Today a small non-representative and self-selecting section of the Liberal Democrat Party that have the time and resources to attend Conference made what I believe to be a big mistake.
This is the pledge to cancel Brexit rather than back a second referendum.
According to YouGov, back in 2016 32% of Lib Dem supporters voted for Leave. I found myself supporting Leave following decisions to pursue a Project Fear policy containing misleading statements (lies) on a par with the Leave campaign. Like many other centrist Leave supporters, my own preference would have been for a Norway-style future relationship, inside the Single Market, inside a Free Trade agreement on most commodities but outside the CFP and CAP, and free to pursue independent trade deals. I would also have liked us to implement free movement of people as other EU members do – self-supporting and time limited unless you are contributing. Essentially the have your cake and eat it solution I thought we had been promised.
I dare say that, along with many other centrist Leave supporters, this would still be my preference if I were to be given a vote in a second referendum that allowed my to rank preferences. I would not be voting, first preference, for Remain as we were. Thus it makes it impossible for me to vote Lib Dem at the next General Election. It will be Labour to get that second referendum. What about the third of supporters in the same boat? I guess they will have the same thoughts and the Lib Dems could be throwing millions of potential votes at Labour or even towards the full-blooded Leave parties.
This policy does not bring the country together.; It is highly divisive. If, by some miracle, the Lib Dems had a majority after the next Election, you would still have 45%+ Brexit supporters who will not be putting down their placards, but will be ramping up the heat.
As Patrick Maxwell points out in LD Voice voters who ardently want to revoke Article 50 are already going to vote Lib Dem. This new policy is not going to attract, and may put off, moderate Tories and Labour voters who might otherwise come over.
A General Election is not going to resolve Brexit. A second referendum that repeats the binary nature of the first is also doomed to result in Groundhog Day. What we need is a genuine compromise. A solution that recognises the circumstances that resulted in the first Leave vote and addresses them, and protects the jobs and investments of those reliant on the EU for their livelihoods. This is what the Lib Dems should be promoting, not a policy that would inevitably worsen current divides not heal them.