Vince Cable on Marr: I can see a scenario where Brexit doesn’t happen

Almost-leader Vince Cable was on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning.

Here are some clips:

I like the way that he casually pointed out  that the last Liberal leader to have a coronation was the mighty Jo Grimond.

He said he was optimistic about the party’s future.

Our position on Brexit is “a longstanding principled position which will become increasingly in line with the mood of the country.

Even though he is the only candidate, he said that we will see the Vince Cable manifesto. He was also keen to talk up the strong team behind him, which was another good sign. There have been criticisms before that he’s not a team player – although, to be fair,  he has tended to be right when he deviated from the message during the Coalition years.

Asked if he would take the party in a different direction from Tim Farron, he said that Tim did a very good job, built up our membership but he situation has moved on from where we were two years ago. Brexit dominates the national agenda and he would  have to approach that consistently but in a different Parliament with different dynamics.

The two parties we are competing with are in a very fragile state. Labour already talking about expelling 50 of its MPs for ideological deviation.

He gave  the impression only half joking when he said that we have a generous policy towards refugees and any Labour MPs who come to us will be offered “food and accommodation.”

Corbyn had a good election because the public thought he was leading opposition to Brexit, said Vince. They will soon realise he is pro hard Brexit.

Then he had to deal with the difficult Tuition fees issue. He very clearly stated that his  policy is” certainly not to abolish” because it’s working well in terms of keeping universities funded. He did say, however, that he was “up for having a fresh look at it.”

He explained that what he did, after Labour had promised not to introduce fees or increase them, then did so, was to raise the threshold of repayments so it operates as a form of graduate tax. He also pointed out that he increased the generosity of maintenance grants – which the Conservatives then abolished. Half of student debt, he said,  is down to maintenance, not tuition.

He has been working with NUS on further education for the last year – 60% of young people don’t go to university and we have to look at the needs of all young people not just the 40% of university students.

His response to being asked if taxes should go up was an immediate and unequivocal yes.  There should be a shift in the balance between taxes and spending cuts. He wants to boost public services while maintaining fiscal discipline. He also wants capital investment for housing.

Marr then asked him if he wanted the economy to fail because of Brexit. He got himself nicely out of that trap, saying that it was likely that the economy would deteriorate and there was a need to work with others to stop a disastrous hard Brexit.

He thinks that the economic consequences of hard Brexit  will lead public to want to think again because they didn’t vote to be poorer.

Could pro-EU alliance frustrate Theresa May? He said yes. People are keeping their heads down and we’ll see where they are after the holidays..

He can see a scenario where Brexit doesn’t happen. Our policy of referendum on the deal is going to become more relevant as people look for a way to stop a disastrous outcome. He said that the divisions in both Labour and Conservative were so enormous and the problems with Brexit are so enormous that he can now see a scenario where it doesn’t happen.

Challenged on the “Mein Kampf” issue, he said that he’d got his literary references wrong and it was Stalin who talked about rootless cosmpolitians. He could have pointed out that “strong and stable leadership” features in Hitler’s work but didn’t. The point is that those are the sorts of things that ruthless genocidal dictators have said. He pointed out that he added that it was out of character for May and that “added balance to the quote.”

He’s very carefully offering hope to those people who really don’t want Brexit to happen. He’s positioning us as the party who will lead the efforts against it. This should give confidence to the majority of the party who are strongly anti-Brexit and who had been worried that our line during the election was too nuanced.

He did well. He got himself out of the difficult questions. He answered directly and calmly and looked supremely unrattled. So far, so encouraging.

It’s good that he’s getting himself out there to the public. I do think it is important that he does stuff directly with members too and hope he will submit himself to questions from us over the Summer.

You can see the whole interview here on iPlayer.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Jul '17 - 1:47pm

    I can see the sort of thing Sir Vince refers to, but as with his previous comments on May, the feeling , the view , which I like, needs to be expressed carefully on contentious issues.

    Sir Vince is very good as a dry wit, the refugees welcome from Labour goes down well, very, with me !

    I believe we must face up to the polls, where we are languishing. Either a new re-grouping of the centre to centre-left , embracing a breakaway , tendency , uniting with us , or an alliance with Labour as it is , under new leadership, moving it to the centre left, and with Green input, must be considered.

    If it is not, we have to face up to the need for our party to do far more that is exciting, to emerge.

    And I do not mean ultraliberal, libertarian, fringe issue politics, I mean, common sense , mainstream, on the big issues, some noticable things to say.

  • Vince seems to be taking the position that Tim’s second referendum is still on the table, but rather we wait patiently for it to all to go horribly wrong, hoping voters come back demanding a kind of ‘rescue’ referendum from the jaws of the big bad Brexit.
    But what specifically would constitute a Brexit ‘gone horribly wrong’, and will we know it when we see it?
    As with most changing circumstances in life, there are usually bad bits and good bits. Far from being an up-the-creek without a paddle, Brexit will likely provide many losses, but also many opportunities. So rather than begging to be rescued from Brexit, won’t people just re-appraise the overall balance of post EU changes, good and bad and simply adapt their lives and businesses over time?

    But more worryingly from a party perspective, if Vince adopts the attitude of jeering at the bad bits of Brexit, but fails to cheer the opportune bits of Brexit, isn’t he at risk of turning the LD’s into the Curmudgeon Party negatively sneering from the side-lines?

  • Assuming it is about jeering or cheering goes to the heart of our cantankerous excessively binary politics. I don’t think Vince needs to do either. I suspect that as time passes people will gradually become more aware of pain coming down the tracks until we reach the point where politicians are forced to take both the public mood and their own convictions seriously, which is their right and responsibility.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Jul '17 - 2:41pm

    Vince Cable was quoted on the Sunday Politics (BBC1) and The World at One (radio 4).

  • Colin Taylor 9th Jul '17 - 2:43pm

    Sheila, You infer that Vince could be interpreted as Jeering at the bad bits and failing to cheer the opportune bits of Brexit.
    I think that he possibly sees that under the present regime of May, Davis and Fox the Brexit could be so bad and bone breakingly awful that there will be little or next to nothing worth while to be optimistic about.
    The Country is in a financial mess and far to many are in denial about how big a mess we are in. Vince has a reputation for telling it as it is and he warned every one about the impending crash of 9/10 years ago. Let us all hope that if and when he becomes leader of the LD’s a wider range of people start to listen to him again.
    If the fiasco of negotiations continue as they are doing so currently the cliff edge could be on us before we know it and we will not have the opportunity to throw a mattress down to land on before we are pushed off.
    I live in hopes that some of the wiser older heads in the Tory party will break ranks and decide to put the country before their party and say ” I agree with Vince ”
    But there again I can dream!!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Jul '17 - 2:47pm

    Sheila has a go here at saying, what I can see , but few seem to , Labour, despite , our banging on about their, caving in, as far as policy and pitch, are positive !

    Geoff is correct, about Vince, he is not a curmudgeon.Tim was less than Vince. Yet this party even now seems it.

    Macron won partly because Le Pen was the doom candidate , he the solution one .

    Messengers and message , are both , the issue .

    We are the remoaner party with remoaning leadership as far as the media and their messaging.

    If the party doesn’t start getting out of it’s comfort zone , the new centrist party being talked about won’t even want to ally with this one.

    A plucky, and statesman like way is possible.

    Perhaps not in a party or on a site where the centre, radical centre, excites few, and is decried by many.

    There’s a new slogan for us…I…think …not !

  • Yeovil Yokel 9th Jul '17 - 3:09pm

    You’ve summed it up well, Caron. The full Andrew Marr interview is available on the BBC i-Player 18:59 – 27:34 .

  • Nick Collins 9th Jul '17 - 3:28pm

    Thank you for this, Caron. It sounds like an interesting interviiew. I’ll listen to it later: concentrating on the cricket now (S Africa 12 for 2, chasing 331).

  • Bernard Aris 9th Jul '17 - 3:45pm

    In the Netherlands it was the governing Labour party (PvdA), the governing VVD (led by Camerons old friend proime minister Mark Rutte), and the opposition D66 (Dutch LibDems) and GreenLeft (“GroenLinks”; inheritors of the old Communist Party and greens) who introduced
    #) both Tuition fees instead of a state-sponsored bursary scheme and
    #) extremely lenient payback rules (your obligation to pay back only starts when your fixed income rises above a certain level for well-schooled cadre personel).

    Like in Britain, it helped put university and R&D funding on a better footing, and more people from low-income backgrounds (or parents who didn’t go to University or “Technical High Schools”) went on to study after its introduction.

    We should ask Labour what is more important:
    1) extra billions for the NHS Aneurin Bevan founded, and which started deteriorating under Blair & Brown, or
    2) spending those billions on the 40% of young people who go to university (I believe that percentage was even lower in the state funded student days…).

    Spending for the happy few or for the masses… should be a no-brainer even for Corbyn, who avoided being deselected for 40 jears…

  • I thought that Vince was great this morning. Nicely balanced and starting to set out his stall to the public. He has a great following with the public (the voters) who see how thoughtful and measured he is. I think that he will attract support from one nation Tories as well as moderate “new” Labour people. The centre ground is OURS!
    I agree with Vince that Brexit indeed may not happen, because the public will increasingly see how negatively things are likely to turn out, and will demand the final say before putting pen to paper! So, as we hold our position that a confirmatory referendum is the right and logical end of the negotiation process, over time the negative consequences of Brexit will become more apparent and the positives of belong to the EU will be realized, and opinion will increasingly come to us.
    What I would like to see, and think that Vince will highlight, is our amazing positive attitude and approach generally, as well as the wonderful pioneer work we have done in many areas. For instance, Norman Lamb has led the thinking on Social Care in this country for some years and, working with many professionals, understands all the key issues and has developed detailed approaches to address. Let’s give things like this more profile!
    I also appreciated Vince’s response on Tuition Fees, and that he is prepared to look into student funding further. I can’t help thinking that the approach that I grew up with, where tuition fees were paid by the county council or local education authority (can’t remember which), and that there was a means tested maintenance grant, was a simpler and far better approach than the current one. After all the people who end up paying back their loans are the ones on higher wages, anyway, so what’s the difference, really?
    There are lots of things that we need to get after to make this country the Liberal nation, we want it to be. Tim has enabled the party to make a brilliant start on the journey back to power and influence. I have no doubt that Vince will drive forward that momentum and take our 100 thousand + members forward with us. We are the party of hope and positivity. Let’s make it happen!

  • Geoff Reid & Colin Taylor

    “pain coming down the tracks” and “bone breakingly bad” are very dramatic words, but mean very little unless you are bit more specific about the detail.
    I’ll do you both a trade. I’ll show you one conceivable opportunity of our EU exit in practical terms if you show me one specific example of your ‘bone breaking’, and ‘pain coming down the tracks’?

    O.K. Here goes. My starting point is a very simple fact, which is that the EU is starving Africa. Harsh words but can anyone truly deny that the CAP subsidy which amounts to a French Agricultural Protection Racket is not crippling African farmers of their livelihood?
    So let’s look at a possible upside for Africa and the UK on our exit from the EU. Suppose post EU, we used our Overseas Aid to help develop a massive agricultural trading strategy in North Africa?
    Unshackled from the French Agricultural Protection Racket and the myriad of other EU trading restrictions, the UK could then import less food from France and create a trading arrangement to import more food into the UK from a trade supported and increasingly wealthy agricultural North Africa.
    And a likely added bonus of creating a wealthier North African agricultural trade would mean improved African lives, and fewer reasons to risk your life in a flimsy rubber boat crossing to Europe to escape poverty. And before you ask. The reciprocal trade for importing food grown in Africa could by way of example, be UK developed telecoms, I.T. and supporting infrastructure.

    And before I go Martin.
    Would ensuring the sustainability of our UK food supply whilst at the same time helping improve African lives constitute a ‘good opportune bit’? If you need any other potential post EU ‘good bits’, I’ll try to get my thinking cap on.
    Now I’d like to hear specific examples of ‘bone breakingly bad’?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Jul '17 - 5:28pm


    I agree with your description of them, not your suggestion for us…

    It is about the perception of Labour !!!

  • Actually, the best things about leaving the EU are political. It resurrected the Left, it got rid of Cameron (worst PM in over a hundred years) and it re-focuses politics to a national level. The economics have been nowhere near as bad as predicted or I thought they would be. Some in The remain camp are still stuck in a loop of making dire predictions along the lines of “honest it will get bad, you’ll see, Leave voters are changing their minds, Guvnor,” and increasing the rhetorical alarm siren from Brexit to Hard Brexit to Extreme Brexit to now Kamikaze Brexit.

  • Jenny Barnes 9th Jul '17 - 5:51pm

    “I’d like to hear specific examples of ‘bone breakingly bad’?”
    The probability that airlines won’t be able to operate across the EU & the UK as before.

    ” The British government’s plan to leave the EU by March 2019 means that the country will probably exit the European Common Aviation Area (as an expanded version of that initial aviation market is known). Continued membership would require acceptance of European court jurisdiction, a “red line” for British negotiators. Without a new agreement to replace it, flights between Britain and the EU might have to stop entirely, says Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair.”

  • Jenny Barnes 9th Jul '17 - 5:52pm

    from this week’s Economist.

  • The “Bremmings” are quite happy to take the British public off the highest cliff and the hardest Brexit to get out of Europe! Our task is to defend the interests of the British people and their families, many of which are truly international, and fight the “Bremmings”, wherever they turn up! We will win the argument!🙂

  • Sheila Gee
    Much of North Africa is desert.

  • I am not a fan of Vince’s prospective leadership – hoping that someone younger and more dynamic is willing to take up the challenge before we get to another election – but I have to say that Vince did well this morning. It was clear that he has given a lot of thought as to how to position the party over the coming years, and taking the “possible get out from Brexit” position is a lot more sensible now, as we face potentially five years of Tory/DUP government attempting to push Brexit through, than it was during the last GE when we made ourselves look ridiculous.

    The key over the next year or so is that Labour needs to be pushed off its fence.

    Vince’s one weakness is tuition fees which, if we are not careful, we will allow to ruin us for a second time if we end up on the wrong side of a general realisation that the actions of both Labour and Coalition governments have created a dreadful mess that needs to be cleaned up.

  • jayne Mansfield 9th Jul '17 - 7:04pm

    @ Sheila Gee,
    The EU has an appalling record when it comes to developing countries, whether it be the dumping of a commodity or tax transparency rules.

    Only Liberal Democrats could justify some of the EU’s past policies and its inadequacy in tackling the unfairness and injustices that keeps some of the poorest poor.

  • Andrew McCaig 9th Jul '17 - 7:05pm

    Some anecdotal evidence on Brexit public opinion:
    We have been doing residents surveys steadily in a metropolitan ward in Kirklees where 5 Parties got over 10% in May 2016. One thing we ask is about the EU vote and whether minds have changed. In 300 plus surveys last Oct and November no-one had changed their mind, with a sample pretty close to the Kirklees average of 55℅ Leave.. Since the general election significant numbers (around 10%) of Leavers are regretting their vote. Not yet a statistically significant sample, but opinion may be on the move as Vince suggests..
    I hope Vince can make a difference though, since the latest Yougov had us on 2% in the North of England, similar to the Election result, and if that does not change next May will not look good in the Mets…

  • Richard Underhill 9th Jul '17 - 8:08pm

    UKIP are on 3%, but that does not give the Tories a majority.

  • The party should count its blessings that it has such a mature able potential leader with the ability and experience who can well cope with the Andrew Neils of this world.

    He looked and sounded good and represents the best of grown up politics. He also gives the younger potential future leaders the example, and the time, to learn their craft.

  • Yes very impressed with Vince so far. Already made a good impression with me over Brexit and tuition fees.

  • Martin Land 9th Jul '17 - 8:45pm

    Of course Brexit has some potentially good points.
    1. The British people may learn that listening to experts is a good idea.
    2. They may also learn that referenda are not.
    That’s all folks!!!!

  • I think if we’re honest, nobody can be entirely sure of the consequences of Brexit, whichever form it takes (if it happens at all), since we’re in unchartered territory. The best that can be said is that it’s a rather reckless gamble at a time that when our economy is a lot more fragile than many people realise. Reckless gambles do indeed sometimes pay off, but I suspect we’ll have to be very lucky indeed with the so-called three Brexiteers at the helm.

    On another point, we really do have to get our act together, and soon, on tuition fees. Andrew Adonis’s well publicised comments could pave the way to a serious rethink on the whole subject. Go for it, Vince!

  • Jayne Mansfield
    “The EU has an appalling record when it comes to developing countries”
    Such as preventing the use of illegal labour in the Thai fishing industry.

  • The only case for Brexit is in the long term we may be better off. Any other cases such as rise of the left, getting rid of the worst Prime Minister in a 100 years ( bad as he was May is worse) are just fluff, but unfortunately to be expected from the desperate Brexiteers.

  • jayne Mansfield 10th Jul '17 - 6:50am

    @ Manfarang,
    I am sorry but the EU’s attitudes towards continents such as Africa, stinks.

    I am more than happy to provide concrete examples should you wish, mindful of the fact that these posts must be short. We cry foul when commodities are dumped on us but are happy to do that to poor nations who suffer many consequences as a result, i.e technological innovation and industrial development. ( Check out the effect of Africa un-roasted green coffee exports to the EU) and the knock on effects of this.

    Trade agreements favour the wealthy nations of the EU, and I suggest that you yourself, you check out the effect of CAP on Africa and how subsidies have , and still favour the landowners of Europe to the detriment of African farmers, ( and the UK consumer may be unaware of it increased food prices for some commodities in the UK.

    I haven’t even touched on the corruption that keeps the poor of Africa poor as available money is transferred to tax havens etc., and the lack of transparency.

    It is small wonder that desperate people are risking their lives in an attempt to reach Europe.

  • Andrew McCaig 10th Jul '17 - 7:15am

    I agree 100% with comments above on tuition fees. With Labour upping the ante by “not quite promising” to remove all student debt, and even Tories talking about reform, a return to the 2010 deal by reversing Tory cuts to grants is NOT going to be enough.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Jul '17 - 8:12am

    Vince Cable said firmly in this interview that he does not want to abolish tuition fees. But surely the abolition of tuition fees is still party policy? It was voted for by Conference, and Conference has never reversed the policy.
    The party prides itself on its democracy – the fact that policy is made by the members, through Conference. But there seems to be no guarantee that the leader and the rest of the Parliamentary party will actually follow party policy. There may have been some excuse during the coalition, but Vince now has no such excuse for not respecting the policy members voted for.
    It would be fair enough for Vince to say that he personally disagrees with party policy on this issue. But if he wants to change party policy, he should put a motion before Conference, and let the members vote on it.
    We should not demand that a leader necessarily agrees with party policy on every issue. But is is important that the leader should not have to power to unilaterally change or ignore party policy.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Jul ’17 – 8:12am…………Vince Cable said firmly in this interview that he does not want to abolish tuition fees. But surely the abolition of tuition fees is still party policy? It was voted for by Conference, and Conference has never reversed the policy……..

    I thought so too…It seems, that when Labour propose abolishing it, they are ‘trying to buy the young vote’ and yet, when our MPs signed a pledge in blood to do the same thing (and at a time when the country’s financial state was far worse) we were being honest with the electorate…

    There are some subjects we should steer very clear of…Tuition fees is one!

  • John Probert 10th Jul '17 - 10:59am

    We’ve all had to think hard about tuition fees and now I believe that a graduate tax is perfectly fair and a much better option.

  • Well, I’ve heard no specific or realistic examples of post Brexit ‘broken bones’ or ‘pain coming down the track’.

    Much of the discourse over Brexit is no more than conjecture, and highly charged emotional conjecture at that. The Leaver conjecture is that once free from the shackles of the EU it will be like Columbus discovering rich bountiful new uncharted lands. The Remainer conjecture is that nothing can exist in the vacuum of outer space, or outside of the EU.
    Can we at least agree that both are wrong? The unexciting reality is that people will adapt and accommodate changes outside the EU. Adapting to change is what got humans to this point, and we’re very good at it. The boring truth is they will lament the losses and exploit the opportunities and just get on with it.

  • All those who desperately cling to the hope that Brexit might be avoided will welcome Vince Cable’s position on the subject. That position appears to be that he believes Brexit is a mistake and would welcome it being reversed. I think he was careful to avoid publicly hoping for financial ruin or some other disaster to bring this about, but Vince will be there, waiting, perhaps with a smile on his face.

    I phrase my point carefully for this purpose. Vince’s position appeals to his core supporters. How will it play with the rank and file of the voters?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Jul '17 - 2:12pm

    Catherine, makes a very important point. I think some policies get debated over and over again that should not. As Catherine knows, I have a different view to her on nuclear weapons, but believe that issue should, for small non majority or government parties, be a conscience issue, like capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia , faith schools and the like.It is too easy to say we need a policy on everything, we do not, we are Liberal Democrats and this particular way of seeing things should , both make for greater flexibility and originality , but rarely does for my liking !

    Tuition fees are a very different, bread and butter , everyday sort of issue, yet, as Catherine shows, where do we stand now ?!

    I think the leader should, as the Liberal leader did of old, have a leaders veto, on , say, a couple , of policies , for a manifesto. Even if my view does not prevail, I do think a leader on one or two areas , has to lead , in keeping with conviction.

    But this issue is a pig’s ear , all parties making noises and chasing votes.

    Sir Vince, ever sensibly open minded, would not be against a change, but when faced with the likeable education spokeswoman, for Labour, Angela Rayner, trying to admit the truth on poorer students, and find one hundred billion, to bale out also richer students, we can thank goodness for Vince !

  • Sheila Gee;
    I agree and have said pretty similar things in the past. The thing I object is the constant attempt to present voters in both camps as all being of one voice. Hence I invariable refer to ” some Remain supporters” or “some in the Remain camp” “seem” to believe this or that. Where as some one like Frankie constantly talks about “brave Brexiteers” and sometimes seems to imply that he knows how other people think in the same empty meaningless way some Leave people talk about “metropolitan elites” and dark internal motives. It’s just silly, really.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Jul '17 - 9:29pm

    I wonder whether in the end the Brexit issue will be resolved by pressures from the powerful, such as the CBI and the financial institutions, and that the divided and confused political parties will yield to them. The talk of transitional arrangements, which ‘of course’ must be temporary, but nobody can say when they will end, suggests a final stitch-up for us to (hopefully) stay in the EU. If so, fortunately our party is on the right side of the argument, since Tim Farron decided and carried us forward with this consistent policy.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 11th Jul '17 - 8:01am

    Katharine, Do you seriously consider that it would be acceptable for Britain to stay in the EU as a result of “a final stitch up” caused by “pressures by the powerful”? Such an outcome would be completely undemocratic, and something that liberals should adamantly oppose. After all, Tim Farron has repeatedly said “What began with democracy must not end with a stitch up”, even through he was referring to something rather different.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Jul '17 - 9:00am

    Hello, Catherine, I was guessing at an outcome, not of course recommending it, since as you say it would be undemocratic. However, it might not appear so in the end, because there will be so many compromises on the way which are already beginning – the latest seeming some flexibility possible on the European Court of Justice business. There are several aspects of Brexit which I think people who wanted the exit did not know about or expect, which are worth debating, and which might prove acceptable in the end, given a will to compromise.

  • i think Catherine Crosland makes a very important point. Party policy is to abolish tuition fees. Vince is very proud of his work on tuition fees in Coalition government, it was not a ” compromise” as far as he is concerned. he proudly states that he ” improved” tuition fees and student funance (as a result, we parents of university students beg to disagree and we shall vote for anyone other than Vince’s party). The party needs to debate and resolve this issue as a matter of urgency.

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