Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen
Treasury questions was relatively uneventful. Politico Europe’s Charlie Cooper has tweeted a couple of lines from it.
Hammond at Treasury questions just now on customs union: “I have consistently sought arrangements that will protect our existing trade with the EU,” wants “minimum possible friction at border” … “We don’t believe it necessary to be in a customs union to achieve that.”
Hammond asked about Carney’s comments on Brexit and household incomes. Chancellor repeats pledge that MPs will have government economic analysis when they vote on Brexit deal, and that future trajectory of household incomes “will depend in part” on how good that deal is
According to the Telegraph (paywall), the Conservative MP James Duddridge has submitted a formal complaint to Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards about the reports that John Bercow, the Commons speaker, called Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, a “stupid woman”.
In his letter to Stone, seen by the Telegraph, Duddridge said:
I am writing in order to make a formal complaint concerning the behaviour of the speaker, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, on Wednesday 16th May 2018, and his comments concerning the Leader of the House, the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP.
He is alleged to have called her a “fucking stupid woman” and a “liar”. He has not denied these allegations.
John Healey, a former shadow health secretary, has welcomed the BBC report saying the government is considering repealing elements of 2012 Health and Social Care Act.
When I led Labour’s fight against the Health and Social Care Bill in 2011, I said it would mean fragmentation and privatisation, and was the wrong prescription for the NHS. Seven years later, it seems Tory Ministers now agreehttps://t.co/p7Vqlf5I4e
Save the Children failed to inform Unicef that its former chief executive had been investigated over alleged sexual misconduct before moving to the UN agency, the charity’s former chairman has told MPs. As the Press Association reports, Sir Alan Parker said Unicef was not told about the investigation into Justin Forsyth, conducted by an independent law firm, because it was not a “formal disciplinary process”.
Parker, who stepped down from Save the Children earlier this year after the aid sector sex abuse scandal broke, also said he and other directors vetoed a £20,000 bonus awarded to Forsyth while the investigation was under way. Forsyth quit his role as deputy executive director of Unicef in April after allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards female members of staff emerged during his time at Save the Children, where he was chief executive between 2010 and 2016.
When I look back, there are a number of things we would have done differently. I think we would have done it in a way that would have settled it at each time more appropriately and I think very clearly there were quite specific HR failings in this, which I have to take on board as I was chairman at the time.
And here is some response to the Bank of England’s claim that households are £900 worse off because of Brexit. (See 11.32am.)
From Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader
At the time of the Brexit vote the fact that the economy didn’t immediately collapse was argued as proof that leaving the EU was painless. We now know that it wan’t painless, to the extent that households are already £900 a year worse off, and Brexit has not even happened as yet.
Inflation caused by a weak pound and stuttering economic growth are cutting into people’s everyday lives. But we can stop this, because Brexit is not inevitable – people must be allowed a say on the final deal.
Brexit is already costing every person in this country hundreds of pounds in lower income, and we haven’t even left yet.
The governor of the Bank of England is quite clear that the Brexit vote has left us all poorer and worse-off, and the government’s botched Brexit negotiations threaten to make the situation even worse for generations to come.
At the Commons Treasury committee Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, and his deputy, Dave Ramsden, told MPs that real household incomes are £900 lower today than forecast in May 2016 because of Brexit.
My colleague Graeme Wearden has more on his business live blog.
False alarm. According to a DExEU source, the David Davis written statement on standing order 83o (see 10.48am) is a routine formality and it is going to say that there are no Evel implications for the EU withdrawal bill. The SNP will be voting on the Lords amendments after all.
As Labour Whips point out, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, is due to make a potentially interesting written statement later today.
David Davis making a WMS on the Withdrawal Bill with reference to the application of SO 83O – potentially significant announcement on Govt’s strategy for the Bill H/t @danbloom1 pic.twitter.com/CrvX6eVFuB
Full link to Standing Orders is here https://t.co/VktqeKHzRv
Michael Gove, the Brexiter environment secretary, told the Today programme this morning that any Brexit “backstop” that keeps the UK in the EU’s common external tariff should only apply for a “short time”.
The government has agreed to have a “backstop” to avoid the imposition of a hard border in Ireland after Brexit in case its preferred means of avoiding a hard border – a good trade deal, or new customs technology – don’t work.
It means what it says on the tin. That temporary means not permanent. It means for a short period of time. I’m not going to pre-empt the eventual position that we take after we have negotiated with the European Union and with Ireland …
The very nature of a backstop, everyone agrees, is that it should be a temporary infill to bridge the position. In the same way as when you move house, a bridging loan is meant to be temporary, but, whether that’s weeks or months, we don’t know precisely.
Peers yesterday abandoned their attempt to force a new public inquiry into the media industry, following weeks of parliamentary ping-ping between the two houses of parliament.
Opposition politicians forced the government to make a number of concessions, while the Conservatives only won several close votes thanks to the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party.
I covered what Tony Blair said in his Today interview about the Abdel Hakim Belhaj case earlier. (See 9.12am.) This is what he said about Brexit.
At the moment we’re in a halfway house. We are in favour, apparently, of staying in a customs union, which will disappoint the most ardent leavers, but we’re not actually in favour of staying in Europe’s economic areas, which is necessary if you want frictionless trade. And so many people who voted remain will then feel less than enthusiastic about Labour …
My sense is that we are in the position now of neither pleasing the remainers nor the leavers.
Essentially both parties have got the same problem, which is the central dilemma at the heart of the negotiation is this. You stay close to Europe to minimise economic damage, in which case you abide by Europe’s rules, in which case people say what’s the point. Or you break free from Europe altogether, a clean break, in which case the economic damage is considerable and people say what’s the price. There is no resolution to that dilemma. At some point the government will have to come forward with a proposition. And I think the sensible thing for the Labour party to do is to say, look, if we say we want a jobs first Brexit, that means we stay close to Europe’s economic area. And if people then say what’s the point of leaving, you say the final decision should be taken by the British people if they want to proceed on that basis.
Whereas I think that ambiguity probably did serve Labour well at the last election – even though I didn’t agree with it, it may have in the short term served us well – I don’t think it works any more today.
What is different is the quality of our understanding of what the central choice at the heart of this negotiation is.
If the Labour party were to say to the country, ‘Look, we’ve looked at this, we’ve had this negotiation, what everyone now understands is that it’s much more complicated than we ever thought, there is this dilemma at the heart of of it, we think the only way to minimise economic damage, as business and industry and many others are saying, is to keep close to Europe, we agree then it poses a great dilemma’ … But the way of resolving that is the Labour party then to say, ‘That’s why, therefore, parliament should make its decision but finally the decision should be taken by the people, who originally voted for Brexit and mandated this negotiation’.
I think that would be a winning position for two reasons. First of all, you would actually mobilise that remain vote. But, secondly, you would be saying to the leave people, ‘Look, ultimately you can take the decision’ …
It’s a pretty extraordinary situation. You’ve got a government that’s in a state of considerable disarray, huge problems with the health service, problems on law and order, problems across the spectrum, and we’re not even ahead of the Conservatives in the opinion polls.
Look, you’ve got Boris Johnson going round Argentina, Peru and Chile saying, ‘Look, we’re going to get out of Europe and do these free trade deals with these types of country.’ The entirety of our exports to Argentina, Peru and Chile put together is less than 6% of those to Ireland. When we talk about the Commonwealth, we export more to the Netherlands than we do to Australia, New Zealand, India and Canada put together.
Tony Blair was on the Today programme talking about a report that his thinktank, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, has published today about Brexit and customs.
Tony Blair was on the Today programme this morning. He was mostly talking about Brexit – more of that later – but towards the end Mishal Husain pointed out that it was his first interview since the government apologised to the Libyan dissident to Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar, for the role the UK played in their rendition in 2004. Belhaj was tortured and Boudchar, who was pregnant when kidnapped and mistreated, was paid £500,000 by the UK government in compensation. Husain asked Blair would he would like to say about the case. The exchange did not last long, but it was edgy and Blair’s answers were surprising – not least because they beg more questions than they answer.
Here are the main points.
No. This case wasn’t brought to my attention. There are a lot of things in this case, some of which have been out in the media, some of which have not. There’s been a settlement of the case. I’m content to go along with the government’s apology in relation to it. It’s not something I dealt with myself when I was in government. I think that’s all I can say.
This has been subject to a long legal process. I have gone along with what the government has done, which was issue the apology. I did not actually know myself about this case until after I left office. So I’m content to go along with that apology. And that’s all that’s frankly sensible for me to say.
Of course I’m sorry for any mistreatment that’s been given to people. How on earth would you ever justify that.
And, by the way, let me make one thing clear, because sometimes people say I was ambivalent on the use of torture. I have always been wholly and 100%, in all circumstances, opposed to the use of torture and I made that clear publicly, privately, in any conversation I’ve every had within government.