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Sunday shows round-up: Remainers say they’ve ‘called the government’s bluff’ on proroguing parliament

18 August 2019

1:43 PM

18 August 2019

1:43 PM

Gina Miller: ‘We’ve called the government’s bluff’

Stephen Dixon filled in for Sophy Ridge this week, and began by interviewing Gina Miller. Miller and her legal team are due to bring a court case in early September to determine key questions about the government’s delivery of a no deal Brexit. This morning, Miller claimed a victory for her side as the government has said that they will no longer try to suspend Parliament in order to reach a no deal Brexit without a vote:

GM: …Unequivocally they accept that to close down Parliament, to bypass them in terms of Brexit… is illegal. So without having to go to court, they’ve conceded. We have basically called their bluff.

…No deal is still possible…

However, Miller said that despite this breakthrough, there was still a great deal that needed to be done before a no deal exit could be taken off the table:

GM: Because we already have in legislation that the 31st of October is our exit day, they need to pass other legislation to prevent no deal, or to change that date… We will go back to make sure that MPs are given that opportunity via further legal assurances.

…‘Illegal’ for PM to prevent anti no deal laws…

Miller also made her argument that the government could not legally stop Parliament from passing a law that would prevent a no deal Brexit, if MPs chose to do so:

GM: To be prevented by the Prime Minister from passing legislation we feel would be illegal, not least based on the judgement in my first case… Boris Johnson is not above the law… We just need to make sure that politicians have the opportunity to be sovereign.

…I’m not scaremongering about no deal…

Miller dismissed the idea that she was part of ‘Project Fear’ in cautioning about the risks of no deal, citing government documents leaked to the Sunday Times as evidence that the UK was not ready in its preparations:

GM: These are not scaremongering stories. This is the government’s own assessment… How many more torrents of assessments do you need to realise that this is putting peoples’ lives in danger?

Kwasi Kwarteng: We’re leaving with or without a deal…

However, Kwasi Kwarteng, a strong supporter of Boris Johnson and now the Minister for Energy, said that concerns about the leaked ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ documents were overdone and maintained that the government’s policy of leaving on the 31st October was still firmly in place:

KK: We’re going to leave with or without a deal… The reason [Johnson] is saying that is because this has gone on too long… The scale and intensity of [our] preparations are increasing, and we will be fully prepared to leave without a deal on 31st October.

…PM ‘will observe the letter of the law’…

Boris Johnson has previously suggested that he would not resign if he lost a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons, but would instead try to remain in post for the two week window before a general election would be required. Unsurprisingly, this has proved contentious, and Dixon asked if this remained the Prime Minister’s plan:

KK: There are lots of ifs and hypotheticals here, [but] I’m sure the Prime Minister will observe the letter of the law.

…Anti-knife campaign is based on evidence

Dixon also asked about a Home Office campaign intended to discourage knife crime amongst young people, which has seen anti-knife massages written on boxes of chicken at some fast food outlets. The campaign has drawn criticism for being ‘patronising’ and ‘borderline racist’.  Kwarteng defended the policy:

KK: This policy didn’t come out of the blue. It’s been road tested, there were surveys done… and this was felt to be an effective way to get the message across… There was actual empirical evidence to suggest that this was a good way of reaching people.

Laura Pidcock: Corbyn should be next in line for PM

Dixon spoke next to the Shadow Minister for Labour Laura Pidcock. Pidcock rebuffed the recent attempts from figures such as Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and Green MP Caroline Lucas to put together a ‘government of national unity’ with a senior Remainer as Prime Minister. She insisted that Jeremy Corbyn must be the next choice if Boris Johnson were to fall:

LP: Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the opposition… He should lead those conversations, and he carries with him the largest amount of MPs… I think it’s quite strange if I’m honest, that we’re considering other options.

…Boris Johnson ‘shielded’ from no deal effects…

Pidcock went on to attack the Prime Minister, saying that he could afford to pursue no deal because he would not be one of those affected by the consequences:

LP: Our moral imperative is to stop a no deal Brexit. We saw some of the leaked Operation Yellowhammer projections… Boris Johnson is willing to allow that to happen because he… and the people he represents are completely shielded from the effects of a no deal Brexit.

Malcolm Rifkind: Suppressing Hong Kong protests would be ‘disastrous’

The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are now entering their eleventh week and show little sign of diminishing, with 100,000 people thought to be attending a rally today. The protests have seen increasing violence from the police, while Beijing is increasing its security forces just over the border. The former Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind warned about China trying to intervene in the autonomous territory:

MR: It would be disastrous for Hong Kong, but it would also be pretty disastrous for China, because sending the… military into Hong Kong is infinitely more complicated than the terrible events in Tiananmen Square… It would for all practical purposes be like occupying a foreign country.

…UK should ‘make our concerns known’…

Rifkind rejected calls from the Chinese Ambassador that the UK to mind its own business in relation to Hong Kong, arguing that China was potentially about to break the Joint Declaration it signed with the UK back in 1984 if left unchallenged:

MR: We have a perfect right… to make our concerns known in the most robust way possible… China appears to be… or is contemplating a massive breach… of a treaty which we were a co-signatory to. The Chinese are on pretty rotten ground.

…Tory MPs ‘might’ topple the government

And finally, when asked if Conservative MPs might be behind the government’s downfall in a looming vote of no confidence, Rifkind replied that this was a perfectly plausible scenario:

MR: I think it might happen… They don’t need to vote against the government, they could abstain. It only needs to be a small number and the government are defeated, and it seems likely the numbers are there.

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