Last night the Lib Dem Federal Policy Committee (FPC) starting putting in place the system for writing our next general election manifesto, so as to be ready in the event of a snap general election this year.
There should be no general election until 2020. There should be a normal Autumn Statement, held in the normal way at the normal time, and no emergency Budget. And there should be no decision to invoke Article Fifty until the British negotiating strategy is agreed and clear – which means Article Fifty should not be invoked before the end of this year.
Aside from the immediate electoral implications, this could also be very important for the continuing political fights over Brexit. A slow Article 50 process plus a 2020 general election would still leave open the question of whether or not pro-European MPs should insist on a second referendum once the terms of a deal are known.
The Article 50 process is not irrevocable so if a second referendum voted against the terms of the deal, Britain could remain in the EU.
However, that becomes harder if Britain has actually exited than if it is still in the two years period of grace after Article 50 is invoked. Which means a second referendum could take place before the end of that grace period but the next general election, under May’s leadership, would not.