Boris Johnson – I'm 'sorry' we did not meet our Halloween deadline
Sophy Ridge began her show with a pre-recorded interview with Boris Johnson. With the intended Brexit date of 31st October now receding into history, Ridge challenged the Prime Minister over his repeated promises to meet that deadline, and asked if he would apologise for failing to deliver on his commitment:
“SR: Are you sorry?
BJ: Yes, absolutely!
SR: Will you apologise to all those Conservative members who voted for you...?
BJ: Of course... It is a matter of deep regret, but what we need to do now is get on and do it... Only this government offers a deal that is ready to go, and a way of delivering it.
An early election is 'essential' to leave the EU
Ridge put it to the Prime Minister that it was perfectly possible that the current parliament would have passed his Withdrawal Agreement Bill and thus delivered Brexit by the new deadline of January 31st. Johnson countered that he did not want to go for an early election, but he felt it was the only way to avoid further extensions into 2020 and maybe even beyond:
“BJ: I don't want an election at all... What [Parliament] was going to do was keep embarrassing the government with infinite delay... That was why it was so essential to go for an election... It was the only way out of the EU, and out of the trap that Parliament has constructed.
'I see no reason' to extend the transition period
Ridge asked if it was conceivable that the government could extend the transition period between 31st January and the deadline for fully leaving the EU, which is currently penciled in for December 2020. In this time, the government is supposed to negotiate the UK's future trading relationship with the EU. Johnson said that he did not foresee this happening:
"I see no reason whatever why we should extend the transition period", says Prime Minister Boris Johnson to @SophyRidgeSky
The UK has until December 2020 to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU.
— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) November 3, 2019
“BJ: We start our negotiations in a state of perfect alignment [with the EU], so the negotiations in principle should be extremely simple. I see no reason whatever why we should extend the transition period.
Trump 'patently in error' about US–UK trade deal
Earlier this week, Donald Trump appeared as a phone-in guest on Nigel Farage's LBC show, where he told Farage that he was concerned about the US being able to strike a new free trade deal with the UK if the Prime Minister's deal is passed. Johnson tried to soothe the President's concerns:
“BJ: In that respect [Trump] is patently in error! ...It is a great deal... It allows us to have full and unfettered control of our tariff schedules in Geneva, and to do it as one United Kingdom. And I stress, that deal is ready to go.
Voting for the Brexit party will make Corbyn PM
On the subject of Farage, Johnson also told Ridge why he was refusing to make an electoral alliance with the Brexit party in the upcoming general election:
“BJ: I rule out a pact with everybody, because I don't think it's sensible to do that... The only likely consequence of voting for [other parties] is that... you're making it more likely that you will thereby get Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party... [and] nothing but dither and delay.
Nigel Farage – Johnson's deal is 'a Remainer's Brexit'
Andrew Marr interviewed Farage as his first guest. Farage did not have kind words for the Prime Minister's withdrawal agreement, deriding it as another 'EU treaty':
“AM: If you'd been offered a deal like this 5 years ago, you' have been jumping with joy...
NF: I'd have said 'Sling your hook'! It's pointless, it doesn't get us out of anything.... We should not sell out to this, it is a Remainer's Brexit. It's virtually worse than staying where we are, and if we go through this route, we will finish up rejoining.
I will not stand at this election
Farage also confirmed that he would not be a candidate this December, after much speculation that he might:
“NF: I've thought very hard about this – how do I serve the cause of Brexit best?... Do I fight a seat, try and get myself into Parliament, or do I serve the cause better, traversing the length and breadth of the UK, supporting 600 candidates? And I've decided that the latter course is the right one.
John McDonnell – We're 'doing everything we can' to fight anti-Semitism
The Shadow Chancellor also joined Marr, who asked him about Labour's record on anti-Semitism. The party, which is currently under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on this issue was recently met with a barrage of headlines from Jewish newspapers, urging British Jews not to vote for the Labour party. McDonnell said that Labour was trying to combat the problem:
“JM: I’m so saddened by this. I just want to reassure them... We're doing everything we can to educate our own members, we're doing educational courses... All the things they've asked us to do, we're doing.
Labour will cancel Heathrow expansion without changes
McDonnell also suggested that an incoming Labour government wanted to see significantly stricter changes to the current plans for expanding Heathrow airport (which is in McDonnell's constituency):
“JM: We've set ourselves criteria - [on] the environmental impact... the economic impact and social impact. On the current criteria, we've said very clearly, Heathrow expansion does not qualify.
Nicola Sturgeon – A good election result means indyref2
Scotland's First Minister told Sophy Ridge that the issue of a second Scottish independence referendum (or 'indyref2') would very much be before the Scottish people at this general election. Sturgeon's current aim is to hold a second referendum before the end of 2020, and is hoping that a strong result for the SNP will boost her case:
“NS: If the SNP win [this] election, then for any Westminster politician to seek to stand in the way of an independence referendum on that timescale would be seeking to ignore the democratically expressed wishes of the Scottish people. That is not a sustainable position.
No confirmatory referendum for Scotland
Sturgeon stated that there was no reason why a Scotland which voted to leave the UK would require a confirmatory referendum before being able to depart, including on the terms of a deal. This is somewhat at odds to her position on Brexit. Sturgeon explained her reasoning:
“NS: I don't believe we should equate the two things... The problem with Brexit is that nobody was straight in advance of the referendum about what it meant... It wasn't the kind of informed decision that the 2014 independence referendum was... Let's not assume that the mess Brexit has become is an inevitable part of the democratic process.
Jo Swinson – Excluding me from debates is sexism, fear, or both
The leader of the Liberal Democrats has made clear her protests at the plans drawn up by ITV to hold a TV debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn on 19th November. Ridge pointed to her party's standing in the Commons, but Swinson suggested that there were darker forces at play:
“SR: Labour and the Conservatives have a combined total of 542 MPs. The Lib Dems have 20...
JS: If you look at the comparison to 2010, the Liberal Democrats still had far fewer MPs than the other parties, but Nick Clegg was still OK to be in those debates. Quite frankly, either it's sexist, or they're scared, or maybe it's a bit of both.
Lib Dem leaflets are not misleading
Ridge also challenged Swinson on some of the election literature that her party has been distributing ahead of the campaign. She singled out a particular offender in North East Somerset, the seat of Jacob Rees-Mogg, where the Lib Dems finished a distant third in 2017:
“SR: This is entirely misleading, isn't it?
JS: Politics has changed significantly since the 2017 election... The last national elections that we had in this country, the Liberal Democrats beat both the Conservative party and the Labour party... Something very different is happening in politics now.
Rebecca Long Bailey – Brexit decision will be taken 'at the time'
And finally, Labour's Shadow Business Secretary left open the possibility that the Labour leadership could campaign to leave the EU if it wins the election, renegotiates the UK's withdrawal deal and holds its proposed referendum:
“SR: You could campaign to leave the EU in that referendum?
RLB: That will be a decision that will be taken at the time by our party... [We'll be] having a special conference to determine the final position. But ultimately underpinning our final decision will be how good that deal is... We want to give [people] the full choice.