Liberal Democrat members are to attempt to overturn the party’s position to rule out campaigning to Rejoin the European Union.
Members were left disappointed by leader Ed Davey’s pledge to “listen” to a wide-range of views after he was elected to the position, but dismissed the suggestion the party would back trying to reverse Brexit at this time.
He explained: “I can’t see us as the next election being anything other than pro-European, but I also think we need to face the situation as it is.
“Britain will have left the European Union, but I think the idea that people want to revisit this in two or three years time, I think that is for the birds.
“But we will remain passionately pro-European, determined to get the benefits of working with our friends and neighbours”.
They sought to overturn the position at this year’s virtual party conference with a motion containing a strong message on rejoining.
But the ruling Federal Conference Committee selected a watered down motion which said that the Lib Dems “believe that… the European Union is our natural home and the UK’s rightful place should be at the heart of the EU” and “resolves to keep all options open.”
The party is proposing that it obtains voters’ backing through a referendum or another election before it agrees to campaigning in support of rejoining.
Campaigners are now waiting to hear if an amendment to the motion – which replaces the words “keep all options open” is replaced with “rejoin with ten years” – will be agreed. It has been backed by more than 750 members.
However, the Lib Dems Against Rejoin campaign expressed disappointment in the amendment.
They tweeted: “We are deeply disappointed that an amendment has been put forward to commit the Lib Dems to having a rejoin policy in our next general election manifesto and committing the party to an arbitrary 10 year deadline. This will consign our party to electoral oblivion.
“The original motion doesn’t rule out rejoin, rather it says we should do so at the right time. Applying deadlines and inflexible policy positions will succeed only in restricting our party leadership. We must fight to pass the motion as unamended!”
Lib Dem Europe spokeswoman Christine Jardine defended the original motion. She said: “We are still hugely and proudly pro-European, but we have to accept and reflect the new reality that we have left the EU and its up to us now to build a fresh relationship with the remaining EU.”
Members will decide on the motion via electronic voting.