The five things you need to know on Thursday March 24, 2016…
Paul is on holiday. So this morning's WaughZone is written by Ned Simons - something you are all no doubt core group negative about.
1) BREXIT AND BRUSSELS
In British political reporting, Brussels is a byword for EU bureaucracy. This week the name of the Belgian capital has been deployed less flippantly - as a reference to terror. But in Westminster, the two meanings have become closely linked. Security was always going to be a big issue in the referendum, and this morning it's front and centre of the campaign.
Last night the Conservative defense minister Penny Mordaunt said Britain's membership of the EU is putting the security of the country at risk. A claim rebutted by her boss, defence secretary Michael Fallon, a couple of hours later.
There is disagreement over Brexit in the MoD. And also among ex-spooks. Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, has said getting out of the EU's free movement rules could boost security. "The truth about Brexit from a national security perspective is that the cost to Britain would be low," he wrote in Prospect magazine.
But, Sir David Omand, the former director of GCHQ, disagrees. "The UK would be the loser in security terms from Brexit not the gainer," he said in a statement this morning. "The stronger security on the continent of Europe is, the safer we will be." Why, he asks, "absent ourselves from the table".
And on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, said Sir Richard had made "a serious miscalculation" with his comments as the idea the UK would be safer with Brexit "doesn’t stand scrutiny". Also fighting the pro-EU cause this morning, energy secretary Amber Rudd told the Today programme membership meant "cheaper" energy bills and 'better security".
Speaking at a pro-Brexit event in central-London, Mordaunt, the Armed Forces minister, said EU membership meant the UK did not “have the freedom of operation that we need”. Noting she had been working on the fallout from the Brussels attacks, she added: “We can’t form the alliances, we can’t share the intelligence we need to keep us safe. All of those things are stifling us and undermining our freedoms.” Our report of her intervention in the Brexit debate is here.
Just two hours later on BBC Newsnight, Fallon offered up the opposite view. “This is not the time for us to be leaving an international partnership like the EU,” he told Emily Maitlis. The idea Brexit would make the UK safer, he said, was “ridiculous”.
If there is a morning ministerial meeting in the MoD today, it could be a bit awkward. Boris has also said some more things about Brexit, as as Donald Trump, but more of that below.
2) HANDS UP IF YOU’RE HOSTILE
David Cameron had a absolutely great time at prime minister’s questions yesterday. Inexplicably. The Red Box list of Labour “hostiles” allowed him to escape unscathed from a session that should have seen him skewered by questions about cabinet resignations and Budget U-turns. It was, for Some Labour MPs, in the deleted words of John Woodcock, a "f*cking disaster”. Such reckless Twitter behaviour.
PMQs might have been a paradise for Cameron, but the last week has also been a war zone for his party. As the Daily Telegraph reports, the prime minister told a meeting of Tory MPs last night he needed “more time to think”. Before heading off on holiday to Spain, he admitted it had been something of a "tough" few days.
3) NOT NOW UKIP
With both the Conservatives and Labour riddled with divisions, the best thing for a smaller party dedicated to Brexit to do would be to present a united front in the fight to leave the EU. But then, that obviously isn’t any fun is it. As my colleague Owen Bennett reports, Ukip has suspended former deputy chairman Suzanne Evans after she signed a petition opposing the selection of a candidate who compared homosexuals to Nazis.
Evans, who Nigel Farage appointed as temporary leader last year before reneging on his resignation, was one of 167 people to call on Ukip to deselect Alan Craig as the Ukip London Assembly candidate for South West London. Craig, who was leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance before joining Ukip, has in the past described homosexuals as “gay-rights storm troopers” and the “Gaystapo”, and claimed society is now “crushed under the pink jack-boot.”
The Huffington Post UK understands the Craig petition was one of three matters cited as reasons for Evans’s suspension.
4) BORIS IS OUT AND PROUD
Speaking of which. Boris Johnson has said gay people should vote to leave the EU as LGBT rights are under threat in other European countries.
In a video message for an event organised by the 'Out and Proud' pro-Brexit LGBT campaign group last night, the Conservative mayor of London said:"What we need is to take back control LGBT issues and everything else." Boris' message can be watched on The Huffington Post here.
"The British people that created that environment of happiness and contentment for LGBT people and it is absolutely vital that we fight for those rights today because they are under threat in Poland, in Hungary, in Romania and other parts of the EU where they are not protected in the way they are in our country." Boris added: "Im out, and I'm proud."
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR: Donald Trump Dances To ‘Stand By Me,’ Ushers In Apocalypse
5) TRUMP THINKS EVERYONE LOVES HIM
Donald Trump was back on Good Morning Britain this morning. Talking to Piers Morgan, he predicted "Britain will separate from the EU" in part due to the "craziness that's going on with the migration" with "people pouring in all over the place".
The Republican frontrunner also said Boris "looks like a good character". The London mayor could probably do without a character reference from Trump. Asked if he had a message for the British people, Trump responded in characteristic style by explaining how popular he was with everyone. There was, he said, "an outpouring of love" for him on this side of the Atlantic. Sure.
There was no love for the Republican presidential candidate from the British government yesterday though. Theresa May said he was "plain wrong" to claim British Muslims were not reporting concerns about extremism in their communities. It was the second time in two days the home secretary had told him he was wrong.
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