Theresa May – We are committed to no hard border with Ireland
On the Andrew Marr Show today, the Prime Minister gave her first major interview since delivering her keynote speech on Brexit on Friday, in which she outlined the government’s vision for the future in greater detail. Marr asked her about the negotiations involving the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, referencing remarks made by the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that the situation was similar to the boundaries of the Congestion Charge zone between different London boroughs:
AM: Do you think that the borderline between Islington and Camden is a very useful comparison for the Irish border?
TM: I think the Irish border is something to which we are all committed – we are committed, the Irish government, all the parties in Northern Ireland – to making sure there is no hard border for the future. And that’s why I’m pleased that the Irish government and the European Commission will be able to sit down, and in a much more detailed sense, say ‘The proposals we’ve put forward – how will they work? Let’s see which is the best option for the future.
AM: Boris Johnson thinks there might have to be a hard border.
TM: No, Boris is absolutely clear that there won’t be a hard border… and we’re working to that. We’ve got proposals as to how we’re going to achieve that, now we’re going to be able to sit down and talk with others about how we do that. Part of my message in this speech overall was ‘We’ve set out our ideas for the future for this ambitious relationship. Le’s actually get on… and start talking in detail about it.
Theresa May – Councils must build more homes or face government intervention
One domestic issue that Marr touched upon with May was the UK’s housing crisis. May declared that the government was about to take bold steps to ensure that the level of house building increased from the current sluggish levels:
AM: You’ve got a big announcement on housing coming out this weekend, and a lot of people say ‘Well, it’s alright, but it’s really fiddling at the edges isn’t it?’ It’s not going to solve the fundament problem we have in this country of not nearly enough houses.
TM: …What we’re doing on Monday is setting out how we’re rewriting the rulebook in terms of planning. So, we’re saying to councils that you’ve got to take local communities into account, you’ve got to have a proper plan for your area. If you don’t have it, the Government will intervene. We’re ensuring that we won’t see much money being spent on expensive consultants by setting the number of homes on a national framework, a national calculation of the number of homes needed in each area. But also, what we as a Government are going to do is release more public sector land and make sure that as we do so, some of those homes are more affordable for key people like nurses who are working in our public services.
Elsewhere in her interview, May also ruled out the continuation of financial ‘passporting’ for UK banks, as this would mean remaining a member of the single market. She said that ‘We can’t just accept rules that are made elsewhere’, but added that ‘My message to [the banks] is that what we’re looking to develop is a relationship that means that they can stay here in the UK as part of the City of London, that they will be continuing to provide their services across the EU.’
Simon Coveney – EU could reject Irish border proposals
The Irish Foreign Minister has expressed his concern that Theresa May’s plans to maintain a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic could be vetoed by the EU negotiating team. Simon Coveney told Marr that although the Irish government was open to looking at all of the UK government’s proposals, the strict enforcement of the rules of the single market was likely to be a crucial sticking point for the EU:
AM: Theresa May said 80pc of business simply will be ignored completely [when trading across the Irish border] and the 20pc – the really big companies with very high value goods – can be dealt with electronically. Doesn’t that make some kind of sense?
SC: … I am not sure the EU will be able to support a situation whereby 80pc of companies that trade north-south and south-north will actually protect the integrity of the EU single market, which of course will be a big priority for the EU negotiating team… While of course we will explore and look at all of the proposed British solutions, they are essentially a starting point in negotiations, as opposed to an end point… Our responsibility is to work positively with Britain to try to explore solutions but if we can’t agree solutions then what we have, of course, is the backstop which is a commitment by the British government to maintain full alignment with the rules of customs union and the single market.
Coveney went on to state that the Irish government ‘doesn’t want that’, and that he wanted to negotiate ‘to actually get a better solution that applies to all of the United Kingdom, so that Ireland’s trade with Britain, east-west and north-south can be maintained as it is today’. Coveney also praised May’s speech, saying ‘We welcome her speech by and large. There is a lot more detail than we have previously seen’.
John McDonnell – Tom Watson must consider his links with Max Mosley
The Shadow Chancellor has suggested that the Deputy Leader of the Labour party should ‘consider seriously’ his relationship with the former head of the International Automobile Federation, Max Mosley, who is now a prominent supporter and financial backer of the press regulatory body IMPRESS. The controversial millionaire faces a perjury investigation after the alleged discovery of a racially charged election leaflet from the 1960s. Since then Mosley has publically said in an interview that he deemed it acceptable to pay immigrants to return to their native countries. Niall Paterson asked John McDonnell about Mosley’s suitability as a donor:
NP: The interview that Mosley gave a few days ago where he confirmed that he was of the view that it was perfectly legitimate to pay immigrants to go home, to offer then financial incentives – cash for repatriation. I presume that’s not your view?
JM: Certainly not. Of course it’s not our view and it’s the sort of proposals which we’ve condemned in the past outright.
NP: Should then the Deputy Leader Tom Watson give back the [£540,000] that he has been donated by Max Mosley? I suppose that you probably would want him to give it back, given that it’s allowed him to build a private office almost the same size as yours and Jeremy Corbyn’s.
JM: The money was given to Tom. Tom took that decision. He took that decision on the basis, I believe, that Max Mosley’s views had changed from years ago… If those are the same views now, well Tom will really need to consider seriously exactly that relationship with Max Mosley and the finances as well. Because if he is reiterating these views from the past, he clearly hasn’t changed.
On the plight of cash-strapped local councils he stated ‘Right the way across the local councils in this country…they are now saying to a council that they are near crisis’. On Theresa May’s speech, McDonnell commented that it ‘was more about securing a limited truce [and] we’ve already begun to see that truce unravel’.
Nicola Sturgeon – Women are recognised less for their achievements
And finally, the Scottish First Minister has responded to a call from Jo Swinson, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, to see more statues of Margaret Thatcher across the nation. Swinson has argued that Thatcher’s significance as the first women to reach the top of Britain’s political ladder merited her considerably more recognition despite their political differences. However, Sturgeon stopped short of endorsing the plan in its entirety:
— Peston on Sunday (@pestononsunday) March 4, 2018
RP: Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat, has said that all politicians should get behind a campaign to celebrate the achievements of Margaret Thatcher more, because she broke through the glass ceiling and there should be statues of her everywhere. Would you back a statue to Margaret Thatcher in Scotland?
NS: Steady on! But what I do agree with is that women are not recognised as much for their achievements as men are. Statues have their place, and if you go to George Square in Glasgow for example, the only women I think is Queen Victoria. But in terms of women in politics, the legacy I want to see women leave is not so much in the form of statues, but in the form of how much progress they make for the next generation of women coming behind us.
Sturgeon also attacked Theresa May over her plans for Northern Ireland, telling Peston ‘ I think one of the most shameful features of the whole Brexit process has been the negligent way in which the interests of Ireland have just been cast aside’, and deemed May’s speech to have been ‘very much a speech facing up to the lost opportunities of Brexit’.