Revoking Article 50 is a highly risky strategy

Death is in charge of the clattering train!

(Edwin James Milliken)

The now seemingly inevitable general election that we are doomed to endure will without a doubt be one of the most divisive and decisive in British political history. Boris Johnson’s strategy is to divide the Remain vote and set himself as the people’s champion – no matter how irrational that theory is. Labour, who plan to try a rerun of their 2017 campaign and put Jeremy Corbyn forwards as a radical, reforming leader, and polling miserably for an opposition to a disastrous government. Dominic Cummings is intent on capturing northern working-class seats who want a no-deal Brexit, as he successfully did for the Leave campaign in 2016.

Both main parties will have to offer manifestos that capture the public imagination and offer clear paths forward. They will have unfunded spending sprees, promises of immigration caps, and patriotic tirades. No change there, then. The sceptre of Brexit does, however, add an extra dimension – the polarisation that has divided the country will shape any public vote.

For the Lib Dems to succeed, they need to offer a new message disenfranchised voters, beyond the boundaries of the Remain-Leave divide.

Jo Swinson’s announcement that the party will be arguing in their manifesto for an unequivocal reversal of the referendum result must be treated with caution therefore. Many voters on both sides of a traditional Liberal base – Tory voters despairing at the economic crisis of a no-deal and Labour voters outraged at Corbyn – are not natural Leave voters. Neither are they going to be brought over, I suspect, by the option of revoking Brexit without a public vote. Voters who want to revoke Article 50 would pick the Lib Dems as the main pro-European voice in Parliament as it is. This latest move brings little support and many even detract from it.

Brexit has divided many, but beyond the date Britain leaves the argument for revoking will become less. The argument for another referendum will become more credible, as the consequences of the exit become clearer, and the powerful Remain voice is no longer the establishment.

The recent surge in Lib Dem support and new recruits in parliament show that a new, radical liberal movement has palpable support nationally. This requires new policies that can bring swing voters over and ensure that the party does not continue to fall foul of the first-part-the-post method that shows no sign of being reformed.

These include drugs policy, promoting a form of compassionate capitalism, and furthering the modernisation of the country’s constitution towards a secular future. All of these can be put forward in a manifesto that offers a brighter future. Voters will not come round if they are only pounded by the admittedly droll news of Brexit shenanigans.

The vicious attack on the democratic system of government that Boris Johnson has initiated and the expulsion of his moderate MPs shows that he has let his party be taken to the extremes by Cummings et al. In this he has copied Corbyn’s Putinism and forced moderates to either be pushed or saved through divine revelation. Millions of voters will be wanting a new voice to offer a moderate voice. Ignoring a democratic vote and not concentrating on securing another will not further the Lib Dem’s cause. It’s time to stop the clattering train and time to create new movement that speaks for many, not the populist infused, polarising extremes.

* Patrick Maxwell is a Liberal Democrat member and political blogger at and a commentator at

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  • Paul Griffiths 11th Sep '19 - 10:31am

    Simply revoking A50 will leave Brexit unresolved. Revocation should be followed by Brexit 2.0 – done properly this time – and concluded with a go/no-go referendum.

  • Analisa Smith 11th Sep '19 - 10:38am

    I like Jo but she needs to be much more vocal – on today programme at least weekly and posters on the sides of buses eg ‘ Marxist or fascist? Choose the middle ground – choose Britain.’

  • Richard Underhill 11th Sep '19 - 10:42am

    The win in the Edinburgh court case will presumably be appealed by Boris Johnson to the Supreme Court.
    Nevertheless the judges are obviously correct to say that preventing parliamentary scrutiny is obviously illegal.
    Meanwhile Lib Dem MPs need a song.
    Losing Deposits is unsuitable for people who have been elected.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Sep '19 - 10:51am
  • You need a simple not convuluted message if you are to break through big time. Thought the Euros would have shown this. Revoke Article 50 is that simple message, everyone understands it whether you agree or not. Another Referendum is okay but may leave the situation unclear. Revoking Article 50 is clear. Most people want an end to the business, without delay, revocation will achieve that and will probably win because we just consistently point out that another Deal or No Deal will involve years of hard work continuing to divert resources in Government away from the other important issues that need to be properly deealt with. You win nowt if you do not take a risk.

  • There is an increasing tendency in pieces on LibDem Voice to write in vague and general terms about controversial policies.

    Patrick Maxwell mentions the following:

    – Drugs policy – I’m guessing this means legalisation of cannabis. I completely disagree with legalising shunk cannabis and there is a large contingent of LibDem members and voters who share my views.

    – Promoting a form of compassionate capitalism – I have no idea what “compassionate capitalism” means, and I doubt Mr Maxwell does either. Does the current system need to become more compassionate or more capitalistic?

    – Furthering the modernisation of the country’s constitution towards a secular future – Does this mean ending funding for faith schools? Jo Swinson set herself very much against such a policy during the recent leadership election. I would not want to be the person who tells Jews and Catholics that Jewish and Catholic state schools must go independent or be absorbed by the state sector. Does this mean disestablishing the Church of Scotland and the Church of England?

    I don’t think any of these policies is calculated to win over swing voters (which claim is, in any case, predicated on the false assumption that there is some homogeneous block of swing voters when in fact swing voters comprise multiple different overlapping groups often with very different perspectives).

    I suggest that Mr Maxwell live a little in the real world where people haven’t been educated at independent schools and don’t come from independently wealthy families. He might then get more of an idea what the ordinary people of these countries are looking for.

  • @Rob Cannon. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you, but you seem to be suggesting that policies on drugs, compassionate capitalism or funding of religious schools are not worthy of our time because they are not vote winners on the doorstep.
    I must disagree. The membership can and will encourage the party to endorse a range of policies which reflect liberal and social democratic thinking and which we would want to move towards should we ever find ourselves in power again. It is then for the leadership to decide which of those policies to emphasise at election time.
    Incidentally, it is pretty obvious to me what compassionate capitalism looks like – industry and commerce remain in the hands of the private rather than public sectors, but diverse forms such as co-ops are encouraged and the wealth created by the economy is spread more equitably. basic social democratic stuff really. Don’t think you need to go to an independent school to get that.

  • I am reasonably comfortable with a policy to revoke. The motion to conference is clear that only a vote for a Lib Dem majority government would be taken as a mandate to revoke. How likely that is depends on your level of optimism in these uncertain times. The motion also commits us to fighting for a referendum in which we would campaign to remain.

  • Denis Loretto 11th Sep '19 - 12:00pm

    This is a risky approach but we live in risky times. One of the mantras of the brexiteers is “get it done”. People are almost universally fed up withe the whole long drawn out process. It is an incontrovertible fact that revoking Article 50 is the only way to get it done in one go – definite and clean. Even a last minute deal would be followed by years of further negotiations and compromises. So-called no deal would be worst of all in triggering off desperate efforts to ameliorate the host of malign consequences combined with seeking some way of carrying on trade with by far our biggest market – again years of negotiation from a very weak position.
    I think the Lib Dems can say – for the last 3 years we have consistently demanded a “people’s vote” to confirm public opinion as soon as the details and consequences of brexit are known. Now a general election has intervened because the collapse of the majority and mandate of the Tory government has made it inevitable. This is now our people’s vote. Put us in power and we will regard that as our mandate to stop this increasingly damaging process in its tracks. By revoking Article 50 we can steady the ship and get on with developing and improving our position within the EU. We can also focus again on the many internal UK issues which are crying out for attention. The Lib Dem manifesto will be rich in constructive policies to that end.

  • I think there are two issues here: firstly the reasoned argument for/against revoking Art.50 and secondly how that is presented to the electorate, specifically to counter the Brexit rabble-rousers.

    Firstly, it is reasonable to revoke Art.50 using the Brexiteer logic, no one has voted for it to actually happen or the specific deal being pursued by the Conservatives. This is wholly consistent with the logic that whilst people voted in 1975 to join the EEC with a specific deal on the table, they were not asked to vote on the Maastricht or Lisbon treaties ie. deals on the table. Similar logic can be applied to saying that the UK cannot leave the EU until the deal is put before the electorate.

    However, in wanting to revoke Art.50 consideration needs to be given as to what would satisfy the “unequivocal and unconditional” criteria; I suspect to many that means putting it to a peoples vote – with all of its pro’s and con’s. I suspect the EU27 would grant an extension to enable such a vote to take place, so as to be seen to not prevent the full course of UK constitutional decision making.

    The problems arise with facing down the Brexit rabble-rousers, where any deal will be distorted into a failure to simply jump off the cliff and thus be derided [aside: we are already seeing this, in Farages comments on Boris’s ideas.]. I don’t see any easy answers here, other than gaining a backbone and becoming selectively deaf whilst delivering a social change agenda ie. move-on; in some respects doing what Boris is trying to do with a new session of Parliament…

    Revoke is risky, but so is simply doing what the rabble-rousers and their devotees want…

  • Agree with most of what was said until the policy bit where you lost me too in the vagueness.
    And no mention of climate emergency and environment! If we are the party that appeals to people on climate and environment then we must own that agenda and say so loud and clear.
    And be clear on the economy; business; health and social care; education etc. There will be life after Brexit is sorted out.

  • Roland Postle 11th Sep '19 - 12:27pm

    I think at this point campaigning to hold a referendum while in government with the power to revoke would come across as disingenuous. Our policy of another referendum has never been seen by Leave voters as anything but a kind of show trial to achieve the real aim of stopping Brexit. For Remain voters who’ve bought the Conservative line that the referendum result must be respected a new referendum may seem like a way out, but I strongly disagree. Let the Tories respect the results of their actions sure (although they’re really following their base now, not the referendum result itself), but we have no need to own their unfinished business. Particularly what would be four years and two GEs later.

    Why would a party which didn’t want the original referendum, didn’t vote for it, didn’t vote to trigger A50, and has done everything in it’s power to stop Brexit from happening suddenly ask the people if they actually do want Brexit after all despite just being elected as a majority government? It would be like Thatcher in ’79 asking if the people would like more winter of discontent. Or Blair asking in ’97 if, despite the landslide victory, the electorate would still prefer some more Tory sleaze and bickering about the EU? (Noting that eventually they would, but only after a long break).

    That there are so many other important things to get on with only strengthens the argument not to waste time reinforcing divisions in a new referendum.

  • John Marriott 11th Sep '19 - 12:32pm

    We had a referendum three years ago. The largest minority was for Leave. Is that the final word on it? No. Do we need to ask ‘the people’ again? robably yes. So, why not revoke Article 50 on the basis that it can be reinvoked if a further referendum indicates that some form of Brexit still commands a majority?

    Let’s start from the basis that the result of the 2016 referendum still stands. Reopen negotiations with the EU to get a deal. If this can be approved by Parliament then have a preferential AV referendum, where voters are asked to number three choices in order of preference: Brexit with no Deal/Brexit with a Deal/Remain. If you also want to factor in a General Election, my feeling is that this should take place after another referendum, as General Elections cover other issues as well.

    If another referendum comes out in favour of Brexit with a Deal, then invoke Article 50 and start again.

  • Revoke is a message that clearly sets the Liberal Democrats apart from other (nominally) Remain parties and places us front and center of the Remain coalition.

    The fact is that a People’s Vote has not been a meaningful approach since Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was rejected by the House of Commons. There is no longer anything to vote on. The only options left are Revoke and exit with No Deal. The latter is unconscionable, a form of national self-harm. That leaves only Revoke as an option.

  • @Chris Cory:

    – The author of this piece was presenting the three items I identified as things that “new policies that can bring swing voters over” and I was critiquing them in those terms. You note that those items are things the LibDems should support as good in themselves, which is a different argument, not one based on electoral appeal. I agree with you that most of us would not want the LibDems to be a party that blindly follows what it believes (a chunk of) the electorate wishes.

    – Specifically in terms of faith schools, I think that those who have attended independent schools and/or are not persons of faith themselves should be very careful about ending state funding for UK faith schools. Liberalism in the UK has traditionally been a pluralist form as compared with say the centralising monocultural state secularism of France. I certainly prefer the UK approach. I think it would be a very very bad look for the LibDems to start talking about ending funding for Jewish state schools and would be damaging in electoral terms. There is very recent evidence from Richmond that when LibDems set themselves against faith schools they lose votes and seats.

    – Finally, on your compassionate capitalism, it would be good if you could say something of substance, e.g. what specific things should be done to encourage to encourage co-ops. The recent history of co-ops in the UK has been pretty awful with appalling management failures, as witnessed at the Co-operative Bank when its uneducated methodist minister chairman was spending his time taking class A drugs with sex workers.

  • Paul Barker 11th Sep '19 - 1:50pm

    Of course the “New” Revoke strategy is High-Risk, that’s the nature of the Crisis we face. There are no Low-Risk strategies any more.
    The Revoke strategy isn’t really New, its simply the logical next step in our policy of always being the most “Remain” Party. Now that Labour have finally gone for a 3rd Referendum, we have really no choice.
    We can’t Revoke then have a Referendum, that would be dishonest & almost certainly illegal.
    We will be the only Party who can honestly say that we can “Make it Stop” which a lot of Voters say they want.
    Of course Britain will still be divided & angry, healing those wounds will be the work of Decades, not Months.
    Lets do this & whenever The Election comes we will have a clear message.

  • Peter Watson 11th Sep '19 - 2:19pm

    @Paul Barker “There are no Low-Risk strategies any more.”
    Brilliantly summed up!!

  • Analisa Smith 11th Sep ’19 – 10:38am……………..I like Jo but she needs to be much more vocal – on today programme at least weekly and posters on the sides of buses eg ‘ Marxist or fascist? Choose the middle ground – choose Britain.’

    If memory serves that was tried in 2015,,,

    “Look left, look right, etc…..” was launched by Danny Aleander (remember him) and went down like a lead balloon..

  • On the day she was pronounced leader Jo said in an interview on the BBC that she would not honour a second referendum if the result was leave again (I know she clarified it later). This broke up the carefully orchestrated campaign by the Peoples Vote.
    Revoking Article 50 is in the same vein. Much better to have said Remain and Reform. We are pulling Remain voters from the Tories and Labour but there is a delicate balancing act and a second referendum with an option to Remain is a better strategy than the nuclear option.

  • Any EU referendum would be a 3rd one, as we’ve had two already.
    The reality is that the time for a further referendum on the EU is well past. We are a few weeks from the deadline and there is no realistic chance of an agreed deal passing the House of Commons in time.
    Even allowing for the speediest passage of a referendum bill it would be several months before a referendum could be held. The government cannot last long unless it gets back those it chucked out and retains the support of the DUP. Neither scenarios seem nailed on.
    So, a general election it is. There are only two ways we can finish the current Brexit saga quickly. One, no deal, has been ruled out by Parliament, the other is to revoke article 50.
    It may seem now that a Lib Dem victory is unlikely, but FPTP, with 4 or even 5 parties contesting, means that a seat can be won on 20-25%. Naomi Long won her Westminster seat in the 2010 GE on little more than that and both Russell Johnstone and Danny Alexander won highland seats on less than 25%. So the result is almost impossible to predict, especially if BP and the Tories do end up fighting each other.
    The question is what will unite remainers under one banner. I suggest that it is campaigning to revoke. It’s clear, it’s unequivocal and it stops Brexit. Bollocks to Brexit served us well in the Euro Poll. I am confident that it will do like wise in a GE.

  • Peter Hirst 12th Sep '19 - 3:35pm

    Revoking Article 50 is clear and does draw this unfortunate saga to at least a temporary end. It also distinguishes us from Labour. It needs to be part of a package that includes a further referendum to underline our value of the people being sovereign, further constitutional reform and a more robust approach to tackling climate change and national and global poverty.

  • @ Mick Taylor: “It may seem now that a Lib Dem victory is unlikely, but FPTP, with 4 or even 5 parties contesting, means that a seat can be won on 20-25%. Naomi Long won her Westminster seat in the 2010 GE on little more than that and both Russell Johnstone and Danny Alexander won highland seats on less than 25%”

    Naomi Long won East Belfast in 2010 with 37.2% of the vote.

    Danny Alexander won his constituency with over 40% of the vote in both 2005 and 2010.

    The sole case that accords with your claim of wins with 20-25% of the vote is Russell Johnston’s win in 1992 with 26% of the vote. That was very much a one off case where there was an almost even 4-way split among SNP, Labour, Conservatives and LibDems.

    LibDems would need to get 33% of the vote to have any hope whatsoever of being the largest party in a hung parliament – and that assumes a 10% Brexit party vote and the perfect split between Labour and Conservative votes of around 27.5 Conservative and 25.5 Labour.

  • I want to point out that we have never had a referendum on whether to join either the EEC or EU. The referendum in 1975 asked whether we should stay in or leave the EEC, which Ted Heath had dined the UK up to in 1972. Then we were signed up to the EU by John Major via the Maastricht Treaty in 95 & later the Lisbon Treaty by Gordon Brown. At no point has the population of the UK ever been asked if it wanted to join this organisation. ThAt is the fundamental problem and you think that by taking no deal off the table via dodgy dealings and biased rulings by the Speaker you can

  • David Evans 13th Sep '19 - 6:52am

    Rob you are quite right. Sadly there are so many who spend their time telling us about their dreams and fantasies that we could win a general election. It is just the same with the Brexiteers with their dreams that going it alone without allies will restore the UK to being great again.

    People have to face up to the hard reality that we are in no position to win a General election, simply because we no longer have the number of staff, money and organisational infrastructure needed to run the intensity of campaign required. Indeed most of of our staff had to go after the 2015 election and even with 120,000 members we don’t have anything like the money we used to.

    If things go well, and a General Election is held before we leave, we might just get 30 MPs. However, if the Conservatives remain 10-15% ahead of us in the polls as they are at the moment, around 20 MPs remains our best hope if we target well and don’t fool ourselves and spread our resources too thinly.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Sep '19 - 10:02am

    Imagine that Remain had won the 2016 referendum. Then imagine that a pro Brexit party was now saying that if they won the next election they would consider that they had a mandate to trigger article 50, with no need to hold another referendum. Would Lib Dems agree that this party had a perfect right to do so, even if they won the election with only 35 percent of the vote, and in this alternative reality fifty-two percent had voted Remain in the referendum?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Sep '19 - 10:35am

    Paul Walter, the majority of the things you mention occurred at a time when not only were referendums unknown, but the vast majority of the population had no vote in Parliamentary elections. I’m not quite sure what point you are making. Some of these are decisions that we would now consider required a referendum.
    For example, if there was an alternative reality in which Scotland had always remained independent, but a Union was now being suggested, I am sure we would all agree that this could only be acceptable if it was voted for by the people in a referendum. It would not be acceptable for this to be decided by a vote in Parliament alone.
    Or an an alternative reality in which we had been a Republic since the Civil War, but a government wanted to bring back the monarchy? I’m sure this would only be considered acceptable if there was a referendum.
    Just as, in our reality, the eventual abolition of the monarchy will require a referendum, as will Scottish independence.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Sep '19 - 11:02am

    Paul Walter, are you saying that you would have considered it acceptable for Parliament to have taken us out of the EU at some point before 2016, without holding a referendum?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Sep '19 - 11:10am

    It’s true that referendums have only relatively recently begun to be used in Britain, but I think a principle has now been established that a major constitutional change requires a referendum. Also that a referendum can only be reversed by another referendum.

  • The UK and other democracies have in the past taken many key decisions without a referendum. They have also taken some key decisions by using a referendum. If one seeks a simple, consistently applied criterion for when a referendum should be held and when it should not, one will not find it. That is because real politics is a struggle between opposing forces, and a referendum is generally held or not held to suit the interests of the dominant political force at the time.

    However, in 2016, the UK decided to hold a referendum to decide Brexit. Much was made of the fact that we had previously held an EU referendum in 1975. It was generally agreed that the 1975 referendum had settled the issue for a generation, but that forty years later, its verdict could legitimately be considered as time-expired.

    Not having held the 2016 referendum in the first place would have been entirely legitimate. Holding it and then ignoring its result would normally be considered, by all fair-minded people, as totally illegitimate, just as bad as anything Johnson is doing.

    It follows that if Brexit is to be cancelled, then an entirely exceptional case must be made for doing so. I have argued (link below) that such a case can indeed be made. In essence, Brexit has been proven unworkable, incapable of satisfying the aims of its proponents, and tested to destruction by a government which has devoted over three years in seeking the unattainable. Only in such extreme circumstances can it be justifiable even to consider reversing the previous referendum. We have a very high bar to clear.

    Furthermore, since a large body of opinion clearly continues to argue passionately that Brexit should go ahead, a valid democratic decision to abandon Brexit can only be obtained if a majority vote to do so at a second referendum. If we are to clear that high bar, command respect, and stop Brexit for good, we must do it properly.

    A unilateral revocation after a general election would be an anti-democratic putsch. It would only temporarily stop Brexit. It would invite a triumphant Brexiteer resurgence to Bring Back Brexit, Bring Back Democracy, and Honour the 2016 Vote. It would turn our victory into defeat.

  • Alex Macfie 13th Sep '19 - 3:08pm

    Catherine Jane Crosland: No such principle has been established. David Cameron instituted an unnecessary referendum as a failed bid to pacify his party’s right wing. That does not establish a principle on anything. Our unwritten constitution does not mean we make things up as we go along, and if constitutional principles are that easy to establish, then we can quite easily establish some of our own as soon as we win outright power following an election.

    Also I cannot speak for Paul Walter, but I absolutely would have regarded it as acceptable for Parliament to take the UK out of the EU before 2016. I would have disagreed with it, and Libs / Lib Dems would not have been part of the Parliamentary majority that set in motion the withdrawal process, but Parliament is sovereign.

    David Allen: An “anti-democratic putsch”, by definition, involves doing something unlawful, or circumventing / manipulating the law. Stopping Brexit, in accordance with an Act of Parliament, by a government that has fairly won an absolute majority, cannot be an “anti-democratic putsch”. If there is any “anti-democratic putsch”, it is the establishment in people’s minds of the idea that the referendum is some sort of Sacred Act, which cannot be challenged as part of the normal democratic process. And if you think there is any way to “stop Brexit for good”, then you are very much mistaken. Whatever happens in the next few months, it is going to continue to be an issue for years, maybe decades, to come. Revoke with or without a referendum, and the Brexiteers will continue to campaign for Brexit. Leave with or without a deal, and we shall be arguing about the UK’s relationship with the EU for decades.

  • “Swinson has sought to distinguish the Lib Dems’ remain message from Labour’s by saying her party would revoke article 50 and cancel Brexit without a referendum. She conceded some would view this as “a bold move”, but argued it would be anomalous for a Lib Dem government to be obliged to negotiate a deal in Brussels when it was so publicly wedded to staying in the EU.”

    I actually respect the Libdems and Jo Swinson for taking this stance, I think it is the ONLY possible way for the party to respect it’s position on Brexit.
    It is also for the same reasons that I believe the party must stop it’s call for a 2nd referendum, it is highly disingenuous for the party to be calling for a “Confirmatory” “peoples vote” when the Liberal Democrat party would not respect the outcome should it be for leave once more.
    Even a Binary referendum would be subjected to further votes after the result and it would be possible for opposition parties to block it or thwart it with early day motions etc.
    As Jo is admitting that the party would never vote to allow the finalisation of a brexit, it is undemocratic and completely disingenuous to be calling for a “peoples vote”
    It really is that simple and I fail to see how anyone can argue otherwise

  • David Allen 13th Sep '19 - 6:51pm

    Matt, it is all too obvious why you want the Lib Dems to adopt a policy of revoking Brexit by Parliamentary fiat. It would mean that you would no longer need to go through a lot of intellectual contortions in order to try to accuse Lib Dem People’s Vote supporters of being undemocratic. Instead, you would find it dead easy to make such an accusation, wouldn’t you!

  • @David Allen

    I am just pointing out the facts of the matter.

    Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrat party would not vote through the legislation if it were another vote for leave and would look to every avenue possible in order to block it, would you deny that?
    Therefore, I think it is disingenuous to call for another peoples vote whose result would not be supported if it were once again for leave.

    That is the reason why I think being a party of revoke ONLY is an admiral position for the party to take, it is clear and it is honest and one that can be respected by all sides.

  • Paul,
    You are perfectly correct that we had no need to hold a referendum in 2016. God forgive the MPs who voted for it.
    But we did.
    And it can’t be unheld.
    I did not vote leave but those who did can only be angry with those same MPs for not finding a way forward in three years. A compromise was always needed with the remain side making some concession. Their refusal to budge a milimeter has caused this polarisation.

  • Matt,

    What is your evidence that Jo Swinson would block legislation to leave, if a second referendum produced a Leave majority? Can you provide a weblink?

    It is true that Lib Dems voted against May’s Deal. However, that was a vote against a specific implementation of Brexit. Nobody should feel bound to accept a specific implementation of the result from a referendum, if they believe it could and should have been implemented in a better way.

    Had May negotiated sensibly and obtained a practical soft Brexit deal that could actually have worked reasonably well, I think the Lib Dems would have had to face the need not to block it. But she didn’t.

    Nobody has been able to make Brexit workable. The time has come to give up trying.

  • Come now David, you are one of the more reasonable sensible posters on here.

    I think it is blatantly obvious that the Liberal Democrat parties position will be not to vote for any kind of Brexit. You only have to look at what Jo has said in previous comments.
    She does not believe in any deal that is not better than the one that we have got already, she has said that many many times over. Liberal Democrats will not support a deal that does not include us being in the single market or customs union, which of course means no Brexit.

    I am not having a go at Liberal Democrats for taking that position, it is the position that the party has taken and it goes to the core of the party and it’s members and that is fair enough and should be respected, there is nothing shameful in that.

    Where it does become an issue is when the said party calls for a 2nd referendum, a peoples vote, in the hope of overturning the result, when in reality, if it is a vote again to leave. The party would not support it in the form of the votes it needs and it would try to thwart it through other means in parliament, well all know that this is going to happen, so why pretend otherwise? it makes no sense at all.

    Nobody has been able to make brexit work because quite frankly dark arts have been at work, it is no secret that the EU does not want us to go, or the remainer MP’s in this country, they have conspired with the EU in Talks about how they would go about blocking the Government in parliament, stiffing negotiations and pushing for 2nd votes, it was on that basis that the EU knew they would be able to negotiate in bad faith as they had support of opposition remain mp’s.
    The entire negotiations should have taken place all at once, including the FTA, but no the EU refused to do that as they found away with the backstop to try and derail the whole process altogether.

  • It most certainly is not time to give up. it is time to negotiate harder on a more equal footing.
    I dont believe that no deal has to be catastrophic after 1st November. if the EU and UK are not able to reach a deal by the 31st October, they can change the law to say that the UK is going to be leaving, Negotiations are going to stop immediately, however, we are going to allow a 12 month transition period where everything will trade as normal in order to allow businesses on both sides to better prepare themselves.
    During that 12 month Transition period, The EU and the The UK will then genuinely start working together to solve the border issue, rather than just knocking back every suggestion that the UK makes, without contributing to the solution themselves.

  • Arnold Kiel 14th Sep '19 - 7:52am

    The idea of a Lib-Dem (led) Government negotiating a deliverable leave-option with the EU, and then presenting it to the people as their alternative proposal to remaining is absurd. The party simply lacks the negotiators with the required degree of schizophrenia. Neither can LibDems endorse the existing withdrawal agreement which was constructed around May’s insupportable red lines. And there is no-deal…
    Jo’s position is the only logical one and inevitable. She should, however, warm up to the idea of supporting a Labour Government under the right conditions.

  • David Allen 14th Sep '19 - 9:35am

    Arnold, you’re saying that in order to hold a referendum, the Lib Dems have to be capable of endorsing both sides. That’s not reasonable!

    We don’t endorse May’s Deal. But it exists, it is what the EU want if Brexit happens, it is not a catastrophe, it is not a unicorn (unlike Matt’s leap in the dark above), it is a credible Leave option, to coin a phrase. It should be on the ballot versus Remain.

  • Steve Comer 14th Sep '19 - 9:38am

    I think we must beware of lazy shorthand in discussing complex issues, as in “Jo Swinson’s announcement that the party will be arguing in their manifesto for an unequivocal reversal of the referendum result…….”

    What the article in the link actually said was “The Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, said she would support the cancellation of Brexit, and the party expected to adopt this policy and write it into its election manifesto.” Ie that there will a debate at Conference, and Jo supports this proposition. We are democratic party, and I’m sure there will be a lively debate on this issue. As it happens I support Jo Swinson’s line on this, but my experience advises caution against predicting the outcome of a Conference debate.

    I know some in the media like to suggest that Leaders tell their parties what to do – they’ve obviously never met many Liberal Democrat members. One of the candidates for Party President used to say that Leading Liberal Democrats was like herding cats!

  • matt 13th Sep ’19 – 11:33pm…….During that 12 month Transition period, The EU and the The UK will then genuinely start working together to solve the border issue, rather than just knocking back every suggestion that the UK makes, without contributing to the solution themselves……..

    Would this be the same UK that demands that the backstop be removed unconditionally before ANY talks can make progress?
    Would this be the same EU that requests the UK to put forward ANY alternative proposal to replace the backstop (and are still waiting)?

    Which of the two positions comes across as inflexible and unreasonable?

  • @expats

    The EU would have to participate in coming with a solution to the border in those circumstances as it would have been clearly decided that the UK has left and the EU/UK has to work together to find a solution.
    I suspect that this is what will probably happen in the event of a No deal, the EU/Uk will agree that negotiations has stopped, a 12 month transition period will be put into law so as to allow companies on both sides to better prepare. That is important for EU just as much as the UK and sense will be prevail.

    At the moment the EU are not working towards a solution because they are taking the attitude that this is the UK’s problem and for them to solve in order to get a “deal”
    The EU are just knocking back every proposal in the hope of getting the UK to cancel Brexit altogether.

    If working towards a deal was no longer an issue as there was not going to be a deal. Then the EU would have to start working towards a solution on the boarder, instead of just saying it is an issue for the uk.

  • matt 14th Sep ’19 – 10:58am
    @expats……………………At the moment the EU are not working towards a solution because they are taking the attitude that this is the UK’s problem and for them to solve in order to get a “deal”.The EU are just knocking back every proposal in the hope of getting the UK to cancel Brexit altogether………………………
    If working towards a deal was no longer an issue as there was not going to be a deal. Then the EU would have to start working towards a solution on the boarder, instead of just saying it is an issue for the uk……………………………..

    Firstly, where/what are the ‘every proposal’ put forward by the UK (excuse grammar)?

    Secondly, the solution on the border, as agreed by the UK/EU, was the ‘backstop’ (a UK proposal BTW); the only alternative is a hard border which no-one wants.
    The fact is that the ONLY alternative already exists; unless, of course you know a better one?

  • @expats

    If we were to leave the EU with no deal.
    It is not for the uk to break the Good Friday agreement and say we are going to impose a hard border on the Island of Island, that would be the EU’s decision.

    The UK can take the position that there are electronic ways of checking goods etc. The EU is rejecting those proposals as it stands as they want us to remain in the EU, however, should we actually be leaving they would be jumping to accept and develop this solution for their own benefit as much as ours.

    You cannot force the UK to remain in the EU because of Ireland, our shared history with Ireland dates back much further than the EU, if that causes problems for the EU with Ireland as an EU member state then that is for them to work together and come up with a solution, not just put the onus on the UK.

  • Rob Harrison 14th Sep '19 - 2:10pm

    There is a real difference between Swiss referenda and the EU referenda. Swiss referenda tend to have very clear options. The EU referenda in the UK basically presented a nebulous option (“leave”) which can and has been interpreted in different ways. Many of the leave campaign, including those in government, have given different interpretations over the years.

    I think it is clear that the principle is now established in the UK that a major constitutional change requires a referendum. We need to present clear options to the electorate – as we did for the establishment of the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations. The Scottish independence referendum was another example of a decision that was made without a clear end goal. In that case, the voters decided against independence, partly because of the unclear outcome.

  • “We have a Parliament. We elect it. They make decisions for us. If we don’t like it, we elect someone else.”

    Actually the electorate did vote for someone else but because the Liberals failed to support the recommendations of the independent Boundary Commission, the electorate did not get the result that they should have done. In any case, I would like an election now, the Liberals are frustrating this.

  • matt 14th Sep ’19 – 1:26pm
    @expats….It is not for the uk to break the Good Friday agreement and say we are going to impose a hard border on the Island of Island, that would be the EU’s decision…….
    The UK can take the position that there are electronic ways of checking goods etc. The EU is rejecting those proposals as it stands as they want us to remain in the EU, however, should we actually be leaving they would be jumping to accept and develop this solution for their own benefit as much as ours…..

    More of the same, matt. Can you give me a single example where countries with different standards, tariffs, etc, rely solely on ‘electronic ways’? It would be a smuggler’s paradise.
    May accepted that fact but Johnson doesn’t and despite umpteen requests to show how it would work he has not given any more details than your vague ‘electronic ways’…

    We are going round in circles so I just agree to disagree…regards…

  • So , just for clarity, the Lib Dem position is, you’d rather have a no deal Brexit, than work with a Corbyn-led Labour party to hold a referendum with a remain option?

  • David Allen 15th Sep '19 - 8:29pm

    Martin, Arnold, and all Lib Dem “Just Revoke” sophists,

    Ever since 2016, this party has bemoaned the fact that the referendum had only a simple “Leave” option, which could mean anything, and which brought together Hard Brexiteers and Soft Brexiteers to produce a spurious majority for an undefined option. When we knew what form Brexit would actually take, we repeatedly intoned, we should have a second referendum, so that anybody voting to Leave would know exacly what they were voting for.

    Now, the Lib Dem sophists have discovered that this is, in fact, impossible. Since none of the Brexit options are acceptable to Lib Dems, and since Lib Dems possess a universal monopoly on all wisdom, it follows that Leave is now simply an inadmissible option in a referendum. Ergo, the referendum could have only one box for voters to tick, the one that said “Remain” (or perhaps “Leonid Brezhnev”).

    Ergo, the referendum would be a waste of taxpayers’ money, and so, as a brilliant democratic solution to save the taxpayer money, we shall simply abolish the vote. After all, Boris has made abolishing votes the new fashion! We shall just march the UK straight back into the EU on October 31st. Oops, we seem to be learning it all from Boris, don’t we?

  • Arnold Kiel 16th Sep '19 - 4:13am

    David Allen,

    correct, provided voters endorse this policy by electing a majority of LibDem MPs. That is the difference to Johnson whom nobody elected based on his no-deal promise, and who does not command a commons majority.

  • Peter Martin 16th Sep '19 - 8:58am

    @ K Heaney @ Paul Walter

    KH correctly says:

    “I want to point out that we have never had a referendum on whether to join either the EEC or EU. ”

    PW then counters with a long list of other policy decisions, such as chlorinating drinking water and the introduction of income tax, which have similarly not been put to the people.

    The difference is surely obvious? Or maybe not?

    Parliament only borrows its powers from the people. It has a duty to return them undiminished whenever a Parliament is dissolved. If powers are to be given away, which they have been every time a European Treaty is signed, then the people need to be consulted and their agreement obtained.

  • Peter Martin 16th Sep '19 - 9:16am

    Maybe Revoking Art 50 is the best policy for the Lib Dems. Just revoke and move on. It’s probably better than getting into this kind of mess!

    Transcript of BBC Radio 4, The World This Weekend

    Ross Hawkins (Presenter): Communicating an anti-Brexit policy in Leave seats will be hard, and that was rather borne out when I asked the Lib Dem candidate [for North Devon], Kirsten Johnson, about the enthusiasm for leaving the EU there.

    Kirsten Johnson: Um, demographically it’s 98% white, we don’t have a lot of ethnic minorities living in North Devon. People aren’t exposed to people from other countries. Um, they don’t travel a lot, and so I think there is a slight disconnect that North Devon being isolated and being rural and being low income perhaps hasn’t appreciated the advantages of being in the European Union.

    RH: What’s the number of ethnic minority voters got to do with that?

    KJ: Um (pause)….I didn’t mean to mean that it has anything to do with it at all. Just saying that when I speak to people I am hearing comments to me….when it….it refers to race. (Pause). You’ve got….you’ve got me in a corner here.

    KJ: I think my concern is the rise of hate crimes and the rise of people (pause)…..not being able to accept otherness, and I saw that translated when it comes to some of the Euro-scepticism that I was hearing on the doorstep.

    RH: So do you link Leave voters to hate crime?

    KJ: No I do not link all Leave voters to hate crime, not at all, I need to make that absolutely clear. I’m just saying that it’s a complex view when it comes to who voted Leave, there’s lots of reasons people voted Leave.

    RH: What’s the connection between voting Leave & wanting to be out of the European Union, and hate crime?

    KJ: (Pause). I’m saying that because of the, um….., (silence for 5 seconds).

    RH: There she trailed off, and I’m not sure I ever did really understand her point.

    The problem for most Remainers is they think Leavers are poorly educated racial bigots. Of course some are. But it doesn’t do the Remain case much good to say that. You’d be better off at least trying to understand the issues of loss of sovereignty and the spillover problems that the EU’s common currency problems bring to the UK.

    Then, even if you are disagreeing with your electorate, at least you aren’t insulting them at the same time.

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