Vince Cable defends Brexit vote no-show while accepting it was the 'wrong call'

Posted On: 
19th July 2018

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has been forced to defend himself after missing a crucial vote on Brexit.

Vince Cable (right) and Tim Farron missed the crucial vote on Monday
Credit: 
PA Images

The party veteran said it was the “wrong call” to skip a Monday division on the Customs Bill which the Government narrowly avoided defeat on by just three votes.

MPs voted 305-302 in favour of an amendment making it illegal for Britain to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU unless Brussels agrees to do the same with UK levies.

Vince Cable and Tim Farron under fire after missing knife-edge Brexit vote

Relief for Theresa May as government sees off Tory rebellion to win crunch Brexit vote

Theresa May avoids Commons defeat as Tory rebels accept last-minute Brexit compromise

But Dr Cable, whose party has committed to overturning Brexit as its primary goal, was not present - prompting rival MPs to pile in with scorn. 

Today he accused critics of “making a mountain out of a molehill” and explained that diary planning was tough “in an environment of chaos”.

“As it happens I had a confidential political meeting somewhere else. I think with the benefit of hindsight obviously I should have been there,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But in the event it didn’t make a crucial difference.”

He added: “It was unfortunate and won’t happen again.”

However, pro-Remain Tory MP Anna Soubry lashed out at Mr Cable on Twitter, saying he “should have been in Parliament on Monday, critical vote or not, because it was important Brexit legislation”.

Responding to the criticism on Tuesday, Liberal Democrat Whip Alistair Carmichael admitted he had "messed up" and committed to "redoubling" his efforts to stop Brexit.   

In a statement, he said: "Brexit is the most important issue in a generation. And as Liberal Democrats we have taken on the responsibility of stopping it. We’re the only Party united in this aim."

Ex-leader Tim Farron was also absent as he was at an event in Dorset talking about Christian values and gay sex.

In a social media post on Tuesday, Mr Farron wrote: "I was authorised to be absent from the vote last night for a pre-arranged engagement. Nobody expected the vote to be as close as it was.

"We clearly called it wrong, as did Labour, and I take full responsibility for my part – the Tories don’t deserve any luck."