The Health Secretary joined Andrew Marr this morning for a discussion on the NHS, but it was Hunt’s remarks about business that have caught the headlines. The pan-European aviation company Airbus and car manufacturing giant BMW have said that a no deal Brexit could potentially see them leave the UK, and the organisations have said that they want ‘clarity’ by the end of the summer. Hunt urged people to ignore these ‘siren voices’ and put their faith in the Prime Minister:
— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) June 24, 2018
AM: When you picked up the paper and you saw that Airbus was talking about leaving this country… what did you think?
JH: I just thought it was completely inappropriate for businesses to be making these kinds of threats for one very simple reason. We are in an absolutely critical moment in the Brexit discussions and what that means is we need to get behind Theresa May to deliver the best possible Brexit – a clean Brexit… The more we undermine Theresa May, the more likely we are to end up with a fudge, which I think would be a disaster for everybody.
On the controversial ‘Brexit dividend’ which Theresa May announced would partially fund the planned increased in spending on the NHS, Hunt said that ‘we won’t be paying subscriptions to Brussels’, but ‘there is disagreement on what the impact [of Brexit] on economic growth will be’. He told Marr that he did not expect the dividend to fund ‘very much’ during 2019 ‘because we’re paying the divorce bill’. Hunt also announced the target that he wanted ‘to halve childhood obesity by 2030’ and was preparing to consult about restaurants having to provide calorie guides for their meals.
Nia Griffith – A Labour government will be ‘absolutely’ committed to NATO
Marr also interviewed Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith, who was keen to show that her party wasn’t a soft touch on defence as some have feared. Griffith said that the UK should remain a ‘tier one’ military power on the world stage. Marr inquired a little further as to what this meant:
AM: People wonder who is really in charge of Labour’s defence policy – you or Jeremy Corbyn? Jeremy Corbyn has been highly critical of NATO for a very long time… Are you completely committed to Britain’s continued membership of NATO?
NG: Absolutely, and it was a Labour government who actually founded a part of NATO, and the important point is, we need to be a much more positive voice in NATO, a much more positive voice in the UN, so that we’re actually shaping policy. And that’s the issue, it’s about taking that leadership role forward and actually shaping the way those organisations work.
Griffith told Marr that during the Blair and Brown governments, Labour had ‘consistently spent more than 2%’ of GDP on the nation’s defence, and said that this commitment was ‘in our manifesto last year’. She did not commit to matching Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s rumoured ambition of £20 billion extra spending, saying ‘we don’t know for one minute whether he’s actually going to get that money’. She also suggested that more British troops could be sent to Afghanistan in future if they were required.
Liam Fox – Having waited 40 years, I’m prepared to accept a longer transition deal
The International Trade Secretary joined Sophy Ridge for an in depth interview on Brexit after a week which saw the government pass its crucial EU Withdrawal Bill amid the possibility of defeat from Conservatives rebels. With that hurdle now cleared, Ridge asked Fox how he felt about a possible extension of the transition period after 2021, if that was perceived to be in Britain’s interest:
LF: What I wanted was that we were outside of the single market and the customs union, and outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That’s where I think we’re going to end up. If we do it slightly more slowly in order to minimise any disruption that’s fine by me. Having waited 40-odd years to leave the European Union, a few extra months doesn’t bother me, if we’re getting it right.
However, Fox hinted that he might resign if an attempt was made to extend the Article 50 process, saying he ‘wouldn’t find it politically acceptable’. On the prospect of the UK walking away from the EU without a deal, Fox said ‘Our European partners would be foolish to believe that because the Prime Minister is very considered [and] very pragmatic, that she’s bluffing’, but added that ‘none of us, including me, want no deal’. Fox also said that ‘we need to find ways to make [voting in the Commons] more acceptable after a vote on the Withdrawal Bill saw Labour MP Naz Shah brought in from hospital to vote.
Chris Hopson – The NHS still faces ‘hard choices’, despite extra cash
Sarah Smith spoke to the Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson about what the government’s recent announcement of £20 billion of extra health spending would now mean in practice. Hopson, while welcoming the new injection of funding, cautioned that there were several significant challenges ahead and that the public should not expect the strains on the health service to disappear as a result:
— BBC Daily Politics and Sunday Politics (@daily_politics) June 24, 2018
CH: We’ve said in reaction to the [government’s] settlement, this doesn’t take away the need for some hard choices… As I’ve said, 3.3% just to keep the existing services going, given our growing population – that is a big big challenge for the NHS. And for me, representing people who work on the front line, the key is that we give those people… a realistic task, and we don’t do what we’ve been doing over the last 4 years, which is however hard people work, we find we’re missing all the key targets that we’ve been set. We’ve got to stop that.
Hopson said he realised that the NHS had ‘been treated more generously than any other public service’, but added that ‘the $6 million dollar question is now ‘What can we deliver for that money?”.
Boris Becker – I have a real diplomatic passport
And finally, the former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker has asserted to Andrew Marr that he holds a diplomatic passport from the Central African Republic and consequently is holds diplomatic immunity. This protection could be significant as Becker was declared bankrupt last year and is currently being pursued for ‘further assets’:
— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) June 24, 2018
AM: The [CAR’s] Foreign Minister has told the BBC that this is a forgery.
BB: I don’t know what is internally happening with the politics of Central Africa, but I have received this passport from the Ambassador. I’ve spoken to the President on many occasions… I believe the documents they’re giving me must be right.
AM: They want you to go back… and be extradited there. Would you go if you were asked to go?
BB: I am very happy anytime soon to visit Bangui, the capital, and speak to the people personally about how we can move forward and how we can resolve this misunderstanding and this confusion.