Jeremy Corbyn: Labour will table vote of no confidence motion ‘soon’
The week ahead promises to be full of drama, with the long awaited ‘meaningful vote’ on Theresa May's Brexit deal scheduled to take place on Tuesday. The current prognosis does not look good for the Prime Minister, who is still struggling to muster adequate support. This morning, the Leader of the Opposition sat down with Andrew Marr to discuss what course of action he would be taking:
AM: If [May] does lose that vote, do you immediately put down a vote of no confidence in the government?
JC: We will table a motion of no confidence in the government at a time of our choosing. But it’s going to be soon, don’t worry about it.
Corbyn hinted that if the vote of confidence went his way, and if Labour found itself in government as a result, he would extend the Article 50 process, as the alternative would leave 'only a few weeks' for fresh negotiations with the EU. He told Marr, ‘we’re campaigning for a customs union... and we would want to have a say in all of those trade deals that are done’. When Marr challenged him on whether this was feasible Corbyn replied: ‘the EU is well known for its ability to be flexible’.
Corbyn sought to create a glimmer of hope for the pro-Remain wing of his party by refusing to commit himself to Brexit. Instead he told Marr, ‘we will decide our manifesto content as soon as we know there’s an election coming’. However, he said that he would prefer a ‘negotiated settlement’ and added ‘we will do everything we can to prevent a no deal exit’.
Stephen Barclay: ‘There is some movement’ on withdrawal agreement
Marr was also joined by the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay. Barclay told Marr that he remained optimistic about the government's chances of winning the meaningful vote:
SB: We’re committed to the vote on Tuesday. There’s still three days speaking with colleagues. We’ve seen from speeches in the House this week, whether it’s senior Conservatives such as George Freeman or whether senior Labour figures such as Jim Fitzpatrick, that there is some movement in the House.
However, Barclay was evasive on the subject of the government’s Plan B, merely telling Marr that ‘there is a process in place’ if all does not go to plan on Tuesday. Marr asked about the government's ‘no deal’ preparation, such as the development of essential IT systems, of which only 1 out of 12 is currently up and running.
Barclay replied that ‘we are moving resources in Whitehall and we are stepping up on our programme’, but did not go into detail. He rejected the assertion that the recent wave of 4,500 redundancies at Jaguar Land Rover were caused by Brexit, saying ‘it was to do with what is happening globally... in terms of diesel cars’.
Chris Grayling: No Brexit could see populist parties emerge
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has argued that if the government does not deliver Brexit then the UK may see a re-emergence of extremist parties protesting against the political class. Sophy Ridge asked Grayling to expand on comments he had previously made in the Daily Mail:
CG: My concern is that we will have, in the aftermath of a decision not to go ahead with Brexit... the kind of populist politics on the extremes that we are seeing in most other European countries... I do not want that, the emergence of the populist parties... because we’ve turned round to the 17.4 million people who voted to leave and simply said to them: ‘Look guys, sorry, we’re not leaving after all'.
Grayling told Ridge that he had not got everything he wanted out of Theresa May's withdrawal agreement, but said: ‘if you offered me this deal back in 2016... I’d have said thank you very much’. He denied that there was a ‘void’ created by the government’s reluctance to spell out a Plan B if it loses Tuesday's vote, but when Ridge sought more clarity, he simply said, ‘let’s cross that bridge when and if it happens’.
On his role as Transport Secretary, Grayling said that the railway timetabling fiasco in northern England had been ‘hugely frustrating’ and added: ‘we will make sure passengers receive compensation for what happened’. On Seaborne Freight, the government-contracted ferry service ‘with no ships’, he said: ‘they don’t get paid unless they deliver the service but I’m not in the business of saying to a new British company, you can’t take part’. He also said of the Gatwick drone incident: ‘We’ve had airports from all round the world come to us since this happened’ to ask how to deal with it.
John Mann: I'll probably back May's deal
And finally, John Mann, the Labour backbencher and Brexit supporter, has said that he is prepared to support Theresa May in getting her withdrawal agreement passed in the Commons, even though he suspects the government is heading for defeat:
JM: As it stands, it is likely I will vote for the deal.
SR: How many other Labour MPs do you expect to vote with the Prime Minister?
JM: Well, if I do I don’t expect to be the only one. I’d be surprised if it was anything like enough to get this deal through, but things can change.
Mann told Ridge that he had been to see the Prime Minister and suggested that she had been willing to offer legislation as part of the withdrawal bill offering greater legal protections for workers rights after Brexit. He declared: ‘This is vital stuff.’ Regarding Labour's confidence motion, Mann said: ‘I will support that option to have a general election but I don’t see that getting a majority in Parliament’, and argued that Labour ‘could be in power just like Theresa May is, with a minority government’. On the prospect of ‘no deal’, Mann countered: ‘there is no such thing as no deal’, adding that ‘the no deal option actually means thousands of deals into the future’. He also rejected the possible extension of Article 50, saying: ‘my constituents are saying get on with it’.