Emily Thornberry – Britain is heading for ‘no deal’
The Shadow Foreign Secretary has warned that the United Kingdom is on the path to receive a ‘no deal’ outcome if the government continues to pursue Brexit negotiations in the manner it has been so far. Speaking to Andrew Marr, Thornberry was keen to stress the disadvantages that a no deal scenario would bring to the UK. However, Marr pressed Thornberry about her assertion that that there was ‘deadlock’ between the government and the EU:
AM: You say there is deadlock, but directly Donald Tusk says ‘After Prime Minister May’s intervention my impression is that reports of deadlock between the EU and the UK have been exaggerated. While progress is not sufficient, it doesn’t mean there is no progress at all’, and very similar warm words coming from Angela Merkel. I put it to you – the mood has changed…
ET: …Things have been put off until December. We need to make progress in December. There is no movement until then. What we’ve seen over the decades is whenever you have these European talks… both sides want to be able to go home domestically and say that they’ve won. I think what we may be seeing is the Europeans trying to make it clear that it is not their fault that there are these difficulties. The intransigence does not come from their side, it comes from Theresa May’s side. And in the end, I think the reality is the intransigence is on Theresa May’s side, because she doesn’t have the strength or the authority to be able to control her backbenchers, let alone her cabinet. And I think we are heading for no deal, and I think that that is a serious threat to Britain and it is not in Britain’s interests for that to happen. We will stop it.
AM: What we do know is the difference between the Labour party and the government is that you would have no truck with no deal. Perhaps by keeping no deal on the table she has achieved this movement form the other side? You have bolted the door against no deal, which presumably means that if they come to you and say the bill for separation is £50 billion, eventually you have to agree?
ET: We don’t know what the exact sum is… We have yet to hear from the government how it is that they will be calculating what they believe our debt may be… and that is one of the things that is a big stumbling block.
AM: My point is that when eventually the Europeans say ‘This is what we think the sum is’ – if you have ruled out no deal, if you have said we will do a deal under all circumstances with you, you have to accept what they say. You’re in a much much weaker bargaining position.
ET: People understand this on all sorts of levels. If you’re trying to talk to someone – if you’re having a row with your partner, you sit down and you try and sort it out. You don’t say ‘You will do it the way I say or otherwise I will walk out the door’, That doesn’t work and you will not get an agreement from that. And from the very start they have been threatening no deal, and that is not the way to go into negotiations. But furthermore what we need to have made perfectly clear to the British public is just how damaging no deal would be to our country.
When asked about the deal she would like to see, Thornberry stated that she would like to see a ‘British style deal and a British style agreement’, featuring ‘tariff free, red tape free access to the single market’ and that ‘We need to be part of a customs union. How on earth is the island of Ireland going to work without some sort of customs union?’
Alfonso Dastis – Britons living in Spain will face no disruption
Marr also spoke to Alfonso Dastis, the Spanish Foreign Minister, who was at least able to reassure the 300,000 British expats living in Spain that, even in the event of no deal, they would not have to worry about their future after Brexit:
AM: There has been some talk of no deal. In that situation, there are [a] quarter of a million British people living in Spain at the moment. What would be their status
AD: I do hope that there will be a deal. If there is a ‘no deal’ we will make sure that the lives of ordinary people who are in Spain, the UK people, is not disrupted. As you know, the relationship between the UK and Spain is a very close one in terms of economic relations and also social exchanges. Over 17 million Brits come to Spain every year and many of them live here or retire here and we want to keep it that way as much as possible.
Liam Fox – Britain is not bluffing on no deal
Robert Peston spoke to the International Trade Secretary about the prospect of no deal actually happening and what provisions would be put in place in that eventuality. Fox maintained that he wanted a trade deal if possible, but remained robust that no deal was still a potential outcome:
RP: So you’re not scared of that eventuality?
LF: I’m not scared of that, but I would prefer to have a deal, because it would give greater certainty…
RP: Would it give greater certainty? WTO rules are quite clear…
LF: Because if we’ve got a more liberal agreement that doesn’t, for example, include tariffs, it’s easier, it’s more certain for UK businesses. That’s what we want to see. And we’ve been saying to our European colleagues at every level that we can, we are absolutely determined to get to that deal… In a normal trade agreement you and I would be some distance apart, we would negotiate that difference down to the smallest amount possible. That’s not where we are in the European Union. We’re beginning from complete identity. We have no tariffs. We have complete regulatory equivalence, and therefore all that can happen is that we either stay the same or we get slightly further apart for political reasons. We want us to maintain that closeness because the global economy has not been doing tremendously well, and trade’s not been doing tremendously well, so we can’t really afford to put any impediments to trade in Europe that don’t exist today.
RP: Your officials have done impact studies based on different scenarios. What do that say about the economic consequences of a no deal Brexit?
LF: That depends what you put in place in terms of mitigation… We would look if we had no deal to what the cost may be and how we might mitigate them for certain industries who might have particular problems, for example with tariffs, and we have a range of options that we can put in place.
Going further, he added that the main difficulty was not one of substance but of politics – ‘In other words, how much does the European Commission and the European elite want to punish Britain for having the audacity to use our legal rights to leave the European Union?’
When asked by Peston if he would publish the impact studies, Fox replied ‘Why would we publish data in a negotiation, that might actually diminish our negotiating hand?’. In response to the French president Macron that a no deal outcome was just a ‘bluff’, Fox insisted that Macron was ‘completely wrong about that.’
Sajid Javid – Borrow more to solve the housing crisis
The Communities and Local Government Secretary joined Andrew Marr to discuss what has become regarded as a housing crisis across the country. Javid described the problem as ‘the biggest barrier to social progress in our country today’. Marr asked what the government was planning to do about it:
AM: We have to have many many more homes built, and quite quickly. Now there has been a suggestion in today’s papers of some big new housing fund to build these houses. Would you support that big kind of measure?
SJ: We are looking at new investments and there will be announcements – I’m sure at the Budget, we’ll be covering housing. But what I want to do is make sure that we’re using everything we have available to deal with this housing crisis. And where that means, so for example, that we can sensibly borrow more to invest in the infrastructure that leads to more housing – take advantage of some of the record low interest rates that we have, I think we should absolutely be considering that.
AM: Well that’s really interesting because that is a change in tone. Not long ago we were told we couldn’t borrow anymore for anything. But you’re saying that housing is such a big infrastructure crisis in this country we should be borrowing more money to solve it?
SJ: I’d make a distinction between the deficit, which needs to come down and that’s vitally important for our economic credibility and we’ve seen some excellent progress, some very good news on that just this week. But investing for the future, taking advantage of record low interest rates, can be the right thing if done sensibly. And that can help not just with the housing itself, but one of the big issues is infrastructure investment that is needed alongside the housing…
AM: To be absolutely clear, more borrowing is coming to build more houses – have you got the Chancellor on board for this? Because if he says no, it won’t happen.
SJ: Let’s wait and see what happens in the budget… At the conference, the Prime Minister an additional £2 billion going into social housing, on top of the £7 billion we’d already committed. I’ve already set out a green paper that we’re going to publish soon on the social housing sector…
Jonathan Ashworth – Poverty is going to increase under Universal Credit
And finally, the Shadow Health Secretary spoke to Sky’s Niall Paterson about the future of Universal Credit after the recent opposition day debate that saw the government defeated by 299 votes to 0 on a motion to pause the planned rollout of the scheme. Ashworth did not pull any punches in his condemnation:
Jon Ashworth says "poverty is going to increase under universal credit" pic.twitter.com/a3hN766wx3
— Sunday with Paterson (@RidgeOnSunday) October 22, 2017
JA: The rollout of [Universal Credit] is not very satisfactory is it? I mean, people have to wait 6 weeks. All of us in our constituencies are getting examples from various advice bureaus and food banks and so on of the impact that Universal Credit is going to have on people There’s many examples across the country of people being evicted, of people getting into rent arrears, and it’s causing real hardship.
When Universal Credit was first announced by Iain Duncan Smith we agreed with the principle and still do agree with the principle. But since then there’ve been cuts to the different elements which means it’s actually going to plunge people into poverty. Poverty is going to increase under Universal Credit. And one of the big selling point of Universal Credit – when Iain Duncan Smith unveiled it he said it was going to be a great anti-poverty initiative. So there have been lots of cuts and changes to the design which we think is really going to hurt our constituents, which is why we bought that motion to the House of Commons…
And I must say this – when we had opposition day motions under a Labour government, I remember we lost one on gurkhas. Damian Green, who is now the deputy Prime Minister effectively, stood up in the House of Commons and said that the will of the house was clear. He was making a big fuss about the opposition beating the government in that opposition day motion. And now 10 years down the line, Tory MPs cannot be bothered to vote on these motions. It’s really quite disgraceful.