New Labour Leader to be Announced on 4 April 2020

Labour’s NEC has confirmed that the new party leader will be announced on 4 April 2020 at a special conference. Anyone who is a member of the party, or an affiliated organisation, on 20 January 2020 will be entitled to vote in the election.

There are currently six candidates standing in the election, Clive Lewis, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips, Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry.

Keir Starmer Confirms He Will Take Part in Labour Leadership Contest

Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed that he intends to stand in the leadership election to replace Jeremy Corbyn. Starmer, the current Shadow Secretary of State for Brexit, wrote in the Sunday Mirror about his intentions to stand and unite Labour.

Starmer wrote in the article:

“I am proud of Labour as a movement of more than half a million members. We must use that strength and be visible in every community. We have a duty to relentlessly hold the Tories to account for their election promises.”

He added:

“I believe another future is possible, where everyone can live in a more equal and tolerant world. Some people say it’s going to take a decade before Labour can win a General Election. I profoundly disagree. As this new decade dawns, I believe we can unite the party, retain our values and win.”

Keir Starmer Takes Lead in Poll of Labour Members

Sir Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, has taken a lead in a poll of Labour members of who should become the next party leader. The survey, undertaken by YouGov, reported that Starmer was the first choice in all regions of the country amongst party members.

The polling suggested that Starmer had the support of 61% of party members, compared to the 39% who supported Rebecca Long-Bailey if the two candidates were running against each other.

Amongst party members, the following were the first choice of those interviewed:

Keir Starmer – 31%

Rebecca Long-Bailey – 20%

Jess Phillips – 11%

Clive Lewis – 7%

Yvette Cooper – 7%

Emily Thornberry – 6%

Lisa Nandy – 5%

Liam Fox says Government would have “Betrayed” Britain if Withdrawal Agreement Fails

Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, has attacked the Government in which he serves for failing to honour the referendum result. Fox said voters would be “betrayed” if Theresa May, the Prime Minister, fails to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons.

The Government unexpectedly scrapped the proposed date of leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019, with no confirmation on when the new departure date would be.

Fox, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, said:

“A lot of people voted in the referendum who had not voted in general elections or other elections in recent years and felt that this was one time when their vote genuinely would count because we were outside the constituency system. I think that those people will feel very betrayed if we don’t deliver it.”

Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Departing the European Union, said that Labour wouldn’t be backing the withdrawal programme, adding on the same radio programme:

“We’ve always said the problem with the deal is it’s blind, it’s so thin. Take the political declaration off and it’s completely blind. You’ve no idea what you’re really voting for. Taking the political declaration off makes a bad situation worse. It’s the blindest of blind Brexits. Now the prime minister has said she is going to be stepping down, so the political declaration, the future relationship, is going to be determined in a Tory leadership exercise, because even if this prime minister gave us assurances about what she’s going to do in the future, they don’t mean anything any more.”

Pressure Increases on Government Over Brexit Following Defeat in the House of Lords

The Government is under pressure to reconsider leaving the European Customs Union following a large defeat in the House of Lords today. The Government was defeated by a majority of 123 votes, with 348 Lords voting to reopen the Customs Union debate.

Following the vote Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, said:

“The passing of this cross-party amendment is an important step forward. Theresa May must now listen to the growing chorus of voices who are urging her to drop her red line on a customs union and rethink her approach”.

Lord Patten of Barnes, the former Conservative Party Chairman, said earlier in a speech in the Lords:

“The first thing we have to do is secure our market in the European Union—50% of our trade. We then have to think about the 12% of trade with countries with which the European Union has concluded agreements already and the 8% with which it is negotiating trade agreements already. That adds up to about 70%. Of the remaining 30%, about half is with the United States, a quarter with China and Hong Kong, and the rest with everyone else”.

Lord Callanan, the Government Minister for Leaving the European Union, said in a speech:

“The nub of the issue is this. If the UK were to remain in the customs union and be bound by the EU’s common external tariff, it would mean providing preferential access to the UK market for countries that the EU agrees trade deals with, without necessarily gaining preferential access for UK exports to such countries. Alternatively, we would need the EU to negotiate with third countries on the UK’s behalf. This would leave us with less influence over our international trade policy than we have now, and would not, in our humble assertion, be in the best interests of UK businesses”.

Labour Confirms Support for a Customs Union Treaty

Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, has said that Labour’s policy is now to support a permanent customs union treaty after Brexit. The policy is a change to their previous position where Labour opposed remaining in the customs union.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Starmer said:

“We’ve long championed being in a customs union with the EU and the benefits of that. Obviously it’s the only way realistically to get tariff-free access. It’s really important for our manufacturing base, and nobody can answer the question how you keep your commitment to no hard border in Northern Ireland without a customs union”.

Referring to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, Starmer added about the change of policy:

“Then over the summer, as you know, I laid out the position for the transitional arrangements, that we’d be in a customs union, and said then that it ought to be an option on the table. We’ve now had many weeks of discussion and unanimously we’ve agreed – we had a big meeting on Monday to develop our policy and Jeremy will announce that tomorrow”.

On the same programme Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, denied that the Government were delaying legislation because they feared defeat on the customs union issue, but added:

“We want to persuade our colleagues of the merits of our argument before we take the Bill forward”.

Boris Johnson Makes Controversial Speech on Brexit

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has launched an attack on the European Union in a keynote speech on Brexit. Johnson criticised the negative manner in which Brexit was being cast and said that it could be a “national success”.

Johnson said in the speech:

“If we get the right deal on aviation and on visa-free travel – both of which are in our mutual interest – this expansion of UK tourism will continue, not just beyond the EU, but within the EU itself; and we will continue to go on cheapo flights to stag parties in ancient cities where we will, I’m sure, receive a warm welcome and meet interesting people, fall in love, struggle amiably to learn the European languages – knowledge of which, by the way, has suffered a paradoxical decline during our membership of the EU”.

Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, said in a statement:

“This speech underlined the Government’s real intentions; a Brexit of deregulation, where rights and protections are casually cast aside and where the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union are ignored. Nobody will be fooled or reassured by the Foreign Secretary’s empty rhetoric. His insistence on deregulating our economy is the opposite of what businesses and trade unions want to hear. Instead of building the consensus we need, the Government’s approach will only further divide the country and put jobs, rights and living standards at risk”.

Tom Brake, the Brexit spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said:

“If this speech was supposed to offer an olive branch to Remainers, Boris must have picked up the other version. A clear majority of Remain and Leave voters oppose the damaging hard Brexit Boris so vigorously advocates. They do not want job cuts triggered by tougher trading conditions with our largest export market or life-threatening uncertainty at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Boris’s antipathy towards the common rules and standards which apply within the EU, and to trade within the EU, is in stark contrast to Brexiters head-long rush to adopt common standards with the US which would require the UK to accept chlorine-washed chicken, hormone-fed beef, GMO products and potentially open up the NHS to US private health companies.

If Boris is seeking to establish himself as the standard bearer of liberalism, he should dump plans to come out of the Single Market and Customs Union and campaign to stay in the world’s largest free trade area. He could also bolster his liberal credentials by giving people a vote on the deal and an exit from Brexit”.

Labour Report the Foreign Secretary to the UK Statistics Authority

Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, has said that he has written to the UK Statistics Authority to question comments made by Boris Johnson relating to Brexit. Starmer said that the Foreign Secretary has made false claims regarding the UK’s financial contribution to the European Union.

Starmer’s letter reads:

“I am writing to seek clarification on comments made by the Foreign Secretary yesterday [15 January] about the UK’s financial contribution to the European Union (EU).

In an interview with The Guardian the Foreign Secretary said: “There was an error on the side of the [Vote Leave] bus. We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control.”

The newspaper reports that “Johnson argued that the UK’s EU contribution was already up to £362m per week for 2017-18 and would rise annually to £410m, £431m, and then to £438m by 2020-21 – ‘theoretically the last year of the transition period.’”

The £350m a week claim made by the Vote Leave campaign has been widely condemned as inaccurate and misleading. For example, in September of last year the Statistics Authority wrote to the Foreign Secretary saying, “it is a clear misuse of official statistics.” And yet, Mr Johnson has chosen to repeat this statement and expand on the claim even further. I do not believe this to be acceptable.

I would therefore be grateful if you could make a statement on the accuracy of the Foreign Secretary’s most recent comments”.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister rejected the claims and said:

“Does the amount of money which we send to the EU fluctuate? And the answer is, yes it does. Some years it is bigger, some years it is smaller. Those figures are published on the OBR website. The PM has said that once we leave the EU we will have significant sums of money which we will choose how that money is spent, and we can spend that on our priority areas”.

Brexit Secretary Calls for “Canada Plus Plus Plus” Deal

David Davis, Brexit Secretary

David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, has said that the Government favours a “Canada Plus Plus Plus” trading deal with the EU. He added that the Government wanted a close working relationship with the EU and for financial services to be included in a tariff-free deal.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme Davis said:

“What we want is a bespoke outcome. We’ll probably start with the best of Canada and the best of Japan and the best of South Korea and then add to that the bits missing which is the services”.

Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, said on the same programme:

“I mean, what are the benefits of the single market and the customs union? They are no tariffs and they are alignment of regulations and standards. And that means that for goods and services we can trade successfully in the future. That’s what we want, that’s what we mean by the benefits. And to some extent the model doesn’t matter, it’s what are the outcomes”.

David Davis Denies Brexit Talks are in Trouble and Says a Deal is Near

David Davis, Brexit Secretary

David Davis, the Secretary of State for Brexit, has denied that the latest round of talks with the EU are in trouble and has confirmed that a deal is near to being agreed. If a deal could be agreed then it would allow the Brexit negotiations to move on to the details of a future trading agreement between the EU and the UK.

Davis said in the Commons today:

“Negotiations regarding our exit from the European Union are on-going as we speak and indeed we are in the middle of an on-going round. We held further talks in Brussels over recent days and progress has been made. We’ve not yet reached a final conclusion. However, I believe that we are now close to concluding the first phase of the negotiations and moving on to talking about our future trade relations”.

Davis also rejected that the Government had offered a different regulatory regime in Northern Ireland, saying:

“The presumption of the discussion was that everything we talked about applied to the whole United Kingdom. Alignment isn’t harmonisation. It isn’t having exactly the same rules. It is sometimes having mutually recognised rules, mutually recognised inspection – that is what we are aiming at”.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Brexit, said:

“What an embarrassment – the last 24 hours have given a new meaning to the phrase ‘coalition of chaos'”.

Starmer also suggested that the Labour Party would consider supporting the UK remaining in the single market and the customs union.