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

Posted On: 
17th July 2018

The leader and former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable and Tim Farron, have come under fire after missing a crucial Brexit vote in the Commons last night.

Vince Cable replaced Tim Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrats after last year's general election

The pair were absent as the Government narrowly avoided defeat on a Brexiteer amendment to the Customs Bill by just three votes.

On a night of Parliamentary drama, 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.

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Tory MPs were whipped to support the change, but 14 rebelled, leaving Brexit supporting Labour MPs to get the Government over the line.

When it emerged after the knife edge vote that the two leading Liberal Democrats had not been present, despite positioning themselves as the anti-Brexit party, they were criticised by pro-EU MPs.

Labour’s Stephen Kinnock mocked the pair on Twitter, saying: “Tim Farron and Vince Cable (those doughty, fearless crusaders against a hard Brexit) didn’t vote”.

His colleague Stephen Doughty was equally scathing, asking Mr Farron “where were you tonight?”.


Responding to the criticism this morning, Liberal Democrat Whip Alistair Carmichael admitted that 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. 

"Last night I messed up. The government squeaked home by just three votes in a key amendment. It should have been one. 

"I was not expecting a close vote - up until 8pm, Labour were planning to abstain which would have  meant the vote would be lost by hundreds. In fact several Labour MPs voted with the Government- which is why they won.

"By the time it became apparent that the vote was going to be close - it was too late to get two of our MPs back in time to vote. 

"I’m taking responsibility and redoubling my efforts to stop Brexit. Thank you for you for your continued support to our campaign to Exit from Brexit.”

Mr Farron was unable to attend the vote as he was at an event in Dorset on Christian values and gay sex.

In a social media post this morning he 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."



Explaining Mr Cable’s absence, a Liberal Democrat source said: “Vince had an important meeting off the parliamentary estate that had been approved by the whips and nobody thought these amendments would ever be so close.”

A Labour source told PoliticsHome: "It's a shame that leading Lib Dems failed to show up and hold the Government to account."

Referring to previous criticism of the Labour leader over his approach to Brexit, they added: "Shout out to the "where's Corbyn?" massive."