In full: Cable and Brake’s letter to Corbyn calling for Labour to back a People’s Vote

Vince Cable and Tom Brake have written to Jeremy Corbyn ahead of today’s NEC meeting urging Labour to back a People’s Vote in their European Elections manifesto.

There has so far been little enthusiasm for a confirmatory ballot from Labour’s leadership, although the vas majority of their members and many of their MPs back it.

One thing worth mentioning, though – even if Labour grudgingly agrees to some sort of confirmatory referendum, they are unlikely under Corbyn’s leadership to back Remain. In contrast, the Liberal Democrats will enthusiastically and unequivocally campaign to stay in the EU. So, if that is what you want, Labour Remainers, you need to vote for us both in the locals and especially in the European elections.

Here is Vince and Tom’s letter.



Dear Jeremy,

Tomorrow the NEC will be debating Labour’s European election manifesto.

We are sure that you would acknowledge that Brexit has been the single most divisive issue the country has faced since the Iraq War, if not before. Brexit continues to split the country North and South and young and old.

The Liberal Democrats believe that a confirmatory referendum is our only hope of getting closure on this issue and starting to heal this rift. The result would establish once and for all whether the ‘will of the people’ is really to leave the EU with the PM’s deal (which one poll suggested only 1 person in 7 supports) or any other deal agreed with the EU or instead to remain in the EU.

For this reason, we urge you to push for the inclusion a confirmatory public referendum in your European manifesto. We believe this would also be supported by a majority of Labour MPs, trade unions and Labour members.

We would of course work with the Labour party, other parties and individual MPs to facilitate the passage of the relevant legislation.

Should such a referendum take place, and the country vote to stay in the EU, one of the many positive impacts this would have, would be to help political parties committed to tackling the climate emergency to do so effectively. The EU has been a global leader in this respect, with the UK playing a critical role in recent years.

We look forward to hearing Labour will be including a confirmatory referendum in your manifesto and your response.


Rt Hon Vince Cable MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Rt Hon Tom Brake MP
Lib Dem Brexit Spokesman

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  • Dilettante Eye 30th Apr '19 - 7:25am

    I got my polling card yesterday morning for the EU elections on the 23rd May.

    As far as I’m concerned, this EU election will be the definitive Peoples Vote on our EU membership and I suspect the result will prove so overwhelming in favour of leave as to need little analysis, but for sure it will serve as the final ! proxy for a confirmatory referendum.

  • Tristan Ward 30th Apr '19 - 7:45am

    Given the polls suggest hat a majority thinks leaving the EU is a mistake it seems highly unlikely that the result will be overwhelming in favour of leave.

    What is true is that the remain vote will be split more ways than the leave vote with 5 parties ensuring remain, and two leave. Labour’s contemptible ambiguity simply confuses the issue.

  • Tristan
    The vote for remain parties combined is currently less than the Brexit Party alone. Labour is at best ambiguous. This is because Labour know there is nothing to be gained from helping out former members who claim to be principled but will not let their electorate decide if they still want them as MPS or other political opponents.
    We keep hearing the mantra of ” the tide has swung” in favour of remain, but it really is not that clear. This is with three years of almost constant campaigning. In an actual vote the political unity enjoyed by Remain in 2016 would be completely gone. The funding would be lower and the dissenting voices much louder. If remain does not score big in the EU elections it’s the end of the line for a peoples vote.

  • Denis Mollison 30th Apr '19 - 8:33am

    @Dilettante Eye – The EU elections are not and cannot be a proxy for a referendum on EU membership. (1) The MEPs elected have no control over whether we leave or stay, (2) most of the votes cast will be for parties that have other policies than Brexit – in several cases, parties that are sitting on the fence, (3) the election ought to be about policies within the EU, including bigger issues than Brexit such as cooperation to tackle climate change. One of the biggest failures of willingness to engage with grown-up politics has been the use of EU elections as proxies for something else: UKIP got 24 MPs at the last election in 2014 – one brief flash of making a protest point, followed by 5 years of doing nothing constructive – that only 3 of them are still UKIP MEPs shows what a useless bunch they are.

  • What is the point of such a letter except to get an almost invisible party, and it’s leader, noticed by the media.
    Promising to work with a party, whose dissidents Cable has been encouraging to leave, seems rather two faced and will probably do more harm than good among ‘Remainers’ in Labour.

  • Dennis
    Virtually every article here or anywhere else is treating it as a proxy vote. Plus Britain is supposed to be leaving the EU by Halloween. If these elections are held it will be to comply with a technicality and for a few months, not a full term of the EU parliament. It’s a little disingenuous to say EU elections are about much more than the EU especially when there are already local elections on the May 2nd. As for it being a protest vote, well yes it’s a protest vote about being stuck in the EU as was the 2016 referendum. To me, so far, it feels more like excuses are being set up for a disappointing Remain showing. But who really knows until the votes are counted?

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Apr '19 - 9:26am

    @ expats,

    These interventions from Vince and Tom Brake are in my opinion, counterproductive. It has been quite clear to many that the Liberal Democrats have from the start used the idea of a ‘People’s vote’ as a strategy to stop Brexit. Brexiteers are not fools, the deviousness of the strategy has just heightened the lack of trust in politicians and if anything entrenched views. The Vote Liberal Democrats -stop Brexit clarion call is belatedly straightforward and clear.

    The electorate needed time after the 2016 ‘People’s Vote’ to absorb the difficulties and problems relating to leaving the EU. They also needed to see that those who, to pursue their own anti -liberal , right wing agendas are incapable of anything other than chaotic incompetence and self / party self interest.

    i want the electorate to have a genuine confirmatory vote based on knowns not unknowns, and I hope those who have shown such disrespect for those who voted leave but would have been open to persuasion would butt out at this sensitive part of the negotiations .

    I would prefer to remain in the EU , but if a confirmatory vote is held, and I hope it will be, and a compromise is reached , it may be the best we can hope for and bring together a truly divided nation.

  • Peter Martin 30th Apr '19 - 9:29am

    As as previously been argued by Remainers, Lib Dems don’t really want another referendum. Lib Dems want to scupper Brexit. A referendum is just a means to an end.

    There is an interesting and well argued article in Sunday’s Morning Star, probably not the usual reading of Lib Dems, by Remainer Chelley Ryan, in which she makes the point that it isn’t only austerity economics which fuels the rise of the far right. It’s a disdain, on the part of the centre left, for democracy too. She’s absolutely right. UKIP looked to be finished at the last election. Now they and the new Brexit Party between them, are set to have over 30% of the vote in the upcoming Euro elections.

    Ms Ryan is addressing Labour Remainers, but her remarks apply equally to Lib Dems. You are also helping fuel the rise of the far right.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Apr '19 - 11:14am

    It is simply not true that Liberal Democrats who identify with the Centre-Left (among whom I count myself) have disdained democracy. We accepted that a majority of voters had decided we should leave the EU. But we believed, and believe, that leaving the EU would be fundamentally bad for our country.

    So we set about exploring the reasons which led to people voting Leave, considering and evaluating them, but, on finding them less convincing than the reasons for Remain, began trying to persuade Leave voters to change their minds. As the evidence grew of the harm leaving would do to our economy, future prosperity, and standing in the world, it seemed likely, and was backed up by polls, that the number of people who would vote to remain would begin to exceed those still voting to leave. There was also the demographic factor as the years passed, of some older Leave voters dying, and younger probable Remain voters becoming eligible to vote.

    Naturally therefore we backed the idea of another referendum. Many people agreed that there had been insufficient information, and some wrong information, provided to voters in June 2016, another good reason for having it. The people, better informed, should be given their democratic right to change their minds if they so wished. The decision that had been made before by the people, should be taken again by the people, rather than by Parliament.

    Certainly they had not voted to be worse off, the argument for greater sovereignty had proved dubious, and the argument against further EU immigration looked counter-productive. In short, our people deserve the right to vote again on this vital issue.

  • Peter Watson 30th Apr '19 - 11:59am

    @Katharine Pindar “we set about exploring the reasons which led to people voting Leave, considering and evaluating them, but, on finding them less convincing than the reasons for Remain, began trying to persuade Leave voters to change their minds. … Naturally therefore we backed the idea of another referendum.”
    Sadly, I don’t believe that was done, and that has led to the situation in which the country finds itself now, as divided as ever. But if everything you describe was done, then it must have been done pretty bloomin’ quickly since the party (with a few exceptions like Vince Cable) was backing the idea of another referendum the day after the first one!

  • John Marriott 30th Apr '19 - 5:54pm

    @Denis Mollison
    “The EU elections are not and cannot be a proxy for a referendum on EU membership”. Correct, but you try telling that to the great British public! However, if we do vote, it will be interesting to see what the turnout is and how many votes and MEPs the Brexit Party gets.

    Let’s be honest, those advocating a ‘Peoples’ Vote’ are banking on the decision of nearly three years ago being reversed. That might happen if we were to have another Referendum; but will a 52% to 48%, say, for Remain make that any more democratic?

    England in particular is possibly irrevocably split on the EU. Therefore, whilst I would rather be inside the tent personally, I could live with being half in and half out. The problem is whether those, who want out, could be as pragmatic as people like me. Enthusiastic Remainers like ‘Frankie’ and Katharine Pindar probably not; but how about Leavers like ‘Glenn’ or Peter Martin? If I understood her comments correctly, Jayne Mansfield seems to feel like I do on this matter. If being worse off economically is the price for some sort of closure, then that’s good enough for me.

  • John Marriot
    I’ve always said the vote was too close to be too bullish about. If parliament was to find a leave agreement they could get behind I would accept it. What I would be less accepting of is a referendum that excluded a leave on WTO rules option. For me it’s much more of a political argument than an economic one.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Apr '19 - 6:34pm

    @ John Marriott,

    Yes I do agree with you.

    There are those who will never accept compromise, but when one reaches the parlous state that we have now reached as a nation, one has to consider those who do and act in accordance with what they find , if not ideal, acceptable.

    As someone who would prefer to remain in the EU, an acceptance of this compromise would be personally painful for me and my family, but that is the nature of compromise. Hopefully if we leave the EU we will remain as close to its institutions as possible.

  • John,
    You are seeking a consensus with fanatics. If we ended up half in, half out when the pain started they would claim the pain was due to us not having enough Brexit. Only full Brexit will satisfy them and then the pain would be because we didn’t Brexit fast enough. Brexit is a foolish idea and no amount of can we compromise will change that.

    Why call out Jeremy, well it put him on the spot and his inner Lexiteer can’t help popping out. Now I know that is embarrassing to you, after all you are continually telling us we are not being fair to him
    How unfortunate it is for you that the truth is we are merely pointing out an inconvenient truth and Jeremey really is a committed Lexiteer.

    I’m also puzzled why Peter, Expats and a few others hang round this site, they are up front about not being Liberals and yet seem addicted to Lib Dem voice, won’t any other web site have you? Go on be brave toddle off to Labour List, or Brexit what ever, find your fellow Brexiteers or Corbyn fanboies, you’ll be much happier.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Apr '19 - 7:07pm

    The Labour National Executive Committee has met and produced … … …
    a fudge.
    Get up to date!

  • Richard,
    It might look like fudge, but it doesn’t smell like fudge and please don’t try to eat it.

  • John Marriott 30th Apr '19 - 8:16pm

    If we put aside ‘frankie’s’ attempts at sarcasm on the one hand and Peter Martin’s sincerely held Euroscepticism on the other, we have a lot of people in the middle, who just want this nightmare to end.

    I have never been a massive fan of anything that smacks of european federalism. As a former teacher of German and French I have lived, worked and studied in both France and what was then West Germany, as well as having visited many European countries, so I think I have a reasonable idea of what makes Europe and its citizens tick. For geopolitical reasons, we Brits often have a different attitude to many issues compared to our neighbours on mainland Europe. Living on an island has meant that we have avoided much of the trauma visited on them over the centuries, where borders have moved more than once, cultural differences are sometimes blurred and where wars and occupation have caused misery and destruction on a scale that we have never experienced. That’s why a pragmatic approach to EU membership might just be a way of enabling us to play a continuing active rôle in european trade and commerce, If not all of its political institutions. As far as a potential United States of Europe is concerned, I really doubt whether, deep in their hearts, the majority of the citizens of Europe want this to happen either. To those who believe that the political elites might press on with this aim regardless I would urge you to wait and see what emerges from the EU parliamentary elections, regardless of whether or not we actually take part. It may be that the nation state is making a comeback. Personally, in my opinion, it never really went away.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Apr '19 - 8:28pm

    @ Frankie,

    It is not a matter of being ‘unfair to Corbyn’, it is an acceptance of political realities. Tony Blair and the Blairites were of their time and that time passed. Nevertheless, your leaders found fit to engage in conversations with some disillusioned Blairites, hinting that some of them might jump ship, the Liberal Democrats being beneficiaries. Well some of them did jump ship and my have they shown their disdain for your party.

    What the Liberal Democrats call fudge, is a difference of opinion based on possible outcomes given that we are where we are, and the power of the UKIP / Brexit Party , who are promoting the ‘betrayal’ grievance for all it is worth.

    Almost three years have been wasted, where with respect to Katharine Pindar, there really was an opportunity to listen to and discuss the reasons why those who voted leave did so, and painful as it might have been , to enter into a respectful discussion of those reasons and why one thought them faulty.

    if the posts on here are anything to go by, rather than address the concerns of leavers, the remainers chose an overbearing approach that lacked humility, ignoring the fact that what some remainers found distasteful, was a genuinely held belief given the context of the lives of individuals who voted leave. Changing that belief demanded respect of the person. I have seen little on that on here.

  • “We want this to end” and so say all of us. Problem is if you move to a half way house with no way forward, it doesn’t end it persists for ever. The only end you have is remain or crash out. Your choice John which do you prefer?

    I’m being disingenuous with saying crashing out gives finality it doesn’t, because as soon as you try to negotiate with the EU the first thing to fix is NI relationship, so back to square one. It is a never ending mess and those who voted for it better find a solution, because it seems to be beyond the wit of our polticians, especially the Brexiteer ones. Three years nearly gone, nothing achieved, much lost all other issues pushed to the side by Nelly the Brexit elephant. Remember my dear Brexiteers this is what you voted for, a few solutions would be appreciated ( and not ones with unicorns, faries or desperate appeals to remainers to sort it out, which seem to be the Brexiteers stock wail).

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Apr '19 - 10:15pm

    Jayne, there has been much discussion on this site of the desires of the Leavers, and acknowledgement, without any overbearing attitudes that I have noticed, of the sincere beliefs of many which are not going to be changed. One of my close friends is in that position.

    John, you say quite rightly that ‘there are a lot of people who just want this nightmare to end.’ The trouble with that is, as Frankie suggests, that it can’t end with a Brexit deal or some sort of fudge, because the discussions and the accommodations will then have to go on indefinitely. The only way to end the nightmare is to vote to Remain.

    Since Labour continues its fudge, I suppose they may have cooked their goose for the Euro elections as fully as have the Tories. I shan’t grieve over that.

  • frankie 30th Apr ’19 – 6:35pm…………………..I’m also puzzled why Peter, Expats and a few others hang round this site, they are up front about not being Liberals and yet seem addicted to Lib Dem voice, won’t any other web site have you? Go on be brave toddle off to Labour List, or Brexit what ever, find your fellow Brexiteers or Corbyn fanboies, you’ll be much happier………………….

    Now where have I heard all that “You’re not welcome” stuff before?

    Ah, yes, in those heady days of coalition when dissent was unwanted (as were dissenters) and there were lots of potential ‘righty’ converts clamouring to replace us in the ‘new, improved LibDem party’. Strangely, those converts failed to appear and the rest is history.
    Still, why bother with history; let’s just have an LDV where everyone sings from the same hymn sheet…I believe “Nearer my God to Thee” was the choice for the last time anything went down in the same manner as this party.

  • John Marriott 1st May '19 - 7:03am

    @Katharine Pindar
    “The only way to end the nightmare is to vote to Remain”. That’s what you may think. Well, there’s still a significant minority of your fellow citizens, who reckon that the only way is to Leave. That’s really the problem. You are convinced that you are right – but so are they. Do you honestly think that voting again on a binary choice with possibly another close result the other way will put the matter to bed. You can’t strike from history what happened in June nearly three years ago. It happened, and for a reason. You know, one Faragism that makes some sense is “Love Europe, hate the EU”. Now I wouldn’t go that far, of course, but I reckon those sentiments still resonate.

    A preferential referendum might be the answer at the end; but you need a deal to be struck before this could happen. In the meantime, over to you Tezza and Jezza!

  • Expats,
    You can accuse me of many things, but being a cheer leader for the coalition isn’t one of them. I spent to long being moderated by the past leadership of Lib Dem voice for pointing out the stupidity of the coalition to ever think I tagged along with that unicorn hunt. The coalition was stupid and no amount of whatabouttery will change that, Brexit is stupid and no amount of whatabouttery will change that and portraying Jeremey as badly done by and we should cut him some slack is stupid too. I’m afraid for some being nice and accomodating is an aim in itself, unfortunately nice people get trampled on and if being nice comes at the cost of going against your believes, well thank the Lord I’m not nice. There are some issues that compromise is not possible, Brexit is one of those, it will lead to much harm and no advantage, for those that feel otherwise go ahead but when the bill comes due pay it and don’t expect me to chip in.

  • Thank you for the link David. I’m afraid it comes as no shock. When Pandora’s box was opened and Nelly the Brexit elephant was let loose to dance it became inevitable that any policies to help alleviate sufferring would be pushed to one side. It is also worth stating to those that say just compromise and get things over Ivan Roger’s words
    “The trade negotiations ahead will be vastly more complex and more difficult than the ones we have just been through,” Rogers wrote.

    Brexit isn’t going away, O we all wish it would but it will dominate politics for decades to come and no amount of fantasy will change that.

    For further insight I’d recommend Ivan Roger’s speech of the 22nd of Jan

  • David Raw
    The thing is none of those things were being tackled in the first place. There is absolutely no sign that given another distractionless three years with the same MPs, with the same policies, were ever going to tackle poverty, except maybe by adding to it. Extreme poverty did not start three years ago. It started with the switch to a financialized economy 40 years ago which was arguably exasperated by Britain’s involvement in Europe. The three more years argument is like those old soviet five year plans. The promise of pro European project politicians was that Britain would have a huge wealthy market to sell its goods in. It did not. Instead we’ve ended up with a huge trade deficit. The EU does not work. It’s part of the problem. Not the solution.

  • Frankie, as one of those non-Lib Dems who, in your opinion, doesn’t belong here, may I make a suggestion. If you could calm down for a while and refrain from calling your opponents stupid, you might find a moment to correct your spelling.

  • Daniel Walker 1st May '19 - 9:43am

    @Glenn ” Britain would have a huge wealthy market to sell its goods in. It did not.”

    Even if this were so, it is an excellent market to sell services to, which is 80% of our economy.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st May '19 - 9:44am

    Separating from our biggest market was predicted to be harmful for our economy, Glenn. It has been British Government economic management and political choice which has allowed the poverty and inequality of our country to develop so much. Liberal Democrats have been and are working out policies to counteract the effects, and I would like to see our party coming out with a thorough endorsement of Philip Alston’s report. Thank you for that news from the Guardian which I missed, David. We have much work to do, on the ground as you do, and in our national politics, and we must not let another six months of Brexit troubles divert us from focusing on these needs.

  • Sandra Hammett 1st May '19 - 10:14am

    Aside from a lack of coordination and cooperation by Remain groups, our primary mistake is in not pursuing Remain and Reform, a concept supposedy supported by Jeremy Corbyn, we could force him to put his money where his mouth is.
    And to those who would tell me that the Brits can’t just go dictating transformation, why not France and Germany do, we could be a great power in the EU if ONLY we could be bothered.

  • Peter Hirst 1st May '19 - 11:55am

    Do we really need to decide finally on Brexit now? It seems to me that this could take years for us to finally decide what we want, what is practicable and how we get it. The rest of the eu might not like it but this is one of those decisions that quick fixes won’t help. It is also an opportunity to fix some of our long-standing challenges around our governance and foster a more interested, informed and impartial approach to politics generally.

  • frankie 1st May ’19 – 7:33am…….Expats, You can accuse me of many things, but being a cheer leader for the coalition isn’t one of them…

    I didn’t accuse you of being a cheer leader for the coalition. What I did accuse you of was wanting dissenters to leave this site (that was a recurring theme on here during the coalition years; i, too was moderated and, even now, although I do not insult anyone nor do I use immoderate language, my posts are usually in pre-mod).

    As foe nice guys losing out; maybe….But to win the argument on ‘Brexit’ we need to convert many of those who voted ‘Leave’.
    The old adage about “catching more flies with honey than vinegar” is a worth remembering.

  • Paul Barker 1st May '19 - 5:40pm

    Its still possible that we won’t get a chance to Vote in 3 Weeks. There are strong rumours that Labour & The Tories have stitched up a “Soft” Brexit deal between them, to be announced early next Week. Tory MPs who can’t stand the idea of co-operation with Labour would be threatened with a “Peoples Vote”.
    There are also rumours about various people in Labour who won’t stand for this but they have made similar threats before & usually backed down. In any case, its not really clear if Corbyn actually minds losing a few more “Traitors”.

  • Peter Martin 2nd May '19 - 12:25pm


    “What is astonishing that the report of the Electoral Commission is never brought up, that if the referendum had not been “advisory” it could have been void……….”

    It has been brought up. Otherwise neither of us would have heard of it.

    It was somewhat easier for the Electoral Commission to make an “if… then we could have” argument than to have actually declared it void. It allowed them to give something to both sides on the issue and sit on the fence. We’ll never know just what they would have said if the referendum had been legally binding.

  • nvelope2003 2nd May '19 - 2:28pm

    expats: I think the point frankie was making was that the critics appeared not be members or supporters of the Liberal Democrat party so why would they do anything but complain about its policies and why are they doing it on this site ? Constructive criticism from fellow members and supporters is one thing but attempts by supporters of other parties to undermine the Liberal Democrats is intended to harm the Liberal Democrat party or benefit other parties and if it appears on this site will undermine our morale.
    I thought at the time that the coalition was a dreadful mistake and would damage the party but it happened and cannot be undone. Endlessly going on about it only helps the enemies of the Liberal Democrat party. There have been apologies although sadly some people are unrepentant, possibly because they are fed up with constant reminders of their mistakes. Let us try to be more positive and re examine party policies to fit the new problems and drop the misguided policies which need to be changed in light of new evidence.

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