Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: ‘One year is enough’ to complete a UK-EU trade deal, says Tusk

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Donald Tusk - 'One year is enough' to complete trade deal

Andrew Marr spoke to the former President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. Boris Johnson's critics have heaped scorn upon the idea that the UK and the EU can reach a comprehensive free trade agreement without extending the current Brexit transition period past the end of 2020. Tusk however, begged to differ on this:

DT: One year is enough to finalise our negotiations... We have to demonstrate good will on both sides... Business is business... The campaign is also over. The game is over.

The EU was either 'bogeyman' or 'whipping boy'

Tusk lamented how he felt the EU had been made a scapegoat in British politics over many years, and blamed what he saw as an 'irresponsible, even hostile narrative' towards the institution, which contributed towards the eventual referendum result:

DT: The only two roles the EU played in the British narrative was the bogeyman or a whipping boy. We were responsible for every failure. I think this is the main problem.

EU would be 'enthusiastic' to see Scotland join

Tusk's most controversial comments came on the subject of a future independent Scotland seeking to join the EU after the UK has left. Tusk stopped short of saying that the EU would reward an independent Scotland with an easier application process, but openly welcomed the principle of Scotland becoming a member:

DT: A new country... means a new process... Emotionally I have no doubt that everyone will be enthusiastic here in Brussels... Still, there are treaties and some formalities, but if you ask me about our emotions... you will witness only empathy.

Dominic Raab - Donald Tusk's comments 'irresponsible' and 'un European'

Marr went on to interview the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab. Raab was irked by Tusk's comments about Scotland and suggested that Tusk might be creating a rift with other member states, as Tusk appeared to be advocating for a softer stance on separatism:

DR: I think it was frankly rather un-European and rather irresponsible given the secessionist separatist tendencies in Spain, in France, in Italy. I'm not sure that European leaders, let alone the UK would actually welcome that kind of language.

ECJ deciding trade disputes 'not on the table'

Raab also flat out rejected the idea that the European Court of Justice would be the ultimate arbiter in trade disputes between the UK and the EU post-Brexit, as is currently the case. The EU has suggested that it would like the current situation to continue:

DR: It’s not even a red line. This is not on the table... We are proceeding on the basis that there will be democratic control of our laws. That is totally inconsistent with the dispute resolution mechanism decided by the other side through the ECJ.

We will make sure Brits can leave Wuhan

Raab also told Marr that the government was still in the process of making sure that all Brits caught in the maelstrom of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan would be able to be evacuated if they wished. He confirmed that all of those removed would be taken to Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral to be quarantined:

DR: We will do everything we can to make sure that those who still want to leave [will have] the opportunity to do so... We're doing that as sensitively and as effectively as we can, and there's a huge amount of effort going in from government right across the board.

Leo Varadkar - UK's decline 'inevitable'

The Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has come under fire for arguing that the UK was a 'small country' now it was leaving the EU, during a recent election hustings. Marr asked him about the feeling behind his sentiment:

LV: It's a serious point. The UK is a country with a population of about 60 million and is the sixth largest economy in the world. But as economic power in the world moves to Asia... it will probably fall in those rankings. That's just inevitable.

John McDonnell - I'm supporting Long-Bailey and Burgon

The Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell endorsed his allies Rebecca Long-Bailey and Richard Burgon for the respective leadership and deputy leadership of Labour. McDonnell described all the candidates as 'terrific', but outlined why he thought those two candidates were more terrific than the others:

JM: I've made it clear that I support Becky and Richard Burgon. They’re the nature of my politics... [Long-Bailey] is the voice that we need, that northern voice, a woman's voice as well... [Burgon] has solidly supported my politics and nominated [Jeremy Corbyn] all the way through.

Nigel Farage - The Brexit Party will continue

Nigel Farage made clear that despite Boris Johnson's clear victory in December, the Brexit Party was not yet over:

NF: The Brexit party... will be more an insurance policy in case things go wrong. There's going to be a new think tank set up called 'Brexit Watch' and we will... praise the government to the high heavens when they're getting it right, but ring the alarm bell if they're not.

Dominic Raab - Barnier is wrong about customs checks

The Foreign Secretary also appeared on Sophy Ridge's show. Ridge asked him about the likelihood of customs checks on the Irish border, something that the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has asserted will be 'indispensible' if the UK decides to diverge with EU standards on goods. Raab insisted that there was no need for checks to take place:

SR: When Michel Barnier says that there will be checks, he's wrong is he?

DR: Yes, he is wrong if the EU lives up to its commitments on its side - both in the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration.

Anne Sacoolas case must 'never happen again'

Ridge asked about the case of Harry Dunn, the teenage boy killed in a hit and run incident near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire. Anne Sacoolas, the prime suspect in the case, has fled to the US claiming she is protected by her husband's diplomatic immunity. Raab said that the government was doing all it could to help the Dunn family have justice:

DR: We want Anne Sacoolas to come back and the Home Office and the CPS have put in the extradition request... At the same time, there are a whole range of measures that we want to put in place to make sure a case like this can never happen again.

Arlene Foster - We need more clarity on trade

Ridge went on to interview the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster. The recently reconfirmed First Minister of Northern Ireland explained her concerns regarding post-Brexit trade and the possibility of customs checks, highlighting the government's inconsistency on the issue:

AF: [Boris Johnson] told one of my colleagues in the House of Commons that emphatically there would not be checks, but it's difficult to see how that is the case given that we've heard from other members of the cabinet that they intend to diverge away from single market regulations, whilst Northern Ireland remains within the single market.

Stormont House agreement should be revisited

Foster told Ridge that the Stormont House Agreement, which was drawn up in 2014, was not fit for purpose. The agreement was intended to help heal some of Northern Ireland's political wounds, especially regarding injustices carried out during the Troubles. However, Foster singled out the Historical Investigations Unit as a potential source of unequal treatment for unionists:

AF: I think we need to revisit the Stormont House Agreement, because what is being proposed... is not acceptable I think to the victims groups here, and it's certainly not acceptable to us. There needs to be a re-look... particularly with regards to the HIU which is there to look at historical cases.

Amanda Spielman - People are reluctant to discuss difficult issues in schools

And finally, the Chief Inspector of Ofsted told Ridge of the difficulties in getting parents and politicians to tackle serious issues in the country's schools system. Highlighting examples from child sexual exploitation to religious schools – where girls were treated as second-class pupils and key British history was redacted from text books – Spielman said that people needed to speak up on such issues:

AS: It's a real problem because you talk about this, and people cover it briefly, and then it's as though it never happened. People are very very reluctant to talk about the difficult issues that some of these cases raise... We desperately need in these sorts of situations for people to be a bit braver, and talk about what's there.