#RevokeArticle50 is now Lib Dem policy

As Theresa May twists and turns in Europe trying to square the Brexit circle, it’s worth noting what isn’t going to happen – any agreement in Westminster on her Withdrawal Agreement today, Friday 22nd March.

The House of Commons petition to Revoke Article 50 notification has become a record breaker with over 2 million signatures,repeatedly bringing the petitions website down and attracting thousands of signatures per minute. Many organisations are shifting to support revocation, and it seems this Saturday’s march will contain more Revoke groups than those supporting a fresh referendum.

Our party leadership has repeatedly claimed that we are marching for a Peoples’ Vote, which they call the “only way out” of Brexit. They have confused the goal – an Exit from Brexit – with just one possible mechanism to deliver it. The debate has moved on, and the party risks looking irrelevant to the Remain movement in these vital days.

The Lib Dems’ Brexit policy has included an option to revoke Article 50 notification since Autumn 2018, when it was introduced by ordinary members as a policy amendment, then opposed by the party leadership. Last week in York, Liberal Democrat members voted for Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake’s policy on Brexit. This updates our option to revoke:

Conference calls for:

    1. The Government to revoke the Article 50 notification if the House of Commons has not passed a resolution approving (relating to) the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement one week ahead of the date on which the UK is due to leave the EU.

The House of Commons will not pass such a resolution today, nor will they change the date on which the UK is due to leave the EU – the suggested extension date from the European Council must be published as a Statutory Instrument in accordance with the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 §20(4). It’s clear that Liberal Democrat policy is now, with one week to go before we crash out with no deal, to call on the Government to revoke Article 50 notification.

Back to Saturday’s march! Concerned party members have set up a Facebook page, Liberal Democrats to Revoke Article 50. We will be part of the Liberal Democrat bloc on the march tomorrow, under a banner calling for revocation. We will bring stickers highlighting our party’s policy.

Please join us on the march. Let’s promote the Liberal Democrats’ policy to revoke Article 50 notification. Let’s push Vince Cable and the leadership contenders towards a vocal Revoke position. Let’s get ahead of the public debate – which has moved on from a People’s Vote – and make sure we’re leading the fight for Exit from Brexit.

* Dave Page is an activist from Manchester and one of the founders of Liberal Democrats to Revoke Article 50.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Three million !

  • I have signed the petition, but I have reservations about Revoke Article 50 becoming official ‘policy’. By all menas see if you can get a majority of MPs to agree, but I have a horrible feeling you may fail, so be prepared to keep a people’s vote and a vote for Common Market 2.0 as possibilities. LibDems need to discuss with the other parties a joint approach to avoid a crash-out or a bad deal. If each party has a separate policy, we may end up back where we started with no single idea able to command a majority. As for three million sigantures or a big march — these should not eb taken as a guarantee of future success. Parlaiment is the key and cross-party discussion to find a new solution that can command a majority vote is the only way forward.

  • Richard O'Neill 22nd Mar '19 - 3:39pm

    Just seems like panic buying to me. As if the People’s Vote that had been ordered for Christmas hasn’t arrived in time. But I am astounded how many people feel comfortable at so dramatically abandoning what they’ve argued (in some cases, built their lives around) for a couple of years.

    The problem with PV is that is has always been a vehicle to block Brexit, while pretending that it isn’t (leavers, for instance, are still being encouraged to take part in the weekend march) and that a public “final say” is paramount.

    A “revoke and then revote” stance (problematic as it is) might at least offer a little bit more consistency.

    At the moment I feel trapped between the two extremes of the hard leavers and hard remainers, neither of whom have any prospect of building a consensus.

  • Paul Barker 22nd Mar '19 - 4:11pm

    I agree wholeheartedly; the Peoples Vote was only ever a means to an end & a means that went against Liberal principles.
    I know that many progressive types held out the hope that a new popular vote could settle the matter & even heal the divisions that have opened up but that is another unicorn. Substantial chunks of the Leave movement have already said that they would boycott a New Vote & they would claim the result was invalid unless it went their way. We are not up against people who play fair.

  • While I favour a revocation by MPs and have signed the petition, I would prefer us to keep our options open and wait until we have had cross-party talks to see what may be likely to be a reasonable compromise taht would secure a majority. To avoid a disaster we might have to compromise as well as members in other parties. This is no time for ‘party policy’! (My longer submision expreesing this view seems to have fallen off the edge.)

  • Perhaps it might be a good use of local party volunteers energies to canvas their constituents weekend to encourage more people to sign the petition (now standing at 3.5m). It would also help get the new LibDem message out.

  • James Morshead 22nd Mar '19 - 9:26pm

    Given the chance, I’d much rather have a People’s Vote. Revocation could only be democratically justified as an emergency stop on a cliff-edge no-deal catastrophe. Even this would need a follow-up vote, whether a PV or a GE. I want to stop this mess of course, but to do so without being able to prove it’s now the will of the people would be indefensible.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Mar '19 - 10:34pm

    The PM has written to all MPs saying that if there is insufficient support Meaningful Vote 3 ay not be moved.
    She creates a further delay! compressing the available time that the EU27 Heads of Government has provided.
    She should be preparing alternative legislation now.

  • Andrew McCaig 22nd Mar '19 - 10:51pm

    I agree with James. The end does not justify the means, and if we have to revoke then we have to put it to the people again afterwards.
    The 2016 referendum opened Pandora’s box and we should not let our echo chamber convince us it can be closed again so easily

  • It is worth pointing out (however obvious it may be) that revoking Article 50 does not intrinsically mean No Brexit. It does, however, mean No Brexit on March 29 (or whatever other extended date there may be); it also effectively admits that invoking Article 50 before it had been ascertained what sort of Brexit deal (if any) would be acceptable to both the EU and Parliament was utter folly.

    Revoking Article 50 does not stop Brexit in its tracks: it does, however, buy time to reconsider and do many of the things that might eliminate some or all of the contradictory pressures that currently prevent progress either toward or away from Brexit. Those would include a Peoples’ Vote, new general elections, and (most importantly) the formation of a new government, as the current one is manifestly unfit to govern and incapable of leading.

  • Arnold Kiel 23rd Mar '19 - 6:49am

    Revocation is final. It cannot afterwards be put to a referendum. Even if it had a last-minute majority in Parliament, if and when no-deal is the only remaining alternative, it would require the signature of a UK head of Government before April 12. T. May won’t do it and cannot be replaced in time.

    If there were a convincing vote for it, and Parliament also found a way to initiate European Parliament elections in defiance of an acting PM, the EU might consider another prolongation for the UK to put both in place formally. Now we are talking below single digit percent likelihoods.

  • The only way to build a future for the U.K. in Europe is to build an enthusiasm for the EU. The well organised groups who say they want to leave the EU have set the agenda. I say that they say they want to leave, but the reality is they want free trade without having to defend the rights of our citizens. That is insofar as they have any aims, apart from opportunism.
    Who is going to tell the truth about the real EU?

  • Peter Martin 23rd Mar '19 - 8:59am

    @ Tom Harney,

    You’re partially right. We do want free trade with the EU. We also want to defend the rights of all UK citizens. The difference is that we don’t want to rely on an external pan-European entity for that.

    We prefer to develop and modernise our own democratic system.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Mar '19 - 9:05am

    @ Arnold Kiel

    There are arguments for and against another referendum. We’ll make that decision ourselves. Thank you for your concern but we won’t be seeking permission from the EU on that.

  • Nigel Quinton 23rd Mar '19 - 9:24am

    This is not a thought through argument. The party policy is to REMAIN. How we achieve that really is not the point. Revoking article 50 is one option, an extension to allow a people’s vote is another.

  • Four million !

  • As so many unexpected things happen, I did a bit of maths… 2 million votes a day so at that rate it could be 18 million on Friday 29th. Interesting times.

  • Mick Taylor 23rd Mar '19 - 3:38pm

    May T can be replaced very quickly if a successor is agreed. All it requires is to kiss the Queens hand and get a vote of confidence in the HoC. Forming a government may take a week or so, but surely a temporary PM is just that. Someone to keep the ball rolling whilst we prepare for a General Election or a referendum.
    The House of Commons is supreme in the end. It can overrule the government and terminate one by a vote of no confidence. All this talk about allowing the HoC to vote is bullshit. If the speaker agrees then the HoC is in charge, not the government. Mr Bercow may have many faults, but he defends the rights of the HoC.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Mar '19 - 4:35pm

    The record for a petition WAS 4,200,000 signatures.
    The current petition has exceeded that, including verification by email.

  • Time to shorten the party name?

  • Five million !

  • Only 12 million to go then it could be argued that their is legitimacy to look at the decision again

  • @Arnold Kiel

    Revocation AIUI is not final. There is nothing preventing a country triggering Article 50, revoking it and then triggering it again. This did finally get some coverage on the media and it was agreed that it could be done.

  • Arnold Kiel 24th Mar '19 - 7:12pm

    Michael 1,

    technically, you are right. But the ECJ clearly said that the other members rightly expect a revocation of the notification of intent to leave to be exactly that. MPs know that, and would act in bad faith if they used revocation tactically. Such behaviour would have the same effect as leaving without a deal: the collapse of trust. With whom would the UK dream to negotiate any deal after that?

    In practice, after receiving an abusive new notification, the EU would simply wait for the existing WA to be signed (with an updated divorce fee to be paid immediately and in full), before reluctantly engaging in any further talks based on zero residual goodwill.

  • Why?

    What would it achieve?

    We have 11 MPs. To get something done, we need to also persuade a lot of others. Labour are trembling in the balance for a referendum. They won’t go for revoke.
    Maybe 50 Tory MPs might go for a referendum on the WA-vs-Remain. None of them will go for revoke.
    The SNP are in the bag for a referendum. They may go for revoke, at a push.

    We need more than 300 more MPs to vote with us to get something done. We might be able to convince that number to support a Peoples Vote; many of them are at the cusp.

    Few of them would go for Revoke straight off. If we abandon the Peoples Vote for the purity of Revoke, we may lose the case for the PV and we almost certainly won’t win the case for Revoke. Not unless there is zero chance for a long-extension-plus-referendum, and even then, it looks unlikely.

    “PV if at all possible; Revoke if it’s not possible” stands a very real chance of getting through.
    “No PV, just Revoke” would very probably just make us feel good about ourselves as we watch an inexorable Brexit.

  • @Arnold Kiel

    I appreciate the point. I was more thinking of it in terms when people were saying that we were beholden to the EU27 granting us an extension and as I say we could have done it ourselves by revoking and then triggering Article 50 again. The EU is a pretty pragmatic institution and I am not sure that it would actually diminish trust as both sides want to get to the best deal they can within their red lines and viewpoint.

    One solution and I am not saying that it is either particularly good one or would gain much support would be to say hey these MPs can’t sort out Brexit we are not due a General Election for three years – lets leave it to the next General Election and the next set of MPs and get on with some other things. It wouldn’t be “betrayal” or at least complete betrayal as we had only postponed it. And we could then at the next election elect those MPs we wanted to take forward Brexit in the way we wanted. Either by the EU27 granting us a (very) long extension until after the next election or revoking and then triggering Article 50 again.

  • A sensible course of action (to the extent that anything can be sensible in nonsensical times) might be:

    1. Revoke.
    2. General election.
    3. People’s Vote.
    4. If a majority still support Leave, triggering Article 50 again.

    There are probably other arrangements that would be equally or more sensible.

    Of course these things are not going to happen, because one can’t expect a straight course to be navigated on a Ship of Fools.

  • OnceALibDem 25th Mar '19 - 9:12pm

    You might want to updated Vince – quoted just now on BBC:
    “If the PM’s deal is defeated again, he says, revoking Article 50 and cancelling Brexit “will then become a serious option”.
    “But it’s not a very democratic option, it would be much much better to have the people deciding the outcome rather than just an arbitrary cutting off of Brexit”, he adds.”

  • Six million !

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