The Liberal Democrats will campaign at the next election on a “cancel Brexit” platform, after party members approved a policy switch at their annual conference in Bournemouth.
The membership gave their overwhelming support to new leader Jo Swinson, who had called for the party to offer a “straightforward” message to voters in a general election.
The Lib Dems had previously supported the revocation of Article 50 – to stop the UK’s departure from the EU – following a second EU referendum.
But now, when a general election is called, the party will promise a Lib Dem government will halt Brexit without a further public vote on EU membership.
The move further cements the Lib Dems’ pro-Remain status and follows Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s switch to backing a second EU referendum.
The Lib Dems’ change of stance is likely to heighten calls from Labour MPs and members for them to take an unequivocal pro-Remain position.
Ms Swinson, whose first conference as leader has seen yet another MP defect to her party, had used a TV interview on Sunday to explain her party’s new position.
“If the Liberal Democrats win a majority at the next election, if people put [us] into government, as a majority government, the ‘stop Brexit’ party, then stopping Brexit is exactly what people will get,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“Yes, we will revoke Article 50.”
Ms Swinson added: “We have argued that a specific Brexit deal should be put to a people’s vote to give clarity.
“We still argue for that. But if we end up at a general election then I think we need to be straightforward with people and give them an option for all this Brexit chaos to stop.
“I recognise not everyone agrees with the Lib Dems on this. [But] it is genuinely what we think is right for the country.”
Ex-Labour shadow minister Chuka Umunna used his first conference as a Lib Dem MP to speak in support of the policy change.
Mocking the Brexit policy of his former party, Mr Umunna told Lib Dem members: “I used to be asked to parrot this nonsense about a ‘jobs-first Brexit’.
“But we all know that every form of Brexit will lead to job losses.”
However, not all senior Lib Dems are in favour of the party ditching its support for a second EU referendum from their next general election manifesto.
Former Lib Dem MP Sir Simon Hughes, who served as a minister in the coalition government, told party members the new policy “allows us to be presented as extreme on Brexit, when we want to be inclusive”.
He added: “It will take the focus away from our current excellent policy which says, given it was the people in a single-question referendum who made the decision to Leave, it can only be the people in a single-question referendum who can reverse it.”
Ex-Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable had earlier used his speech to party members to predict further defections to the party, following the unveiling of former Tory minister Sam Gyimah as the sixth MP to join the Lib Dems from a former party in recent months.
Sir Vince said: “Within the next few weeks and months I hope and expect that the trickle from both sides will become a flood. Something big is happening here.”
In an attack on Boris Johnson, Sir Vince took aim at the prime minister’s fondness for one of his predecessors, Winston Churchill.
He said: “Johnson is learning not from the Churchill who prosecuted the Battle of Britain, but from the Churchill of Gallipoli in the First World War when his impetuousness and ignorance and his underestimation of the opposition combined to produce a costly disaster and humiliation: Brexit foreshadowed.”
Source: Read Full Article