Why calling for Article 50 to be revoked actually makes stopping Brexit less likely

I want to make the case that Jo Swinson MP’s proposed policy of revoking Article 50 if the Lib Dems win a majority government actually makes stopping Brexit less likely.

Calling for a final say referendum on any Brexit deal has been our defining policy for over three years and has brought this party back to life and back to electoral popularity. The reason a final say referendum has grown in popularity (with the public and in Parliament) is not especially because the arguments for voting Remain have become more persuasive than the arguments for voting Leave, but because it is seen as a sensible way of unblocking the Brexit process. If we change our policy and start calling for revoking Article 50, we risk narrowing our tent and losing people who are beginning to see the logic in having a second plebiscite on this issue.

On Tuesday Sir Oliver Letwin MP voiced his support for a referendum as a way to break the impasse. I fear we risk losing people like Letwin from this growing people’s vote coalition with this policy change. It makes us seem like the Brexit Party of Remain in that we will be perceived as Remain at any cost rather than willing to put our case to the public again in a referendum. In my opinion, the Brexit Party has made Brexit less likely as they have popularised the act of Brexit into an extreme ‘clean break’ scenario which has become untenable for a majority of MPs. If we pursue revoking I fear we will do the same to Remain.

I understand the attraction of going for revoke, we can better distinguish ourselves from Labour and clarify that we want to stop Brexit even further. This may have worked well in a European Parliament election with proportional representation, but in a General Election we need much broader coalitions. With our current policy we can say to even Leavers tired of Brexit that a referendum will end the Brexit mess for good.

So those of you going to Conference on Sunday please consider this policy carefully. We are the most pro-European party in the country, but we are also democrats and our policy of a people’s vote to stop Brexit is a product that people have just voted emphatically for in the European elections. Let’s not make our message Remain at any cost, but end the Brexit mess so we can move on and fix the real problems in our country.

* Lewis North is the Parliamentary Candidate for Meon Valley and a former advisor to Lib Dem MEP leader Catherine Bearder.

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66 Comments

  • But what result from a Referendum, I am going on the 12th October London march so am committed but the result maybe even closer than last time and resolves nowt. Better sort it out clealry and concisely. Revoke Article 50 win, or lose on that. No ifs or buts.

  • I think Revoke/Stop Brexit is a good way to get a clear message out to the non-political public. What happens if Brexit has happened by the election? I think if it hasn’t the policy should be Revoke/Stop Brexit if LDs win a majority, clearly backed up by a People’s Vote (with remain/revoke an option which LDs would campaign for) in all other circumstances. LDs should be honest and open about possible future coalition options – though please rule out working with Tories! If we’ve already left then policy should be Peoples Vote ref whether to rejoin EU asap.

  • John Marriott 11th Sep '19 - 2:01pm

    At the risk of repeating myself, I’ve just argued for revocation in my response to James Maxwell’s Article. I did this on a kind of ‘time out’ basis, meaning that Article 50 could be re invoked if another, preferential, referendum still supported some kind of Brexit with a Deal.

    Given the judicial ruling today on prorogation north of the border and if this is endorsed by the Supreme Court next week, there would surely be a strong possibility that parliament could be recalled and made to sit until some kind of deal could be cobbled together to join its place alongside No Deal and Remain to be held ASAP.

    If this were to happen, then a) we might have to call off the party conferences and b) postpone a General Election until another referendum had taken place.

  • John Marriott 11th Sep '19 - 2:02pm

    Correction. PATRICK Maxwell! Sorry.

  • Meanwhile…. when we stop fantasising about a Lib Dem majority government…

    BBC News Brexit: Scottish judges rule Parliament suspension is unlawful. The court ruled that the prime minister was attempting to “stymie Parliament” by suspending it for five weeks
    1 hour ago

  • William Fowler 11th Sep '19 - 2:27pm

    If the LibDems win a majority in a GE then they have a democratic mandate to revoke Art50, if they are going to support whoever else wins a GE then should only do so if new referendum and PR are on the table. If we have already left the EU, then closest possible relationship with EU but that can’t be major policy because it will be old news by then (hard to believe but a lost cause, no-one will want to go through Brexit again once done)… vague promises about equality etc will not win votes, so basically going to need two separate manifesto’s depending on where Brexit is.

    Moving the tax burden from individuals on to companies ought to be the core of it, though.

  • People voted for the Lib Dems in the Euro elections because they were the loudest party saying “Bollocks to Brexit”, not because we had policy of a peoples vote. A simple message cuts through, “Revoke” is as simple as it gets, try to make it complicated and you end up like the Labour Party, with so many if, buts and maybes that no one actually knows what they think or what they will do.

  • Yes the Scottish courts decsion is going down a storm with the posters on the Daily Whails website, soon be republishing their “Enemies of the People” front page. Strange how Brexi’s love democracy and the rule of law until it doesn’t go their way, now what are they, can’t quite think, a word being with h and a capital H at that seems to be trying to form in my mind.

  • It seems to me, that as others (Labour, and some ex-Conservatives like Oliver Letwin and Anne Milton) are adopting the position supporting a new referendum, it is necessary to distinguish Liberal Democrats from them somehow, and prove that Liberal Democrats are willing to go further to keep UK in the EU. Of course, though Labour is only considering supporting a referendum, it will not engage itself to support remaining in the EU in the referendum, but would the voters see the difference in a general election, if both Labour and Liberal Democrats would support a referendum?

    Liberal Democrats could argue, that if they engage revoking article 50 in the case they get the majority in general election, and they will get that majority, they are following the democratic will of the people by revoking. In this fashion Liberal Democrats will make themselves an instrument for those voters who support revoking to show their will in the general election.

    However, there is a likely possibility, that the general election doesn’t produce a majority in the parliament to any party. In that situation Liberal Democrats should engage to do anything to keep UK in the EU. If there isn’t a majority in the parliament for revoking the article 50, then Liberal Democrats should support a new referendum, which would clarify the people’s will on the issue.

  • Ian Hurdley 11th Sep '19 - 2:55pm

    Many people don’t realise that revoking Article 50 does not preclude serving a fresh notification at any time of our choosing. We are presently due to leave the EU by default on 31st October if no agreement has been reached. Revoking Article 50 buys the necessary time to comprehensively review the options for a post-exist relationship with the EU without the encumbrance of the present WA, since it would fall with the revocation.
    I believe we are right to say we will revoke, but I also believe that this should be made the raison d’être for our policy.

  • Terry Blackwood 11th Sep '19 - 2:59pm

    I’m surprised the first real policy suggestion coming from Jo Swinson is likely to distance ourselves from others campaigning to remain in the EU. I understand the desire to separate us from Labour, but I believe we have already created that distinction and people are supporting the Lib Dems because of our outright commitment to a people’s vote. This merely gives Labour an opportunity to steal back this ground as the reasonable voice of remain and cast us the extreme wing.
    I also believe that we would be creating another “student fees” policy. A policy that is imprinted on everybody’s mind as Liberal Democrat and that it is incredibly unlikely that we can deliver. If we win a majority in Parliament then a referendum remain vote is almost inevitable and we will have the opportunity to frame the question.
    We’re trying to be too clever, let labour try and determine and explain their position to the electorate and use our time to show how different we are from them in other areas.

  • Andy Hinton 11th Sep '19 - 2:59pm

    Agree with other posters above.

    The Euros earlier this year were won on a clear message about the end goal: “Stop Brexit” (or “Bollocks to Brexit” if you prefer).

    The General Election in 2017 was fought on a sensible nuanced process message about a People’s Vote, and whilst we made incremental progress it was not the leap forward we might have hoped for.

    We need to stop being so squeamish about democracy. For the last three years we have advanced an impeccably even-handed policy in the face of a chorus of Leavers calling us antidemocratic regardless. Meanwhile the Conservative government have been happy to take their only-a-majority-with-the-DUP as an indisputable mandate for whatever the Tory leader pulled out of their arse that week.

    Pivoting to Revoke as a clear unambiguous message is absolutely the right move, and I for one will vote for it at conference.

  • @ William Fowler “If the LibDems win a majority in a GE then they have a democratic mandate to revoke Art 50, ”

    And I used to believe in the tooth fairy.

  • Tony Vickers 11th Sep '19 - 3:31pm

    John Marriott the earliest we could have a Supreme Court ruling on prorogation is Tuesday, so it won’t stop our Conference! At a local Party meeting last night most members including our PPC supported A50 revocation but agree it will be a hard sell with many Leave voters whose main issue is BREXIT but who otherwise might vote for us. But maybe there are more who don’t have strong views on BREXIT other than wanting it sorted so we get on with tackling real issues. This is far the best way to do that and doesn’t stop BREXITEERS calling for BREXIT again another day – but please can they agree what kind of BREXIT they want next time!

  • Bill le Breton 11th Sep '19 - 3:35pm

    This tweet from @ShelaghFogarty
    No radio show is a properly conducted national poll of course but the
    @LibDemsRevoke A50 move had endless calls in favour of it on
    @LBC today when I asked listeners how they will vote in a GE.

    Seems like our base is strongly in favour.

  • Revoking Article 50 will be seen as putting two fingers up to the 52% who voted leave. Our policy must surely be to have a second referendum at which we will campaign to persuade sufficient numbers to change their minds now that much more is known as to the consequences of any form of Brexit

  • Paul Griffiths 11th Sep '19 - 3:47pm

    @David Raw

    The chances of us winning a majority at the next GE are irrelevant to the topics under discussion, which are a mixture of election strategy and constitutional theory.

  • All the people on here seem to be conveniently forgetting that the country voted for independence in 2016, that that decision has to be implemented in the interests of democracy, and that whatever happens, this country is due to gain its independence from the EU on the 31st October, come what may. No legislation has changed the law in that respect. Never mind, collective amnesia is intoxicating, isn’t it?

  • Mack: Drea-m, Dream, dream, dream

  • @ Mack “All the people on here seem to be conveniently forgetting that the country voted for independence in 2016, that that decision has to be implemented in the interests of democracy”.

    And which country would that be, Mack ? It’s not the country I live in which voted 62% to 38% to Remain.

    @ Paul Griffiths If the possibility of a Lib Dem majority government is irrelevant then why did the person who raised it mention it ? Do pay attention.

  • Philip McLellan 11th Sep '19 - 4:35pm

    I agree our policy should be a second referendum, not revoke. Let’s imagine we won a majority of seats on 35% of the vote. As a party in favour of PR is that a mandate to revoke when 65% did not vote for us. I don’t believe so – we need a second referendum with a strong remain case. I am confident that more than 50% would vote that way after the current shambles.

  • “Revoking Article 50 will be seen as putting two fingers up to the 52% who voted leave.”

    Revoke = we’ve taken your advice and we’ll ignore it thank you very much.
    Ref2 = we’ve taken your advice but we think you were wrong/didn’t understand it so you’ll have to vote again please.

    The distinction is really only in how many fingers you’re sticking up at them (yes I know the reasons for Ref2 are far more nuanced than that, but…).

    I don’t see how Ref2 really clears anything up as I doubt anyone will agree on what the options should be, how it should be run, or (if it comes out as anything other than Remain) how you implement it. eg if No Deal, do you come out right away, or after 3, 6 or 12 months to let everyone get ready for it? If it’s 52:48 in favour of Remain, does that really resolve anything?

    I’m not saying Revoke resolves anything either (the genie is out of the bottle no) but at least it is a clear position that voters and business can get behind. Essentially the GE will be a de facto battle between No Deal (BP, Tories) and Remain. Whether it’s Remain via Revoke or via Ref2, those are the battle lines. At least our position would be clear and simple. Ref2 is just months if not years of further Brexit paralysis – I’m not sure anyone really wants that and the economy is suffering enough as it is.

  • Mick Taylor 11th Sep '19 - 4:55pm

    David Raw. I know you love being the bah humbug seer on LDV, but the next election is utterly unpredictable. With 4 or even 5 parties on or around 20% who knows what results FPTP will throw up. If you can win a seat with between 20 and 25% (Russell Johnstone and Danny Alexander did) then the number of seats we win is very open. Anything between 15 and 340.
    I’m not saying it’s likely, only that with FPTP anything can happen.
    Just for once David, could you curb your pessimist tendency and talk up the party rather than talking it down?

  • Andrew McCaig 11th Sep '19 - 4:59pm

    I submitted an article about this a few hours ago with a positive policy for amending the Revoke motion, but so far it has not appeared. So I will briefly summarise here.
    Are we no longer a Party that believes in Proportional Representation? I have lived all my life in an elective dictatorship. Thatcher got 43% in 1979. This was NOT a mandate to impose her manifesto, neither was the 42% for Blair in 1997, or the 37% for Cameron in 2015. Are we reduced to this false mandate idea to get Revoke through?? We could quite possibly get a majority of MPs with 37%, and pushing Revoke through on that would fully justify the charge of being the “Lib Undems”.

    This motion would be justifiable if we made it clear that we would only Revoke if more than 50% vote for Parties with this in their manifesto. That would give us a real opportunity to challenge other Parties to adopt the same policy, which would offer a genuine possibility of it happening. We would get the advantages of the simple policy and quick resolution without throwing our Liberal Democrat core policy of PR on the bonfire.

  • Mick Taylor 11th Sep '19 - 5:03pm

    Phillip McLellan. No clearer illustration of the iniquities of FPTP could be made than the Lib Dems winning an election with 35% of the vote. The majoritarian press would declare us the winners and we would have a FPTP mandate to do whatever we wanted. No-one would be the least bit surprised if we proceeded to use our majority to revoke article 50, even if we hadn’t said we would.
    The problem with ref3 (not 2 we’ve already had 2) is that unless the referendum process is cleaned up first, stopping the lies and illegal activities, then there is no guarantee that the campaign will be any different. I don’t think there is time to address the problems.
    Revoke is simple and clear. Everyone will have no doubt where we stand.

  • The party absolutely should be the party of revoke and NOTHING else, since they will not support any form of brexit in any circumstances. This means the party must drop it’s calls for a 2nd referendum, because as well all know, the LD’s would not support another vote for leave, should that be the case.
    Even Binding Referendums can be subjected to further votes and motions to block / thwart the process and arch remainers would use every tactic available to them to do this, hence calling for a 2nd referendum is disingenuous.

  • Bill le Breton 11th Sep '19 - 5:24pm

    What the Liberals and then the Liberal Democrats have always done is to seize the initiative to win power and then to refine the institutions to hand that power more effectively back to the people.

    Who can doubt that a first hundred day initiative of a Lib Dem PM and Government would be to introduce STV at national and local levels. It would be a Parliament of Reform – not really seen since 1832.

    When forty years ago I found myself in a majority group on a local authority because its elections coincided with a general election and people who voted for our Liberal MP voted for the full Liberal Team available to them, the first thing we did was to remove Part B agendas (opening up committees to full scrutiny), introduce STV to committees and outside bodies and pass an Open Government Charter.

    None of that was possible until we had power. None of it would have been possible bar the co-incidence of Callaghan choose May 3rd 1979 to hold a General Election.

    On another council there was a history of being largest party but without overall control. The Tories and Labour + the Unions and the local media combined to frustrate the, then, Liberal Group in all the changes it attempted.

    It taught one lesson – the next time we had the chance we would throw the kitchen sink at winning a majority. It took 24 years to get there, but we did it. And we did huge amounts of good.

    When the bus comes, jump on it and liberate it.

  • David Evans 11th Sep '19 - 5:39pm

    Mack,

    The people didn’t vote for independence in 2016, and it is deliberately misleading to pretend they did. 48% voted that they liked where they were (i.e. in the EU) and they were happy to stay there. 52% were unhappy in the EU, but were massively split as to where they wanted to go.
    1) Quite a lot wanted to be very close to the EU in the Single Market and the Customs Union with “The easiest trade deal in history,”
    2) A few wanted to be as far away as possible with a “No deal Brexit”
    3) Some wanted to be back with Norway and a few others in what used to be EFTA,
    4) Others wanted to be back in “The good old days of Commonwealth and Empire”
    5) and others seemed to want us to be even further back in the Days of Good Queen Bess, sinking the Spanish Armada and stealing their gold.

    As each destination is shown to be impossible or too costly, the mantra continues we have to leave, even though hardly any of them know where to, and ever worse choices that only benefit the Jacob Rees Moggs of this world, are suggested.

    Tell us when they make their mind up on a plan they can show works.

  • Voted for Independence from what Mack, reality perhaps. Sorry reality doesn’t care that you vote to ignore her she is just going to roll over your Harris. Delusion is no shield from harsh reality, a lesson you may very well soon learn, assuming you survive it.

  • John Marriott 11th Sep '19 - 6:34pm

    So, you forget about another referendum and go straight to a General Election on a revocation of Article 50 platform. You win a mandate and you revoke Article 50. Do you really think that this will be the end of the matter? If so, you must have been consulting the fairies at the end of your garden.

    If it did nothing else, the 2016 Referendum showed us how hopelessly divided our country is on the question of continued EU membership. Both ardent Remainers and Leavers have got to realise that, in this case, you really can’t have your cake and eat it. In order to keep our sanity, try to heal some of the wounds and retain some semblance of prosperity, we have got to agree to a compromise. Norway Plus might be a way out. After all, the Norwegians don’t seem that fussed about taking orders from Brussels in certain areas. If you still reckon that independence trumps everything, it’s time you read a bit of John Donne (‘No man is an island….’).

  • David Allen 11th Sep '19 - 6:46pm

    A Revoke policy will certainly enthuse plenty of people – all of whom would be voting for us in any case. But it will lose many votes amongst those more thoughtful voters who would expect the “Liberal Democrats” to respect democracy. To overturn a 52% Leave referendum vote with (say) a 37% Lib Dem General Election vote is not democracy!

    A Revoke policy would lose us the moral high ground. It would also move us away from what has recently been a highly effective alliance of opposition parties and ex-Conservatives. Will it help us, if people like Caroline Lucas and Nicola Sturgeon, not to mention Starmer and Watson, say we’ve got this all wrong?

    Revoke is the perfect way for us to permanently trash our own brand. For a generation, any future Lib Dem proposal to reform the voting system would be met by “Shut up, you gerrymandering cheats!”

    Revoke is the perfect way to breathe the kiss of life into the Brexit idea, just when we had the chance to discredit and bury it for good. “We wuz robbed!” the Brexiteers will shout, for decades to come if necessary, until they eventually succeed in reviving Brexit. By contrast, a referendum could deliver a conclusive verdict to Remain, followed by a wave of sympathy from the nation at large, simply because at last, the Brexit nightmare was all settled and over.

    A Revoke policy is the perfect way to invite ridicule. To make Revoke a key manifesto plank, we need to say that it is our main aim, and our confident expectation, that we will win an absolute majority at the election. (Otherwise, we would still be majoring on the “referendum” policy which we are saying we will retain for circumstances where we don’t quite get those 326 seats, wouldn’t we?) Now, how is that going to look? When Boris puts on his silly grin and repeatedly refers ironically to “Jo Swinson – they tell me she’s our next Prime Minister, ha ha!”, are we going to shoot up in the polls?

    Why has a Revoke policy been bounced onto the Party with virtually no prior consultation? What are the aims?

    As the original Guardian report pointed out “The move would effectively sever the chances of an alliance with Labour”. Is that what it is all designed to achieve – even if it wrecks our own chances?

  • Adrian McLeay 11th Sep '19 - 7:27pm

    Revoking article 50 is the only sensible solution following 3+ years of wrangling over how to leave. If we achieved our wish of securing a 2nd referendum we would be actively encouraging people to support the remain option. There would be no need for a 2nd vote if we win an overall majority in the house of commons and Jo becomes prime minister. It has proven to be impossible leave the EU with an agreement there is no support for leaving without one. So what other options are there apart from staying in? Everybody knows that the LibDems support remaining in the EU so what would be the point in saying we respect the result of the referendum?

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Sep '19 - 7:44pm

    A policy of Revoke may indeed be clear and simple, but unfortunately it is Wrong. I haven’t spent three years patiently explaining to Leave voters that, yes, they won the Referendum, but as the hard facts about leaving come to light the Lib Dems want to give people (including the new young voters) a chance to express their view of the facts through a new referendum, only to start saying this autumn that after all Parliament must decide, not themselves. Frankly, I won’t do it: it’s not democratic.

    Well, say people who think otherwise, it will be all right if the Lib Dems state plainly in their Election Manifesto that if we win a majority we will revoke. We can’t be sure that people voting for us are doing that through wanting revocation, because we will have a whole range of policies for them to consider. And even if we won 35% of the vote, as Andrew McCaig writes, what’s that to a party believing in PR – ” Are we reduced to this false mandate idea to get Revoke through?” he rightly asks. We would be throwing away three years of patiently getting the public to trust us again, with our consistent, honest and unambiguous stance – till now.

    It’s a pity you aren’t going to Conference, Andrew, because what is needed is an amendment to the Europe motion, Stop Brexit, to OMIT lines 47-49, which read, after Conference calls for, ” 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 to stay in the EU.” If there isn’t such an amendment, I will call for a separate vote on those lines so they can be removed. There is already in lines 39 to 41 an adequate policy statement, building on what was agreed last year, that Revoke should be a last resort if there is no time left to avoid leaving without a negotiated Withdrawal Agreement.

    Finally, @ Frankie. I have almost always agreed with, liked and laughed with you, Frankie. But do you not see that the unamended policy would mean we were setting up our very own Fairy Unicorn, the prospect any time soon of a majority Liberal Democrat government?

  • David Allen 11th Sep '19 - 8:10pm

    Food for thought:

    “Liberal Democrats calling for revocation are being just as cynical as Brexiters backing no deal. It is a profoundly irresponsible electoral calculation. It would also set a dangerous precedent – what if a future hard-right government said it would take Britain out the EU with no vote and no deal?”

    “Theresa May exacerbated (the Brexit problem) by fundamentally misunderstanding her principal political task. … Rather than bringing the country together, her arrogant, aggressive leadership style ripped us further apart. And now, ultra remainers are taking a leaf out of her book. By demanding the divisive, they are driving the country down yet another Brexit dead end.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/11/tom-watson-wrong-britain-needs-election-before-second-brexit-referendum

  • @ Mick Taylor “Just for once David, could you curb your pessimist tendency and talk up the party rather than talking it down?”

    One person’s pessimism is another person’s sensible reality, Mick. It’s a mere five months since some folk on LDV couldn’t curb their excitement about “flying the flag”, coming 6th, and getting 1% (36 votes in a 6184 electorate) in a local council election.

    As for ‘Bah, humbug’ , that’s a bit rich. Origin Scrooge… founding father of austerity which I opposed and still do …. which the party (and the new dear Leader) supported between 2010 and 2015. I’m still waiting for the reality of how it impacted shown in the UN Report on Poverty in the UK to register and signify with the party hierarchy (still no promised email from you know who, Mick). When (and if) it comes I might show a bit more enthusiasm. Now a proper radical Liberal party, that really would be something to enthuse about…… and you, Mick, ought to know that.

    @ Katharine Pindar You make a very powerful argument Katharine.

    PS. Yellow Hammer is out now (with bits redacted) ………. what a scandal it can’t be scrutinised by a prorogued parliament. Let’s hope the Supreme Court see it the same way as the Court of Session.

  • Dilettante Eye 11th Sep '19 - 8:23pm

    David Evans

    “Tell us when they [leavers], make their mind up on a plan they can show works.”

    Lest we all forget, some remainers want to :-

    Remain in an EU which is in 10 years ‘much as it is now’ (Clegg)
    Remain in a reformed EU (but no-one knows how it is to be reformed?)
    Remain in a Federalising EU
    Remain in a Suprastate EU
    Remain in an EU but without joining the Euro currency
    Remain in an EU but joining the Euro currency.
    Remain in an ‘outer ring’ of a two tier EU
    Remain in the ‘inner ring’ of a two tier EU

    Which choice is yours David Evans, and will you put all the above choices on your pseudo 2nd referendum, so we can determine not just whether we want to remain, but by what direction of remain, remainers of the EU wish to go?

    And if the EU doesn’t go in the direction you particularly voted for
    What then?

  • Paul Barker 11th Sep '19 - 8:39pm

    The 3rd Referendum was always supposed to happen before the Next Election, so that Election could be about other things. Its very hard to see how that can happen now.
    As of now the only Referendum being offered will be at least 6 Months after The Next Election, denying a voice to all those Voters who say “Make it Stop, Now”.
    Our offer of “Vote LibDems, Stop Brexit Now” ( if that’s what we go for) will appeal both to Remainers & Leavers who are just sick of the process & want to stop hearing the Word Brexit.
    If a Libdem led Government was to be the result, Our Party would stop talking about Brexit & get on with all the other stuff. Of course we can’t stop other Parties Or The Media talking about Brexit, the Great Betrayal or Liberal Elites but the more time & energy they waste on that, the less they will have to fight the Wave of Liberal Reform that we would unleash. The choice is theirs of course.
    I have no idea how likely a Liberal Victory is but I do know that there are a lot of Voters who would rally to a simple, clear message, lets give it our best try.

  • John Marriott 11th Sep '19 - 8:43pm

    So, you forget about another referendum and go straight to a General Election on a revocation of Article 50 platform. You win a mandate and you revoke Article 50. Do you really think that this will be the end of the matter? If so, you must be Iiving on a different planet.

    If it did nothing else, the 2016 Referendum showed us how hopelessly divided our country is on the question of continued EU membership. Both ardent Remainers and Leavers have got to realise that, in this case, you really can’t have your cake and eat it. In order to keep our sanity, try to heal some of the wounds and retain some semblance of prosperity, we have got to agree to a compromise. Norway Plus might be a way out. After all, the Norwegians don’t seem that fussed about taking orders from Brussels in certain areas. If you still reckon that independence trumps everything, it’s time you read a bit of John Donne (‘No man is an island….’).

  • John, the Brexiteers arent going away unless and until we are fully out. If they thought being in the EU was undemocratic, they will be even less impressed with a Norway model. There is no route out of this mess that will bring an end to it.

    If we get a majority (so tbf this is all hypothetical anyway) are we, as a pro Europe party, really going to waste much time and energy on Brexit? If we hold the Ref and it comes back as leave, are we really going to do anything other than BRINO? Arent we being disingenuous to pretend otherwise? It’s almost as daft as Labour front benchers saying they’d negotiate a new deal then campaign against it.

    Whether or not it was wise to run with this as a policy position yet, at least it’s an honest one.

  • Andrew McCaig 11th Sep '19 - 9:42pm

    Katharine,
    Glad we agree. Sorry I can’t be at conference.

    I would suggest amending the offending words to be democratic rather than forcing a showdown with Jo Swinson though. So just find a way of amending so that majority means more than 50% of the votes and mention our commitment to PR. That would neutralise the Kinnock argument linked upthread.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Sep '19 - 9:53pm

    Thanks, Andrew, and I see what you mean, but I can’t actually move an amendment – the deadline is tomorrow, and I need to be travelling in the morning. Anyway I suppose you need ten supporters to propose it. Let’s hope the author of this article and other like-minded members may be reading, thinking, and writing.
    Best wishes for your sterling efforts in my old stamping ground!

  • Yeovil Yokel 11th Sep '19 - 9:57pm

    If, next Wednesday, the Supreme Court rules that the current Prorogation is unlawful, and as a result party conferences are cancelled and Parliament is recalled, then presumably we’ll be the only party that will have had the opportunity to deliberate at conference on its policies (including A50 Revocation) going in to a General Election.

  • Yellowhammer,
    Appears to be very little bread and certainly no cheese for the poor. Also if you are reliant on social care well, you really need to start looking after yourself. Still look on the bright side my Brexi’s and Lexi’s this is the governments best case, the best gloss they can put in it, how bad can your feared reality get, bad very bad would be my guess. We really are becoming Independent Mack, independent from a government that can care for us, everyman and woman for themselves, well I’m as prepared as I can be, medicined up, foreign money under the floor boards, food in store and a relatively safe job, I might not make it through this excrement storm but I’ll out last our Brexi’s and Lexi’s I do feel. by the way how bad was 15 that they can’t even tell us, or hunt what it is.

    Katherine,
    We will just have to disagree, Brexit will be bad and those that voted for it will in the main be those that suffer the most. Consoling themselves with the thought “We having nothing to lose” or “I’m alright Jack I’ve for my pension” rather begs the reply “Well actually you have” and “Poor countries don’t pay benefts”. Just look at Greece the poor and the pensioners copped for the majority of the pain, tis ever thus.

  • Once Jo Swinson is installed in Number 10, then, Her job will be to “bring The Country together, Heal the Rifts” etc. Right now her principal job is to maximise Libdem Votes & Seats, whenever The Election comes.
    If its OK for Johnson to take 30% as The “Will of The People” then its OK for Swinson to do the same, we work under the rules we are given until we can change them.
    Of course, if Libdems dominate the Next Government then in The Election of 2024, 30% of Votes will get you 30% of Seats & everyone will have to compromise. We have to get there first.

  • @ Paul Barker. I hope you’ll remember to persuade the dear Leader to “fly the flag” once she’s safely installed in 10 Downing Street.

  • It is disheartening that many of those arguing for a General Election manifesto policy of outright revocation seem to pay scant regard to the party’s longstanding commitment to proportional representation. Much as I am personally committed to “Remain”, a General Election mandate which may be based on, say, only 35% of the popular vote is, surely, I nsufficient to overturn the original 52% “Leave” vote. As a matter of democratic principle, therefore, Andrew McCaig and Katharine Pindar are absolutely right. (Unfortunately, however, I am also unable to attend conference!)

  • Geoffrey Dron 12th Sep '19 - 12:20am

    @YeovilYokel – and Parliament may be celebrating its return by trying to force BoJo’s resignation for lying to HRH.

  • @Frankie
    Your arguments may have merit, personally I do not think they do, but they are certainly otiose, irrelevant to the central, overarching question which has to be confronted by those who would arbitrarily overturn the result of a plebiscite entered into in good faith and generally seen as legitimate by those who were the participants. If the result of the 2016 vote is overturned without due justification, how do you ensure that any subsequent vote either in a plebiscite or General Election is accepted? Democracy can only function with the consent of the losers. If the result of the 2016 plebiscite is ignored and not honoured before it can be given due force and implementation, then all subsequent plebiscites or general elections can be seen as having no legitimacy or validity.That is the dangerous territory certain people are entering into with talk of revocation before the vote for independence is implemented. I don’t believe I am being alarmist when I say that we may eventually see all of the power and armamentarium of the state being deployed to implement the vote for independence and so guarantee that we leave the EU in order to ensure that the people’s confidence in the outcome and validity of any further democratic election or plebiscite is restored. No sane person would want that. Those people who presently cry “Stop the coup” are themselves perpetrators of a coup. They have ignored a democratic vote for Britain to leave the European Union on 31st October and achieve its independence. That is the real coup. Just accept the result and implement it. If it turns out to be a disaster (which I do not think it will be) then
    everyone will eventually take part in a democratic general election and vote to return to the status quo ante. And because the 2016 vote has been accepted and implemented the result of that GE will be accepted and implemented too. That is essentially what happened in 1975 and our democracy was not damaged. To refuse to accept the outcome of the 2017 plebiscite and actively strive to overturn before implementing it is to do enormous damage to our democracy.

  • Should read: “2016 plebiscite”, of course.

  • David Allen 12th Sep '19 - 1:44am

    Mack said: “If the result of the 2016 plebiscite is ignored and not honoured before it can be given due force and implementation, then all subsequent plebiscites or general elections can be seen as having no legitimacy or validity.That is the dangerous territory certain people are entering into with talk of revocation”

    Speaking as a fervent Remainer – I can’t deny that this argument has some force.

    Theresa May – rightly in my personal view – “honoured” the 2016 result by seeking to implement it. What she got hopelessly wrong was the way she went about it. Had she approached it in a bipartisan way from the start, she could have agreed a soft Brexit with Labour, retaining membership of the customs union and compliance with single market standards, but leaving the EU. Then it would have all been done and dusted long ago – and without disaster, albeit no doubt with quite a lot of disappointment that Leaving had not proved to be the magic bullet that solved anything very much.

    But she didn’t. She took two years before finally getting her mind around to accepting anything which the EU could also remotely accept. Bluster, confusion, UK government negligence, and cakeism soured the atmosphere. Finally, when Brexit was agreed, it was the Brexiteers who vetoed it.

    My view – which Mack might or might not agree – is that the concept of Brexit had been tested to destruction, and had been proven to fail. A hard Brexit proved unacceptable to business, commerce, and Ireland: a soft Brexit proved unacceptable to Brexiteers. The 2016 plebiscite had been honoured, in that it had been pursued as far as it could possibly be taken. Having found that Brexit could not effectively be delivered, the Government should then have considered itself free from any further obligation to pursue it.

    That is a view which many will endorse, but others will not. Consequently, plain revocation, based solely on a simple General Election majority in parliamentary seats, would be grossly inappropriate.

    On the other hand, a way out of the conundrum of Brexit failure is surely long overdue. A second referendum is not merely a reasonable option. In the face of national emergency, it has surely now become an imperative.

  • David Evans 12th Sep '19 - 3:32am

    Bill, I don’t like to rain on your parade, but last time you didn’t just jump aboard a bus when it came past. You spent decades designing it, building it and learning how to drive it. And you had the infrastructure locally to do it. In 2008 we had that national infrastructure – 62 MPs with their staff; a well funded Head Office function to plan the route to our destination organise the refuelling and tyre changes; and nearly over 4,500 councillors to help sign the way.

    Then a new guy took over and pretended he knew how to drive the bus. Instead he crashed it, lost our no claims bonus and the repairs needed put us back 30 years. Even now with a few new passengers who were travelling on a different bus in a very different direction up to a few days ago, who are prepared to help us steer it, we still don’t have enough of the necessaries to do it. So it will be all down to hoping we get lucky.

    If we are to get our bus to the destination quickly, we will have to drive it much, much faster than ever before, and take dangerous short cuts without the having completed the repairs or having assessed the route, never mind having the suspension uprated and the engine racing tuned. Also although our new driver is extremely positive, until 2015 she was extremely positive about how well the driver was doing them and wse haven’t seen any real acknowledgement of all the things that went wrong at that time.

    All in all it looks massively more likely to end in another car crash than a lap of honour. I know you think it is worth taking that chance, but I don’t think we could recover if we allowed it to be crashed it again.

  • David Evans 12th Sep '19 - 3:37am

    Dilettante eye – Remainers want to stay in so we can continue to benefit and work to get it to do the best things out of it. The future 10 years is for debate. Where we go the day after we leave has to be decided now.

  • Bless Mack you’ve had three years to get your unicorn Brexit and all you can offer is misery but will of the people and all that. Firstly we have had a general election since the plebiscite ( interesting word, a word much used by 1930’s dictators who used them well to dictate, why didn’t you use referendum most people do) and the new parliament can’t find a good Brexit , perhaps because well there just isn’t a good Brexit. Your obsessed with Independence but you can’t tell us independence from what and pain is worth the prize of “the precious” but when the pain comes how you will whail. Two things Mack the referendum was advisory and parliament can’t bind its successor , so if we campaign for revoke, win a general election ( unlikely but we live in unlikely times) well revoke it and a long ago plebiscite for cake and more cake would be consigned to the dustbin of history. It’s interesting to know by the way that we no longer get offered cake by our dear Brexi’s now it is struggle and independence, from what you don’t know but it is all you have left, bless. O of cause it finally struck me it’s independence from the threat of faries, unicorns and leprechauns which was of cause a major threat with the wrong sort of Brexit, well bless and thanks.

  • People still try to pretend that people do not know what they were voting for when actually it was quite clear.
    The majority of leavers voted to end uncontrolled immigration, end to the common fisheries policy and they wanted the uk to strike its own FTA.
    That meant a vote to leave the single market and “the” customs union.
    People wanted “a” customs union which is entirely different to “the” customs union.

    These negotiations should have been completed in its entirety, which means we should know the outcome of the Free trade agreement, however, the EU insisted unfairly to prevent this from happening and stalling the negotiations to just the withdrawal agreement in the hope of making it so difficult, so as we would not leave.

    How can you call for a 2nd referendum when we do not know the “entire” outcome of the deal on offer?

    Liberal Democrats will never accept a Brexit that involves leaving the customs union and single market and remainers will continue to try and block it through votes, even if another vote turned out to leave and brexiteers will never accept a deal that does not allow it to either end uncontrolled immigration and strike its own free trade agreements, therefore the calls for a 2nd referendum are disingenuous to say the least.

    That is why I think it is perfectly ok for the Liberal Democrats to be a party of revoke, as that is the only honest position it can take, I do not think this would get enough traction to get a majority Government.

    Unless the LD leadership is prepared to come out publicly and say that they will fully respect the vote of another “binding” referendum and would not seek to block it through opposition motions, then it really has to drop the calls for a 2nd referendum.

  • Denis Loretto 12th Sep '19 - 8:55am

    Way back at the beginning of this thread “theakes” said he/she would attend the London March on October 12. In fact that March was postponed some time ago to October 19.

  • matt 12th Sep ’19 – 8:34am…………………People still try to pretend that people do not know what they were voting for when actually it was quite clear……………………..The majority of leavers voted to end uncontrolled immigration, end to the common fisheries policy and they wanted the uk to strike its own FTA. That meant a vote to leave the single market and “the” customs union. People wanted “a” customs union which is entirely different to “the” customs union.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    Matt, that is rather a comprehensive list of what people ‘knew’ they wanted.

    Mind you, it’s just as well that the ‘people’ knew because it was obvious that those leading the campaign didn’t…

    International Trade Secretary Liam Fox….”No Brexit deal ‘would be bad’ for UK”…..

    Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson….”Leaving the EU without a deal on Brexit would be ‘perfectly OK’…

    Brexit secretary David Davis…”MPs must choose between May’s deal and crashing out of EU”

    Theresa May…”Brexit means Brexit means the best possible deal….

    Those were the ‘people’ leading Brexit and they couldn’t even agree on what would happen.
    However, Matt, thank you for enlightening me, as to what people knew because I, like those I’ve quoted above, had no idea…

  • @expats

    You are referring to what MP’s have said AFTER the result.

    I am referring to what the “people” wanted.

    It was made clear during the campaign that a vote to leave the EU was a vote to LEAVE the single market and a vote to LEAVE “THE” customs union. This was made clear to the electorate by both sides of the argument and yet the voters opted to leave.
    So how can you continue to protest that people did not know what they were voting for?
    All I keep hearing is, but now we know the outcome of the deal, it should be put back to the people. Well we do not know the outcome of the “DEAL” as it has not been completed, the FTA has not even started, all we know is the outcome of the withdrawal agreement, you do not negotiate “half” a deal and then expect people to come to final conclusion without knowing the full and final deal

  • John Marriott 12th Sep '19 - 9:52am

    Here are a few observations, in no particular order of importance:

    1. The country is more or less equally divided between Leave and Remain.
    2. If you drill down you will find a hardcore Leave/Remain at all costs on either side.
    3. There seems little willingness on the part of politicians at least, at the moment to consider any form of compromise.
    4. To rely on a General Election to sort things out may not be the answer, because
    a) Any ‘majority’ based on FPTP will not necessarily reflect a majority of the electorate b) It would be difficult to have a ‘one issue’ GE. Remember ‘strong and stable government
    5. As has already been said, democracy only works with the agreement of the loser.
    6. How do you reach those people, probably the majority, who just want a deal but are being drowned out by the cacophony on either side of the argument?
    7. It is quite likely that another referendum, with a binary question, will produce more or less the same result either way.
    8. If we do ‘ask the people’, we need to find a much more sophisticated way of doing it.
    9. Only consider Article 50 revocation as a form of ‘Time out’, after which, if all sides could agree on a way forward which involved Brexit with a Deal, Article 50 could be re invoked so that both sides could move on to discuss our future relationship with the EU.

  • David Becket 12th Sep '19 - 10:48am

    B 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.

    Our commitment to withdraw if we win is more difficult. It should be modified to read that our win is by more than 50%

  • Is Hubris coded into the DNA of LibDems? We made big mistakes in coalition and could be making the same mistake again with this shift in policy. Brexit has to be treated very carefully not to leave any infection in the wound and recovery will not be simple and quick. Brexit does not only need to be defeated. It has to be undermined and discredited. As for a general election. Do not under estimate the Tories/Brexit Party. There will be an alliance and we need to make sure that a remain alliance is equally possible. I wouldn’t rush into one. If the Supreme Court upholds the Scottish judgement, B.J. may have to resign. There is still a lot to play for with the current parliament.

  • Johnny McDermott 12th Sep '19 - 3:07pm

    Narrowing tent will happen at some point… just depends which part will narrow. To be expected post Council and Euro surges, clear Remain message. But I entirely agree – this narrows the centrist/ compromise part of the tent. We need to keep a strong centre resisting expanding our own Overton window.

    Letwin – spot on again. Revokers – show us your workings. Where do the numbers come from without a GE it is too late to hold without an extension that can only be achieved by Parliamentary consensus (if we have Faith in our gamble that Boris will obey law) or by seizing control of the government. A Government of National Unity, but now prefer: No-Deal Coalition. That difference will be important, cause GNU now synonymous with Remain thanks to Plaid. Tory lites believe in Soft Brexit as strongly as many LD believe in Remain and SNP want their pound of divisive flesh and all the while Labour want to be “in charge” of it all. Our position was clear – no good Brexit, but if we lose twice, we obey. Now we want revoke?

    Say we managed it. Remained. Do you think Brexiteers will drop it? Or organise for the next referendum via GE manifestos *again* ? I do not. And us, in Europe… awkward! Like going through the divorce proceedings then deciding to stay together for the kids. No relevance or self-respect and your spouse thinks you’re a weakling they must persevere a few more years… How does that relationship look?

    It’s time to compromise. Revoke without Remain legitimacy is the greatest threat we face. We must be getting closer (No Deal* Alliance), worker together harder. Why stoke up the base? It feels like another gamble we don’t need to take, just like the one we’re taking on Boris obeying the legislative approach.

    And even if he does obey… we start this negotiation all over again! “GE first!”, “No – second referendum; INDAE REF 2 NOW! Revoke! Soft Brexit!” What happens post-Stopped-No-Deal day one?! Rinse – rinse hard – and repeat.

    Lewis is right: revoke harms our cause; and poses a deep threat to democracy by emboldening Yaxley Lennon and his thugs as well as further radicalising Farages… and lawbreaking PMs.

    Last week we had two ways to *guarantee* avoiding No Deal. We now seem to have one gamble; and one GE slogan we may never have a chance to use.

  • @David Allen – I think your concept of Parliament honoring the 2016 opinion poll is probably a viable way forward; Parliament has listened to the desire expressed, it has looked – as far as the Government has permitted it, at the options and found them all wanting and so will revoke our Art.50 notice.

    Obviously, Parliament may also decide to limit what a future Government can agree to with the EU without either Parliament’s or the UK electorates explicit consent. Thereby further establishing and asserting the sovereignty of Parliament.

  • Arnold Kiel 15th Sep '19 - 1:20pm

    As said before, I fully support revocation by Parliament. The risk of another leave decision by a subsequent parliament is close to zero: there were never more than 20-30% leave-MPs, and that was before the sobering and humiliating 2016-2019 lesson. If this nightmare is over, only very few madmen/women would go there again, let alone shouldering the full responsibility (instead of misleading and abusing “the people”).

    However, supporting a Labour-led Government that wants to renegotiate and have another referendum is also fine. The Labour negotiation-team would come back with a pointless BRINO to minimise the economic damage. It would have no chance in Parliament or the public eye, just like any other specific and fully costed Brexit. the 2016 trick to sell a hollow heroic concept cannot be repeated.

  • Arnold Kiel 15th Sep '19 - 1:27pm

    There would be nothing humiliating about a remain-minded UK Government resuming its important role in the EU. Nobody in the EU is cross with misled British voters or a cooperative UK Government, just Farage, a few dozen Tories and Murdoch, the final removal of which from power and influence being a beneficial side-effect of remaining.

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