Nigel Farage: This BBC is ‘in denial’
Andrew Marr was joined by Nigel Farage, whose Brexit party is in strong contention to win the European elections that are now required to take place on 23rd May. One poll has even put the fledgling party polling higher than the Conservatives for elections to the UK Parliament. With this in mind, Marr chose to pursue Farage on a number of other areas, which led to the interview rapidly becoming extremely heated. Katy Balls has more on ‘the most ridiculous interview ever’:
NF: You're just not interested are you?... This is absolutely ludicrous. I’ve never in my life seen a more ridiculous interview than this. You are not prepared to talk about what is going on in this country today. You’re in denial, the BBC is in denial, the Tory and Labour parties are in denial.
UK should ‘leave on WTO terms’
Marr also inquired as to why Farage appeared to have changed his tune since the referendum campaign, highlighting that the former Ukip leader had previously advocated leaving the EU with a free trade deal. Farage replied that the Prime Minister had ‘wilfully deceived’ the British public by pursuing a ‘treaty’ rather than a trade deal:
AM: During the referendum you were advocating one thing and now you’re advocating something different. You’re advocating a no deal Brexit.
NF: Well because the only way we can deliver the democratic will of the people is to leave on WTO terms, and I’ll tell you something. Once we do that the European Union will be banging our door down to have a sensible, tariff free deal.
‘Breaking Point’ poster was ‘the truth’
Marr finished by asking Farage if he regretted his endorsement of a controversial poster from the 2016 referendum campaign, which described the UK as being at ‘breaking point’, juxtaposed in front of a picture of a long queue of migrants. Farage argued that the poster was fair game, referencing the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to welcome large numbers of refugees from the Middle East:
AM: Do you regret that poster and the message it sort of said?
NF: Well no, it was the truth, and if you think about that poster, it’s transformed European politics, it’s changed Italian politics. Mrs Merkel made a very big mistake.
Damian Hinds: We need to get the negotiations done
Marr also spoke to the Education Secretary Damian Hinds. Marr raised remarks made by the former defence secretary Gavin Williamson that the negotiations that the government were conducting with the Labour party were a ‘betrayal’ and ‘incredibly naive’. Hinds defended the principle of the entering the talks:
DH: What’s the alternative? We have to find a way through. That means you have to get a majority... I disagree with Labour on many, many things, and with Jeremy Corbyn on even more, but there is some commonality of interest here... Because actually this isn’t just about parties or individuals... we need to get things done on behalf of our constituents.
European election launch not necessary
Hinds also told Marr that, in a break with precedent, the Conservatives would not in all likelihood have an official launch for the European elections campaign:
DH: I’m not sure we need a launch. I mean, we’ve been very clear about the outcome that we want. We’re leaving the European Union. We need to make sure we do it with a deal. But we don’t actually want MEPs to be having to take their seats.
Jonathan Ashworth: The PM won’t grant a second referendum
The shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth represented Labour. Marr asked Ashworth how he felt Labour’s negotiations with the government were progressing. Ashworth replied that the chances of a second referendum were not on the horizon:
AM: [Are you] trying to get Brexit happening?
JA: [We're] not getting very far but we’re doing our best. And we raised the issue of a confirmatory vote in those negotiations as well but the Prime Minister isn’t prepared to compromise. We have been prepared to compromise and that’s been demonstrated by the way we voted on the three different occasions in the House of Commons.
Only Labour can stop the Brexit party
Ashworth went on to reject Jo Swinson’s claim from last week that a vote for Labour was ‘a vote for Brexit’, and declared the upcoming European elections to be ‘a two-horse race’:
JA: If you want to stop Nigel Farage in these elections you have to vote Labour. The [Lib Dems] or the sort of Independent Change Party or whatever name they’ve got this week cannot stop the Brexit Party getting MEPs.
Tony Blair: No deal Brexit could spark ‘a silent revolution’
Sophy Ridge began her show by interviewing former prime minister Tony Blair. Despite the current polls showing a massive boost to the Brexit party, Blair warned that a no deal Brexit could have similar unpredictable effects for the two main political parties:
TB: If we go ahead and tumble out of the European Union with a no deal Brexit of the kind that Farage and Boris Johnson and these people want, you are going to get a silent revolution in this country as well. There are going to be people who are going to feel so strongly about this. And I just say this to both main political parties, they are going to sweep them away.
Brexit is ‘based on a myth’
Blair went on to attack the case for a so-called soft Brexit outcome where the UK remained closely aligned to the single market and customs union, which he personally deemed ‘pointless’:
TB: The soft Brexit that Theresa May has tried to articulate won't work... Because the whole case of the Brexiteers is based on a myth, which is that we don't control our own laws, they have to target the single market... [And] you end up in a situation where effectively you end up in the trading system of the European Union... but have lost your seat at the table. That soft Brexit is never going to command anything other than a tiny support.
Nigel Farage has ‘created the swamp’ in British politics
Blair made clear that there was little love lost between himself and more hardcore Brexit enthusiasts:
TB: It’s one issue politics at the moment, effectively. And what we've got to understand is, if [the hard Brexiteers] have their way... we’re going to be doing nothing but Brexit for years to come. What we’ve got to realise is that Nigel Farage and the people associated with him, they're not the people to drain the swamp of British politics – they’re the people who created the swamp.
A second referendum could be ‘a healing process’
Finally, the former Prime Minister made a bold claim about the potential of a second referendum to bring the country together:
TB: The government... has got to set out the true options [and] it's got to make Parliament come to a decision... I think the moment you force people to decide... they will realise in Parliament that the sensible thing is to share responsibility for that huge decision with the British people... Then I think you can get a healing process because you can explore the arguments in a much more informed way.
Barry Gardiner: We cannot let Farage ‘redefine Brexit’
The shadow international trade secretary also joined Ridge. Barry Gardiner expressed his frustration with Blair, arguing that his former leader was being far too idealistic in his goal of stopping Brexit altogether. Instead, Gardiner said that Labour should accept the referendum result in order to be able to remain relevant:
BG: One of the things that I found extraordinary about your interview with Tony was he did not mention the word ‘democracy’. And the fact is, and we’ve seen it in the polls... about the support in the polls for the Brexit party. People in this country are angry.. that the referendum result has not been delivered on... We cannot let Mr. Nigel Farage redefine what the referendum was about.
Labour is trying to ‘bail out the country’
Once again, the conservation turned to Labour's Brexit talks with the government:
SR: Are you trying to bail out the Tories?
BG: We’re trying to bail out the country because of the Tories' failure, of course, because we believe we have to act in the best interests of the country, but that’s not just simply the economic interests... We believe it’s important that as a country we respect the promises that we made and the democratic decision of the people.
Sian Berry: One flight a year is ‘perfectly reasonable’
And finally, the Green party’s co-leader Sian Berry has suggested introducing a significant tax on those who choose to fly more than once a year (perhaps raising the question of how expensive a return journey might be...):
SB: One way of reducing demand for air travel is a frequent flyer levy. That would everybody to take one flight a year for no extra tax, and then it [would] increase a lot.
SR: Should we be looking at, as individuals, taking one flight a year..?
SB: One flight a year seems perfectly reasonable to me.