Tag Archives: talk

Andrew Bridgen destroys his government’s credibility on EU trade talks

Andrew Bridgen: winner of this week’s “Inverse Genius” award.


Everyone with any political nous in the UK has been laughing at eurosceptic Andrew Bridgen after he swallowed both feet (metaphorically) in a Channel 4 News interview.

Discussing his Fuhrer Boris Johnson’s plan to renege on the EU withdrawal agreement that he signed in January, Bridgen said – well, see for yourself:

The reaction on Twitter has been universal:

https://twitter.com/cbailiss/status/1303110907732602883

What a… typical Conservative MP.

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Boris Johnson’s big NHS meltdown

After their campaign on law and order dissolved into chaos, the Tories tried to take the moral high ground on health. It didn’t work.

Most particularly, it didn’t work for Boris Johnson, who was challenged on the subject by prime minister-in-waiting Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Mr Corbyn was keen for Mr Johnson to explain why his government had held secret trade talks with US firms that would nearly triple the price of medicines bought by the NHS, creating serious pressure on the service at a time when it is already under enormous strain.

I discuss the issue here, or you can watch this video to have it in a nutshell:

Note also that “drug pricing” is now to be known as “valuing innovation”. And, as a TV comedian once said, from now on radiation will be known as “magic moonbeams”.

Here’s Mr Corbyn, opening his questioning in PMQs – and Mr Johnson’s answer:

Of course, Mr Corbyn was well aware of the situation regarding the cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi; it was his intervention that succeeded in getting it provided on the NHS, we’re told.

Mr Johnson’s claims about building 40 new hospitals fare less well in the fact-check. As Mr Corbyn put it: “As for the fabled 40 hospitals, that figure dropped to 20 and then finally dropped to six.” They’ll be down to none in the event of a Conservative election victory.

Mr Corbyn continued: “We learned this week that Government officials have met US pharmaceutical companies five times as part of the Prime Minister’s planned trade deal. The US has called for “full market access” to our NHS, which would mean prices of some of our most important medicines increasing by up to sevenfold. While the Government are having secret meetings with US corporations, it is patients here who continue to suffer.”

And he said: “Of course we need to import medicines from various places; I just want it to be done in an open and transparent way. I do not want secret talks between Government officials, on behalf of Ministers, and big pharma corporations in the USA.”

He slammed Tory privatisation of NHS services, which has skyrocketed with more than £10 billion being frittered away to private companies and their shareholders, rather than supporting the health of UK citizens.

He said: “What we do not want is private companies like Virgin Care suing our NHS for contracts that they did not get. Our NHS should be focused on making people better, not making the wealthy few richer.

“National health service A&E departments have just had their worst September on record. This morning, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said that this winter the NHS needs more than 4,000 extra beds.” But under Boris Johnson’s government, he said, the number of people in England waiting for an operation has now reached a record high of 4.4 million.

He continued as follows:

And he concluded: “Despite the Prime Minister’s denials, the NHS is up for grabs by US corporations in a Trump trade deal. Is it not the truth—the Government may not like this—that this Government are preparing to sell out our NHS? Our health service is in more danger than at any other time in its glorious history because of the Prime Minister’s Government, his attitudes and the trade deals that he wants to strike.”

It is indeed the truth.

Mr Johnson spluttered on for a while but the best he could do in his defence was quote a discredited CBI claim that Labour would spend nearly £200 billion on a privatisation programme; the CBI itself has admitted that the claim was based on questionable assumptions and withdrawn it.

He lied that Labour would tax corporations, people, pensions and businesses – in fact Labour will only increase taxes on the people earning the most, who are therefore most able to accommodate such a charge.

And he said Labour would condemn the UK to two more referendums – on Brexit and Scottish independence. He neglected to say that he would consign us all to even more Brexit uncertainty as he would try – yet again – to push through a departure on the worst possible terms for the majority of the nation.

Finally, he appears to have become tongue-tied in his predictions of the future, mixing the roles of his party and Mr Corbyn’s.

I’ll fix that for him now:

“That is the future for this country: drift and dither under the Conservative party, or taking Britain forward to a brighter future under Labour. That is the choice this country faces.”

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Shock revelation: Liar Boris Johnson has been secretly selling out the NHS

Boris Johnson has been selling out the National Health Service in negotiations on a trade deal that would allow US companies to set drug prices, it has been claimed.

The revelation about these secret talks could not come at a worse time for the Tory government, as it prepares to dissolve Parliament and launch a general election campaign.

This is electoral poison for the Conservatives as Boris Johnson, health secretary Matt Hancock and international trade secretary Liz Truss have all insisted that the NHS is “off the table” in talks with the US if the UK leaves the European Union.

The threat is that NHS finances would be put at risk by a trade deal with the US that would force the health service to buy more expensive drugs.

And there is evidence that it is an overarching Tory policy to lay the NHS open to exploitation by US pharmaceutical monopolies, as the talks began under Theresa May (who also lied about them) but have continued under Mr Johnson.

Who will vote for a government that is bad for our health – and deliberately lies about the harm it is doing?

Here’s the information from Channel 4’s Dispatches:

The Independent has reported that more than one-third of people surveyed in a recent poll said they were “very concerned” about the future impact of a deal with Washington on the NHS.

Meanwhile, Tories like Michael Gove have apparently been lying through their teeth (metaphorically, on Twitter)…

… and the public isn’t having any of it:

The message for the general election is clear:

Your NHS is not safe with Boris Johnson – or any of his Conservative liars.

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Swinson lies AGAIN, it seems – Harman claims she didn’t talk with Lib Dem leader

Harriet Harman: She says she didn’t talk with Jo Swinson.

Here’s a fascinating piece of information from Skwawkbox.

We already know that novice Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson claimed she had spoken to both Kenneth Clarke and Harriet Harman about one of them leading an interim government following a vote of “no confidence” in Boris Johnson’s administration.

This Site quoted her comment when challenged on this: “I have been in touch with them because obviously you don’t just mention people’s names without checking that they’re OK with that.”

That quote was in my article showing that Mr Clarke had not been in contact with Ms Swinson. He said: “I’ve been on holiday for two weeks and missed all this. This is the first I’ve heard of it.”

Now it seems Ms Harman has said she never spoke to Ms Swinson either.

In an email to members of her Camberwell & Peckham constituency party, according to Skwawkbox, Mr Harman wrote: “I can reassure you that I have not been involved in any closed door, cross-party talks between Labour and Conservative backbenchers and the Leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

“I support Jeremy Corbyn going for a vote of No Confidence in Boris Johnson. And will, of course, vote for it.

“It is… the clear constitutional right of the Leader of the Opposition to have the first attempt to form an administration if the Government fails.

“I back Jeremy Corbyn’s determination to do everything possible to prevent the terrible damage to our country that will be caused if the Government stampedes into a No Deal Brexit.”

Now I hear that opposition leaders including Ms Swinson have signed a declaration to do “whatever is necessary” to stop a “no deal” Brexit.

But discussions centred on ways of using the law to prevent such an event, with minimal talk about the “no confidence” vote.

Was this because of Ms Swinson’s reluctance to support Mr Corbyn? If so, shouldn’t the clear evidence of dishonesty mitigate against her?

Source: Excl: Harman denies Swinson’s claim they spoke about interim PM position | The SKWAWKBOX

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Labour-Tory Brexit talks have failed. Now for the recriminations

Labour has announced that attempts to find an acceptable compromise that will allow Parliament to deliver Brexit have failed, and This Writer is relieved.

Any government trying to act on the result of the EU referendum – as designed by David Cameron – can only fail to satisfy the voting public.

Remainers will be alienated by attempts to decouple from the EU on the basis of a plebiscite that could only – legally – be advisory. Leavers are so divided over the manner of the UK’s departure that a majority of them will be unhappy about any plan put to Parliament.

As the political party that forced the issue (concerns about the EU were a low priority among the UK’s electorate prior to 2015), the Conservatives appear to have sown the seeds of their own doom – in my opinion.

So I saw the offer of cross-party talks as an attempt to spread – or indeed transfer – the blame: Get a deal with Labour and then blame Labour for all its unpopular parts.

But now Labour has terminated the talks. Jeremy Corbyn explained his reasons in a letter to Theresa May, published on LabourList:

“It has become clear that, while there are some areas where compromise has been possible, we have been unable to bridge important policy gaps between us,” he wrote.

“Even more crucially, the increasing weakness and instability of your government means there cannot be confidence in securing whatever might be agreed between us.

“As you have been setting out your decision to stand down and Cabinet ministers are competing to succeed you, the position of the government has become ever more unstable and its authority eroded. Not infrequently, proposals by your negotiating team have been publicly contradicted by statements from other members of the Cabinet.

“In recent days we have heard senior Cabinet ministers reject any form of customs union, regardless of proposals made by government negotiators. And despite assurances we have been given on protection of environmental, food and animal welfare standards, the International Trade Secretary has confirmed that importing chlorinated chicken as part of a US trade deal remains on the table.

“After six weeks of talks, it is only right that the Government now wishes again to test the will of Parliament, and we will carefully consider any proposals the Government wishes to bring forward to break the Brexit deadlock.

“However, I should reiterate that, without significant changes, we will continue to oppose the Government’s deal as we do not believe it safeguards jobs, living standards and manufacturing industry in Britain.”

I made my own feelings on the matter clear, on Twitter:

 

After the talks, the recriminations. Despite Mr Corbyn’s assertion (once again) that the talks were carried out in good faith, already accusations are being made that he was doing nothing more than “shadow-boxing”. He has refuted those claims on BBC news:

And the Evening Standard has published a claim that Mr Corbyn discussed a plan to leave the EU on July 31, denying the opportunity of a second – confirmatory – referendum to those who want it. The implied accusation against Mr Corbyn is nonsense, for reasons I’ll detail below – but you should see the claim first:

“The plan involves:

  • Free votes for MPs in which they would rank in order of preference five different forms of customs arrangements with the EU, ranging from a full permanent trade pact to a looser or temporary arrangement. The aim is to force the Commons, which has rejected every option shown so far, to a decision.
  • A free vote on making any deal subject to a second referendum, which appears designed to block the campaign backed by 150 Labour MPs for a confirmatory ballot attached to any deal.
  • Whipped votes on other areas where the two sides appear to have reached agreement, including to keep European worker rights and green standards.

“The leaked memo, shown to the Evening Standard, was sent to Labour on Wednesday.

“However, a senior Labour source insisted that the document was not approved by Mr Corbyn and no decision had been made by Labour on the form of votes to be staged.”

It is ludicrous for anyone to claim that this shows Mr Corbyn colluding in a plan to shut the electorate out of having a say on the final form of Brexit.

In fact, it is entirely possible that this is the proposal that caused him to give up on the talks.

Think about it: he resumed negotiations on Tuesday, the proposal was put to Labour on Wednesday and now, on Friday, he has pulled out.

That indicates opposition rather than collusion, and we should question very closely the behaviour of anyone suggesting otherwise. Shouldn’t we, Labour MP Alex Sobel?

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May’s Brexit talks with Labour are pointless – say ex-Ministers she kicked out of cabinet

Facepalm: What is Theresa May to do with this kind of disloyalty?

Has anybody pointed out that the letter to Theresa May, calling her talks with Labour a “blind alley”, was signed almost exclusively by people she has forced out of the cabinet?

I’m not saying they signed their letter in bad faith, but she would certainly be well-advised to consult other MPs before making any rash decisions.

The presence of Sir Graham Brady is significant – but, again, if he is conveying the will of Tory backbenchers, he may be passing bad advice; there are plenty of backbenchers who are sick of Mrs May and would be happy to torpedo her.

If she were to accept the assertion, she would have to accept that there is no way to get any Brexit deal passed by the current Parliament.

This means she cannot fulfil her manifesto commitments and would have to call a general election. She has already said that she will not fight the next election as Tory leader.

So it seems clear that this is a veiled bid to force Mrs May out of the Tory leadership.

Trouble is, an election would open up Parliament to an influx of Brexit Party representatives, if the fearmongers talking up the possibility of a protest vote are right.

So this letter seems a foolish move – an attempt to foil Mrs May’s only remaining Brexit strategy that may seriously harm the Conservative Party in Parliament.

As a committed anti-Tory, I can only say…

I’m buying popcorn again.

Theresa May’s Brexit talks with Labour have been criticised as a “blind alley” as she came under intense pressure from 14 senior party figures to abandon the idea of a cross-party pact.

The former defence secretary Michael Fallon said the talks should be stopped, after he joined 12 other former cabinet ministers and Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, in warning No 10 against any deal that involved a customs union.

Fallon, who was forced to resign by May in 2017 for inappropriate behaviour towards women, said it would be better to stay in the EU than sign up to a customs union – a key demand of Labour.

In a letter to the prime minister, former cabinet ministers including Gavin Williamson, who was sacked this month over the Huawei leak, the former Brexit secretaries David Davis and Dominic Raab, and the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, cautioned her against any deal involving Corbyn’s central demand of a customs union.

The presence of Brady’s signature on the letter is also significant, as he is charged with the job of conveying backbenchers’ views to the prime minister.

Source: Brexit talks with Labour are blind alley, senior Tories tell May | Politics | The Guardian

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Ex-defence secretary attacks May’s Brexit talks with Labour – and it’s not just sour grapes

Cassandra: Gavin Williamson.

This is a reasonable argument – easily discredited because of the source.

Gavin Williamson was ousted as Defence Secretary after it was alleged that he leaked concerns about national security about Huawei’s contract to help build the UK’s 5G communications network.

He has made it clear that he does not accept the claims about him, and that he considers himself to be a scapegoat for someone else.

So now he has criticised Theresa May’s attempt to build a consensus Brexit deal with Labour, it is easy to dismiss his argument as an attempt to get back at his former boss.

That’s a bad idea because it is a perfectly valid criticism.

True, Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t really need to “divide, disrupt and frustrate” the Conservatives – they’re doing very well at that themselves.

But Labour’s idea of Brexit is far from the Tory vision, so there is no reason to believe that the two parties can come to any lasting mutual agreement.

Mr Williamson, by playing the “Cassandra” role – the oracle who predicts disaster to people who won’t listen – is lining himself up to say “I told you so” if the talks fall apart.

Then he’ll be able to present himself as the clever one – who saw it coming and tried to prevent it.

It’s good positioning, with a leadership campaign on the way, don’t you think?

Gavin Williamson has attacked Theresa May as “naive” and warned that her Brexit talks with Labour are a “grave mistake”.

The former defence secretary, who was sacked over a leak of National Security Council talks on Huawei, said the talks were “destined to fail”.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said: “Even if Labour do a deal, break bread with the prime minister and announce that both parties have reached an agreement, it can only ever end in tears.

“The Labour Party does not exist to help the Conservative Party. Jeremy Corbyn will do all he can to divide, disrupt and frustrate the Conservatives in the hope of bringing down the government.

“His goal, and he has made no secret of it, is to bring about a general election.”

Source: Brexit: Theresa May’s ‘naive’ talks with Labour a grave mistake, says Gavin Williamson | The Independent

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McKee murder prompts politicians to re-start NI power sharing talks

How welcome to see that Theresa May has finally got off her thumbs and made a start towards restoring the devolved government in Northern Ireland, after pressure from This Site and the general public.

I wrote after Lyra McKee’s murder last weekend: “It is now 21 years since the Good Friday Agreement heralded the end of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Such an anniversary is a time to reaffirm the commitment to friendship – not to open up opportunities for a return to hate.

“Northern Ireland needs the restoration of its government in Stormont – now, not after Theresa May has spent another few months or years stalling so she can extend her own tenure in Number 10.

“The best way to shut down the possibility of violence is to deny people any excuse for it.”

Well…

An agreement has been reached to establish a new round of talks involving all the main political parties in Northern Ireland the UK and Irish prime ministers, Theresa May and Leo Varadkar, have said in a joint statement.

The public clamour for political progress following the killing of the journalist Lyra McKee encouraged both governments to launch a fresh attempt to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland, they said in a statement released on Friday afternoon.

It seems this is one message that has managed to get through to the UK’s recalcitrant prime minister.

Source: Deal reached for Northern Ireland power-sharing talks | Politics | The Guardian


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Brexit talks are stalling because May wants to sell the NHS to Donald Trump

Theresa May and Donald Trump: That’s not what he really wants to get his hands on!

What’s left of it, anyway.

Jeremy Corbyn has said Brexit talks with the Conservative government are stalling because the Tories want deregulation, partly to ensure a US trade deal.

Deregulation, for those of you who aren’t in the know, means a lowering of standards – in this case to allow American firms to trade their lower-quality goods with the UK – chlorine-washed chicken being the most-quoted example.

It would allow the Tory government to sell off the remains of the National Health Service to American profit-making interests.

And it would also allow the Tories to set up the UK as a tax haven, right on the EU’s doorstep.

Environmental responsibilities and workers’ rights would also be sacrificed in Mrs May’s march to Donald Trump’s drumbeat.

Mr Corbyn won’t accept any of it. He’s standing up for you – to give you a fighting chance to maintain our current rights as a bare minimum of what we can expect in the future, to retain current high consumer standards, to make sure that the super-rich pay their taxes, and to stop the Tories plunging us into an expensive and harmful US-style health system.

Every single citizen of the UK should support him in that, for an obvious reason.

Brexit represents the desire to stop giving away our assets to foreign countries and companies, but that is precisely what Mrs May is trying to do.

AFTERWORD: Some might say Mrs May is neglecting a deal better-suited to Donald Trump:


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Royal Assent for Bill to delay Brexit means May can’t blame Labour if her compromise talks fail

What do you think?

Were Theresa May’s talks with Jeremy Corbyn a sham, intended to run down the clock on the extension to Article 50 that was established after she failed to persuade Parliament to pass her dire withdrawal deal? Was it part of a plan to shift the blame for a bad Brexit onto Labour?

Was she hoping to present the nation with a fait accompli – of leaving the EU with no deal at all, because she has made it perfectly clear that she won’t cancel Brexit? That would have been the only alternative, if the EU did not grant a further extension.

But was the EU likely to refuse another extension? The bloc has previously made it clear that it did not want the UK to leave at all, but recently it seems attitudes of some countries have changed. France persuaded Belgium and Spain to support a “no deal” Brexit, we heard last week, so the expected result was by no means certain.

Was Mrs May secretly hoping that she would be forced into a delay, and the EU would support it? That’s a possibility – especially if you listen to ‘Leave’ supporters who claim that the prime minister never abandoned her loyalty to the cause of remaining in the EU.

Well, now she has to request an extension, and a motion to go before the Commons today (April 9) will set the new new Brexit date as June 30.

The EU may decide not to accept that date, preferring a longer period. Either way, it seems the UK is set to take part in the next European Parliament elections on May 23. The UK may only remain in the EU for slightly more than a month after that poll, but it cannot stay as a member state without representation (which may disappoint ‘Leave’ supporters who have been claiming that the UK doesn’t have representation in the bloc, despite all the evidence to the contrary).

Or have I missed something? If so, I wouldn’t be at all surprised, as the goalposts are now being moved on a daily – sometimes several times per day – basis.

And what’s happening in the Tory-Labour Brexit talks?

Your guess is as good as anybody’s, it seems.

“Talks have to mean a movement, and so far there has been no change in those ‘red lines’,” according to Jeremy Corbyn, talking to the BBC.

That’s the situation: Limbo. Meanwhile the real problems facing the UK – not least because of the expected effects of Brexit – are being allowed to go unaddressed.


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