This motion updates policy on Brexit in light of recent developments, in particular the publication of the ‘Chequers plan’. It also creates new policy on the political rights of EU citizens in the UK. Existing policy is set out in policy motions Exit from Brexit (March 2018) and Opposing Brexit (2017).
Conference notes that:
- The Conservative Government are making a mess of Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party are helping them to deliver this destructive Brexit.
- Liberal Democrats campaigned to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum and have since campaigned for the people to have the final say on the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU.
- The Treasury have stated that a no-deal Brexit could require the UK to borrow £80 billion more by 2033, the Conservative Government have begun releasing the 84 no-deal technical notes, and the UK health sector are stockpiling medicines in case of a no-deal.
- The Chequers plan is unworkable, rejected by both the EU and Conservative European Research Group MPs.
- A conclusive agreement has not yet been reached on many of the issues arising from the Brexit referendum, including Government red lines, and both sides have stated that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.
- Whilst the principle of a Northern Ireland backstop has been agreed, the UK’s plan to temporarily avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland has not been agreed and there is still no agreement on a long-term solution.
- During the transition period, which is due to end in 2020, the UK will remain in the Single Market and Customs Union.
- The draft Withdrawal Agreement stipulated that EU citizens will have to apply for pre-settled or settled status and if they fail to do so will be at risk of deportation; Irish citizens do not have to apply but can if they choose to.
- EU citizens, who are not Irish or Commonwelath citizens, living in the UK are excluded from voting in UK General Elections or referendums and voting rights have been left outside the scope of Brexit negotiations by the EU Commission; many UK nationals living outside of the UK were excluded from participation in the referendum despite the result substantially affecting their lives.
- The status of EU citizens regarding their right to stand and vote in local elections is unclear, despite frequent requests for the government to clarify the matter and despite the hard work of councillors who are EU citizens and their valued contribution to civic life.
- The 2016 EU referendum gave no clear destination for Brexit, as the terms of the deal were not yet known.
- The Electoral Commission’s finding of overspending and illegal operations made by the Leave Campaign, which may lead to criminal prosecution.
Conference believes that:
- There is no deal that could be negotiated through the Article 50 process that could be more beneficial than continued membership of the EU, leaving the EU would therefore be damaging to the UK's fundamental national interests.
- Given the assertion that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", the risk of a no-deal remains, which would mean the UK crashes out of the EU without any final Withdrawal Agreement in place.
- The recent shifts in global affairs, including the USA withdrawing from the UNHRC, re-emphasise the vital importance of UK membership of the EU and the values upon which the EU was formed.
- The 2016 referendum and subsequent General Election had a severe impact on EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU, leaving them in a place of uncertainty; referendums and elections will also disproportionately impact these citizens for decades to come.
Conference condemns the Conservative Government’s ideological, disastrous approach to Brexit negotiations.
Conference urges the Labour Party to work in the national interest and reflect the views of its members by campaigning for the people to have the final say on the Brexit deal and a chance to exit from Brexit, challenging Jeremy Corbyn’s position as Leader if he refuses to do so too.
Conference further condemns the exclusion of EU citizens’ voices from political decisions that have had an unprecedented impact upon their lives.
Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitment to:
- Fight for an "exit from Brexit" referendum to be held once the outcome of the UK-EU negotiations is known, for the public to choose between "the deal" or Britain remaining a full member of the EU.
- Campaign for Britain to remain a full and active member of the EU.
- Enable all UK citizens living abroad to vote for MPs in separate overseas constituencies, and to participate in UK referendums.
- Introduce votes at 16 for all elections and referendums across the UK.
Conference calls for:
- The Government to release full impact assessments of all options, prior to any meaningful parliamentary vote, thereby demonstrating that there is no Brexit deal on offer that will deliver the promises of the Leave campaign.
- The Government to seek to extend Article 50 if required to legislate for a referendum on the deal, or to provide enough negotiating time to avoid a catastrophic no-deal scenario, and if such extension is not agreed to withdraw the Article 50 notification.
- The right to full participation in civic life, including the ability to stand for office or vote in UK referendums, Local Elections and General Elections, to be extended to all EU citizens not already entitled to vote as Irish or Commonwealth citizens, who have lived in the UK for five years or longer.
- The UK Government to guarantee unilaterally in law, including in a no-deal scenario, the rights of all EU citizens living in the UK, ringfencing the Withdrawal Agreements’ Chapter on citizens’ rights.
- The UK Government to engage with the European Commission and the member states to grandfather the rights of UK citizens, their families and their dependents living and/or in the remaining member states of the European Union, including access to health care and disability support, as well as to uprating of pensions.