The leader of the ardently pro-Remain Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, and the party’s former leader, Tim Farron, have sparked anger amongst anti-Brexit campaigners on social media after the pair failed to turn up to vote against the Conservative government’s hard Brexit legislation in last night’s crunch round of votes on leaving the European Union.
Owing in part to the absence of the two top Lib Dems, the Tories were able to narrowly avoid defeat on amendments to their highly controversial Customs Bill.
The legislation which scraped through Parliament last night effectively ensures the UK will now exit the EU on either hard Brexit terms or without a deal.
During the morning the government surprisingly accepted several amendments devised by the hard-right Tory Brexiteer faction, the European Research Group (ERG) led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, that many argued completely undermined Theresa May’s Chequer’s agreement and the subsequent red lines set out in the Tories’ Brexit White Paper.
The government’s acceptance of the amendments sparked fierce confrontations in the subsequent debate between Tory Brexiteers and assorted pro-EU MPs.
And then, following lively debate, the Tories were only just able to scrape all of the legislation through, narrowly avoiding defeat – and potential calamity for Theresa May’s ever-waning authority – on two of the amendments by just three votes.
However, following the wafer-thin margin of victory for the Tories, news then broke that prominent anti-Brexit campaigner, and the former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron – as well as the current Lib Dem leader Vince Cable – had failed to bother showing up to the votes altogether.
Vince Cable and Tim Farron also missing from Brexit vote government only won by 3. Not a good look for the Lib Dems.
— Kevin Schofield (@PolhomeEditor) July 16, 2018
Subsequently, Farron was unsurprisingly subjected to a barrage of questions on Twitter asking him where he was and what he was playing at – queries which he has so far refused to respond to:
— Stephen Doughty MP / AS (@SDoughtyMP) July 17, 2018
Tim and Vince didn’t vote because the role of the Lib Dems is propping up Tory governments, this we know
— matt (@flied_up) July 16, 2018
But now, in a move which has been described as ‘Peak Lib Dem‘, Farron is reported to have missed last night’s vote as he was busy giving a talk about the demise of liberalism:
The ERG Amendment was passed by 3. Vince Cable and Tim Farron weren’t even present. Farron was in, er, Sherborne giving a talk about the demise of liberalism.
Peak Lib Dem. pic.twitter.com/gGwXUV0M2f
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) July 16, 2018
Despite tweeting in opposition to the Tories’ amendments yesterday afternoon, nobody has yet been able to explain why Vince Cable refused to vote against the government’s hard Brexit legislation.
So @theresa_may caves in to @Jacob_Rees_Mogg and the fundamentalists over #trade bill. Strategy if can be dignified with the word seems to be to put impossible proposal to #europe and blame them for #NoDeal. Compromise disappearing. #FBPE #peoplesvote
— Vince Cable (@vincecable) July 16, 2018
Both Farron and Cable were unsurprisingly accused of rank hypocrisy for missing last night’s crucial votes, not least because it has only been a matter of weeks since Cable spoke at a pro-Remain rally in London where he lambasted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for supposedly failing to oppose the government’s stance on Brexit.
During last month’s anti-Brexit march, thousands of campaigners were heard chanting “Where’s Jeremy Corbyn” – a song mocking the Labour leader for supposedly enabling Brexit and refusing to oppose the government.
However, despite Labour’s record of voting against a massive 72 of the government’s 83 Brexit bills, a large section of anti-Brexit campaigners have, for whatever reason, decided to focus their ire on the Labour leader, whilst simultaneously praising the so-called Tory rebels who, despite their moniker, have actually consistently voted with their party in enabling a hard Brexit:
Next time someone tells you that Labour should "Stop backing Brexit"…. show them this. pic.twitter.com/A8hY1CpXEx
— EL4C💥 (@EL4JC) July 3, 2018
It remains to be seen how exactly arch-Remainers will attempt to blame Jeremy Corbyn for Farron and Cable’s inexplicable no-show last night.