Sunday Shows Round-Up: Hammond Out, Brexit Impasse, Iran 'Failure' And Labour Anti-Semitism

Arj Singh

The weeks-long Tory leadership contest is over and a new prime minister, almost certainly Boris Johnson, will take office on Wednesday.

Either Johnson or rival Jeremy Hunt will walk immediately into the Brexit crisis, with the October 31 deadline looming.

They will also have to urgently conduct a cabinet reshuffle with several ministers preparing to quit or be sacked over their opposition to a no-deal Brexit.

And their in-tray got even busier over the weekend after the seizure of a British tanker by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn is facing a potential no confidence vote by Labour peers after the anti-Semitism crisis was reignited in recent weeks and the shadow holds a special meeting on Monday.

So, a lot going on. Here’s what senior politicians had to say about it all.

Hammond out

Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed he would follow Justice Secretary David Gauke in quitting the cabinet if Johnson wins the leadership race.

Both plan to resign before Theresa May goes to visit the Queen to quit and recommend a successor after her last prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

They are expected to be leading figures in the so-called “Gaukeward squad” of Tory ex-ministers who feel they cannot serve under Johnson because of his pledge to deliver Brexit by October 31, deal or no deal.

Hammond told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “Assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next prime minister, I understand that his conditions for serving in his government would include accepting a no-deal exit on the October 31 and it’s not something that I could ever sign up to.

“It’s very important that the prime minister is able to have a chancellor who is closely aligned with him in terms of policy and I therefore intend to resign to Theresa May before she goes to the palace to tender her own resignation on Wednesday.”

Hammond also said he was “confident” that MPs would find a way to block a no-deal Brexit without having to bring down the government in a vote of no confidence.

Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood meanwhile sidestepped questions about whether he could serve in a Johnson government. 

Pressed on Ridge on Sunday on Sky News, he said: “I want us to move away from discussion about no-deal at all. I believe a deal is absolutely possible. The fact that we keep talking about no-deal fuels the small caucus of people that see that as their destination.”

 

Brexit impasse 

Irish deputy PM Simon Coveney meanwhile warned Johnson that his commitment to try and rip up the withdrawal agreement May negotiated with the EU would mean “trouble”.

He reiterated that the deal is not up for renegotiation and that changes can only be made to the non-binding political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship to override the need for the Irish border backstop, which has attracted so much opposition from Tory MPs.

Coveney said only Britain will be to blame if a no-deal Brexit happens and warned the incoming PM against trying to “tear up” the withdrawal agreement. 

“That’s a little bit like saying, ‘Give me what I want or I’m going to burn the house down for everybody’,” he told Marr.

“If the British government forces a no-deal Brexit on everybody else, the Republic of Ireland will have no choice but to protect its own place in the EU single market. That would fundamentally disrupt the all-Ireland economy.”

But Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, an ally of Johnson, said the withdrawal agreement would have to change. 

He told Ridge: “It’s been rejected three times and since then we’ve had the European elections where, if anything, the House has further polarised, and so what I was very openly and honestly sharing with them was an update on the political scene in England.

“I think if the text isn’t changed in any way, then it is difficult to envisage how that will go through the House of Commons.”

 

Iran “failure”

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith accused the government of a “major failure” for failing to protect the British tanker seized by Iran on Friday.

He also claimed that Britain turned down an offer from Washington of a US ship to protect British tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, although a Foreign Office source later denied this.

Duncan Smith told Marr: “I think there are genuine questions to be raised right now about the British government’s behaviour.

“I say this as a supporter of the government.

“The fact is that we have seized an Iranian tanker, if something didn’t send an alarm signal that we needed to have serious assets for protection or convoying of our vessels in that area then I want to know why not.

“And I understand, and I understand this from reasonable sources, that Washington had offered the UK government even in the event that they haven’t quite agreed an allied position to this to use US assets to support British shipping, and they were not taken up at the point.

“And I want to know why there is only one ship, as it appears, there...

“This is a major failure and the government has to answer this charge very quickly indeed.”

Hammond meanwhile suggested the UK may not be able to impose fresh sanctions against Iran as it already has a number in place. 

He told Marr: “We’ve already got a wide raft of sanctions against Iran, particularly financial sanctions, so it’s not clear that there are immediate additional things we can do, but we are of course looking at all the options.

“The seizure of this vessel took place in international waters, in Omani waters in fact, it was an illegal act and we are going to pursue every possible diplomatic route to resolve this issue.”

 

Labour woes 

Ahead of a special meeting of the shadow cabinet on Monday, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour must move “swiftly” to tackle anti-Semitism in the party. 

He said the party must move to beef up the independence of its disciplinary process to get ahead of an inquiry into anti-Semitism in Labour by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

McDonnell told Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Five Live: “I’m hoping we can at least some way in which to reassure the elements of independence that there already are and any improvements we can make to make it more independent in advance of any final recommendations from the commission.

“Sometimes these inquiries can take over a year, for us we need to be acting more swiftly.”

McDonnell also highlighted a new website launched by Corbyn to educate Labour members and supporters to help them drive anti-Semitism out of the party.

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