Vince Cable tells Theresa May, “the votes may be there for a People’s Vote”

Yesterday, Vince Cable wrote to Theresa May, offering her a way to solve her Brexit crisis…

Prime Minister

I appreciate the opportunity to have had a proper conversation with you about our views on the way forward on Brexit and my colleagues have had a useful discussion with yours about the practicalities of a referendum and its timing. We have followed up the discussions with a note to David Liddington setting out our views on how a People’s Vote could be organised quickly.

Our positions are, at first sight, far apart. But I reiterate the point that, as it currently stands, your plan has been emphatically rejected by parliament; but it would have a 50:50 chance of succeeding if put to the country against the option of remaining in the EU.

Moreover the most plausible way of introducing the option of a referendum would be in the form of a government resolution to parliament seeking approval of your plan, subject to a referendum. Opposition parties would be asked to vote with the government to break the deadlock and return the issue to the people. Providing a People’s Vote were built firmly into the resolution, the Liberal Democrats would respond positively.

If the government cooperates with the 150 plus declared supporters of a People’s Vote (and many more who are undeclared) there would be more than enough votes to succeed even if Mr Corbyn continues to sit on the fence or oppose.

The next step, sought by some of your colleagues as well as the opposition parties for a variety of reasons, is postponement of the departure date to consider other options and averting the dire prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit for which the country is patently unprepared. You have clearly not reached that point but will need to do so for serious discussions with opposition parties to make headway.

My party is ready to resume discussions at any time and communication can be maintained through the usual channels.

Yours sincerely,

Vince Cable

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  • May has no intrest in dealing with people outside her tribe. Her sole aim is to keep the Tories united and in power. She will pander to her swivel eyed loons, trusting that Grive and Co will eventually tag along. Talking to her is a tick box excercise, yes you need to tick the box, but lord don’t expect anything to come of it.

  • John Marriott 21st Jan '19 - 9:38am

    A ‘People’s Vote’ if all else fails (and that includes a Citizens’ Assembly); but have THREE options on the ballot paper which voters, if they wish, can number in order of preference. My suggested three are : Brexit with no Deal. Brexit with Deal. Remain. By the process of elimination we might just end up with one that passes the 50% threshold by a margin big enough to put the matter to bed for a while.

  • A return to the coalition within the EU would be the best option for every citizen of Britain, whether they agree or not.

  • Graham Jeffs 21st Jan '19 - 10:03am

    Beware of attributing any particular logic to what the PM does. From where I’m sitting she seems increasingly psychotic, or stupid, or malign (maybe a bit of all three). The constant repetition, like a well-trained parrot, of ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is of course ludicrous – but we are not dealing with someone who behaves logically in the sense that most people recognise that to get through the jungle one may need to take different paths.

    However, I’m getting even more concerned about perceptions of democracy rather than Brexit itself. Apparently it is undemocratic to have another referendum because the people have already decided. By extension then, let’s not have any more GEs because the people decided last time out. And so it goes on.

  • Nonconformistradical 21st Jan '19 - 10:06am

    @Graham Jeffs
    “Apparently it is undemocratic to have another referendum because the people have already decided. By extension then, let’s not have any more GEs because the people decided last time out. And so it goes on.”

    Do you actually believe these people have any real interest in democracy? They are interested in power only and in democracy only when it serves their purpose.

  • Sandra Hammett 21st Jan '19 - 10:20am

    Get an extension on Article 50, we’re going to need one for legislation anyway, then have two referenda
    Stage One: Binary choice- Deal/Remain vs No Deal
    Stage Two: If Deal/Remain won previously Deal vs Remain. If No Deal won we vote on who gets to eat the Fray Bentos Pies.

  • I’m coming rapidly to the conclusion that we actually need to break the current cycle of stupidity over Brexit!

    Whilst I respect the calls for another referendum/peoples vote, I doubt the parties and and thus campaigns will have moved on, so we can expect it to be a rerun of the 2016 referendum complete with all the emotive lies and a result that will still be marginal…

    What I suggest needs to happen is to step back from Brexit, start addressing some of the big issues – which can in the main be addressed whilst we are in the EU, they just need Westminster to “man up” and change the whole tone of the political debate.

    Thus I don’t support the calls for a peoples vote.

  • MPs would be absolutely mad to put no deal on a ballot, and the EU will not grant an extension for such a crazy purpose. The idea to harmoniously agree on transiting (doing what?) to a breach of contract with the very partner to that contract is remarkable.

    Roland, you are right, but this makes your proposal rather unlikely to happen. Maybe after a peoples vote is approved (but not yet legislated for), and during the Art. 50 extension, the penny will drop, both in Parliament and the public.

  • If, as is widely believed, Mrs May’s priority is holding the Conservative Party together, even more than staying in power (well, in government), then all bets are off. Because of the nature of the beast, the first aim may lead to more instability than the second. The grown-ups in Parliament, who are trying to put the national interest first, need to get on with the job without any crystal gazing as to what she might do beyond the time-wasting. At this stage she probably doesn’t know herself. U-turns and last minute decisions could be the most likely strategy but how would we tell?

  • Please don’t keep calling it a ‘People’s Vote’. That sounds and feels like asking people to vote again and GET IT RIGHT THIS TIME – and that is NOT a good plan.

    A few days ago, on ‘This Week’ Alan Johnson said he thought that if it happened it would be won by Leave with an even bigger margin and I think he’s right. There’s a track record of EU referendums being rerun to get the right result and that will go down badly.

    Moreover, it’s a gift to the Leave #2 campaign. It’s a slap in the face for anyone who wanted to ‘Take Back Control’ and I anticipate all sorts of creative enhancements to the original.

    If there is to be a second referendum it should be presented as ‘marking the Government’s homework’. Have they done a good enough job of the negotiations to justify the expansive claims made in the campaign that people voted for? In effect (though not in those words) that is how Tim Farron framed it just after the referendum and he was right.

    Framed like that, it’s shooting fish in a barrel. Brexiteers: “UK has a very strong hand” – so why did you surrender on every important point in the negotiations? Why does Theresa May propose a deal that would make us a perpetual vassal state, rule-takers with no say at the top table? Liam Fox: “Easiest negotiations ever, 40 FTAs ready to go one second after midnight” – So why has it taken so long? Where are the 40 deals? How many companies whose supply chains depend on those deals will go bust before the deals are done? Grayling: can’t even organise a traffic jam but he can hire a ferry company with no ferries. Do you trust this man to organise the cross-Channel logistics that so many jobs depend on?

  • @Arnold – Agree it is unlikely; I live in hope that somehow the UK will somehow muddle its way through to the right answer.

    @Gordon – The main flaw in your approach is that many Brexiteers see T.May as a remainer etc. and so will excuse the poor deal because of that and overlook the failings of the prominent Brexiteers involved in the negotiations, because of this they will boy themselves up by demanding a no deal – when the strength of the UK position and it’s negotiating skills will magically become visible to all…

  • I believe that the Prime Minister is being consistent. Her aim has been to get a deal which overcame many of the problems which would otherwise happen. She has got that – except for the Irish question which no one seems willing to talk about. She aimed to get it through Parliament by putting the country in the position that they had to accept her deal or have no deal. So she cannot take no deal off the table.
    I remain disappointed that very few are talking about the enormous advantages of having a democratic group of countries aiming to work together. But there we are.

  • Arnold Kiel 22nd Jan '19 - 8:50am

    Tom Harney,

    this is no deal. May has just fulfilled the minimum requirements (unspecified in the the only difficult, the Irish question) to enter a 2-4 year standstill-phase in which everything needs to be sorted out. She has postponed everything and overcome nothing. This took her 2 1/2 years when it should have been months.

  • @ Roland – “many Brexiteers see T.May as a remainer etc”

    That’s a fair point but not a fatal objection to the suggestion. There are certainly some Brexiteers who will argue that black is white to cling to their belief but not all are like that and, even for those that are, it can be made more and more uphill to hold that view. Moreover, the ‘crypto-Remainer’ dismissal doesn’t work for the many ultras like Grayling in the Cabinet.

    One might also legitimately ask why, if she is really betraying the Brexit cause, those close to her on an almost daily basis selected her as leader.

    Also, I think there’s a real opportunity to tie Leavers up in knots. I was listening to one of the ERG lot on the car radio yesterday and it was perfectly obvious to me (as someone who has made some effort to understand the issues) that she didn’t have a clue about international trade, the customs union, the single market or the EU’s red lines. Any rational person would consider some basic understanding of those issues to be fundamental for an MP. It is after all what we pay them for!

    Unfortunately, the media hasn’t helped – too much of it seems to think its job is merely to regurgitate the witterings of both sides without needing to educate, critique dodgy assertions and so on. With a functional media we would never have got into this mess.

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