POLITICS
03/02/2019 15:20 GMT

Sunday Shows Round-Up: Nissan, No-Deal Brexit Fears For Queen And Knife Crime

All the latest news amid reports Theresa May is gearing up for a snap election on June 6.

Reuters

As another week of mind-boggling political madness drew to a close, the Sunday newspapers were full of fresh Brexit news for watchers of British politics. 

Reports that Downing Street strategists are preparing for a snap general election on June 6 compete for space with fears the queen will be evacuated amid no-deal Brexit riots and worrying headlines - today confirmed - that Nissan plans to move the production its new X-Trail SUV from Sunderland to Japan. 

Home Secretary Sajid Javid, meanwhile, came under fire for cutting a vital scheme to help children escape knife crime amid an epidemic of violence among young people. 

The Observer splashed on a report that as many as six Labour MPs were ready to resign the party whip and form a new centrist party amid frustration with Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit stance. 

It comes as both main parties, and indeed the country, remains split over Brexit and as the EU looks set to reject the prime minister’s demand to renegotiate the Northern Irish backstop plan.

Can parliament coalesce around a Brexit deal? Will Brenda from Bristol ever be able to rest easy? 

Here’s our round-up of the Sunday politics shows. 

 

Will Labour MPs back Theresa May’s Brexit deal? 

A number of Labour MPs, including John Mann, have been invited to Number 10 to discuss under what circumstances they would back May’s Brexit deal.

Some have reportedly been offered investment for their constituencies in return. 

It comes after a chunk of MPs, most of whom represented Leave-voting constituencies, defied Jeremy Corbyn’s three-line whip and either backed, or abstained on, an amendment which said parliament would back a Brexit deal if “alternative arrangements” to the backstop were found. 

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner made a public appeal for those Labour MPs to change course in an interview with BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, hinting it looked to voters like their vote was “for sale”. 

He said: “I understand why their constituents are crying out from the lack of investment under the austerity of this government, of course I do, but we had a manifesto, that manifesto was about a £500bn transformation fund - it was ensuring that those areas that had been left behind by this government actually had the investment that they need.

“Why would you as an MP, as a Labour MP who stood on that manifesto say, you know what if I can get a little bit of money extra into my constituency I don’t mind about the rest of the country not getting what actually we promised in our manifesto.”

“Anyone who reflects on the manifesto that they stood on and the benefit that that would do for the whole of the country in getting investment through, would have to say I can’t just be selfish about this,” he said, before pointedly adding: “My vote is not for sale.”  

Trade Secretary Liam Fox took a different approach, warning MPs who blocked Brexit “deserve” to lose their seats. 

In comments that could have been directed both at Labour Leave MPs and Tory Remainers such as Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, he said: “Well 80% of MPs in this parliament were elected on a manifesto, either Labour or Conservative, promising to honour the result of the referendum.

“Those who got elected on that promise and then don’t follow it through once they get to Parliament I think will have a difficult time with the voters the next time, and if that happens then they deserve it.”

Will a new centrist party about to be formed?  

If you think you have heard this story before, it’s because you probably have. 

Rumours of a centrist party have been circulating for some time, though numerous plots have failed to materialise. 

This time, around six Labour MPs, with names such as John Leslie in tow, are thought to be considering resigning the whip. 

Shadow cabinet minister Jon Trickett, very much an ally of Corbyn, pushed back on this story quite strongly. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics show, he asked the would-be rebels “which side are you on”. 

He said: “Jeremy’s in listening mode. If people have got things to say, they should come and see us. But what I would say to my colleagues who are perhaps – anonymously, by the way – speculating - I don’t know if they are or not – just think about the state of the country beyond the immediate decisions about Brexit.

“Which side are you really on in this massive battle for the future of our country? And I think when they think about that quietly, in the end, I think they’ll say, okay, I’m going to stay with the party and fight  my corner.”

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, meanwhile, told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge that there was “a real chance of a significant group” breaking away and his party “will work with them in some form”. 

The former coalition business secretary also claimed there were “several” Tory MPs who have told him they saw “no future” for themselves with Theresa May’s party. 

 

Will there be a general election on June 6? 

Another one? Perhaps indeed it is so. 

According to the Mail on Sunday, Downing Street advisers are said to have drawn up plans to extend Article 50 to secure the backing of parliament for a new Brexit deal in April before calling a general election in June this year.

Spare a thought for Brenda from Bristol... 

And perhaps channeling Brenda, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has cautioned against the move, however, telling Marr: “The last thing we want is a general election, the people will never forgive us for it.

“They want politicians to get on with the job. They have been given a very clear mandate, now it’s our job to get on with it.”

The home secretary also attempted to pour cold water on rumours CCHQ was pumping cash into Facebook ads in preparation for a nation-wide poll. 

“I know that Conservative party headquarters is planning on only one set of elections, which is the local government elections. The last thing this country wants is an election; they want parliament to deliver Brexit in an orderly way,” Javid said.

Ministers squash customs union hopes 

Labour has been calling on the government to negotiate a permanent customs union with the EU, claiming it would remove any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland. 

But two ministers appeared to rule this out on Sunday. 

Fox said “no” when asked by Ridge if he could accept such a move, but did not say whether it would lead to his resignation.  

Javid, speaking to Marr, also came out strongly against the idea, which Jean Claude Juncker has said would be the price of changes to the backstop. 

The home secretary said “alternative arrangements” were possible and changed to the backstop “can be done” but admitted a “bit of good will” from the EU would be needed. 

No-deal Brexit planning - could the Queen really be evacuated? 

Officials have revived Cold War emergency plans to relocate the royal family should there be riots in London if Britain suffers a disruptive departure from the European Union next month, two Sunday newspapers reported.

“These emergency evacuation plans have been in existence since the Cold War, but have now been repurposed in the event of civil disorder following a no-deal Brexit,” the Sunday Times said, quoting an unnamed source from the government’s Cabinet Office, which handles sensitive administrative issues.

The Mail on Sunday also said it had learnt of plans to move the royal family, including The Queen, to safe locations away from London.

Treasury chief Liz Truss did not fully deny these plans were being looked at when she spoke to the BBC’s John Pienaar, responding: “I don’t know about that specific plan - it’s right that the Royal Family are protected.”  

Last week, it emerged that plans were also being looked at to impose martial law in the event of a no-deal Brexit. 

Javid insisted to Marr that should Britain crash out “we will still be a very safe country”. 

The president of the National Farmers’ Union, Minette Batters, meanwhile, said no-deal would be “absolutely savage for us” if Britain’s market was flooded with cheap imports. 

“I cannot imagine how bad it will look,” she said, as she warned the NFU had not been reassured in writing that the government would curb imports which could destroy British farming. 

“It is a question that absolutely must be answered before we leave on march 29,” she said. 

 

Fears over Nissan 

Nissan has told staff in Sunderland that it will cancel plans to build its new X-Trail SUV at the plant there, following reports in the news on Saturday.

A letter from the chairman of Nissan Europe to Sunderland factory staff, which has been obtained by Sky News, confirmed the news and telling them the model will continue to be made in Japan.

Senior Nissan boss Gianluca de Ficchy, blasted Brexit “uncertainty” as he confirmed the news. 

Many MPs raised concerns about the move, and its link to Brexit, on the Sunday shows. 

Shadow attorney general called the news “very troubling”

“The constant uncertainty, the chaotic government. None of it is conducive to encouraging business investment in this country,” Sunderland Central Labour MP Julie Elliott said.  

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable called it a “massive psychological as well as an economical blow” for the region, as he alluded to the fact former Tory PM Margaret Thatcher had been instrumental in securing Nissan’s move to Sunderland. 

 

Javid ‘recognises’ policing cutbacks

This week official figures showed that there had been a 19% jump in violent crime.

Speaking to Marr, Home Secretary admitted that the government had cut policing budgets by about 19% and that police numbers had fallen by about 21,000 in England and Wales. 

“I recognise that - and I recognise we need to put more into policing,” he said. 

Javid said that police have told him more investment must be teamed with more powers in order to cut crime. 

Reacting to the interview, shadow policing minister Lou Haigh, said: “You can’t keep people safe on the cheap. With violent crime on the rise, it’s time for the Tories to do what everyone is calling for and hire more police officers.”

The Tory candidate to be the next mayor of London, Shaun Bailey, claimed that the capital was “definitely less safe” than when he grew up. 

Labour Venezuela row

Jeremy Corbyn attracted widespread criticism for attacking “outside interference” in Venezuela, amid reports of torture and “disappearances” as Nicolás Maduro refuses to hand over power. 

Chakrabarti said it was “incumbent” of those on the left to call out Maduro, but appeared to defend Corbyn. 

She said: “Last year’s reporting on Venezuela was pretty damning and that is in terms of disappearances, that is in terms of crushing dissent, that is in terms of reports of torture of prisoners and political prisoners, and it is completely unacceptable.

“It is incumbent on people like me, as someone of the left, to call out governments and states of the left, because human rights have to be applied with an even hand.”

Gardiner said he “abhorred” actions in Venezuela and said “it must not be the case” that the US interfered as calls for a fresh election ring out. 

He sought to distance Labour from Maduro and added left-wing politicians should be speaking out and claimed Corbyn had been consistent.  

Border poll

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said a border poll on a united Ireland was possible in the event of a hard Brexit as she claimed the 1997 Good Friday peace accord would have to be revisited. 

“Put simply, if the border in Ireland cannot be mitigated, cannot be managed in the short term, well then you put the question democratically in the hands of the people and allow them to remove the border,” she said.

“Bear in mind the people of Northern Ireland did not consent to Brexit.”

“The backstop is the bottom line.

“On the issue of the border poll, there’s no point us burying our heads in the sand and wish away a hard Brexit.

“We prepare for the worst scenario and protect our national interest.”

McDonald told Marr that anyone gambling with peace on the island of Ireland was acting recklessly.

“One of the biggest symbols of success of the peace process is that people can travel unimpeded over the border.

“Any controls or checks or security checks, any question of British soldiers at the border - the taoiseach has been clear there will be no Irish soldiers on the border- no one will accept the hardening of the border on our island.

“The peace process is very solid, very robust, we are only going forward and we are not going back, it would be grossly reckless and irresponsible of the Tories to play a game of chicken with that progress.

“Peace on this island is a precious thing, shame on anybody who would play games with that.”