In the week that began with multiple ministerial resignations, May’s Brexit negotiating stance was finally unveiled. Donald Trump made ‘fake news’ having allegedly criticised Prime Minister Theresa May, whilst he was distanced from hundreds of thousands of protesters.
Despite May’s promise of a ‘smooth and orderly Brexit’, this week saw two British cabinet ministers resign within the space of twenty-four hours – the first such occurrence since 1982. Following Davis’ late-night resignation, Dominic Raab was instated as Secretary of State for leaving the European Union. Then followed the resignation of Boris Johnson, with his Foreign Secretary position being handed to Jeremy Hunt. Matt Hancock has replaced Hunt as Health Secretary, with Jeremy Wright becoming the new Culture Secretary. In his resignation letter, Johnson claimed the Brexit ‘dream is dying’. He stated the UK is heading towards a soft exit, a ‘colony’ that will be forced to accept EU legislation without any influence.
I am proud to have served as Foreign Secretary. It is with sadness that I step down: here is my letter explaining why. pic.twitter.com/NZXzUZCjdF
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) July 9, 2018
Further resignations also occurred across the Conservative Party, including the Vice Chairs of the Conservative Party (Ben Bradley and Maria Caufield), and parliamentary private secretaries (Chris Green and Robert Courts).
Following such events, Conservative backbencher Andrew Bridgen was the first MP to submit a letter of no-confidence concerning May’s leadership. (Bridgen is also known for having done the same to David Cameron in 2013).
Does Brexit mean Brexit?
Although May’s Brexit proposal caused the Cabinet to crumble, EU negotiator Michel Barnier revealedthat eighty percent of a deal between the UK and the EU had been agreed.
Speaker John Bercow is forced to suspend proceedings as chaos ensues while copies of the Brexit white paper are tossed around the House pic.twitter.com/A8A0xfpphV
— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 12, 2018
On Thursday the government published a white paper which suggested that EU citizens will still be treated preferentially, with free movement continuing for students and skilled workers. In addition, it was stated that no visa would be required for EU tourists or temporary workers. The Commons reacted chaotically when they discovered that they did not have time to read the white paper, pausing proceedings for five minutes. Tory Brexiteers were subsequently dissatisfied, with Jacob Rees-Mogg stating that:”It is not something I would vote for, nor is it what the British people voted for.”
Questions to the (stand-in) Prime Minister
David Lidlington stood in for the Prime Minister this week to answer questions from Emily Thornberry, representing the opposition. Their exchange centered around Brexit concerns and the ensuing Cabinet collapse.
Thornberry began by asking whether the government can learn from the England team to work effectively together, with a clear gameplan and respect for their ‘manager’. She also likened the Cabinet to: “Reservoir Dogs made by the Chuckle Brothers”. Lidlington, however, insisted that May has the full support of the Cabinet, asking what the Labour Party’s secret alternative is. Lidlington suggested that Thornberry misunderstood the government’s plans when she raised concerns over a Customs Union without services. He also claimed that Labour is not respecting the referendum result, in which they have not ruled out a second Brexit vote.
A conclusion to the ‘hostile environment’
Amber Rudd called for a report to be published detailing why she had inadequate information concerning Windrush, another scandal that has placed substantial doubt on May’s government, further undermining her leadership. The sharing of the Windrush generation’s data by HMRC, the DWP and DVLA with the Home Office has now been paused by the government. Documentation has also been sent out guaranteeing the right to live in the UK, with staff in contact with fourteen people who were unjustifiably deported.
Labour’s musical chairs
Naz Shah, who was previously suspended by Labour after accusations of antisemitism in 2016, has been appointed shadow equalities minister. In 2017 the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews commended Shah as: “one of the only people involved in Labour’s antisemitism crisis who has sought to make amends for her actions”.
Other appointments to the Labour front bench have been made to fill vacancies and maternity cover. Justin Madders has been appointed shadow health and social care, and labour minister. Mike Amesbury has been given the role of shadow employment minister, and Jo Platt is the new shadow minister for the Cabinet Office.
It was also reported that Jared O’Mara, who ousted Nick Clegg from his seat in the 2017 General Election, has quit the Labour Party. O’Mara, who is yet to deliver his maiden speech in Parliament, was previously suspended from Labour because of online sexist and homophobic comments. He believes that he has been treated unfairly as a ‘criminal’ for his past mistakes.
‘Fake news’ or ‘fake schmooze’?
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) July 13, 2018
On Thursday, Donald Trump began his first visit to Britain as President of the United States. His trip had been carefully planned to avoid the mass protests which have taken place across the country. Jeremy Corbyn attended and delivered a speech at the Friday march in London, a clear contrast to the Conservative PM’s treatment of President Trump.
Instead of using the visit as a publicity exercise, May’s intention was to use the working visit to make progress dealing with the issues of trade, Brexit, Russia and the Middle East.
— Janine Gibson (@janinegibson) July 13, 2018
The Sun newspaper interviewed Trump, who was highly critical of May’s Brexit proposals, claiming that they would ‘kill’ a trade deal with the US and that she had failed to listen to his advice. The President denounced the reporting as ‘fake news’, denying comments that he would prefer Boris Johnson to lead the country. This is despite the fact that audio recordings are reportedly available which contradict this. Instead, he responded to such accusation by complimenting the PM, and describing her as an: “incredible woman right here doing a fantastic job”. The Sun‘s next front page defended its previous interview, labeling Trump’s U-turn as “fake schmooze”.
On Sunday, May revealed Trump’s Brexit advice was to sue the EU, rather than to negotiate.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) July 14, 2018
On Friday, Trump was flown to his Turnberry golf course in Scotland. Despite the presence of high security, including police snipers, protesters were not deterred. A Greenpeace paraglider attacked the President’s climate change denial, flying past with the message: “Trump: well below par #resist”. The Trump Baby Balloon also joined protesters in Edinburgh.
Donald Trump has still not met with the Scottish First Minister, a politician with whom he has a strained relationship.