Their new Brexit policy is inconsistent with commitment to electoral reform and risks legitimising a hard exit from the EUby Stephen Fisher / September 16, 2019 / Leave a comment
On Sunday the Liberal Democrats changed their policy on Brexit. If the party wins a majority at the next election they will revoke Article 50.
Now that Labour is offering another referendum and might move still further to the Remain side, there was a danger for the Liberal Democrats in failing to have a clear and distinct policy on Brexit. At the 2017 general election YouGov found only 28 per cent of Remain voters correctly identified that the party advocated having another referendum after the negotiations. Awareness of the Lib Dem position has improved. But even after the party’s “Bollocks to Brexit” campaign, as many as a third of voters at the start of September thought that the Liberal Democrats were in favour of some kind of Brexit.
Some have suggested there is a risk that an eye-catching pledge to straightforwardly revoke Article 50 might become a liability in the way the tuition fees pledge became. But the Lib Dems have said they will continue to campaign for another referendum, a more realistic outcome. They will not have breached any promise if they end up voting in parliament for a referendum as the only politically viable option.
There are other risks too. The party may be giving a voice to the 28 per cent who are opposed to Brexit and want to see it reversed. But it might also alienate those Remainers who think there ought to be another referendum. To some, simply revoking Article 50 looks undemocratic.
Specifically, the conference called for the “Liberal Democrats to 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.”
The logic of the Liberal Democrat position is that winning a majority of seats in the House of Commons would be a democratic mandate. And this leads to the next problem.
On one level, they are right. Suppose the Liberal Democrats did win a bare majority by winning the 326 most Remain seats in Britain. Only 229 constituencies are estimated to have had a majority for Remain at the 2016 referendum. They would have to win a further 97 constituencies where there was a Leave majority. Those include seats with Leave shares of the vote up to an estimated 54 per cent.
To win so many Leave majority…