Penny Mordaunt remains “chipper” about Brexit the development secretary insisted today during her Andrew Marr interview, as she said voters want to see Theresa May put “meat on the bones” of her plan to leave the EU. But there were signs of the trouble ahead as the prime minister was warned by Anna Soubry there was unlikely to be Commons majority for her exit deal.
Also this morning, Mordaunt warned aid charities amid the Oxfam scandal that they will lose government money if they do not protect vulnerable people. David Gauke said Philip Hammond has not been silenced on Brexit. John McDonnell said Labour would prefer a general election to a second referendum. The shadow chancellor accused Alastair Campbell of engaging in “macho” politics. Current Ukip leader Henry Bolton admitted there were still “strong affections there” between him and Jo Marney. And Marr was polite to Mordaunt - proving the BBC’s pro-Tory bias.
Mordaunt used her appearance on Marr to deny Brexiteers like her had misled voters into thinking leaving the EU would be easy. “No one thought it was going to be a walk in the park,” she said. The development secretary also denied the process was ripping the Tory party apart. “The parliamentary party and the cabinet are behind the prime minister. We are tying to get the best deal possible for the UK,” she said.
The government will bid to regain the initiative with a series of top level speeches by the prime minister and senior cabinet colleagues in the coming weeks. Mordaunt said: “What the public want, is they want the vision and they want some meat on the bones, and this what they are going to get.”
Asked if she was still “chipper” about Brexit given its difficulties, Mordaunt added: “I am.” Marr was heard congratulating his guest after her solid performance. “That was very good,” he told her. The polite acknowledgment inevitably led to a burst of Twitter conspiracy theories demanding to know why the BBC interviewer was being nice to someone on his programme.
David Gauke meanwhile used his appearance on ITV’s Peston on Sunday to reject accusations that Philip Hammond had been gagged. “He’s not part of the set of speeches that have been outlined today, but that doesn’t mean the chancellor is not expressing his views both internally in the cabinet conversations but also externally. He is setting out his views.” the justice secretary said.
“I don’t think there’s anything in this, that there is any kind of plot to gag a particular faction of ministers. I don’t think that’s a fair characterisation at all.”
Remain cheerleaders Anna Soubry and Chuka Umunna used a joint appearance on the Marr sofa to warn May that a Labour and pro-EU Tory alliance could defeat her Brexit plan.
Soubry said she was convinced there is a Commons majority against the UK leaving the customs union and single market. Asked if Brexit will actually go ahead, she added: “I genuinely don’t know what is going to happen.”
Told it looked like she was closer politically to Labour’s Umunna than she was to her Tory backbench colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg, Soubry told Marr: “I’m not denying that.”
Over Peston, May was given a prod from the Brexiteer flank. Former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers said she only “might” be prepared to support the prime minister’s final Brexit deal.
Speaking to Peston, John McDonnell attempted to clarify what Labour means when it says it wants the UK to be a member of a customs union not the customs union.
The shadow chancellor said his plan would mean the UK could “influence the trade deals” negotiated by the EU. “If the argument is if we remain in the customs union like like Turkey you don’t have that same level of influence,” he said.
McDonnell, as Jeremy Corbyn has done previously, refused to rule out Labour supporting a second referendum. But he added: “I think better we have a general election.”
Earlier on Marr, shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne denied Labour’s position was confusing. “Actually what we’ve got is quite a coherent position,” he said. “The Labour Party policy is we don’t take anything off the table. We want the benefits of the single market and tariff-free access and a Customs Union with the EU.”
McDonnell also got into a lively spat with fellow Peston guest Alastair Campbell over Labour’s Brexit policy. As the pair shouted over each other, McDonnell accused Campbell of “macho” politics.
And the shadow chancellor came up with what he himself acknowledged was a “counter initiative” argument as to why it was a good thing Labour wasn’t leaping ahead in the polls. “We need something like this to say every vote has to be won,” he said. “I don’t think any of us have been swaggering.”
Henry Bolton Ukip’s, embattled leader, admitted he still has “strong affections” for his former girlfriend who sent racist messages about Meghan Markle.
Asked by Andrew Marr if he was “still in love” with Marney, the former army officer said: “There are strong affections there yes.”. Bolton added the “general consensus” was that there was a “problem with my judgment around that whole episode”. But Bolton also suggested that Marney’s messages had been “doctored”, adding: “In the days to come there will be more evidence being presented as to how they were obtained.”