The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was given the prime interview slot on the Andrew Marr Show this morning. Noting the change in SNP rhetoric since before the 2017 election, Marr pushed Sturgeon for a timeframe as to when Scottish voters could expect to see a second independence referendum:
NS: There is a lot of confusion, this is a complex issue… and people want to see the clarity emerge about the state of the relationship between the UK and the EU. At that point, what I’ve said is that we will look at that and determine at that stage if Scotland should then have the right to choose between whatever that new relationship with the UK is going to be or choosing to be an independent country.
AM: By the relatively early autumn we should have the broad picture of where we’re going… So between October and the end of the year, you will be able to tell us whether or not there is going to be a second referendum
NS: That’s when I will be able to look at that and make a judgement about what the next appropriate steps are for Scotland, and I will then report that to the Scottish Parliament and to the people of Scotland.
Marr confronted Sturgeon with the comments of the Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman, who he quoted as saying ‘I don’t think most people give two hoots about whether Scotland is a member of the union. I very rarely talk about independence in the chamber because I talk about things that matter to the people of Aberdeen’. Sturgeon replied that ‘Independence is not some constitutional abstraction. It is about the living standards, the society, the economy we have and that relationship between how we’re governed and those conditions for Scotland is the important relationship. And that is the point that Kirsty was making’.
Sturgeon also criticised the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over his stance on Brexit. The First Minister pledged her support for Scotland to remain within the EU’s single market, citing impact papers carried out on behalf of the Scottish government, which are set to be published tomorrow. She bemoaned Corbyn’s reluctance to commit to single market membership and suggested that he was out of touch with his supporters on this issue:
NS: By far the best option for the Scottish economy is to stay in the EU, but short of that the least damaging option is staying in the single market. And there’s a real window of opportunity now… I believe there is a majority in the House of Commons for remaining within the single market if Labour gets it act together… The vast majority of Labour members want to see the UK stay in the single market, so if we can bring that consensus together then I believe that there is an opportunity to…
AM: This is a conversation you need to have with Jeremy Corbyn I suspect.
NS: Well, Jeremy Corbyn has to decide where he stands on all of this. I think most of his supporters would be deeply disappointed that he seems to be only slightly less in favour of a harder – perhaps the hardest possible Brexit – than the Tories are and many will find that completely inexplicable.
Jeremy Corbyn – Brexit means leaving the single market
The Labour leader was interviewed shortly afterwards by Robert Peston, where he was invited to respond to Nicola Sturgeon’s criticism. Corbyn rebutted Sturgeon and his other critics (including several Labour MPs) by arguing that the membership of the EU and of the single market were intrinsically linked to one another:
RP: Nicola Sturgeon has urged you again to sign up for Britain remaining in the single market. You’re refusing to do that. Why?
JC: The single market is dependent on membership of the European Union. Do we have a trading relationship with Europe which is tariff-free, which is based on access to that market, and access of Europe to our market? Yes. Do we push for that in the negotiations? Yes. Is that what we’ve said to the European Union in opposition? Yes. So I don’t understand why she would keep saying ‘join the single market’ when leaving the EU means you leave the single market. You have to make a special relationship with the European Union… There are also aspects of the single market one wants to think about such as the restrictions on state aid to industry, which is something that I would wish to challenge.
RP: But John McDonnell has done a review of whether you would be significantly restricted in your economic policy if you remained in the single market and he has concluded that you wouldn’t be.
JC: … He is correct on that in terms of our manifesto, but I think as a point of principle the right of a government to intervene on industries is an important one and at the moment government intervenes at different levels. France and Germany frequently do. Other countries feel differently about it. And I think these things should be clarified in our relationship before we enter into a special relationship with Europe.
On the separate point of the customs union, Corbyn stated that ‘There will have to be a customs union with the European Union obviously because if you’re in a trading relationship then clearly you can’t at the same time be putting tariffs on goods within the European Union’. He also repeated his position on a second referendum, saying ‘We are not supporting or calling for a second referendum. What we’ve called for is a meaningful vote in Parliament.’ He also questioned the concept of the UK’s special relationship with the United States, opining that ‘ I am not sure that anyone has succeeded in defining the special relationship.’
Paul Oakden – Ukip leader Henry Bolton ‘has got some difficult decisions’
The Ukip chairman Paul Oakden has a lot on his plate after the girlfriend of current leader Henry Bolton was suspended from the party after she was found to have unleashed a tirade of racist abuse, primarily directed at Prince Harry’s fiancee Meghan Markle. (Jo Marney claims her remarks have been taken out of context.) Bolton, who was only elected in September last year, is now facing calls from many in the party to step down. Oakden spoke to Sarah Smith about Ukip’s unfolding predicament:
"Henry is increasingly in a position where he's got some difficult decisions to make…and he will make them today" – UKIP Chairman Paul Oakden on leader @_HenryBolton's future #bbcsp pic.twitter.com/00eQxI2FUS
— BBC Daily Politics and Sunday Politics (@daily_politics) January 14, 2018
PO: I think it’s very clear that Henry is increasingly in a position where he has got some difficult decisions to make. He knows that. He and I have spoken regularly over the weekend as recently as this morning. I know that he is very focused on those decisions today. He intends on making those decisions today and I am sure whatever he does will be in the best interests of the party.
SS: That sounds like you’re expecting him to resign by the end of the day.
PO: Not at all. He is in a situation that he has found himself in, he openly acknowledges that. It is a situation he would rather not be in. He openly acknowledges that as well. I absolutely believe that he has the party’s best interest now at heart and I have no doubt that is what he will focus on over the next 24 hours. [The party] will consult with the leader a week today, if he is still the leader at that point, and they will collectively make a decision on what to do going forward.
Caroline Nokes – ‘Of course’ Trump should come to Britain
And finally, the freshly appointed Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes was queried about how Britain should deal with one particular unwanted visitor. President Donald Trump has cancelled his scheduled trip to Britain next month which would have seen him open the new U.S. embassy in Nine Elms, with the likely accompanying protests suspected to be a major factor behind this decision. Niall Paterson asked Nokes about what should happen next:
— Sunday with Paterson (@RidgeOnSunday) January 14, 2018
NP: Donald Trump and the visit that never was – would you have welcomed him with open arms?
CN: I think it’s really important for our relationship with the United States that the President be afforded an invitation for a state visit. We work really closely with the United States, they’re our closest ally. We share information with them, we trade with them. So of course, the President of the United States should come here and we should give him a good welcome.
NP: So it’s a failure on the part of the Foreign Office to make it happen?
CN: No, I don’t think they have failed. There was never a date set for the visit, and I think it’s important to reflect on that. And I’m sure that he will come here and we will accord to the President of one of our closest allies absolutely the welcome that he deserves.
Nokes also acknowledged that like many fellow Conservatives, she needed to improve her social media output, tell Paterson: ‘I need to maybe raise my game on that. Sometimes I am criticized for having one of the most boring Twitter feeds on the planet.’