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Lib Dem leader and predecessor miss knife-edge Brexit votes

Tim Farron has apologised for missing the votes on customs legislation.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has apologised after missing two knife-edge Brexit votes.

The party faced an angry backlash when Mr Farron and his successor, Sir Vince Cable, were absent when the Government scraped through by just three votes on key customs proposals.

Mr Farron insisted he took “full responsibility” for his failure to turn up but said the results had not been expected to have been as close as they were.

The late night votes came after a highly-charged day of Tory in-fighting that saw Brexiteers step back from the brink of rebelling, only for then infuriated Remainers in the party to oppose the Government.

Only support from three of Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs and an independent, who previously had the Labour whip withdrawn, allowed two changes to the customs legislation to go through.

Mr Farron was booked to give a talk, Illiberal Truths, about the furore over whether he believed gay sex was a sin during the last general election.

He said: “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.”

Sir Vince later tweeted: “We have led the fight against Brexit and we will now redouble our efforts”, and included a link to a statement by party chief whip Alistair Carmichael in which he took responsibility for the non-appearance of the two senior figures.

Mr Carmichael said: “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, Vince and Tim, back in time to vote.”

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