Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Both no deal and referendum should be legally ‘off the table’, says Stewart

Sunday shows round-up: Both no deal and referendum should be legally 'off the table', says Stewart
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Jeremy Corbyn - Labour supporters voted 'both Leave and Remain'

With the European elections taking place next Thursday, several senior political figures took to the TV studios to reiterate their case, including a handful of party leaders. One of these was Jeremy Corbyn, whose Brexit position has been criticised for its lack of clarity. Speaking to Andrew Marr, Corbyn defended his strategy of not picking a side:

JC: Labour supporters voted both Leave and Remain, and every other party in this European election is appealing to either one side or the other, defining everybody on 2016. We’re not. We’re defining people as hopefully supporters of us – but also, people who have common problems, however they voted.

Labour can't give the government 'a blank cheque'

The government's Brexit talks with Labour broke down on Friday, prompting speculation about Theresa May's next possible steps. Marr suggested that the government could independently bring forward a bill to enshrine EU standards of workers' rights in law, and asked if this would help pass the withdrawal agreement:

JC: We would obviously look at it very carefully, and we would obviously reserve our right to either amend it or oppose it... I can't give it a blank cheque.

I'm not 'staunchly against free movement'

Marr pressed Corbyn over the issue of free movement of EU citizens, one of the four 'pillars' of membership of the single market. Corbyn effectively told Marr that while he wanted migration between the UK and EU to remain high, free movement would have to end:

JC: I'm not staunchly against free movement... but I quite clearly recognise that there has to be a lot of movement of workers... It will be part of our negotiations, the extent to which workers would transfer from one country to the other, and what the needs for it would be.

A public vote is still an 'option'

The Labour leader appeared to endorse the principle of a second referendum, if a little unenthusiastically:

JC: Our party view taken at conference was that we should keep the option of the public vote there on the table...

AM: The word 'option' suggests that you could or could not go for another referendum...

JC: We would want a vote in order to decide what the future would be, so yes.

Rory Stewart - Labour votes can still deliver our deal

The International Development Secretary also sat down with Marr. Rory Stewart was optimistic that despite the breakdown in talks with Labour, a deal could still be passed with the help of rebel Labour MPs:

RS: We're in the territory of a deal... Where we need to focus is Parliament, and particularly getting Labour votes across. Now, maybe not Jeremy Corbyn's vote, but there are many other moderate, sensible Labour MPs that we should be able to get across.

Both no deal and referendum should be legally 'off the table'

Stewart, who has thrown his hat into the ring to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader, also told Marr that he would legislate to prevent both a second referendum and a no deal Brexit if he secured the top job:

RS: I would want to go to Parliament and say 'We're taking no deal [and] a second referendum and Remain off the table... I'd like to legislate for that. I want the 650 MPs locked in a room, talking about what practical Brexit deal they want.

Chuka Umunna - We need to 'revoke Article 50'

Change UK's chief spokesman Chuka Umunna was also keen to push his party's hard anti-Brexit stance. Umunna argued that revoking the Article 50 clause was vital under all circumstances, not least because it would allow a second referendum to take place:

CU: I have come to the view that we are now at the point where we have to revoke Article 50... We now no longer have the time to [hold a 'people's vote']... so we need to stop the clock to allow that to happen.

Vince Cable - 'I was right' to say what I did

The Liberal Democrats have seen their fortunes rise with the European elections fast approaching. With the party overtaking Labour in at least one opinion poll, Marr asked their leader why he had once said that holding a second referendum was 'seriously disrespectful and politically counterproductive':

VC: I think I was right to say that then. I was strongly opposed to just re-running the last referendum. We're now talking about having a referendum on the terms of Brexit... Now we know more about Brexit... it's absolutely clear that no Brexit is where we should be going.

Nicola Sturgeon - Stopping Brexit won't 'necessarily' stop push for independence

The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was eager to insist that even if the SNP managed to get its preferred option of cancelling Brexit, that would not be enough to halt the party's independence drive:

AM: If the UK stays inside the EU, does that remove the need for an imminent Scottish independence referendum?

NS: Not necessarily no, because I think things are changing rapidly. The last thing I think I should be doing right now is narrowing Scotland's options... I think after all of the experience of the last three years, Scotland should have the opportunity to decide whether we want to become an independent European nation.

Steve Barclay - We need to use our time to prepare further for no deal

Sophy Ridge interviewed the Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay. Barclay said that despite Parliament declaring a no deal Brexit to be off the table, it still remained a serious possibility, and that he was preparing for that outcome:

SB: There's a huge amount been done in government and my department is at the heart of that... We need to do more and use the additional time that we have to prepare further.... The Chancellor has allocated money... We have to mitigate any disruption as best we can.

This deal is 'not the same deal'

Barclay also argued that the withdrawal bill which will be bought before Parliament next month is not the same deal that has been already rejected by the House of Commons:

SR: The government is bringing the same deal back again. What's the point?

SB: It's self-evidently not. We've been in talks with the Labour party, we've been exploring issues around worker's rights, environmental standards, what commitments can be given to Parliament in terms of the next phase of negotiations... Members of Parliament do need to face facts... If the deal were not to go through, there are only two other alternatives.

Tobias Ellwood - This isn’t 'a TV reality contest'

Ridge also spoke to the Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood. With the Conservative leadership contest to replace Theresa May already effectively underway, Ridge asked if Ellwood would consider adding his name to a very long list. Ellwood made clear that he wasn't considering it, and cautioned his colleagues against doing so just to 'raise their own profile':

TE: I’ll give you a straight answer – I don’t have the rank and I don’t have the experience. I am not going to run and this isn’t a TV reality contest.

We need to place amnesty for veterans 'in perspective'

Ridge asked about the pressure for the government to offer amnesty from prosecution to members of the UK's armed forces, an issue which has become particularly relevant to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Ellwood replied that the government had to be careful about doing so:

SR: The Sunday Telegraph is claiming that the Prime Minister blocked legislation that could have protected veterans from prosecution... Johnny Mercer, your colleague, says this is a betrayal – is it?

TE: We need to place it in perspective. The Northern Ireland Secretary [Karen Bradley]... has organised a consultation to see how it can be improved, but... you can’t give an amnesty just to armed forces personnel, you’d have to share that with terrorists as well, and [Bradley] was unwilling to do that. That’s international law, that’s what we have to abide by.

Anna Soubry - I'd rather have Rachel Johnson than Boris

Ridge moved on to speak to Change UK MP Anna Soubry, and challenged her on a rather embarrassing quote from Rachel Johnson, who is one of the new party's most high profile MEP candidates:

SR: Have a little look at what Rachel Johnson said - 'Change UK is a terrible name, I’m jumping on another sinking ship with Change UK. We hope it’s not sinking but it’s not riding the ocean waves'...

AS: Well look, I can’t speak for Rachel, she is a Johnson, they have a bit of a history of saying stuff. I’ll tell you what though, I’d rather have her than Boris.

Gerard Batten - If I lose my seat, I will quit as Ukip leader

And finally, Ukip leader Gerard Batten told Ridge that he will be considering his position if his party fails to hold up in the European elections next week:

GB: If I lost my seat in London, it would be untenable for me to continue as leader. But I won't make a decision... until after the European elections... I will base my decision on the of the European elections and how I feel afterwards.