Conference Message – Exit Brexit

Its conference season and the one time in the year when the Lib Dems get reasonably good news coverage. Our conference is first, followed by Labour and then the Tories. We need to get our message across about Brexit and not lose or have our message diluted by Vince’s announcement that he may or may not step down or lose the message to a difficult policy debate such as the one on immigration.

The focus for this conference should be on Brexit and how can we stop the UK leaving the EU. Lord Kerr believes that we can still withdraw the Article 50 letter without consequences especially if both sides agree.  The referendum was advisory, and therefore Parliament has the option to vote it down or reject Brexit. This is unlikely because the Tories on the right-wing of the party won’t allow this to happen plus they have the support of Democratic Unionist party and some Labour MP’s who support Brexit. The math is not there, especially if they fear a public outcry. Unfortunately, even as project lies unravels there are still many who still agree with the sentiment for leaving the EU no matter what the cost.

The second option I suppose is what we have been fighting for, and that is a second referendum on the deal. We now have a better understanding about leaving the EU and particularly if we leave with no agreement the impact on us will be dire. Expert pollsters (for what it’s worth) are quite confident that remain would win a second referendum. Again, to offer a second referendum parliament would have to agree to it and still the maths is not quite there. However, the momentum for a second referendum is starting to pick up and if the clamour for a second referendum is loud enough politicians might think again on the matter. If we do get a second referendum what would be the question that we would ask?

Alternatively, do we encourage the Tories to have a Brexit in name only? There is a growing number (small I grant you) who support people like Philip Hammond and care more about the impact on our country than a dogmatic approach to walk away from the EU come what MAY. As Hammond has said, there is no deal we can get with the EU post Brexit that comes close to the agreement we currently have. What can we do further to make the Tories and Labour see sense on this?

However, whatever the option we agree on it should be our primary message from the conference and the one that the media report on. If the message is strong enough, it should put enough pressure on both parties (especially Labour) to question their leadership on the stance they have taken on Brexit. That can only be good for the country.









* Tahir Maher is a member of the LDV editorial team and the Chair of the English Party

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • Richard Underhill 29th Aug '18 - 5:55pm

    Not “second referendum”,
    first on the deal (if a deal happens) or
    third on the issue (despite the changes over time).

    Consistency with what the leader said in parliament is desirable, a confirmatory referendum.

  • John Marriott 29th Aug '18 - 6:38pm

    The footie season is upon us again, so let’s use an admittedly weak analogy. Heath took us into the EEC with a stroke of the pen (and copped a load of paint for his troubles). Wilson gave us a chance to say whether or not we wanted to stay (2-1 for stay). Forty years later Cameron gave us another chance to leave or stay (2-2, decided on penalties for leave). So, why not have a decider? Makes sense to me.

  • Scott Berry 29th Aug '18 - 7:38pm

    There aren’t the policies to choose from – we aleady have a policy of a referendum on the final deal in which we will campaign to remain. After 2 years we are seeing momentum build on this, but you’re right we need to push this home at conference so that when Labour adopt our policy a week later every remembers whose idea it was to start with.

  • Peter Chambers 29th Aug '18 - 9:11pm

    Some have suggested before that a “decider” referendum be held, with everyone accepting the result as settling the matter.

    The problem though is that for many people whatever the result is it would be the wrong result and so not acceptable.

    David Cameron started events that split the nation. This cannot be undone.

  • We keep hearing that the nation is split, but really it isn’t. There have not been huge upheavals or battles in the streets pitting neighbour against neighbour. The split is basically between political orators and a few journalist making exaggerated claims for the pulling power of their ideological positions. The people demand this, the people demand that. The actual people are too busy working or getting the kids back to school or shopping or whatever.

  • Frankie
    Not in my experience.
    Anyway, cool story bro.

  • I believe that it was correct that Article 50 may be revoked. However, at the insistence the Supreme Court (following Gina Miller’s application), Parliament has passed this into law. The Withdrawal Act also stipulates the leaving date as 29/03/2019 – so Parliament will have to reverse these two decisions before the Article 50 can be revoked. (The possibility of an Order in Council has been superseded by primary legislation). Yes, it is still possible in theory, but Parliament will need to do some very rapid back-tracking against a fast-looming deadline.

  • Peter Hirst 30th Aug '18 - 1:37pm

    I agree we should focus on Brexit and work in the country’s long-term interests. This rather than a second referendum would show we are acting responsibly. If we can banish a no deal to the rubbish bin, then we can gain some momentum though we must decide what we want and how to get it.

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