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Sunday shows round-up: Raab sets out his leadership pitch

26 May 2019

2:55 PM

26 May 2019

2:55 PM

Dominic Raab –  I’m ‘willing to walk away’

The starting gun for the Conservative leadership race has been fired and there are currently eight declared hopefuls jockeying for position. Dominic Raab, the former Brexit Secretary, who resigned in protest last year over the government’s draft withdrawal agreement, sat down with Andrew Marr to outline his bid for the top job. Unsurprisingly, the issue of where the government now takes the Brexit negotiations featured highly on the agenda:

AM: What’s going to be really different because you’re Prime Minister?

DR: First of all… we’d be willing to walk away from the negotiations if we don’t get very finite, targeted, reasonable change. Secondly, I think my experience [was] of being undermined by some others in government, so we’d need to have a very well organised No. 10 operation… I think if you do that, you can be really credible in Brussels… We want a good deal, but we’re willing to walk away otherwise.

‘I will not ask for an extension’

Raab continued by telling Marr that he would not seek to prolong the UK’s membership of the EU any further than its current extension to the 31st of October:

DR: There’s no case for a further extension. I think we’ve got to bring some finality to this… Of course, if Parliament legislates, then we would be in a difficult position, but… it is very difficult for Parliament to legislate against no deal, or in favour of a further extension, unless… a resolute Prime Minister is willing to acquiesce on that, and I would not.

I’m ‘happy’ to pay ‘a fraction’ of the £39 billion

Marr asked Raab about the £39 billion that the EU has requested from the UK as part of the negotiations (commonly referred to as the ‘divorce bill’), and whether he would be prepared to contribute towards that sum in the event of a no deal exit. Raab said he would be willing to discuss it, but did not expect to pay the full amount:

DR: If we leave the EU on WTO terms, I think probably under our strict legal obligations, a fraction of that would be due. I’d be very happy to arbitrate that… but you would get at least – I’d say – £25 billion to have to support businesses through what would inevitably be a transition.

‘We don’t want to turn away international investment’

Raab also gave his verdict on the controversial decision to allow Chinese technology firm Huawei to be involved in significant national infrastructure projects such as 5G:

DR: I think that the contracts can be segmented and protected so that any business – whether it’s Chinese or any other business – can threaten our national security. And I think if you’ve got that protection in place… I don’t think we don’t want to turn away international investment.

 

Philip Hammond – Hard Brexiteers don’t understand the EU approach

The Chancellor, who has not declared his candidacy and has no plans to do so, used his interview slot to argue in favour of a more restrained approach to the negotiations:

PH: I think that some people on the hard Brexit wing of my party have consistently failed to understand how the EU approach this problem. They set out at the very beginning how they were going to deal with us as a departing member, and they have actually never wavered… Many of them only want to do a deal that is entirely on their terms.

The EU ‘will not negotiate the Withdrawal Agreement’

Hammond continued by arguing that not only was there no appetite to reopen negotiations on the EU side, but also that it would be practically impossible to do so without another extension:

PH: The European Union will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. I’m quite clear about that. Even if some people want it to in Brussels – and I don’t think they do – they wouldn’t be able to because of their own political fragility… But [also], there simply isn’t going to time. There actually isn’t going to be a Commission to negotiate with until towards the end of October.

‘I’d find it very difficult to vote for no deal’


Hammond also raised the possibility that a government that chose to pursue a no deal exit might find itself in a very tricky position with its own MPs:

PH: I think it would be very difficult for a Prime Minister who adopted no deal as a policy… to retain the confidence of the House of Commons… I would certainly not support a strategy to take us out with no deal…

AM: Would you vote against your own government in a confidence motion…?

PH: …I would find it very difficult to vote for a no deal Brexit… My focus will be trying to ensure that I don’t find myself facing that challenge.

Shami Chakrabati – A confidence vote would be ‘a very good idea’

Labour’s Shadow Attorney General also took to the studio to give her take on Labour’s next steps after May’s resignation:


AM: Do you put down a vote of no confidence in any new Conservative leader immediately [when] they take office?

SC: I think that it’s time for a general election. This new leader should seek a mandate.

AM: But assuming they don’t, you put down a vote of no confidence immediately…?

SC: I think that would be a very good idea, because I don’t think we can have a second unelected Conservative Prime Minister… The people of this country are entitled to have the opportunity of an alternative vision.

Esther McVey – ‘I’m a ‘blue collar conservative’

The former Work and Pensions Secretary has also thrown her hat into the Tory leadership ring. McVey, like Raab, resigned her cabinet position last year in protest over Theresa May’s draft Brexit deal with the EU.  She outlined her leadership pitch to Sophy Ridge:

EM: What I’d do straight away – an extra £4 billion for schools. I believe in social mobility, and the building blocks for success [are] through a good education, and then we need an extra £3 billion for police… I’m standing on a blue collar Conservative platform, and that is for regular people… who pay into the system, work hard, but want to know they’ll get something back.

‘Prepare for no deal’

On Brexit, McVey adopted a tougher line than Dominic Raab, signalling that she was unwilling to reopen negotiations and urging the importance of preparing for a no deal Brexit:

EM: [The EU] have said that Withdrawal Agreement is the only one they want. Now Parliament has made quite clear that they don’t want that Withdrawal Agreement… We’re now in a different position, and that Withdrawal Agreement boat has sailed… The UK therefore has to be prepared to leave… so this is the best thing we can do – prepare for no deal

‘We can do an invisible border’

McVey insisted that a no deal Brexit would not dramatically affect the UK’s external border with the Republic of Ireland, and declared that there would be ‘an invisible border’ in place:

SR: How is that going to work?… [The EU have] said there will have to be checks.

EM: When you are talking about checks, the admin, customs declaration is online, and when you talk about a border, there is already a border for currency and VAT, so we know the technology exists. We have already been having meetings in the House, and that is possible there so we know we can go forward and have an invisible border, so there will not be a hard border.

 

John McDonnell – ‘The world changed’ when May stood down

The Shadow Chancellor also joined Ridge, and warned very strongly that the UK must avoid a no deal exit at all costs:

JM: I think the world changed on Friday when Theresa May stood down. We’re facing a very, very precarious and dangerous situation for the future of our country, and yes, I think the responsibility [is on] all of [the] opposition parties to come together with us – and some Conservative MPs – to block a no deal and if that means going back to the people, yes, let’s go back to the people.

Labour is ready for ‘a good kicking’

Referring to the results of Thursday’s European elections, which will be announced later tonight, McDonnell told Ridge that he was preparing for the worst:

JM: I think we most probably will get a good kicking in the election results tonight… We’re braced for that, but you know, we had to do the responsible thing… It was a hard road to follow, but someone had to be there and say ‘Can we bring the country back together again?’ It would have been easy to have gone to one side, to the Remain side, and to have ignored all those people who voted Leave – that’s not the nature of our party.

I did feel sorry for May

McDonnell also expressed an unusual level of sympathy for Theresa May after her emotional resignation speech on Friday:

JM: You would have to have had a heart of stone not to feel for her. I know others have commented and said ‘I also feel for all the victims of her policies’ and I do too. But yes, of course I did. I wish her well for the future and she’s done her best, but it hasn’t been good enough.

 

Damian Green – Theresa May ‘had come to the end of the road’

The former Deputy Prime Minister and university friend of Theresa May joined Ridge to express his condolences at the end of her premiership:

DG: I think everyone has commented on her sense of duty which was there literally to the end, and we saw it was a fairly emotional end to that speech, and any decent person would have thought [it was] very sad.

SR: Did she speak to you before she made the announcement?

DG: No, I haven’t spoken to her in the last few days but I think to some extent it became inevitable that the deal as devised wasn’t going to go through Parliament, so her Prime Ministership had reached the end of the road.

We must approach Brexit ‘in an intelligent way’

Green argued that if his party did not choose May’s replacement wisely then there was a very real risk that Jeremy Corbyn could be handed the key to No 10:

DG: We have got to get Brexit through, that’s absolutely clear. But… if you have people who are promising a no deal Brexit, then the extreme likelihood is that various people will find ways of stopping it… and therefore you’ll have to go to a general election…

SR: Would you lose?

DG: …There has to be the possibility that we would see Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street… so we have to approach the Brexit conundrum in an intelligent way.

I’m backing Matt Hancock

And finally, Green announced that he would be supporting the Health Secretary Matt Hancock in his bid to become the next Conservative leader:

DG: I think the next leader should be Matt Hancock… Obviously getting Brexit through is the immediate task, but we’ve got to start thinking and caring about more than that…  It’s important for the Conservative party now which is doing so badly among young voters in particular, to have somebody who can speak the language of those who grew up in the digital world, who evidently is competent and on top of issues of technology and how it applies to people’s real lives.


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