Yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that there would be a "Snap General Election", provided she gets backing of MPs, on 8th June.

Last month, she formally triggered Article 50, and began the process of Britain leaving the European Union.

I've been wondering since yesterday how this leaves the situation. If, say, the Labour Party won a majority vote in June, would they try to withdraw or backtrack on Article 50 (how they would do attempt it, or even if it's actually possible is another question).

And what about other parties? Which party/parties would try to prevent it or reverse Article 50?

I've done some research on the matter, but multiple sources seem to say different things.

  • Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty does not contain a provision for canceling Article 50. So it doesn't actually matter what is promised on this point.
    – AJFaraday
    Apr 20, 2017 at 12:15
  • @AJFaraday But another party could re-apply. Britain still meets most of the criteria for being accepted in, so the Lib Dems, for example, could just do that.
    – David
    Apr 20, 2017 at 13:29
  • @AJFaraday I presume you've already seen, but mostly in case others find this comment chain: the ECJ has ruled the UK can unilaterally cancel Article 50 bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-46481643
    – Jon Story
    Dec 12, 2018 at 15:39
  • 1
    @JonStory I have, although anything I understood about politics a year ago is now a lie.
    – AJFaraday
    Dec 12, 2018 at 15:40

2 Answers 2


The Liberal Democrats has publicly stated that they pledge to keep the UK in the EU.

The Liberal Democrats will stand at the next general election on a platform of derailing Brexit and keeping Britain in the European Union, the party has announced.

Leader Tim Farron said on Saturday night that he would be “clear and unequivocal” with voters that if elected it would set aside the referendum result and keep Britain in the EU.

(emphasis mine)

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-eu-referendum-result-lib-dems-remain-liberal-democrats-live-policy-stay-leave-a7103186.html

However, keep in mind that this was stated by the party in June 2016. Currently, it's unclear if they will still reverse Brexit and keep Britain in the EU, though they have recently mentioned that they would stop a "Hard Brexit" and keep the UK in the EU single market.

If you want to avoid a disastrous Hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the Single Market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.

Source: Liberal Democrats's official site, http://www.libdems.org.uk/general-election-2017-tim-farron

Below summarises the stand each party takes currently and parts are quoted from this article.


  • "Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back. And as we look to the future, the Government has the right plan for negotiating our new relationship with Europe." -- Party Leader and Prime Minister Theresa May

  • Does not support having a second referendum on the deal, but agree to let the Parliament vote on it.


  • "Britain is now leaving the European Union. And Britain can be better off after Brexit. But that’s far from inevitable and it certainly won’t happen with a government that stands by whilst wages and salaries are driven down, industry is hollowed out and public services are cut to the point of breakdown." -- Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn

  • Similar to the stance taken by the Conservative Party, they believe that there should be not be another referendum on the deal, but that parliament should have a vote

Scottish National Party

Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales)

  • "Since the vote in Wales to leave the European Union, Plaid Cymru has prioritised the Welsh national interest. This has primarily meant defending and advancing our economic interests. The Welsh national interest does not correspond with the UK Government’s objectives, which means that Wales must have its own distinct voice in any negotiations" -- Party Leader Leanne Wood

  • Believes that any deal must see Wales retain single market access

Liberal Democrats

  • "If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance." -- Party Leader Tim Farron

  • Believes that Britain’s vote to leave the EU can be reversed by a second referendum


  • "We are in the midst of Brexit negotiations so this election will provide a perfect opportunity for the 52 per cent to vote for Ukip, the only party wholeheartedly committed to a clean, quick and efficient Brexit." -- Party Leader Paul Nutall

  • Believes that the UK doesn't need Article 50 or any negotiations and that the UK should just leave straight away

  • 1
    I believe Green are also opposed to brexit.
    – Tim B
    Apr 19, 2017 at 15:31
  • 2
    In "Does not support having a second referendum on the deal, but agree to let the Parliament vote on it", it is ambiguous between the referendum or the deal. And I think the party's publicly stated policy is deliberately ambiguous on whether the vote will be on deal vs leave without one or accept deal vs reject and abort Brexit. Certainly the minister avoided giving a straight answer to that question in the A50 Bill debates. Apr 19, 2017 at 16:17
  • The current stance of the Liberal Democrats is to put the deal to a new referendum and not to re-run the in/out referendum. libdems.org.uk/referendum-brexit-deal-backed Apr 20, 2017 at 8:38

It would likely depend on the precise result of the election.

Of the major parties only the Liberal Democrats have consistently and officially voiced strong opposition to Brexit in principle. Up to the point where the election was called they have been mostly arguing for softening the terms of Brexit. It is fairly unlikely from current polling that the Lib Dems would win an outright majority but if they did there is a good chance that they would see it as a mandate to reverse the process (if that is even possible now) as this seems to be the central platform which they are campaigning on.

It is more likely that they would end up as power brokers in a potential coalition (again) in which case they might well make having a second referendum a condition.

The Labour party at least officially was opposed to Brexit in the referendum campaign but their actual campaign sent rather mixed messages and this has certainly been a point of tension between the leadership and parliamentary party. Subsequent to the referendum they seem to have regarded it as a done deal and have tended to support the government on the issue overall eg the leadership supported the vote to trigger article 50.

Also the Labour party is in a bit of trouble at the moment, polling very badly indeed and has a fundamental internal rift and it seems that a pro-Brexit line is likely to play better with their target electorate plus the leadership seems fairly ambivalent on the issue.

Although it is not terribly clear what the actual mechanics of the policy of a potential Labour government would be (ie they have a lot of ideas on what they want to achieve but not how to achieve it) it seems likely that they would adopt a much more interventionist approach. For example on housing their ideological position suggests that they would try to build a lot of new council housing. They may feel that it will be easier to do outside the EU, this would certainly be the case if they decided they wanted to subsidise industry.

Oddly UKIP are a bit of an unknown quantity, given that the conservative party is now firmly on a pro-Brexit course 'independence' is no longer a unique selling point for them and their new leadership doesn't have the same high profile that Farage achieved. Having said that they could potentially take away socially conservative Labour voters.

The SNP are firmly pro-EU but this is tempered by the fact that they might see Brexit as a way to leverage Scottish Independence.

It is also not entirely beyond the realms of possibility that Labour MPs could defect to the Lib Dems en mass or stand as independents on an anti-Brexit platform.

In terms of the strategy behind calling the election it seems likely that the Conservative leadership has two main motivations. Firstly that they see this as an opportunity to increase their majority at the expense of Labour and UKIP both of which are now in rather awkward positions and secondly that the current leadership has inherited a bit of an awkward position themselves in that they are committed to a process which is both diplomatically and politically potentially very difficult and dangerous and if it all goes horribly wrong they are really out on a limb so if they get a fresh mandate they can at least blame the voters.

There is also a bit of a suspicion that, although leaving the EU made a really good political rallying cry, very few mainstream politicians really wanted it to happen as nobody really knows what the consequences will be and politicians are naturally averse to real world consequences which can be directly attributed to their actions.

Here Labour may feel that they have a bit of a cushion in that they didn't start the process and can always claim later that it was out of their hands or if it is obviously going to be a disaster they can put the brakes on and say that they were opposed to it all along.

The Lib Dems have little to loose on the issue and a lot to gain as getting the anti-Brexit camp to break party lines and vote for them would be a big win. Indeed this has already happened to some extent. So it seems like their best position is to campaign on a firm Brexit-sceptic platform and stick to it which is basically win/win for them as they either lose and have to do nothing or win and have a mandate to do what they want.

  • 1
    "they see this as an opportunity to increase their majority at the expense of Labour and UKIP" - UKIP currently have no MPs (they had one after the 2015 election, but he resigned from the party last month), so there's no way the Conservatives can increase their majority at their expense.
    – JBentley
    Apr 19, 2017 at 14:11
  • I meant in terms of share of the vote. While UKIP has few/no MPs it is not unreasonable to say that they have taken votes away from the Conservative party in recent years and potential UKIP voters are seen by many as key in some marginal constituencies especially in 'working class' areas where many voters are socially to the right and economically to the left. Equally there is a reasonable argument that teh rise of UKIP in terms of vote share was a major factor in precipitating this whole situation in the first place. Apr 19, 2017 at 14:34

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