Theresa May - Boris Johnson's remarks 'completely inappropriate'
This morning the BBC released an extract from an edition of Panorama which will mark the six month countdown until the official conclusion of the UK's Brexit negotiations under Article 50. The programme, hosted by Nick Robinson, features an in depth interview with the Prime Minister about her proposals for the United Kingdom going forward. Theresa May used the opportunity to make clear her disapproval of her former Foreign Secretary's remarks that her Chequers deal had 'wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution' and explained why she felt her deal had the UK's best interests at heart.
NR: Boris Johnson says this plan that you've agreed to on Ireland is a suicide belt around the British constitution.
TM: First of all, I have to say that that choice of language was completely inappropriate... I think using language like that was not right and it’s not language I would have used... I want to ensure that as we go forward we have that strong union, that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and it's important that we deliver for [them]... They don't want a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The only proposal that's been put forward that delivers on them not having that hard border and ensures that we don't carve up the United Kingdom is the Chequers plan.
May also told Robinson that she was getting 'a little bit irritated' about the frequent leadership speculation and potential plots to see her removed from office. She insisted that her tenure throughout her time as a councillor all the way up to Prime Minister 'has been about service', and added 'this debate is not about my future. This debate is about the future of the people of the UK'. May also claimed that she was still capable of being 'a bloody difficult woman', and pledged to rise to the occasion 'when it really matters'.
The full interview is due to be broadcast tomorrow on BBC One at 8.30pm.
Sadiq Khan - 'The British public should have a say' on Brexit
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was Andrew Marr's first guest of the day. Khan had already shaped the political weather that morning, with a column in the Observer calling for a so-called 'people's vote' on the agreed final deal between the UK and the EU. Marr asked Khan to explain his reasoning:
AM: You are coming out today for a second referendum on the Brexit issue. Why?
SK: We've now reached a position where there are two outcomes as a consequence of the government's negotiations - a bad deal... or no deal. And independent research... showed that no deal would lead to 500,000 fewer jobs, 87,000 fewer jobs in London alone, and £50 billion less investment in our country... That's hugely damaging to London and our country.
AM: On the idea of a second referendum, you have changed your mind quite dramatically.
SQ: I'm not one of those advocating for a re-run. I'm not a 'neverendum' guy. What I'm saying is, for the first time ever, the British public should have a say on the outcome of the negotiations... plus the option of staying in the EU.
Khan went on to declare that 'the public have now seen all the promises broken by the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove', and described the choice taken in the 2016 referendum as 'theoretical' and 'abstract'. On the sustained criticism of his record as Mayor from London's Evening Standard newspaper, Khan told Marr that 'George Osborne doesn't concern me in the slightest,' adding 'if he wants to go to battle with me, good luck. I’m looking forward to it.'
Michael Gove - Chequers is 'the right deal for now'
Marr was also joined this morning by the Environment Secretary Michael Gove. The last time that Gove appeared on Marr's show, he had been a strong defender of the Prime Minister's Chequers plan, but this time he seemed a little more hesitant to give it his full support, hinting that the Prime Minister's legacy could be subject to change after her departure:
AM: Is [the Chequers deal] permanent? Or is that a temporary solution?
MG: I think it's the right solution for this country to leave the European Union n the basis of what we've negotiated... But there's one critical thing. A future prime minister could always choose to alter the relationship between Britain and the European Union. But the Chequers approach is the right one for now because we have got to make sure that we respect that vote and take advantage of the opportunities of being outside the European Union.
Gove was unsympathetic to Sadiq Khan's call for a second referendum, calling it 'troubling' and possibly leading to 'chaos'. Marr went on to quiz Gove about Conservative MEPs voting against a motion to censure the Hungarian government, suggesting that the UK cannot afford to lose a potential ally in the Brexit negotiations. However, Gove refused to be drawn, telling Marr it was not the EU's place 'to interfere in, or censure, the internal democracy of a particular country'. Gove also said that he had changed his mind about Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, 'I regard him not only as truly independent, I regard him as a first rate public servant who is doing an excellent job'.
Barry Gardiner - A second referendum would 'throw the government a lifeline'
Sophy Ridge interviewed the shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner about Labour's Brexit policies. Ridge asked what Gardiner thought of Sadiq Khan's call for a 'people's vote'. Like Michael Gove, Gardiner was unimpressed. He outlined his thinking:
SR: Do you agree with [Khan]?
BG: Here we have a Prime Minister who is facing going to Parliament with whatever she eventually manages to conclude with the European Union and find[ing] that it is not possible to get it through the British parliament. In those circumstances I think the right thing to do is to say if this government cannot do what it is supposed to... then we need actually to change the government. Calling for a second referendum is really giving [the Prime Minister] a lifeline because then she can say ‘if I can’t get it through parliament I’ll go back to the people’. But what does she go back to the people on?"
Gardiner added, 'The first referendum caused real division in our society. I think the challenge now is actually to try and heal society. It's to take note of what was originally said... but to do so in such a way that protecting jobs and the economy and growth'. Gardiner also rubbished rumours that supporters of the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell were seeking to install him as leader in place of Jeremy Corbyn, asserting 'Everyone in the shadow cabinet is united around Jeremy Corbyn's leadership'.
Jo Swinson - You don't need a new centrist party - 'the Liberal Democrats are here'
And finally, as the Liberal Democrat party conference gets underway in Brighton, Ridge put a harsh but fair question to the Deputy Leader Jo Swinson:
SR: Many people feel that the Liberal Democrats are effectively a tainted brand. So is there an argument that the Lib Dems are effectively bed-blocking and preventing a new centrist party from emerging?
JS: I don't think that's the case at all. I think in fact as Liberal Democrats we've got the ingredients to be able to challenge the other parties... The whole idea of a new centrist party gets talked about endlessly, but doesn't really get off the ground... But you don't need to set up a new party because the Liberal Democrats are here! But we recognise the need that we have to change.
Swinson said that she felt that 'momentum was building' for a 'people's vote' after Sadiq Kahn's intervention. She refused to speculate about whether she would run for leader after Vince Cable stepped down. Swinson also spoke about being the first MP to attend a debate the House of Commons while carrying a baby, which she did in a session on proxy voting for new parents. However, she told Ridge that her son 'slept through most of it to be honest'.