Sunday Shows Round-Up: Brexit, Gordon Brown, Goldmines And Meltdowns

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Andrew Marr and Keir Starmer
Andrew Marr and Keir Starmer
Andrew Marr and Keir Starmer

It has been another turbulent week for the Government.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier rejected key elements of the UK’s “backstop” proposals to guarantee no hard border in Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

Leaked private comments by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson saying the Government is heading for a “meltdown” with Brussels have also been causing a headache for his colleagues.

It all comes as MPs are set to vote on a slew of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill this week.

Fresh allegations have also emerged about millionaire Brexit campaigner Arron Banks.

He had a series of undisclosed meetings with Russian embassy officials and held discussions about a business deal involving six Russian goldmines, according to The Sunday Times.

So, there was a lot of news in the Sunday politics shows this week.

The Andrew Marr Show

First up on the flagship BBC show was former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Brown predicted that there could be a change of Prime Minister after the crunch Brexit votes this week.

He said the fixed-term parliament arrangement “makes it possible” for the Conservative Party to survive in Government, but warned that the meaningful vote outcome could signal a “point of further crisis” for Theresa May’s Government.

The ex-premier told Marr that the Brexit vote was a revolt against the establishment by left-behind communities connected to jobs, the state of the NHS and stagnant wages.

He accepted, however, that Britain wanted to leave the political union of the EU.

The Labour politician also appeared to indicate support for a second Brexit referendum, telling Marr that MPs winning a meaningful vote on the deal could be followed by looking at “another way to consult the country”.

Brown also underlined the urgency of finding more money for the NHS, saying a hike in National Insurance was needed.

It comes ahead of an expected announcement on funding by May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the NHS next month.

Next up was First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon.

Speaking after the party’s spring conference in Aberdeen, Sturgeon said the SNP was refocusing its efforts not on the “when” of a second Scottish independence referendum, but on convincing the public “who still ask why” Scotland should leave the Union.

The “uncertainty around Brexit” was driving her decision to step away from the move, she said.

She also told Marr that Johnson should be “nowhere near high office”.

Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keri Starmer appeared to move the party closer to a position of staying in the single market.

He also said pro-EU Tory MPs had a chance to alter the direction of the negotiations if they voted with the opposition on the key amendments.

“If Tory MPs who care about these amendments vote with us there is a real chance for Parliament to change the course of the Brexit negotiations and bring some order where there is real chaos,” he told Marr.

It comes as two senior Conservatives from the Leave and Remain wings of the party urged Tory MPs to back Theresa May in a joint article.

Former home secretary Amber Rudd, a leading Remain supporter, and ex-party leader Iain Duncan Smith, a long-standing Brexiteer, warned defeat could lead to the fall of the Government in the Sunday Telegraph.

The key line from the interview was Starmer saying in response to how to ensure no hard border in Northern Ireland.

He said: “We need a single market deal.”

May’s de facto deputy PM David Lidington was Marr’s next guest.

The Cabinet Office minister said he still believed the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU could be settled by the autumn allowing the talks on the future relationship - including a trade deal - to progress.

Asked if the Government was preparing for a “meltdown” over Brexit, Lidington said: “This is a negotiation. We have put something on the table. Michel Barnier has responded constructively. We now need to get down and talk.

“We are expecting to get the withdrawal agreement sorted this autumn and to have agreed a very ambitious new economic and security partnership with the the EU.

“I am expecting the talks to move forward. I am not expecting a meltdown. What I am working towards supporting the PM towards is to get a successful deal, as she did at the summit in December, as she did at the summit in March.

“I hope that all my colleagues in Parliament will get behind her in the same way.”

He also defended the Chancellor Philip Hammond, which Johnson described in the leaked conversation as “the heart of Remain” in the British Government.

“That’s not a picture I recognise. I’ve worked with Philip for quite a few years in Government now,“Lidington said.

“He is somebody who has accepted the verdict of the British people in the referendum. He is working extremely hard to deliver on the that and to deliver on it in a way that looks after jobs and prosperity in this country.”

Ridge On Sunday

The former chairman of the Conservative Party, Grant Shapps, was first up speaking to presenter Sophy Ridge on Sky News, and it seems he has changed his mind about his boss Theresa May.

The Tory MP, who launched an attempt to get rid of the Prime Minister when the party lost its overall majority last year, has said it is now “conceivable” that May could lead the party into the next general election - and even win it.

Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey was also on the airwaves trumpeting a new policy.

A Labour government will act to ensure all tips left by customers in restaurants and bars go to the staff and make it illegal for “rogue employers” to take a cut from money intended for their workers.

The party will also legislate to ensure non-disclosure agreements cannot be used to prevent employees from exposing sexual harassment.

She cited the Me Too movement and the Presidents Club dinner, which revealed that the women at the event were forced to sign NDAs before taking up a position.

Housing minister Dominic Raab, meanwhile, branded Johnson as “silly”.

Asked if he agreed with the Foreign Secretary’s apparent assessment praising US President Donald Trump’s style of leadership, he told Ridge: “No, I think that’s silly really, but look, all these things, when you’re at a private dinner, can get taken out of context, blown out of all proportion.

“I think the Prime Minister’s got the right team, the right approach.”

He also issued an apology to residents of Grenfell Tower who, a year after the catastrophic blaze, still have not been rehoused.

BBC Sunday Politics

Arch-Tory Remainer Ken Clarke gave an interview to presenter Sarah Smith, and said there was no risk of this week’s votes in Parliament bringing down the Government and triggering an election.

He said the Fixed Term Parliaments Act guaranteed a fresh poll was not necessary and said that there were no MPs who wanted and would vote for an election as many feared Labour would win.

“Most Labour MPs are as terrified of the idea of a Corbyn government as I am,” he said.

He went on to claim that Brexiteer Tories were holding May to ransom, accusing them of “Donald Trump-style methods” as he called for MPs to back a customs union.

In a second Sunday morning interview, Raab said the Government had more clarity with May’s backstop plan.

He added that an end date for current arrangements were not known, adding: “Until we get down to the details of the trade talks and the free trade agreements, we won’t know precisely what we’re preparing for in terms of an end date.”

Strongly pro-EU Labour MP Chris Leslie also went up against his colleague Caroline Flint, who has been vocal in saying her party has to accept the Brexit vote.

Flint said that a majority of Labour MPs do not support single market membership as it means no say of freedom of movement in future.

Startlingly, Leslie accused Flint of sounding like Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, something Flint described as “desperate” as she accused ultra-Remainers of attempts to undermine the referendum result.

Last up was Conservative chairman of the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, Damian Collins.

He demanded answers from wealthy UKIP and Brexit campaign donor Arron Banks after allegations emerged in the Sunday newspapers that he frequently met with Russian embassy officials and discussed.

Collins, whose committee is investigating matters around the Brexit campaign and is due to hear from Banks, said it was essential that the businessman be transparent about whether he profited from his relationship with the Russians - and if any of that potential profit funded Leave.EU, the unofficial Brexit campaign group bankrolled by Banks.

The Tory MP said Daily Mail journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who is believed to be sitting on hundreds of documents related to the matter, should disclose the information she has to the committee.


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