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Sunday shows round-up: Brexit on 29 March is ‘physically impossible’, Hammond says

17 March 2019

2:42 PM

17 March 2019

2:42 PM

Philip Hammond: Leaving the EU on 29 March ‘now physically impossible’…

This morning, the Chancellor sat down with Andrew Marr following a week in which his Spring Statement was overshadowed by other events, including a series of critical Brexit votes in the Commons, and an appalling terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. With the government suffering another heavy defeat on its withdrawal deal, this time by a margin of 149 votes, Marr expressed the widespread concern that Brexit may never happen:

AM: When are we going to leave the EU?

PH: If the Prime Minister’s deal is able to muster a majority this week and get through, then we will need a short extension [of Article 50]. It is now physically impossible to leave on the 29th March, but we’d be able to leave very soon… But if we are unable to do that… then we will have to look at a longer extension, and we’re in uncharted territory. I can’t tell you how long.

…Third vote on May’s deal might not happen…

Despite the withdrawal deal suffering a second significant defeat on Tuesday, the government has kept open the possibility of a third vote this week. With the Commons also rejecting the prospect of a no deal Brexit, the government hopes this may alter the balance in its favour. Marr asked Hammond whether a third vote was on the cards:

PH: We will only bring the deal back if we are confident that enough of our colleagues and the DUP are prepared to support it… But what’s happened since last Tuesday is that a significant number of colleagues… have changed their view on this, and decided that the alternatives are so unpalatable to them that they on reflection think that the Prime Minister’s deal is the best way to deliver Brexit.

…‘We will look at all budgets’ in spending review…

Marr also asked Hammond if there was a chance that the government’s upcoming spending review may see a sweetener to entice the Democratic Unionist Party to overcome their fierce hostility to the government’s deal. Hammond was careful on the subject, but did not rule anything out:

AM: Have you offered them any money in return for voting for the deal?

PH: This isn’t about money… We are coming up to a spending review, and we will have to look at all budgets, including devolved block grant budgets…

AM: So it’s not impossible that you’re going to give them extra money… in return for voting for the deal?

PH: We haven’t even started to look at it yet.

…Christchurch attack shows terrorism ‘comes from all sides’

The interview also turned to the attack in Christchurch, in which 50 people lost their lives and another 50 were injured. Hammond insisted that there was no place for such intolerance in his party or in wider British society:

PH: We’ve been focused on certain kinds of violent terrorism, but we need to be clear that it can come from anywhere. And what we’ve seen this weekend is a stark reminder that violent terrorism comes from all sides of the political spectrum, and all sides of the religious argument.

AM: So in the future, Tories who sneer at – or mock abusively – Muslims, will be kicked out of [your] party?

PH: We will take a tough line with anybody who abuses anyone on the basis of their race or religion. That is not acceptable.

Jeremy Corbyn: ‘It depends’ how I’d vote in second referendum…

Earlier in the morning, Sophy Ridge interviewed the Leader of the Opposition about how Labour would respond to Brexit. Corbyn said that he would continue to whip Labour against the government’s Brexit deal as it stood. He also hinted that Labour could back an amendment for a ‘confirmatory’ referendum, but suggested that he was still open to leaving the EU if the right deal could be found:

SR: What would the choice be in a referendum?…

JC: …That choice would [have to] be discussed by Parliament. It would obviously have to be a credible choice…

SR: Would you vote to Remain?

JC: It depends what the choice is in front of us. If we’ve got a good deal… then that might be a good way forward that unites the county.

…Confidence vote ‘appropriate’ if May’s deal defeated again…

Ridge also asked if Labour would try and bring down the government once again, having attempted to do back in January:

SR: When are you going to call a confidence motion in the government?

JC: We’ve had one confidence motion already. The government is apparently going to bring [the withdrawal deal] once again to Parliament this week. I suspect they’ll be defeated again… I think at that point, a confidence motion would be appropriate. I think at the point, we should say there has to be a general election.

…Security forces ‘slow’ to investigate far-right extremism…

Corbyn also condemned the terrorist attack in Christchurch and called for governments and their security agencies to do more to investigate and to halt the rise in far-right extremism:

JC: This was the most disgraceful far-right terrorist attack, and many security forces around the world have been… slow to investigate far-right extremism… I think we’ve got to be far more aware of the dangers of the far-right…

SR: Is there anything that can be done on a practical level?

JC: Immediately, those that control and own social media platforms should deal with it straight away, and stop these things being broadcast.

…Labour is ‘a very happy family’

There have been reports that Corbyn’s deputy leader Tom Watson has been trying to set up a new faction within the Labour party designed to halt the likelihood of more defections to the Independent Group. There has also been speculation that such a group would operate as a counterweight to the highly pro-Corbyn Momentum. Corbyn insisted that Watson was perfectly entitled to do so:

JC: I welcome any discussion about party policy and the way we go forward… Tom wants to discuss these issues with members of Parliament, that’s absolutely fine…

SR: So is Labour a happy family now?

JC: Labour is a very happy family!

Esther McVey: I will now vote for May’s ‘bad deal’

Esther McVey, the former Work and Pensions Secretary who resigned her position in order to vote against the government’s withdrawal agreement, has now told Sophy Ridge that she will vote for it if it is put to the Commons again next week. She explained her reasons for doing so:

EM: The rules have all changed… We all stood on a manifesto that [said that] no deal is better than a bad deal, and I still believe that Theresa May’s deal is a bad deal. But after the votes in the House last week, that isn’t the option facing us anymore. ‘No deal’ has been removed, Article 50 will be extended… so the choice before us is this deal or no Brexit whatsoever. And to not have Brexit, you go against the democratic vote of the people.

Nick Boles: ‘I’m not ready to give up’ on the Conservatives

And finally, Nick Boles, the MP for Grantham and Stamford who has resigned from his local Conservative association, allegedly over disagreements over Brexit, says that despite this inconvenience, he will continue to be a member of the party:

NB: I haven’t fallen out with the Conservatives party overall…

AM: Did you think about leaving?

NB: I did think about leaving it, and I did think about whether I should stand as an independent, but ultimately I’m not ready to give up on the Conservative party yet… The progressive Conservatives – of which there are a great number in the Parliamentary party – we need to start asserting ourselves.

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