Liberal Democrats could demand Brexit vote as part of agreement with Labour

The Liberal Democrats may seek a referendum on the UK’s application to rejoin the EU as a condition for establishing a coalition with Labour following the next general election.

Insiders in Westminster have speculated on what Sir Ed Davey’s “red lines” would be in future negotiations with Labour should Sir Keir Starmer’s party win the most seats but fall short of an outright majority when the UK goes to the polls again.

In exchange for its backing on important votes in Parliament or as a junior partner in a formal coalition, the firmly pro-EU party might try to persuade Labour to agree to another national referendum on the UK’s relationship with the 27-nation union.

After an analysis of England’s local election results revealed Labour would not gain enough MPs for an overall majority, speculation over what such an agreement may look like grew. 

While the Lib Dems have ruled out any kind of formal or informal alliance with the Conservatives following the next general election, they remain open to a deal with Labour.

Electoral reform, specifically the replacement of the current first-past-the-post voting system with proportional representation (PR), is likely to be a primary goal for the Lib Dems in any post-election negotiations. 

Sir Ed affirmed this when asked by the BBC what his priorities would be in any such talks with Labour.

A shift to PR is already popular among rank and file Labour members, who voted in favour of the policy at last year’s party conference – but MPs are expected to be much more reluctant to the change. According to the Telegraph, Sir Ed might potentially use his influence to obtain promises from Labour on Brexit.

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In the run-up to the 2019 election, the fourth largest party in Parliament campaigned vehemently for a second referendum, but dropped the demand after the Conservatives won a landslide victory. Both the Lib Dems and Labour seek tighter links with the EU, but the former wants to go even farther by eventually rejoining the Single Market, which the latter has ruled out.

Longer term, the Lib Dems’ website states that “rejoining the EU” is the party’s ultimate goal.