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Brexit: Williamson ridiculed over claim it could 'enhance UK military's lethality' - Politics live Food bank use has increased due to universal credit, government admits - as it happened
(35 minutes later)
Thanks for following the blog and for all your comments today, Andrew Sparrow will be back tomorrow, I believe. Here is a summary of the afternoon’s main events:
Amber Rudd has admitted that the rollout of universal credit has contributed to an increase in food bank use. The work and pensions secretary’s concession reverses past ministerial claims denying such a link.
Chris Grayling has rejected Labour demands for him to resign over the Seaborne Freight controversy, which saw a no-deal Brexit ferry contract awarded - before being cancelled - to a company with no ships.
Senior Tories have warned against Labour’s plans for a customs union after Theresa May suggested further talks with Jeremy Corbyn. Boris Johnson and Liam Fox both spoke out against the prospect of such a compromise with Labour.
The EU’s deputy chief negotiator with the UK has described the chances of a reversal of Brexit as non-existent. At a conference in Germany, Sabine Weyand, also described damage to the UK as self-inflicted and suggested Corbyn’s proposals deserved serious consideration.
Here is the Guardian’s story on Amber Rudd admitting the link between food banks and universal credit:
Universal credit rollout linked to rising food bank use, Rudd admits
The Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, has admitted that food bank use has increased due to the universal credit roll-out.The Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, has admitted that food bank use has increased due to the universal credit roll-out.
Ministers have previously downplayed claims that universal credit is to blame and have spent years insisting austerity is not linked to a large increase in use of food banks.Ministers have previously downplayed claims that universal credit is to blame and have spent years insisting austerity is not linked to a large increase in use of food banks.
Rudd told MPs:Rudd told MPs:
We’re committed to a strong safety net where people need it.We’re committed to a strong safety net where people need it.
It’s absolutely clear there were challenges with the initial roll-out of universal credit and the main issue that led to an increase in food bank use could have been the fact that people had difficulties accessing their money early enough.It’s absolutely clear there were challenges with the initial roll-out of universal credit and the main issue that led to an increase in food bank use could have been the fact that people had difficulties accessing their money early enough.
We have made changes to accessing universal credit so people can have advances, so there is a legacy run on after two weeks of housing benefit, and we believe that will help with food bank use.We have made changes to accessing universal credit so people can have advances, so there is a legacy run on after two weeks of housing benefit, and we believe that will help with food bank use.
No10 endorses Rudd remarks on universal credit link to foodbanks. "We have long acknowledged there were issues with the initial rollout of universal credit. That's why we listened and made improvements"No10 endorses Rudd remarks on universal credit link to foodbanks. "We have long acknowledged there were issues with the initial rollout of universal credit. That's why we listened and made improvements"
Taking an urgent question in the Commons, Chris Grayling has just rejected calls for him to resign as Transport Secretary over the Seaborne Freight controversy. The shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, slammed Grayling’s “incompetence” and said he should consider his position.Taking an urgent question in the Commons, Chris Grayling has just rejected calls for him to resign as Transport Secretary over the Seaborne Freight controversy. The shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, slammed Grayling’s “incompetence” and said he should consider his position.
In response, the Transport Secretary described the criticism as “hogwash” and said “not a penny of taxpayers’ money” went to Seaborne. He said they were aware that Seaborne did not have its own ferries but it was backed by an Irish shipping company, Arklow Shipping, which pulled out unexpectedly and suddenly.In response, the Transport Secretary described the criticism as “hogwash” and said “not a penny of taxpayers’ money” went to Seaborne. He said they were aware that Seaborne did not have its own ferries but it was backed by an Irish shipping company, Arklow Shipping, which pulled out unexpectedly and suddenly.
For its part, Arklow Shipping has said it never had a stake in the venture.For its part, Arklow Shipping has said it never had a stake in the venture.
The Liberal Democrats’ defence spokesman Jamie Stone has joined in the criticism of the defence secretary’s speech this morning, in particular Gavin Williamson’s announcement that HMS Queen Elizabeth will be deployed to the Pacific region.The Liberal Democrats’ defence spokesman Jamie Stone has joined in the criticism of the defence secretary’s speech this morning, in particular Gavin Williamson’s announcement that HMS Queen Elizabeth will be deployed to the Pacific region.
Stone said:Stone said:
Gavin Williamson is heating up UK defence rhetoric, something which may well be seen as provocation by Beijing. This comes following years of hollowing-out of Britain’s military capabilities, with the British Army now at the smallest it has been in decades.Gavin Williamson is heating up UK defence rhetoric, something which may well be seen as provocation by Beijing. This comes following years of hollowing-out of Britain’s military capabilities, with the British Army now at the smallest it has been in decades.
Do we really have the capacity at the moment to send this ship over to showboat? Rather than flaunting the HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Pacific, the Conservatives should instead be focusing on the pressing issues facing the British armed forces at the moment, including the £15bn shortfall in the MoD’s equipment plan over the next decade.Do we really have the capacity at the moment to send this ship over to showboat? Rather than flaunting the HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Pacific, the Conservatives should instead be focusing on the pressing issues facing the British armed forces at the moment, including the £15bn shortfall in the MoD’s equipment plan over the next decade.
As the countdown to March 29 looms, there is more evidence of governments in Europe fretting about the effects of Brexit.As the countdown to March 29 looms, there is more evidence of governments in Europe fretting about the effects of Brexit.
It may be the European Union’s easternmost member state but Cyprus, as a former British colony – and locale for strategic military bases - has some of the strongest ties with the UK. With less than 50 days to Brexit, the spectre of a possibly chaotic withdrawal from Europe has put officials increasingly on edge.It may be the European Union’s easternmost member state but Cyprus, as a former British colony – and locale for strategic military bases - has some of the strongest ties with the UK. With less than 50 days to Brexit, the spectre of a possibly chaotic withdrawal from Europe has put officials increasingly on edge.
The government spokesman, Prodromos Prodromou, told the Guardian:The government spokesman, Prodromos Prodromou, told the Guardian:
Britain tops our tourism market and if the economy slips into depression nobody knows the effect it will have on numbers coming to Cyprus. Then there are students, about a third of the total number currently abroad are in the UK. They are OK but it is far from sure what the future status of others will be. And in terms of trade most of our exports, starting with Halloumi, go to Britain. Right now nothing is clear ... the British government doesn’t seem to know what it wants.Britain tops our tourism market and if the economy slips into depression nobody knows the effect it will have on numbers coming to Cyprus. Then there are students, about a third of the total number currently abroad are in the UK. They are OK but it is far from sure what the future status of others will be. And in terms of trade most of our exports, starting with Halloumi, go to Britain. Right now nothing is clear ... the British government doesn’t seem to know what it wants.
Of course Cyprus has also benefited from Brexit. Last month, the British ferry and shipping operator, P&O, announced it was transferring registration of all its UK vessels to the Mediterranean island.Of course Cyprus has also benefited from Brexit. Last month, the British ferry and shipping operator, P&O, announced it was transferring registration of all its UK vessels to the Mediterranean island.
The UK and Switzerland have signed a deal to maintain their current trading relationship after Brexit.The UK and Switzerland have signed a deal to maintain their current trading relationship after Brexit.
The UK has signed a trade continuity agreement with Switzerland, ensuring 🇬🇧 and 🇨🇭 businesses can continue to trade freely when we leave the EU.#Didyouknow UK-Swiss trade totalled over £30bn in 2018. #FreeTradeUK pic.twitter.com/VvMJZ8ZLLNThe UK has signed a trade continuity agreement with Switzerland, ensuring 🇬🇧 and 🇨🇭 businesses can continue to trade freely when we leave the EU.#Didyouknow UK-Swiss trade totalled over £30bn in 2018. #FreeTradeUK pic.twitter.com/VvMJZ8ZLLN
The UK is seeking to replicate about 40 free trade agreements, covering more than 70 countries. In 2017, Liam Fox said they could all be signed by the time the UK leaves the EU on 29 March this year but only four continuity agreements have been inked, according to the BBC, namely with:The UK is seeking to replicate about 40 free trade agreements, covering more than 70 countries. In 2017, Liam Fox said they could all be signed by the time the UK leaves the EU on 29 March this year but only four continuity agreements have been inked, according to the BBC, namely with:
SwitzerlandSwitzerland
ChileChile
The Faroe IslandsThe Faroe Islands
Eastern and Southern AfricaEastern and Southern Africa
It says mutual recognition agreements, under which a product lawfully sold in one country can be sold in another, have also been signed with Australia and New Zealand.It says mutual recognition agreements, under which a product lawfully sold in one country can be sold in another, have also been signed with Australia and New Zealand.
Senior Tories have warned Labour’s plans for a customs union with the EU are a “dangerous delusion”, after Theresa May offered fresh Brexit talks with Jeremy Corbyn, reports the Press Association.Senior Tories have warned Labour’s plans for a customs union with the EU are a “dangerous delusion”, after Theresa May offered fresh Brexit talks with Jeremy Corbyn, reports the Press Association.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Labour’s proposals were “not workable” while Boris Johnson accused Corbyn of trying to trap the Government in a “toxic” Brexit.International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Labour’s proposals were “not workable” while Boris Johnson accused Corbyn of trying to trap the Government in a “toxic” Brexit.
The comments appeared to reflect concern among Conservative Brexiteers that the Prime Minister could concede too much ground to Labour in an attempt to win cross-party backing for a deal with Brussels ...The comments appeared to reflect concern among Conservative Brexiteers that the Prime Minister could concede too much ground to Labour in an attempt to win cross-party backing for a deal with Brussels ...
Fox, in Bern for the signing of a trade agreement with Switzerland, said Labour claims they would be able to influence EU trade policy showed they did not understand how EU policy worked.Fox, in Bern for the signing of a trade agreement with Switzerland, said Labour claims they would be able to influence EU trade policy showed they did not understand how EU policy worked.
“Of course we always want to work with the opposition but the opposition has put forward some ideas that are not workable,” he told reporters.“Of course we always want to work with the opposition but the opposition has put forward some ideas that are not workable,” he told reporters.
“The idea that you can have a customs union with the EU and at the same time, as an outside country, have an effect on EU trade policy, is to not understand the EU treaties.“The idea that you can have a customs union with the EU and at the same time, as an outside country, have an effect on EU trade policy, is to not understand the EU treaties.
“It is very clear from the European Union that non-EU members do not have a say in EU trade policy so to pretend that you could do so is a dangerous delusion.”“It is very clear from the European Union that non-EU members do not have a say in EU trade policy so to pretend that you could do so is a dangerous delusion.”
His intervention came after Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss refused to rule out resigning if May backed a customs union. “I absolutely do not think that should be our policy,” she told Sky News on Sunday.His intervention came after Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss refused to rule out resigning if May backed a customs union. “I absolutely do not think that should be our policy,” she told Sky News on Sunday.
Johnson, who led the official Vote Leave campaign in the referendum, warned the prime minister against trying to do a deal with Labour to get her agreement through.Johnson, who led the official Vote Leave campaign in the referendum, warned the prime minister against trying to do a deal with Labour to get her agreement through.
“I don’t think that there is any mileage for the prime minister or the Government in trying to do a deal with Labour because they will just try to trap Theresa May,” he said at a launch event at Westminster.“I don’t think that there is any mileage for the prime minister or the Government in trying to do a deal with Labour because they will just try to trap Theresa May,” he said at a launch event at Westminster.
Despite his deputy suggesting the UK could take more time (see previous post), the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said Theresa May has no plans to delay Brexit.Despite his deputy suggesting the UK could take more time (see previous post), the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said Theresa May has no plans to delay Brexit.
In a press conf where frustration showed, Barnier said May insisted does not plan to extend article 50 and delay Brexit. But time is ‘extremely short’. Lux PM Bettel hit out at Brexiters who just say ‘non non non’. Stephen Barclay not going to get much joy from barnier tonightIn a press conf where frustration showed, Barnier said May insisted does not plan to extend article 50 and delay Brexit. But time is ‘extremely short’. Lux PM Bettel hit out at Brexiters who just say ‘non non non’. Stephen Barclay not going to get much joy from barnier tonight
Speaking at a conference in Germayn, the EU’s deputy chief negotiator with the UK, Sabine Weyand, has has had some tough words for the UK, according to Tweets from the Economist’s Berlin bureau chief.Speaking at a conference in Germayn, the EU’s deputy chief negotiator with the UK, Sabine Weyand, has has had some tough words for the UK, according to Tweets from the Economist’s Berlin bureau chief.
Weyand described the chances of a reversal of Brexit as non-existent and the damage to the UK as self-inflicted. She also suggested Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals deserved serious consideration.Weyand described the chances of a reversal of Brexit as non-existent and the damage to the UK as self-inflicted. She also suggested Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals deserved serious consideration.
Weyand: cakeism is found on Remain side as well as Leave. The chances for a reversal of Brexit are non-existent. The only option is to enable a structured exit.Weyand: cakeism is found on Remain side as well as Leave. The chances for a reversal of Brexit are non-existent. The only option is to enable a structured exit.
Weyand: Corbyn's letter to May triggered an interesting debate. His proposals deserve to be discussed. Britain's discussion deserves to be given some time.Weyand: Corbyn's letter to May triggered an interesting debate. His proposals deserve to be discussed. Britain's discussion deserves to be given some time.
Weyand: the UK has never been as friendly towards the EU at international level as in last few years: G7, climate etc.Weyand: the UK has never been as friendly towards the EU at international level as in last few years: G7, climate etc.
.@WeyandSabine: If there are feelings of rejection and humiliation in Britain, they're self-inflicted..@WeyandSabine: If there are feelings of rejection and humiliation in Britain, they're self-inflicted.
Theresa May has ruled out a customs union with the EU post Brexit, her spokesman said. Earlier, the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, said that despite disagreement over the customs union there was less dividing May and Jeremy Corbyn than some people may think.Theresa May has ruled out a customs union with the EU post Brexit, her spokesman said. Earlier, the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, said that despite disagreement over the customs union there was less dividing May and Jeremy Corbyn than some people may think.
May will update MPs on her latest round of Brexit talks tomorrow, Downing Street has said. The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, is meeting the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Brussels tonight.May will update MPs on her latest round of Brexit talks tomorrow, Downing Street has said. The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, is meeting the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Brussels tonight.
Boris Johnson has insisted that the Irish backstop must be amended to give the UK a unilateral out within a specified time period. In response to suggestions sterling could fall by 20% after Brexit, the former foreign secretary said: “The pound will go where it will.”Boris Johnson has insisted that the Irish backstop must be amended to give the UK a unilateral out within a specified time period. In response to suggestions sterling could fall by 20% after Brexit, the former foreign secretary said: “The pound will go where it will.”
The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, has attracted ridicule for his claim that Brexit could “enhance UK’s lethality”. Chris Leslie, Labour MP and people’s vote supporte.r said Europe was central to the UK’s military posture and that economic damage post-Brexit would weaken military investment.The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, has attracted ridicule for his claim that Brexit could “enhance UK’s lethality”. Chris Leslie, Labour MP and people’s vote supporte.r said Europe was central to the UK’s military posture and that economic damage post-Brexit would weaken military investment.
May continues to have full confidence in the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, despite the controversy over the Seaborne Freight contract, the prime minister’s official spokesman has said. MPs from across the Commons called for Grayling’s resignation after the cancellation of a £13.8m no-deal Brexit ferry contract awarded to Seaborne Freight, which had no ships.May continues to have full confidence in the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, despite the controversy over the Seaborne Freight contract, the prime minister’s official spokesman has said. MPs from across the Commons called for Grayling’s resignation after the cancellation of a £13.8m no-deal Brexit ferry contract awarded to Seaborne Freight, which had no ships.
Theresa May continues to have full confidence in the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, her official spokesman has said.Theresa May continues to have full confidence in the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, her official spokesman has said.
The display of support came amid calls for Grayling’s resignation from MPs across the Commons after a controversial no-deal Brexit ferry contract awarded to a firm with no ships was cancelled.The display of support came amid calls for Grayling’s resignation from MPs across the Commons after a controversial no-deal Brexit ferry contract awarded to a firm with no ships was cancelled.
The Transport Secretary’s decision to award Seaborne Freight a contract worth £13.8 million to run services between Ramsgate and Ostend had attracted widespread criticism.The Transport Secretary’s decision to award Seaborne Freight a contract worth £13.8 million to run services between Ramsgate and Ostend had attracted widespread criticism.
Gavin Williamson continues to attract flak for his claim that Brexit could “enhance UK’s lethality”.Gavin Williamson continues to attract flak for his claim that Brexit could “enhance UK’s lethality”.
The former shadow chancellor, Chris Leslie, said:The former shadow chancellor, Chris Leslie, said:
The idea that our membership of the European Union restricts us is the purest nonsense. You don’t have to know much history to know why Europe is and will remain central to our military posture or that co-operation and peace in Europe is what allows us to invest in global strength.The idea that our membership of the European Union restricts us is the purest nonsense. You don’t have to know much history to know why Europe is and will remain central to our military posture or that co-operation and peace in Europe is what allows us to invest in global strength.
In fact the economic damage that Brexit threatens is what will most quickly weaken our forces. The Treasury’s own forecast is that Brexit will leave us £100 billion worse off and the experience of recent years is that the Treasury is never slow to pick on defence when it is looking for cuts. In the economic mess that will follow Brexit, hopes of East of Suez could be the first to go.In fact the economic damage that Brexit threatens is what will most quickly weaken our forces. The Treasury’s own forecast is that Brexit will leave us £100 billion worse off and the experience of recent years is that the Treasury is never slow to pick on defence when it is looking for cuts. In the economic mess that will follow Brexit, hopes of East of Suez could be the first to go.
Simon Jenkins writes:Simon Jenkins writes:
The defence secretary’s brain has gone absent without leave ...If history teaches us anything, it is that vanity defence procurements merely incite ministers to reckless interventions, afterwards bitterly regretted. Williamson’s speech reads like the pompous rantings of a 1950s Tory on the make. It cannot conceivably have been cleared with colleagues, let alone the Treasury. It is best forgotten.The defence secretary’s brain has gone absent without leave ...If history teaches us anything, it is that vanity defence procurements merely incite ministers to reckless interventions, afterwards bitterly regretted. Williamson’s speech reads like the pompous rantings of a 1950s Tory on the make. It cannot conceivably have been cleared with colleagues, let alone the Treasury. It is best forgotten.
It is far from the first time Williamson has blundered ...It is far from the first time Williamson has blundered ...
Gavin Williamson continues to add to his gaffe-prone reputationGavin Williamson continues to add to his gaffe-prone reputation