Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: A no deal would be ‘potentially devastating’ for Northern Ireland, Blair says

Sunday shows round-up: A no deal would be 'potentially devastating' for Northern Ireland, Blair says
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Tony Blair - No deal 'potentially devastating' for Northern Ireland

Sophy Ridge began the morning with a wide-ranging interview with Tony Blair. The conservation inevitably turned to Brexit, something to which the former Prime Minister has long been opposed. Blair strongly criticised those politicians calling for a 'no deal' outcome after March 29th, arguing that they had 'played fast and loose' with the Northern Irish peace process from day one:

TB: If we have a hard Brexit - no one could responsibly propose this. It would be economically very, very dangerous for Britain, and for the peace process in Ireland, it would potentially be devastating... A no deal Brexit means a really hard border between the north and south of Ireland. It's contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and it will cause an enormous fissure within the United Kingdom... You'll end up with real problems at the border, huge economic problems south and north, and a very, very bitter atmosphere.

A second referendum is still possible

Blair remained firm in his advocacy of a second referendum as a solution to the current deadlock. He outlined the circumstances under which he felt this could still take place:

TB: You can have the soft Brexit, which is really what Jeremy Corbyn is suggesting, or you could have the hard Brexit that Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and other people want. ...Once you actually get to deciding which of those propositions you want, it's at that point, my suspicion ultimately is that there'll be no support for either of them. And then you get to another referendum... you may get [there] in order to say to the country 'Look, now we have a firm Brexit deal, do you prefer that to staying in?'

Labour leadership 'not robust enough' on anti-Semitism

Blair also bemoaned the Labour party's struggles with anti-Semitism and told Ridge that he thought it should be 'eradicated'. After the Labour MP Luciana Berger found herself subjected to death threats, Blair warned of a new kind of anti-Semitism among some on the left, which he described as 'every bit as pernicious':

TB: How can we say it's tolerable to have a certain level of anti-Semitism in the party?... Of course we can't have that. There are parts of the left that do have a problem with anti-Semitism...

SR: Has the leadership been robust enough on this?

TB: No. It's not been robust enough on it.

James Brokenshire - A meaningful vote will take place this month

Andrew Marr was joined by the Housing and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire. Marr was keen to get confirmation on when Parliament would get to vote on Theresa May's latest Brexit deal. Brokenshire promised that Parliament will be offered another vote even if May's deal had not yet been agreed:

JB: We have this week a debate in Parliament [and] a substantive motion that the government will put forward. But I think it's also important to stress that the government will commit that if the meaningful vote... has not happened by the 27th February, then we would allow a further motion, votable in Parliament to take place, to give that sense of assurance...

AM: ...Does that mean there will be a meaningful vote this month or not?

JB: ...If that meaningful vote has not happened, Parliament would have that further opportunity by no later than the 27th of February.

Christopher Chope's actions 'hugely disappointing'

Brokenshire went on to express exasperation at the news earlier this week that his colleague Christopher Chope had blocked a private member's bill on combating female genital mutilation (FGM) in vulnerable women:

JB: It's truly shocking, on such a serious issue. FGM is something that we've got to confront, we've got to do more on. It is hugely disappointing that this bill was not able to proceed... Christopher feels a lot about the process issues, about debate, about how Parliament operates, but on this I hope he will reflect.

Tom Watson - Luciana Berger 'is being bullied'

Marr also spoke to Labour's Deputy Leader Tom Watson. Watson has called on Labour's General Secretary Jennie Formby to suspend the constituency party in Liverpool Wavertree after a campaign to call a vote of no confidence in the serving MP Luciana Berger. Watson explained why he felt this was necessary:

TW: She is being bullied. That motion should never have been moved in her local party. The meeting to hear it should never have been heard... There are obviously a small group of members in that area that are trying to drive her out as the MP... What has happened to her is completely unacceptable, which is why I've called for the local party to be suspended.

'We must not accept threats of violence and intimidation'

Watson went on to tell Marr of how the divisive nature of politics at the moment had caused one of his colleagues to vote out of fear:

TW: I know of one MP who has confidentially told me that they changed their voted on one particular key vote because they felt frightened for their own safety... Remember in the last few years we have had a dear and valued colleague who has been assassinated by a far right fanatic. So MPs are intimidated, and it's really important that political leaders stand up and say 'We are not going to accept these threats of violence and intimidation', because it erodes our democracy and it's going to drive good people... out of politics.