WATCH: Vince Cable tell Europe’s Liberals that Brexit can be reversed

Here’s Vince Cable’s speech to the ALDE Congress in Madrid.

The text follows:

Friends, this is my first opportunity to speak at ALDE, an organisation which we firmly support. My main, simple, message is that, while we may not be involved in the EU elections, because of Brexit, the Lib Dems remain strongly committed to the European Project: to the European Union.

Many of you are no doubt sick of Brexit, which has been a big distraction from the many pressing challenges which European countries need to address. I would, however, stress that Brexit is not yet a done deal. It is not inevitable.

We expect the Prime Minister to report a deal – a Withdrawal Agreement – in the next few weeks. Details are being assiduously leaked into the media. What is much less certain is that Parliament will accept what she comes up with.

My party – your voice in the UK – is, with support from a growing number of MPs in other parties, pressing for a People’s Vote: a confirmatory referendum, on the deal, with the option to remain in the EU. And it is not too late to bring it about.

You may not be aware of the shift in British public opinion. A large majority – about 80% – believe that the government has handled the negotiations badly, and more people blame the UK government than blame the EU for the problems that have arisen.

Many recognise that the big issues – like the Irish border, the customs arrangements, and the complex issues around a new trading arrangement – were scarcely discussed in the 2016 referendum.

There is now a clear majority who wish to Remain and an overwhelming majority amongst young people. A poll in the last fortnight – of a huge sample of 20,000 – showed Remain now has an 8 point lead over Leave.

That is why the campaign for a People’s Vote is so important and you will have seen evidence of the groundswell of support in the mass march of 700,000 people a few weeks ago. Among the wider public, 40% actively support the idea of a referendum on the deal; and 60% are open to the idea. Brexit can be reversed.

In our anti-Brexit campaigning, Liberal Democrats have given particular priority to the rights of three million Europeans living in Britain and the 1.5 million British expatriates living on the continent.

Even if the Withdrawal Agreement provides for ‘settled status’, the details are sketchy, the process unnecessarily complex, and the right to stay is fundamentally eroded by the fact EU citizens will have to pay fees to retain their residency rights. We will continue to fight for the rights of all European citizens, and hope you will urge your diasporas living in the UK to join and work with the Lib Dems in that fight.

Finally, I want to report to you that as a party we are in the process of transforming our party into a broader movement for liberal democracy in the UK. Building on the model successfully established in France and more recently by Ciudadanos in Spain, we aspire to hand political power to hundreds of thousands of people who join us as supporters. In so doing, we hope to build on the momentum we have created against Brexit, and help repair the broken democracy which led us to this point.

At this critical point in European and in British history, I ask that you keep faith with liberalism in Britain. That you keep faith with the strong forces in the United Kingdom who continue to see our future as European. And that, with us, you stand with the millions of British people who say democracies can change their minds, and that Brexit must be stopped.

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17 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 10th Nov '18 - 6:40pm

    If parliament votes for another referendum we must ensure we win it.

  • David Becket 10th Nov '18 - 7:16pm

    Jo Johnson puts the boot into myopic May and Comrade Corbyn claims Brexit cannot be stopped. Is our leader going round the media studios putting the alternative view, no he is in Spain preaching to the converted. Another opportunity missed.

  • David Becket I have to agree. I’m very conflicted about the current political situation. On the one hand I’m pleased and excited that there is a clear momentum for a Peoples Vote. On the other, it’s so frustrating that our party is not seen as being prominent in the campaign. Of course it’s great that individuals like Jo Johnson are coming on board. But we were the first to call for a new vote – back two years ago when nobody else was and we took a lot of flack for it. We should be getting some credit for that now, and should be seen as the core of the PV campaign. The fact we are not is, I’m afraid, largely our own fault. I don’t fault the leadership’s commitment or work rate, but their media strategy is (not for the first time) abysmal. It’s back to the coalition strategy: ‘as long as we do good things, people will notice. We don’t need to tell them’. Yes, we do!

  • William Fowler 11th Nov '18 - 8:02am

    Those in power have an amazing resistance to the idea that they may have made a mistake, ignoring reality and stonewalling their way out of trouble – if they can. This goes all the way down from the PM to civil servants clinging on to their jobs.

    Sir Vince should have come up with a way to mitigate FOM, got some general agreement from Mrs Merkel et al and then slammed his way around the media shouting that there is a viable alternative to the current mess that demands a second vote. Alas, as per many Liberals, he didn’t get his head around that opportunity and now we are in the land of uncertainty, the most likely outcome a clean break (brexiteers are now offering the EU a sort of no-deal deal circa 18 billion for a couple of years continued access that most likely will be dismissed as cherry-picking).

    Be interesting to see how the EU treats the three million Brits living n the EU, if they are nasty then we can conclude that we are better off out of there despite the loss of govn revenue etc (said as a Remainer).

  • Simon Shaw 10th Nov ’18 – 9:01pm…………….As it happens Vince is far more likely to generate media coverage by saying something pertinent in Madrid…………..

    I’m sure I might find a reference to the speech somewhere, if I look hard enough.

    However, as for ‘Media Coverage’, I have seen nothing.

  • Why would we want to mitigate freedom of movement under which 1.5 million UK citizens have the right to live and work in the other countries of the EU? We should implement the agreed rules about FOM that operate in almost every EU country except the UK that limit the time EU citizens can look for work and also put limits on their ability to claim benefits. Rules that could have been implanted years ago by successive UK governments, who preferred to use FOM as a stick to beat the EU with.

  • What does Democratic mean. Has the meaning been changed.

  • innocent Bystander 11th Nov '18 - 8:51pm

    The immigration issue should not have been tackled by vague promises of limiting immigration and ending FOM. Large scale immigration from Eastern European states should have been messaged as a temporary phenomenon caused by the economic imbalance between Eastern Europe and Western Europe and that this imbalance in standard of living and infrastructure is quickly disappearing. Then there will be no more incentive for Romanians to pick British fruit than for hordes of Germans or Dutch or Finns to come and do it. There were no large scale population movements before the new accession countries joined and there won’t be when economic prosperity is shared out better as the East catches up. BTW the answer “Europe will much the same as now in ten years” was a disastrous (and incorrect) response.

  • Mary – No, I don’t think the meaning of the word ‘democratic’ has been changed. But I think some would like to change it. Namely Brexiteers, who want it to mean that a single vote, in which the winning side broke the law, should commit us to a course which can never be altered – even if the voters later decide to change their minds after huge amounts of new information (including the colossal scale of the Leave campaign’s deceit) becomes known.

  • TonyH
    You mean like the democratic vote that took us into the EU. And if there is another vote why not another and then another every couple of years? The other point is that you don’t really need a referendum on membership as the parliamentary system means that an elected government could leave the EU without one, just as it joined it without one.

  • Christian de Vartavan 12th Nov '18 - 12:35pm

    It can be stopped and lets hope for this country that it will be.

  • Peter Hirst 13th Nov '18 - 3:12pm

    We can’t win this battle on our own, we need more people like Jo Johnson to show their dismay at the negotiations and insist on a people’s vote. It is up to our parliamentary representatives and others to show leadership and vote with their feet. For once, parliamentary democracy has an opportunity to show it works.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Nov '18 - 1:48pm

    Dominic Raab has confirmed that Brexit can be stopped, but it needs agreement from Brussels.
    On the Andrew Marr Show today (18/11/2018) he emphasised that he did and does not want to go to Brussels to sign the deal as it stands.
    Suppose we take him at his word. Is there any reason to suppose that “the current Prime Minister” whom he avers he supports, would be unwilling to do this herself?
    Is there any reason to suppose that the Commission, or the EU27, would prefer him to the PM?
    Is there any reason to suppose that he would have difficulties with Tory backbenchers? or that they could, or would, endanger his career at the Brexit department?

  • Richard Underhill 18th Nov '18 - 2:07pm

    There was a dinner in Sevenoaks last week of the West Kent European Movement.
    The guest speaker is a former MEP for West Kent (before electoral reform for MEPs), a pro-European Tory. He had read the 500+ pages of the government policy paper, but thought it was relatively unimportant. He thought that the single market is more important than a customs union and that Theresa May thinks the same. He also states, from his own experience as a directly elected MEP, that tariff levels are less important than non-tariff barriers.
    He identified ten alternative policies, including one in which the Father of the House would become Prime Minister in a coalition government.

  • Yeovil Yokel 18th Nov '18 - 2:11pm

    Just watched the video again, good speech in the quiet Vince style and quite prescient given the events of the last few days.

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