Liberal Democrats pledge to cancel Brexit without a referendum if they win election

Posted On: 
16th September 2019

The Liberal Democrats will revoke Article 50 to stop Brexit if they win the next election, its members have agreed.

Jo Swinson addresses the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth.
Credit: 
PA

In a significant ramping up of the party's anti-EU opposition, members at its annual conference in Bournemouth on Sunday overwhelmingly backed a motion which orders the Lib Dems to formally pull the plug on Britain's EU membership in the event they can form a majority government.

The motion says the party will "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".

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The move comes after years of campaigning for a second Brexit referendum, which the party has said it will continue to do unless it secures a majority at the next election.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said: "The Liberal Democrats are crystal clear: if we win the next election, we will stop Brexit by revoking article 50 and remaining in the European Union.

"People deserve better than Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Brexit. At the next election, voters can instead choose the Liberal Democrats, and our clear and unequivocal policy to Stop Brexit.

"Before an election is called, the Lib Dems will continue to work cross-party to prevent a dangerous No Deal Brexit, and support a People’s Vote, with the option to remain. We will do all we can to fight for our place in Europe, and to stop Brexit altogether."

Ex-Labour MP Chuka Umunna, giving his first conference speech since joining the Liberal Democrats, said the move would "stop this national embarrassment and enable us to focus on the things that really matter".

But former Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes spoke out against the motion, warning it would "take the focus away" from securing a second referendum.

The move meanwhile comes after initial caution from the Lib Dem top team over a pledge to revoke Article 50, the formal  mechanism under the EU's Lisbon Treaty which kicked off Britain's exit from the bloc.

Speaking in May, then-leader Sir Vince Cable rejected calls from the Change UK group of MPs for Parliament to revoke Article 50.

"It wouldn't be outrageous but it would be unsatisfactory," he said. 

"We got into this mess as a result of having a referendum in the first place and that's the only satisfactory way out of it."

But, speaking on Sunday, Lib Dem Europe spokesperson Tom Brake said: "Liberal Democrats have been fighting to stop Brexit for over three years. We are the biggest, strongest party for Remainers across the UK.

"This Brexit policy makes it completely clear that a Liberal Democrat majority government, with Jo Swinson as Prime Minister, would revoke Article 50 and keep the UK in the EU."