During his visit to Britain to discuss defence and the future of Anglo-French border security, the French President Emmanuel Macron gave an interview with Andrew Marr at Sandhurst. Macron told Marr that a bespoke deal for the UK was on the negotiating table, though he insisted that there must be ‘no cherry picking’, as doing so would dismantle the integrity of the single market:
AM: Now you’ve said in the past you can have Canada, or you can have Norway, but you can’t have your own special deal. Is that really fair give how long Britain has been part of the EU?
EM: No, it’s not a question of fair or unfair… For sure, you will have your own solution.
AM: There will be a bespoke special solution for Britain?
EM: Sure, but… this special way should be consistent with the preservation of the single market and our collective interests. You should understand that you cannot, by definition, have full access to the single market, if you don’t tick the box. And to get full access to the single market, you need contributions to the budget, and you have to accept the freedoms and the four pillars and you have to accept the jurisdiction. As soon as you decide not to join these preconditions, it’s not full access… What is important is to not make people believe that it is possible to…
AM: Have your cake and eat it?
When Marr put it to Macron that it was perfectly possible that an in/out referendum in France could have had the same result as the British one, Macron replied ‘Probably, in a similar context, but our context was very different, so I don’t want to take any bets… But I think it’s a mistake when we just ask ‘Yes’ or ‘No when you don’t ask people how to improve the situation’. He also said that it was not too late for the UK to change its decision, telling Marr “I do respect this vote, I do regret this vote, and I would love to welcome you again.’
Carolyn Fairbairn – British businesses want to see a customs union with the EU
The Director of the CBI Carolyn Fairbairn has told Robert Peston that preserving some form of customs union arrangement with the EU would be of much greater benefit to the businesses making up her organisation than the opportunity to forge new trade deals outside Europe. Fairbairn suggested that there may be a time when it would be advantageous to leave, but that time ‘has not come’:
— Peston on Sunday (@pestononsunday) January 21, 2018
CF: We are saying very clearly today that in looking at this hard choice… the value of our frictionless trade within the EU is worth more than having the potentially unknown value of trade deals in other parts of the world. That is a choice that may change over time…
RP: To be clear, for you, preserving the right to negotiate third party trade deals is not that important. More important is preserving frictionless trade. You’d be prepared to give up the opportunity for us to have our own bilateral trade deals with the likes of America and China?
CF: There may be a time when the value of those kind of deals eclipses the value of frictionless trade within the European Union. We do not think that day has come. In terms of the thousands of conversations we have had with businesses across the UK, that day has not come.
However, Fairbairn denied that this meant that she wanted to see the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox out of a job, declared instead that ‘Liam Fox’s department is utterly fundamental and important to what we’re trying to do … Trade is about a lot more than free trade.’ She also critiqued a Canadian-style deal as ‘a bad deal for Britain’.
Liz Truss – We did due diligence on Carillion’s government contracts
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss has defended the government against criticism of its decision to award contracts to the embattled construction company Carillion. Carillion, which the government employed to run vital services for schools, the NHS and the British army, went into liquidation last week, putting jobs, pensions and the projects it was running into a precarious position. Truss told Niall Paterson that the difficulties with Carillion did not undermine private provision of government services as a whole:
— Sunday with Paterson (@RidgeOnSunday) January 21, 2018
NP: In what way has the government not been entirely incompetent in all of this? In 6 months the market capitalisation for Carillion went from in excess of £1 billion to less that £100 million…
LT: We do due diligence for every contract the government signs, and the recent contracts that were signed with Carillion were joint ventures, so that means that other companies would assume the liabilities if something were to go wrong with Carillion. And every contract we look at we assess what is the value for money of this, what is the risk of things going wrong? I would point out that before we started having these PFIs and the involvement of the private sector, it took 8 years to build a school… so there’s been huge improvement delivered, and yes there have been problems with Carillion. That’s why the directors are under investigation by the authorities, that’s why the Government has had to take action on this. But we shouldn’t look at one company and read across to the entire private sector.
Truss went further, adding ‘I don’t think we want to live in a country where politicians run major companies.’ She also rebuked Carolyn Fairbairn’s pleas to maintain a customs union arrangement with the EU, saying ‘What we can’t have is being part of the customs union because that would prevent a good trade deal with the US and it would also prevent us doing other trade deals around the world’.
Shami Chakrabarti – Ministers must be ‘held to account’ over public
However, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General Baroness Chakrabarti has argued that ministers are passing the buck by allowing public services to be provided by private companies. She told Sarah Smith why she felt this was so:
— BBC Daily Politics and Sunday Politics (@daily_politics) January 21, 2018
SC: It’s all very well for Mrs May to now say she’s going to sting these executives, but there needs to be a little bit of ministerial responsibility in all of this as well. And one of my concerns is that when vital public services… for example, prisons, get contracted out, what you’re actually devolving is ministerial responsibility. And when something goes terribly wrong, whether in a vital utility or whether it’s a matter of security or infrastructure, ministers of whatever colour just put their hand up and say ‘It’s wicked executives, it’s the wicked company’. And what we need is ministerial responsibility, what we need is oversight. Of course we want a thriving private sector, but some vital services need to be run by public servants with ministers held to account.
Chakrabarti also expressed disappointment at the government’s decision not to bring the case of rapist John Worboy’s parole to a judicial review, arguing that there needed to be a ‘end-to-end review of the whole case’.
Henry Bolton – I will not stand down
And Ukip leader Henry Bolton, whose relationship with the model Jo Marney has continued to make the headlines after the discovery of several racially charged text messages, has insisted that he will not stand down, even if his party’s national executive committee declares it has no confidence in him. He spoke to Sarah Smith about his plans to ride out the storm:
SS: Will [Ukip’s NEC] vote to have confidence in you or not?
HB: I don’t want to predict the outcome of that meeting but of course, that meeting was set up to discuss the present situation. They may decide to have a vote of no confidence, and then if they do and if that goes against me, that goes to the membership.
SS: You could at that point say ‘The national executive committee of my own party don’t have confidence in me as leader – I’d better stand down’.
HB: I could do, but I shan’t… There are a number of elements here. The most important is that the national executive committee should have its eye on the political ball, the need for the party to get itself on its feet and start delivering an effective message in terms of the Brexit debate, and indeed how policies are shaped for the UK post Brexit.
When Smith asked Bolton about where his relationship with Marney now stood, Bolton announced that the romantic aspects of their relationship were ‘all done’, though when asked if he would ever have dinner with Marney again he responded ‘I may do. It would be inhuman of me to simply walk away and cut that link entirely.’