This Week In British Politics: 2nd-8th July

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In Parliament

Jared O’Mara, the MP who defeated Nick Clegg in the 2017 General Election, had the Labour whip reinstated on Tuesday. He was suspended from the party in October last year for making misogynistic and homophobic comments prior to entering parliament, and he is the only MP (aside from abstentionist Sinn Fein members) elected in June 2017 who is yet to have made a speech in the Commons.

Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, became the first cabinet minister to use British Sign Language in the House of Commons on Wednesday.  Mordaunt used it in an announcement of a global disability conference organised by the government, and has since received praise and applause from both sides of the house for doing so.

On Wednesday, a rather unusual parliamentary by-election took place. The 1999 House of Lords Act ejected most of the hereditary peers from the Lords, but 92 were elected from among themselves to remain – with certain parliamentary groups having reserved seats. One crossbencher (non-party peers who do not sit with the government or opposition) hereditary peer stood down, forcing a by-election where only the 31 sitting crossbench hereditary peers could vote. 19 non-sitting hereditary peers stood for election, and 26 votes were cast, and the winner was the Earl of Devon – a barrister who has practiced in the UK and the US, and whose current residence is his ancestral home of Powderham Castle, near Exeter.

Also this week, the SNP were accused of purposely extending Wednesday’s parliamentary session in the Commons in order to prevent MPs from watching the England game against Colombia. They forced a division on an estimates bill which would occur past the kick-off time of 7pm. While MPs from several other parties have claimed the bill was obscure, further arguing it was unnecessary to vote on it, the SNP have defended their actions, claiming that the bill was important, and they weren’t purposely preventing others from watching the match.

 

Anticipation of Trump’s visit

A controversial blimp depicting Donald Trump as an ‘angry baby’ has been given permission to fly in London during his (also controversial) state visit next weekend. Meanwhile, Magid Magid, Green Party councillor and Lord Mayor of Sheffield, has put out a statement declaring Trump a ‘wasteman,’ and banning him from visiting the city. However, since Magid’s position denotes only a ceremonial one, he doesn’t actually have to power to ban people from the city, nor does he hold any real power above that of an ordinary councillor.

The schedule for Trump’s visit was also announced this week. Beginning with a formal dinner on Thursday with Theresa May and business leaders at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, Trump will then spend the night at the residence of the US ambassador in London. The following day, he will visit a defence site, before attending bilateral talks with May at Chequers in Buckinghamshire. After finishing on Friday for the day, he will end official duties and go to Scotland for the weekend, where he is likely to visit one of his golf courses.

The visit is notably lacking visits to large cities, and it has been widely suggested that this is to avoid protests. However, the US embassy has denied this, and have claimed that they respect the protesters’ right to free speech.

 

Brexit, Brexit and more Brexit

As expected, Brexit played an integral part to politics this week.

The government introduced laws protecting holidaymakers who opt for holiday package deals – however, the law enacts a 2015 EU directive. This subsequently caused controversy as the Conservative Party claimed the policy as their own.

Douglas Carswell, the only MP to have ever been elected for UKIP at a General Election, tweeted that membership of EFTA (a so-called ‘Norway’ type deal) wouldn’t be a retreat of Brexit –  a view otherwise differing from the stance of most hardline Brexiteers.

A day long private meeting of the cabinet at Chequers came to an agreement on the deal to present to the EU. The agreement is perceived to be ‘softer’ than previous government proposals – it hints at a customs arrangement similar to the customs union, continued harmonisation of UK courts with the European Court of Justice, and a ‘mobility framework’ to enable citizens from the EU and UK to work and study in each other. It is, however, too vague to make out exactly what the plans are, and it is unclear whether it will be accepted by EU governments.

 

Cabinet Resignations

May’s attention with the Chequers agreement was to reconcile the cabinet. However, it wasn’t to work as David Davis, the Secretary of State for Leaving the EU, resigned just before midnight on Sunday. Furthermore, two junior ministers in his department, Steve Baker and Suella Braverman, followed shortly after – all of whom are considered to be hardline Brexiteers. Rumours have also been mounting that there have been enough signatures to force a leadership contest within the Conservatives, and May is expected to make a speech to her entire parliamentary party at 6:45pm on Monday.

It is not yet known who will be replacing Davis or ministers Baker and Braverman. It is also uncertain as to whether May will ‘restore balance’ within the cabinet and pick other strongly pro-Brexit MPs, or opt to pick MPs that are more likely to be loyal to her plans.

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