The Andrew Marr Show
Labour’s ‘benefit freeze’ policy was as clear as mud during the election campaign, and Marr tried to get to the bottom of it again this morning.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams was again unclear if the policy - set to run until 2020 - would definitely be axed should a Labour find itself in office before then.
Abrahams also confirmed a Labour government would look into scrapping the benefits cap - which limits welfare payments to £20,000 for households outside London and £23,000 inside - but admitted she had not costs the proposal.
“We recognise that for some people listening to this that might seem like an awful lot of money but the reality is, what I’ve just said, the implications for people in the poorest circumstances, the implications around child poverty which affects children not just while they’re young but for the rest their lives – it affects how their brains develop and everything.”
Pressed on whether the cap would go, she said: “We would be looking to see how we do that.”
The main interview was with Brexit Secretary David Davis (a more detailed write-up is here).
Davis was asked what he made of his opposite number in Brussels, the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier. “He’s very French,” was the response.
On citizens’ rights, Davis argued the UK’s proposal made on Thursday evening had gone down better on the continent than reports suggested. He said the UK was trying to ensure every citizen gets their current position “locked in place for them”.
On Brexit, Davis insisted EU countries “have a very strong interest in getting a good deal” on trade, but did not appear as bullish as he was in the run up to last year’s referendum.
When asked if he was “absolutely sure” there would be a deal, Davis replied: “I’m pretty sure, I am not 100% sure, you can never be, it’s a negotiation.
He added: “You can be sure there will be a deal, whether it’s the deal I want which is the free trade agreement, the customs agreement and so on - I’m pretty sure but I’m not certain.”
Davis also admitted he was one of those advising Theresa May to call a general election - something for which he has not apologised as he had no say in the campaign that was run.
When it came to May’s position as Prime Minister, Davis agreed it would be “catastrophic” to have a leadership election while the Brexit negotiations are going on, and hit out at “self-indulgent” colleagues on maneuvers.
Sophy Ridge On Sunday
Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti added yet another caveat to Labour’s increasingly muddled Brexit policy. She argued it had to be a “jobs first economy first Brexit” and that when it comes to immigration “there’s a lot of room for negotiation about what types of free movement” could continue once the UK leaves the bloc.
Tory veteran Ken Clarke, who is in his 47th year as an MP, told Ridge the current state of the Tory party is unlike anything he has seen before during his parliamentary career.
He repeated his desire for free trade between the UK and the EU after Brexit.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel said suggestions EU leaders view Theresa May as a “pushover” was a “massive generalisation.” She insisted nothing has changed when it comes to Brexit because of the General Election result:
“So actually we are clear in our position, also the 12 negotiating options, objectives that the Prime Minister has outlined, so nothing has changed and we are focused on securing the best deal for Britain, the best deal for our country, the best deal for our economy and this is just week one of these negotiations and I much more optimistic than I think the position and perspective that you’ve outlined because we have a lot to offer our European counterparts.”
Labour’s Stella Creasy explained why she was trying to get the law changed so Northern Irish women can have abortions in England and Wales.
Peston On Sunday
Priti Patel was having a busy morning, and on Peston she was asked why it mattered if the European Court of Justice still had jurisdiction over EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.
Peston was left dumbfounded as Patel repeatedly answered questions about the General Election by talking about the EU referendum.
Patel also sidestepped questions about her own leadership ambitions.
Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg believes May will be Prime Minister at the time of the next election.
Lib Dem leadership contender Vince Cable - so far the only declared candidate - said he doesn’t feel “tainted” by his time as a Cabinet Minister in the Coalition Government, and insisted austerity was a necessity, “not a choice.”
Former Conservative chairman Lord Patten delivered a damning assessment of the state of his party, blaming the “calamitous errors” of David Cameron and Theresa May had left the country in a “hell of a mess”.
On the Tory deal with the DUP, Lord Patten warned the party was at risk of looking “nasty” once again.
He compared May’s lack of ease with the public to a “doctor who doesn’t like the sight of blood.”
Priti Patel popped up again - this time on BBC Radio 5 Live. Speaking to John Pienaar, she ruled out the suggestion from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby of a cross-party team to deliver Brexit.
Patel: “Our mandate is literally the one that was delivered last year through the referendum... to go out there and deliver Brexit for Britain. The Prime Minister has been pretty unequivocal and very clear that we will represent in the United Kingdom, irrespective of how they voted.”
Pienaar: “But not work with other parties. Not work with Jeremy Corbyn.”
Patel: “We are going to deliver on the will of the people.”
Pienaar: “So why not sit round the table with Jeremy Corbyn.”
Patel: “Because we are at that stage now where we started the negotiations. Monday was the first start of that.”
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told Pienaar he believes Labour were weeks away from winning the election.
UK Trade Minister Lord Price was discussing Brexit on the Sunday Politics (Priti Patel must have been busy). He came unstuck when Andrew Neil pressed him on a potential transition deal after March 2019
AN: How long a transition period are we looking at?
LP: Oh, who knows? I mean, we’ll see where we get to over the course of the next two years.
AN: Five years, two years, three years?
LP: Who knows? I think that both from a European perspective and from a UK perspective what we’ve said is that we want a smooth transition, we don’t want a cliff edge. This is what Trade Ministers across Europe are saying. This isn’t just a British desire. And I’ve heard interviews with several European parliamentarians who are all saying that they want to move to a smooth transition and they’d like a period of time to do that if we can’t do it inside two years.
AN: During a transition period can we strike a free trade deal with a third party?
LP: No. No we can’t, no. We can’t sign or negotiate a free trade deal –
AN: During a transition period.
LP: No not during – sorry, I misunderstood you. During the two- year period. During the transition period it depends on what we agree with the EU.
AN: So we don’t know that either.
AN: But what I’m asking about is continue tariff-free trade between the EU and the UK. How keen is the EU to continue to give us that?
LP: Well, I think they will be keen, yes.
AN: Don’t you know yet? What about all these meetings you’re telling me you go to?
LP: Well, what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to sit down and negotiate. The spirit is a good one, Andrew. People all over Europe want to get a good placement with us. Why do they want to do that? The trade surplus with the UK is 60 billion.
Gerard Coyne, the trade unionist who unsuccessfully challenged Len McCluskey for the position of General Secretary of Unite, warned of “purges” of Labour MPs who aren’t 100% behind Jeremy Corbyn.
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister John Trickett had another go at putting forward Labour’s Brexit position. When asked by Neil to clarify Labour’s position, Trickett said the party’s priority was “to have access to all of the tariff-free arrangements which exist within the customs union and the single market” but that it wasn’t wedded to any “particular institutional framework” to achieve this.
“We are pragmatic about it. Let’s see how the negotiations go. So we’re not going to say that we have to do one thing or other in terms of institutional relationships. What we have to have is a Brexit which works for jobs and for growth and also for the protections which working people have. How that comes out of the negotiation remains to be seen...Our policy is to secure all of the rights which exist and tariff access within the single market and the customs union. We are not saying that their particular institutional form is something we are going to wed ourselves to at this stage.”