Don’t get too excited about tonight’s votes…

So, it was quite surprising that MPs backed the stronger No Deal amendment, especially after one of its Tory proposers bowed to the pressure of the whips and tried to pull it.

But John Bercow, who gives zero hoots when it comes to preserving the rights of the House against the Executive, refused to allow her to withdraw it.

The rebel majority was just 4.

It was certainly a dramatic moment and yet another key defeat for Theresa May.

But I wouldn’t get too excited about it.

In fact, while we may be closer than ever to a People’s Vote, the balance might tip in favour of May’s deal as the ERG realises that a backstop is better than a step back from Brexit.

And tonight’s vote wasn’t binding. The actual law of the land says that we leave on 29th March unless that changes. We can see sunshine through the trees but we have to get past a few wolves before we are safe.

Tomorrow’s vote is still only a part of what needs to happen.

So it’s a dangerous moment.

To be honest, I think if MPs straight-up revoked Article 50, most people would just be relieved. And by most people, I’m thinking maybe three quarters. There would be a few idiots who would cause some trouble but since when did we pander to right wing extremism?

There is a certain symmetry about the People’s Vote. It means that It always strikes me as ridiculous when Brexiteers say it’s anti-democratic. Surely giving the people a vote is the essence of democracy?

Anyway, unsurprisingly, Vince called for a People’s Vote

It has been obvious for months that there is a clear majority in the Commons against leaving the European Union without a deal.  Doing so would be deeply irresponsible, and would junk all the false promises made to Leave voters about a smooth, seamless exit.

But Parliament cannot keep fiddling while British credibility burns. MPs across the House must face up to the real choice:  leaving with the Withdrawal Agreement or retaining all the benefits of staying in the European Union as full members.

Since only the public can make that choice, the Prime Minister could now rescue her authority, and give purpose to tomorrow’s proposal to extend Article 50, by calling a People’s Vote, with the option to stay in the EU.

This has a long way to go. Don’t be complacent. We could still end up leaving with May’s awful deal.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Mar '19 - 10:34pm

    @ Caron,

    It may be that the only way out of this political morass is, reluctantly, another referendum.

    However, I find it rather ingenuous to believe that the general public are more able to weigh up the evidence than our elected politicians.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Mar '19 - 10:47pm


  • Peter Watson 13th Mar '19 - 10:56pm

    At times like this I’m grateful for our first-past-the-post electoral system because it allows me to look at our MPs knowing that I didn’t vote for any of that useless shower! 🙂

  • David Becket 13th Mar '19 - 11:00pm

    At the moment I cannot see any move towards a peoples vote. We may talk about it but that will not make it happen.
    The EU will not agree to extend Article 50, unless there is a reason. This is one possible opening for a peoples vote, as is a proposal to agree May’s deal if backed by a peoples vote. What is our leadership doing to make either of these happen? The other options must be leave without a deal or revoke Article 50, is our leadership working on that latter option? The only message I have received from our leadership, twice in two days, is a request for money th make aa peoples vote happen. I fail to see how more money will convince more MPs. What I am looking for is inspirational messages, and none of the three main parties are providing that.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Mar '19 - 11:09pm

    @ Peter Watson,
    Maybe so, but the ‘leavers’ wanted our parliament to take back control. And this is it.

  • Peter Watson 13th Mar '19 - 11:41pm

    @David Becket “At the moment I cannot see any move towards a peoples vote.”
    Britain Elects reported a YouGov survey yesterday:

    If a Brexit deal cannot be agreed…

    UK’s leaving date should be delayed so as to negotiate more with the EU: 17%
    No delay, UK should leave without a deal: 37%
    A new referendum should be held: 33%
    Don’t know: 12%

    There doesn’t appear to be any momentum towards another referendum, but no particular outcome seems any more likely than another at the moment.

  • We need to remain focused on the PeoplesVote. There are people on here who have said since the beginning that we are wasting our time, but when we started campaigning for it (and we were the first) there were around 9 MPs publicly committed to it. Today there are over 150, and a sizeable number of others who are not yet on board but are persuadable. Politics is very febrile at the moment; people are changing their minds. We can get a PV, but we all have to re-double our efforts. Write to your MP, go on the big PV March on 23rd, hold a street-stall in your town.
    OK we may not win, but if brexit happens and the result is chaos and a crashing economy, don’t you want to say you tried? I’ll be honest, I want a PV to reverse Brexit because I think its the right thing to do. But I also want it for political reasons: if we fail, and people start to come to terms with the disaster of brexit, at least we will be able to tell them on the doorsteps that we tried to stop it – unlike the Tories and Labour. Isn’t that a better conversation to have than talking about the coalition?

  • So we have “won” a vote which has no legal force and cannot stop no-deal Brexit: the most that can be said for it is that it will cap the eventual no-deal exit (which everyone says cannot happen but which no one will do anything to stop) with a crown of bitter irony.

    The Liberal Democrats should not be calling for a “People’s Vote” at this late date. We should be calling for immediate and unconditional revocation of Article 50.

  • Joseph Bourke 14th Mar '19 - 1:05am

    Michael BG,

    I presume your comment is posted in the wrong thread, so I will not clog this up by responding other than to note that there is virtually nothing in your comment that accurately represents the views I have outlined elsewhere.

    I would endorse Caron’s conclusion in her article “This has a long way to go. Don’t be complacent. We could still end up leaving with May’s awful deal.”

    The single biggest boost to business confidence and consumer demand that can be achieved will be the delivered by ending the uncertainty around our trading relationships with the European Union. That can only be achieved by putting the issue back to the people. Much damage has already been done as a result of the ongoing uncertainty. Businesses have taken decisions to relocate assets and cancel planned investments, which are unlikely to reversed even if a deal is reached. That will take some time to recover from whatever happens from this point.

    No amount of fiscal stumulus will compensate for the fall in living standards that a no deal Brexit will bring about

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Mar '19 - 7:10am

    @ David-1

    I totally agree.

    The unwise referendum has failed to achieve anything positive, as various politicians have tried to square a circle of mutually contradicting aims. It hasn’t even managed to achieve its primary aim of uniting the Conservative party.

    Another referendum will be a waste of time when the general public remain as divided as the politicians who represent them. I doubt it will solve anything.

  • Peter Watson 14th Mar '19 - 7:43am

    @David-1 “The Liberal Democrats should not be calling for a “People’s Vote” at this late date. We should be calling for immediate and unconditional revocation of Article 50.”
    @TonyH “We need to remain focused on the PeoplesVote.”
    I think the Lib Dem approach to campaigning for another referendum has been fundamentally flawed from the start. In particular, it is treated as a surrogate for remaining in the EU (with the obvious drawback that it could instead deliver another Brexit victory!) and prioritising it distracts from the core message of wanting to remain in the EU.

  • I think, on balance, we should revoke Article 50. After all, the Lib Dems support for a second referendum has been to achieve the same aim. However, any party supporting that has to identify the reasons that people voted to Leave and reach out to them with policies that address those reasons. I am excepting those who voted Leave because of racism, but in my view, they were a minority. The majority voted Leave for a range of reasons and saying that we need to stay in because It’s good for us is not going to cut it for many of those. As I’ve said before, insulting them doesn’t help either

  • John Marriott 14th Mar '19 - 8:36am

    Two things amaze me. Firstly that anyone with any concept of how the average Brit views politics and politicians (both actual and aspiring for that matter) thinks that immediately revoking Article 50 makes sense and secondly that over a third of Brits surveyed want to leave the EU without a deal. Both events have the distinct potential to unleash the kind of civil and economic mayhem that we haven’t seen in my lifetime – and I include WW2.

    As has been said, the momentum (sorry about the word) towards another Referendum is hardly massive, according to the survey quoted in this thread. At just before 8pm last night another piece of the jigsaw fell into place and there’s a good chance that another will do so this evening. The next few pieces might be more difficult to place, namely getting all member states of the EU to agree to an extension of Article 50 and then to find a way that Parliament can agree to an alternative to May’s deal, which would be agreeable to the EU and MIGHT just need ratifying by another Referendum, where, as I have said before, voters could rank in order of preference The Deal, No Deal and Remain.

  • Alex Macfie 14th Mar '19 - 9:04am

    John Marriott: A no-deal Brexit would certainly cause civil and economic mayhem, due to the shortages and economic turmoil that would inevitably result. But revoking Article 50? I doubt it. The worst thing that’ll happen will be a few far-right rabble-rousers will try to whip up mayhem, but as their previous attempts to stoke up tension have largely failed, there is no reason to suppose they’d be successful this time. And anyway, in a country based on democracy and the rule of law, we should not be making policy based on what violent extremists might do.

  • Peter Martin 14th Mar '19 - 9:05am

    It means that It always strikes me as ridiculous when Brexiteers say it’s anti-democratic. Surely giving the people a vote is the essence of democracy?

    Possibly. But there’s been plenty of time that Remainers too have argued against so -called People’s Votes. The EU, and its supporters, have a reputation for only asking the people if they have to. Then if the people get it wrong, the ‘wrong’ decusion isn’t implemented and they are asked again until they get it ‘right’. They’ll never be asked again once they do get it ‘right’. That can’t be the basis of good democracy.

    And what will the question on the ballot paper be? Between May’s deal and Remain? Betweeen something really bad and something worse? That’s not going to solve anything as the Leave side will simply boycott the vote.

    @ Jayne Mansfield

    “…….but the ‘leavers’ wanted our parliament to take back control. And this is it.”

    No it isn’t. Taking control isn’t handing it back to the EU.

    A Parliament lasts for no more than 5 years. It can do anything in that time period except try to bind its successors.

  • The wording of the amendment: on the face of things you would expect it to pass BUT it says “should not take place, it does not say ” under any circumstances”. It does not actually close the matter off, but of course sends a fairly clear message, especially to us. Could be the end of the road. Debate. March on 23rd!

    “At the end add … ‘and believes that the result of the 2016 referendum should be respected and that a second EU referendum would be divisive and expensive, and therefore should not take place”

  • I was listening to Farage explaining that he was ready to fight the European elections, if the U.K. is still in the EU, and he has also explained his preparations in case of a referendum, or a General Election.
    I hope that others are equally prepared.

  • Graham Jeffs 14th Mar '19 - 9:18am

    It’s very difficult to assess what the “average Brit” wants. We are where we are because over decades there has been a constant drip drip in the media and in drama to blame almost any ill and any regulation on ‘Europe’.

    By the time of the referendum to save the Tory Party, nearly everyone had a criticism or a gripe about the EU – real or imagined. For many, a single gripe was enough to justify a Leave vote irrespective of the possibility that there were many more facets of EU membership that were advantageous to them and the country. I doubt that this attitude has changed significantly, albeit there could be a different result from another referendum. The mistake that has been made throughout this miserable episode in our history is to believe that there is some wider logic to the way both the electorate and MPs react. I see little evidence of that – in general all we are seeing is manoeuvring for purely party political advantage without any real concern for the country.

    My take on how many people are feeling now is that it’s like tooth ache. They simply want it to stop. In that sense revoking Article 50 is now no longer unacceptable to them, nor is leaving on any terms that might be on the table.

  • Having read most of the ‘Chaos’, @Meltdown’ headlines am I the only one who believes that May may well be exactly where she wants to be?
    Her original ‘Chequer’s’ plan was a non-starter; since then she has consistently “run down the clock”. She has made umpteen trips to the EU, postponed votes, and lost two votes on her withdrawal agreement, etc. and yet she is still standing.
    With two weeks to go there are still, unless the EU agrees to a vague extension, only two options on the table; ‘her deal’ or ‘no deal’. First loss by 230 votes; second loss by 149, but, with days to go what will parliament do? In a choice between “A bad deal or no deal”; Hmmmm?
    Perhaps May had it right all along and it was just, as Eric Morecambe might have said, “All the right words but in the wrong order”

  • Simon Hebditch 14th Mar '19 - 9:45am

    Can anyone tell me what the point of Parliament now is? Theresa May simply ignores Parliamentary votes if she doesn’t agree with them. The next big demonstration against Brexit is on 23 March. I hope the organisers are planning a programme of direct action rather than simply a vague walk through London. If we have 500,000 + people there then a number of sites could be blockaded similar to the previous actions by Extinction/Rebellion.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Mar '19 - 10:56am

    Don’t get too excited about tonight’s votes, because there was also a statement from the Chancellor. He was not intending to announce spending decisions, but he did make one exception. He has agreed with the PM that £100 million should be made available urgently for police action against knife crime. The money already allocated is being used by police and crime commissioners and police chiefs for recruitment and training. The Home Secretary will work with local forces on priorities, etcetera (which means that the money is ring-fenced and police force independence is affected to a degree.)
    A former minister asked about Wales. The Chancellor said England. Advice from behind him was “England and Wales” so the Chancellor apologised. He was later asked about Scotland and replied that Scotland would get more money because of the Barnett Formula. (Not his haircut).
    Vince Cable commented, briefly but positively, about low interest rates etc. and was abused as a pessimist.

    In advance of the subsequent debate he said he would vote ‘against no deal.’

  • expats is correct. What is happening is exactly what Olly Robbins was overheard saying would happen.

  • @Peter Martin, @ Jayne Mansfield
    “…….but the ‘leavers’ wanted our parliament to take back control. And this is it.”
    No it isn’t. Taking control isn’t handing it back to the EU.

    What the leavers wanted isn’t deliverable, in the real world. The current problems neatly demonstrate that most of the problems with the UK-EU relationship originate in Westminster. Thus until we can have a functional (and mature) Westminster, leaving the EU all because a bunch of (ERG) nutters want it, seems an act of collective madness.
    Hopefully, Parliament (rather than the Executive) get their act together and stand up to the nutters and overthrow the Monarch/Executive – finishing what Cromwell started?

    Remember, and I have no reason to doubt him, Rees-Mogg thinks it could be at least 50 years before we see the benefits of Brexit (ie. we are better off than we are now), perhaps you can understand why he refuses to publish the ERP Brexit plan…

  • “…since when did we pander to right wing extremism?”

    Well we may not have pandered to right wing extremism, but all parties in the UK are to blame for pandering to anti-European elements ever since the referendum in 1975 was won with a 2/3 majority!
    A policy of “don’t frighten the horses” was applied every time there was a move to the ever closer union of the peoples of Europe that the Treaty of Rome envisaged.

    Sadly even Lib Dems were not immune to this, seeking to obscure the party’s long standing commitment to the EU behind promises of referendums more than once.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Mar '19 - 11:20am

    Don’t get too excited about tonight’s votes although they may be unprecedented.
    The PM had promised a free vote, but tabled a motion in her name which was allegedly ambiguous. Let us not mince words: It read as if everyone around the table had insisted that their particular hobby-horse must be included.
    It was amendable. The Speaker chose amendments A & F for debate. Tory whips put on some 3-line whips, to loud protests. Caroline Spelman MP said that she would not move the Spelman-Dromey amendment. Keir Starmer said Labour would press it.
    Tom Brake made a point of order about MPs declaring their interests, aimed at MPs who might be short-selling the pound, or other financial interests. The £ rose.
    The house divided on whether amendment A should be voted on. There was then a vote on Amendment A. In my view this clarifies the PM’s ambiguous motion, but the BBC view was that it strengthened it.
    Dr Fox is normally calm and self-controlled, but became very excitable as he wound up for the government. He is a former defence minister, but if there is a reshuffle soon this behaviour should be considered.

  • Malcolm Todd 14th Mar '19 - 11:52am

    Peter Martin 14th Mar ’19 – 9:05am
    “The EU, and its supporters, have a reputation for only asking the people if they have to. Then if the people get it wrong, the ‘wrong’ decusion isn’t implemented and they are asked again until they get it ‘right’. They’ll never be asked again once they do get it ‘right’.”
    That’s not the first time you’ve repeated that lie about European referendums on this site. Let me have another go at setting the record straight. (Source: Wikipedia.)
    Norway, 1972: decision to join the EEC rejected by voters – application withdrawn and question allowed to rest for over 20 years
    Greenland, 1982: voted to leave the EC and did so in 1985 (despite, bizarrely, remaining sort of part of Denmark – like the Channel Islands, I suppose, which I don’t think are part of the EU).
    Norway, 1994: again, an attempt to join was rejected by Norway’s voters – 25 years later, no further vote has been called.
    Denmark, 2000: voted against joining the euro – they’re still not in the euro
    Sweden, 2000: voted against joining the euro – they’re still not in the euro

    And as for, ‘never be asked again once they do get it “right”’ – isn’t that exactly what happened here in 2016?

    Please, can we have discussion on this site about the issues without repetition of lazy myths?

  • Ray Atkins. Yes, but like last nights vote, it won’t be binding. It also depends on whether the speaker accepts it.
    Of course, if it were passed, then revoking article 50 becomes the logical option, if our MPs have the cojones to speak up for Britain.

  • So no deal has been agreed, but MP’s have voted against no-deal. That just such a total logical fallacy fail that I am close to hitting my head on the desk. The only way to avoid not having a deal, is to agree a deal.

  • Malcolm Todd 14th Mar '19 - 12:32pm

    “The only way to avoid not having a deal, is to agree a deal.”

    Well put! But of course, there’s an elision of ideas going on: when we talk about “no deal” we don’t really just mean the absence of a deal; we mean “leaving the EU without a deal on the (immediate) future relationship” – so there is another way to avoid that; which is to not leave. Brings its own problems, for sure.

  • Malcom Todd
    Britain joined the EU without it being put to voters. Norway did and it was rejected by voters. So let’s refine what Peter said by suggesting that British supporters of the pan European political project don’t like to ask people. Hence the wailing of EU supporting politicians , their foot dragging and cries of foul ever since the referendum.
    The actual EU is a compromised expensive white elephant committed to the vague notion of “ever closer union” that virtually no national electorate wants. It’s parliament is basically a corporate lobbying centre, it’s elections generate a frenzy of voter apathy, It’s single currency is a disaster for its Southern member states, and it issues political edicts it can’t enforce. In short it is an utter waste of time. Plus its British supporters can’t convince many people that their vision is a positive one and so have pretty much settled on “leaving is too complicated, our opponents are beastly and anyway the sky might fall”.

  • Malcolm Todd 14th Mar '19 - 1:16pm

    That’s not refining what Peter said, so much as saying something completely different!

    Most of what you say about the EU in your second paragraph is at least somewhat true, though painted in rather primary colours. Much the same, of course, could be said about the UK and its parliament. (In particular, the House of Commons is proving very fond of issuing “political edicts it can’t enforce” at the moment…)

    As for referendums – let’s not act like they’re a normal and essential part of this country’s constitution or democracies generally. They’re a tool which goes in and out of fashion, much like the divine right of kings and emperors – neither had any place in British politics between the 17th century and 1975.

    Funny thing – one of the chief reasons that the Gang of Four left Labour in 1981 was because that party had at the time adopted a policy of withdrawing from the EEC without a referendum. The anti-EEC brigade had been offered a referendum as a sop in 1974, and the Social Democrats to be wanted an equivalent sop in 1983, having lost control of the Labour Party in the meantime. Likewise, Cameron’s referendum was a sop to the UKIP-lite in his own party; he played his hand much less successfully than Wilson, you could say.

    On the whole, I find I’m against them now – not just because we lost the last one! But because they turn politics into a sort of civil war in which everyone has to pick one side or the other and turn their guns on their neighbours if they pick the other one. Whereas without that – the wonderful political “engagement” that Liberals seem to be so in favour of – most people get on quite happily without worrying too much about politics and therefore without wanting to tear down their neighbours or falling out with their families.

  • Peter Martin 14th Mar '19 - 1:37pm

    @ Malcolm Todd,

    You’re being very selective in your choice of examples.

    These are Referendums that have simply been ignored:

    Greece — Greek bailout referendum, 2015, 5 July 2015, 61.3% against, turnout 62.5%
    A referendum on the bailout conditions in the Greek government-debt crisis. A majority of the voters rejected the bailout conditions. However, shortly afterwards the government accepted a bailout with even harsher conditions than the ones rejected by the voters.
    France — French European Constitution referendum, 2005, 29 May 2005, 54.7% against, turnout 69.4%
    Netherlands — Dutch European Constitution referendum, 2005, 1 June 2005, 61.5% against, turnout 63.3%
    The Lisbon Treaty allows the EU Council to introduce the European Constitution in stages without Treaty Change – see Flexibility in EU Decision Making. This was why the UK Government happily promised the UK a referendum on any further Treaty change.

    There are other cases of multiple votes:


    Ireland — a referendum to approve the Twenty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2001 (Ireland), 7 June 2001, 53.9% against, turnout 34.8%
    In 2001, Irish voters rejected the Treaty of Nice, in the so-called “Nice I referendum”.
    Ireland — a referendum to approve the Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, 19 October 2002, 62.9% in favour, turnout 49.5%

    Then there lots of cases where voters have simply never been asked. For example most German people, even those in favour of Europe, I have spoken to had much more faith in the DM than they have in euro. Its very questionable that they would have agreed to the change if they’d been asked. The EU solution? Don’t ask. Just do it.

  • John Marriott 14th Mar '19 - 1:47pm

    @Alex Macfie
    In an ideal world the reaction to Article 50 being revoked might indeed be confined to the kind of people you have described. By this logic the same ought to have applied to the tuition fees pledge. However, it has been used as a stick with which to beat the Lib Dems ever since. The problem with those, myself hopefully included, who think they are capable of analysing a situation to reach a balanced view is that we often cannot countenance people who don’t think like we do. As my dad used to say; “It takes all sorts to make a world”. You’ve only got to look at a few recent TV vox pops to see that there are plenty of people, who do not share your views, nor mine, for that matter.

    What I wish we could do is to convince enough of those who voted Leave or Remain, who would not consider themselves to be extremists in their views, to adopt a pragmatic compromise. That probably means a relationship with the EU that leaves us half in and half out. Of course it won’t avoid all friction and it might make us poorer in economic terms; but it might just be a more suitable position for us in geopolitical terms.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar '19 - 3:28pm

    David Raw

    And as someone on the radical moderate wing of politics since the early eighties when a kid just in secondary school, I think your comments amongst the best on here by you or others ever.

    This is what I mean when I say it is better to be radically moderate, because when politics is extremely divided, to then be moderates is radically different

  • John Marriott: Breaking the tuition fee pledge didn’t cause civil unrest (although austerity in general did). The Poll Tax did, and that was a flagship manifesto pledge of Thatcher’s Tory party. Keeping or breaking a political promise doesn’t itself determine political popularity or stability. A promise is only as good as the thing being promised. What tends to cause civil unrest, and the rise of populism, is economic issues. The Poll Tax affected people economically, as did austerity. The abstract question of political sovereignty isn’t on its own likely to incite civil unrest, except among the extreme right die-hards. Revoking Article 50 is likely to be economically beneficial for the country, so will reduce the possibility of civil unrest.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Mar '19 - 1:11pm

    Peter Martin
    Indeed, Peter. It was a selective list, because when someone makes a sweeping generalisation (” the people get it wrong, the ‘wrong’ decusion isn’t implemented and they are asked again until they get it ‘right’”) it is only necessary to point out the several exceptions to the claimed rule to demonstrate that they are wrong. Pretty basic logic, that.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Ewan Hoyle Video here too....
  • Ewan Hoyle
    The attached video shows how to restrict Labour’s gains while ensuring Conservative defeat, and also how to push PR up the agenda and deliver influence to the...
  • James Baillie
    I of course largely agree with Sandy's comment above. Re what Tristan said - I don't disagree with you that we need to shift Tory voters, as someone who grew...
  • Tom
    Yue He - I echo what others have said. It would be a crying shame if someone thought that they couldn’t be involved in our party or our parliament because of ...
  • Bob Hale
    Keep going Yue He. Your obvious enthusiasm will get you there!...