Lib Dems vote to cancel Brexit through act of parliament

Party’s annual conference backs motion calling for article 50 to be revoked

The Liberal Democrats have voted to cancel Brexit through an act of parliament without a second referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union. Delegates at the party's annual conference in Bournemouth overwhelmingly approved a motion calling for the article 50 notification of Britain's wish to leave the EU to be revoked.

"If the Liberal Democrats at the next election win a majority, if people put into a government, as a majority government , the 'stop Brexit' party, then stopping Brexit is exactly what people will get. Yes, we will revoke article 50," party leader Jo Swinson told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

“Everybody can see that we are stuck, that Brexit is in a mess. And there needs to be a way out of that. As Liberal Democrats, we have argued that the specific Brexit deal should be put to the public in a people’s vote, which would give clarity . . . but if we end up in a general election then I think we need to be straightforward with people and give them an option for all of this Brexit chaos to stop.”


Although the motion was passed by a huge margin on a show of hands, a number of delegates argued strongly against replacing the Liberal Democrats' commitment to a second referendum with a decision by MPs to cancel Brexit. Former MP Simon Hughes said that since the decision to leave the EU had been taken in a referendum, it should be reversed only by a second referendum.


The conference opened with the announcement of former Conservative minister and leadership contender Sam Gyimah as the sixth MP from another party to join the Liberal Democrats so far this year. Mr Gyimah's defection brings the party's MPs at Westminster to 18 and the Liberal Democrats are polling about 20 per cent, almost level with Labour.

The hardening of the Liberal Democrats' anti-Brexit policy comes as Boris Johnson prepares to travel to Luxembourg on Monday for his first meeting as prime minister with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Mr Johnson compared Britain on Sunday to the Incredible Hulk, promising it would escape the "manacles" of EU membership on October 31st.

The prime minister claimed there were signs of movement in the negotiations from Berlin, Paris and "most interestingly" Dublin and he expressed confidence that he could secure a deal at next month's European Council.

“Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country,” he told the Mail on Sunday.

“We will come out on 31 October and we will get it done.”

Court hearings

The supreme court in London will on Tuesday begin three days of hearings when it will consider last week's ruling by Scotland's highest court that Mr Johnson acted unlawfully in suspending parliament for five weeks. The prime minister's senior adviser Dominic Cummings is reported to have told officials on Friday that the government could prorogue parliament again in the second half of October until after October 31st to prevent MPs from blocking a no-deal Brexit.

Former prime minister David Cameron has accused Mr Johnson of backing the Leave side in the 2016 referendum in order to advance his career. In excerpts from his forthcoming memoir, Mr Cameron says Mr Johnson and fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove became ambassadors for "the expert-trashing, truth-twisting age of populism".

He says that Mr Gove became “a foam-flecked Faragist” during the campaign and had been disloyal to himself and Mr Johnson.

“One quality shone through: disloyalty. Disloyalty to me – and, later, disloyalty to Boris,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times