Joint statement from Lib Dems, Green Party, SNP and Plaid Cymru on Barnier meeting

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable and leading figures from opposition parties met Michel Barnier at the European Commission’s Berlaymont building headquarters in Brussels today.

The Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens are working together, alongside rebels from Labour and the Conservatives, to fight Brexit. Vince Cable pressed Barnier on the need for the EU to make contingency plans for a People’s Vote and to protect EU and UK citizens rights in the event of a no deal Brexit.

The other attendees were SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford, Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader Liz Saville Roberts, and Molly Scott Cato, the Green Party’s MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar.

In a joint statement, these UK politicians said:

In a constructive hour long meeting with Michel Barnier, we emphasised that there is a cross-party resistance in Westminster to the destructive Brexit being pursued by the Tories.

We also pointed out that this is being waved through by the Labour frontbench, but no majority exists in Parliament for the current Brexit trajectory.

With sensible politicians from all parties uniting, we pointed out to Mr Barnier that there is a genuine cross-party consensus that our exit from the European Union must not be assumed.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable added:

My message to Michel Barnier was clear: it’s time to start serious contingency planning for a People’s Vote. We know the UK government has started making such plans as a result of the growing demand for such a vote, demonstrated by last weekend’s march.

The EU should do the same, because MPs who back the People’s Vote are fast forming the biggest and most cohesive bloc in Westminster.

I also pressed him on ringfencing rights of British citizens in the EU and vice versa in the event of a no deal. It is simply the right thing to do.

Ian Blackford said:

I am grateful to Mr Barnier for meeting with us today and providing us with the opportunity to set out our position of an alternative to the UK government’s damaging Brexit plans.

The UK government’s reckless approach to negotiations threatens livelihoods and ignores the clear wishes of the people of Scotland.

Scotland voted to remain in the EU and we continue to press the UK Government to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union so we can protect jobs and living standards.

Liz Saville Roberts said:

I pressed Michel Barnier on protecting Wales’s interest through the extension of Article 50 and a People’s Vote.

In Westminster, with the Prime Minister’s proposals amounting to nothing more than a mix of fudge and fantasy, a People’s Vote is more likely than ever.

Corbyn’s Labour are now our biggest barrier to delivering a European future that could work for everyone. The Labour frontbench remain self-righteous and amateur in equal measure, delivering Brexit hand in hand with the Tories.

As every sensible opposition party unites behind workable solutions, Labour must now reconsider its position.

Molly Scott Cato said:

We appreciate having time with the chief negotiator and his willingness to listen to our views. I expressed to him the concerns raised with me by constituents about the undemocratic nature of the Brexit vote and the undermining of British democracy. I let him know that the Green Party is working for a people’s vote with an option to remain in the EU.

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  • Thank you for your collective efforts. It is in the national interest to stop Brexit. Please do everything you can to end this disaster.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Oct '18 - 11:28pm

    This is indeed good news. One further request the party representatives are likely to need to make is for the EU 27 to be prepared to grant postponement of the agreed leave date of March 29 next year, to allow time for another referendum to be held. How much more worthwhile such a request will be than the PM’s request for an extension of the proposed implementation period, which itself is a futile postponement of the inevitable national decline if Brexit goes ahead.

  • William Fowler 26th Oct '18 - 8:25am

    Pity Sir Vince et al did not ask the EU to come up with a better deal than they offered Cameron, with Mrs Merkel in line to pick up most of the UK’s contribution to the EU’s budget she might be more amenable when faced with disbelieving German voters.

  • Neil Sandison 26th Oct '18 - 9:40am

    Welcome this new alliance of common purpose .Lets not stop just at Brexit It s very likely that no one single party will have a outright majority at the next general election so alliances of common purpose on key issues could ensure changes to key policy areas like Universal Credit ,Housing, The Environment ,Education ,Health and Social Care Reform .Politics has become more issue driven than party driven and i am sure the Liberal Democrats are best placed to help build common ground between groupings against ideologically driven politics in the UKs national interest.

  • Katharine, I think what would be needed is for the EU 27 to be prepared to *insist upon* a postponement of *Theresa May’s chosen leave date* of March 29 next year, until the problems of the Irish border etc are resolved.

    We have to realise that Theresa May has built her entire edifice on the fact that the UK will leave the EU, so that the Conservatives can save themselves. There is only one date that would allow her to do it, and that is if she insists and bullies everyone that March 29 is the date. It had to be that date right from the very start as I explained at the time, even if nothing is actually agreed other than we have left the EU.

    An indefinite transition period is in fact perfectly acceptable to all those politicians who have chosen to hoist their flag on the ship of convenience Brexit, because it will allow them to say ‘I promised and I have delivered Brexit’. Only a few true believer politicos will be upset, but lots of ordinary voters will get very, very upset indeed – particularly as they (and the rest of us) will get steadily worse off while little actually changes except at the glacial pace we have seen so far.

    If the EU accept Britain leaving on March 29, even with massive holes still to be filled in, we will have left, and there will be no way back, and we will have lost, and so will Britain, and so will 99% of those who supported Brexit. That is what we have to stop.

  • I don’t think Barnier has the authority to do any of the things talked about. He is exercising a mandate from the Council. Unless they change that mandate or the UK withdraws Art 50/requests a delay he isn’t in a position to do anything.

  • @Neil Sandison: “Welcome this new alliance of common purpose. Let’s not stop just at Brexit. It’s very likely that no one single party will have an outright majority at the next general election so alliances of common purpose .. could ensure changes to key policy areas like Universal Credit, Housing, The Environment, Education, Health and Social Care Reform.”

    Wouldn’t this be wonderful – but let’s not get too carried away! Whilst this particular “alliance of common purpose” between the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party in support of a [further] People’s Vote on Brexit is obviously welcome, it remains to be seen whether this could also be repeated on other issues. Even where such a so-called “progressive alliance” may exist on any specific policy agenda, these four parties only hold 52 seats (out of 650) between them in the current House of Commons – fewer than the Lib Dems held alone throughout the period 2005-15. We would therefore also need very substantial Labour support – and possibly a few dissident Tories plus the non-DUP Northern Irish MPs too – in order to build a broad enough coalition to defeat the Government on any particular vote.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Oct '18 - 3:22pm

    My question is why has this meeting been so long in coming? I am sure M. Barnier knows the facts but it really did need anti Brexit politicos to tell him.
    Of course the Brexiteers will accuse the group of being traitors and betraying the will of the people, but if Brexit is to be defeated we need more of the cross party working and soon.

  • paul barker 26th Oct '18 - 4:42pm

    Taking up Andy Claytons point, I would love to see MPs like Soubry & Umunna joining our ranks & even standing for Leader but we cant kidnap them. If people from Labour & The Tories want to become Libdems they have to make that decision themselves, all we can do is make encouraging gestures
    The potential is there to transform British Politics but it needs some MPs to leave their comfort zone & take a leap into the unknown, we cant do it for them.

  • John Marriott 26th Oct '18 - 5:50pm

    Did anyone bother to watch this week’s ‘Question Time’ from Barrow in Furness? We had Labour’s Lisa Nandy and the Tories’ Andrea Jenkyns tearing strips off each other on Brexit. It was interesting how many in the audience seemed to wish that politicians would just get together and sort out the mess.

    I had always thought that Ms Nandy had a mind of her own so I was surprised how tribal she appeared to be. Ms Jenkyns served briefly with me on the Lincolnshire County Council before losing her Boston seat to UKIP in 2013. I was quite frankly amazed that she found a constituency that was prepared to take her on and flabbergasted that she went on to beat Ed Balls in 2015. To use a football analogy, in terms of intellect alone (which, admittedly is no indication of political success), it was a bit like Boston United beating Manchester City in the FA Cup Final, or, given Ed’s background, perhaps the latter should read Nottingham’s Forest under Brian Clough.

    PS Here’s a pub quiz question for you:
    What do Labour’s Ed Balls, Lib Dem Sir Ed Davey and Tory Ken Clarke have in common? (And it’s not a political question).

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Oct '18 - 6:52pm

    The Lib Dems are not for merging, Simon Shaw: we have a long historical past and a firm, worthy and relevant identity. As for the crucial questions facing the country’s politicians this winter, I believe we must all stand strong against a natural inclination of many ordinary people to want us just to get on with it, get it over with. That attitude if it prevails could land us with the hopeless transition period which won’t actually resolve the future. I agree with you, David Evans, we do need the EU to be ready to demand postponement of the March leaving date, citing the intractable Irish border problem.

  • I would rather that any Tory or Labour rebels of a Liberal disposition simply join us but I still think they could transform our Politics if they formed their own Party/Parties. Obviously any such groups would have to work with us in an Electoral Alliance, to compete with us would be mutual suicide. That New Alliance could reach out to other Parties too, The Greens (GPEW) for example.
    We tried the idea of merging Parties in 1989 & it very nearly destroyed us, the trend since then has been for more Parties not less & that is, in any case the logic of PR.

  • Neil Sandison 27th Oct '18 - 11:04am

    Sean Hagan . Agree progressive alliance of common purpose may not currently have a large block in parliament but the Liberal Democrats are looking for a message that makes us stand out from the rest and the public is yearning for politicians prepared to colaborate and compromise in the national interest but retains its core values This could be our USP and should be seen as a virtue not an a sin .non polar politics and being prepared to build bridges may be very attractive to a disenchanted electorate looking for a party that does not judge each issue with a loaded agenda.

  • Neil, I’m all in favour of the type of collaborative politics that you suggest where a common policy platform can be agreed on an issue by issue basis. All I was pointing out in my previous comment, however, was that the House of Commons arithmetic is currently very challenging – especially so after 2015 – unless Lib Dems and other “progressives” can work together on specific policies where there is already some consensus … and can also attract Labour and dissident Tory support.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Nov '19 - 8:33pm

    The Plaid leader was interviewed at length today 27/11/2019 on the BBC News Channel
    He gave good reasons for the party’s REMAIN policy
    Answering a question from a farmer who phoned in he asked “such as?”
    In his surgery he has had farmers in tears,
    Hill farmers such as this one face bankruptcy.
    Unlike Scotland, policing has not been devolved.
    Perhaps it should be, Health and Education are devolved.
    He also wants all the skills and abilities provided by EU citizens and therefore some control over immigration policy.

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