Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has been engaged in a Twitter war with the Royle Family actor Ralf Little over mental health funding. It was triggered by Little claiming that Hunt had lied about increased mental health provision. Little clearly struck a nerve because Hunt has responded today with a 26-item Twitter thread in which he defends his record, but admits that one figure he gave to the House of Commons was wrong. The thread starts here.
(1) Let’s get to the bottom of this issue shall we @RalfLittle? I talked about the biggest expansion of mental health provision in Europe which you described as ‘knowingly lying’
Open Britain, which is campaigning for a soft Brexit, has put out this statement about Michel Barnier’s speech. It is from the Labour MP Wes Streeting. He said:
The government’s decision to leave the single market will make it impossible for firms to carry out some of their business in the UK. They are driving jobs to move out of London to Frankfurt, Dublin and Paris. And later today we will see the announcement that the European banking authority will pull out of London, putting yet more jobs at risk.
Labour members have got to elected three new people to serve as constituency party representatives on the national executive committee (NEC) following reforms agreed at the party conference in Brighton. Constituency Labour party (CLP) nominations closed yesterday and Momentum, the Labour group for Jeremy Corbyn supporters, has released figures showing that the three candidates on its slate, Yasmine Dar, Rachel Garnham and Jon Lansman, have got far more nominations than the three candidates being backed by the centrist groups Labour First and Progress, Eddie Izzard, Johanna Baxter, and Gurinder Singh Josan.
According to Momentum, here are the figures.
250 CLPs cast the following nominations:
170 for Yasmine Dar
This welcome news shows a thirst among ordinary Labour party members for change in the way our party operates and a move towards a more member-led party.
Asked about paying extra money to the EU, she was not exactly forthcoming. All she said was:
I set out in my Florence speech that we will honour our commitments. I was very clear about that, as I said – for the current budget plan – no other European Union country needs fear that they will have to receive less or pay in more.We’ve been very clear that we will honour our commitments.
The Conservative MP Peter Bone told Sky News this morning that he did not think the government should pay any more money to the EU. Asked how much was too much, he replied:
One pound is too much. There is no legal obligation whatsoever for us to pay any money. We are net contributors, over £200bn over the years to to the European Union superstate. If anyone should get any money from this divorce, it’s us. The idea we would pay £38bn is absurd.
I was at a meeting yesterday with constituents and they said, ‘Look, Peter, if you’ve got £38bn available, use it to support the NHS.’ I find that a pretty strong argument.
Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, has said that if British banks lose financial passporting, as Michel Barnier said they would (see 12.24pm), that would be a “major blow”. Cable said:
Over 5,000 UK businesses and billions of pounds of tax revenue depend on access to European markets through financial passporting.
Loss of this access risks blowing a hole in the budget at a time when our public services are already seriously underfunded.
In Brussels, arriving for a meeting of EU minister, the German foreign minister Michael Roth said Britain had to “move” on its financial settlement if it wants the EU to agree to open talks on the future trade relationship. Roth said:
It is about the money. In the end, it’s about the rights of the citizens of the EU and it’s about the money. I have already made it clear that the British must make a move. They must stand by their contractual obligations. They can’t be released from them.
The Conservative MP Henry Smith has said the government should not offer more money to the EU. He said:
Especially as Germany struggles to form a government, now is not the time for Britain to offer more money than her obligations are due in EU Brexit negotiations. The EU27 will of course miss UK cash but no deal would damage their economies and trade surplus with us far worse.
The UK has chosen to leave the EU. We respect this choice. Does it want to stay close to the European model? Or does it want to gradually move away from it? And the UK’s reply to these questions will be very important, and even decisive, because it will shape the discussion on our future relationship, and shape also the condition for ratification of that partnership in many national parliaments, and obviously in the European parliament.
I don’t say that to create a problem. I just say that to avoid problems, to say clearly what are the conditions for the success of ratification in this second stage of the negotiation.
It is critically important to improve our country after we leave the EU. It requires a final EU deal that allows us a wide degree of regulatory freedom. We may choose to remain identical to the EU – or we may embrace a vision more aligned with pro-competitive regulation.
If we manage to negotiate an orderly withdrawal, fully respecting the integrity of the single market, and establish a level playing field, there is every reason for our future partnership to be ambitious. This is our preferred option. This is why we have started internal preparations with member states to be ready to talk about the future as soon as we will have agreed how to settle the past. The EU will be ready to offer its most ambitious FTA [free trade agreement] approach.
Some in the UK say that specific rules for Northern Ireland would endanger the integrity of the UK single market. But Northern Ireland already has specific rules in many areas that are different to the rest of the UK. Think of the whole island electricity market. Or the specific regulations for plant health for the whole island of Ireland. Think of rules that prevent and handle animal disease, which I know quite well as a former minster for agriculture. There are over 100 areas of cross-border cooperation on the island of Ireland, and such cooperation depends, in many cases, on the application of common rules and common regulatory space.
On financial services UK voices suggest that Brexit does not mean Brexit. Brexit means Brexit everywhere. They say there would be no changes in market access for UK-established firms. They say joint UK-EU rules would be decided in a new symmetrical process between the EU and the UK and outside of the jurisdiction of the European court of justice. This would contradict the April European council guidelines which are my mandate … The legal consequence of Brexit is that the UK financial service providers lose their EU passport.
There are in fact two contradicting soundbites from ardent advocates of Brexit: the UK will finally set itself free from UK regulation and bureaucracy, some claim; others claims that after Brexit it will still be possible to participate in parts of the single market simply because we have been together for more than four decades, with the same rules.
Ladies and gentlemen, none of these views seems to offer a sound basis for going forward. The same people who argue for setting the UK free also argue that the UK should remain in some EU agencies …
I regret that this no deal option comes up so often in the UK public debate. Only those who ignore or want to ignore the current benefits of EU membership can say that no deal would be a positive result.
Downing Street won’t brief from cabinet sub committee meeting, but I understand it is scheduled for 4pm. In order to be ready for the December European council Theresa May would need to put forward a new figure for the “Brexit bill” a week in advance – so around December 8. But strategists also want to wait until the last possible moment.
At the Number 10 lobby briefing Theresa May’s spokesman was asked repeatedly about what might come from the cabinet sub-committee meeting on the Brexit divorce bill, and it’s fair to say we didn’t learn that much.
There would be no details released after the meeting, the spokesman said. He went on:
The PM’s been clear the UK will honour commitments that we’ve made during the period of our membership.
She said in Florence that no EU member will need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget plan as a result of our decision to leave, but beyond that, specific figures, scenarios, they’re all subject to negotiation and I’m not going to discuss them here.
I’m not going to be getting into speculation about any figures, any hypotheticals. We’ve been clear that once we leave the EU the days of sending large sums of money to Brussels will be over, we will be taking back control of our own money. Beyond that I’m not going to be getting into the negotiations or anything else.
And here is the Telegraph’s James Crisp on the Barnier speech.
Some quick thoughts on @MichelBarnier speech to CER on #Brexit. 1. He began with the stick and ended with the carrot of an ambitious free trade deal (but the carrot has strings.) 1/
In sign of strong EU support for Ireland, MB stresses that N.Ireland is already a separate regulatory space to rest of UK. A push to keep NI in Single market and customs union 2/
MB took a hammer to Brexiters’ cherished assumptions of freedom from but selective participation in EU regulation. Was withering on no deal cheerleaders 3/
Starkest warning came when Barnier made clear free trade deal will not be ratified if UK moves away from EU on issues such as tax, environment, food safety. One in the eye for Wilbur Ross there. He wants UK to choose 4/.
MB makes very clear that Brexit means the loss of the city of London’s financial services passporting to the EU market. Raises spectre of financial crisis in another warning not to slash EU fin reg, which he helped create post crisis. 5/
MB dangles carrot of most ambitious free trade deal possible, if UK sticks to EU norms (ie doesn’t become Singapore style tax haven full of chlorine chicken). Also says Brexit will be driver for EU’s brave new future.. 6/
All in all. MB says you can’t have it both ways and you can’t have your cake and eat it. If you want any access to single market at all, you have to keep EU standards on finance, environment etc. Then you get an FTA but only once sufficient progress achieved on 3 issues ENDS
– TF50 fully in line with Irish demands for tangible commitments from UK in avoiding hard border
– If UK seeks deal that undermines level playing field – state aid, enviro rules etc – it may undermine chances of ratification
Quite hard line from Barnier at #CERfutureEU: UK must make proposals for Ireland, must settle accounts, no passport for financial services, no partial SM membership, level playing field or no ratification of future FTA
And that’s it. Barnier has finished.
He is not taking questions, because he says he has to leave.
Barnier says it will be in the UK’s interests to have a strong EU as a partner.
Barnier says the UK has chosen to leave the EU.
Does it want to stay close to the European model? Or does it gradually want to move away from it? The UK’s response to this will be decisive, because the answer will decide the future relationship, and what happens when the deal has to be ratified by national parliaments and by the European parliament.
Barnier says the EU and the UK will have to have a level playing field after Brexit.
For the first time in a trade negotiation, the challenge will not be maximising convergence. It will be managing divergence, he says.
Barnier turns to financial services.
He says when the UK leaves the EU, City firms will lose their financial passports.
Barnier turns to the single market.
He says there are two contradictory soundbites from ardent advocates of Brexit: that the UK will set itself free from EU bureaucracy; and that after Brexit the UK will still be able to participate in the single market, because the UK and the EU have shared common rules for 40 years.
Barnier says it is not clear what rules will apply in Northern Ireland after Brexit.
He says the UK needs to show what it will do to ensure that there is no hard border after Brexit.
Those who wanted Brexit must offer solutions.
Barnier says the EU does not want a no deal Brexit to be an option.
He turns to Ireland.
Michel Barnier says it is odd to be talking about Brexit at a conference about the future of the EU. But he goes on:
Brexit could prove to be a turning point in the European project.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is about to speak at the Centre for European Reform conference in Brussels.
There is supposed to be a live feed, here, but it has just crashed.
Estimates of the settlement reported in the media have ranged from €6bn to €75bn net. The range of estimates highlight the fact that almost every element of the settlement is subject to interpretation and negotiation.
Conservative-supporting newspapers are divided over the wisdom of offering the EU more money for the so-called “Brexit bill”.
As I reported on the blog on Thursday, the pro-Brexit Sun has come out in favour of offering another £20bn or so, on top of the £20bn already on the table. In an editorial last week, it said: “If the government calculates that the long-term benefits are worth substantially more than the £18billion we have so far put up, so be it. Offer more.” That marked a shift from August, when the Sun was defending paying a total of £24bn, but only provided it unlocked a deal on free trade.
While Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the EU Commission, has talked of a “hefty” bill estimated to be as much as €100 billion, Boris Johnson has poo-pooed the idea that it could be even as much as a fifth of that. Neither sum was ever realistic …
The new proposal is likely to include commitments towards both the EU’s budget for the next few years (to which the UK, as a member, once agreed) and towards longer-term liabilities including pensions for officials and MEPs. Although no concrete figure has been put forward, something in the region of €40 billion to €50 billion is seen as likely, with much of it to be paid over a number of years …
More worrying by far is why, when he should have been focusing on the budget, the chancellor waded into the Brexit debate, hinting he was ready to pay a significantly larger divorce bill than the generous sum pledged by Theresa May.
It is not as if the EU has offered a single concession to justify an improved offer. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier has merely issued an ultimatum: cough up much more than the £18bn on the table, or we won’t even discuss our future relationship.
Senior Brexiters are particularly concerned about the idea of signing over a high sum as part of the withdrawal agreement but later ending up with an unsatisfactory deal on the future relationship.
Johnson is not thought to be opposed in principle to a divorce bill higher than the£20bn already offered by May but would need assurances that the UK was heading for the right type of relationship with the EU when it leaves. At the moment, there is a cabinet agreement on seeking a two-year transitional period after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, but nothing has been agreed on what the future relationship should look like after that.
David Davis, who is leading talks in Brussels, is insisting that Mrs May keeps some money in reserve to use as a bargaining chip when Britain negotiates a final trade deal with the EU next year, a view shared by Mr Johnson.
However, the foreign secretary’s allies denied suggestions he had drawn a “red line” on money or that he would fight to stop Mrs May handing over more than the €20bn she has already offered to cover transition payments in 2019 and 2020.
We’ve just been talking about budget constraints, and the difficulty the chancellor has in public spending, and if we start saying that we’re going to give 40 to 50 billion to the EU, I think the public will go bananas, absolutely spare.
I voted remain because I believe in alliances of democracies in an uncertain world, but we voted to leave, the public want to leave, and I cannot believe that the public would accept such a huge amount when we need money for our schools, our hospitals, our housing, and many other things. So I think that is going to be very difficult if it is going to be that sum, amount of money.
A forum where readers can discuss today’s politics and share links to breaking news and to the most interesting politics stories, blogs and tweets on the web
I’m not writing my usual blog today but here, as an alternative, is the Politics Live readers’ edition. It is a place for you to discuss today’s politics, and to share links to breaking news and to the most interesting stories and blogs on the web.
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The Times revelation that Michael Gove’s colleagues think he is auditioning for the job of chancellor because he has taken to using “long, economicky words” in cabinet (see 9.42am) is generating much comment.
Stefan Stern has written an article for the Guardian suggesting some more “economicky” words Gove could try.
Any cabinet minister who doesn’t know what MIFID (Markets in Financial Instruments Directive) is, should go away and do some reading. MIFID – and MIFID II – which deal with equivalence and financial services, is hardly obscure and is a crucial part of the Brexit negotiations. If the EU deemed the UK as having an equivalent set of financial regulations under MIFID II (which comes into force next year), it would make it significantly easier for the City to have fairly smooth access to the European financial services market after Brexit.
The Netherlands must prepare for a chaotic, no-deal Brexit, the Dutch parliament’s European affairs committee has said. As my colleague Jon Henley reports, in a strongly worded report the committee blames the stalled exit talks on Britain’s “unrealistic expectations” and “inconsistency”.
The Electoral Commission has said its investigation into Leave.EU is being delayed because the Brexit campaign group has failed to hand over information it has requested, the Press Association reports. The PA report goes on:
The democracy watchdog was responding to Leave.EU chairman Arron Banks’ allegation that it is a “swamp creature” that was dragging its feet on the probe.
The Commission is looking into the alleged undeclared provision of services to Leave.EU by data firm Cambridge Analytica.
In the Commons earlier Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, gave a statement on the progress being made in setting up an independent grievance procedure for people working in the House of Commons. The government proposed this in response to the sexual harassment scandal.
While MPs were debating universal credit, peers were doing the same in the House of Lords too.
The Conservative peer Lord Cormack said the system was flawed. “This is a catalogue of human errors but also a catalogue of human misery,” he said.
I beseech the minister, don’t necessarily listen to us, but please listen to the claimants and some of the staff in the jobcentres, because they will tell you we aren’t succeeding with the original intent.
At the end of the debate Eleanor Laing, the deputy speaker, put the motion to a vote. With no one shouting no, it was approved by acclamation.
That means the Commons has voted to cut the amount of time people have to wait for their first universal credit payment from six weeks to a month.
In the Commons Damian Hinds, the work and pensions minister, is replying to the debate on universal credit.
He says only 3% of workers are paid fortnightly. Some 70% of people are paid monthly or every four weeks, he says.
In the comment dfic1999 asked how many Tory “mutineers” voted against the government last night.
The answer is one. It was Ken Clarke, who voted with the opposition in two of the five divisions: on guaranteeing EU employment, equality and health standards after Brexit, and on adopting EU rules on animal sentience in UK law.
Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, has come out in favour of a second referendum on Brexit. He has just tweeted this.
Here in UK, lots of hand-wringing from CEOs over #Brexit. Better sense of the tough and risky road ahead. Reluctant to say, but many wish for a confirming vote on a decision so monumental and irreversible. So much at stake, why not make sure consensus still there?
David Miliband, the former Labour foreign secretary, told BBC Radio 5 Live that Brexit was “the greatest giveaway of political power that a country has voluntarily ever done”. In an interview to promote his new book about the refugee crisis, Miliband, who now runs the US charity, the International Rescue Committee, he said:
Brexit, by definition is trashing the history of the last 40 years, I think it is putting at severe risk many of the gains. I see Brexit as an act of unilateral political disarmament. It’s the greatest giveaway of political power that a country has voluntarily ever done, because we are ceding our position at the table with 27 other countries. Together we can fashion a foreign policy that really does have clout. On our own it’s much harder to do so.
For the first time ever the European Union had made provision for a country to leave. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to be Britain that was the country that was going to leave but what I do remember having a conversation about is, you’d have to be mad to trigger Article 50 until you’re absolutely sure what your game plan is to get out. As once you’ve triggered it, you hand all your cards over to the European Union.
It was ridiculously premature, it was dangerously premature to hand over that. We should never have triggered article 50 until we were absolutely clear what kind of Brexit we were going to negotiate.
In the universal credit debate Conservative MP Heidi Allen said she supported the principle of UC. But she strongly criticised the way it is being implemented. Citing figures from the research published today by the Women’s Budget Group and the Runnymede Trust about the impact of the cuts to UC (see 1pm), she said she did not think UC would function properly until the cuts to the taper rate and the work allowance, which have made UC less generous than originally planned, were reversed.
The communities secretary Sajid Javid has lambasted baby boomers who believe young people could afford a home if only they cut back “on nights out and smashed avocados”, saying such critics were out of touch with a broken housing system.
Warning that a failure to make homes more affordable could see an entire generation becomes rootless, and resentful of both capitalism and politicians, Javid said urgent action was required.
These are from Labour’s Stella Creasy, who has been contributing to the debate.
When our food banks are saying they need an extra 2,000 tonnes of food to cope with universal credit you can’t argue this system is working or saving exchequer money – we will all pay for the consequences of the delays in system. Government must stop for sake of all!
Just raised inherent problem with universal credit delays that will mean those with rent arrears more likely to be evicted – already contacted by residents in walthamstow terrified for when it comes to us in new year. Govt just not listening to mess & fear system will create!
Scotland has fortnightly payments – no reason for delay in universal credit for weeks unless government wants to encourage debt. So too if tenants want rent paid direct simpler & less expensive for all concerned-lots of ways to improve system but govt refusing to act at present..
The Labour MP Barry Gardiner claims Tory MPs are refusing to sit behind the minister on the front bench because they are embarrassed by the government’s record.
In 20 years I have never before seen every Tory backbencher refuse to sit behind their front bench but move across the aisle. Clearly nobody can justify Universal Credit#PauseAndFix Sadly not allowed to photograph in chamber
Here are some more quotes from Frank Field’s speech.
I want to begin by confessing my own inadequacies. I’m sure most of us, all of us, when we get up to debate in this great place, reflect on how we simply do not have the language to match up to the tasks that we are trying to present, through this chamber, to the nation on what is happening. I have to say, this is the most important debate that I have ever participated in in nearly 40 years as the member of parliament for Birkenhead. And I have never more felt the inadequacies of the language that I have to try and tell the House what horror is happening now to a growing number of my constituents under what is called this welfare reform programme.
More than half of low and middle income families have no savings at all to fall back on us. Two thirds of us have less than a month’s savings to tide us over a criss. The idea that families can wait for six weeks, the most vulnerable people that we have the honour to represent in this House – in the cold light of day, you wonder how any decent set of people [can think that].
In the debate Field says the Trussell Trust estimates that food banks will need an extra 2,000 tonnes of food because the impact of the rollout of universal credit.
He says, when the Commons work and pensions committee looked at this, it decided that the first thing that could be done to alleviate the problem would to change the system so that UC claimants get their first payment after a month, not after six weeks.
The baked-in six week wait for the first payment in Universal Credit is a major obstacle to the success of the policy. In areas where the full service has rolled out, evidence compellingly links it to an increase in acute financial difficulty. Most low income families simply do not have the savings to see them through such an extended period. While increased availability of advance payment loans, of up to half the estimated monthly award, are welcome, they are not a solution to a fundamental flaw in the current design. Universal credit seeks to mirror the world of work, but no one in work waits six weeks for a monthly paycheque. We recommend the government aims to reduce the standard waiting time for a first universal credit payment to one month.
In the Commons Frank Field, the Labour chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, has just started the backbench debate on universal credit. MPs are debating a motion that calls on the government “to reduce the standard initial wait for a first universal credit payment to one month.” Currently claimants have to wait six weeks for their first payment.
Field says that, in almost 40 years as an MP, he does not think he has spoken in a more important debate.
In the speech he reiterated his demand for a pause in the rollout of universal crexit.
Since the last autumn statement, the government has accelerated the roll out of universal credit despite evidence it is causing poverty, debt and evictions.
The six week delay in payments has taken some families into outright destitution.
In the Commons Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, confirmed that the third day of the EU withdrawal bill committee stage debate will take place on Tuesday next week. But after that there will be five more days of committee stage debate, and those days have not been timetabled yet. In response to a question about this, Leadsom could not even give an assurance that the committee stage would be over by Christmas.
There have been various reports in recent weeks saying that Theresa May is planning to increase the UK’s “Brexit bill” offer to the EU. In her Florence speech she said explicitly that the UK would continue paying into the EU budget for the rest of the current budget period, which runs until 2020, so that other EU states don’t lost out. She did not put a figure on what this cost, but it amounts to around €20bn.
But the EU wants more. It wants to the UK to cover its share of other liabilities, including long-term spending commitments known as “reste à liquider”, or RAL. Estimates for what these are worth vary, but roughly it could be another €20bn or more.
If the government calculates that the long-term benefits are worth substantially more than the £18billion we have so far put up, so be it. Offer more.
Not one penny of it should be transferred until the deal is signed, sealed and delivered. And it cannot be beyond price. There must be a limit to what Theresa May will spend.
We need to honour commitments we have made and obligations to our people in Brussels.
Whatever we pay, though, must take into account our substantial share of EU wealth and assets.
An official report published yesterday said that Primodos, a hormone pregnancy test used in the 1960s and 1970s, was not responsible for serious birth defects. As the Guardian reports, the findings were strongly criticised by campaigners.
Could I suggest that we have a proper backbench debate about this to exorcise all these issues. Because with great respect to this working party, having had some experience as a former public health minister and knowing about contaminated blood, I’m afraid to say I smell something like a very large rat in all of this and I think there have been cover-ups in it.
The research, carried out for UNISON by New Policy Institute (NPI) shows that although the 2018 pay claim would mean a wage bill of £623m for local authorities, half the cost would be offset by tax gains and benefits savings of £242m a year for the Exchequer.
If council staff were to receive a 5% pay rise, the government would pocket £71m in higher employer national insurance contributions, £128m in tax revenues and would save £43m by paying out less in benefits and tax credits. A further £68m would be recouped through the extra VAT on increased spending.
Labour’s case against austerity has been strengthened by new academic research saying that there is a link between public spending cuts and increased mortality. The academics, from various universities, argue that austerity can be linked to 120,000 extra deaths between 2010 and 2017. They describe their report as “the first study to provide an in-depth analysis of the potential effects of constraints in PEH [public expenditure on healthcare] and PES [public expenditure on social care] on mortality”. They produced their figures by looking at mortality rates since 2010, and comparing them with the mortality rates that might have been expected on the basis of the trends that applied before “spending constraints” kicked in.
This study demonstrates that recent constraints in PEH and PES spending in England were associated with nearly 45,000 higher than expected numbers of deaths between 2012 and 2014. If these trends continue, even when considering the increased planned funding as of 2016, we estimate approximately 150,000 additional deaths may arise between 2015 and 2020. Combining these projected excess deaths and the observed deaths prior to 2015 translates to around 120,000 excess deaths from 2010 to 2017. Contemporaneous reductions in life expectancy and excesses in measures of preventable death both validated our mortality findings.
We have found that spending constraints since 2010, especially PES, may have produced a substantial mortality gap in England. Our analyses demonstrate that if demand-side solutions are infeasible, large improvements in efficiency or, more feasibly, spending above growth in demand (and not just general inflation) are required to close this gap. We suggest that spending should be targeted on improving care delivered in care homes and at home; and maintaining or increasing nurse numbers.
As the researchers themselves note, this study cannot be used to draw any firm conclusions about the cause of excess deaths. The NHS is treating more people than ever before and funding is at record levels with an £8bn increase by 2020-21. We’ve also backed adult social care with £2bn investment and have 12,700 more doctors and 10,600 more nurses on our wards since May 2010.
Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, is delivering his speech in Bristol. I will post a summary when I’ve seen the text, but Sky’s Beth Rigby points out that the tone of Javid’s remarks differs from what we are hearing from Number 11.
Javid saying we’re going to see real action on housing in the Budget next week. That is NOT the vibe emanating from No 11….
There are many, many faults in our housing market, dating back many, many years. If you only fix one you’ll make some progress, but not enough. This is a big problem and we have to think big.
There is no silver bullet, there isn’t a single thing that solves the challenge of affordability in the housing market – we are a crowded island and this is a very complex challenge.
In his Today interview John McDonnell also said Labour would not “waste” money preparing for a no deal Brexit. He explained:
What we have said all the way along is that we think we can get a good deal. That means we don’t have to waste resources on preparing for a no deal.
We don’t think we need to set money aside because we can get a good deal which will maintain tariff-free access, allow our economy to grow and work in a new collaborative relationship with our European Union partners.
John McDonnell managed to get through his Today interview without using “long, economicky words”. But, according to a story by Matt Chorley in the Times (paywall), the same cannot be said for Michael Gove, the environment secretary, who has surprised cabinet colleagues by displaying a new-found interest in the minutiae of economic policy making. According to Chorley, his motives are quite transparent. Chorley explains more in his Red Box morning briefing.
The environment secretary has angered cabinet colleagues by straying beyond his brief in what is being seen as an attempt to persuade the prime minister to give him Hammond’s job.
A fortnight ago he tried to wow/bamboozle colleagues with talk of Mifid (which of course everybody knows is the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive).
Here are some more lines from John McDonnell’s interview on the Today programme.
We said one way is that the government has got to stop giving the tax cuts to the corporations and the rich. At the moment, the calculation now is that on corporation tax and capital gains tax, and some of these tax cuts to the rich, you’re talking about £76bn being given away during the life of this parliament. I don’t think that’s acceptable when our public services are in such a crisis.
I cut that down from what was predicted – over £8bn to £6.5bn – because I thought we’d give it a bit of leeway. Now we know from the Paradise Papers it must be significantly more than that, even the government now is going to have to address this.
Businesses are coming to me and investors are coming to me and I’m meeting numerous numbers of the business community and numerous investors, and they are coming to me for certainty.
And the one thing they are getting from us is openness and transparency about what we want to do, and you know, they are welcoming it, they are welcoming our investment plans, they welcome the stability that will provide because they are certainly not getting this from this government.
The question was raised with me about the run on the pound and the first thing I said is there will not be a run on the pound. I said we would war game every option that would face us. Before I said that I said there will not be a run on the pound.
We’re now less than a week away from the budget, and the government and the opposition are now both focusing on what Philip Hammond, the chancellor, should be pulling out of his red box at 12.30pm next Wednesday.
The government is focusing on housing. Theresa May is doing a visit this morning, and Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, is giving a speech on the topic. As Heather Stewart and Rowena Mason report, May will signal that tackling the housing crisis will be a key theme of next week’s budget.
2 – Provide new funding to lift the public sector pay cap
We’ve had some fairly strong messages from the front line of our public services about what’s happening in health – the chief executive of the NHS telling us that there’s a need for additional funding to avert a crisis.
We’ve got head teachers, 5,000 of them, writing to the prime minister about the cuts, urging the government to halt the cuts in our schools at the moment.
The chamber will now vote on whether to debate Labour’s new clause 58, which would ensure that rights derived from EU law covering employment rights, environmental protection, standards of equalities, health and safety standards and consumer standards get enhanced protection after Brexit. It would do that by saying they could only be changed by primary legislation, or legislation under this bill.
The EU withdrawal bill debate has paused while MPs vote on whether to debate new clause 25 (NC25). The debate should restart in a few minutes.
Kerry McCarthy’s NC25would establish a mechanism by which ministers could change some aspects of EU law being incorporated into UK law outside the time limits in the bill, subject to enhanced scrutiny.
More from our Brexit policy editor, Dan Roberts, on today’s meeting between Theresa May and Manfred Weber, a key ally of Angela Merkel:
European parliament leader @ManfredWeber tells reporters he heard “positive messages” from prime minister that give him hope for a Brexit breakthrough before the December council meeting: “I am more optimistic. There is progress and the will to see progress.”
Philip Hammond will use next week’s budget to offer young people the chance to get on the property ladder, the Press Association reports.
The chancellor said addressing the cost of property was a “very complex challenge” but he wanted the next generation to have the same opportunities as older Britons to own property.
The prime minister made clear at the party conference that she regards dealing with the challenges in the housing market as a key thing that she is going to focus on in the coming years.
In the budget, I will set out how we intend to take that plan forward.
There are members tabling amendments, and rightly so. But I don’t think we should listen to, really, those that simply do not have the confidence in this House, in our democracy and also in our country going forward, along with the suggestions that we are incapable of governing ourselves. Fundamentally, we should be rejecting that.
Of course I am speaking today in this debate following an intensive course over the past week, I think it’s fair to say, on how to stage an exit which was the focus of a degree of international attention.
So for anyone who is still tracking my movements, it’s fair to say that I can confirm that as I walked into the chamber this afternoon I passed statues and portraits commemorating some of our greatest statesmen including Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill, statesmen who stood up and defended democracy, freedom and sovereignty of our great nation.
When somebody is leaving the club then such a person or such a member state has to pay the open bill. That is what we are asking for – simply fairness, simply to do what you promised to do.
For the so-called sufficient progress question for the December council, the most important thing is not the figure. The most important thing is to clarify the commitments – the areas where Great Britain has to see its commitments.
At PMQs Jeremy Corbyn raised the case of a lettings agency in Lincolnshire that has issued pre-emptive eviction notices to tenants because universal credit is being rolled out in the area. That means tenants will be evicted if they cannot pay their rent. The agency, GAP Property, said it was taking this action as a precaution because experience suggested the UC rollout would lead to some tenants falling into arrears.
My colleague Jessica Elgot has written up Corbyn’s revelation here.
It seemed like Theresa May was saying it’s alright, don’t worry. That’s just not good enough in a town like Grimsby. It’s so poor here, the average wage is about £17,000.
My message to Theresa May is this: ‘You’ve got to sort it out. Consider what it does to a family living hand to mouth. Imagine if you’ve got no savings, if all of your money stops and from the middle of December your next pay is February, what would you do about feeding yourself, keeping your house warm?’
According to the Evening Standard’s Joe Murphy, the number of Tory MPs who might vote against the government’s plan to fix 29 March 2019 as the Brexit date in the EU withdrawal bill has risen to 21.
Up to 21 Tory rebels now against Mrs May’s “Brexit Day law”. And two ministers have indicated they could resign next autumn if exit deal is bad for UK https://t.co/kSBv1wwAbt
Car manufacturers need to know by March if UK vehicle certification will still be accepted in the EU after Brexit, a senior vice president of Honda has warned. As the Press Association reports, with the UK set to leave the bloc in March 2019, Ian Howells told MPs on the Treasury committee it would take around nine to 12 months to set up type-approval in another country. March 2018 is “the sort of time-frame we would be talking about” for getting clarity on the issue, he said.
Cars built in the UK are tested by the vehicle certification agency (VCA), whose approval is accepted across the EU, but manufacturers have warned this will no longer be the case if Brexit happens without an agreement. Howells warned that such a scenario would mean Honda could not export cars built at its Swindon factory to the EU without obtaining type-approval from elsewhere.
If you don’t have type-approval you can’t sell. It’s as simple as that. It is structurally a very important thing for us to have.
Are there things we have to rethink, particularly around how we manage our supply chain flow and how our manufacturing operations work from a just-in-time point of view? Quite clearly the contingency that we are looking at would be that we would have to increase the amount of inventory that we hold on the UK mainland as opposed to importing it on a more regular basis. That impacts our productivity and efficiency.
We’d like to see certainty very quickly.
Patel says, when the UK leaves the EU, it can reduce regulations that add costs.
But in some areas will be able to go further, she says.
Patel says the government should not listen to people who do not have confidence in going forward, or who think the UK cannot govern itself.
She says there are people on the Labour benches who think the UK cannot govern itself.
Priti Patel making first speech from the backbenches in Withdrawal Bill debate. Says she speaks after “an intensive course on how to stage an exit”
Priti Patel, the former international development secretary, is speaking in the debate now. It is her first Commons speech since she resigned last week.
She starts by joking about anyone who might have been tracking her movements. If they did, they will have seen that she walked past statues of Churchill and Thatcher before she came into the chamber – great statesmen who stood up for this country.
The UK’s children’s commissioners have called for a halt in the rollout of universal credit for families with children. In a pre-budget letter to the chancellor, they said a pause was essential to fix problems with the way the benefit is working. Otherwise hundreds of thousands more children could be pushed into poverty, they said.
The commissioners for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said:
It has become clear that the absence of income for a number of weeks while universal credit payments are authorised and implemented presents an almost impossible challenge to the ability of families to provide basics such as food and heating to themselves and their children.
In our view, amelioration measures must be put in place before there is further rollout of universal credit.
In the Commons Robert Buckland, the solicitor general, is still speaking in the EU withdrawal bill debate.
Ken Clarke, the Conservative pro-European and former chancellor, asked why, if the government had no intention of using Brexit to undermine workers’ rights, ministers were not willing to accept amendments making that explicit. He said:
It sounds as though [Buckland] is about to reassure us is that the policy of the present government is that, although it is taking these powers, there is no intention of using them for any of these purposes [undermining rights]. The Theresa May government, I quite accept, is not about to use draconian powers to lower standards. The prime minister’s instincts are quite the other way.
As these powers are not needed, as we don’t need legislation to use powers that no one wants to use, why can’t we put it beyond doubt that this is not going to be intended. Heaven forfend my party should swing to the right at any time in its long and distinguished history. There are members of the present government who are not excessively fond of lizards and bats and/or workers’ rights, and we could be all reassured if he will undertake to put on the face of the bill reduced formal powers.
Thousands of students are marching through the streets of central London this afternoon, as pressure mounts on the government to reform education policies, ahead of next week’s budget.
The demonstration, endorsed by Labour, began peacefully, apart from one incident with a rival demonstrator. In a pre-recorded video message encouraging students to attend the demonstration, Jeremy Corbyn said:
The political establishment has betrayed young people. Since 2010, the Tories have made unprecedented cuts to further education. They’ve taken away bursaries for nurses and they’ve abolished grants for the poorest students.
Now the Tories think that capping university fees at £9,250 will be some sort of remedy to all this. What an insult. Everyone should access to free education, from the cradle to the grave, without being forced into debt and anxiety.
Flares set off at a very noisy #FreeEdNOW demonstration, where protesters are chanting: “education for the masses, not just for the ruling classes” and “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts”. http://pic.twitter.com/IcH3cNPwLT
Robert Buckland, the solicitor general, is speaking for the government in the EU withdrawal bill debate now. He says he wants to stress that “in now way whatsoever” will the Brexit process to be used to undermine rights.
He says many of the amendments being debated today, that are intended to introduce safeguards in this respect, are unnecessary.
Dominic Grieve, the Conservative former attorney general, has just finished speaking in the EU withdrawal bill debate now. He said that he accepted the concerns about the potential for rights derived from EU law being watered down at some point in the future because the safeguards in this bill were insufficient. But he said he would like to work with ministers on how this problem could be addressed.
He said he found yesterday’s exchanges “hugely instructive”. MPs had a “cogent and sensible debate” and there were signs that MPs from different sides of the House might be able to reach a “degree of consensus”, he said.
The Times columnist Rachel Sylvester says the Telegraph “mutineers” front page may inadvertently be flagging up an alternative, and rather better, cabinet.
A better cabinet than the current one. Foreign sec – tugenhat, Chancellor – KC, lord chancellor – grieve, home sec – soubry. Welfare – Heidi Allen, Leader – nicky m? https://t.co/lyThizDcfo
This is what John Bercow, the Commons speaker, said in response to Anna Soubry when she told him a few minutes ago that she had received threats following the Daily Telegraph “Brexit mutineers” splash. (See 1.59pm.) He told MPs:
I’m extremely concerned to hear what [Soubry] has just told me. She should not be subject to threats and neither should any other member of this House, or indeed any person for holding and expressing a political opinion.
Thankfully we do have a free press – imperfect, deeply flawed, like all of us. They don’t always realise it; they realise everybody else’s flaws, but very rarely their own. Our media are deeply flawed. But, nevertheless, they are free and that is a good thing. And none of use would seek to deny the merits, indeed the indispensability, in a free society of a free press.
Matthew Pennycook, a shadow Brexit minister, is opening the EU withdrawal bill debate.
He says amendments like Labour’s NC58 (see 2.04pm) are designed to ensure that rights that people have from EU law, which are meant to be protected under the bill, don’t get “chipped away” in the future.
Here is the letter sent out by a lettings agency that Jeremy Corbyn mentioned at PMQs. (See 12.11pm.)
letter Corbyn brandished during PMQs Grimsby letting agents issuing a “notice seeking possession” because of 6 week universal credit gap http://pic.twitter.com/ZrdtJn3vCS
MPs are now starting day two of the committee stage debate on the EU withdrawal bill.
The debate will run for eight hours, and it looks as if all the votes will come right at the end.
This is what the Conservative MP Anna Soubry said when she raised her point of order a few moments ago.
According to my office, they have just reported about five, if not more, tweets to the police issuing threats against myself following the front page article on today’s Daily Telegraph. Would you therefore, Mr Speaker, make it very clear to everybody, in whatever capacity, that they have an absolute duty to report responsibly and make sure they use language that brings our country together and makes sure that we have a democracy that welcomes free speech and an attitude of tolerance.
In the Commons the Conservative MP Anna Soubry says her office has had to report threatening tweets to the police that were made after the Daily Telegraph included her in its list of “Brexit mutineers”.
John Bercow, the Commons speaker, says threats should not be made against any MP. He says the press in this country is flawed, but it is also free, and that is how it should be.
Thousands of British nationals living in Zimbabwe must be given “all the assistance that they need” following a military takeover in Harare, Labour has said. In an urgent question in the Commons, the shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry described the situation as “highly volatile” and urged the government to do all it could during a “dangerous period”. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, said there had been no reports of “any injuries or suffering” involving the 20,000 British nationals in Zimbabwe.
The husband of jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has described his hour-long meeting with foreign secretary Boris Johnson as “positive and constructive”, the Press Association reports. Richard Ratcliffe said Johnson has no fixed date for his planned visit to Iran, but the Foreign Secretary was “keen” for him to travel with him.
Ratcliffe said he had pressed Johnson to give diplomatic protection to his wife. Johnson did not rule out the idea, but he did express reservations. Ratcliffe said:
We talked, of course, about the point of diplomatic protection … and it’s different from diplomatic immunity.
Diplomatic protection is in essence when a state like Britain decides that Nazanin was being treated badly because she is British and she is entitled to be protected as an extension of the British state. It is not unprecedented, but it is a big step.
He didn’t personally give a long list of objections. He asked how it would help, in a nutshell. What did we think doing it would make different from what we are doing currently?
I said, ‘I’m not a lawyer, I think it would help, I think it would send an important signal that the way Nazanin is being treated is unacceptable’.
As usual, I overlooked the questions from Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, because I was writing the snap verdict. So here it is.
Blackford started by asking May if she agreed that public servants in the emergency services were doing a good job. She agreed. So why are the Scottish fire and police forces the only ones in the UK paying VAT, he asked. He urged her to scrap it. May replied:
The chief secretary has made clear that officials in HMT will look at this issue … Very constructive representations have been made by my Scottish colleagues on this particular issue.
Let’s just be clear, before the Scottish government made the decision to make Scotland’s police and fire services national rather than local bodies, they were told this would make them ineligible for VAT refunds and they pressed ahead.
May says she hopes the Australian government will act on the postal vote in favour of same-sex marriage very soon.
Labour’s Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi thanks May for campaigning in his constituency at the election. Labour’s majority went up. Will May assure him that Slough’s rail link to Heathrow will be a priority.
May says the government is electrifying the Great Western mainline, which will help her constituency, Maidenhead, and Slough.
Labour’s Angela Eagle says earlier this year May said she was the only person who could provide strong and stable leadership in the national interest. With her cabinet crumbling, how is it going?
May says Eagle is a member of a party that cannot even decide what it wants from Brexit.
May says the government is clear about wanting to protect the green belt.
Labour’s Lucy Powell says it is almost six months since the Manchester terror attack. Manchester has had to spend almost £17m as a result. Yet is has not been reimbursed. Will it be?
May says that is an important issue. She says the government will respond by the end of next week. She expects the majority of that funding to be supplied to Manchester.
Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, says David Davis said in the City yesterday that freedom of movement would be maintained for bankers after Brexit. Why won’t it be preserved for other sectors, like agriculture, too?
May says the migration advisory committee is going to make recommendations on immigration after Brexit.
Labour’s Tracy Brabin says a constituent is having to get her ID verified by her doctor because she does not have photographic ID for her universal credit claim. Will May allow legacy identification from past benefits?
May says it is important to have proper ID for benefits. She urges Brabin to take this up with the DWP.
Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative, asks about the successful elections in Somaliland. The winning candidate has said he will legislate against female genital mutilation, inspired by a British campaign.
May says Goldsmith raises an important point. She is glad Somaliland is tackling FGM.
Stephen Lloyd, a Lib Dem MP, asks if May feels a sense of shame about benefit cuts.
May says universal credit will people to keep more of what they earn. It is the right reform, she says.
Paul Masterston, a Conservative, asks about a Romanian who attacked a girl in his constituency. What can be done to protect the public from people like this?
May says the Home Office is looking to deport this individual. She wants to maintain cooperation on security with the EU after Brexit, she says.
Labour’s Marie Rimmer asks about stabbings in her constituency. What will the government do to get more police on the streets?
May says she is concerned about these attacks. Police budgets have been protected. And a higher percentage of officers are now on the streets.
Labour’s Mary Creagh says Boris Johnson told the foreign affairs committee two weeks ago that he had seen no evidence of Russian meddling in the election. But May herself warned about Russia’s activities on Monday, and new evidence has emerged recently. Has Johnson been kept in the dark?
May says the examples she spoke of in her speech did not relate to the UK. She says the security and intelligence committee is being set up today.
Michelle Donelan, a Conservative, asks if May will consider getting medical students to sign a contract saying they must work for the NHS for the first five years after training, to stop the brain drain abroad.
May says the department of health is looking at this idea.
The SNP’s Stephen Gethins asks about a company in his Fife North East constituency which is under threat.
May says she raised it with Nicola Strugeon when the spoke yesterday.
PMQs – Snap verdict: That was one of May’s easiest PMQs for ages. Corbyn needs to recognise that sometimes less is more. Presumably, like all opposition leaders, he starts every Wednesday morning with a long list of topics he could raise at PMQs. Most successful communication involves an editing process – taking stuff out, and focusing on what is most effective etc – but today it felt as if Corbyn was determined to run through every topic on his list from 9am this morning. Sometimes his scattergun approach can work, but today it felt rambling and unfocused, and he never really got past May’s preliminary defences. His Boris Johnson/Uxbridge question was well phrased, and his revelation about the lettings agency and universal credit was striking, and quite shocking, but even on these issues May comfortable saw him off. She felt particularly confident talking about crime stats (as always – she still sounds like a home secretary) and her point about Labour councils and sprinklers sounded like a plausible retort to Corbyn’s Grenfell Tower question. It wasn’t a memorable or inspiring exchange, and it did seem to drag on for aged but, given the last few weeks she has had, May will head off for lunch with a sense of relief.
Corbyn says 5,000 teachers should have an idea of the funding problems their schools face.
He says public services are in crisis. But a super-rich few dodge their taxes. The Tories cut taxes for the few, and services for the many. Isn’t the truth that this a government that protects the super-rich, while the rest of us pick up the bill for poverty and the slashing of services.
Corbyn says it is strange that the chief executive of NHS Provider says we are in the longest squeeze in NHS history. The number of people waiting a long period has gone up. As Tories jeer, he says Labour are the opposition (which is why he is asking these questions). He asked about school budgets recently. This week 5,000 head teachers wrote to the chancellor saying they wanted the money taken out of the system to be returned. Will the money be returned to school budgets?
May says Corbyn has got something right today: “We are the government, and he is the opposition.” He says there are 1,000 more patients seen in A&E within the four-hour standard every day compared to 2010. This is the first government for decades that has gripped the need for a fairer funding formula. And to have one, you need a strong economy. She says May is planning a run on the pound, the government is building a country fit for the future.
Corbyn says he is happy to show her that letter. Other letting agencies may do the same. Food bank use has gone up by 30% in areas where UC has been rolled out. And it is estimated child poverty will rise as a result. If those reasons are not enough to justify halting the roll out of UC, he doesn’t know what reasons are.
He says Simon Stevens said last week the NHS needed more money. Can May spend the next week ensuring that budget gives enough money to the NHS.
Corbyn says we need to think about the safety of people in high-rise blocks.
He turns to universal credit, quoting from a letter from a lettings agency in Lincolnshire, where UC is being rolled out. The agency is telling tenants to move out because it will not be able to cope with the UC-generated rent arrears.
Corbyn says one minister said he was “mystified and disappointed” at the closure of Uxbridge police station. That came from Boris Johnson, he says. He says the real reason it is closing because of a £2.3bn cut to police budgets in the last parliament. And they will be cut by another £700m by 2020. There are fewer firefighters in England. But last year deaths by fire increased by 20%. May said money would be no object to safety after the Grenfell Tower fire. Will May back the campaign to retrofit sprinklers?
May says the police and crime commissioner for London is the mayor. And Sadiq Khan is a Labour mayor, she says, although Corbyn may think Khan is not Labour enough for him. There is more money and officers for each Londoner than for anywhere else in the country.
Jeremy Corbyn also wishes the Queen and Prince Philip a happy platinum wedding anniversary.
He mentions the victims of the Iran earthquake, and says he hopes the UK is sending help.
Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative, praises May’s stewardship of the economy. The deficit is down and debts are oversubscribed. Will May invest in the economy and build more homes?
May says Tugendhat has made an important point. The government is doing that, she says. We are seeing billions being spend on rail, and the biggest road building programme for a generation.
Theresa May starts by congratulating the Queen and Prince Philip on their platinum wedding anniversary on Monday.
Almost PMQs time. First question comes from Tom Tugendhat, one of the Telegraph’s “mutineers”
It would be a struggle to find anyone who comments on politics professionally who will say things are going well for the government. In fact the consensus view at Westminster (not that the consensus is always right) is that the government is in a bit of a mess.
And yet the Tories are neck and neck with Labour in the polls, as our figures today confirm. (See 10.54am.) Why? Here are three blogs and articles that offer an explanation.
The sex scandals in Westminster are not regarded as a party political issue. Indeed, people often don’t know which party an accused MP comes from. When the former foreign secretary Robin Cook had an affair, the Tories thought that at last attention wold turn to Labour sleaze. In fact, because all the sleaze stories had been about Tories, voters just assumed Cook must be a Conservative. In today’s case, people regard all the accused as generic MPs. As a result, the sex scandal has reinforced the notion of politics as disreputable and that paying any attention to it is a waste of time. This partly accounts for the frozen polls.
The second reason why Labour isn’t thrashing the Tories at the moment is Jeremy Corbyn. Because he did much better than expected at the election, and Mrs May performed much worse, the suggestion has taken hold that he is an asset for Labour.
The most common explanation on psepholoical Twitter is that people are “tuning out”. That’s intuitive because the main policy issue at the moment is Brexit, a lengthy process that doesn’t lend itself to “new news” very often. After all, if Matt Chorley is bored with Brexit, there probably isn’t much hope for the person on the street.
Next, the fundamentals haven’t shifted much. MORI’s gross satisfaction ratings, the spread of which tends to be a very strong predictor of election results, moved dramatically in the runup to the election, but have barely changed for either leader since (other pollsters have found broadly similar patterns).
It’s the economy that still gives the Conservatives the upper hand – even if it is in a precarious position. The 1992 comparison offers an economic lesson to the Chancellor as he puts the finishing touches to his Budget next week. The trigger to Major’s downward ratings was Black Wednesday, when the government was forced to withdraw the pound sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. As a result, interest rates temporarily rose to 12 per cent. The Tories never recovered from losing their reputation of economic competence.
May still has it – even if the £1bn DUP deal has dented it and Brexit could puncture it if handled badly. As things stand, voters still say the Tories lead the way on economic competence. Until that changes, whether it’s through Labour winning the argument or the Tories losing the plot, don’t expect the polls to shift significantly. If Philip Hammond gives in to demands from some in his party for a radical Budget to end austerity with a borrowing binge, there may be a shift – it just might not be the one he is looking for.
Sky’s Beth Rigby says the amount of time people have to wait before they get their first universal credit payment, which is currently six weeks, is going to be cut, either by one week or two weeks.
NEW: ministers are to cut the controversial wait time for #UniversalCredit in the coming days, govt figure tells Sky News. Wait time going from 6 weeks to 5 at worst at month at best… https://t.co/Xawc5tAj7H
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live this morning Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, said that it was “foolish” of the government to table an amendment to the EU withdrawal bill fixing 29 March 2019 as Brexit day. Cable said:
Whether we have a fixed date of March 3, or it’s June in the same year, is a trivial issue.
This idea of the fixed date was not put there because of business lobbying, it was put there because the hardliners – you know, the Duncan Smiths and the Rees-Moggs – wanted to be absolutely clear there was no backsliding.
And here are the latest ICM state-of-the-party polling figures.
Tony Blair casually observed last week that Labour should be doing better in the polls, given the government’s current travails, for which he received a certain amount of opprobrium.
But he’s right about one thing – the polls are not moving. Indeed, the current stasis is no better reflected than by the observation that the stretch of neck-and-neck standings has reached five consecutive polls. Only one more such poll is needed to match the record of six in the ICM/Guardian series, when Labour’s (then) 5-point lead in August 2003 did not waver until the following February.
The Scottish government has won its minimum alcohol pricing case at the supreme court, my colleague Severin Carrell reports.
Our latest Guardian/ICM polling is out today. And it includes some findings intended to show how seriously people view the recent sexual misconduct allegations that have been levelled against various MPs.
We asked about nine potential misdemeanours by MPs and, for each of them, asked people if they found them a) acceptable, or at least a private matter irrelevant to being an MP; b) unacceptable, but not necessarily career ending; or c) totally unacceptable and career ending.
Michael Gove, the environment secretary and one of the Vote Leave leaders, has joined those Conservatives criticising the Daily Telegraph for its “Brexit mutineers” front page attack on Tories fighting the EU withdrawal bill.
I regret any media attempts to divide our party. My Parliamentary colleagues have sincere suggestions to improve the Bill which we are working through and I respect them for that. https://t.co/t6r4ojKPbd
I agree. Colleagues today were reasonable and constructive. We are working together to get this important legislation right. https://t.co/LUgfS3lRjB
Fabulous collection of some of the best MPs in the country. How small the Telegraph appears in comparison. https://t.co/3bl2Llyc44
I was elected to represent my constituents and act in the country’s best interest. Silly headlines from a discredited newspaper will not stop me from doing my duty. http://pic.twitter.com/aOjlt1FEy5
The EU withdrawal bill started its epic 64-hour journey through its committee stage yesterday. The government won all the votes comfortably, but some Tory MPs strongly criticised the plan to specify the time and date of Brexit on the face of the bill, which will not come to a vote until day eight. Yesterday’s live blog covering the debate is here and here is the Guardian’s overnight story.
The Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan is speaking now. She is talking about the way the EU withdrawal bill stops the charter of fundamental rights applying in the UK after Brexit. She is referring Francovich damages. According to the House of Commons library’s 120-page briefing paper on the bill (pdf), the bill says there will “no right in domestic law on or after exit day to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich.”
The briefing note helpfully explains what Francovich damages are.
The court of justice of the EU (CJEU) allows individuals, under certain conditions, the possibility of obtaining compensation for directives whose transposition is poor, delayed or non-existent.
In the Francovich case in 1991104 the CJEU (then the ECJ) held that the Italian government had breached its EU obligations by not implementing the insolvency directive on time, and was liable to compensate the workers’ loss resulting from the breach.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has suggested Britons could only book a holiday abroad if they went through the Foreign Office before Margaret Thatcher came to power, in a speech at a centre-right thinktank.
Rudd’s speech called on a new generation of Conservatives to make the case against nationalised industry during an event at the Centre for Policy Studies, hosted by Thatcher’s key fundraiser and Tory chair Lord Saatchi.
Those were extraordinary days then, if you wanted a sandwich on British Rail you had to be pretty hungry. If you were going on holiday, you booked it through the FCO rather than through Thomas Cook or Booking.com. Those were such different days and most of us, until very recently, thought that those days had gone for good.
MPs are now into the second part of today’s debate. This is the bit dealing with amendments relating to the interpretation of retained EU law.
The Labour MP Chris Leslie, who was briefly shadow chancellor after the 2015 election, opens the debate because his amendment, new clause 14 (NC14), is the lead one. It says:
Within one month of royal assent of this Act the secretary of state shall lay a report before parliament setting out how the interpretation of retained EU law provisions in section 6 shall operate in the event of a transitional period being agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union ahead of the implementation of a withdrawal agreement.
Clause 1 does stand part. MPs have voted in favour by 318 votes to 68, a majority of 250.
According to the Sun’s Steve Hawkes, the Conservative former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has criticised his colleague George Freeman for his comments about the UK’s future and Brexit.
Iain Duncan Smith on George Freeman: “I am deeply saddened that a colleague who is supposed to be supporting the Government has chosen to attack the result of the referendum in this way.”
No no. Fake news from the Guardian. Read my speech Ian. I wasn’t talking about Brexit. I was talking about whether we have the courage to tackle our deep structural economic weaknesses. https://t.co/UoUjzvy1xs
MPs are now voting on clause 1 of the bill (that clause 1 “stand part”, in the jargon.)
Clause 1 is the one that says “the European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day.”
The Plaid Cymru amendment has been defeated by 318 votes to 52 – a majority of 266.
Here is the text of the Plaid Cymru amendment being put to the vote now.
It has the backing of MPs from Plaid, the SNP, and the Lib Dems, as well as from the Green MP Caroline Lucas and from at least one Labour MP, Ann Coffey.
Frank Field is wrapping up now. (He went first, and winds up, because his is the lead amendment in this section and gets put to the vote first. See 2.52pm.)
But Field now says he is withdrawing his amendment. It duplicated the government’s new one, 381, which will be put to the vote on day eight of the committee stage.
Robin Walker, a Brexit minister, is winding up the debate now.
The SNP’s Angus MacNeil asks if the government will go ahead with the bill even if the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly vote against it.
The Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin, a Brexiter, is speaking now. He says some MPs are complaining about the Henry VIII powers in the EU withdrawal bill. But the European Communities Act handed over power to Brussels, he says. It was the biggest Henry VIII power ever.
Earlier in the debate the independent MP for North Down, Lady Hermon, said leaving the EU without a deal would be “absolutely disastrous” for Northern Ireland and endanger UK border officials and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers. She said:
It would mean, inevitably, a hard border. For those of us who have grown up in Northern Ireland, who grew up through 32 years of violence, killing and mayhem, I am not prepared to sit in this House and allow this House to go down the route of ‘no deal’ – which endangers people, UK border officials and PSNI officials along the border. It is imperative we have a deal.
Turning back to Hope not Hate and its legal action against Nigel Farage (see 3.30pm), the former Ukip leader has put out a statement dispute Hope not Hate’s account of what happened. In a statement Farage said:
I am very surprised at Hope not Hate’s announcement today that they have won their legal case against me. Some victory! Their statement today is thoroughly disingenuous.
It is the case that we’ve now resolved our dispute and I am perfectly happy to accept that the organisation doesn’t pursue violent or undemocratic means. But the fact is that a number of individuals claiming to support them have in the past behaved violently and sought to intimidate and disrupt lawful political meetings.
Turning away from the debate for a moment, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has told Theresa May that the EU withdrawal bill is unacceptable to the Scottish government in its present form. She met May in Downing Street this afternoon and afterwards she told reporters that their talks were “constructive and cordial”. She went on:
I made very clear, as the Scottish government has done consistently, that the withdrawal bill as it stands would not be acceptable and we would not be able to recommend approval of that. That remains the position, but hopefully having had the opportunity to air the concerns that we have in more detail, we will be able to see progress in the weeks to come.
While we didn’t reach agreement, I think we developed a better understanding of each others’ positions. I made clear that the Scottish government wants to find agreement on the Withdrawal Bill. We oppose Brexit but we understand withdrawal legislation is necessary, so we want to find agreement.
Grieve says some of his Tory colleagues are “delusional” about how easy they think it will be to replicate trade agreements when the UK leaves the EU.
He says there are 759 external treaties that apply through the UK’s membership of the EU. Those are all put at risk by amendment 381, the government one saying the UK has to leave on 29 March 2019 come what may, he says.
It is quite simply unacceptable because what it does is fetter the government’s own ability to carry out the negotiation.
Grieve is now speaking about the government amendments introduced last week.
Referring to amendment 383 (see 4.13pm), he says when he first saw it he thought the government might be involved in a “double deceit” because amendment gives ministers the power to change the Brexit date, even though amendment 381 apparently fixes it for good.
Dominic Grieve, the Conservative former attorney general, is speaking now.
He says he views Brexit as a “great and historic error”.
The Labour MP Yvette Cooper has just given a powerful speech supporting her amendment. (See 10.36am.) In his speech the Brexit minister Steve Baker said that Cooper’s amendment would bring chaos. Cooper opened by saying the government was doing perfectly well itself introducing chaos.
UPDATE: Here is an extract from Cooper’s speech, where she explains her amendment intended to ensure that the UK does not leave the EU until parliament has passed another bill implementing the Brexit deal and the leaving date.
Let’s suppose the government comes forward with withdrawal terms which don’t include a security deal. The home secretary has said it is “unthinkable”. Like her I expect a security deal to be done as it is in all of our interests. But as the EU security commissioner has said, “just because everybody agrees that something is the right thing to do doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
What if we get some kind of deal but it doesn’t include a security deal? Is Parliament really going to bind its hands now and let the UK crash out on March 29th without any kind of arrangements for security cooperation so people literally have to be released from police custody because you can’t use the arrest warrant, or without an aviation deal so planes are stuck on the ground?
Here are the main points from the opening of this afternoon’s debate on the EU withdrawal bill.
It is quite unnecessary to actually close down our options as severely as we are with this amendment when we don’t know yet [what will happen in the Brexit talks], when it is perfectly possible that there is a mutually beneficial, European and British, need to keep the negotiations going for a time longer to get them settled.
I have to say I find this amendment by the government so very strange, because it seems to me to fetter the government, to add nothing to the strength of the Government’s negotiating position, and in fact potentially to create a very great problem that could be brought back to visit on us at a later stage.
I’m told @jeremycorbyn and shadow cabinet will make common cause with Tory Remain rebels on opposing @theresa_may amendment to EU Withdrawal Bill to set hard date of March 29 2019 for Brexit – because would constrain Brexit talks. It will be key vote, for UK & PM’s future
We would like to put this issue to rest. We recognise the importance of being crystal clear on the setting of exit day, and the government is keen to provide the certainty that [Frank Field] and others are seeking.
Anyone serious about comparing this historic event to us fighting for survival in World War Two would have followed the move that Churchill made once he took over from Chamberlain. He would have moved from the ramshackle way of existing institutions and he established a war cabinet.
I believe we need a Brexit cabinet – small, with the offer to the opposition to be on it, as in war time which Mr Attlee, Mr Greenwood accepted – that we actually try and have a national interest.
One of the highlights of the debate so far was this exchange between two Labour MPs, the pro-leave Frank Field and the pro-remain Hilary Benn. Proposing his amendment, NC49, Field said he had never bought a house “without having in the contract the date when it’s mine”.
Benn, son of the late Labour cabinet minister and sometime hereditary peer Tony Benn, intervened, saying:
I think his analogy about buying a house falls down at the first hurdle, because nobody commits to a date to buy a house before they know what it is that they’re buying.
As my right honourable friend was kind to me about the house analogy, I’ve always bought my houses, never inherited them.
Turning away from the debate for a moment, my colleague Dan Roberts has been covering the business select committee hearing with the motor industry. He has posted these on Twitter.
Honda UK telling MPs it imports 2 million components a day from Europe on 350 trucks and holds 1 hours worth of stock. It would take 18 months to put customs admin in place but every 15 minutes of delay would cost £850,000 a hour. That’s not including WTO tariffs of 10% and 4.5%.
Oh, and if there’s a divergence in regulatory standards, Honda UK cites research showing cost of converting a EU car to match US standards is equivalent to another 26% tariff increase. 40% of extra workers hired to build new Civic at Swindon were EU workers, 30% at Bracknell HQ. https://t.co/Q4ld2evjTQ
Clarke ends by urging the government to reject its own “silly amendments thrown out because they got a good article in the Daily Telegraph”.
Unusually, he gets a round of applause for his speech.
Clarke mocks the idea that MPs now think they have been instructed by the voters as to what they should do.
And he claims that, because no one on the leave side expected to win the referendum, they did not put any thought into what would happen if the UK did leave the EU.
Clarke says the government only introduced its amendment 381 to see off Frank Field’s amendment. (See 2.52pm.)
The government did not need to, he says. They could have defeated Field’s amendment.
Ken Clarke’s speech is going down well with opposition MPs.
This is from Labour’s Chuka Ummunna.
Ken Clarke currently destroying his Government’s case for a hard Brexit in the Commons. Tory MPs all looking glum as he talks on the backbenches. Universities Minister Jo Johnson very gently nodding in agreement throughout the speech.
Listening to the great Ken Clarke speaking on Europe. I wish someone of his calibre was in Cabinet. Especially at a time like this.
Ken Clarke, the Conservative pro-European and former chancellor, is speaking now. He describes Nigel Farage as the most successful politician of his generation. Farage was able to turn people against the EU. People now think that, because we are leaving the EU, they will be able to buy bent bananas again and double-decker buses will not be banned.
The idea which is very popularly put forward by Ukip and others, that it led faceless, grey Eurocrats to produce vast quantities of awful legislation and red tape, is one of the biggest myths of our time.
And I pay tribute to Nigel Farage’s campaigning abilities – there’s absolutely no doubt he’s the most successful politician of my generation, because he has persuaded a high proportion of the population that that is exactly how it runs.
Blomfield says Labour will not support the government amendments about Brexit day.
The main one is amendment 381, but there is also amendment 383, which amends clause 17 and which seems to give ministers the powers to change Brexit day. The Times’ Sam Coates has more here.
Does Amendment 383 cancel out the impact of the Amendment setting the date? See below. “I’m not sure the Government know what they are doing”, says one mystified rebel. http://pic.twitter.com/DtNajyqR1h
Turning away from the EU withdrawal bill for a moment, here is the official Russian foreign ministry’s Twitter account trolling Theresa May.
In the Commons Paul Blomfield, the shadow Brexit minister, is speaking now for Labour. He says Labour is not trying to block Brexit.
He asks why the government decided at the end of last week to introduce amendment 381, the one inserting into the bill a line saying the UK will leave the EU at 11pm on 29 March 2019.
Dominic Grieve, the Conservative former attorney general, intervenes. Referring to the government’s amendment putting Brexit day on the face of the bill, he says article 50 does not say the UK has to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. It allows for the possibility of an extension. He says by putting this amendment in the bill, it could cause a problem if the government subsequently needs to extend the negotiation.
In response, Baker says the government felt it had to put the leaving debate in the bill because there were concerns about the “degree of elasticity” in the provisions in the bill giving MPs Henry VIII law-making powers if there were no leaving date.
In the Commons Steve Baker, the Brexit minister, is speaking now. Baker is an enthusiast for Brexit, and he is defending the government’s decision to insert the leaving date into the bill.
Ken Clarke, the leader Tory pro-European, says most Eurosceptics who complain about EU legislation are unable to identify EU laws they want to get rid of. Can Baker name one, he asks?
Turning away from the debate for a moment, Hope not Hate, the anti-fascist organisation, has announced that the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage has backed down after it threatened to sue him for libel.
In December last year Farage told LBC that Hope not Hate were people who were “who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful, but actually pursue violent and undemocratic means.” Farage was responding to a question about a Twitter exchange he had with Brendan Cox, whose wife Jo was the Labour MP murdered during the EU referendum campaign by a far-right terrorist. Referring to Cox, Farage said:
Yes, well of course he would know more about extremists than me, Mr Cox. He backs organisations like Hope not Hate, who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful, but actually pursue violent and undemocratic means.
Having now considered the position further I am happy to acknowledge that Hope not Hate does not tolerate or pursue violent or undemocratic behaviour.
I am delighted with this victory and that we’ve held Nigel Farage to account.
The case was about the truth and about Hope not Hate saying no to Nigel Farage’s attempts to smear us. For too long right-wing politicians have got away with smearing and abusing their opponents. We drew a line in the sand and ‘no more’.
Field says, if the Lords try to wreck this bill, MPs will want to press the “nuclear button”, he says. “They will sound their own death knell,” he says. Many Labour MPs want to abolish the Lords, he says.
Field says he threw away the pamphlet sent out by the government during the EU referendum campaign without reading it. There were “false truths” told on both sides. The campaign did not enhance the reputation of the political class, he says.
He says the government is not handling Brexit with the” importance or drive or coherence that this issue merits”.
What we have now is the Barnier rule of all take and now give.
Labour is urging the government to drop the new amendment announced on Friday making it explicit in the bill that the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019. Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, claims it would “stand in the way of an orderly transition”.
The Labour MP Frank Field is opening the debate now, moving NC49. (See 2.52pm.)
He says he is a “reluctant Brexiteer”. During the referendum he backed leave because he felt “on balance” Britain would be better if the UK were out of the EU.
MPs are about to start the first of eight committee stage debates for the EU withdrawal bill. This is the part of the process where they can make changes and, given the small size of the Tory/DUP majority, there is a real chance of the government being defeated at some point between now and the end of the committee stage, probably just before Christmas. There is an even bigger probability of the government having to announce new concessions to avert defeat.
You can find the full text of the bill, and all the papers relevant to it, here. The bill is 62-pages long, but the bundle of amendments so far tabled runs to 191 pages.
Within one month of royal assent of this Act the secretary of state shall lay a report before parliament setting out how the interpretation of retained EU law provisions in section 6 shall operate in the event of a transitional period being agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union ahead of the implementation of a withdrawal agreement.
Weber said it was unlikely that enough progress will be made on the financial settlement and citizens’ right by the time leaders meet in December and “it doesn’t look like negotiations are going to move onto the second phase to talk about the future.”
The prime minister as you know likes to engage with members of the European Parliament, it’s part of that process.
Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative former chief whip and former international development secretary, is speaking now. He says this is not really a party political issue, because all parties want to tackle tax avoidance. He says the only criticism of the current government might be that it is not moving fast enough.
Mel Stride, the financial secretary to the Treasury, is speaking in the debate now.
He says the government has been taking steps to tackle tax avoidance, including in the finance bill that Labour voted against.
Hodge also said the government should implement legislation already on the statute book requiring multinational companies to report their activity and profits on a country by country basis.
She also said HM Revenue and Customs should get more resources.
Every £1 invested in HMRC enforcement yields £97 in additional tax revenues. It’s a complete no brainer that we should be strengthening HMRC and reversing some of the 40% cuts they have suffered under the austerity programme.
Hodge said transparency was key to addressing the problem.
We need public registers of beneficial ownership, showing who owns what and where.
That at a stroke would undermine so much.
Hodge said that estimates of the amount held in tax havens vary from $7.6 trillion to $32 trillion. It is impossible to know how much tax is lost, but it runs to hundreds of millions of pounds a year, she said.
Hodge also said it was necessary to cut the influence of tax professionals on policy.
She said measures in the finance bill to tackle tax avoidance were a “small step” in the right direction. But they did not go far enough, she said.
Hodge also complained about the influence of tax lobbyists.
Appleby helped to co-ordinate a well-financed and comprehensive lobby by the International Financial Centres Forum, that took place before a G8 summit that David Cameron was chairing in June 2013.
The then prime minister had intended to insist that the UK’s tax havens should publish public registers of beneficial ownership in their jurisdictions.
Hodge said she wanted to focus on structural problems with the international tax system. And she criticised Appleby, the international law firm at the heart of the Paradise Papers.
Appleby, the lawyers at the heart of the Paradise papers are one of the few offshore law practices that belong to the “offshore magic circle” of service providers. Indeed Appleby was named offshore firm of the year by Legal 500 in 2015.
Yet the Paradise papers reveal that the firm was criticised no less than 12 times over a ten year period in reports issued by regulators in our UK tax havens – the British Virgin Islands, the Isle of Man, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
Hodge praised news organisations, including the Guardian, for their work on the Paradise Papers.
I salute all the professional investigative journalists who have been involved in making sense of the millions of documents that have been passed to them, especially those at the Guardian and on Panorama who have been working on the papers for a year. And I salute the public spirited courage of the whistle blower who first passed the papers to the German newspaper, the Suddeutsche Zeitung.
Hodge said that the current government’s record on tax avoidance was “inadequate”.
The record and actions of this government are also inadequate and somewhat hypocritical. Their rhetoric is mostly fine but the reality is badly wanting.
In her speech Hodge said that tax avoidance was not the same as tax planning. She quoted the HMRC definition of tax avoidance, saying it involved “bending the rules of the tax system to gain a tax advantage that parliament never intended.” She said HMRC says tax avoidance “involves operating within the letter, but not the spirit of the law.”
Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP and former chair of the Commons public accounts committee, has just started opening the two-hour emergency debate on the Paradise Papers and what they reveal.
She said that what the Paradise Papers showed was “a national and international disgrace”.
What we have learnt is that tax avoidance is not just a trivial irritant practised by a small number of greedy individuals and global corporations.
It is the widely accepted behaviour of too many of those who are rich and influential.
George Freeman was speaking at the IPPR conference this morning. (See 12.28pm.) The IPPR is seen as a left-leaning thinktank, but it has just put out a statement endorsing what Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former co chief of staff, said about Philip Hammond, the chancellor, in his Sun column today. (See 9.26am.)
Tom Kibasi, IPPR director and chair of the IPPR commission on economic justice said:
The IPPR commission on economic justice was welcomed to No10 in January this year to discuss the fundamental reforms that are necessary to improve the British economy for ordinary people.
Nick Timothy is right that there has been too little progress in promoting economic justice. Next week the chancellor has the opportunity to take the policy initiative and put economic justice at the heart of his budget.
George Freeman, Tory MP and chair of the Conservative policy forum, has issued a warning that the UK could become “an old people’s home that can’t pay for itself” with excessive debts and young people fleeing the country, unless it embarks on serious economic renewal.
At an economics conference, the MP set out two scenarios for life in the UK after Brexit, arguing there is a real risk that Britain could take the path of decline.
People got up and left. We pulled out of Europe and became and isolated, small, insular, old, ageing economy. We became an old people’s home that couldn’t pay for itself.
That I see as a very real prospect and it chills me to the bone. It is an extreme choice but I think that is the choice we face as a country and the question whether we as a generation rise to it and grip it.
Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, is resolutely upbeat about Britain’s economic prospects after Brexit. In his press office they obviously share his outlook because this morning the department’s official Twitter account retweeted a link to a Daily Mail article criticising the Treasury’s economic forecasts. Sky’s Faisal Islam spotted the post.
Only the Trade Department tweeting out stories attacking the OBR and Treasury 8 days before a Budget… https://t.co/GyN5wO9AA9
At the report’s launch on Tuesday, the pro-Brexit Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg will say official forecasts are based on “false assumptions” of the Treasury and that the outlook for the public finances is “much better” than the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is predicting.
Another former Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, has just been on Sky News saying that William Hague is wrong. Asked about Hague’s argument in his Telegraph column about the need for the government to increase its Brexit bill offer (see 11.21am), and ignoring the fact that as a former foreign secretary Hague is not completely clueless about international negotiations, Duncan Smith said:
I couldn’t disagree with William Hague more on this one, I’m afraid. I don’t know if he’s every really been in a serious negotiation … Let me just say why that’s not feasible.
I think it would be right for the government not at this point to make any further offer to them. We simply say, as was agreed at the outset, we will get as far as we can on money, and on the other issues, but none of them can be sorted and settled until we decide what we are doing about trade …
We’ve said we’ll to stand by our budgetary commitments, but we are not prepared to spell that out in any great detail until you start talking about trade. And I wouldn’t move on the money at all, because the reality is if Europe wants to get money, they have to get a trade arrangement. Otherwise, if we were to leave without a trade arrangement, they wouldn’t get a penny. That’s the important feature. It is give on both sides. And so far they have not moved …. In negotiations you stay put sometimes and wait for the other side to move.
In his Daily Telegraph column (paywall) William Hague, the Conservative former party leader and former foreign secretary, says Theresa May should increase her financial offer to the EU. May has already said that the UK will carry on paying into the EU budget until the current budget period runs out, at a cost of roughly €20bn. But she has not made any specific commitment to pay the UK’s share of other, long-term EU budget spending commitments (the “reste a liquider, or RAL, in the jargon), which would be worth the same again, or even more.
Hague does not give a figure for how much the UK should pay in his column. But he says now is the time for May to say the UK will pay a share of the RAL. He says:
If Theresa May and David Davis declare at some point before the next European summit on December 14 that we will indeed pay some share of these liabilities, there is no point people responding with outrage and denouncing them for giving in to Brussels. Anyone who thinks there has ever been a chance of a free trade deal with the EU without doing this has been kidding themselves.
Of course, any such payment should be dependent on a final deal being signed, sealed and ratified – without that the UK should not pay a single penny. That way, the UK retains some leverage right to the end. And agreeing to pay a share need not mean being committed now to a specific amount. A “share” could be calculated as the British population in the EU (12.5 per cent) or the proportion of the budget we pay in any one year (about 8 per cent after deducting our receipts) and since the RAL varies unpredictably, the choice of the year on which to base this calculation will be important. British taxpayers will also expect to get back their share of the capital invested in the European Investment Bank – if we’re paying debts we have to receive our slice of the assets ….
A Labour MP has apologised for referring to a Tory London assembly member as a “token ghetto boy” in a blog posted before she was elected.
As the Press Association reports, Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad provoked controversy after the 2010 comments about Shaun Bailey resurfaced. Dent Coad claimed in the piece that the then Hammersmith Conservative parliamentary candidate had “stigmatised” the area he was born in by referring to it as a “ghetto”. She went on to write:
Who can say where this man will ever fit in, however hard he tries? One day he is the ‘token ghetto boy’ standing behind D Cameron, the next ‘looking interested’ beside G Osborne. Ever felt used?
If he was offended by me repeating what other people have said then I do apologise. Clearly, I shouldn’t have repeated it. People have taken it the wrong way.
The Labour MP Yvette Cooper has tabled a new amendment to the EU withdrawal bill removing the government amendment setting 11pm on 29 March 2019 as the time when the UK will leave the EU. This is the one some Tory MPs are so angry about. (See 10.18am.) Cooper’s alternative would let MPs determine Brexit hour when they pass the bill implementing the withdrawal deal (or “the withdrawal agreement and implementation bill”, as the government are calling it.)
Top: David Davis wants to set date of Brexit in law for 11pm March 29, 2019. Bottom: Yvette Cooper wants to prevent that from happening and instead link the date of Brexit to when MPs have actually voted on a final Brexit deal. Key battle. http://pic.twitter.com/mfgZ49xpLz
1. Yvette Cooper has put down another amendment this morn calling for govt to guarantee vote on brexit deal before Brexit day (timing is point of contention)
2. Headsup – 2 days a week up until Christmas there is going to be a lot of detailed stuff over this bill that ‘might’ not sound that interesting
3. I promise tho it is important – it’s part of crucial big picture of who is in controlling and influence how we leave the EU (obviously you are perfectly entitled to ignore it all!)
4. And it’s proxy for who is really running the country – is May in hoc to Brexiteers or can Tory remainers get a look in? Remember labour has divisions over this stuff too
Yesterday it emerged that the new Conservative chief whip, Julian Smith, had a rather tricky MPs with backbenchers unhappy about the EU withdrawal bill.
Hearing Tory Chief Whip had tricky meeting with MPs this afternoon, and was left in no doubt about resistance to Withdrawal bill – Davis concession this afternoon doesn’t seem to have shifted sentiment among Tory rebels
It was stormy because you have got people at that meeting who have never spoken out. The date going into the bill has really upset a lot of really top-quality backbench Conservative MPs.
These are people, a lot of them ex-ministers, highly respected, and they are genuinely cross about this. There were some people there who have never rebelled and they are now talking, for the first time ever, of rebelling.
Inflation remained at 3.0% in October, matching September’s five-year high. As my colleague Graeme Wearden reports, that means there’s no let-up in the cost of living squeeze hitting UK households. On the upside, City economists had feared the consumer prices index would have risen even higher, to 3.1%.
The Commons public accounts committee published a report at 9am today saying that HM Revenue and Customs does not have proper funding yet to upgrade its customs systems in time for Brexit. It says that if the UK leaves the EU without proper customs infrastracture, the results will be “catastrophic”.
Here is an extract from its summary.
Under current plans, the UK is set to leave the European single market and the customs union in March 2019. It would be catastrophic if HM Revenue & Customs’ new customs system, the customs declaration service [CDS], is not ready in time and if there is no viable fall-back option.
In 2015, around 55 million customs declarations were made by 141,000 traders. The UK’s exit from the EU could see the number of customs declarations which HMRC must process each year increase five-fold to 255m. A failed customs system could therefore lead to huge disruption for businesses, with delays potentially causing massive queues at Dover and resulting in food being left to rot in trucks at the border.
Failure to have a viable customs system in place before the UK’s planned exit from the EU would wreak havoc for UK business, trade and our international reputation. Confidence would collapse amid the potentially catastrophic effects.
HMRC is under considerable pressure to deliver the new Customs Declaration Service in time, but it does not yet have funding to increase the capacity of CDS to deal with the consequences of Brexit—nor to develop contingency options.
Today will be dominated by Brexit. The EU withdrawal bill enters its committee stage in the Commons, the government’s attempt to appease Tory pro-Europeans by agreeing to implement the final Brexit deal in the form of an act of parliament has not impressed potential rebels, and MPs will spend eight hours debating and voting on amendments to the bill. But more of that later ….
First, with the budget only eight days away, one of Theresa May’s closest allies has launched a withering attack on Philip Hammond, the chancellor, in a column in the Sun. Nick Timothy is not in government, and technically he is just an outside observer. But Timothy spent more than seven years working as an adviser to May and, more than anyone else, he is credited with shaping her political thinking. He was May’s co chief of staff inDowning Street until he left in June after the election.
We should assess the chancellor’s own economic literacy — because, after more than a year at the Treasury, his economic policy remains unclear.
He likes to think of himself as “Fiscal Phil”, the guy who balances the country’s books. But the public finances are only one part of the chancellor’s job.
[Hammond] says he wants to prevent the return of socialism, as proposed by Jeremy Corbyn, but he stops any proposals that would improve economic justice.
He blocks any serious measures that curb excessive corporate pay. He opposes policies to improve the way companies are run. And he is against any kind of worker representation in corporate decision-making.
If he House does that [votes to change the bill], that will be taken I guess by the government as an instruction to go back and speak for them [to Brussels]. Whether that will deliver any outcome, I don’t know.
The Irish government had said the Democratic Unionist Party will not decide the future of Northern Ireland in Brexit negotiations.
Foreign minister Simon Coveney told reporters in Brussels on Monday that its future is far too important to be left to any one party.
That is not how a decision as fundamental and as important to Ireland’s future and Britain’s future should be made.
I don’t accept that the options should be limited on the basis of the political arithmetic in the House of Commons.
Anybody whose been following this process knows that Ireland has been consistent and stubborn and strong on the border issue because it’s so important to the functioning of the island of Ireland; linked to a peace process, linked to normal commerce, and the movement of goods, services, livestock, people.
This is from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.
Next few hours going to be really interesting … Davis’ concession has taken wind out of rebels’ sails, but not clear yet if they will stand down
This is from Jakub Krupa, who works for the Polish Press Agency in London.
Deputy DG of Poland’s Lewiatan Business Confederation Grzegorz Baczewski tells me after this morning’s No10 visit that two-year transition period “would not have been enough even if we had the rest of deal already done now”, adds “the UK should be more specific” to boost talks
Dominic Grieve expressed concern that ministers were making a verbal promise alone for a Brexit deal bill – and he said the policy needed to be written into the EU withdrawal bill. He told the Guardian:
I welcome the announcement today that parliament will be asked to approve any withdrawal agreement by statute but it remains the case that the bill as drafted does not reflect what the government is now promising – and the bill will therefore have to be changed to meet the government’s promise.
I hope that my amendment won’t be necessary but it will remain there to be debated and if necessary voted on.
According to Sky’s Faisal Islam, Dominic Grieve is not withdrawing his amendment yet.
John Bercow, the speaker, has granted an emergency debate on the Paradise Papers tomorrow. That means the debate on the EU withdrawal bill will start, and finish, later than planned.
The David Davis statement is now over.
I’ll post a summary soon.
Davis says the Brexit talks have been tough, and may get tougher.
Suella Fernandes, the Conservative chair of the European Research Group, which is pushing for a hard Brexit, asks Davis to confirm that MPs will not be able to use the newly-announced bill to reverse Brexit.
Davis agrees. It will be a meaningful vote, but not one that can undo Brexit, he says.
Davis says, if MPs reject any aspect of the Brexit deal bill, that will be taken by the government as an instruction to go back to Brussels and try again. But whether they take any notice is a matter for them, he says.
The Labour MP Mike Gapes says, if MPs vote down the proposed Brexit deal bill, the UK will leave the EU anyway without a deal. That means MPs are not getting a real choice, he says. It does not amount to parliament “taking back control”.
Davis does not accept this.
Open Britain, which is campaigning for a soft Brexit, has put out this statement about David Davis’s announcement. It is from the Labour MP Chris Leslie. He says:
What could have been a very welcome concession by the government, instead looks like a sham that pretends to respect the sovereignty of parliament but falls well short of what is required.
It’s a transparent and fairly desperate attempt at the eleventh hour to save face and avoid losing votes in the House.
In this afternoon’s statement to the House on the latest round of Brexit negotiations, the secretary of state for exiting the EU, David Davis outlined plans for the withdrawal agreement and implementation bill.
This confirms that the major policies set out in the withdrawal agreement will be directly implemented into domestic law by primary legislation – not by secondary legislation under the EU (withdrawal) bill. This will allow for parliamentary scrutiny and oversight of the process …
Opposition parties and MPs are divided over the significance of David Davis’s concession.
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, has issued this statement.
This is a significant climbdown from a weak government on the verge of defeat.
For months, Labour has been calling on ministers to guarantee parliament a final say on the withdrawal agreement. With less than 24 hours before they had to defend their flawed bill to parliament they have finally backed down. However, like everything with this government the devil will be in the detail.
David Davis’ announcement just now that there will be an Act of Parliament to approve a final EU deal is totally insufficient: he gave no guarantee of a meaningful vote before 29 March 2019 and this doesn’t cover the event of there being no deal /1
Clearly this is an attempt to see off amendments that go much further than David Davis on a ‘meaningful vote’ – it is vital the EU Withdrawal Bill is amended to provide for a proper not a fake meaningful vote before any exit day /2
A parliamentary vote simply isn’t good enough.
The people voted to leave the EU, they should get to decide whether to accept the deal the government has negotiated.
Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP, asks Davis if the government will accept Dominic Grieve’s amendment saying the Brexit deal must be implemented in statute.
Davis says he is stating government policy.
Anna Soubry, the Conservative pro-European, asks Davis to confirm that, if there is no Brexit agreement and no Brexit deal, the UK will leave without MPs voting on it.
Davis says, if there is no agreement, there can be no withdrawal agreement bill.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper asks for an assurance that the Brexit deal bill will come to the Commons before Brexit happens.
Davis says that is the government’s intention.
Labour’s Hilary Benn, the chair of the Brexit committee, says it is increasingly clear there is a fundamental contradiction between wanting to leave the customs union and not having a border in Northern Ireland.
Davis says there are a range of possible outcomes. If the government achieves its goal of having tariff-free, friction-free trade with Europe, any customs deal would be very light touch.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative former work and pensions secretary, asks Davis to accept that, if there is going to be a yes/no vote on the Brexit deal before the Brexit deal legislation, a no vote would mean there being no legislation.
Davis accepts that. That is the case, he says.
Here is some comment from journalists on the announcement.
From the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg
And now – big concession for Tory rebels – sounds dull but important, Davis promises a separate piece of legislation, ‘withdrawal agreement bill – to go through Parliament once deal nearly done
Big: David Davis announces Government has conceded to Withdrawal Bill amendments enshrining Exit Deal as statute – ie both Houses/ amendable
Here is James McGrory, the executive director of Open Britain, which is campaigning for a soft Brexit, on David Davis’s announcement.
Wow. Possibly huge concession from the Government on primary legislation for the Brexit deal. Detail important though. It’s got to be more than a take-it-or-leave-it fait accompli.
Davis is replying to Starmer.
He accuses him of carping.
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, says Davis is conceding that the government is not making much progress in the Brexit talks.
He says Davis had to make this announcement he had just delivered because he was facing defeat on the EU withdrawal bill.
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, is making a Commons statement on Brexit now.
He says, once there is a Brexit agreement, there will be a specific piece of primary legislation – ie, a government bill – to enact it.
Today he went much further. He admitted he did make a mistake. And he issued what sounded like a sincere apology.
The British government has no doubt that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran on holiday and that was the sole purpose of her visit. As I said in the House last week, my remarks on the subject before the foreign affairs committee could and should have been clearer and I acknowledge that the words I used were open to being misinterpreted, and I apologise. I apologise to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family if I have inadvertently caused them any further anguish.
In so far as people got a different impression from what I was saying at the FAC [foreign affairs committee, that was my mistake. I should have been clearer. It was my mistake. I should have been clearer. I apologise for the distress and anguish that has been caused to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family.
Here is the start of the Press Association story about Boris Johnson’s apology.
Boris Johnson’s pride “matters not one ounce” compared with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s freedom, Labour said, as they urged the foreign secretary to apologise.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said there had been a week of “obfuscation and bluster” from Johnson as she urged him to state “simply and unequivocally” that he got it wrong when claiming Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran when arrested in 2016.
Johnson says the Foreign Office often does not publicly call for the release of Britons held abroad, because that exacerbate their plight. But in this case he has publicly called for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release on humanitarian grounds, he says.
John Bercow, the speaker, says this question is out of order, because it has nothing to do with the subject of the UQ, and he rules that Johnson does not have to answer.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper asks Johnson to admit that he got it wrong.
Johnson says Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran on holiday. In so far as people got the contrary impression, “that was my mistake,” he says. He says he has apologised for that.
Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local MP, asks what the Foreign Office is doing to ensure her constituent gets diplomatic protection.
Johnson says he will be explaining this when he meets Richard Ratcliffe.
Julian Lewis, a Conservative, says as Churchillian, Boris Johnson will appreciate that this has not been his finest hour. But he urges the opposition not to play politics with this issue. Referring to Tulip Siddiq’s comment this morning (see 9.17am), and the way it has been reporting, he says if the Iranians think they can get rid of a foreign secretary by jailing her for longer, they have an incentive to do that.
Johnson says he is not seeing Richard Ratcliffe tomorrow. The meeting is on Wednesday, he says.
The SNP’s Hannah Bardell asks why Michael Gove was not properly briefed about the case before he went on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday.
Sir Hugo Swire, a Conservative, says there is more than “a faint whiff of opportunism” about Labour’s UQ.
Johnson is replying to Thornberry.
He says he is happy to apologise for the distress caused by what he said.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, starts by saying our thoughts are with the victims of the earthquake in Iran.
She thanks Johnson for returning from Brussels to answer the UQ.
Johnson runs through steps taken by the government to secure Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release. He says David Cameron intervened on her behalf when he was prime minister.
He says he hopes his visit to Iran later this year will reset relations with Iran.
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is speaking now.
He says MPs will share his “deep concern” about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been in jail for 19 months.
Boris Johnson is in the chamber for the UQ. He was in Brussels earlier, but he seems to have made a surprise early return.
Downing Street has issued its own read out from Theresa May’s meeting with European business leaders earlier. As usual with these things, it is exceedingly bland. But here it is anyway.
Today the prime minister chaired a meeting of leaders from UK and EU business organisations at Downing Street.
The prime minister reassured the group that Brexit meant the UK was leaving the EU, not Europe and reiterated her ambition for free and frictionless trade with the EU27 once the UK departs. She also expressed her commitment to giving businesses the certainty they need by agreeing a time-limited implementation period as soon as possible.
Two Conservative pro-European former ministers have criticised Theresa May’s plan to pass an amendment to the EU withdrawal bill saying the UK will definitely leave the EU on 29 March 2019. (See 2.28pm.) Now Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, has written to the leaders of the other opposition parties urging them to join the Lib Dems in rejecting the government amendment. He says:
By seeking to set an arbitrary UK departure date from the EU of the 29 March 2019, the PM is curtailing the UK parliament’s right to consider any deal and, if necessary, vote for the government to resume negotiations and potentially, if it was in the UK’s interests, to seek an extension to the article 50 negotiations.
Parliament must not be bounced by a ploy that is all about Tory party management and nothing to do with Britain’s interests. Furthermore this move weakens the UK government’s negotiating stance, as the EU would know the UK was tied by a firm deadline, putting extra pressure on the UK to settle disadvantageously.
According to my colleague Philip Oltermann, the Guardian’s Berlin bureau chief, the Federation of German Industries put out a statement after the Downing Street meeting saying Theresa May’s proposed two-year transition would not be long enough. The Federation of German Industries is the German equivalent of the CBI.
Statement from Federation of German Industries after Downing Street visit: “Businesses’ idea of a transition phase differs from that of the British government. Two years not enough to create necessary legal framework” http://pic.twitter.com/x3nj4OjnTb
Business is extremely concerned with the slow pace of negotiations and the lack of progress only one month before the decisive December European council. Business aims to avoid a cliff edge and therefore asks for a “status quo – like” transitional arrangement with the UK staying in the customs union and the single market as this will best provide citizens and businesses with greater certainty.
I’m afraid to say the prime minister’s tone-deaf, tin-eared article in the Telegraph was guaranteed to continue to deepen divisions in the Conservative party, rather than trying to heal them, which is what she should be doing.
I think it is an incoherent and thoroughly stupid amendment and it won’t have my support.
Wales assembly member Carl Sargeant was found hanged at his home by his wife, a coroner’s court has heard. As the Press Association reports, the 49-year-old was found dead last Tuesday by his wife Bernadette, four days after being removed from his role as cabinet secretary for communities and children. The PA report goes on:
The father-of-two, from Connah’s Quay, North Wales, was suspended from the Labour party over allegations of “unwanted attention, inappropriate touching or groping”.
Bernadette Sargeant had gone downstairs and found a note on the door of her utility room in her husband’s handwriting advising her not to enter but to call the police, Ruthin coroner’s court heard.
Redress, the human rights organisation working with Richard Ratcliffe (see 1.04pm), has sent out a note explaining the difference between diplomatic status and diplomatic protection. It says:
Diplomatic immunity has nothing to do with this case; we are simply speaking about diplomatic protection as a state to state process:
Diplomatic protection is a mechanism where a state may secure reparation for injury to one of its nationals. A State asserts diplomatic protection on its own behalf, but also on behalf of its national whose rights have been breached.
Richard Ratcliffe is calling for his wife to be offered diplomatic protection, and the Foreign Office is considering this option. That is not the same as her being offered diplomatic status, as I wrongly said earlier. I’ve amended the earlier posts to make that clear.
The speaker has granted an urgent Commons question at Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
UQ granted at 330 to @EmilyThornberry to ask @BorisJohnson to make a statement on the case of British-Iranian national, Mrs Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Nazanin is being held because she is British and is being used as a bargaining chip against the UK, now justified by your words. That direct connection of her to you is why I believe my wife should be entitled to diplomatic protection — rather than consular assistance, as she has now. Nazanin is no longer simply a consular case as she has been endangered in a deeper way. As foreign secretary, I would like you to instruct your department personally to give her that protection.
With the help of Redress, we submitted a legal opinion to the Foreign Office two months ago, setting out the abuse of Nazanin’s rights and why she is entitled to diplomatic protection. The Foreign Office has not answered our lawyers’ questions on this, nor has it acknowledged any violation of Nazanin’s rights in its replies to parliamentary questions.
Does that matter? Are they right to be cautious? Where are May/Davis/DexEU on this? Where are the EU? 1/Threadhttps://t.co/GXBQCFZpaA
As Northern Ireland starts to slide on the slippery slope towards direct rule from London, the pro-EU lobby group Open Britain has warned that the transfer of power away from Belfast will have a harmful impact regarding Brexit and the Irish border.
With James Brokenshire preparing to impose a budget on Northern Ireland in the absence of political agreement and the stalemate at Stormont, Open Britain notes that the region will be voiceless in Brexit negotiations.
The views of the devolved administrations, including the one in Northern Ireland, have already been largely side-lined by the government throughout the Brexit process. And the slide back to direct rule risks making this problem worse.
The casual and vague way in which ministers like David Davis are treating serious issues like the possible return of a hard border on the island of Ireland is a real concern. To be clear, a return to a hard border would be a threat to trade and people’s livelihoods, and would risk undermining the peace process.
Here are the main points from the Number 10 lobby briefing.
We have been appalled by the inhumane violence which has taken place in Rakhine state. It’s a major humanitarian crisis which has been created by Burma’s military and it looks like ethnic cleansing.
The UK has been a leader in responding in speed and size. We’ve provided an additional £47m since August to help meet the urgent humanitarian needs there.
Not an EU plot. This is literally the text of Art 50, to which May has obliquely referred at Florence and CBI when she said must be “realistic” about “finalization” process. Tories who think otherwise either havent read A50 or wilfully want talks to fail. https://t.co/oi2AzRleEj
I’m just back from the Number 10 lobby briefing. It was thin gruel on the news front, although there was a line on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and Downing Street said that David Davis will be making a Commons statement about Brexit later.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative former work and pensions secretary and Brexit enthusiast, told the BBC this morning that he thought Labour’s stance on Brexit was shifting. Referring to Sir Keir Starmer’s transition demands (see 10am), he said:
Staying inside the court of justice would actually be tantamount to staying within the European Union.
Request to readers: I have included one post relating to the sexual harassment scandal and, although it is not the main story of the day, there may be more. Please can you ensure that, if you comment on this story, you stick to general points and don’t make allegations against individuals. Contrary to what some people assume, the Guardian is legally liable for comments posted BTL and if libellous comments start to appear, comments will have to be closed. It will be better for everyone if we can avoid that.
Here are two stories in today’s papers on the revived Boris Johnson/Michael Gove hard Brexit alliance (see 9.17am) that are worth reading.
Senior ministers have told The Times that Mr Gove is very much in the lead when it comes to the direction on Brexit and is more likely to stand up to figures such as Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd in cabinet …
One ally said: “Boris and Michael have formed a political alliance of necessity to ensure Brexit is delivered and therefore they feel it necessary to set out what needs doing or Tories will be unelectable if Brexit is stopped.”
Mark McDonald, the MSP who resigned from the Scottish government over “inappropriate” behaviour, has insisted he is “determined” to change. As the Press Association reports, McDonald stepped down as minister for childcare and early years reportedly because he sent a text message to a woman which included a reference to a sex act.
There is no question in my mind that in making my apology it was also right for me to resign from my role as a government minister.
I need to go further than that though. For my apology to mean anything I must also commit to changing my behaviour and to taking more care in my actions and my language. I am determined to do that.
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, wrote an open letter to Theresa May released overnight challenging her to accept Labour amendments to the EU withdrawal bill saying that the UK could not leave with the EU without a transition period that would include staying in the single market and the customs union.
I have written to PM. The only way to face down her Brexit extremists, who will drive us to ‘no deal’, is to accept Labour’s amendments to the Withdrawal Bill. Act now in the national interest; not party interest. https://t.co/dPMAMiqL3B
No deal is a very, very bad outcome. Taken literally, it means we have not agreed anything, and that means we haven’t agreed anything about EU citizens, we haven’t agreed anything about the border in Northern Ireland, we haven’t agreed anything on security. I think that sort of no deal is unthinkable.
In those circumstances I think the government would have to seriously consider whether it could continue.
Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, told the Today programme this morning that he was not calling for Boris Johnson to resign over the error he made about his wife. (See 9.17am.) Here are some of the other things he said in interviews this morning
Certainly there was all sorts of anger in our house. The government’s position is that the government is clear, and has no doubt, that she was there on holiday. I asked the Foreign Office to remind all of the cabinet members that that’s the government’s position.
[A prison visit is] much easier if comes with me, in all honesty, because I can go and see her as a family member.
This is what Boris Johnson had to say about the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case when he arrived at the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels this morning. He said:
Let me just say on Iran and on Iraq and consular cases generally, they are all very sensitive. And I think the key thing to understand is that we are working very, very hard and intensively and impartially on all of those cases.
MPs return to the Commons today after their mini recess to find that, just as on the day they left, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is in trouble. As well as facing criticism for some of his colleagues for apparently setting up a secret Vote Leave cabal with Michael Gove and dictating orders to Theresa May (well, sort of), he can’t get away from the trouble caused by his error about Nazanin Zahhari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman detained in Iran.
This morning the Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local MP, said that if Zaghari-Ratcliffe spends “even one more day” in jail because of Johnson telling the foreign affairs committee that she was in Iran teaching people journalism, he should resign. (Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family and employers say she was in Iran on a family holiday. Johnson subsequently told MPs he accepts that, but he has refused to admit that his original comment was wrong, instead insisting that it was misinterpreted.)
This issue isn’t political point-scoring for me; this about getting an innocent mother home. I’ve been campaigning on this for 18 months – if Boris Johnson is going to Iran then I have a few demands.
The first is that he needs to take my constituent, Richard Ratcliffe, with him.
If my constituent spends even one more day in prison as a result of what the foreign secretary said then he should resign.
I don’t think it’s helpful for Nazanin at this point. I don’t think it’s helpful also in terms of who that looks in Iran for me to be looking like I’m playing politics. It is very important that the Iranians can see that this is just a family who are battling to bring Nazanin home, and not get this sense that we’re some sort of great Machiavellian power. We’re not.
Here are the main points from the David Davis/Michel Barnier press conference.
We respect the European Union desire to protect the legal order of the single market and customs union.
But that cannot come at cost to the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.
David Davis reiterated UK WILL honour financial obligation. Amount floating in Brussels is £60bn, we’ve offered around £20bn. Very little has been done to prepare Brits for any amount. Will be a difficult conversation within the country when time comes.
This is absolutely vital if we are to achieve sufficient progress in December. It is just a matter of settling accounts as in any separation.
Only sufficient progress – that is to say sincere and real progress – on the three main key issues of these negotiations will enable the triggering of the of second phase of our negotiation.
There are still a number of points that need more work: family reunification; the right to export social security benefits; and the role of the European Court of justice in guaranteeing consistent application of case law in the UK and in the EU.
The United Kingdom will continue to engage and negotiate constructively as we have done since the start.
But we need to see flexibility, imagination and willingness to make progress on both sides if these negotiations are to succeed and we are able to realise our new deep and special partnership.
Here is the key statement from Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
He was asked this question by a reporter from the German press agency.
Monsieur Barnier, could you confirm for me that you will need clarifications or concessions, whichever you prefer, from the UK within two weeks in order to move on to the second phase in December?
Ma response est, oui [My answer is, yes.]
Q: [From the Daily Telegraph – to Davis] Why will you be in a better place to make a deal in December than in October?
Davis says it is for the EU to decide what sufficient progress is.
Q: What will you [Barnier] do if you do not get the clarification you need within two weeks? And how confident are you you will get this?
Barnier says the technical experts are speaking to each other between the Brexit negotiating rounds.
Barnier says he will not comment on the internal political situation in the UK.
But he is following the public debate closely.
Q: [From a German press agency] Will the EU need concessions from the UK within two weeks to allow time for an agreement at the December summit.
Barnier says his answer is yes.
Davis says there are still unresolved issues on citizens’ rights.
He says it is a priority for the UK to retain the sovereignty of UK courts.
Davis turns to Ireland.
He says both sides are committed to avoiding physical infrastructure are the border.
David Davis is speaking now.
He says the Florence speech gave dynamism to the talks.
Barnier says the two sides have common goals on the Irish issues.
And he turns to money (switching back to speaking in French).
Barnier turns to citizens’ rights. They have made “some progress”, he says.
He says the EU wanted reassurance about the registration system, and about the appeal system. The UK has provided “useful clarifications that are a good basis for further work”.
Barnier says, if you look at the European council’s resolutions, you will see that there has to be sufficient progress – that means sincere and real progress – for the second phase of the negotiation to be triggered.
He says in this extraordinarily complex negotiation, the EU is not asking for concessions. And nor is is planning to make concessions itself. It is basing the talks on facts, and commitments.
Michel Barnier opens the press conference.
He says don’t expect any announcements or decisions today.
The Davis/Barnier press conference is due to start any minute now.
In an interview on the Today programme this morning, Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, praised Jeremy Corbyn for the way he has articulated public anger while setting out his vision for a fairer society. Brown said:
Jeremy is a phenomenon. He has cut through because he expresses people’s anger at what has happened – the discontent.
When he attacks universal credit he is speaking for many people. When he says the health service is underfunded he is speaking for many. What he is saying on these things is absolutely right.
Jeremy has articulated a view of a fairer society.
You have got to convert this sense that you have restored people’s faith in your principles to a plan for the future that is credible and therefore electable and a programme that is popular
At the press conference David Davis, the Brexit secretary, is likely to be asked (as he usually is) about how much the UK might pay the EU when it leaves.
According to George Parker in today’s Financial Times (paywall), Theresa May is “working on different scenarios that would see her considerably increase the €20bn she has already put on the table.” Parker says:
British ministers and officials have told the Financial Times that although the negotiations leading up to the European Council on December 14-15 will be complex, they believe the money issue can be resolved.
“The money isn’t the problem,” said one senior minister. “The real problem is deciding what our end-state relationship with the EU will be.” Another government figure said: “The domestic political obstacles to a deal may not be as high as they once seemed.”
The Conservatives have lost a council seat to the Liberal Democrats in a local by-election caused by the resignation of a Tory councillor who previously had been elected for Ukip, the Press Association reports. The Lib Dem victory came in a contest in the Stubbington ward of Fareham Borough Council. Ukip was forced into third place. Voting was: LD 1,185, C 769, Ukip 117, Lab 76. The turnout was 39%.
Elsewhere in the latest council by-elections, the Conservatives held two seats – at High Peak (Limestone Peak ward) and Wandsworth (Thamesfield) – while Labour held two seats – at Camden (Gospel Oak) and Flintshire (Buckley Bistre West).
Lord Kerr, the British diplomat credited with drafting article 50, has given his speech this morning arguing that Brexit is reversible. Matthew Weaver has covered his main arguments in a story filed earlier today.
Here are some of the other points he made as he delivered his speech.
I don’t know why Mrs May was in such a rush to send her letter in March, before her Cabinet had an agreed plan. It was odd to start the clock and not start negotiating, instead calling an election.
The Guardian has a very good column today by Charles Grant, director for the Centre for European Reform, look at how Brexit is likely to unfold. You can read it here.
Good morning. For various domestic reasons today’s Politics Live is getting sandwiched between the school run, but that doesn’t matter because today’s main event is the regular David Davis/Michel Barnier at the end of the latest round of Brexit talks. These events always take place just before lunch – in Brussels, they know their priorities – and so we are expecting them up some time after 11.30am UK time.
Here are the main Brexit related stories around this morning.
We will not tolerate attempts from any quarter to use the process of amendments to this bill as a mechanism to try to block the democratic wishes of the British people by attempting to slow down or stop our departure from the European Union … We are leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019.
[It is] essential for the UK to commit to ensuring that a hard border on the island of Ireland is avoided, including by ensuring no emergence of regulatory divergence from those rules of the same internal market and the customs union … necessary for meaningful north-south cooperation, the all-island economy, and the protection of the Good Friday agreement.