Michael Gove: The DUP deal is good for the union
The newly installed Environment Secretary Michael Gove took to Andrew Marr's sofa today to defend the government's deal with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. Controversial for awarding the province an additional £1 billion, Gove rejected the idea that deal this amounted to a ‘bung’, and argued that far from dividing the country, the ‘confidence and supply’ deal would serve to strengthen the United Kingdom:
Marr: Can we at least determine that there is not going to be another... large about of money paid to the DUP? Because [Sir Nicholas] MacPherson, the former Permanent Secretary to the Treasury said ‘they'll be back for more’. I think Chris Patten said the same thing – ‘they'll be back you know!’
Gove: The money doesn't go to the DUP...
Marr: It goes to their voters. It goes to their voters who then support them.
Gove: It also goes to Sinn Fein voters, it goes to SDLP voters and Alliance voters. It goes to the people of Northern Ireland. Now, I think there is a tendency, which some fall prey to... to somehow suggest that the people of Northern Ireland don't deserve this money...
Marr: A lot of people out there are saying 'Yes, and so do I!' Across Shropshire and Perthshire and parts of Wales, people are saying, 'Yes, they do deserve it, and so do I. But I don't get it because I can't hold the Conservative party to ransom.
Gove: ...You characterise it as money for the DUP. It is in fact money for the people of Northern Ireland. But more broadly than that, we allocate money on the basis of making sure that we can help those who are experiencing at any given time additional strains, those people who are vulnerable, those people who need the support of the state most. And critically, also we want to ensure that the United Kingdom is stronger as a result of the next 5 years in government, and this will help to cement the ties between all the people of these islands - Protestant and Catholic, Northern Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English.
Gove also stated that the word ‘bung’ implies that the extra money is ‘somehow going to the DUP on their own as though it were a partisan deal’. He countered that is was ‘about helping people in one of [the country's] most vulnerable areas’.
Richard Burgon: Labour would leave all options on the customs union on the table
On the Sunday Politics, Andrew Neil grilled shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon over Labour's position on Brexit. Burgon told Neil that Labour would keep all options on the table regarding membership of the customs union, but not before a little prevarication:
Neil: Do you want freedom of movement to end?
Burgon: What we do want to end is the practice of unscrupulous employers only recruiting workers from abroad, and also unscrupulous employers trying to use the free movement of labour to drive down terms and conditions.
Neil: You can do that whether we're in or out of the single market. Do you want freedom of movement to end?
Burgon: Well, it's inevitable that the free movement of labour will end when Britain leaves the European Union...
Neil: But do you want it to do so? That's the difference. Your manifesto said what you've just said. I'm asking you if you want it to end.
Burgon: What Labour wants is a Brexit that puts jobs and the economy first. What Labour doesn't want is to put immigration and false immigrations targets as the Conservatives have done previously, at the top of the table.
Neil: What's the answer to my question?
Burgon: ...The free movement of Labour will end in terms of the UK when Britain leaves the European Union, but Labour's priority is not any other issue than putting jobs and the economy first and that's really really important.
Neil: Putting jobs and the economy first, should we leave or stay in the customs union?
Burgon: I think we need to leave all the options open on that and we need to negotiate without putting options off the table.
Neil: You can't negotiate unless you know what your aim is. Now is your aim to remain or leave in the customs union?
Burgon: British manufacturers gain a lot, and their workers therefore do as well, in terms of jobs from the current arrangement in terms of the customs union. So what we want is an equivalent benefit. So we want the benefits of being in the customs union, even if when we leave the European Union, we can't be in the customs union. But these are the kind of demands that Theresa May should be making, and her ability to do so, been severely weakened by the fact that she can't even command a majority now after she asked for a majority to do so.
Burgon also said that the rifts between Labour MPs on Brexit were ‘differences of nuance on the single market, between those who definitely want to be a member of the single market... and those who want tariff free access’, declaring Chuka Umunna's recent amendment to the Queen's Speech as ‘regrettable and premature’.
Sir Vince Cable: Brexit is harming Wimbledon's strawberries
Sir Vince Cable seems certain to be Tim Farron's successor as leader of the Liberal Democrats, not least because no one else has thrown their hat into the ring. Sir Vince outlined his vision for the future to Sky's Sophy Ridge, describing himself as ‘very committed’ to the European Union project, and issuing a stark warning about how Brexit is already impacting on a British national treasure:
Ridge: ...You said a week after the referendum - 'There should be some control over migration from the EU. This will however, make it difficult to retain single market status.' So if you accepted that then, what's changed? I don't understand.
Cable: It is difficult, but they can be reconciled... I think actually when you reflect on it, and I've reflected on it, it is perfectly possible to reconcile these things, because other member states do that.
Ridge: So you've changed your mind since then?
Cable: Well, that was put in rather stark terms. I think it is absolutely possible to remain within the single market, to respect the principle of freedom of movement, but to have some degree of management of migration. Other countries do it. We should do it.
Ridge: You're not just playing to your Lib Dem audience here are you?
Cable: No I'm not. I believe in this stuff, and I've been fighting for the European Union and British membership for half a century. I'm very committed to the project, and I think my party's in exactly the right position representing a very very large swathe of public opinion that is becoming very alarmed at the way in which this hard Brexit option is being pursued not just by the Conservatives, but by Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party, and they do want an alternative. And when we see the economic pain kicking in, more and more people are going to want an alternative and we're the only party offering that. Just to give you a trivial example, this week's Wimbledon is being launched and the people who normally produce the strawberries can't produce them because the labour force has disappeared because of anxiety about their future status in Britain. And that's one of hundreds and hundreds of practical examples going to harm Britain and we've got to stop it.
Owen Smith: I might have got us to win
Owen Smith has recently been accepted back into the shadow cabinet as the shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, suggesting that there are no hard feelings between Jeremy Corbyn and his challenger for the Labour leadership in the summer of last year. However, despite Labour's surprise resurgence at the election, Smith still entertained the idea that things might have been very different had he been in charge this June:
Ridge: Many people will remember you as the man who challenged Jeremy Corbyn last year. You said that his leadership at the time was 'a cataclysmic failure teetering on the brink of obscurity'. Well, it doesn't quite seem that way after the election, does it? Why did you get him so wrong?
Smith: Well, I think in keeping with a lot of people in this country, my view was that Labour wasn't going to get close to winning with Jeremy as our leader. I've said previously that that I was clearly wrong about that because we did very well at the election, gained 30 seats, almost 13 million votes. I wasn't anticipating that, and Jeremy in that regard absolutely proved me wrong and proved many people wrong. And we are now in with a chance of winning an election. The Tories are clearly riven right now, they could collapse at any moment and Labour needs to stand ready to form a government.
Ridge: If you had won that leadership election, do you think you could have done as well as Jeremy Corbyn did?
Smith: I don't know. I hope so. I hope I might have even got us to win, but I can't know that Sophy. Look, I think Jeremy has clearly galvanised young people in this country. We've seen that not just in the election, but since. I met people during the election who hadn't voted ever, certainly people who hadn't voted for a long while, who felt Jeremy was speaking to and for them, and that Labour was speaking to and for them. And I don't think any of us can argue with that, and therefore I think he's earned the right to try and get Labour into power and earned the right to be our next Prime Minister.
Michael Gove: ‘Yes’
And finally, Michael Gove has been hailed by some as the man who 'reinvented the political interview'. Andrew Marr put a question to the Environment Secretary near the end of his programme, and was surprised to receive a swift ‘yes’ in reply. This then resulted in a series of quick fire answers from Gove, in direct contrast to what Marr is used to:
Marr: You have said that we need a free trade deal with America, and the Americans are very keen on that. But what the American Farming Association is also very clear about, is for that to work, we will have to accept some American standards hat we don't have in our food at the moment - chlorine washed chicken, beef created with hormones that some people think affect cancer and puberty and so on, all sorts of GMO products, without necessarily being labelled - and that as part of a free trade deal, we will have to accept them. Are you absolutely clear that our environmental and food standards will not be loosened in any way...?
Marr: That was very quick. In that case, let's move on...
Gove: I think it's always a very good idea to have the answers much shorter than the questions Andrew!
Marr: That was a very long question... Up until the end of this Parliament farmers have been guaranteed that subsidies aren't going to come down. After that it's a moot point. You have suggested that very very wealthy farmers who get huge amounts of money from the EU - like Sir James Dyson and others - will get less money under the new regime. Is that true?
Marr: ...Is no deal better than a bad deal?
Marr: Would no deal be a very very bad outcome for Britain?
Gove: It would be less good than a good deal, and one of the things we want to ensure...
Marr: Very very bad?
Gove: I know why you're using those words - because you're quoting a cabinet colleague exactly. My view is that we want to concentrate on getting a very good deal and a very good deal will allow us to do a number of things. It will allow us to have free trade with the European Union, but also with other countries as well. No tariff barriers - that means that British food, which has a world reputation for quality, will be able to be bought by more people. That means that as we grow and produce more that we can ensure that our countryside and our rural economy s more productive than ever before. But on top of that, we can also, as you were gracious enough to acknowledge earlier, ensure that not only do we maintain high environmental standards, but enhance them. If we can take steps for example on live animal exports, that ensure that standards of animal welfare are higher than ever before. So we can have a green Brexit, that ensures Britain is an environmental leader.
Marr: Were you very very surprised to be brought back?