The Environment Secretary Michael Gove has defended Boris Johnson’s criticism of the Prime Minister’s proposed ‘customs partnership’ ideal in a recent Daily Mail interview, and told Nick Robinson that the proposal ‘has flaws’. Gove and Johnson are reported to be in favour of a ‘maximum facilitation’ arrangement (or ‘Max Fac’) which would make use of technology and trusted trader schemes to help ensure a relatively open border with Ireland post-Brexit:
NR: You’re on a cabinet working group to deal with this so-called customs partnership. Boris Johnson calls it ‘crazy’. Is he right?
MG: …In the interview that Boris gave to the Daily Mail, he pointed out some of the flaws with the new customs partnership, and across Government, across Cabinet, there is agreement that neither of these two models is absolutely perfect. And with the new customs partnership, Boris pointed out that because it’s novel, because no model like this exists, there have to be significant question marks over the deliverability of it on time. More than that, what the new customs partnership requires the British government to do is in effect to act as the tax collector, and very possibly the effective delivery of regulation for the European Union…
NR: I want to be clear – is it the government’s view, is it your view… that this idea is crazy?
MG: It is my view that the new customs partnership has flaws and they need to be tested.
Gove dismissed the idea of extending the UK’s transition period beyond 2020, proclaiming ‘In delay there lies no plenty, as Shakespeare once said’. He also paid his respects to Tessa Jowell, citing her as ‘one of the kindest and most thoughtful people you could find in public life.’
Alistair Campbell – Tessa Jowell was ‘the best of humanity’
Tributes have been paid to the long serving Labour MP and government minister Dame Tessa Jowell, who died peacefully on Saturday after suffering a brain haemorrhage the day before. Dame Tessa was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017 and memorably received a standing ovation in the House of Lords for a speech which detailed her experience of life with the disease. Many have praised her invaluable contribution to securing and delivering the 2012 London Olympic Games, as well as the creation of the SureStart programme. Alistair Campbell joined Nick Robinson (filling in for Andrew Marr) to offer his memories of Dame Tessa:
Former Labour Director of Communications Alastair Campbell pays tribute to the late cabinet minister Tessa Jowell calling her the best in politics and the best in humanity #marr pic.twitter.com/AKP7xI49Oq
— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) May 13, 2018
AC: My daughter absolutely loved Tessa to bits…and she said that Tessa was the only person she’s ever known who, whoever she was with, wherever she was, that other person was glad to be there. And she was totally motivated by other people. And even in the way she faced up to her illness, from the moment she was diagnosed, she was starting to think about other people who had the same condition, and that’s why she did the debate in the Lords and the debate in the Commons. She got the government to put more money into cancer care. She was completely dedicated to other people… Tessa was not just the best in politics, she was the best of humanity.
Simon Coveney – There was a clear agreement on no border infrastructure
The Irish Deputy Prime Minister also spoke to Robinson about his understanding of the border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit. Simon Coveney spoke in favour of the customs partnership and was unimpressed by the proposition of a ‘Max Fac’ deal. Coveney told Robinson that he expected the UK government to deliver on its previous promises that there would be no border infrastructure in the future:
NR: What is it you’re waiting for from British ministers?
SC: It would be helpful if the British government actually had some consensus around this concept, as opposed to something else, which people seem to think might work using technology or some other way of creating as seamless a border as possible, but nevertheless border infrastructure. Let’s not forget what’s been agreed in these negotiations to date, because last December there was a clear agreement that the British Prime Minister signed up to that there would be no border infrastructure of any kind… and no related checks or controls. That means we’re not talking about cameras and scanning systems and drones here. It means we’re talking about a political solution that allows for regulatory alignment in a way that prevents the need for border infrastructure… We expect that a clear commitment that was made by the British government… be followed through on.
Coveney also took a swipe at the Foreign Secretary, stating ‘We don’t take our lead from Boris Johnson in relation to Brexit. We take our lead from the Prime Minister’, but added that ‘It’s going to be a very difficult summer for these negotiations’ if the Prime Minister’s cabinet did not support her.
Nicky Morgan – Why I’m ‘standing with the enemy’
The Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee Nicky Morgan has caused a stir within the Conservative party after she co-authored an article for today’s Mail on Sunday with Labour’s David Miliband and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. The article condemns the idea of a so-called hard Brexit as a ‘path to a fantasy island’, and claims that ‘a better way forward [is] profoundly in the national interest’. Robert Peston queried Morgan as to why she had taken this course of action:
RP: You are doing something that many would regard as quite remarkable. You are standing to shoulder with the former Labour minister David Miliband and the former Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg… Why are you standing shoulder to shoulder with what many of your Tory colleagues would regard as the enemy?
NM: …Because what we’re facing as a country on Brexit is an enormous challenge. It’s about obviously trying to find a deal that is going to be best for the country, best for our economy… Tomorrow we are going to the Tilda rice factory plant in Essex, because they are one of the companies who have been brave enough to step forward and say that if we don’t get future customs and borders and trade arrangements right then… they will have to relocate at least part of [their] processing plant overseas… and that’s not then going to be good news for employees… That’s why I’m standing with other people on a cross party platform to say let’s get this right.
On the possibility of a ‘Max Fac’ deal, Morgan opined ‘This relies on future technology, not yet invented. That would be a deal in name only.’ When Peston asked if Morgan was surprised that Boris Johnson had not been sacked for disloyalty over his remarks on the customs partnership, she replied ‘I wasn’t entirely surprised. I think we are all surprised though by quite how wide the bounds of collective responsibility are being stretched now’.
Shami Chakrabarti – Ken Livingstone should be expelled from Labour
And finally, Baroness Chakrabarti, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, has told Sarah Smith that after a couple of years of severe headaches for the party, she no longer believes that the former Mayor of London has any place in the Labour party:
SC: He has been found to have bought the party into disrepute once, and what did he do, when some would say he was given a fairly lenient sentence?… The moment he got that lenient sentence…what did he do? He went straight out into the media and he repeated the offence as he continues to do… He has brought [Labour] repeatedly into disrepute. He has brought shame upon it and his own legacy and we need to apologise to Jewish members, supporters and voters for the insult, the incendiary remarks equating people trying to escape Nazis with Nazis themselves.
SS: So it’s shocking then that he was simply suspended and he’s not yet been expelled. Should he be expelled?
SC: … It won’t be my decision, but this stuff is all over the public record, and I’m sorry to say it, but I don’t believe that Ken Livingstone can any longer be in the Labour party.
Chakrabarti also told Smith that she was ‘incredibly disappointed’ that the recommendations from her report on anti-Semitism had not yet been implemented in the party, but added ‘I’m delighted to say that Jennie Formby [Labour’s new General Secretary] has taken more action to implement my report in the last month than has happened in two years’.