Michael Gove, Keir Starmer and Nicky Morgan were among the guests on a Brexit-dominated batch of Sunday shows.
Here are the key moments:
Customs Partnership v Max Fac
Less than a week after Boris Johnson dubbed Theresa May’s preferred post-Brexit customs plan as “crazy”, Michael Gove add his hand to the pillow suffocating the life out of the proposal.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show – presented by Nick Robinson – the Environment Secretary said: “It’s my view that the new customs partnership has flaws and they need to be tested.”
You can read the full write-up here, where Gove also says May’s plan would turn the UK into the EU’s “tax collector”.
(If you’re not sure of the difference between a customs union, customs partnership and ‘maximum facilitation’, there’s an explainer here.)
Appearing on Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday, Treasury Minister Mel Stride came out fighting on behalf of the customs partnership, saying: “I think that the Customs Partnership has some huge advantages and the principal one is that in terms of the Northern Ireland/Irish situation, which is one of I think the key three things we’re trying to achieve here.”
Tory backbenchers were out in force to give their views on the customs battle.
Treasury Select Committee chair Nicky Morgan poured scorn on both proposals.
After telling Peston on Sunday more information was need about the “complex” customs partnership plan, she added: “It seems to me that’s what’s called the maximum facilitation - which seems to rely on future technology not yet invented - would absolutely basically be a deal in name only because it doesn’t talk about an enduring relationship with the EU, which I think is what the Prime Minister said she wanted to create, and it causes enormous problems on the island of Ireland.”
Morgan issued a plea to Theresa May to come up with customs plan that would win the support of the majority of MPs, and not to pander to Brexit extremists.
At the heart of the customs issue is the Irish border problem: how can you have an invisible border with another country while operating a different trade policy?
Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney told Nick Robinson it would be “helpful” if the UK government could reach a consensus on what customs policy it wants post-Brexit to allow progress to be made on the border.
When challenged over whether his Government was playing politics with the border by suggesting the peace process could be impacted, Coveney replied:
“This is not just a trading issue. This is about Ireland moving forward, communities and neighbours living together. It’s about the fact that, you know, 100,000 what are called store cattle, produced on small farms in the west of Ireland, cross the border to be finished on farms in Northern Ireland because there is no barrier. There’s normal movement, normal life, normal commerce, normal business. And that has reinforced the peace process over the last 20 years because of shared EU membership and because of the Good Friday Agreement structures. And what we are saying here is that we don’t want to undermine any of that.”
He also seemed to take aim at ‘max fac’, saying:
“Listen to the Chief Constable of the PSNI, you know, he is saying that any infrastructure on the border, any physical infrastructure on the border is going t represent a risk to his officers. He’s warning not to go down that route. Listen to the Brexit Committee in Westminster. They’ve said technology is not the solution to solving the Irish border issues. And we agree with that. And there are many other reports that say the same thing. You know, I would challenge you, show me a border somewhere in the world that is seamless. It doesn’t exist, is the answer. And that is why the only way we can find a solution here that means that we have a fully seamless border with no physical infrastructure or related checks and controls is to maintain alignment in terms of rules and regulations on both sides of that border.”
He also claimed the Irish government had shown “flexibility” during the negotiations.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith accused Coveney of playing a “poor political game” over the border issue.
Remain-backing Tory MP Ken Clarke said the solution Duncan Smith advocates simply doesn’t exist.
Labour and the Single Market
Labour’s Brexit policy came under scrutiny on the Sunday shows. The key question was why does the party support staying in a customs union with the EU, but not membership of the Single Market?
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer repeatedly claimed the Single Market’s rules should be “hard-wired” into the UK’s relationship with the EU.
“Everybody I think accepts there’s going to have to be a new agreement, a UK/EU agreement. What goes in that agreement really matters. That’s why that manifesto commitment, that the benefits of both the customs union and the single market need to be in it, it is so important. And I accept we need to keep on saying it, we need to make sure it’s the combination customs union and single market because we need that combination to deliver for trade and also deliver on the border in Northern Ireland, the solemn commitment that there shouldn’t be a hard border.”
On Peston, Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said the party had not yet decided how to vote on a Lords amendment which would see the UK join the European Economic Area and therefore stay in the Single Market.
She added that problem with Single Market membership is it would mean the continuation of free movement of people.
She concluded: “Labour’s position is to retain the benefits of the Single Market through a current bespoke new deal, not to remain a member of the Single Market because that simply wouldn’t be possible as we exit the EU.”
Shadow Attorney General Baroness Chakrabarti echoed the call for a “bespoke arrangement” while pointing out why the Norway model was not suitable for the UK.
Another person not sure how they will vote on the EEA amendment is Nicky Morgan.
On Sky, Labour’s Jon Trickett said there shouldn’t be a second referendum.
All About The Money
There wasn’t much away from Brexit on the Sunday shows, but the publication of the Sunday Times Rich List provided an opportunity to discuss the UK’s economic system.
Mel Stride told Ridge that “an important message actually from the Rich List is we’ve seen this big change from inherited money to earned, entrepreneurially earned, money.”
In an interview recorded before the Rich List was published, Labour’s Jon Trickett said the party would change the economic system and increase taxes on the wealthy.
Tributes To Tessa
With the death of Tessa Jowell being announced just before the Sunday shows started, politicians from across the spectrum were keen to pay tribute to the former Labour Cabinet Minister.
Here are some of them:
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