Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen
Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, is starting his statement now.
He says in 2012 Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar, brought a claim against the UK government and two individuals, Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, and Sir Mark Allen, the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, saying they were complict in their detention.
This is from the Press Association’s Harriet Line.
The wife of Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj – Fatima Boudchar – is in the Commons public gallery ahead of a statement from the Attorney General Jeremy Wright
This is from Reprieve, the human rights campaign group.
And this is what George Osborne, the Conservative former chancellor and leading remain campaigner, is saying about calls for the Brexit transition to be extended. (See 9.21am.)
Brexiteers’ answer to every problem they’ve created is to extend the transitions:on customs union, free movement, regulatory alignment, ECJ jurisdiction etc. Have they asked EU’s permission? Will gov really confront hard choices they can’t make now in run up to next election? Hmm
Downing Street has denied there is a possibility of extending the transition period and said the agreement reached with the EU for an implementation period is fixed. (See 9.21am.) The prime minister’s spokesman told journalists at the lobby briefing:
We reached an agreement with the EU on the implementation period – that agreement is clear that it will end in December 2020. We have been clear we are leaving the customs union in December 2020.
This is from Sajid Javid, the new home secretary.
Important meeting this morning @ukhomeoffice with Caribbean High Commissioners to discuss what more we can do can help the #Windrushgeneration. This is my most urgent priority and I will do all I can pic.twitter.com/vRaVEcazln
Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, will start making his Commons statement about the Abdel Hakim Belhaj rendition case within the next 10 minutes or so.
This is a story that the Guardian has covered extensively. You can find most of our stories with background about the case here.
The British government is understood to be about to settle a long-running compensation claim brought by a husband and wife who were the victims of a so-called rendition operation mounted with the help of MI6.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar, have battled for compensation and an apology for more than six years, after papers that came to light during the Libyan revolution revealed the role that British intelligence officers played in their 2004 kidnap in Thailand.
ITV’s political editor Robert Peston has an interesting mini-scoop on his Facebook page. He says Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has apologised to Sir Michael Fallon, the former defence secretary, for the particularly blunt way in which he dismissed a question from Fallon on Iran yesterday.
This is from the Daily Mail’s Jason Groves.
RAC says Trump’s decision to collapse Iran nuclear deal will put ‘at least’ 2p a litre on fuel prices
In business questions Valerie Vaz, the shadow leader of the Commons, asked when the EU withdrawal bill would come back to the Commons. And she asked about reports that the government is planning to delay bringing back the trade bill and the customs bill until the autumn because ministers are worried about losing votes on the customs union.
She did not get much in the way of answers. Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, said the EU withdrawal bill would be coming back to the Commons, but she did not say when. And she claimed that there was “no hold up” with other legislation like the trade bill or the customs bill. But she would not confirm that those bills would come back to the Commons for their report stage debates before the summer recess (which is what everyone was expecting until recently). She went on:
There are very complex negotiations underway and it’s right that we bring forward these bills at the appropriate time, as indeed we will do.
Andrea Leadsom is now taking business questions in the Commons. She has just announced the business up to Monday 21 May. No mention yet of when the EU withdrawal bill will come back to the Commons after its third reading in the Lords on Wednesday next week.
The provisional business for the week commencing 21 May will include: pic.twitter.com/6IBor1w8FU
In the Commons Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, is responding to an urgent question from the Labour MP Afzal Khan about money resolutions (the motions passed by the Commons allowing the government to spend money on implementing legislation). Khan has a private member’s bill on parliamentary boundaries, intended to revise them but keep the overall number of MPs at 650. It has passed its second reading. But the government has not allowed a money resolution to go with it, which effectively blocks the Khan bill.
Leadsom says the government is withholding a money resolution because it has its own plans for a boundary review. The Boundary Commission has been engaged in a review that will cut the number of MPs to 600, in line with government policy, but its final recommendations are not due until September this year.
. @CommonsLeader says the Government choose what Private Members Bills they want to make progress regardless of the will of the House. If the Givernment don’t like a Bill they should vote it down not use parliamentary chicanery to block democratic decisions of the HoC
Labour has moved the writ for the Lewisham East byelection, triggered by the resignation of Heidi Alexander. It will be held on Thursday 14 June.
And, while we’re on Brexit news, five Labour MPs from the north east of England have written an article for the Independent saying that there should be a referendum on the final Brexit agreement. The five are: Phil Wilson, Paul Williams, Bridget Phillipson, Anna Turley and Catherine McKinnell.
Here’s an extract.
The British people were asked to make the original decision in June 2016 without knowing in reality what the final Brexit deal would look like. Nobody was sure what the options were. They did not appear on the ballot paper. As each day goes by new facts emerge that weren’t placed before the voters at the time of the referendum.
The outcome of the negotiations will affect the north east of England and the United Kingdom for decades to come. Because this is so important, we believe the British people should have their say on the final Brexit deal. Just as the people had their say in the referendum in 2016, we believe the final decision on this country’s destiny should lie with the British people in a people’s vote.
Tom McTague has written a piece for Politico Europe on what is going on behind the scenes in Whitehall in the Brexit negotiations. It’s a sobering read. Here’s an extract, but do read the whole thing.
The fear among the most senior officials involved in the Brexit negotiations is that the political impasse in Westminster will mean that Britain is left humiliated, either forced to accept whatever Brussels leaves on the table as the clock ticks down to exit day on March 29, 2019, or — even worse according to some in Whitehall — being bounced into a customs union by the House of Commons.
“The worst of all worlds is being ordered to enter a customs union. We would have absolutely no leverage. Brussels would know we would ultimately have to take whatever they said, because the Commons had ordered us to do so, so we’d get no meaningful opt outs or anything like that. It would be a disaster,” one UK official said.
On the Today programme this morning Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative former international development secretary, said that Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, should apologise to the rendition victims Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar, when he makes his Commons statement on the case later today. Referring to his time in government, Mitchell said:
We concluded there was a prima facie case of misconduct and illegality by British authorities and that it was right, in the opinion of the Cameron government, to bring this into the public domain and sort it out …
The lesson here is that officials who help us stay safe and who defend our country in the shadows must never play fast and loose with human rights and international humanitarian law, which are the rocks upon which the safety of all of us depend.
According to a BuzzFeed report by Alex Spence and Alberto Nardelli, at the Brexit sub committee meeting last week ministers were told that the “max fac” customs option, (the one favoured by Brexiters – see 9.21am), would have a negative impact on around 145,000 companies and would make the economy worse off by 1.8% in the long run.
Here is BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on the question of whether the Brexit transition will be extended.
whole idea of extending transition so that customs decision can be fudged we discussed yday gaining some traction – but this brexiteer minister who said It wasn’t acceptable wouldn’t be only one https://t.co/6WEXFQEuDd
“Positions of the two major parties are not acceptable to Brussels” @afneil
“Some whispers around the place that the only way through this, may be to end up having a longer transition period” @bbclaurak@SteveBarclay is asked if he would accept extended transitional period pic.twitter.com/X0L44FD6uk
There’s an urgent question today at 10.30am.
UQ granted to @Afzal4Gorton at 1030 to ask @CommonsLeader to make a statement on the Government’s policy on introducing Money Resolutions for Private Members Bills. This is about the Government refusing to bring forward a money resolution for the Boundary review bill
The cabinet is still trying to take a decision about what customs deal it wants with the EU after Brexit – the “new customs partnership” (NCP) dubbed “crazy” by Boris Johnson, or the “highly streamlined customs arrangement” (aka maximum facilitation, or max fac) favoured by Brexiters – but one problem is that there is no evidence that either option could be in place by the end of 2020, when the transition period is due to come to an end. Greg Clark, the business secretary, implicitly admitted this in his interview with Andrew Marr at the weekend (pdf), although Downing Street has refused to discuss the possibility of extending the transition and sticks to the line that the UK will be leaving the customs union when the transition ends in December 2020.
But Theresa May is coming under pressure to admit that the transition will have to be extended. In his Telegraph column today (paywall) Nick Timothy, who was her most powerful policy adviser until he left Number 10 after the general election, says May should abandon the NCP idea and opt for “max fac”. But it could take longer than planned to introduce, he says.
If there is a compromise to be made, ministers might accept that “max fac” will take longer to be introduced than the current implementation timetable suggests.
Some interest in @OpenEurope idea of extending an aspect of transition period as a potential compromise given Cabinet stalemate on customs policy. Here’s a quick thread.
We seem to be approaching another crunch point in the Brexit negotiations and although I usually try to avoid commenting on them I think I owe it to those I represent to say what I think about the vexed question of the customs union.
So the Prime Minister should announce that the government will seek to negotiate a temporary customs union that will expire 3 years after we leave the EU i.e. at the end of March 2022.