Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: loss of a confidence vote

Sunday shows round-up: loss of a confidence vote
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Liam Fox - Parliament could have a free vote on Brexit

The International Trade Secretary joined Andrew Marr this morning to discuss Brexit's next steps following a turbulent week which saw the Prime Minister win a vote of confidence by 200 votes to 117. With the date for Parliament's 'meaningful vote' on the Brexit deal now pushed back until mid-January, Liam Fox entertained a potential course of action still open to the government:

AM: Shouldn’t Tory MPs... be allowed a free vote?

LF: Well that’s not something that we have considered. I have to say, personally I wouldn’t have a huge problem with Parliament as a whole having a say on what the options were, because it wasn’t the government that was given an instruction by the referendum, it was Parliament...

AM: So the suggestion that all of Parliament will vote on a free vote on this is a new one, but not an uninteresting one?

LF: And not one that, to be frank, Cabinet has discussed yet... but I think when you look at the options that we have we’ve got to recognise that there are, as you said, a limited number of real world options here.

Fox claimed that he knew of 'a lot of Labour MPs who are actually sympathetic with the government’s proposals who would vote for it if they were allowed to do so'. However, he said of the current deal 'I think there needs to be a mechanism for the backstop that doesn’t leave the United Kingdom in a position where it feels it could be trapped there'. Fox dubbed Labour's proposals about playing an active role in the EU customs union as 'illegal, because... you are not allowed as a non-member of the EU to have a say in EU trade policy'. He also defended his cabinet position, telling Marr that his department was presiding over 'record exports and record investment'.

Nicola Sturgeon - Labour 'should table a confidence motion'

Over on Sky News, Sophy Ridge spoke to Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about how the SNP would react to the government's delayed Parliamentary vote. Sturgeon was forthright about the chain of events she most wanted to see:

"We think Labour should table a confidence motion."

Scotland's First Minister @NicolaSturgeon says she believes a confidence motion against the Government could succeed #Ridge

— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) December 16, 2018

SR: Labour haven’t committed to calling a confidence motion in the government, so will the SNP?

NS: We think Labour should table a confidence motion and I said last week if it does so, the SNP will support that. I think it is possible that a confidence motion right now could succeed, this is a government that is weak and unstable and becoming more weak and unstable with every day that passes. But even if it didn’t pass and succeed at the first time of asking, there is another merit in having a confidence motion called just now because it would help clarify Labour’s position.

Ridge asked why the SNP didn't try to table a motion of confidence in the government itself. Sturgeon replied that 'the only party that is guaranteed to have that motion called for the official opposition party'. However, she added that 'We may well do it... if Labour won’t act, then we are prepared to act'. She repeated her wish that 'Remain should be on the ballot paper' in a hypothetical second referendum and praised the EU's record on sovereignty, arguing that 'nobody argues that France or Germany or Ireland are not independent countries... Ireland in many ways is calling the shots'.

Andrew Gwynne - 'Meaningful vote' before 'confidence vote'

However, the Shadow Communities Secretary has told Andrew Marr that a confidence vote is not the first issue on Labour's mind. Instead, Andrew Gwynne said that Labour's chief strategy was to vote down the government's deal:

Will Labour table a no confidence motion in the govt?

Shadow Communities Sec Andrew Gwynne tells #marr priority is to force #meaningfulvote before Christmas

Read more:

— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) December 16, 2018

AM: To be absolutely crystal clear, you will not put down a motion of no confidence in this government until you’ve had the meaningful vote on the Brexit arrangements?

AG: Well, we think that that’s the next logical step, because we want to make sure that Parliament has its say on what is a catastrophically bad deal for this country. We can then move on beyond that...

AM: So what we are saying is that from your point of view the government is safe until Christmas at least?

AG: No, I’m not saying that. And we will be using whatever mechanisms we have at our disposal next week to try and force the government to bring forward that deal for a vote before Christmas.

Gwynne continued that this was because 'until the Commons has had its view on Theresa May’s deal she’s going to limp on, pretending that this can get through. The reality is this can’t get through and we can only move [by] securing a different kind of deal for Brexit'. He lamented that the current deadlock over the deal meant that 'the day-to-day business of a functioning government is not happening', and stated that 'we should have had the ten-year NHS plan announced before Christmas'. Gwynne refused to confirm that Labour would commit to Brexit before an early election telling Marr 'we will put our decision to the party members in a democratic way before we decide what the next steps are'.

Damian Hinds - It is 'right' that suspended MPs had whip restored

The Education Secretary has defended the restoration of the Conservative party whip to two MPs so that they could vote in the confidence motion that was brought against Theresa May last week. The two MPs, Andrew Griffiths and Charlie Elphicke, were suspended from the party after allegations of sexual misconduct, which they both deny. Ridge asked Hinds if he felt this was morally acceptable:

"Are you proud that the whip was restored to those two men?" - @DamianHinds says it was "right" that his two colleagues, who were suspended over claims of inappropriate sexual behaviour, were able to take part in a vote of confidence #Ridge

— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) December 16, 2018

SR: Are you proud that the whip was restored to those two men?

DH: Well in those two cases with those two colleagues were elected as Conservative MPs, they were there to represent their constituents and so I think it is right that in the election for… the confidence vote that there was, I think it’s right that they should have been able to be part of that vote as their constituents would expect.

Elsewhere in the interview Hinds announced that his department was announcing '£40 million over two years to... spend on improved facilities and equipment' in schools, as well as for 'training more educational psychologists' and for children with special educational needs and disabilities. He also insisted that the education budget was 'a top priority' and would be protected - whatever the outcome of the current Brexit impasse.

Kate Hoey - Brussels and Dublin have 'connived together'

And finally, the prominent Labour Brexiteer Kate Hoey has accused the European Union and the Irish government of acting in cahoots to either keep the UK within the customs union or risk undermining the union:

"The Irish government and the EU have connived together" - @KateHoeyMP claims Brussels and Dublin have worked together to keep Britain in the EU over the Irish backstop #Ridge

— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) December 16, 2018

KH: Northern Ireland would be left in the customs union, [but] there is no [MEP] elected... to speak for the people of Northern Ireland. So the country that would be speaking for Northern Ireland is the Irish Republic. And ultimately as divergence happens and Great Britain decides to go on different rules and changes things, Northern Ireland would be left behind, and this is not acceptable, because this is actually another way of driving Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and I do genuinely find it very dangerous... The Irish government and the EU have connived together to see this as a way of keeping the UK in as close as possible a relationship with the EU and keep taking our money.