General election 2017: Where UK's parties stand on Brexit

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UK and EU flagsImage source, AFP/Getty

Brexit is a major issue at the UK general election - here's what we know about where the main parties across the UK stand.

The Conservatives

In short: Prime Minister Theresa May was against Brexit before the EU referendum but now says there can be no turning back and that "Brexit means Brexit". The reason she gave for calling a general election was to strengthen her hand in negotiations with the EU.

How the party sees Brexit: The Conservatives' priorities were set out in a 12 point plan published in January and the letter formally invoking Brexit in March.

Key elements include:

  • No longer being bound by EU law and European Court of Justice rulings
  • Quitting the EU single market and seeking a "comprehensive" free trade deal in its place
  • Striking trade deals with other countries around the world
  • A "great repeal bill" to convert existing EU law into UK legislation to be retained or scrapped
  • Being prepared to walk away from talks: "No deal is better than a bad deal."
  • Aiming for an "early agreement" to resolve the status of expats in the UK and EU
  • Leaving the EU customs union and seeking a new customs agreement
  • An as-yet unspecified immigration system to replace the free movement of EU citizens, aiming to bring total net migration below 100,000
  • Keeping all employment rights currently guaranteed by EU law
  • Promising the "voices and interests" of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be heard

What we don't know: The Conservatives have not said how they will control migration from the EU after Brexit. They have also not committed to the size of any separation payment they would accept, beyond saying the UK would meet its international obligations.

They have not specified which matters returning from Brussels will be handed to devolved administrations and which will be kept at Westminster.

Negotiating style: Mrs May has talked tough towards the EU in recent weeks, claiming some key figures were trying to interfere in the general election and promising to be a "bloody difficult woman" during negotiations.

Where the MPs stand: More Tory MPs backed Remain than Leave in last year's referendum - but they now strongly support the UK leaving - in February, only one voted against the government beginning Brexit by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
All but one Tory MPs supported Theresa May in invoking Brexit

Risks and rewards: Theresa May would use an election victory to say the country is uniting around her approach to Brexit, and has moved on from the divisions of the referendum campaign. But her uncompromising approach to leaving could upset some of the 48% who wanted to stay in, with the Lib Dems hoping to capitalise in areas - like London's Richmond Park in last year's by-election - that backed Remain.

Labour Party

In short: The Labour Party campaigned against Brexit in the referendum but now says the result must be honoured, and is aiming for a "close new relationship with the EU" with workers' rights protected.

How the party sees Brexit: Labour has set out several demands and tests it says Brexit must meet:

  • Protecting all existing workers' rights, consumer rights and environmental protections
  • Aiming for "tariff-free access" to the EU single market, while accepting "unchanged access" is impossible
  • Leaving the option of the customs union on the table
  • Refusing to accept a "no deal" scenario
  • No second referendum on the final deal - but giving MPs a decisive say on what happens next
  • Guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals living and working in the UK to stay in the country from "day one"
  • No target numbers for migration levels
  • Remaining in EU schemes like Erasmus and the 80bn euro (£69bn) Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
  • Protecting EU structural funding for the rest of the Parliament
  • A "presumption of devolution" whereby devolved powers transferred from Brussels will automatically go to devolved nations and regions

What we don't know: Like the Conservatives, Labour has yet to spell out how it will manage migration after Brexit, and has not been drawn on the size of "divorce bill" it would be willing to pay.

Negotiating style: Jeremy Corbyn says he is aiming for "sensible and serious negotiations" and will not be "threatening Europe".

Where the MPs stand: The vast majority of Labour MPs backed Remain ahead of the referendum - but most followed party orders to allow Article 50 to be invoked in February's vote.

Risks and rewards: Labour is hoping its acceptance of the result will fend off attacks from the Tories and UKIP in Leave-backing areas - including Stoke Central where it won February's by-election. But there are divisions among MPs on the best way forward, and Labour faces the challenge of having to appeal to both sides of a polarising debate.

Liberal Democrats

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Lib Dems hope a pro-EU stance will help them repeat their Richmond Park success

In short: The Liberal Democrats are strongly pro-EU, and have promised to stop what they call a "disastrous hard Brexit".

How they see Brexit: Central to the Lib Dems' offer is another referendum - this time on the terms of the final Brexit deal - in which the party would campaign to stay in the EU.

The Lib Dems also say they will fight with "every fibre of their being" to protect existing aspects of EU membership, such as the single market, customs union and the free movement of people.

They would guarantee EU citizens' rights and remain in Europe-wide schemes like Erasmus.

Where the MPs stand: All of the Lib Dem MPs backed staying in the EU, and seven out of nine opposed triggering Article 50, with two abstaining.

Risks and rewards: The Lib Dems are hoping their pro-EU pitch will help them gather voters in pro-Remain areas, as when they captured Richmond Park in London in December's by-election. But according to estimates based on the referendum results, two of their sitting MPs represent areas that backed Leave last June - which might make the party's second referendum policy a tough sell on the doorstep.


In short: SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon wants Scotland to have a special status after Brexit and for a second independence referendum to take place before the UK leaves.

How they see Brexit: The SNP's manifesto says it will demand a place for the Scottish government at the Brexit negotiating table.

It says it will fight to keep Scotland in the EU single market. The SNP says it will also press the UK government to guarantee the status of NHS workers from mainland Europe, and oppose any attempt to treat the fishing industry as a "bargaining chip".

Once negotiations are complete, and before the UK has left, the SNP wants a referendum on Scottish independence to take place.

Where the MPs stand: The SNP's 54 MPs voted en masse against triggering Article 50 and are expected to maintain their vocal opposition to Brexit in the next Parliament.

Risks and rewards: The SNP will hope to harness Scotland's support for remaining in the EU (it voted Remain by 62% to 38%). But a significant minority of its supporters are thought to have backed Leave - while the Tories are said to be targeting the Moray seat of SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, where Remain only narrowly saw off the Leave campaign in the EU referendum.


Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
UKIP says it will ensure the government does not "backslide" on Brexit

In short: UKIP has long campaigned to leave the EU - and having finished on the winning side in the referendum, is now styling itself as the "guard dog of Brexit".

How they see Brexit: The party has set six "key tests" for Brexit: Supremacy of Parliament, full control of migration, a "maritime exclusive economic zone" around the UK's coastline, a seat on the World Trade Organisation, no "divorce" payment to the EU and for Brexit to be "done and dusted" by the end of 2019.

The Green Party

Green Party of England and Wales joint leader Caroline Lucas has called for a second EU referendum on the Brexit deal reached with Brussels, and the Greens have promised "full opposition" to what they call "extreme Brexit".

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru, which campaigned to stay in the EU, says it accepts that the people of Wales voted to leave, but says single market membership should be preserved to protect Welsh jobs.

Democratic Unionist Party

The DUP campaigned in favour of leaving the EU - and, in its manifesto for this year's Assembly elections, said it wanted to see a "positive" relationship with the rest of Europe, involving "mutual access to our markets to pursue common interests".


Having campaigned to stay in the EU, the SDLP's MPs have opposed the invoking of Article 50, saying it is being done "against the will of people in Northern Ireland", where most people voted to Remain in the EU.

Ulster Unionist

Before the referendum, the Ulster Unionist party said that on balance, it was better for Northern Ireland to stay in the EU - although not all its members agreed. It says it would honour the referendum result, and wants "unfettered" access to the single market and no hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein has accused the Conservative government of "seeking to impose Brexit on Ireland". It wants Northern Ireland to have a "designated special status" inside the EU.