Tom Brake MP writes: About that “split” with People’s Vote…

To keep up to date with Brexit developments these days it is best to have social media on a drip-feed. News of resignations, plots, and leadership bids leak out there first.

It was no surprise, then, that social media was the first to pick up last week on an apparent split between the Lib Dems and the People’s Vote campaign. The ‘split’ was a small disagreement over the best way to maximise the prospects of securing a Final Say on the Deal through a People’s Vote.

But social media’s unsurpassed ability to pick up stories as they break is matched by an uncanny capacity to blow them out of all proportions just as quickly. Rarely has a greater storm been whipped up in a tinier tea-cup.

What caused this restlessness? Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment to the Prime Minister’s motion, in favour of a People’s Vote. Hardly a breach of the campaign objective!

There is total agreement between the Lib Dems and the People’s Vote on the need to maximise the chances of winning any vote on a People’s Vote amendment. But we can’t choose on Tuesday whether or not that is the moment to maximise support if the whole issue is left off the order paper. As things stand, we can choose whether to move it, based on changing circumstances.

Our amendment is a safety net. With the Government likely to be scouring Erskine May for the obscurest of Parliamentary loopholes or arcane procedural wheezes, no one can predict by Tuesday what will or won’t still be in play; the PM, her deal, No Deal, a vote of No Confidence, a General Election or a People’s Vote.

In a hugely volatile situation, we cannot reserve our arguments in the hope that the Labour frontbench suddenly comes to its senses. While Corbyn cynically hopes the costs of Brexit will push voters into his arms – more grist for his vision of socialism in one country – Liberal Democrats are clear that Brexit is wrong, the deal is dreadful, and both must be stopped. If we had not provided an opportunity to debate a People’s Vote amendment during Tuesday’s historic and final day’s debate, many millions of supporters – looking to us for a lead – would surely have felt betrayed.

The odd slight difference of opinion won’t stop us working across party lines to win a Final Say for the people of the United Kingdom.

* Tom Brake was the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington from 1997 to 2019.

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  • This is helpful Tom. Thanks for the update. I must admit I was a bit dismayed to see those stories, and indeed I still take the view that the PV campaign should not have publicly criticised us in the way they did. I found their tone a bit patronising and arrogant. However, your post here shows that we can be the adults in the room and remain focused on the real objective, and of course you are right. I trust you and the team to get the tactics right on Tuesday, but it is helpful to be kept informed.

  • Yeovil Yokel 9th Dec '18 - 5:38pm

    Thanks, Tom, for taking the trouble to respond to some members’ concerns on a Sunday. You’re going to have a hell of a week next week, good luck.

  • Leekliberal 9th Dec '18 - 6:15pm

    It’s reassuring to learn from Tom that the Lib Dem motion is a back-up to cover a particular set of circumstances. Timing is crucial to maximising support for the Peoples Vote and great care will be necessary if we are not to adversely affect our collective chances of achieving this.

  • paul barker 9th Dec '18 - 6:39pm

    To add to the uncertainties in Parliament there are other Actors who may intervene, The Courts, The Stock Market & above all, The Currency Markets.
    MPs may not have the luxury of outsourcing their decisions to The People, they may face a situation where they have Hours rather than Months. We should keep that in mind.

  • Paul Schofield 9th Dec '18 - 6:59pm

    So the PV was critising an elected party for putting forward a motion in parliament, but they have NO mandate – they need to understand their place as an unelected group

  • Denis Loretto 10th Dec '18 - 12:10am

    The last thing we need is any hint of squabbling within the growing People’s Vote campaign of which we Lib Dems are clearly an integral part but need all the other participants if we are to push this over the line. I was glad to see Vince speaking well at the massive rally in the Excel Centre this afternoon – an inspiring occasion with every seat in that enormous hall occupied. I welcome Tom Brake’s clarification of tactics on the amendment. I have little doubt that the decision will be not to press this at this stage. I reckon no such amendment should be put to the vote until there is a maximum chance of its being passed and that will need overwhelming Labour support. it is clear that they will insist on testing the ground for a vote of no confidence before coming aboard on any alternative. In the meantime the Hilary Benn amendment ruling out “no deal” must be the one to go for. Dominic Grieve has secured the territory for a meaningful move afterwards and that must be cross party. Winning this is much too important to worry about how well we come out of it. If our place in the EU ends up being secured I do not think there will be any doubt about the sterling part we have played.

  • jayne mansfield 10th Dec '18 - 12:08pm

    @ Denis Loretto,

    Has this clarification satisfied ‘Best for Britain’ who according to Politics Home spoke to the Liberal Democrats and asked them to drop the amendment?

    Rather than print out the relevant paragraph,one can read the article on the Politics Home website.

    ‘Liberal Democrats slammed by People’s Vote campaign over ‘deeply unhelpful’ Brexit Referendum bid’. 7.12.2018.

    As you say, any squabbling will cause damage.

  • “To keep up to date with Brexit developments these days it is best to have social media on a drip-feed.”

    For goodness’ sake NO! This leads to panic reactions and making the WRONG decisions before thinking about them properly.

    “Social” media have mutated into platforms for a lot of anti-social behaviour – we should not pander to the culture of instant-reaction knee-jerkery.

  • Richard Underhill 13th Dec '18 - 6:31pm

    Tom Brake is not joking about Erskine May. Copies of previous versions were passed along the government benches as Tory MPs argued whether the bits they liked had been superseded or were permanent. Commons Hansard must have included this. A search engine could be applied to a computerised version.
    I saw it on Freesat, Channel 201, a few days ago.

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