POLITICS
08/07/2018 12:36 BST | Updated 13/07/2018 11:02 BST

Sunday Shows Round-Up: Turd-Polishing, Brexit, Fudge And Football

Will the Tory truce on Brexit hold? It doesn't look likely.

It’s the Sunday after Theresa May’s Chequers deal on Brexit was struck - and the Tory peace deal is already looking shaky. 

As well as jubilant celebrations of England’s triumph over Sweden in the World Cup, quotes from the Prime Minister demanding the EU “get serious” about negotiations were splashed across the front of the papers this morning. 

But May’s rallying call was somewhat undermined by one phrase, reportedly uttered by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson during that top secret cabinet meeting, that the PM’s Leave plan amounted to “polishing a turd”

Backbench Eurosceptics from the European Research Group, led by Jacob Rees Mogg, are known to be furious about the deal struck by the cabinet. 

The compromises set the stage for “a blackhole Brexit” which sees Britain become a “vassal state” left with the “worst of all worlds”, one has said. 

If agreed by the EU, the proposed deal will see Britain tied to a “common rule book” on goods, with British courts bound to “pay regard” to European Court of Justice rulings. 

The day after ministers emerged from the PM’s country retreat, however, May also riled hardline Leavers further, when she appeared to concede that the UK could give preferential access to Britain for EU nationals.

This all made for an interesting morning on the Sunday morning politics shows. 

 

The Andrew Marr Show 

Environment Secretary Michael Gove was the big hitter speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr and he gave an astounding display of loyalty towards the PM. 

The politician who served as co-convener of Vote Leave called for his Tory colleagues to “get behind the Prime Minister”, but admitted that the Chequers deal was not aiming for his ideal Brexit. 

Asked by Marr if it was everything he hoped for, he said: “No, but then I’m a realist and one of the things about politics is you mustn’t, you shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. One of the things about this compromise is that it unites the Cabinet.”

He insisted the deal would honour the Brexit vote, adding: “All those of us who believe that we want to execute a proper Brexit, and one that is the best deal for Britain, have an opportunity now to get behind the Prime Minister in order to negotiate that deal.”

But, in a bid to calm anger among Brexiteers, he underlined that parliament would be able to diverge from EU rules in future and that further preparations for a no-deal Brexit had also been agreed at the high-level meeting. 

Asked by Marr if the deal amounted to “fake sovereignty”, Gove replied that was a “fake question” given that the option to diverge remained. 

It was now up to the European Union to show flexibility in the negotiation, he added.

“We will be in a position in March 2019, if we don’t get the deal we want, to be able to walk away,” he said.

But, with any deal still yet to be agreed by Parliament - and the EU - much still depends on the position of the Labour Party. 

Sir Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, called the plans “unworkable” and a “fudge”, hinted the party’s position on a second referendum could move 

As grassroots Labour and Momentum members bid to pressure Jeremy Corbyn to back a public vote on final Brexit deal, Starmer repeated that the party was not yet prepared to make the argument for a “people’s vote”. 

However, a bad deal or no-deal Brexit it would be a “very serious situation” and “parliament should decide what happens next”, he said, adding that “all options” were on the table. 

He has previously said that Labour has not ruled out a second referendum. 

Starmer rejected a claim the Chequers plan brought the Government line closer to Labour’s, however.

“I’m afraid it’s got fudge written all over it,” he said. “If you look at the facilitated customs arrangement, the sort of heart of this, it’s a rebadging of the partnership and it’s based on the idea that at the border you can distinguish between goods that are going to stay in the UK and those going to the EU.

“It’s unworkable, it’s a bureaucratic nightmare, so this a fudge.”

He said MPs should be given the chance to vote between Labour and the Government’s customs plans.

He said: “We’ve now got two propositions, we’ve got the Labour proposition which I think has the majority support in Parliament, and the Prime Minister’s new proposition, let’s put it to a vote.” 

He also hinted Labour would support giving EU citizens preferential treatment under a future immigration policy. 

He said: “I accept the principle that if you want the right deal with the EU and we do that that is going to involve preferential treatment for EU citizens.”

Starmer was also challenged on Labour’s new antisemitism code of conduct, which falls short of supporting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. 

He underlined his own support for the IHRA definition, adding: “I would urge everybody within the Labour Party to listen to the voices that have come out in recent days and get to a position where we are supporting the full definition.”

 

Ridge On Sunday 

Veteran eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash made it clear that a full-throttle Brexiteer revolt over the new plan had not yet taken off - but could still happen. 

He told Sky News’ Niall Paterson that, unlike a handful of his colleagues, he was not yet prepared to write to the party’s powerful 1922 Committee demanding a leadership contest, but said that might not remain the case once May’s White Paper had been published.

He said: “If people were to decide to put in those letters you only need 48 and as a matter of fact nobody can stop them, once the decision has been taken by those people the chairman of the 1922 Committee has to implement the process.”

He indicated disquiet was growing about the deal, adding: “There are a lot of questions in here, there is a lot of unhappiness, there is a great deal of concern that we are saying that we leave - it’s not ‘to be or not to be’ it’s ‘to leave or not to leave’,” he said. 

“The question is how do you leave and is this going to be a proper Brexit? There will be a massive discussion about all this.”

Fellow Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen, in an interview with BBC Five Live, went further and said he wouldn’t back the deal “if the EU were paying us”.

Speaking to John Pienaar, he said: “I’m very, very disappointed with the offer that we’ve seen coming out of Chequers - I’m disappointed that so-called Brexiteers in the Cabinet didn’t pick up the cudgels and fight for a better offer.”

Bridgen added: “I wouldn’t support this deal if the EU were paying us.”

He later said the offer “crosses many of the supposed red lines” outlined by the Prime Minister, but said “we’re not there yet” when asked if he would be demanding a vote of confidence in May. 

On the other side of the fence was the arch-Remainer, Labour’s Lord Adonis. 

He said the Government was starting out with a negotiation strategy considered by Tory backbencher to be a “sell-out” and “already the Chequers agreement is breaking down”. 

Adonis called for a people’s vote on the deal, adding that services, which make up the bulk of the UK economy, are not covered in the agreement. 

“What you now have got is two irreconcilable positions, you’ve got a large proportion of people, I think it is a majority, who look on at this in horror,” he said. 

Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis was next up to speak to Sky News. 

Asked if Johnson had described the plans as a “turd” and if a member of the cabinet had leaked that quote after May had demanded party discipline, Lewis said: “I have always taken a rule not to go through and give details of what has been said by individuals in Cabinet.

“It is very easy to take what can sometimes be seen as a joke in a particular conversation somewhat out of context and make a story out of it.”

He also told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “The reality is Boris and all of us came to an agreement about a strong package that we think is good for the UK economy (and) delivers what the Brexit vote was about in 2016.”

Lewis repeated the line that “freedom of movement will end” post-Brexit but would not be drawn on May’s refusal to rule out preferential access for EU migrants.  

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Tony Lloyd reiterated Starmer’s assertion that May’s Brexit deal did chime with Labour’s position, heightening the prospect that his party would oppose it in Parliament. 

He called the deal “a political fudge” which was “not good enough for this country” with business leaders expressing doubt and which was likely to fall apart in the coming weeks. 

“If Theresa May is on a journey that is great but the question is can she drag the rest of the Tory party with her because that, frankly, is the difficult issue,” he said. 

 

Pienaar’s Politics 

PA Archive/PA Images
Hilary Benn gave an interview to the BBC and called for the transition period to be extended 

Labour chairman of the Brexit committee Hilary Benn, meanwhile, gave an interview to the BBC’s Pienaar’s Politics on Radio Five Live. 

He said he believed the transition period would have to be extended under the plans.

Asked if more time would be needed to negotiate a deal with the EU as he appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics, Benn said: “What I think is definitely more likely is that the transitional period is going to have to be extended because the Government itself now admits that now with this latest version, this facilitated customs arrangement, it isn’t going to be ready by the end of the current proposed transition period which is December 2020.”

He added that if the plans do not work out, the Government should “bite the bullet and say remaining in the customs union is much the simplest and easiest way of doing this”.

Conservative former Cabinet minister Justine Greening also showed loyalty to the PM.

She said the proposal was “sensible” called on colleagues to stop arguing.

She told the same programme: “My sense is that we now really need to stick together as a party, get behind the Prime Minister and try and make sure that we support her as she goes through what are going to be monumentally difficult negotiations with the EU.”

Greening added: “The time for arguments within that Chequers team, within that Cabinet team, has now got to stop.”

 

BBC Sunday Politics  

James Cleverly, a deputy chairman of the party and Brexit campaigner, was another senior Tory full-throated in their support for the PM. 

Having been briefed by May on the Chequers agreement, he said he was entirely convinced that it delivered. 

He said: “We are going to get our sovereignty back, we are going to make decisions about trade and business and laws.

“We are not going to be paying massive membership fees to the EU every year and we are going to be regaining control of our borders and our money.

“Those are the things people voted for.

“There has got to be pragmatism because you want to still have a good, functional business relationship with the EU, but we are also going to be able to sign trade deals.”

Asked about the common rulebook and whether it would undermine the claims on sovereignty and the ability to strike trade deals, he said: “The whole point of sovereignty is that we are making the choice to balance that economic advantage with conforming to standards which are increasingly global.

“If at some point in the future we want to move away from that, we have the power to do so in the UK Government.

“That, for me, is what sovereignty is about. It’s not about moving away for the sake of it, it’s about moving away if there is an economic benefit to doing so.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also gave his reaction to the Chequers deal, echoing concerns about the services sector. 

“We don’t know exactly what this deal means yet,” he said. 

“It has left out services from any trade arrangement in the future.

“It does not have widespread support from the Conservative Party. I have got a feeling the whole thing is going to unravel in a few days.” 

Shadow International Trade Secretary said May’s Brexit plan was “not credible” but he underlined a second referendum was not Labour’s policy.  

Unlike his colleague, Keir Starmer, Gardiner seemed to flatly rule out a second referendum. 

“Democracy matters,” he said, adding: “I don’t think on a point of principle we should undermine that (Leave vote) democratic accountability.” 

He went on to say that “pragmatism” in politics should lead the Government to listen to the concerns of business.