East coast rail franchise to be brought back under public control – Politics live
Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen, including Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs
Both of the customs options that are on the table could potentially be made to work. There is no doubt that a customs partnership hybrid model makes the Irish border situation easier, there is no doubt that the question of the Irish border is resolved by the customs partnership in an easier way than maximum facilitation.
We have been investing in terms of money, legal powers and capabilities for a long time. That means that we are able to contribute heavily to the security of our European friends. We benefit from that as well but we contribute a great deal. Probably, I would say, the biggest contribution of any of the countries in the European Union.
Conservative MPs will be whipped to vote against Labour’s Commons motion demanding the release of cabinet documents relating to the government’s two proposed options for post-Brexit customs arrangements, the Press Association reports. A Downing Street source said:
We will be opposing the motion. It is a long-held and important principle that cabinet ministers are able to receive candid advice from civil servants and it is important that the confidentiality of that advice remains.
Here is the full text of Chris Grayling’s statement.
And here is the news release from the Department for Transport.
Aslef, the train drivers’ union, has welcomed Chris Grayling’s East Coast announcement. This is from its general secretary, Mick Whelan.
We welcome the decision by the secretary of state for transport today to bring the East Coast back into public ownership – at least temporarily, using the vehicle of directly operated railways ltd – and hope that he will now bring the rest of our railways back into public ownership, too.
Because this is the third time in ten years that a private company has messed up on the east coast main line. When it was run in the public sector, it returned more than £1bn to the Treasury.
Labour’s John Mann says when people in his constituency voted for Brexit, one of the advantages was the government would be able to renationalise the railways. Why won’t Grayling take advantage of that?
Grayling says if you take the rail service into public control, and starve it of capital, passengers will be worse off.
Labour’s Jenny Chapman challenges Grayling to stand up and say, ‘My name’s Chris Grayling and I’ve just renationalised a railway.’
Grayling says he does not think nationalisation is the long-term answer. He says if you look at the rail service in France you’ll see why.
Labour’s Hilary Benn asks why Grayling did not just say he was renationalising the East Coast mainline.
Grayling says the operator of last resort will be a publicly run service.
Here is my colleague Gwyn Topham’s story about Chris Grayling’s announcement.
Grayling says the rail network gets more investment under a public/private partnership than it would if it were state-owned. He says Labour does not realise that, under its plans, rail would have to compete for public money with other services.
Grayling is responding to McDonald.
He says he could have made an announcement to the stock exchange at 7am, but decided to make a statement to MPs instead.
Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, says he was given sight of the statement half an hour in advance. But he was not given an electronic copy. He says Grayling has done this before. He is treating the opposition and the Commons with contempt, he says.
He says today’s story about the rollout of the millennial railcard being delayed shows how the government has nothing to offer young people.
Grayling is still speaking.
He says Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands and former John Lewis boss, will be advising the government.
Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, is making his statement now.
He says the East Coast line is not a failing rail service.
Politics Live has just had a name check. The Conservative MP Crispin Blunt quoted from the post about the East Coast mainline at 12.46pm. He says there should be an investigation into a broken embargo.
Nick Brown, the Labour chief whip, is rising to make a point of order. There is a convention that, when ministers make a statement, the opposition gets to see a copy in advance. Commercially sensitive matters can be redacted. But today Labour has not seen the text of the statement. And it is also the convention not to have statements on days set aside for opposition day debates. But that is happening too today. Brown says this is the third time this has happened. He says the intention is to take away time from the opposition. It is a “constitutional outrage”.
John Bercow, the speaker, says he has been told Labour got a copy of today’s statement half an hour in advance. On the timing of the statement, he says this has happened before. But it should not, he says. He says it could be seen as “an abuse”. He says he hopes the message has got through to those at the top who are responsible. If it happens again, he will speak out again.
Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh asks about plans to cut pay for people working night at Sainsbury’s.
May says these are commercial decisions, but she will look at them.
Kevin Hollinrake, a Conservative, says regulators are not willing to take action against those responsible for scandals at Lloyds, RBS and HBOS.
May says the Financial Conduct Authority has reported on RBS. And events at HBOS constituted criminal activity. It is right that these matters are investigated.
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem former leader, asks about the rail service in his Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency.
May says Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, is aware of these problems.
May says she wants the Northern Ireland executive to return. The government will work with all parties to get it reinstated, she says.
The Press Association has just snapped this.
Rail services on the East Coast Main Line will be brought back under public control following the termination of the franchise agreement with Virgin Trains, Stagecoach Group said today.
Andrew Jones, a Conservative, asks about broadband. Does May agree fibre is gold standard broadband.
May says access to superfast broadband is important.
Labour’s Karen Buck says time is running out to negotiate a bespoke Brexit deal. Why won’t May give MPs the earliest opportunity to vote on staying in the EEA.
May says MPs will get many opportunities to vote.
Labour’s David Drew asks about support for the mortgage interest scheme, that has now been abolished. Some parents used this to help their adult children who needed support. The withdrawal of the scheme has created problems, as Mencap has argued.
May says the government will look into this.
Antoinette Sandbach, a Conservative, asks about a constituent whose son committed suicide after failing to get the right mental health support.
May offers her condolences. The government is committed to improving mental health services, especially for children and young people. She says ministers will look into the detail of this case.
May says when the UK leaves the EU it will negotiate trade deals in its own interests. She says she spoke to a number of African leaders about this at the Commonwealth conference.
May says the government has not forgotten about Erasmus. It is one of the EU programmes the UK may want to remain part of after Brexit. But that will be part of the negotiation.
Govt will fully fund £400 million cost of removing dangerous cladding from council tower blocks says Theresa May #pmqs
PMQs – Snap verdict: Corbyn is starting to make it look easy. It isn’t easy, of course (winning PMQs is about the hardest task for an opposition leader), and Corbyn isn’t a natural as a parliamentary performer, but for the second week in a row, on a subject that for months he avoided at all costs, he managed to knock May all over the place. He was also more versatile than usual, combining real humour (ie, a joke that actually made people laugh, not synthetic, parliamentary humour – the laughter after his first question went on so long they will probably have to edit it out in the radio bulletins), deadly specifics (the question about HMRC staff), good attack quotes (the ones from car manufacturers), but also questions that accurately and harshly summed up the government’s failings (primarily, the absence of a Brexit negotiating position only five months before the deal is supposed to be completed). Tories who have been withering about Corbyn’s abilities should start asking themselves what it is about the government’s record that has made a Brexit PMQs such a doddle for him. May did her best to retaliate, but attacking Labour over the EU referendum sounded irrelevant and, even though she has a point about the contradictions in Labour’s Brexit policy, it is a second order issue compared to the problems with her own position. Her claim that Labour said wrongly there would never be a deal before December is a standard bit of Downing Street spin but I’m not sure it has any basis in fact (I can’t recall anyone saying on the record there would be no December deal – only a few off-the-record comments about how it looked 50/50). About the only life raft left to May was to cling to the buoyant employment figures. But, with the growth rate looking dismal (as Corbyn pointed out), that wasn’t particularly effective either.
Corbyn says there are record numbers of people on zero-hour contracts, and record numbers of people in poverty. He congratulates May on dividing her cabinet into two factions (the two customs working groups) – as if that needed doing. He says the Dutch have already started training new customs officers. How many HMRC extra staff have been recruited to deal with Brexit?
May says the government is making preparation for all contingencies. But she wants to correct him. Almost two thirds of the rise in employment has been from full time work, she says. And 70% of the rise in employment from 2010 has been from high-skilled work.
Corbyn says the UK has the slowest growth of all major economies. Last week Airbus said its space contract would move abroad because of Brexit. How many other businesses are considering their future in this country?
May says Corbyn’s position was to trigger article 50 after the referendum, with no work being done. Labour would have sold Britain out.
Jeremy Corbyn starts by praising the two officers. The police do great work. He wishes Harry and Meghan the best, and pays tribute to what Harry has achieved in talking about mental health.
When the PM wrote at the weekend she wanted as little friction as possible, was she talking about EU trade or the next cabinet meeting?
Theresa May starts by offering Prince Harry and Meghan Markle the best wishes of the Commons for their wedding.
Simon Hoare, a Conservative, asks if food security and food production will be at the heart of future faming policy.
John Bercow says the two police officers who apprehended the killer of Jo Cox are in the gallery to watch PMQs. He tells the officers MPs honour their service and offer them the warmest welcome.
There is a long, loud round of applause.
PMQs is starting soon.
Some of the backbenchers who will be asking a #PMQs on Wed 16 May
There will be one statement after PMQs.
There will be one Government oral statement today in the @HouseofCommons:
Chris Grayling – Rail update
Sir Bill Cash, the committee chair, is winding up. He says the Irish government and the EU are both showing “intransigence”.
Bradley says people say things during negotiations. In the past the government has overcome obstacles, she says.
Kate Hoey urges Bradley to rule out the backstop (using regulatory alignment as the means of resolving the border issue if other solutions don’t work). We can’t have it, she says.
Bradley says the government does not want the backstop option.
It is always wise to be sceptical of “Benedict Cumberbatch to play X” stories about political drama. Remember the one about how he was going to play Nigel Farage? The story hasn’t survived the test of time.
So when I saw this on Twitter a few minutes ago, I assumed it was a spoof.
Benedict Cumberbatch to play Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings in Channel 4 Brexit drama
Benedict Cumberbatch is to portray the mastermind of the Brexit campaign in a new Channel 4 drama about the EU referendum.
The star of Sherlock and Patrick Melrose will take on the role of Dominic Cummings, the former Michael Gove adviser who led Vote Leave to victory in 2016.
After Michael Heseltine’s attack on Boris Johnson, [Paul] Stephenson [VL’s communications director] remembered a conversation he had had with Cummings weeks before about how some of the more hotheaded Eurosceptics would have their uses at points in the campaign. Cummings, with his usual delicacy where MPs were concerned, had said, ‘We just need to kick the flying monkeys in the cage and release them at the right point.’ Now Stephenson went in search of a flying monkey to turn up the pressure on Cameron. He called Steve Baker [chair of Conservatives for Britain, now a Brexit minister] …
Kelvin Hopkins goes next.
Q: Which customs option do you prefer – the customs partnership or the “max fac” model?
There are defects with both.
Q: On the Andrew Marr Show Simon Coveney, the Irish deputy prime minister, said any infrastructure at the border would be unacceptable?
Bradley says she will not comment on that. The UK’s position is that there should be no new infrastructure.
Sir Bill Cash goes next.
Q: When you say ‘no new infrastructure’, do you mean at the border, near the border, or anywhere?
Q: Are you concerned about the negativity of the Irish government?
Bradley says it is important to respect the fact that politicians speak to different audiences. The Irish are speaking to their own electorate, she says.
Labour’s Kate Hoey goes next.
Q: Is a camera a hard border?
Andrew Lewer, a Conservative, goes next.
Q: What will happen if the EU do not agree to recognise UK regulations after Brexit?
Labour’s Darren Jones goes next.
Q: How will the government maintain regulatory equivalence between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit?
Richard Drax, a Conservative, goes next. He says it is “disgraceful” that people are claiming thugs could return and pose a threat in the event of a hard border going up.
Bradley says there are a small number of people in Northern Ireland who are still committed to violence.
Q: Do you accept that there has been deliberate obfuscation on this? People are saying there must be no infrastructure on the border at all.
Bradley says the government’s position is that there should be no new physical infrastructure, and no new checks or controls at the border.
Sir Bill Cash, the Tory Brexiter who chairs the committee, opens by referring to a Sun column suggesting that Karen Bradley is currently the most powerful person on the government.
Bradley says Cash should not believe everything he reads in the papers.
Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, is about to give evidence to the Commons European scrutiny committee.
You can watch the hearing here.
Nicky Morgan, the Conservative pro-European and chair of the Commons Treasury committee, has joined those saying that some form of post-transition transition may be necessary. In a wide-ranging interview with Prospect, she said:
Undoubtedly we are not going to be ready by the end of the transition period, I would say for quite a number of things. I mean particularly policing our customs.
I asked the PM that question at the end of a committee in March and she said, I think, to paraphrase, ‘as we know more on these things we discover that we need more time’.
Britain is at risk of missing the deadlines it should meet to ensure nuclear industry safeguards are in place after Brexit, Sky’s Faisal Islam reports. When the UK leaves the EU, it will also leave Euratom, the civil nuclear energy regulator. A replacement system is being put in place. But Islam has seen the government’s internal risk register showing that there are five high level risks – marked red on a green/amber/red scale.
Exclusive: Sky News obtains Government internal “Risk Register” on post-Brexit nuclear safeguards project, required in place by March 2019. All 5 High Level risks, IT, funding, training, staff, ownership nuclear material on red warning on red-amber-green scale: #brexitforensics pic.twitter.com/i59Ndl0JZd
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, has been giving a big speech on immigration policy this morning, prompted by the Windrush scandal. Here are the key points.
The Windrush scandal goes to the very heart of Theresa May’s hostile environment policy – it was not accidental – it is a direct consequence of government policy.
The next Labour Government will repeal all those parts of the immigration legislation that were introduced to support it. We will rescind all Home Office instructions to carry it out, and we will remove all obligations on landlords, employers and others to enact it.
Under the Tories, services for the most vulnerable women in society have been slashed again and again. So today I am announcing that Labour will take the millions that are used annually to fund Yarl’s Wood and Brook House immigration detention centres, and put this directly back into services to support the survivors of modern slavery, trafficking, and domestic violence.
Yarl’s Wood in particular has caused so much pain to vulnerable women that we should have been protecting. Diverting these resources directly to them is not only essential, but the right thing to do.
This government and its predecessors have long had an obsession with enriching the private sector from the public purse. This is despite the costs, either financially, in shoddy service or in human misery.
So now we have the grotesque spectacle of G4S being rewarded for failure at Brook House. A firm which oversaw the appalling, brutal treatment of detainees, and was exposed by Panorama, continues to be rewarded for their cruelty. It beggars belief.
In the Irish parliament yesterday Leo Vardakar, the Irish prime minister, said that the British government’s “maximum facilitation” customs proposal – the one favoured by Tory Brexiters – would be less useful than a deodorant. He made the comment after alluding to its “max fac” nickname, and it was partly a joke – although one that also reinforced how unimpressed he is by London’s thinking on customs. He told TDs (members of the Dail):
The customs partnership proposed by the United Kingdom last June would not be workable. That is very much the view of the task force and the EU27 and it has been rejected. I believe the customs partnership is closer to being made workable than the maximum facilitation proposal or max-fac which, as Deputy Joan Burton pointed out, I had thought was some form of make-up or deodorant. I have certainly not seen to date any detail that indicates that such a solution would be as functional as make-up or a deodorant. We are not drawing up any plan for a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, full stop. There is not going to be one. I have made it very clear to my counterpart in the United Kingdom and the other EU Prime Ministers that under no circumstances will there be a border.
With Irish leader dismissing Brexit sec’s preferred option as useful as a can of deodorant, (not a kind of Brexit eyeliner as one of our #brexicasters suggested last week, govts position is not, shall we say, universally appreciated or understood https://t.co/ac6tNVDw2l
This is what Ed Balls, the former shadow chancellor, told the Today programme about the Harvard report he has co-authored (see 9.25am) saying the UK would not benefit from a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
We’ve talked to many people on the record, but of course the senior negotiators at the USTR [US trade representative], the trade negotiator in America, in the Brexit department here, are more cautious about being on the record. But they were very clear with us that, first of all, the chances of doing a deal quickly are very low. Secondly, if we are outside the EU, our power to negotiate with the US is much lower. But also the kind of things that America would want, in terms of tariff reductions and changes in regulation, would be extremely difficult for British business and consumers to deal with. And the general view was, actually, it’s not really going to happen.
So if the idea is you leave the customs union and get the free trade agreement and that will be better, our conclusion is that is a complete fantasy.
What David Cameron failed to deliver, and what we need, is a deal which allows Britain to trade with our main trading partner but to have control over the way in which we manage our borders and migration. That is the only way in which we can have a proper deal. And an EEA-style deal which allows that to happen would be a step forward.
Brexiters argue that the UK has to leave the EU customs union so that it can benefit from striking its own free trade deals with other countries and they generally argue that the biggest prize would be a juicy trade deal with the US. This led Michael Gove, in his rather sycophantic interview (paywall) with Donald Trump in January last year (when Gove was out of government) to ask for an assurance that the UK would be “at the front of the queue”. The UK was “doing great”, Trump replied elliptically, although Gove concluded that overall Trump was very positive about a deal.
But a new study, published by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, says the UK won’t benefit from such a deal. It may well never happen, and even if it were to be signed, the UK would have to make so many concessions it could become politically unacceptable.
Despite the enthusiasm expressed by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, officials directly involved, and experts with experience of such negotiations, express scepticism that a deal of any significance can be achieved …
We can summarise the prospects and potential benefits of a US-UK FTA [free trade agreement] across five dimensions – strategic interest; timeline and capacity; tariffs; non-tariff barriers and regulations; and politics and negotiability – as in table 1 below. The conclusion is clear: a US-UK FTA is only going to happen if the UK makes concessions that are unlikely to be politically acceptable and in any case, promises relatively limited upside for UK business. However, the importance of such a deal to the overall Brexit narrative (and specifically, to the case for leaving the customs union) means that the Government is likely to continue to behave as if negotiating an attractive deal with the US remains a realistic possibility.
Senior UK government official: “Personally, I am very doubtful about the ability of both governments to work through the domestic politics and political challenges of this deal.”
Senior US trade negotiator: “we already have a bilateral trade and investment working group with them [the UK] which means open and strong trading relations already exist, so it is unclear how much more there is realistically to gain.”
Source: Guardian Transport