Daniel Laycock on why he believes the Revoke position of the Lib Dems is just plain wrong.

First published in September 2019.

At the Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, last weekend, the party membership voted on a motion to revoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would inform the European Parliament and Commission, the United Kingdom does not intend to leave the European Union.

There are a couple of options on how this could happen. Firstly, the reason why the Lib Dems now have this policy is set on the idea they would only implement it if the party wins the next election. The likelihood of the party securing any kind of a majority is currently around twenty per cent.

Secondly, if there’s a Unity Government, which has a 50/50 percentage chance of happening by either Prime Minister Johnson resigning if he refuses to ask the European Union for an extension to Article 50 – because of the “Benn Act” which was given Royal Accent after Parliament returned from summer recess, Johnson being forced out by the Conservative Party due to his failure to secure a deal, or the last option a Vote of No-Confidence tabled by Her Majesty’s Opposition, and Johnson again forced to resign, it would lead to a Unity Government or after 14 days the possibility of a General Election.

If – and this is huge – the Lib Dems do win power and are handed the keys to Downing Street, with Jo Swinson becoming Prime Minister, she has stated that on day one this policy would be implemented. If it’s after we leave the European Union on October 31, it would’ve been a wasted policy and a waste of time for the party to spend millions on the campaign to revoke.

If she does become the next Prime Minister before October 31, however, not only would Swinson be the third female Prime Minister in the last 30 years, but the 10th Liberal Prime Minister since David Lloyd George – who lead the Liberal Party in Government between 1916 and 1922, two years during the First World War and until the beginning of the 1920’s. That’s over a hundred years ago.

Though the Lib Dems have stated they will continue to support calls for a People’s Vote in what seems like a secondary position – and for those of you who may be unfamiliar, this is asking the Government to go back to the country in a confirmatory referendum on whether the British people would like to continue with the decision based on Theresa May’s Deal and leaving or Remaining inside the European Union. That question will, of course, be decided by the Electoral Commission and the Government.

This is why the new Lib Dem policy will be dangerous and anti-democratic, in my view. In the 2016 Referendum, the British public was asked a single question in an In-Out Referendum, on whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union. The voters gave their decision in the second-largest turnout since the 1992 General Election that the United Kingdom should leave the EU. The Revoke Article 50 policy, not only ignores an estimated 17m voters, but it thus leaves them with no voice.

As my fellow RemainNow friend, Andy Martin, clearly stated in his recent Op-Ed in PMP Magazine, “the level of outrage from certain sections of the public… has been nothing short of dramatic”. Unfortunately I would entirely and respectfully disagree with this sentiment.

The point I would personally make to him is this: I see this as anti-democratic and callous, as it will ignore millions of Leave voters, which in turn could cause potential riots, an even further rise in trolling with death threats towards MPs, or worse.

I hear you scream, how dare you think that. It’s very easy to see what would happen though. We cannot forget the tragic and horrific killing of the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, during the referendum. This is why I think this policy is very dangerous and hugely anti-democratic.

We cannot forget those who do not like the EU for their own reasons which led them to vote Leave in 2016. There are those, however, who did vote Leave, which I would call soft-Leavers, but have then changed their minds and would like now to revoke and end this disaster, and I disagree with them.

The only time a mechanism should be introduced by legislation would be within 30 hours of the UK crashing out of the European Union on a No-Deal. Even with the ‘Benn Act’, that would stop the Prime Minister from the United Kingdom leaving on October 31, there could be legislation to counter that. It’s all very complicated but revoking it still callous in my opinion.

I hope I will be proved wrong and we end this madness one way or another. I’d prefer a referendum above all, but the only way we can get there due to the arithmetics in Parliament is through a General Election. Then, if there’s a majority of MPs in favour of a People’s Vote we can have that confirmatory referendum.

That’s why, in my opinion, the Revoke position of the Lib Dems is wrong.🔷

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[This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com on 20 September 2019. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Flickr/Liberal Democrats. - Jo Swinson at the Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference 2019. | 17 Sept 2019. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)