This week in politics: Brexit, Bets, & Bercow
The week that was
Relaxed and tanned, for the moment at least, MPs returning from their summer holidays were faced with the unenviable task of considering the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill at its second reading, with a five hour debate on Thursday. While Conservatives are expected to back the Bill and Labour oppose, MPs on both sides of the House have raised concerns over the so called ‘Henry VIII powers’ included in the draft legislation. The Government also continued to provide clarity on its Brexit position with the release of a position paper on science and innovation. The paper struck a conciliatory tone on prospects for future research collaboration between the UK and the EU27.
Over in Brussels, the EU released a number of position papers of its own, covering a range of subjects, including Northern Ireland, customs matter and public procurement. Striking a bullish tone on the paper’s release, the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier accused the UK of ‘backtracking’ on its promise ‘to honour its international commitments’. Similarly, the European Parliament’s Chief Brexit Negotiator Guy Verhofstadt continued to stir the pot by suggesting that the fourth round of negotiations would be delayed by Theresa May making an ‘important intervention’ on Brexit.
Back in Westminster Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer suggested that under a Labour Government the UK could remain in the customs union permanently. Elsewhere, after a disappointing election, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon announced the SNP’s priorities for Government in Scotland, promising to lift the puclic sector pay cap and improve flagging schools.
On the benches
The world of politics and celebrity collided this week at GQ’s annual awards bash. The evening saw Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn present Grime artist and Corbyn supporter Stormzy with the ‘Best Solo Artist’ award. Later that evening, Mark Hamill was seen fan-girling when meeting London Mayor Sadiq Khan, with the former Star Wars star and Donald Trump critic tweeting a photo of the two saying ‘This is what a REAL leader looks like!’
Looks like the Labour leaders are getting a bit too big for their boots…
Back to School
John Bercow’s fashion sense had the Commons considerably agitated before the summer recess after he relaxed the rules requiring male members to wear a tie in the chamber. But with the summer over he caused a stir when he took his place in the Speaker’s chair sporting an enviable holiday tan and a perhaps less enviable haircut.
Tweet of the Week
Good week/ Bad week
Good week for Nostalgia
The recent election ruined BBC Parliament’s initial plan to broadcast the entire 1997 election coverage on May Day bank holiday, leaving countless (or maybe not that many) people devastated that they would not be able to spend hours watching the events of May 1997 unfold. On Monday, political obsessives were finally given the opportunity to watch the election coverage in full, causing much excitement for (most of) the Intelex team.
Bad week for Crispin Blunt
His time as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee was cut short in July, after newcomer Tom Tugendhat led a successful insurgence, despite only entering the House in 2015 to Crispin’s 1997. Crispin was dealt a further humiliating blow this week, after he put his name forward for a place on the committee and failed to gain a spot in Tuesday’s Conservative select committee elections. Blunt was felt by some MPs to be too soft on the Foreign Office, and was dubbed the ‘Corbynista candidate’ by some Labour moderates.
‘The time for floating fantastical ideas is over. There must be no more promises that cannot be met. This is the brutal reality.’ Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer to Brexit Secretary David Davis following a ministerial statement on the progress of EU Exit Negotiations
‘Winding up the discussion, the President expressed his concern about the question of the stability and accountability of the UK negotiator and his apparent lack of involvement, which risked jeopardising the success of the negotiations’ Jean-Claude Juncker appears to question David Davis’ commitment at a meeting of the EU Commission on 12th July, the minutes of which were released this week
‘I have in the past witnessed the Labour Party on European business take the most cynical, unprincipled approach to legislation that I’ve ever seen. They’re now attempting to do the same today. And the British people will not forgive them if the end of their process is to delay or destroy the process by which we leave the European Union.’ Brexit Secretary David Davis in his opening statement to the House of Commons at the second reading of the EU (Withdrawal Bill)