the areas which voted out.

“We really need to be bold in doing that.

“We may not win directly face-to-face, but we may plant the seeds in people’s minds”

And Baroness Brinton said: “We have to be out there, we have to be door knocking, we have to have street stalls.

“We need to be loud and proud about our stance that this is bad for the UK.”

Baroness Brinton also gave a speech during the morning, in which she criticised Theresa May for not giving MPs a vote on military action against Syria, saying doing so was “Further diminishing the standing of Britain in the world”.

And she was optimistic about the party’s future prospects, saying: “I know the future of the Welsh party is in good hands.

“Thanks to you we can look forward to the future. We can fight for that liberal vision and we can win.”

She added: “We are the only party who knows what we stand for. We are even prepared to be unpopular if we have to be, although often we find people change their opinions to join us”

Members also discussed motions on loneliness, homelessness, access to Wales' waterways and Welsh Government plans which could see radioactive waste buried off the coast.

Tomorrow's business includes a motion on a vote on the Brexit deal and another on planned reform of the Welsh Government and councils in Wales.