Well that didn’t take long! Vince answers the Brexit, freedom of movement and single market questions

Vince Cable is likely to be the sole nominee for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. It is good to see, though, that he’s behaving like he is in a contest. He’s aware of what’s on the minds of members and activists  and responds accordingly. People had raised concerns about his position on freedom of movement and the single market and he answers them here in a pragmatic and straightforward way. He also explicitly says that Brexit could be avoided if we are willing to consider some changes to the status quo.

What’s also interesting is the acknowledgement that the party decides policy. The leader can put their view forward, but it’s the party members who are in the driving seat. If he carries that philosophy through, he’ll probably be the first to have managed it, so good luck to him.

Anyway, here is his statement in full. I found it reassuring especially because it goes some way to speaking to the Leave voters whose consent we would need to turn this thing around. I hope he will come forward with a liberal vision to address the concerns which drove them to vote for Leave. Poor housing, low pay, stretched public services can all be fixed without leaving the EU. In fact, they can probably only be fixed without leaving the EU.

Anyway, here is Vince’s statement in full.

Since declaring my intention to stand for the Liberal Democrat leadership I have been overwhelmed by messages of support. In the strong liberal tradition I have also received a great many questions about my vision for the country and the party. The first and most immediate issue on all our minds is the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, and I therefore welcome the very direct questions from party members on this subject.

I am proud to be a member of the Liberal Democrats, the most internationalist of parties, and I wholly subscribe to the statement of beliefs set out in the preamble to the party constitution, including our commitment to ‘fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services’.

I possess liberal views on immigration and its economic and cultural benefits. I married into an Asian family and have a Slovak daughter-in-law and I have spent much of my life battling anti-immigrant prejudice.

I have been a supporter of the European project and Britain’s role in it for over half a century. I was and am a Remainer. I support and promote our party’s policy of a referendum at the end of the Brexit process on the terms of the deal as finally negotiated, including the option of remaining within the EU – an option which I strongly endorse and would campaign for.

I specifically support the aims of the single market and its four freedoms – the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labour. I spent five years in government as Business Secretary evangelising for it, and on the 29th of June, at the end of the debate on the Queen’s Speech, I voted with all my Liberal Democrat colleagues and 90 members of other parties to keep Britain a full member of it. If Brexit is to go ahead, maintaining membership of the single market should be our negotiating objective – a position which we must champion as Labour betrays, once again, its Remain supporters.

I am not, however, a free market fundamentalist; I believe that the four freedoms must take account of wider social concerns at the national level. I believe, for example, that while the freedom of movement of capital can be beneficial, it must be constrained – a position which the party has long supported. I worked, for example, with Emmanuel Macron, when he was my opposite number, to restrict the ease of corporate take-overs.

I believe in free trade, but I worked in government to stop a narrow interpretation of EU public procurement rules, in order to enable supply chain factors – such as local sourcing – to be promoted within the UK’s industrial strategy.

I have observed that other member states impose restrictions on free movement. Germany, for example, restricts the free movement of professional staff. It seems entirely reasonable to look at ways through which the UK can remain within the single market – and, I hope, the European Union – but manages migration in a way that better deals with some of the real social impacts on local communities. I have suggested a variety of options, including restricting admission to those with jobs to come to. The failure to consider reforms of this kind may well have contributed to the Brexit vote.

I believe that Brexit would be a disaster for Britain, but we have to recognise that we lost the vote last year. If we can help to prevent it, even at this late stage, by looking in an open-minded way at reforms such as these, it seems to me that the prize is worth the effort.

One final point: one of the great strengths of the party I hope to lead is that its policy is set through discussion and debate to which any party member can contribute – not imposed from the top down like the Conservatives or, increasingly, Labour. The leader has the right, and the duty, to put forward his or her views and to debate them with party members in an open and positive way, but at the end of the day it is the party, not the leader, which decides our policy – and that is entirely right.


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

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This entry was posted in News.


  • James Baillie 1st Jul '17 - 5:03pm

    “Poor housing, low pay, stretched public services can all be fixed without leaving the EU. In fact, they can probably only be fixed without leaving the EU.”

    I couldn’t agree more, fantastic stuff. My nerves aren’t wholly settled with regard to Vince’s positioning, but I’m glad to see him recognising party policy and supporting freedom of movement. Now more than ever we need to be doing so as unequivocally as possible.

  • nigel hunter 1st Jul '17 - 5:04pm

    The fact that the Brexiteers are blaming the EU for our problems and not past Governments must ALWAYS be pointed out for example that housing policy is down to UK Govnts etc.

  • Christopher Curtis 1st Jul '17 - 5:15pm

    I’m encouraged. It’s very useful to have a hint at Vince’s reasoning (free trade, but not free market fundamentalist – looking for a people-friendly, more than capital friendly nuance on single market). I could get behind this, but it is vital that a. it is discussed by the whole party as Vince says and b. we work on the clarity of the overall message and keep the positive message about European co-operation up front.

  • Vince by differentiating between support of free trade and “free market fundamentalism” is characteristically perceptive and balanced. It responds sensibly to concerns Brexiteers but offers solutions which are neither economically destructive nor unprincipled.Importantly he allows space for not only free movement of labour to be qualified but also free movement of capital. Just like the traditional Liberal support for free trade there is room for nuance. No-one believes for example its a good thing for industrial strategies to be hi-jacked by hedge fund asset strippers. Fundamentalists don’t do nuance and don’t get much of an audience outside fundamentalist circles. Arguably we have struck too fundamentalist a tone while quite legitimately defending the EU project.

  • Large White Bear 1st Jul '17 - 6:31pm

    Very wise and sensible – at last a programme and strategy that is possible to support. And thank G-d he doesn’t have a religious agenda!

  • Kathryn Grant 1st Jul '17 - 7:11pm

    Really encouraged to read VC’s statement here. Think it strikes the right balance and is something we members can get behind as we dust ourselves off from the general election and start campaigning for the locals. Say it loud, say it often – Strong And Cable! 🙂

  • @ Ed Mcmillan-Scott For goodness sake. Where does he state or imply “resiling” ?

    “I think in this particular election people weren’t ready for this message about Brexit. “I think the inclination was to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt whereas our stuff about the public should have a choice at the end of all this, whether they want to accept it or go back to the European Union, that message was a bit premature. “It didn’t work, people didn’t buy it and so we did go backwards.”

  • Martin Land 1st Jul '17 - 9:30pm

    Find a pinhead and Lib Dems will dance on it.

  • David Becket 1st Jul '17 - 10:08pm

    A mature statement displaying an approach that could help us. He needs to Lance the student feedback boil, possibly by graduate tax and with youthful Jo as no. 2 we might move forward

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '17 - 10:11pm

    Opinion polls have shown support for an accept or reject referendum but not an “accept or remain” referendum. The former implies that if the public vote no the Government will ask for a better brexit deal from the EU. An opinion poll recently came out against an accept or remain referendum after the negotiations.

    I support Vince Cable’s policy on this and think John Pugh is right about the need to stay away from fundamentalism.

    My personal view is more pro free movement than my political view. You can have radical views but not put them in a manifesto because you know the public doesn’t support them.

  • Andrew McCaig 1st Jul '17 - 10:12pm

    Yes the position was unequivocal. But in most of Britain the voters did not respond to it by voting for us.. That is also unequivocal… Vince merely pointed that out..

  • Antony Myers 1st Jul '17 - 10:21pm

    As a BREXITEER I found myself in a terrible predicament at the GE, unable to support the Lib Dems due to their anti democratic stance on BREXIT, my vote went to the Tories. The first time in my 48 years I have not voted Lib Dem. I need a party that puts Democracy at the heart of its core beliefs as well as liberalism, we can have the 4 freedoms without being part of the EU. The ability to not penalise non EU countries and support our Commonwealth partners is more important to me than the closed door protectionism of the EU.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '17 - 10:23pm

    PS, just seen this poll saying 60% of Britons want to keep their EU citizenship. If true then it would seem the “stop brexit” campaign could work, or maybe people want to respect the referendum result but not lose their rights – the optional citizenship idea.


  • Ed McMillan-Scott,

    “Mewling” – good word; I had to look that one up.

    With your long record as an MEP, I am sure you will be conversant with the background to the issues raised in this letter http://docs.dpaq.de/3604-130415_letter_to_presidency_final_1_2.pdfsigned by Austria, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK.

    While the numbers may be a relatively minor, the British Social Attitudes Survey show the public take a dim view of even minor benefit fraud/abuse and accordingly measures to address this area should be developed as the letter notes:

    … we need practical measures to address the pressures placed on our social welfare systems. Arrangements at national or EU level that allow those who have only recently arrived in a Member State and have never been employed or paid taxes there to claim the same social security benefits as that Member State’s own citizens are an affront to common sense and ought to be reviewed urgently.

  • Andrew Carey 1st Jul '17 - 10:41pm

    I hope Vince will back off from advocating government meddling with EEA migration numbers, especially when there are free market approaches to dealing with the majority of EU immigration issues.
    I did smile inwardly when he said he is an internationalist – Tim Farron for all his likeability would have ploughed straight into the trap of saying he also supports the NHS and the Customs Union and would have thought he was being entirely consistent. Vince has dodged those traps. I think he will do well.

  • Ryan McAlister 1st Jul '17 - 11:10pm

    @Eddie Salmon

    The public want all sorts of mutually incompatible things. Then they compromise and vote for one or other by proxy at general elections.

    They may want to retain EU citizenship, but the evidence of less than a month ago is that very few want it more than things that led them to vote Tory or Labour.

  • Rory

    You are assuming voters know what they are voting for, you know what I suspect most don’t. So how they voted really doesn’t mean they don’t want EU citizenship and when they lose it they will be truly shocked, even the ones who voted for Brexit because they will wail that’s not the sort of Brexit I voted for. The problem with giving people what they voted for it quite often they don’t really want it or thought it was something else or hadn’t really considered what it meant. They will therefore not thank you for giving it them they will scream blue murder and blame you for providing it to them. I suspect the brave Brexiteers are starting to encounter that problem, it’s not the Brexit we voted for they chant and the people who they convinced to vote for it will be less than happy with them. Perhaps some of them could enlighten us of the conversations they are having. I rather suspect some of the conversations are fraught and will be getting rougher; one sliver of a silver lining is they will have to justify the mess they have created even though we all have to suffer it.

  • paul barker 1st Jul '17 - 11:34pm

    I hope that we can put a swift end to our “Mock Election”. The remaining MPs who havent made their position clear should do so quickly then we can get on with promoting the New Team to the Voters.
    I would probably not have voted for Vince in an Election but if he is to be our Leader then I will argue for Loyalty.

  • Diane Reddell 2nd Jul '17 - 1:03am

    To be fair this vote was more about getting the conservatives out of power which didn’t work to the detriment of the smaller parties vote share. With Brexit it needs to be a deal which appeases both remainers and brexiteers as the vote share was nearly 50/50. For me the democratic will of the people is to have a balanced solution.

  • David Becket rightly reminds us of the “Graduate Tax” option, which some of thought should have been our policy for the 2010 Election. It needs serious conversation now.

  • @ Fadel Galal. ” I do NOT believe he’s the one to lead the party at this stage though granted he is an easy/traditional choice”.

    That’s just not good enough and far too picky. You’ve got to fill the vacuum by naming somebody who really is capable of doing it at this stage. The party is on the verge of being dumped into the dustbin of history with a whole host of 2% to 3% results across whole swathes of the country. The only thing that can save it for now is a serious big hitter with public recognition.

    It’s time to get real – or it will be ‘Good night, Vienna’.

  • David Becket 2nd Jul '17 - 9:57am

    There must be more counting of angels on pinheads in LDV than any other similar media.
    Lets get real and look at the wider picture.
    Yes Vince does have some questions to answer and he, with Jo, should visit our regions over the summer and meet the members.
    However Vince is a big hitter. He is quoted today in an Observer article on secret donors. How often did you see a quote from Tim in a similar article?
    Let the other MPs declare their intentions, and if there are no other candidates, let us get on with the job of promoting a revived party at the September Conference.

  • Another day in Brexit Britain, Gove tearing up treaties, brave Sir May threatening to run away from talks and we obsess about whether Vince is quite right. Well he is all we have got, unless you fancy following a leader who wants hard Brexit in which case you have a number of options.

    Ps I’d recommend googling May and the holy grail, very funny and O so appt.

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Jul '17 - 10:37am

    Student fees ARE a huge long term issue for our Party because to grow you have to capture voters when they are young, whereas we are doing the opposite. In 2010 we had captured the student vote and the long term prospects for our Party were extremely rosy, if only we had made the right political decisions at that time…..
    Now there are a few things which I as a university lecturer and a parent of young professionals see as self-evident:
    1) Our fees policy in England is out of line with almost everywhere else in the world. Even most American students pay less if they go to a State University
    2) Students leave university with debts of over £50k. This is just wrong! It gives entirely the wrong signal about debt and saving, and worries both graduates and parents. Many graduates are now questioning the value of their degrees
    3) abolishing fees was a popular policy that worked for Labour with MANY voters, not just students, just as it did for us in 2010 and before.

    Now, several things that were claimed about fees were wrong, and some were true. They have not so far put people off from applying for university, but they have not increased competition between universities at all. Fiscally they are all smoke and mirrors, sub-prime lending of the worst sort. The few good things the Lib Dems forced through in government (grants and low interest rates) have been scrapped by the Tories. On the other hand Russell Group universities like mine have done well out of them, and vice chancellors cry crocodile tears over student debt while increasing their own salaries massively..

    I want a graduate tax. So did most Lib Dems, and the NUS in 2010. That way fees can be abolished. The problem is that Vince considered this option and then rejected it, because he said it broke the link between student payments and individual universities (which is illusory) and could not be afforded because it would increase the deficit (which was fiscal smoke and mirrors). I would make the graduate tax retrospective to solve the fiscal problem anyway.. That would be complicated but not impossible, and anyway we could just park the details in some future review… So I say “act political like Corbyn, and focus on what people want, not vice Chancellors . Promise to fund universities properly anyway..”

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Jul '17 - 11:10am

    I agree with those above who say that Vince will get more media exposure, and will probably help our poll rating.

    However it would be nice to think that in his heart he realises he was one of the two main architects of our entirely avoidable catastrophe, and that he needs to exhibit some humility on that score. Breaking the Pledge in return for the trappings of power was what made me resign (after some correspondence with Simon Hughes and others) after 23 years of membership in 2010, and rejoin in 2015 to vote for pledge-keeper Tim. I am not planning to resign now, but it would be nice if Vince would admit he was wrong. Confidence and Supply would have been enough in 2010…

  • Rob Jackson 2nd Jul '17 - 12:05pm

    Corbyn was often crucified for having different views to the Labour Party, most obviously on Trident. I don’t think a leader can hand on heart lead a party with policies he/she disagrees with.

  • A strong set of focused points from Vince. Let’s have some more.

  • Vince Cable gives admirably clear and reassuring exposition here, and the Yorkshire Post article about his background also reads well.

    Only one point I take issue with. He suffers from the common reluctance to accept that Britain could be capable of holding a referendum which is fatally flawed.
    This same overvaluation of last year’s fiasco has hamstrung politicians from every party and led to the present debacle. But why should the public be held to account for being intentionally misled?

    The Brexit referendum was an unsafe conviction, a miscarriage of justice which may yet see the perpetrators prosecuted if current legal action succeeds.

    One positive aspect – if Brexit is reversed, then their crime will be without consequence so they may escape too severe a punishment. As liberals we can probably all approve of that.

  • John Littler 2nd Jul '17 - 3:28pm

    Vince, I believe a modern Industrial policy with a strong regional element and tied in with government led finance, education, science and academia is what the LibDems should be promoting a lot more strongly.
    It can differentiate from Labour partly by being more affordable.

  • @ Fadel GADAL Does your notion of “being bold (rather) than being traditional” involve being ageist ? Looks like it to me.

    People, however brilliant and whatever age, need time to learn their craft. As for Macron…. I hope he succeeds……. but he’s hardly got his toes wet yet never mind swam a length..

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Jul '17 - 5:43pm

    All this chit chat about who is or is not right to lead is pointless .

    I favoured a younger man.

    I said he could be Macron with more experience.

    He did not stand and nor did anyone but Vince.

    If I were a member of parliament I might have stood if I wanted to be leader and would not if I did not.

    Sir Vince deserves to do the job for many reasons he should have stood nearly a decade ago, but ageism put paid to that and the leadership of one of the people who impressed me enough to join after the Iraq war.

    Sir Ming as was , might be a forerunner for Sir Vince as far as his persona in the media is concerned.

    But he is partly my main choice now of all of those who might or might not stand, other than Norman Lamb, and for similar reasons.

    He speaks his mind before that of the so called party line.

    He wants a party where the members utilise their , our membership , to decide things, me too.

    And I want a leader who can lead in the direction that is in the mainstream of individual conscience and of common sense and we are to now have that older or not .

  • Christine McDermott 2nd Jul '17 - 6:42pm

    Thank you for your reassuring comments. I feel happier about voting for you.

  • John Littler 2nd Jul '17 - 7:42pm

    There is talk about the right of the Labour Party setting up a new centrist party. If that is the case, the LibDems should at ally with them.
    The SDP/Liberal Alliance came very close to a break through and probably would have done so if it had not been for the Falklands War outcome. As it was it put a big shot in the arm of the old Liberal Party.

  • “at the end of the day it is the party, not the leader, which decides our policy”

    I’m sorry Lib Dems but I must take issue with this, the party may well decide policy but it makes no difference, as we saw with tuition fees and secret courts. In fact, party policy is still to eliminate tuition fees. Its just misleadibg voters to claim that Lib Dem party members make policy, because the ignore conference votes anyway. the MOs voted in Secret Courts, against party policy.

  • David Evans 3rd Jul '17 - 9:53am

    Yes Phyllis, you are absolutely right. The party simply vote on policy. The leader, decides whether to try to implement it, ignore it, or as in the case of Nick with Secret Courts and Tuition fees who decided to oppose it because it was convenient while being in government but without any consideration of the consequences for the future of the party.

  • @ John Littler
    :There is talk about the right of the Labour Party setting up a new centrist party. If that is the case, the LibDems should at ally with them.”

    Biggest challenge if this happens is top down verses bottom up approach to doing things.

    Maybe time for the Lib Dems to start adopting the tactics and quicker methods of the more successful party here.
    Alignment and progress of any alliance may then happen more quickly?

  • It would be useful to know whether Vince supports Liberty’s court action against The Snoopers’ Charter. Does anyone know?

  • Vince should read this Twitter thread from top to bottom. A Cable leadership will see the post-referndum boost in membership melt away.


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