Lib Dems kick off conference season with debate on cancelling Brexit outright

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson (centre) is greeted by party members as she arrives for the Liber

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson (centre) is greeted by party members as she arrives for the Liberal Democrats autumn conference at the Bournemouth International Centre in Bournemouth. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The Lib Dems have started conference season in Bournemouth by debating whether the party should propose revoking Article 50 altogether.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson is looking to take her party into that election as the party most unequivocally in favour of staying in the EU.

She wants to sign her colleagues up to the policy of revoking Article 50 - a move that would cancel the divorce from Brussels without the need for a second referendum.

Labour's policy would involve renegotiating a deal with Brussels and putting that to a confirmatory vote, should the party win the next general election.

Revoking Article 50 - effectively undoing the mechanism under the EU's Lisbon Treaty that was triggered to start Britain's withdrawal - would be written into the next Lib Dem election manifesto if members at the conference back the move.

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Lord John Kerr, the veteran British diplomat who was involved in drafting Article 50, has publicly said the clause is reversible.

Swinson said: "We got into this mess as a result of having a referendum in the first place and that (revoking Article 50) is the only satisfactory way out of it."

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The party leader is due to take questions from conference attendees at the Bournemouth International Centre on Sunday, following a speech by her predecessor Sir Vince Cable.

The East Dunbartonshire MP will close the four-day conference with a speech on Tuesday, with a tribute to former leader Paddy Ashdown, who died in December, due to take place beforehand.

Swinson has played an active part in convincing MPs to switch allegiance and join the Lib Dems, having seen former Tory minister Dr Philip Lee, ex-health committee chairwoman Dr Sarah Wollaston and former Labour and one-time The Independent Group (TIG) members Luciana Berger and Angela Smith defect in recent weeks.

Chuka Umunna, who joined the Lib Dems under Sir Vince's leadership, will address party members on Monday in his role as Treasury and business spokesman.

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