Vince Cable missed key Brexit vote for ‘meeting about new centrist party’

Vince Cable missed a crucial vote on Brexit to attend a confidential meeting, reportedly about setting up a new centrist party.

Both he and former leader Tim Farron were absent from the vote last week despite changes to Theresa May’s Brexit plan passing by a tiny majority in a day of House of Commons chaos.

Farron apologised after he skipped the knife-edge vote to give a £5 talk about ‘intolerance’ to Christians following a row over whether gay sex is a sin.

Events changed rapidly through the day over the amendments to the Customs Bill, which Tory Leavers made in a bid to wreck Mrs May’s plan for ‘Soft Brexit’.

First the amendments were doomed to fail. Then Theresa May decided to back them to stop a Brexiteer revolt. Then, finally, Labour decided to vote against them – setting up the last-minute showdown.

In the end the key amendment – making it illegal for Britain to collect customs tariffs on behalf of the EU, unless the EU reciprocates – passed by 305 votes to 302.

That meant if Mr Farron and Sir Vince had turned up, just one more Remainer would have needed to join them for it to be blocked.

Sir Vince was reportedly attending a dinner to discuss the idea of setting up a new anti-Brexit party.

An insider told the Sunday Times: “Sir Vince recognises that the centre ground has been all but abandoned by the two mainstream parties and was interested in exploring the idea of a new party.

“He is not implacably opposed to the idea but wanted to be reassured it will actually get off the ground."

A Lib Dem source refused to confirm details of the confidential meeting, or who attended it.

But Sir Vince has been discussing a “realignment” in British politics since his speech to Lib Dem Spring Conference in March.

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