That Brexit conference motion in full – and links to all the papers for Bournemouth

Here below is the Conference Brexit motion in full. It is motion F17 “Stop Brexit” to be debated at 11:50 on Sunday. In the main Conference Agenda document, this motion simply appears as “F17 Europe” with no detail. This was to allow a motion to be written closer to conference that is up-to-date. The motion text appears in the Conference Extra document which has now been published.

You can find all the Conference papers here and the excellent Conference app is available for iOS/Apple and Android. With the app you can read through the agenda and fringe meeting list. You can then add items to your phone calendar so you can assemble your “wish list” of conference activities all in one place and get the usual reminders etc.

If you keep an eye on the Conference papers web page, you will be able to read the daily “Conference Extra” documents when they are published. The Conference Extra is a bulletin that is published on each day of conference. It contains a summary of the day’s order for debates, plus the latest amendments, emergency motions and any corrections.

The conference papers are available in a selection of formats.

I have taken the following Brexit motion text from the Plain Text version of the Conference Extra. If you haven’t already, it is worth noting this key passage:

Conference calls for: 1. Liberal Democrats to campaign to Stop Brexit in a General Election, with the election of a Liberal Democrat majority government to be recognised as an unequivocal mandate to revoke Article 50 and for the UK to stay in the EU.

Here is the motion in full:

F17 Stop Brexit

11 members

Mover: Tom Brake MP (Shadow Cabinet Member for Exiting the EU).

Summation: Caroline Voaden MEP.

Conference notes that:

A. The Conservative Government have made a mess of Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party have been helping them to deliver this destructive Brexit.

B. Speaker John Bercow has stated that crashing out of the EU is impossible without Parliament giving approval and Parliament is now set to pass a Bill requiring the Prime Minister to request an Article 50 extension until 31st January.

C. The European Court of Justice has ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50, and therefore no-deal is avoidable.

D. Liberal Democrats fought the 2019 European Elections on a clear Stop Brexit manifesto and secured the best EU Election results in the party’s history, returning 16 MEPs and taking second place in vote share across the country.

E. Reports were widespread of UK citizens abroad and EU citizens living in the UK denied their right to vote in the EU Elections.

F. On 23rd July Boris Johnson became Prime Minister and committed to taking the UK out of the EU with or without a deal on 31st October, setting aside an extra œ2.1bn for no-deal preparations.

G. On 28th August Boris Johnson announced the prorogation of Parliament from the week of the 9th September until the 14th October, shutting down democracy and attempting to silence the voice of elected representatives.

H. The Conservative Government has announced plans to end Freedom of Movement, a move that would cause chaos, deprive UK citizens of their rights to live, work and study across Europe, and leave EU citizens vulnerable to the Hostile Environment; Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is also committed to ending Freedom of Movement.

Conference believes that:

i) There is no deal that could be negotiated that could be more beneficial than continued membership of the EU; leaving the EU would therefore be damaging to the UK’s fundamental national interests.

ii) A no-deal scenario would cause immeasurable damage to our NHS, jobs, and the environment.

iii) Freedom of Movement brings enormous benefits to the UK’s communities, public services, society and economy; ending it would hurt UK employers and separate friends, families and colleagues.

iv) The denial of citizens’ right to vote is an attack on our democracy; it is vital that the system is reformed to prevent such disenfranchisement from occurring again.

Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitment to:

a) Fighting in Parliament for an “exit from Brexit” referendum and for the public to choose between “the deal” or staying in the EU; with Liberal Democrats campaigning for the UK to remain a full and active member of the EU.

b) Revoke Article 50 if the House of Commons has not passed a resolution approving the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement one week ahead of the date on which the UK is due to leave the EU.

c) Protect Freedom of Movement and extend the right to full participation in civic life to all EU citizens who have lived in the UK for five years or longer.

d) Work cross-party to ensure Parliamentary sovereignty is upheld, and a Conservative government is unable to force through a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

Conference calls for:

1. Liberal Democrats to campaign to Stop Brexit in a General Election, with the election of a Liberal Democrat majority government to be recognised as an unequivocal mandate to revoke Article 50 and for the UK to stay in the EU.

2. The government to implement urgent electoral law reform, in line with the 2014 Electoral Commission’s recommendations, including introducing a legal requirement for Councils to inform citizens of the steps they must take to be successfully registered; and making necessary changes to ensure that the UK has an automatic system of inclusion in elections.

3. The Conservative government to implement a declaratory system to grant settled status to all EU citizens living in the UK, rather than the current constitutive process, so that they need not apply but can simply register to receive physical proof of their right to live in the UK.

The deadline for amendments to this motion is 13.00 Thursday 12 September. Amendments selected for debate will be printed in Sunday’s Conference Daily. The deadline for requests for separate votes is 09.00 Saturday 15 September.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Conference.


  • David Becket 12th Sep '19 - 11:09am

    b, in the Brexit proposal below is anti democratic

    b) Revoke Article 50 if the House of Commons has not passed a resolution approving the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement one week ahead of the date on which the UK is due to leave the EU.

    It should read

    b) Conduct a peoples vote if the House of Commons has not passed a resolution approving the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement one week ahead of the date on which the UK is due to leave the EU.

    We should not be changing our policy on this. We will reduce the chances of forming alliances.

    Our commitment to withdraw if we win is more difficult. There are arguments for and against. We should make sure it is democratic by modifing to read that our win is by more than 50%

  • William Fowler 12th Sep '19 - 11:32am

    On forcing councils to tell people how to register to vote, at the moment a large number of people refuse to register because the searchable electoral register (including if you tick the box to avoid the “public” one) contains far too much detail such as national insurance number and DOB (culled without permission from the NI database when voters are checked to stop fraud), almost certainly in convention of the EU data protection laws (if we manage to stay in). There actually exists an anonymous register for MPs and VIPs but ordinary folk need to obtain a court order to get on it! Therefore this register should be an opt-in for the general public. Possibly too late now to get it as part of the manifesto but if the chance occurs in the future…

  • David Becket – I think you have picked on the wrong point of objection.

    “Conference reaffirms…” clause b, which you have picked on, talks about what should happen if we are days away from a No Deal Brexit on October 31st and no deal has been approved by Parliament. That is an emergency situation, one in which there would simply be no time for any other rescue measure except Revoke. In those circumstances I think it would be quite understandable if we voted to Revoke.

    The really undemocratic clause is:

    “Conference calls for:

    1. Liberal Democrats to campaign to Stop Brexit in a General Election, with the election of a Liberal Democrat majority government to be recognised as an unequivocal mandate to revoke Article 50 and for the UK to stay in the EU.”

    That clause would be a disastrous mistake. I am not a conference goer and I am not sure if anyone will offer a satisfactory amendment. As you suggest, adding a 50% threshold would largely avoid taking a grossly undemocratic stance, but it would also invite even more ridicule over our hubris in planning for a massive Lib Dem landslide. I would therefore suggest the below amendment:

    “Conference calls for:

    1. Liberal Democrats to campaign to Stop Brexit in a General Election, with the election of a Liberal Democrat government to be recognised as a mandate to hold a referendum and campaign for the UK to stay in the EU.”

    which is just simple, clear, and definitive.

  • David Becket 12th Sep '19 - 12:03pm

    @ Dave Allen
    I take your point. This is a very complex and difficult situation and we have not been given long enough to think through all the implications. Ideally we would have time for each local party to call a special executive meeting and work through the implications. We cannot refer the motion back, so we will be dependent on the good sense of Conference to sort out.
    I will only be at conference on Monday and Tuesday, so will not be able to hear the debate and vote.

  • David Becket 12th Sep '19 - 12:36pm

    David Allen
    Typed too quickly

  • Paul Barker 12th Sep '19 - 2:51pm

    If this is Undemocratic then so is every General Election so far. If 30% is enough to make a Tory or Labour Government legitimate, why is it not enough for us ?

  • @Paul Barker: That’s the whole point. If we, as Lib Dems, genuinely believe in proportional representation, a General Election mandate of only 30-35% (but, actually, anything less than 50%) of the popular vote shouldn’t be regarded as sufficient to make ANY Government democratically legitimate.

    If we believe in representative parliamentary democracy rather than government by continuous referenda, it is important (particularly so due to the growing fragmentation of U.K. politics) that any Government commands majority support for its electoral programme, both in terms of seats won and votes cast. Otherwise, without the added legitimacy of proportional representation, the democratic mandates of all Governments are increasingly likely to be challenged.

    Of course, in the meantime, we have to operate and compete for power within the democratic rules that currently exist – until/unless we are in a position to reform the system (subject to any appropriate confirmatory referendum that may be required to demonstrate majority consent to any change, e.g. to introduce STV elections) – but, just because we are bound by the existing rules for now, that does not mean that we should accept their legitimacy or the flawed assumptions on which they are based, or seek to justify the potential actions of a future Lib Dem Govt (e.g. to revoke Article 50) on the basis of an insufficient democratic mandate.

  • David Allen 12th Sep '19 - 7:04pm

    I don’t think it is essential to invoke proportional representation in order to counter Paul Barker’s argument. Our established democratic tradition, imperfect though it may be, is that when the Privatising Party win an absolute majority on a 40% vote share, while the Nationalising Party got 35% and the Mixed Economy Party 25%, the Privatising Party can claim a mandate to govern and privatise. There are arguments for, as well as arguments against, this being a reasonable outcome. Nobody can claim that the nationalisers won. Rather than dither and do nothing, it might be best to let a strong governing party implement a coherent programme, and see if they can make it work.

    But a referendum cuts across all this. A Referendum which produced a 52% Leave majority cannot reasonably be overturned by a General Election result which gave the other side a 35-40% vote. The nation would not stand for it. Democracy would suffer. Brexit, like an undead vampire, would assuredly rise again from its temporary grave.

    One can of course argue that this shows what a silly idea it is to hold referenda in the first place. Politicians always argue that referenda are beyond the pale when they don’t match their own aims, while arguing that referenda are the best thing since sliced bread when they do match their own aims. On this occasion, we held a referendum. We must deal with its consequences. Arguing that events have proven the decision misguided, and asking the nation if it will (or will not) be prepared to think again, is one thing. Simply ignoring the 52% vote is the kind of thing Johnson and Cummings would do.

  • Nigel Jones 13th Sep '19 - 8:53am

    Paul Barker, it could undermine our case for proportional representation in the argument for which we claim to be different from the other parties and have long opposed the FPTP system.

  • Alex Macfie 13th Sep '19 - 8:56am

    @David Allen, @Sean Hagan: Whether we like it or not, we have the system we have. We cannot be held accountable for the system as it stands, because we didn’t create it. The system we have is Parliamentary democracy, and we should play by its rules. Incidentally, this is not what the present government is doing. It is trying to find ways around the rules, and even openly considering breaking them. It is behaving as if it has an overall majority of 100 when it actually has no majority at all. Our “revoke if we win” is simple, and it is playing by the rules.
    Of course, if we are lucky enough to get into power, we should immediately set out to reform the system in the ways that we have been advocating since forever: for instance, introduce STV in multi-member constituencies for all elections; replace the HoL with an elected Second Chamber; reform Parliament so that a future Johnson equivalent PM can’t do the sort of things Johnson is doing now. And do all those things without referendums. But we cannot be held to account for the system that we find when we take charge, because we didn’t create it. When you find yourself running the kitchen, you take charge of the menu. It is as simple as that

  • Alex Macfie 13th Sep '19 - 8:59am

    Johnson and Cummings wouldn’t just ignore the result of an advisory referendum, they would ignore the result of a binding public vote if they thought they could get away with it. They seek to trash the rules; we need to play hardball within them. As I mentioned in another thread, one of the biggest mistakes we made in the Coalition was not to play hardball with the Tories. Clegg & co were playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules while Cameron’s Tories were not, and this played a large part in our 2015 election disaster.

  • @alex

    “Johnson and Cummings wouldn’t just ignore the result of an advisory referendum, they would ignore the result of a binding public vote if they thought they could get away with it”

    And so would Liberal Democrat MP’s
    A binding referendum would still be subjected to votes after the event and would also be subject to opportunities from opposition MP’s to cast early day motions to try and thwart the result.
    It is not credible to say that opposition mp’s who are arch remainers would not do this and that is why a 2nd referendum is a bad idea, it will resolve nothing

  • Yellow Hammer : ‘A little bit of bread and no cheese’.

    Not sure whether the movers and shakers of the party have picked up on this yet, but the title ‘Yellow Hammer’ is an appropriate name for possible Brexit outcomes.

    The yellowhammer is a member of the bunting family and its name comes from “ammer” the German for bunting. It’s one of the few British birds to have its song transcribed into words and seems to be saying . “.a little bit of bread and no cheese”.

    Tweet of the Day, Yellowhammer – BBC Radio 4…. usually on just before 6.00 am on Radio 4 for any insomniacs or early risers.

  • Andrew McCaig 14th Sep '19 - 2:57pm

    Needless to say, given my previous article, I agree with Sean.

    I also do agree with David that if we were elected as a government under the present system we would have a right in general to get on with our manifesto programme pending a new election under PR. But revoking Brexit is a special case which needs majority support one way or the other

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