Should Lib Dems back revoking Article 50 rather than a People’s Vote?

That’s set to be the key debate at the Liberal Democrat federal party conference starting this weekend in Bournemouth:

The Guardian adds:

The Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, said she would support the cancellation of Brexit…

She will take the proposal to a vote at the party’s autumn conference in Bournemouth, which starts on Saturday.

Senior party figures have been toying for months with backing the revocation of article 50, but up to now only as an alternative to a no-deal Brexit. A source said the shift in policy was to back cancelling Brexit “in all circumstances”.

Moving to a ‘vote for us and we’ll Revoke’ position not only has a clear simplicity about it, it also would mean that the Lib Dems can say ‘vote for us, we’ll get Brexit out of the way and get stuck straight into tackling inequality and public services‘.

To find out what party members think of this, check out my survey in the next Liberal Democrat Newswire, coming out before the debate takes place. You can sign up to receive LDN here.

Stephen Tall and I also discuss this move in our latest episode of Never Mind The Bar Charts.


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38 responses to “Should Lib Dems back revoking Article 50 rather than a People’s Vote?”

  1. I think we should go for straight revoke. The rules were wrong last time but if there was a referendum with sensible rules this time that will alienate people and possibly a large group of people at that.
    Whatever happens the amount of violence needs to be taken into account. I do nit mean from the remain side. I am possibly one of the more violent minded on the remain side but though I feel angry I think it ridiculous to go around attacking people over this. The leave side is different, I think that there are people on the leave side who will take up arms and soon.

  2. No, our policy should be People’s Vote: Withdrawal Agreement vs Remain. We have to respect the fact that people did vote to leave 3 years ago. The only justification in reversing this is if a majority of people now don’t want to leave. People accuse us of being undemocratic and this would just prove their point. As much as I want to Remain, I only want this if it is what the country wants too. This policy would make us look hypocrites and we would lose the moral high ground. I’m not sure I could stay in the party if this became our policy.

  3. A second referendum is toxic to a large proportion of the population. We also have no guarantee that it would produced a desirable result – for example if the right refused to take part in order to delegitimise it.
    Instead we have the situation that each main party is differentiated by their Brexit stance. Con = No Deal, Lab = Soft Deal & LibDem = Remain
    By fighting a GE we achieve a referendum in all but name, but the cheating is curtailed by law.

    • The problem with a GE run as a proxy referendum is that people (generally) do not vote on single issues. A number of people vote conservative purely for the reason that they really don’t want Corbyn as PM.

      I don’t think you can catagorise Labour as Soft Deal anymore either, a number of front benchers have said in a second referendum Labour would campaign for remain, even if they have successfully renegotiated the withdrawl agreement.

      The other question is what is the answer if the GE returns a hung parliment rouly in line with current polling? Con 30%, Lab 25%, Lib 20%, Brexit 15%? That gives a clear mandate for nothing.

  4. Yes. Revoke A50. People are crying out for Brexit to end. It must go with changing the EU AND sorting out the problems within the country. ‘Test the waters’this week to see what sort of publicity and comments it gets. If the Tory grandee press barons complain thru their papers you know we have hit pay dirt. Some will not like it ,they will have to be reconciled.

  5. No. Stick with the current policy. We have said consistently that Brexit started with the people in the referendum and should end with the people having the final say whether to go or stay. If we were elected as the government, I would ask for a years extension and request Nick Boles or similar independent to construct (and thrash out with counterparts) a Norway style proposal, where we stay in the single market and customs union, as an alternative to Remain, and then put that to the British public to decide. Liberal Democrat policy would still be to Remain, but a Norway style alternative would be a compromise that could satisfy many who previously voted Leave or Remain in the 2016 referendum. We would leave the EU institution, but essentially nothing much else would change; part of the single market and customs union and with free movement of people.

    • I do not believe there is a Good Brexit: soft, hard, whatever.
      Only staying in the EU maintains Britain’s role as a rule maker, not a rule taker.
      Going into a GE on a #Revoke ticket is clear for everyone, just like #BollocksToBrexit was for the Euro-election.
      Even better, it puts clear yellow water between us and both Labour and Tories. It will simplify #RemainAlliance negotiations as well.

  6. ‘Speaking’ as an outsider (having left the UK 30 years ago, gosh how can it be that long?), I am appalled that a referendum full of lies, illegal campaigning (Cambridge Analytica, anyone?), & dirty money of unknown provenance, is portrayed as the acme of democracy.

    That being the case, however, a lot of people (not all leavers?) will feel betrayed that the referendum was ignored, & be very angry about it. So even if the LDs formed the Government, on less than 50% of the vote, they would feel vindicated ( in their anger). I think that the only option, that has a chance of binding a divided society, is a second referendum

  7. No, not without an unequivocal commitment – a clear workable plan – to address this issue that so divides our nation and even families and friends! It will alienate moderates who have a range of anti no-deal views like Norman Lamb and a building majority, I believe, who want a second referendum on ‘outcomes’ (including Revoke & Remain) by the sensitive democracy of preference voting.

  8. I’ve been a bit torn on this since the referendum – a vote on the deal seems like a good compromise, but with the mess the government has got into with negotiations and the way the only deal on the table has been trampled I can’t see how a another referendum can be run. No deal cannot be offered to the public – it is a totally unacceptable outcome for Brexit. It is not in the nation’s interest and the likes of Farage cannot be allowed to spread propaganda to pursue it. The problem with the referendum then is legitamacy. Between the withdrawl agreement that has been lambasted and remain will only anger the brexiteer zealots and could cause major issues. Revoking A50 would also cause issues, but at least it actually would mean the end of Brexit black whole in parliament and the economy. Any other outcome would drag on for years.

  9. It would be nuts to revoke. We have been harping on about a referendum ever since the results came through from the last referendum. We would look absurd and duplicitous having spoken so much about a people’s vote only to bid parliament have the exclusive responsibility of voting on our future in the EU. It also looks like cheap politics, a craven attempt to grab the Remain vote, but in fact we might only succeed in grasping the die-hards and not the middle of the road Remainers and and the doubting Leavers; and what of even a loose alliance with Labour? A referendum or a deal. We are called the Liberal DEMOCRATS, after all.

    • I am in favour of Remain but I still think it needs to be put back to the People in a People’s vote. To revoke without a second referendum will be toxic for years to come. I think Justine Greenings solution (she voiced about 9 monhts ago) of a transferable vote on 3 options – a. the deal, b. no deal, c. remain makes sense.

  10. The concept that the wishes of the majority who voted in the Referendum are being ignored comes over strongly on doorsteps. The trouble with another referendum is that it takes about 6 months to test the question and organise. Campaigning on staying in the EU and revoking article 50 gives people a clear choice. It is honest and gets it settled.

    I am in favour but will not be at conference. I expect an Army of JCB’s will be mounted in protest if we win!

  11. We have to stick with a People’s Vote, but obviously with a sensible majority requirement. We should offer this as a ‘just checking’ vote rather than ‘you made a mistake last time’ vote.
    Much as I personally want revocation, it will split the vote for those who want to stay part of the EU to some degree. However, when campaigning, we should not shy away from pointing out that the only instant route to ‘make Brexit just go away’, is to revoke..

  12. Yes, revoke A50. This is the LibDems being consistent. We wanted in, we wanted to remain and looking ahead, if out of the EU, we will (or should) campaign to re-enter. That is core to our identity. The 2016 Referendum and its outcome has been an irrational muddle from start to finish. That was a distraction because the Conservatives feared losing votes to Ukip. The result effectively means whatever you want it to mean. We will not be led by the Conservative/Farage line and instead will be true to our own convictions by revoking A50. Our constituency knows that the UK’s best interests are served inside the EU so let’s be clear about that.

  13. Jf a Liberal Democrat Government is elected on a cancel Brexit ticket then this is democratic just as any earlier Govt who implement the policies decided by the people

  14. Hitherto, I’ve been against revocation, on the grounds that what the people decided the people should be given the chance to undecide. But as part of an election manifesto it is a different thing. By voting LD the people would be accepting revocation. That said, I do fear that such an approach would set aside all possibility of co-operation with Labour during the general election, so we would risk letting in Brexiters by splitting the vote in key constituencies, and by this bring about No Deal. Avoiding No Deal must be absolutely Number One priority above party advantage.

  15. What appeared to be a simple process when Cameron dreamed it up…..ask the people doesn’t seem a bad idea after all…….has turned into the nightmare we know. Legalities, Lisbon Treaty, Backstop, prorogation etc etc.
    If we are legally entitled to Revoke…..which we are…. where does it say we can’t in future, still apply to leave the EU? Another Referendum, new Parliament? Who knows? But this could be sold to ‘the people’ not as reneging on the result, but as the only practical way of avoiding ‘no deal’…..said to be ‘one in a million chance’….

  16. If we go for Revoke then the solemn promise to introduce an up to date STV voting system and constitution must be included as an intrinsic and indisoluble part of that. Explanations of why it is so important for people having a voice in order to get their needs met must also be told and re-told because people now feel so helpless to change anything, that is why they opted for the do or die of Brexit. They must be given hope especially as JemC is also now sending out messages of re-em-powering the population. People also need to understand very much more fully how the referendum was conducted and the results skewed illegally. Any second referendum should also be accompanied by this same information and the workings of propaganda to change public opinion explained. Too much to hope that arrests will be made soon to focus all our minds. – Even so, voters still tend to be recidivists then they are about to mark their cross at the ballot box. They need to know ‘Yes, you can change things!’ It will be interesting to see what Conference decides to do. I hope ‘The People’ will be watching.

  17. no inconsistency here.. we continue to campaign for a People’s Vote, which is what we will back in a hung parliament(which seems the likely outcome), but if we are returned as the largest party then we will revoke. We will then drive through electoral reform as a first step in the programme of constitutional and parliamentary reform that is so obviously needed.
    Our MEPs have adopted an excellent slogan ‘reform europe’, so……..
    1) Bollocks to Brexit, 2) People’s Vote, 3) Revoke A50, 4) Reform Europe

  18. I worry that even if we are returned as the largest party, even with a majority, we will not have secured a majority vote in the country. We may have achieved this on 35-40% of the vote. That is not a mandate to overturn 52%. So I think it has to go back to the people.

  19. People don’t have a clue what they vote for or against (remember 2016?)
    44 years of preparations and 38 months of dithering and negotiations (by the best of the smartest British brains, of course) have clearly proved that any form of Brexit is unworkable for 99.999% of the country.
    The other 0.001% consists of tax fiddlers, crooks, asset strippers, money launderers, fascists, and corrupt politicians
    No need for
    – a referendum,
    – vote or
    – wasting any more time and money messing about unicorn no-deals.
    We all know that the Brexit Leave EU scam was designed to avoid the new EU anti-tax fiddling laws which affect the rich puppet masters and to allow the richest to become richer.
    Revoke Article 50 now, let’s stay in the EU, make the tax fiddlers pay their due and tell Corbyn to retire to his allotment.

    • “We all know that the Brexit Leave EU scam was designed to avoid the new EU anti-tax fiddling laws which affect the rich puppet masters and to allow the richest to become richer.”

      He’s right, you know, and more people should be saying it.

  20. It is a difficult one for sure. The main question being would it be undemocratic to reject the referendum result and how that might sit with some people? The original referendum was a binary in or out based on a lot of unknowns which are now know. It’s clear from both parliament rejecting a deal and much of the commentary from the public that there is no clear interpretation of what Leave meant. Both No Deal and a Deal have been rejected. Even between Leaver MPs there is no consistent view. With all parties now wanting either a general election or People’s vote, both of which are democratic, then whoever wins has a mandate to approach Brexit as per their manifesto. If that means Lib Dems with remain then, given that there is no ambiguity of what Remain means, it would be democratically sound to revoke Article 50.

    Will it be a vote winner? I guess that is the more important question. Perhaps can go for both… People’s Vote if gain under a certain amount of the vote share. Revoke Article 50 if over a certain amount of the vote share. It could legitimise revoking article 50 if proportionally enough people voted that way and be a vote swinger to convince Remainers to vote Lib Dem. Just a thought…

  21. I think it’s a good move. It will hopefully squeeze remainers and give people a very clear reason to vote for us – without the uncertainty and ‘not again’ feeling of a second referendum. I suspect that a lot of people see People’s Vote as a slightly dishonest code for ‘we want to remain’. It was the right policy in 2017, but this has the feeling of an emergency election – if the Tories are going to use it as an excuse to push No Deal, we need to fight fire with fire.

    If we end up as the leading party in coalition talks (which is a real possibility if we can get a well-directed 30% of the vote), we can go in with Revoke as our first preference and People’s Vote as a compromise. If we’re involved in talks as a smaller party, we default to a People’s Vote.

  22. Yes, but what happens if Boris breaks the law and we crash out without a deal on 31 October?
    Will we campaign in the subsequent election to rejoin the EU if we form a majority government?

  23. I would support revocation if it was coupled with a referendum at a later date to confirm it. Otherwise it looks like an electoral gimmick with nothing to improve our governance and prevent this sort of thing recurring. A wide ranging public enquiry into our “constitution” might be sufficient if it could lead to a citizens’ assembly.

  24. This proposal is fantastic news! I will be at the Lib Dem Conference supporting it.

    I live in Falmouth in Cornwall and am very active with our Cornwall for Europe group. Although I have been actively supporting a Peoples Vote and went on the March in London, when it comes to a general election the people deserve clarity.

    I want to see a Lib Dem MAJORITY GOVERNMENT, that can revoke article 50 immediately and concentrate on other vital things that matter for our country, as well as helping fix our broken politics and stupid “first past the post” electoral system that does NOT represent the majority of the people!

    I have seen very many long standing Labour Party members and voters abandon them and switch to the Lib Dems or Greens, because they are fed up with that Parties fence-sitting. An unequivocal commitment to revoke article 50 is what is necessary to convince people to switch.

    Let us not have years more talking about Brexit, or even months. There are too many other vital things that need to be done. It is also necessary for our leaders to explain properly just how good our future can be within the EU too! If our leaders had not failed to do that over so many years, we would never have been in this crisis in the first place!

  25. I think it should be Revoke if Lib Dems win an outright majority, a People’s Vote in the event of a hung parliament, with Remain (Revoke) as one of the options which Lib Dems would campaign for.

  26. I’m very much against adopting Revoke as the policy:
    1. It does not respect the 52% vote to Leave. The decision to leave was taken by the British people and democratically can only be revoked by the British people.
    2. It casts the Lib Dems in a very arrogant light – “We know best what’s good for you. You voted the wrong way in the referendum and we won’t trust your vote a second time round”.
    3. We are winning back the middle ground with Tory and Labour supporters coming over to us. A 2nd Ref has a sensible logic to it that plays well in on-street discussions, and I’ve been involved in many of those. Revoke is an extreme position, equivalent to the Brexit Party’s, and extremes don’t play well with the majority of voters
    4. Jo Swinson is on the record, see YouTube news clips, saying that a 2nd Ref is the best way to solve Brexit. She will be plagued at every interview with the this change of stance and be prevented from putting over the wider range of Lib Dem policies – remember Tim Farron being forever balked by the homosexual issue.
    5. We should be plugging Electoral Reform very hard because people are fed up with being unrepresented because of our voting system. This policy will also attract voters, but Revoke may act as a deterent.

  27. One of the most consistent core policies of the Liberal and Lib Dem Parties has been support for PR. Thatcher did not have any mandate, Blair did not have any mandate, and Cameron in 2015 did not have any mandate. They were all minority governments.
    Taking advantage of FPTP to use our own false mandate to drive through Revoke would be a betrayal of our core values. If the resolution is amended to make 50% of the votes the threshold rather than 50% of MPs, that would be democratically tenable as a way to overturn the referendum. What is more that 50% could come from a range of Parties and we could challenge Labour and the others to put it in their manifesto, thus taking the high ground and proposing something that could actually happen. Amending the motion in this way would also avoid voting down our Leader, which is never a good look.
    I cannot go to conference but hope someone else will take this on

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