Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen
Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative former work and pensions secretary and Brexit enthusiast, told the BBC this morning that he thought Labour’s stance on Brexit was shifting. Referring to Sir Keir Starmer’s transition demands (see 10am), he said:
Staying inside the court of justice would actually be tantamount to staying within the European Union.
Request to readers: I have included one post relating to the sexual harassment scandal and, although it is not the main story of the day, there may be more. Please can you ensure that, if you comment on this story, you stick to general points and don’t make allegations against individuals. Contrary to what some people assume, the Guardian is legally liable for comments posted BTL and if libellous comments start to appear, comments will have to be closed. It will be better for everyone if we can avoid that.
Here are two stories in today’s papers on the revived Boris Johnson/Michael Gove hard Brexit alliance (see 9.17am) that are worth reading.
Senior ministers have told The Times that Mr Gove is very much in the lead when it comes to the direction on Brexit and is more likely to stand up to figures such as Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd in cabinet …
One ally said: “Boris and Michael have formed a political alliance of necessity to ensure Brexit is delivered and therefore they feel it necessary to set out what needs doing or Tories will be unelectable if Brexit is stopped.”
Mark McDonald, the MSP who resigned from the Scottish government over “inappropriate” behaviour, has insisted he is “determined” to change. As the Press Association reports, McDonald stepped down as minister for childcare and early years reportedly because he sent a text message to a woman which included a reference to a sex act.
Writing in the Press and Journal newspaper, the married father of two made clear he “apologised unreservedly” for his actions. He stated:
There is no question in my mind that in making my apology it was also right for me to resign from my role as a government minister.
I need to go further than that though. For my apology to mean anything I must also commit to changing my behaviour and to taking more care in my actions and my language. I am determined to do that.
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, wrote an open letter to Theresa May released overnight challenging her to accept Labour amendments to the EU withdrawal bill saying that the UK could not leave with the EU without a transition period that would include staying in the single market and the customs union.
I have written to PM. The only way to face down her Brexit extremists, who will drive us to ‘no deal’, is to accept Labour’s amendments to the Withdrawal Bill. Act now in the national interest; not party interest. https://t.co/dPMAMiqL3B
No deal is a very, very bad outcome. Taken literally, it means we have not agreed anything, and that means we haven’t agreed anything about EU citizens, we haven’t agreed anything about the border in Northern Ireland, we haven’t agreed anything on security. I think that sort of no deal is unthinkable.
In those circumstances I think the government would have to seriously consider whether it could continue.
Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, told the Today programme this morning that he was not calling for Boris Johnson to resign over the error he made about his wife. (See 9.17am.) Here are some of the other things he said in interviews this morning
Certainly there was all sorts of anger in our house. The government’s position is that the government is clear, and has no doubt, that she was there on holiday. I asked the Foreign Office to remind all of the cabinet members that that’s the government’s position.
[A prison visit is] much easier if comes with me, in all honesty, because I can go and see her as a family member.
This is what Boris Johnson had to say about the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case when he arrived at the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels this morning. He said:
Let me just say on Iran and on Iraq and consular cases generally, they are all very sensitive. And I think the key thing to understand is that we are working very, very hard and intensively and impartially on all of those cases.
MPs return to the Commons today after their mini recess to find that, just as on the day they left, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is in trouble. As well as facing criticism for some of his colleagues for apparently setting up a secret Vote Leave cabal with Michael Gove and dictating orders to Theresa May (well, sort of), he can’t get away from the trouble caused by his error about Nazanin Zahhari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman detained in Iran.
This morning the Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local MP, said that if Zaghari-Ratcliffe spends “even one more day” in jail because of Johnson telling the foreign affairs committee that she was in Iran teaching people journalism, he should resign. (Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family and employers say she was in Iran on a family holiday. Johnson subsequently told MPs he accepts that, but he has refused to admit that his original comment was wrong, instead insisting that it was misinterpreted.)
This issue isn’t political point-scoring for me; this about getting an innocent mother home. I’ve been campaigning on this for 18 months – if Boris Johnson is going to Iran then I have a few demands.
The first is that he needs to take my constituent, Richard Ratcliffe, with him.
If my constituent spends even one more day in prison as a result of what the foreign secretary said then he should resign.
I don’t think it’s helpful for Nazanin at this point. I don’t think it’s helpful also in terms of who that looks in Iran for me to be looking like I’m playing politics. It is very important that the Iranians can see that this is just a family who are battling to bring Nazanin home, and not get this sense that we’re some sort of great Machiavellian power. We’re not.