John McDonnell - Parliament can stop 'no deal' Brexit
As the next round of Brexit negotiations approaches, the possibility of a no deal outcome has been the dominant topic of discussion today. Warning of dire consequences for the UK economy, the Shadow Chancellor has told Andrew Marr that MPs can force the government to avoid a potential 'no deal' scenario by amending upcoming legislation:
AM: What happens to the British economy if there is no deal?
JM: I'm not willing to countenance that. It's not a realistic option. It's not going to happen. I don't think there's a majority in Parliament for no deal. I think, on a cross party basis - you'll see in the debates in the coming weeks -the government will get the message. There will be a deal.
AM: Are you saying that the House of Commons can stop the government from a no deal scenario?
JM: I don't believe there's a majority in the House of Commons for no deal and I think the government needs to recognise that.
AM: But there is no vote on that in the House of Commons...
JM: When we amend the legislation as I think we will - I think there's a majority to do that - we'll have a meaningful vote. We'll be able to say to the government 'whatever you're negotiating, it will not be on the basis of no deal', because the damage to this economy would be so great.
AM: Isn't this really really bad negotiating? If we haven't got a plan B, then [the EU] are just going to screw the screw tighter and tighter?
JM: Before I came into Parliament, I was a trade union negotiator. I was Chief Executive of the Local Government Association with an office in Brussels. I negotiated in Brussels. You do no negotiate in this way. You say 'What's our mutual interest?' and you have mutual respect... We believe we can get a decent deal [on that basis]... I worry for our country as a result of what's happening in our country. This isn't about negotiating with Europe, it's about fighting amongst themselves. If they can't negotiate a deal they should get out of the way and let us do it.
AM: You can't stop this...
JM: Parliament can...
JM: They haven't got a majority to get through a no deal situation. If we amend the legislation for Parliament to have a meaningful vote, that will force the government to come to their senses and negotiate properly.
McDonnell concluded by stating that 'There are enough sensible people in the House of Commons to sat this cannot happen... No deal is not an option'. He also called on the government to publish all of the legal advice it had received about the UK's financial liabilities upon exiting the EU, claiming 'We’d establish objectively what our liabilities are. Whatever that says, we’d abide by them.'
Chris Grayling - Britain will succeed 'come what may'
The Transport Secretary, an enthusiastic advocate of leaving the European Union, sought to calm fears about a 'no deal' scenario. Marr questioned Grayling about the possibility of a 'no deal' and about whether the Leave campaign had implied during the referendum campaign that Brexit negotiations would be much simpler than the reality:
AM: The implication was that [Brexit] was going to be a breeze. It was going to be easy. It's not easy.
CG: Nobody's ever said that the negotiation would be straightforward and simple... I absolutely and firmly believe, today as I did then, that I believe in a sensible deal, a sensible partnership for the future. But nobody ever thought that we were going to have negotiations that would last half an hour.
AM: What would be the consequences for this country if we don't get a deal?
CG: This country will succeed whatever happens. We have a hugely impressive track record in the world. We trade around the world.
AM: You're saying it's perfectly OK?
CG: I think it is better for us to have a good relationship with our relationship with Europe, to carry on trading freely. We are their biggest export market. We do business together. Of course it is better that that is the case. And that's where I think we'll get to. But I am absolutely confident that Britain will succeed come what may.
AM: Over the last week or two, the government itself has started to raise this question of no deal, and some of your colleagues are quoted as saying it's a 50/50 chance now of no deal, which is not something that many people expected even a few weeks before. So we seem to be in new territory now. So I ask again what you think the consequences of no deal will be.
CG: I think Britain will succeed but I don't think that we will get to that position. It's about the one thing that I would agree with John McDonnell. I think we will reach a sensible trading position.
AM: And that's despite hearing people like Hillary Clinton and Christine Lagarde and many others saying it would be very very bad for Britain?
CG: It's bad for the European Union if we don't have a sensible trading arrangement. Britain will succeed. And there's nothing new about this. Theresa May back in her Lancaster House speech earlier this year said 'no deal is better than a bad deal', and where I fundamentally disagree with John McDonnell - there is no serious business leader in this country who would enter a negotiation on the basis that it would accept the terms regardless of what they are. So of course we have to plan for an option where there is no deal. We don't expect that, we're not aiming for it, and I don't think that's where we're going to end up.
When pressed on the impact that a no deal outcome could have on food prices in the UK, Grayling replied that British farmers would be encouraged to 'grow more here' and that the UK would buy more produce 'from the rest of the world'. He added:
'But of course that will mean bad news for continental farmers, and that’s why it won’t happen, because it’s actually in their interest to reach a deal.. We are biggest customers of the Walloon farmers. They will be damaged if there is no deal.'
John Longworth - No deal 'could be the best deal'
John Longworth, the former Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce and now co-chair of the Leave Means Leave pressure group, has gone further than Chris Grayling and actively suggested that a 'no deal' could actually be the best outcome for the UK. He told Sarah Smith that the UK should make it clear that it would welcome a 'no deal' outcome:
SS: There's a lot of political talk about the possibility of no deal. Is it time that business started preparing for no deal?
JL: Absolutely, and businesses of course are preparing. Certainly the businesses and entrepreneurs in our Leave Means Leave network are already looking for the opportunities...
SS: Sorry, looking for the opportunities? You think that leaving with no deal would be a good deal?
JL: Leaving with no deal is certainly better than a bad deal and could be the best deal. Certainly the very best deal is to have all the freedoms of leaving the EU and a free trade arrangement as well. But the chances of retaining the free trade agreement seem to be becoming slimmer and slimmer. And actually the free trade arrangement is not worth as much as the advantages of leaving. So we now need to do - and it is essential that the Prime Minister does this very soon - is to declare that we are actually going to go to World Trade Organisation rules in March 2019 if there's no progress in respect of the EU this next week.
SS: You don't want the transition or implementation period? You think there should just be a sharp cut off in 2019, that some would call a cliff edge Brexit?
JL: There's a huge misunderstanding about the advantages and disadvantages of leaving the EU. All the advantages and all the benefits that will boost our economy are entirely in the hands of the UK government, provided we leave the single market and the customs union. So leaving in March 2019 holds no problems for businesses in our network, because they will seize those opportunities, and the government should be preparing to seize them too.
Nicky Morgan accidentally identifies anonymous cabinet minister
During an informal chat with Robert Peston, the new chair of the Treasury Select Committee Nicky Morgan has likely revealed the identity of a 'senior cabinet minister' who many are assuming is Amber Rudd. Morgan claimed that the cabinet minister in question is appalled at the suggestions that the Chancellor Philip Hammond has been 'disloyal' and that he should be removed from his position:
— Peston on Sunday (@pestononsunday) October 15, 2017
RP: Many of your colleagues think that Philip Hammond has been disloyal to the Prime Minister. Has he been disloyal? Should he be sacked?
NM: No, of course he shouldn't, I don't think he's done anything other than his job as Chancellor which is to warn of the consequences of having either a no deal or a very poor deal in relation to Brexit... I think those who are saying that he should be sacked are incredibly self-indulgent. I should just say I have been contacted this morning by a very senior Cabinet minister who is appalled at what she is reading in the newspapers this morning. And it is just not on to have all of this. It is not helpful for anybody to have ministers being attacked, whether it is the Chancellor or the Foreign Secretary, when something as critical as Brexit negotiations are going on.
RP: A very senior cabinet minister? I think you said 'she', so are we talking about the most senior cabinet minister contacting you?
NM: I’m not going to tell you who has been contacting me but I think that they are talking for others in the Cabinet and for the party. The majority of MPs in the parliamentary party do not want Philip Hammond to be sacked. They want the cabinet to come together on the important issues of Brexit, as well as everything else.
Peston and many others have concluded that Morgan could only be referring to the Home Secretary, given the use of the phrase 'very senior'. The revelation may prove awkward for Rudd in weeks to come.
Henry Bolton - I could strangle a badger with my bare hands
And finally, Niall Paterson confronted UKIP's new leader Henry Bolton with one of the most unusual questions ever put to a politician:
— Sunday with Paterson (@RidgeOnSunday) October 15, 2017
NP: I'm going to be frank - I know you like plain speaking in UKIP. Like many other people, until recently I hadn't heard of you. So I've been trying desperately to get to grips with you. I discovered this morning thanks to the Sunday Times that, in an interview with Russia Today, you said you could strangle a badger with your bare hands. Is that correct?
HB: They gave me a few options for ideas for an initiation ceremony into the leadership of UKIP. And the one that was probably the most suitable for me was chasing a badger across Dartmoor, capturing it and then breaking its neck with one spare hand, which was a slightly unusual thing.
NP: Yes, and possibly the strangest question I've ever asked myself.
Bolton gave his views on a transition deal, claiming 'We shouldn’t have a transition. Absolutely not.' but refused to be drawn on an immigration target. However, he said that 'In an ideal world … we should be aiming for zero net immigration.'