Brexit: Vince writes to Theresa…

With the Brexit cliff edge ever closer, attempts to rescue something continue to multiply. And today, Vince Cable has written to the Prime Minister with his suggestion for next steps…

Dear Prime Minister,


Now that the talks between yourself and the Leader of the Opposition about some form of “Soft Brexit” have stalled, I write to suggest an alternative way forward.

While media sources have written up last week’s indicative vote exercise as inconclusive, there is one clear conclusion which can be drawn. There are up to 280 votes in support of a confirmatory referendum, which could be combined with those who support the Withdrawal Agreement, to produce a majority.

While this outcome is far from what you wanted to achieve on returning from Brussels in November, it is surely closer than any other alternative. A withdrawal agreement which has been declared “dead” could be resuscitated at the last moment, and would have some chance of being endorsed by the public.

You have repeatedly said you do not want to see European elections held on 23 May. Nonetheless their going ahead now seems to be inevitable as the price of the long extension which is now necessary, whether you concede a referendum or not. The elections themselves will surely be far less poisonous if the present impasse has been resolved and a Meaningful Vote has succeeded in the House of Commons.

Mr Speaker has made clear that Meaningful Vote 4 must be on a substantively different proposition. Appending a confirmatory referendum to the motion would indisputably meet that test and enable the process to move forward.

As long as such a confirmatory referendum can include an option to remain, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will support it and we know we would be joined by a great many others across the House. Providing Jeremy Corbyn sticks to his party policy, you could achieve a majority akin to that which obtained for triggering Article 50.

I suggest that a group is convened led by you, with all the opposition leaders in support of a confirmatory referendum, to agree on how to secure a majority for Meaningful Vote 4. We can then send a clear signal to Brussels that the United Kingdom has a plan for progress.


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  • Katharine Pindar 8th Apr '19 - 12:44pm

    Admirable leadership. Let us hope that Mrs May is desperate enough to consent to this rational plan.

  • David frost 8th Apr '19 - 1:24pm

    At last a point of view which should be listened to .foe gods sake listen .we are an international joke.

  • marcstevens 8th Apr '19 - 1:27pm

    Sensible advice from Vince again to break the impasse.

  • David Frost 8th Apr '19 - 1:29pm

    At last a sensible suggestion.please listen we are the laughingstock of Europe

  • William Fowler 8th Apr '19 - 2:17pm

    200 Tory MP’s and a third of the populace would prefer no-deal to May’s deal, therefore having been rejected by parliament the second referendum should be no-deal versus remain… Mrs May would then end up a laughing stock and be replaced by Boris, might even get Farage joining the Conservatives and taking Mrs May’s seat… then Corbyn would have to decide which side he was on, might even get rid of him as well if he goes against the vast swathe of party members who want to remain. Have a fantastic battle again for six months, with a binding vote, although in the context of a 21 month extension from the EU so there would be 15 months to sort things out if no-deal actually won. Final exit date would be the same as May’s deal plus interim period that was supposed to work out the trade terms. All good fun.

  • Party policy (ignoring that revoking article 50 is a crucial component of party policy) is for a referendum *on the deal*. To claim it is just for a referendum is deeply misleading from Vince: if we get close to no deal, we do not want a referendum on it. No deal is not a viable option and should be nowhere near the table, and should never be countenanced by our MPs.

  • David Evans 8th Apr '19 - 2:30pm

    Or Cable having to make a decision based on changing circumstances rather than stick to a conference-agreed policy which was more akin to virtue signalling than a mechanism likely to achieve anything other than failure? Take your pick.

  • Philip Hammond has already said those calling for a vote on any EU deal were pushing “a perfectly credible proposition” that “deserves to be tested in Parliament” and got told to ‘shut up’ by No. 10 and Andrea Leadsom.
    Any idea that ‘writing a stiff letter will fare any better is fantasy politics; Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer can’t even get Theresa May to consider a CU, let alone anything more.

  • Paul Barker 8th Apr '19 - 3:19pm

    Like a lot of people, I was caught up in the wave of excitement when the Revoke A50 petition took off & people were signing at a rate of 2,000 every minute but it didnt last. Its unlikely the total would ever have reached 6 Million without a campaign to get it over that magic number. Of course most Libdems would prefer to just stop Brexit dead but while there is a large minority in favour its not something we can build alliances around, at least not yet.
    Arguably the Conference decision no longer applies because we are no longer within 7 Days of the Leave date. In fact the Leave date seems to recede endlessly.
    Who knows if May is desperate enough to consider Vinces offer but its worth a try surely ?

  • @Paul Barker – the default leave date is now April 12th, so we certainly are within 7 days.

  • Andrew McCaig 8th Apr '19 - 4:44pm

    There is no mention of “no deal” in Vince’s letter, so I don’t know why people are going on about it here. It is only about the case of linking a referendum to Theresa’s deal.

    However my understanding that Revoke was only the conference policy as an alternative to crashing out with no deal. If a referendum linked to a no deal exit were on the agenda I would very much expect the Lib Dems to support it. Remain ultras are just as bad as Brexit ultras.
    Also, be careful what you wish for. I was talking to one of our members who has many contacts in the Tory Party. He said that arch brexiteers would prefer Revoke to a soft Brexit, provided it was “owned” by Theresa and opposition parties. Theresa revokes and resigns as Leader. Boris or whoever takes over and calls a General Election. 44% will win that on a platform of immediate withdrawal, no more referenda, maybe no article 50 even. That would be much easier than winning a referendum for no deal…

  • Arnold Kiel 8th Apr '19 - 8:28pm

    This is a good letter, but he must write another, more important one:

    Dear Mr. Corbyn,

    it seems, you are about to make a long-held ERG-dream come true: irreversibly leave the EU based on a deceitful, mendacious campaign in 2016, a con you fail to see to this day. You will keep the Tories in power until your name will be a distant memory of a deprived majority you failed to crystallise when you had the unique opportunity in 2019. Instead, it seems you will help this Tory PM (and her worse successor) over an otherwise insurmountable hurdle.

    This will stabilise a conservative Government until 2022, when the abused and betrayed people of this country will wonder why vote Labour, the midwifes of their predicament. It will be clear by then that you have run your course, and your post-Brexit promises will sound hollow in light of the economic circumstances and the dire state of public finances.

    Brexit has lost its public majority already. Be honest: you are riding a Lexit hobby horse which does not exist, and will deeply disappoint your remaining (and shrinking) faithful followers. After 30 years you have suddenly become party-leader to the surprise of everyone. If you are not surprised, think again. This is not an encouragement to stick to your 30 years old convictions. If you want to live up to the situation, be better than May: listen.

    80% of your PLP and your membership are unlikely to be totally wrong: they want to revisit Brexit, as the real one on offer is miles away from the fantasies (including yours) promoted in 2016. Move on, and show us that you are a worthy 21st century leader.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Apr '19 - 12:36am

    A good attempt at progress from Sir Vince, met with the usual on this matter of moderate and sensible vs obdurate and fanatical…

  • Arnold Kiel 8th Apr ’19 – 8:28pm…………..This is a good letter, but he must write another, more important one:…….. Mr. Corbyn, 80% of your PLP and your membership are unlikely to be totally wrong: they want to revisit Brexit, as the real one on offer is miles away from the fantasies (including yours) promoted in 2016. Move on, and show us that you are a worthy 21st century leader……………..

    So, in 2016, Corbyn’s 7/10 for remaining was a ‘fantasy’; my god!

    Corbyn has whipped his MPs to support a CU, CM2.0 and a confirmatory referendum; perhaps, instead of writing your fantasies, you might stick to facts.

    BTW, I attended a Corbyn led meeting prior to the 2016 referendum and he came out strongly for remaining. He stressed the advantages for employee rights in the EU rules but also talked about the need for EU reform; so, so different than the ‘about same in 10 years as now’ than a forgotten leader.

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