Jeremy Corbyn Refuses to Enter Brexit Talks Until No-Deal is Ruled Out

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has rejected the call from Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to take part in cross-party talks on Brexit until she rules out the possibility of a no deal. In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Corbyn wrote:

“On behalf of the Labour party, I ask you to rule out ‘no deal’ and to immediately end the waste of hundreds of millions of pounds of public money preparing for a ‘no deal’ outcome. The £4.2bn currently allocated to ‘no deal’ planning could significantly improve many of cash-starved public services on which people rely and could transform the lives of those struggling on universal credit.”

The Prime Minister said that it was an “impossible condition” for the British negotiating team to entirely rule out a no deal Brexit. She also confirmed that she would not accept British membership of the customs union and she also wouldn’t support a second referendum.

Harriett Baldwin Summons Zimbabwean Ambassador to Foreign Office

Harriett Baldwin, the Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister of State for International Development, has summoned the Zimbabwean Ambassador to the UK to explain the recent unrest in the African country.

There have been fuel and food shortages in the country and a series of riots have taken place. Rumours have been circulating about the force being used by the police and the army, with the Internet being shut down by the Government.

Baldwin said in a statement:

“I have been following the events in Zimbabwe over the last week with growing concern. I summoned the Zimbabwean Ambassador to the United Kingdom to attend the Foreign Office on 17 January to discuss the situation. Since the weekend there has been widespread unrest and a heavy security force response, with several people killed and many injured.

While we condemn the violent behaviour of some protesters, and unlawful acts such as arson and looting, we are deeply concerned that Zimbabwe’s security forces have acted disproportionately in response. In particular, there are disturbing reports of use of live ammunition, intimidation and excessive force.

In addition, the Government of Zimbabwe shut off access to the internet on 15 and 16 January and continues to block a number of social media sites.

We call on the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure its security forces act professionally, proportionately and at all times with respect for human life and constitutional rights. We further call on the Government of Zimbabwe to investigate all allegations of human rights abuses. We also urge the reinstatement of full internet access, consistent with citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of expression.”

Alan Duncan Makes Statement of Concern About Guatemalan Government

Sir Alan Duncan, the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, has said that he is disappointed at the news that the Guatemalan Government ending their agreement relating to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.

In a statement Duncan said:

“The UK is extremely disappointed by the announcement of the Guatemalan Government on Monday 7 January unilaterally terminating their agreement with the UN on the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a decision which has since been suspended by the Constitutional Court. CICIG has made a valuable contribution to the fight against corruption and impunity in Guatemala, strengthening the national institutions of Guatemala in the process.

The UK, along with the EU and other international partners, has been a strong supporter of CICIG and we value their work and close cooperation with the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Guatemala.

The UK supports the statement made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations rejecting the Guatemalan government’s decision to unilaterally terminate the agreement establishing CICIG and calling for the Guatemalan Government to allow CICIG to continue its important work until the completion of its mandate in September this year.

The UK supports the statements made by the G13 donor group and the EU, and calls on the Government of Guatemala to respect the rule of law and the importance of strong, independent institutions, which are vital for ensuring security and prosperity.”

Iván Velásquez, a spokesperson for the CICIG, said:

“Since its establishment in 2007, the CICIG has worked resolutely – in accordance with its mandate, accompanying national institutions – for the identification and dismantling of illegal organizations and clandestine security apparatuses, as well as promoting legal and institutional reforms to prevent their reappearance.”

Amber Rudd Makes Changes to Universal Credit

Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has indicated that she intends to make some changes to the controversial universal credit programme. She confirmed that a pilot to support 10,000 people on ‘ legacy benefits’ will go ahead, and she added that the two-children limit on universal credit will not be back-dated to before April 2017.

Amber Rudd also made a speech about the future of universal credit, although there was some controversy amongst MP that Parliament wasn’t informed first of the changes which were proposed.

In a statement Rudd said:

“There is wide support for the principles we advocate – helping people into work, making work pay, and providing support in times of need. I want Universal Credit to gain further support as we roll it out in practice. This means delivering it in a way that meets the needs of claimants, who come from every conceivable background and who have incredible potential to achieve their ambitions”.

Margaret Greenwood, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said in a statement:

“It’s a disgrace that four single mothers have had to take the Government to court because of the impact that Universal Credit has had on their lives. The rigid assessment system cannot cope with something as basic as incomes that fluctuate from month to month. The High Court’s ruling confirms once again that Universal Credit is failing people on low pay and pushing many into hardship simply because of when their payday falls. The Tories must stop the roll out of Universal Credit to ensure no more people are plunged into poverty and deprivation”.

Business Secretary Responds to Jaguar Land Rover Cuts

Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said that the decision of Jaguar Land Rover to cut 4,500 jobs “will clearly be a worrying time for Jaguar Land Rover employees and their families”. The company has recently confirmed that sales in China have fallen and that Brexit has created a climate of uncertainty.

In a statement, Clark said:

“Jaguar Land Rover have today confirmed plans to offer voluntary redundancy packages to their UK workforce as they reduce their global headcount. This is a commercial decision for the company but nevertheless it will clearly be a worrying time for Jaguar Land Rover employees and their families.

Jaguar Land Rover is a much valued British company with a talented and dedicated workforce. The Government has, and will continue, to work closely with the business to ensure that it can succeed long into the future as it invests and transitions to autonomous, connected and electric vehicles. On Monday, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, and I will convene a Jaguar Land Rover Development Partnership meeting bringing together Jaguar Land Rover leadership, local MPs and representatives from the Midlands and the North West, supply chain, trade body and trades union representatives.

Jaguar Land Rover and its owners have made clear they remain firmly committed to the UK, continuing to invest billions and employing tens of thousands of people. This includes today’s announcement of investment in next generation electric drive units to be produced in Wolverhampton and a new battery assembly centre in Hams Hall. Building on last year’s investment in their key plants in Solihull and Halewood to build the next-generation of Land Rover models, including electric vehicles.

The UK is a world-leader in automotive manufacturing. Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are building on those world beating strengths and investing in the future to put the UK at the forefront of the next generation of electric and autonomous vehicles.”

Jack Dromey, the Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, said:

“Areas like mine, of high poverty and unemployment… It’s nothing short of tragic that tonight there will be workers at home wondering what their future holds.”