Repeated delays to Brexit are down to the failure of Conservative leaders to persuade their own, and partner, MPs

We get comments here on Liberal Democrat Voice of this type from Simon today:

If you want to try to frustrate and cancel Brexit that’s up to you, you won’t succeed because eventually the majority will win. In the meantime you are just making people’s lives a misery. All this stuff about workers rights and the environment is nonsense scaremongering, any government that tried to do it would get voted out, that’s why we have votes albeit you don’t respect them.

This line of argument ignores reality.

The people who stopped the May deal being approved three times were Conservative MPs – the ERG – who voted against it each time. Yes, extreme Brexiteers and Euro-Sceptics stopped May’s deals – not the Liberal Democrats. They indicated support for her negotiating strategy in December 2017 but then withdrew it later. On 15th January 2019 May’s deal had no less than 118 Tory MPs voting against it, including the Eurosceptic’s Eurosceptic, Sir Bill Cash, plus Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The key people who stopped Johnson’s deal being approved on Saturday were the partners of the Conservatives – the DUP – who voted against the government and for the Letwin amendment.

It is normal for party leaders to be able to persuade at least their own MPs and partner MPs to support their proposals.

Opposition MPs tend to oppose.

The failure to pass a deal so far has been down to a basic failure of Conservative leaders to be able to propose a deal which their own Conservative MPs vote for and which their supply partners, the DUP vote for.

So it is really is ludicrous to be coming to the Liberal Democrats to make accusations at us for being consistent in our approach to European matters for over 60 years!

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Peter Martin 20th Oct '19 - 7:27pm

    “The people who stopped the May deal being approved three times were Conservative MPs – the ERG – who voted against it each time……not The Liberal Democrats” ????

    Regardless or otherwise of the merits of the May deal, the people who stopped it were the those who voted against it. An ERG “No” vote and a Lib Dem “No” vote are functionally identical. There is only one No lobby in any case. Those chatting in the queue were a mix of Remainers and Leavers.

    ALL Lib Dems apart from Nick Clegg voted to have the referendum. As far as I know they just voted “Aye”. They wouldn’t have qualified that with “well we’re only voting for the referendum because we think it will go our way!”

    The SNP don’t have that problem. They weren’t in favour of the referendum in the first place – which is of course fair enough.

  • Opposition MPs tend to oppose

    Yes, but they should not oppose for opposing sake.

    It is also the job of her majesties opposition to hold the government to account, not to oppose for opposing sake, something that labour does not seem able to grasp.

    All Mp’s of parliament are responsible for holding up brexit, some more than others which I have no doubt will be reflected at the next ballot box.
    It will be interesting to see what happens in the south west for libdems and whether it is lost for a further election cycle

  • Charles Smith 20th Oct '19 - 8:09pm

    The European Union will play for time rather than rush to decide on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s reluctant request to delay Brexit again, diplomats with the bloc said after a 15-minute meeting on Sunday.

    The fractious British Parliament refused to vote on Johnson’s new Brexit withdrawal deal on Saturday, a move that forced him to seek a third postponement of Britain’s departure from the bloc. It has so far been envisaged for Oct. 31.

    At a rare Sunday meeting of ambassadors of the 27 states that will make up the EU after Brexit, the diplomats decided to forward Johnson’s deal to the European Parliament for its required approval. The EU chamber sits in Strasbourg next week.

  • Yes Paul it is no surprise. You have to understand anger and delusion trump facts and reality. To many Brexiteers finally they won something ( quite what they have won is a mystery to them, but it matters not, they won). They haven’t got their trophy yet and they are lashing out at the people they think are holding up the presentation. Now when they win they will go into meltdown shouting ” We won” but won’t have a clue what they won. Next they will be expecting us all to be friends, because no point letting Brexit upset people. Then when the bad times roll they will blame them on sore loosers.

    The really sad thing about the Brexit delusion is those that want it most ( excepting the money men) are those least able to cope in the new reality. I would be surprised if Simon was not among that number.

  • It is not merely the task of a democratic opposition to hold a government to account; it is also (and, I might add, primarily) their duty to propose, honestly and sincerely, viable alternatives to government policy which they would implement if in power; that is, to set forth an intelligible alternative to the actions and narratives of the government.

    There is an obvious viable and intelligible alternative to Brexit: namely, no Brexit. A decent opposition not only can but should put this option forward.

  • I would like to think that it is everyone’s duty to put forward ideas on how our country should be run. There is a lot of evidence that people want to be able to do that. The fact is there is very little opportunity for them to do this. The first step is to make available the facts. This is not being done on Europe. We need to challenge nonsense like the idea that Europe makes decisions for us. It is of course nonsense. We are part of Europe. The decisions are not made by bureaucrats in Brussels. They are made by people that we choose to represent us. Just like decisions are made in any other part of our lives.
    When are we going to start challenging these silly ideas?

  • “This would, at a stroke, reduce the rise in prices, increase production and reduce unemployment.” These were the words of Edward Heath the man that took the UK into the EEC as the EU was then.
    Today there is another “at a stroke” politician who thinks a complex problem can be swiftly solved in a matter of hours. It takes years to negotiate trade deals and it is no good shouting give us what we want. The EU is not going to give all the advantages of membership to the UK without any obligations.

  • David Garlick 21st Oct '19 - 3:50pm

    I suspect that the govt did not press for a vote on Saturday as they were confident that they did not have the numbers to pass it.
    Today they ask for a re run which they confidently expect the Speaker to reject. (he did.)

    They then blame the Speaker for the delay. They would have lost the vote but this way they leave it hanging in the air.

  • David Allen 21st Oct '19 - 6:35pm

    Peter Martin, “Regardless or otherwise of the merits of the May deal, the people who stopped it were the those who voted against it. An ERG “No” vote and a Lib Dem “No” vote are functionally identical.”

    Yes, but it is the Government and the governing party which bears the responsibility for implementing Government policy, including a policy to accept the recommendation of a referendum. The Tories have spent over three years failing to propose a course of action which could command a consensus within their own party.

    Opposition parties have no such responsibility. They are entitled to oppose, and to make things difficult for Government, with the aim and expectation that Government will shift toward the Opposition point of view in order to get business concluded.

    There is a smidgen of an argument that a referendum is different, that if the opposition parties agreed that the referendum should take place, then they should have the responsibility not to oppose all conceivable implementations of the referendum recommendation. However, they are clearly entitled to oppose any implementation which they think is a bad one. May’s Brexit was a bad Brexit and Johnson’s is worse. Had the Lib Dems been offered a vote on a soft Brexit which retained alignment with the single market and customs union, they might have seen a case for voting in favour. But (with the possible exception of some very initial trial indicative votes) they weren’t offered that.

    What the Government should now be saying is that they did their level best to implement the referendum recommendations. And after more than three years, they found that they could not. They have therefore discharged their duties to the voters of 2016. Now they should acknowledge that Brexit does not work and should be abandoned.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Oct '19 - 7:25pm

    Six Labour MPs voted with Boris on Saturday.

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