Simon Stevens: the NHS is making ‘significant preparations’ for no deal Brexit
This morning Andrew Marr sat down for an interview with the Chief Executive of NHS England. With the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS approaching this week, Marr asked Simon Stevens about the implications of a no deal Brexit on the health service, and whether he was making appropriate preparations for such an event:
AM: ...When you were talking to MPs last autumn, you said that you hadn't been asked by government to plan for no deal. Has that changed?
SS: There is now significant planning going on around all the scenarios, including medicine supply scenarios...
AM: Really? Because I think something like 370 million packs of medicine come in every month from the EU to the UK... You can guarantee to people... that those items will carry on being available in NHS hospitals?
SS: I think nobody is in any doubt whatsoever... in terms of ensuring continued supplies for all the things that we need in this country, at the top of the list has got to be those medical supplies. There’s extensive work under way now between the Department of Health, other parts of government, the life sciences industry, the pharma companies. So nobody’s pretending this is a desirable situation but if that’s where we get to then it will not have been unforeseen.
On the issue of potential staffing shortages after Brexit, Stevens said: ‘every hospital has now been written to... reminding them the Home Secretary has set a clear process by which people can apply to stay in this country, which we hope they will do’. He added that: ‘we obviously want to boost the training and availability of British-trained staff’. Stevens also took aim at the culture around the reality TV show Love Island, remarking: ‘look at the adverts that are shown alongside... You’ve got explicit ads aiming at young women around breast, cosmetic surgery. That’s all playing into a set of pressures.’
James Brokenshire – Chequers summit will yield clear direction
The Housing Secretary also joined Marr ahead of crunch talks between the Prime Minister and her cabinet that will take place at Chequers this Friday, with the aim of adopting a unified position. James Brokenshire acknowledged that there were serious splits in the cabinet over Brexit (with Michael Gove reportedly ripping up a paper on the plans for a customs partnership'), but sought to reassure that such differences could be resolved:
AM: Is the cabinet divided?
JB: I think there's no doubt that there are strong views on either side and that's what I would expect as we lead into the discussions on Friday. But, equally, I remain confident that we will come out from that meeting with that clear direction, the White Paper that will follow, and actually setting out our vision for our future with our EU partners.
Marr asked Brokenshire to comment on several remarks that had recently been made in this area. Responding to reports that the Foreign Secretary had delivered a four letter expletive to business, Brokenshire said: ‘our view is that we want to work with business to secure the best arrangements, and therefore... we will continue to discuss these issues with them’. Responding to the actor Danny Dyer's claims that Brexit was like ‘a mad riddle’, Brokenshire replied: ‘I'm not going to engage directly... but what I can say is that we want that partnership with our EU friends, colleagues and allies, both in terms of economics, but also in terms of security.’
Jeremy Corbyn – Theresa May's £20bn NHS pledge ‘won't make a difference’
The leader of the Labour party joined Sophy Ridge this week, fresh from attending a rally in support of the NHS. Ridge asked Corbyn about what Labour would do to compete with the government's recent announcement of £20 billion extra cash for the NHS over the next 5 years:
SR: Theresa May has given the NHS a £20 billion birthday present... What exactly are you promising?
JC: What we said at the election was that we would put in far more money straight away. Nothing that she has promised actually means any money this year... and it's only 0.1% above what the Institute for Fiscal Studies says is necessary for the NHS to stand still... We would put in 5% more in the first year to deal with the immediate crisis, particularly in hospital waiting lists and in social care.
SR: But over 5 years currently, she's promising more than you?
JC: What she is promising over five years is 0.1% above the standstill budget. We would offer 2% above.
Corbyn went on to tell Ridge 'The health inequalities in Britain are massive... the richest and best off and healthiest in Scotland live 26 years longer than the poorest of those in worse health. That cannot be acceptable'. On the subject of recreational cannabis, Corbyn said 'Criminalising people for possession of small amounts of cannabis is not particularly a good idea and does lead to great difficulties, particularly for younger people in communities like mine'.
Corbyn – We ‘hope to force a general election’
Later, Corbyn was interviewed by Sarah Smith about Brexit. Corbyn said to Smith that 'If there is a bad deal for Britain, or worse, no deal at all... then we would vote against it... and hope to force a general election on that basis', though he did not elaborate on how he might accomplish this.
Gisela Stuart – People who voted Leave will accept a longer transition deal
The Labour MP who chaired the Vote Leave campaign has told Sophy Ridge that Leave voters will accept a prolonged transition deal if it is deemed to be necessary for the well-being of the UK. However, Gisela Stuart explained that it mattered exactly who was proposing it:
SR: Politicians seem to be laying the ground for a longer transition... Some people who voted Leave... will be thinking 'Are we ever going to leave the EU?'
GS: And this is where you have to inquire into people's motives. As far as I'm concerned, if you spell out precisely what the agreement is... and it's going to take a little bit longer, then people will say 'That's fine'. But a lot of people who talk about extending negotiations, extending those periods - they just don't want us to leave at all, and they hope what you can make temporary will become permanent. So the transition period is neither here nor there in one sense, provided you start with clear heads.
On the EU's Brexit Chief negotiator Nichel Barnier, Stuart said, 'He’s a decent man, but at heart he is a Gaullist, so I think in private he probably sheds fewer tears about the U.K. leaving than you might think'.
Nigel Farage – A conspiracy to prop up the pound is ‘too fantastical’
And finally, Nigel Farage has defended himself against allegations that he might have conspired to make a lot of money on referendum night by helping to artificially inflate the value of the pound. Sarah Smith put this to Farage, which he was quick to dismiss:
NF: The pound has rallied significantly before the Brexit vote. After the polls closed at 10pm, I said I wasn't sure about the result and genuinely I wasn't. The pound didn't move on what I said... The idea that I was part of some extraordinary conspiracy, trying to prop up the value of the pound so that we could sell it short... is too fantastical for anyone to believe.