Jo Coburn is joined by the Labour mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees to discuss Brexit and the Northern Ireland border, local government funding and the state of the Labour party.
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Hello and welcome to
the Daily Politics.
Forget the weather forecast -
it's a Brexit blizzard this week.
The International Trade Secretary
Liam Fox will spell out why
he thinks Jeremy Corbyn was wrong
to bring the idea of a customs union
post Brexit back in from the cold.
As the EU gets ready to release
a legal document of what was agreed
between the EU and UK on the Irish
border in December, are the two
sides further apart than we thought?
Could changes to the benefit system
coming into force next month leave
thousands of low-income
families with what amounts
to a second mortgage?
We look at the proposals.
And, as two vocal critics
of Jeremy Corbyn stand down
from key party positions,
what does the future hold
for the Labour Party?
All that in the next hour
and with us for the whole
of the programme today,
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees.
Welcome to the programme.
First, as the Labour Party
cemented its position on staying
in a customs union with the EU
yesterday, International Trade
Secretary Liam Fox is set to hit
back in a speech in London shortly.
Norman Smith is there.
Norman, what are we expecting the
international trade secretary to
I think it is largely going to
be a restatement of arguments we are
familiar with, namely that by
leaving the customs union the UK
will have the ability to strike its
own free trade deals and look for
deals outside the EU, which is the
real growth area in terms of the
world economy. For many Brexiteers,
that is a golden opportunity of
Brexit, to take advantage of all of
these untapped markets. The trouble
is, into that Frey has stepped Sir
Martin Donnelly. Who is he? He is
the man who used to run Liam Fox's
department until March last year so
he was sitting next to Liam Fox,
coming up with all these plans, and
this he has taken something of all
Dr Fox's argument, saying that
leaving the customs union and single
market is such a bad idea, would be
so damaging, that a future UK
Government is probably going to have
to ask to rejoin the single market
and the customs union because, he
says, it would place a British
companies at a competitive
disadvantage with the rest of the
EU. He suggests it would deter
inward investment, that British
producers would be less competitive
because they would not have to abide
by the rigours of the internal
market and he says the UK would go
from being one of the most open
economies in the world to being one
of the most bureaucratic, and he
lists all the different bits of
regulation and paperwork British
companies will have to comply with
to export to the EU - country of
origin regulations, hygiene
regulations, security regulations,
VAT payments and, crucially, he says
that if we hope we will be able to
secure more lucrative deals outside
the EU than through the EU, we are
If you look at where we are now,
with fair and equal access
to the very large, rich EU market,
which is nearly half
of our service and goods exports,
plus preferential access to other
markets, which gets us up
to about three fifths of our trade,
if you are going to give that up
for the promise of some bilateral
deals with markets that are much
less important to us,
well, it's like giving up a three
course meal for a packet of crisps.
It's just not equivalent.
And we have to recognise
that reality before
we take this decision.
And as if that wasn't good enough,
he also says the British
government's objective of
negotiating near frictionless trade
with the EU outside the single
market doesn't need a crack
negotiating team, he says, it needs
a fairy godmother!
But is fairly
crushing stuff, isn't it, for Liam
Fox personally, and the Government?
How will he take that on, the
international trade secretary, do
It is a fundamental
disagreement. We have already heard
a little bit from Boris Johnson when
he was asked about this, saying he
profoundly disagrees with the
analysis. They believe that the real
golden goose of Brexit are these
markets outside the EU, which we
have failed to tap into at the
moment. But let's be honest, the
timing of the speech could hardly be
worse because we have Liam Fox
making one of the keynote Brexit
speeches, the road to Brexit, we
have heard from Boris Johnson, David
Davis and a little bit from Mrs May,
we will hear more at the end of the
week. This was Liam Fox's moment and
along comes as former top civil
servant trying to debunk everything
he's got to say and why this
matters, I think, is because this
follows very obviously from Jeremy
Corbyn positioning Labour on the
side of the customs union. We know
the CBI and the IoD even seem
sympathetic to the customs union and
added on top of that we have Liam
Fox's former top man saying you
would be daft to leave the customs
union and the single market.
you, we will let you go and listen
to the speech. Marvin, Bristol voted
nearly 62 % to remain. Following on
the back of Jeremy Corbyn confirming
Labour's position of wanting a
customs union with the EU, would you
like to see him go further and say
Britain should remain in the single
market as well?
I think this is the
best we can do while not being part
of the EU so I welcome it absolutely
but it lives in our city's interest
to remain as close as we can. 88 the
centre of our exports from Bristol
go to our EU partners and I have
heard businesses in the city already
talked about losing orders as firms
on the continent begin to make
decisions that disadvantage
Bristol-based business is. What we
need at a local level is cities all
around this country to have some
certainty. One of the good things we
have got from Jeremy's speech is a
good idea of what is going to happen
and what we are not getting from
Government is any clarity about what
is on the table.
Why not push it
further? Many Labour MPs want to see
Labour say that Britain would remain
part of the single market.
to respect the vote, I respect the
national referendum result but in my
own city as an elected leader, I
want to push to keep the city
connected to the European market. I
support what Jeremy is doing and we
must remain as close as we can to
protect the interests of our
businesses and all the employment
that comes with it. This argument
about sovereignty is one that I get
incredibly frustrated with. If we
impoverish people we are not more
What about Labour leaders
who said they wanted to take back
I don't agree. The whole
argument about taking back control
is a false argument. If we
impoverish people they are not more
Let's leave it there.
Now it's time for our daily quiz.
Post Brexit, one of Winston
Churchill's favourite tipples
is going to be sold in pint-sized
bottles - a size that Churchill
considered to be just perfect.
But which drink is it?
A - a dry martini?
B - champagne?
C - brandy?
Or D - claret?
They look very inviting!
At the end of the show, Marvin
will give us the correct answer.
I am not an
Tomorrow, the European Commission
will agree a draft legal text that
aims to translate December's phase
one agreement in the Brexit
negotiations into a
binding legal document.
That draft will then be looked over
by the individual member states
before it's used as the basis
for further negotiations
with the UK.
You'll recall sufficient progress
was reached in December
on three main issues -
namely citizens' rights,
the divorce bill and maintaining
an open Irish border after Brexit.
But with many on all sides
claiming the deal fudged
the question of the border,
it looks set to return
to centre stage on Wednesday.
In December, the UK and EU
agreed on three options
to ensure there wouldn't be a "hard
border" in Ireland...
A new comprehensive free trade
agreement that would remove the need
for any real change at the border...
Or the UK could propose
specific technical solutions
to mitigate the need
for physical infrastructure.
Or, in the absence of other agreed
solutions, the UK would maintain
full alignment with EU regulations
on both sides of the border that
support North-South co-operation
and the all-Ireland economy.
The DUP were concerned to ensure
there was no economic border down
the Irish Sea in such a scenario.
So a paragraph was inserted
asserting there'd be no
regulatory barriers to trade
between Northern Ireland
and Great Britain.
That has led to conflicting
interpretations - with some
in the EU assuming that the logic
dictates the UK as a whole
would have to remain tightly bound
to EU rules and institutions -
institutions the UK has repeatedly
insisted it will leave after Brexit.
Some in the UK believe alignment can
mean reaching the same standards
while diverging in the exact
form of regulations
and that full alignment need only be
put in place for very specific areas
of North-South co-operation.
Well, earlier, Foreign
Secretary Boris Johnson
was on the Today programme -
and he was asked how the UK's plans
for the border would work.
We think that we can have very
efficient facilitation systems
to make sure there's no need
for a hard border, excessive
checks at the frontier
between Northern Ireland
and the Republic and, you know,
for people listening...
You think we can have, though...
There's no border...
It's not good enough
to think you can have them,
because the other side
don't believe you.
There's no border between Islington
or Camden and Westminster.
There's no border between Camden
and Westminster but when I was Mayor
of London, we anaesthetically
and invisibly took of millions
of pounds from the accounts
of people travelling between those
two boroughs without any need
for border checks whatever.
There are all sorts of things...
Come on, you can't compare two
boroughs of London with the kinds
of difference in the arrangements
that would be in place after Brexit
between the UK and the EU.
No, I think it's a very
Boris Johnson there.
Well, we can speak now
about the prospects for customs
arrangements after Brexit
to Allie Renison - she's the head
of Europe and trade policy
at the Institute of Directors.
Let's pick-up on Boris Johnson's
assertion that there is a comparison
of boarding a hard border in
Northern Ireland to those managing
the boundary between two London
local authorities. Do you agree?
think what the Foreign Secretary may
have been trying to do was to make
an argument to say that you can use
technology as far as is possible to
come up with some solutions. I'm not
sure the example was totally
comparable if I'm on us because you
are talking about putting a frontier
border between the UK and the rest
of the EU going forward, so I think
the scale is slightly different.
a customs union, in the way Jeremy
Corbyn, the Labour leader, has
outlined, sufficient to solve the
problem of the border after Brexit?
No, it is a very important these but
is by no means what would be
necessary to guarantee frictionless
trade, simply because it deals with
the duty element of what happens
when goods cross borders, which is
the traditional way customs border
is manifest themselves but it
doesn't deal with the regulatory
architecture. These days a lot of
checks pertain not only to whether
you are paying the correct amount of
duty when a good crosses the border
but whether you are in full
compliance with the rules of the
marketed as crossing into.
your mind it doesn't go far enough
to do with those issues. The joint
report talks specifically about
specific rules support North/ South
cooperation, the protection of the
Good Friday Agreement, the all
Ireland economy. Is the Good Friday
Agreement what actually counts under
The question is also
at what point that is going to be
put into effect because effectively,
that is an insurance policy option,
ie in the absence of a great
solutions, which most people would
read as if there is no agreement,
but if it gets to that point to
understand what those areas of
alignment would have to be, you have
to spell them out and I think the
EU's point and the Republic of
Ireland thinks you need to do that
sooner rather than later, to know
what they actually are.
talk about Turkey having a customs
union with the EU, how would that be
used as a model for the UK?
this is along the lines of what the
IoD were proposing, working with the
government's ostensible redlines.
The aim is to show you can be in a
customs union with the EU and
negotiate meaningful trade
agreements so I think, for example,
if you look at the US, there would
be one constraint on the UK's
ability to completely negotiate if
it related to what the areas that
you shared an external tariff on, so
industrial goods, that would be
absolutely essential to avoid
introducing costly rules of origin
to apply between the EU and the UK
but it means you would have
prevented to negotiate on.
Parra metres of the Prime Minister's
like as to how speech and ongoing
negotiations, what you think is the
most likely option? -- within the
I think it depends on
what the UK puts forward. If you
were looking at this through the
prism of convention, a customs
border everywhere else, even between
Norway and Sweden, where it is
pretty frictionless but there is
physical infrastructure on that land
border because they don't charge the
same duties on goods coming in... I
think it would be for the UK to put
its ideas on the table and if the EU
decides it is not sufficient and it
should be coming up with
counterproposals, I think the onus
is on the UK to put forward its
proposals but the EU can't be a
silent player. It has to engage on
what those proposals are.
Renison, thank you very much.
We can speak now to
Vice President of the European
Parliament and Irish MEP
for the Fine Gael party
in Brussels and Sammy Wilson,
an MP for the Democratic
Unionist Party - who's
here with me in the studio.
Welcome to both of you. Do you
expect tomorrow that the draft legal
text will commit the UK to
maintaining full alignment with EU
regulations in the absence of other
Yes, we do expect this
text to be published tomorrow and I
think that what we expect to see is
a translation of the agreement
pre-Christmas into legal text,
including that fallback position.
You've outlined in the programme the
three options. Clearly the first
option is the best, that we reach a
situation where this isn't a
problem. In the absence of that,
tomorrow I would expect that in the
legal text there is a recognition of
that third option, that if we fail
on both one and two that we have a
fallback position which secures our
concerns around the border on the
island of Ireland which shares our
concerns with the UK and in
particular my constituents that I
south of the border. Yes, tomorrow
I'll be looking at this text very
clearly and this morning I come from
a meeting with the parliament's
negotiator where they have clearly
outlined the protocol on eyelid is
key. In the future they can be no
diversions in norms, regulations and
standards between Northern Ireland
and the Republic of Ireland. That is
if you like the third option if all
else fails. I think people should
read it in that context rather than
as some members of the committee
reading it as almost a row
immediately. We need to be very
careful of how we interpret the text
By full alignment, as you
have just explained, it is yours and
the EU's understanding that would be
entirely adopting or replicating
every single EU regulation.
that would avoid us having a
semblance of a border, a hard
border, any change to the
relationships to what happens on the
island of Ireland as the third and
final, if you like, offer in terms
of what should be done. But the
first and second are also on the
table and therefore from my
perspective, and I spoke this
morning in committee, I welcome a
repeat of the commitment to the
Irish issue. It was front and centre
of the discussions before Christmas.
It was one of the three priorities
and indeed we wondered whether we
would actually get to reaching
sufficient progress. We got working
with some difficulty and I know
you've got a DUP colleague and I'm
looking forward to his contribution.
They have particular concerns which
were taken on board and have to be
dealt with by the UK within the UK.
It beholds both sides of these
negotiations this week to move
forward in a positive framework.
Sammy Wilson, if the legal agreement
in the way Mairead has just
outlined, does commit the UK to
effectively remaining in the EU's
institutions as a backdrop Dunn
backstop, should the UK signed?
First of all, there's a gap in what
Mairead has outlined. The agreement
didn't just talk about the
relationship between Northern
Ireland and the Irish Republic. The
agreement, and it was signed by the
EU, also talked about the
unbreakable relationship between
Northern Ireland and the rest of the
United Kingdom. We would expect to
see that outlined in the legal
agreement, as well. They cannot pick
and choose and simply say where only
interested in the Northern Ireland,
Irish Republic relationship. They
have signed up to ensuring there
will be no change in the
constitutional position of Northern
Ireland. They've signed up to the
Belfast agreement commitments, that
bill be no change without the
consent of the people of Northern
Ireland, so therefore the legal
agreement must also reflect that
aspect of the December agreement.
you accept that, Mairead?
that that issue and this article,
paragraph 50, I've spoken about
paragraph 40 nine. Paragraph 50 was
an internal discussion to meet the
concerns of the DUP, who are of
course supporting the Conservative
Should it be part of
this legal text?
Al just finished my
point if I may. As I see it, that is
something the UK needs to bear in
mind as to be able to deliver on. I
would rather go back to this
starting point here. We should in
this New Year and with time running
out focus on the best option, which
is option one. I would remind both
Sammy and your listeners, this
morning they were saying we wanted a
positive relationship with the UK.
That's in the interest not just of
politics but of people. And my
country on both sides of the border.
We are at this stage fighting before
we see the text and that is...
that what you're doing?
Don't forget, it was the EU who
insisted that this had to be an
agreement. The December agreement
was an agreement that had to be
signed up by all parties. They has
to be happy with the text. We had to
be happy with the text. The text
includes paragraph 50. Paragraph 50
makes it very clear that there can
be no separation of Northern Ireland
from the rest of the UK. It is an
act of bad faith... It's an act of
bad faith is already the EU are
saying, by the way, this agreement
have 50 paragraphs but as far as the
50th is concerned, nothing to do
with us. They shouldn't have signed
up to it if that were the case.
it your position, though... Kangol,
Mairead I'll come back to you. Is it
your position that you want Northern
Ireland to have a veto over the
capacity of Great Britain to
It's not. The UK as a
whole voted to leave the EU. And the
United Kingdom as a whole should
leave the EU on the same basis.
That's not an Northern Ireland veto.
That is a UK decision. All we are
asking is that the result of the
referendum be respected. The result
of the agreement in December be
respected, and the EU and certainly
the Irish can't have the best of
both worlds, where they say, we have
to have an agreement in December and
by the way, when it comes to
February, some of those we want to
throw out the window.
Isn't it true
that this is at the door of view of
the British government? The majority
of people in Northern Ireland voted
to remain, only your party advocated
leaving. Why is it up to the Irish
or the EU to come up with a
solution? Why haven't you come up
with a solution to not having a hard
We have. All those solutions
to date, the EU and the Irish have
not even been prepared to look at in
August of last year David Davis gave
a very detailed paper as to how you
can have a virtual border between
Northern Ireland and the Irish
Republic. The EU Parliament
commissioned a report from the
former director of the WTO, who also
said it was possible to have a
virtual border between Northern
Ireland and the Irish Republic. None
of those options are even being
considered. By the Irish governorate
or the argument all along has been
until we talk about the future trade
relationship, we cannot come up with
solutions technical or otherwise.
You saying the EU has already
decided that a nonstarter and some
of the solutions Sammy has spoken
about in terms of virtual border?
Can I just reissue at Sammy Wilson
of one thing? I have no desire to
see borders anywhere. The whole
reason of my being in politics as
being part of the EU is not to have
borders between people or countries,
but clearly now the UK is leaving,
and I think you were right to
reference the fact that, in Northern
Ireland, the majority voted to
remain and to some extent the DUP
vetoed that decision, I accept that
is the situation. We don't want
borders, either. What we have are
three possible solutions to a very
serious problem that I'm sure Sammy
Wilson shares my concerns about. We
need to build relationships on the
island of Ireland. They are
difficult at the moment and I agree
that any going backward, any
dividing of people psychologically
and physically, is not healthy for
the island of Ireland and the peace
process. Begin with a positive
outlook with option one and see that
in the text tomorrow, what we're
looking at is, in the withdrawal
agreement, if all else fails, we
have to have a safeguard and I think
that's in all our interests because
we don't want to be in October of
this year looking at something which
is a disaster. Prepare well and
therefore we would fail.
haven't answered my question about
the solution that has been put
forward about a virtual border, a
technical solution to keep the
border as soft as possible. Do you
accept that those suggestions should
be looked into?
be looked into?
What I accept is,
and I've looked at that report, been
part of the discussion on them, what
I am arguing for, it is impossible
given the red lines of the UK, is
that the situation today, which is
the best option, should prevail.
Staying in the single market and
Customs union. Anything after that
causes me anxiety and concern.
That's why we have the fallback
option. When you say, should we
consider these other options? Our
choice, our best consideration,
should be given to have this strong
relationship. Good trading
partnership with the UK. Not to look
at technical solutions because
technical solutions do not get us
over relationships and the political
issues, which clearly still prevail
when it comes to the island of
Ireland but I think we should work
That answer rests the nub
of the problem. That the Irish
insist and believe that we should
stay within the single market and
Customs union, even though the
people of the UK voted to leave. The
EU negotiators believe that, as
well, and our worry is best. That
the legal text which will be
produced tomorrow or Thursday, from
the leaks we have had so far, only
looks in detail at one option which
is the fallback option which would
require full regulatory alignment.
Because there is no interest in
negotiating on the terms that the
people of the UK have decided,
namely that we leave the EU and we
have a clean break with the EU. And
if that's the case, the legal text
will not only be unacceptable to the
DUP, I suspect it will be
unacceptable to the British
heading towards Brickman ship? The
EU refuses to any technical
solutions and a hard border goes up
As far as I'm concerned,
as long as I'm in politics, a hard
border will not go up on the island
of Ireland. Let me say to Sammy
Wilson and am trying to be
conciliatory, I don't think we
really should be fighting over this.
Remember the farmers who voted to
leave, the DUP supporters who voted
to leave the EU. I accept their
vote, not the logic of it. They want
their lands to be processed in the
south of Ireland and sold to France.
They watched that to continue when
the UK leads the EU. If we have this
so-called managed divergences and in
fact ambitious managed divergences
have had from the UK side, how can
that happen? Let's get real, let's
get practical, let's get back to
grassroots. Solve this problem in
the interests of our people and
perhaps move the big politics to one
We're running out of time,
Mairead .pl other bases of
negotiation rather than
confrontation. Sammy Wilson, given
the risks to the economy of Ireland,
because it would be devastating on
the island if there isn't a deal
that is done, is it your position
that the Irish government are acting
purely in political our faith?
only political about-face, but there
are acting in a way which must be
incomprehensible to many of the
people who operate businesses in the
Irish Republic because this fixation
with the border between Northern
Ireland and the Irish Republic hides
the main issue, and that is that the
vast bulk of the Irish market is not
in Northern Ireland. They sell six
times more to the rest of the UK and
therefore concentrating on the
Northern Ireland Irish border and
wanting regulatory alignment between
those two parts of the island, are
they really saying they're prepared
to sacrifice the regulatory
alignment which we require to enable
them to sell their goods in Great
Britain but you might because if
they do I think that will be the
real devastation for the businesses.
Mairead, very briefly, Boris Johnson
says it's as easy as dealing with
the boundary between two London
Boris. You could deal with it in the
way we have a congestion charge in
the capital. Do you agree?
first of all, can I just say, there
is no bad faith on behalf of myself
as an Irish politician or my
government. I would reject that
absolutely. When it comes to Boris
Johnson's comments which I read and
heard with interest, I think Sammy
Wilson would be the first to say
that the UK is a different country
than the Republic of Ireland. We are
talking about two sovereign, UK and
the Republic of Ireland. The
comparison doesn't quite fit.
does it, Mairead. If you look at it
with a different tax regime, VAT,
excise duty is different. Yet
billions of pounds worth of goods
across that border, tax is paid, is
not a lorry is stopped to check the
goods because through virtual
methods, through IT, through
electronic invoicing, those taxes
are collected by both the Irish
government and the British
government. If it can work on that
basis it can work after we leave the
We have to leave it there. Thank
you both very much. Mairead, sorry,
that's the end of the interview!
Now, our guest of the day
Marvin Rees was the first directly
elected black Mayor in the UK
and he's the subject of a new film,
a biopic following his two election
campaigns in Bristol.
But, outside the city, the Mayor
isn't particularly well known.
Here at the Daily Politics we pride
ourselves on delivering public
service broadcasting at its finest -
so in that tradition, Paul Barltrop,
BBC West Political Editor has
the lowdown on Marvin the man.
May 2016 and Bristol have
elected a new mayor.
It was the start of a political
career but the culmination
of a long personal journey.
His father was Jamaican-born,
but Marvin Rees was brought up
by his mother Janet.
The pictures show an earnest,
It was always Lego and Meccano
and there was always a structure
and a plan to everything.
You couldn't just be
sort of, you know, kids
and just see what happened -
Marvin would always want to make
the model on the front of the box.
His early years were spent
here in a flat on the Long Cross
estate in the north of the city.
It wasn't easy - there was plenty
of racism in 1970s Bristol.
As a mixed-race child
of a single mother, he had
to look out for himself
but, encouraged by her,
he showed himself to be a striver
whether at school or at sport.
In his teens he joined a youth club
and quickly made an impression.
Straightaway, he was one
of those that was polite,
smiling and so on.
And what was interesting,
then he didn't come for a couple
of evenings and his mum
then turned up with him,
catching hold of him by the ear
and saying, "Marvin's coming
to club every night."
He especially took to boxing
and ended up taking
on a future world champion.
Depending on how that fight went
that night could have changed
everything for Marvin.
He wouldn't have been a mayor,
he could well have been
a world champion boxer!
But as it happened, it
went the three rounds,
both stood there but Marvin took
a few bangs and ended up having
both his retinas detached!
So that was Marvin's career.
It started here as a young man
and he trained well to do
it, he became good.
His defence should have been better
that day and perhaps
then he'd have been OK,
but the reality is his boxing
career ended here, too!
After university, he worked
in broadcasting and, as a reporter,
often showed his desire to make
the world a better place.
Welcome to Stokes Croft
here in Bristol - we're right
in the heart of the city.
Wanting to go further,
he joined a scheme to
encourage people from ethnic
minorities into politics.
I'm here because I'm interested
in the way the country's run.
Since I was young, I had big
questions going around in my head -
why are some people so rich
while others are so poor?
He was snapped up by Labour and,
though a political novice,
he soon caught the eye
of council veterans.
In a sense, not being around
Labour was a good thing.
He brought new ideas
and he certainly wasn't
defending the status quo.
He wasn't New Labour,
he wasn't sort of representing any
sort of faction of the party,
so I thought he was just
a breath of fresh air,
to be honest with you.
Good morning, everybody.
His path to power wasn't easy -
he lost the first mayoral election.
His second campaign
was against a backdrop
of Labour's internal strife.
The day he won, Jeremy Corbyn rushed
to Bristol to congratulate him.
In the ensuing party leadership
contest, the new mayor
refused to take sides.
Well, there was massive tensions
and, behind the scenes,
there was lots of conversations
about, you know, what was
the right thing to do?
Was it to support the
leader, was it not to?
But ultimately there was a decision
to be made and I think
he made the right one!
It's harder to avoid
conflict in the chamber.
Last week, one protester let off
a flare as his Labour councillors
voted through a budget cutting
spending by millions.
Seeing a way to change his city
for the better isn't proving easy.
As you saw at the end of the film,
being mayor of Bristol has its tough
times, too, with local funding
issues a key issue. Joining us is
Chloe Westley from the TaxPayers'
Alliance. Marvin, protests, cutting
spending in Bristol, but you could
put up council tax by 6%. Why don't
In our consultation on the
budget we spoke to the city about 5%
and having given our word on that
that's what we stuck to but we have
made the savings we've had to make
but we have taken many of those
in-house and I'll do my level best
to protect front line services.
problem is, Chloe Westley, central
Government funding has been cut to
local government to the tune of 77 %
according to the Local Government
Association so how on earth can
councils cope with providing
But had an
impact but we have seen a trend over
the last 20 years where council tax
has gone up steadily above inflation
and it has gone up in years where
government funding has increased so
it is nothing new, this increase in
council tax. But I have a lot of
sympathy with you, Marvin, and with
councils, because in order to reduce
the deficit and so spending the
Government has not looked at
reducing foreign aid of scrapping
HS2 reducing unnecessary spending,
it has cut local government funding,
and that is an issue of priorities.
What do you say?
We have been
incredibly inventive in the way we
have made our cuts and in our
internal processes but I think it is
a false economy, austerity. If it
impacts on our ability to invest in
children's mental health, to keep
families in their home, this is not
a cost without cost. They will turn
up somewhere else in the system,
maybe not this year or next but in
five years. Many of the things we do
at local government level are about
protecting costs to the public
And the conversations about
councils helping with the cost of
living, the people paying the
council tax families that I meet all
the time and represent. They are
left out of the conversation so you
have the local government
spokesperson and the council leader
saying, we have to put up council
tax, we can't afford it, but
families are under pressure to and
there was a lack of recognition
about the situation. There was a
survey that said 95% of councils
were going to put up council tax and
they interviewed the people that did
that survey and did not bring up the
fact that councils were but families
have to pay more.
We have at that
into account and that is why we
didn't put it at 6% that we could.
We are aware of the struggles of
families face, particularly with
this regressive tax. We've done
incredible job of engaging. We have
a budget simulator online that
anyone in the city can have their
own go at balancing our budget and
we run citywide events where we
bring people into the council house
to make sure they are participating
in the way we run the city. Local
governments have been incredibly
inventive but, actually, it is in
some sense trying to make bricks
without straw. We need investment.
It is not just about local
government. What we are talking
about his leadership of place. So
when we look at running Bristol it
is not just about the City Council
but about how we work with criminal
Justice, the voluntary sector,
business, health services.
you try and cut the council tax
reduction scheme for the poorest
households in Bristol?
Is one of the
options we had to look at. One of
the most important things we can do
in the city is protect our most
You wanted to
cut the council tax reduction
Wanted is a loaded word. We
looked at the range of options
available to us to make sure we came
home with a balance.
But you you
turned at the end and didn't go
through with it.
That kind of
language doesn't help dynamic and
If you are
sending a message about what you are
trying to do the people of Bristol
and the most vulnerable, dude didn't
follow through with the decision
that you would come to.
other means of doing so did we saved
£800,000 a year on senior staffing
costs. I would challenge a little
bit on this challenge of U-turns and
so forth. We looked at a whole range
of things we could do to make sure
that we managed our money
responsibly. When we have a
conversation with the city and put
on our options, that was one we
didn't have to pursue.
really a decision that should be
made, whether or not to cut funding
to the locust -- poorest people in
the local constituency, all because
central government won't fund local
pretend they are immune from
spending cuts. There is a Vicky Boss
is. There are 500 council bosses in
the country earning more than the
Prime Minister. I think that would
be a good place to start for less
spending and I think in Bristol you
have an office in Brussels. I would
say that can probably go when we
leave the EU.
That was a
recommendation by the Conservative
group last week. At this time when
we are parting from the EU it is
absolutely essential that we are on
the world stage promoting our
businesses and the investable
opportunities in our cities. If we
stepped off the international stage
at this time when our government and
country need all the help to remain
visible, that would be a backward
What did you make of your
colleague Labour MP Chris Williamson
proposing a progressive council tax
plan to hike bills for the better
off and freeze them for the poorest?
He made a speech in Bristol, too.
Before anyone makes grand statements
about the local level they need to
leader for local level and one of
the weaknesses of British politics
at the moment is that it doesn't
have the voice of local leaders in
as high regard as it should. Brexit
Westminster Brexit. The national
debate is so much about Westminster
when actually real things are being
done at the core city level.
that a mistake, to make that
It wasn't something I
Any other councils you
think would take that suggestion?
didn't hear a choir of support for
it. We are making sure we are
financially responsible, delivering
for our population, taking cuts in
house, but what we need is
Government to start investing in
local government it
council tax bands, a good idea?
Potentially but on the point about
local power, there is an opportunity
here you my to change the change the
way the government is funded because
a lot of it is hand-outs from the
Government and council tax but if
you have more tax-raising powers at
a local level and about how you can
run services - a lot of it is
mandated by central government - I
think that would be a good thing
because you would be in charge of
more and people could vote based on
changes you are making and not on
what central government is telling
you to do.
Chloe Westley, thank you.
For more than 70 years,
mortgage interest support has been
available to homeowners,
usually those claiming other
benefits, who are struggling
to meet repayments.
From April, it will be replaced
by a new "second mortgage" scheme
where the Government
loans people the money -
they pay it back later
when the house is sold.
Critics say it'll force
people further into debt,
as Phil McCann explains.
Go on, we're going to
keep swinging, Lucas!
This is daily life for Susanne.
Her son Lucas has autism, attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder,
and nervous problems
causing hearing loss.
She's a single mum and a full-time
carer for Lucas and his brother.
We've only just got the toilet
training under control.
He doesn't sleep.
He doesn't get the world.
So what's your world
like at the moment?
You can't switch off.
You have to be one step ahead
of him all the time.
Not only just to...
You know, it's all
about keeping him safe.
Susanne is one of 124,000 people
who get the benefit called Support
for Mortgage Interest.
At the moment, Susanne's mortgage
interest support payments cover
around a third of the monthly cost
of her mortgage.
But soon the payments won't come
in the form of a benefit -
they'll be a loan which will have
to be paid back whenever
the house is sold.
I feel like I've been
kicked in the teeth.
You know, they're draining me
dry and I feel very...
It's made me feel very,
The government is writing to
everyone who gets the benefit now.
It means pressure's growing before
the change comes in in April.
They should pause this,
they should review this and I think
for the amount of money that they're
saving in the grand scheme
of things, again, we should go back
to a system which provides a grant
rather than a loan on top of a loan.
And for the homeowners
affected by this change,
they'll end up paying more
than they borrow - because the loan
itself will have interest.
The interest is very low
in comparison to other loans,
but nevertheless it is still a loan
secured against your house.
So if you own your own property,
or a mortgage property,
then this is really like having
a second mortgage.
The benefit costs the government
£170 million a year at the moment.
Ministers say it's reasonable
the financial help should be paid
back, but the loan will be written
off if the sale doesn't
raise enough to do that.
The only change will be
when the property is sold,
if there's sufficient equity
in the property that the taxpayer
gets to recover some of that
support that's been given,
sometimes for very,
very long periods.
But we fundamentally want
to maintain people in their homes,
so they should have no fear.
So, Susanne isn't worried
about immediate money problems,
but from April she and 124,000
others will have less to pass
on to their children.
I'm joined now by Helen Morrissey,
a personal finance specialist
at Royal London, and Kit Malthouse,
the Work and Pensions minister.
Welcome to both of you. Canon, you
can see why the Government might
want to scrap this benefit because
it seems an anomaly that the
taxpayer is helping to pay the
mortgages of 124,000 people when
billions can't even afford to get on
the housing ladder.
The issue that
we have is how these changes are
being conveyed to people. We put in
a request to the DWP for some
figures on this in January and
bearing in mind, this is a massive
change coming in April, by the end
of January out of 125,000
recipients, less than 7000 had
chosen the loan option. That worries
me because I'm wondering what
happened to the other 100,000 people
who have S M I and have not made a
decision and that is where I think
the Government needs to look at
delaying the roll-out of this to
give people time and support to make
the right decision.
It is not very
much time to make quite a dramatic
change if the figures are as Helen
says, less than fewer than 7000 have
signed up to this loan, what are you
going to do about the others?
been communicating since July so we
have about 110,000 people on the as
of this morning. We have sent about
440,000 bits of paper, there have
been 38,000 phone calls, of which
275,000 have been successful so the
vast majority of people are in
conversation with the department
about whether they are going to make
a decision or not. We will be
pushing that right through to the
end of April and we have room for a
bit of flexibility at the time but
we think the vast majority of
people, 90 percentage of people,
will make a decision in time and
that is the pattern we are seeing
and we are throwing at it. Whoa are
you reassured by that?
I am not
really. You might have been making a
decision in time but whether it is a
decision they have been rushed
into... I have been looking at a lot
of forums for charities like Scope
that deal with disabled people, a
lot of them say they don't
understand it, and they have been
posted a couple of days ago. They've
think they might have to sell their
Can you guarantee not a
single family will be made homeless
The whole Berbers of the
scheme is to maintain people in
their homes so from a cosmetic point
of view, nobody would see any
change. The payments would continue
and am direct to the mortgage
company, the bank, so nobody need to
see any at all. The only changes
that whoa at the end when the house
is sold, if you make a profit, we
are asking that some of the
supporters repaid it
scheme costs £170 million, housing
benefit costs £25 billion, isn't
this an expensive way of making a
It's £150 million will have
invested other services. Government
is about making these decisions. SMI
was set up in 1948 and was designed
as a temporary scheme to maintain
people in their houses. We're now
getting to a position where people
are taking mortgages into
retirement, which was never heard of
before. They were in receipt of this
were 20 or 30 years. All were asking
is in a housing market where prices
are rising rapidly, if you make a
profit, that the taxpayer recoups
some of that.
I understand your
reservations because the timing and
people haven't understood what they
would like to do, are not all of
them, but the principle at the heart
of it, do you accept that, that this
shouldn't necessarily be an asset
that is passed on to your children
if you've been receiving benefit all
the way through?
We're not calling
for this change to not happen. The
issue is how it is being
Will you delay it was
to mark your going to go ahead.
275,000 successful calls and my
message to people is to be
reassured. The idea of the scheme is
to maintain them in their homes and
if they wish, they can continue with
the payments. The other thing to
remember is it's not a one-off
decision. You can get three, four,
five, six, two years in and decide
you don't want alone any more. We
can repay early, leave it at a
certain level and wait until the
house is sold. It's not an
What do you
If I look at the
housing crisis we have in my city,
11,500 people on the waiting list,
Private rent is out of control,
private tenancies breaking down,
resulting in homelessness. If I
wanted something to come from
government to help the macro
intervene in the market, make sure
we have stable families in settled
communities that are self maintained
with good social capital, this would
not be at. I wish there was more of
a conversation between Westminster
and the leaders of cities where real
people live to talk about what we
actually need to enable us to create
these kind of spaces that are good
for the UK.
This is part of a wider
package of welfare reform. I've just
come from a meeting with the
Secretary of State of the DWP to
talk about that, what more we can do
to work together with the Ministry
of Housing to try to improve.
not just talking to Westminster...
Talking to you on a regular basis
and I know they are holding Round
Tables all the time.
We have to
leave it there but thank you very
Now, our guest of the day
Marvin Rees is one of
a new generation of Labour
politicians elected under
the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
Many Labour members and activists
see this period as one of renewal,
optimism and excitement
for the party.
But our next guest is
somewhat more pessimistic.
The former Labour MP Tom Harris has
written a new book called
In The Death Of The Labour Party.
It's out on Thursday.
So, what is the state
of the Labour Party and has it
since Corbyn's election?
He joins us now from Glasgow.
Tom, welcome to the programme. Your
book has this dramatic title, but
even your conclusion is that the
party hasn't gone full dodo yet, it
hasn't died. It's a long way from
extinction, isn't it?
The title is
taken from an earlier book by my
colleague who wrote a book called
four years of the death of the
Labour Party. After that, the party
did recover. Maybe the Labour Party
will turn back to it traditional
form after Jeremy Corbyn exits the
stage. I am as you say pessimistic.
Even Corbin fans can look at the
title of the book and read it and
interpreted as they like. They could
say that that ten years that I
referred to in the title covers the
period from 2007 when Gordon Brown
made the catastrophic decision not
to hold an early general election
and then ten years later during the
June general election of 2017, when
the party arguably rose from its
deathbed and started to recover. I
am more pessimistic. I see the
current Labour Party, Corbyn's
Labour Party, as soap different from
the party of Clement Attlee and Tony
Blair. It doesn't resemble any more.
What we see now is the equivalent of
the pod people in Invasion of the
Body Snatchers of their relationship
with their victims. There really
isn't much in common.
How did you
vote in the general election?
between me and the ballot box.
will see if you voted for the Labour
Party of which were still a member,
but you won't say which way you
voted. You talk about Jeremy Corbyn
being so different to the party of
Attlee but you must agree that the
party performed better than
expectations and the last general
But what party performed
that well? The party I've been a
member of the 34 years is not a
party for example that would ever
have provided a safe haven for inti
Semites -- anti-Semites. The party I
belong to would never use bullying
as a way to get its way. The most
important thing is policy and this
is something a lot of the coverage
of the general election has not
covered. The manifesto that Corbyn
issued in 2017 was largely regarded
as fairly moderate, something
Miliband could have put his name to.
Actually the most radical and most
extreme policy that Labour put
forward wasn't even in the
manifesto. Jeremy Corbyn said during
the general election that if he
became Prime Minister he would
institute a review of policy on
Trident. There's no doubt how that
review would have concluded and we
would have ended up disarming
Trident without a political vote of
Lets me get Marvin's
response. What do you say to Tom
Harris? You've been ambiguous about
support for Jeremy Corbyn. Are you
fully signed up to the Corbyn agenda
I support Jeremy as leader of
the party, but when I joined, I
joined politics quite late, as you
saw in the film earlier on. What I
didn't do was come in and say, which
gang will I join? I found a group of
people I felt were committed to
tackling inequality, delivering an
increasing economy, doing social
justice, and I joined up. That's
what I want and I want to carve out
my own space. I'm not looking to
recast myself in the mould of anyone
in the party. It's about bringing
together a range of people from
different brands who can coalesce
around a shared number of
Do you see Tom as being
from a different tribe or faction?
don't know him so I wouldn't say
that. If you are committed to
economic equality, political
empowerment, then we can work
together. But clearly there's a
distinction because I don't think
all parties are on the same page
What's the for you
successful Labour leader?
To be able
to hold a range of people together
across the spectrum. That essential.
Steering Jeremy Corbyn is doing
It's partly his job and people
are in the party and he's doing that
but it's up to people to stay in the
game, stay in the match. Martin
Luther King talk about creative
tensions. You have those differences
of views and comes your positions.
Why hasn't Labour won a nationwide
election since 2005?
I joined in
2006, so... I'm late to that. I
guess people across the country just
chose not to vote and have not found
the party attractive. At a local
level we've done incredibly well.
All core tent cities until last
summer were Labour run and that
again is something that happens
distribute portion at amount of
attention on Westminster and not
enough attention on the fact that
Labour is actually in power in the
major cities across the UK.
right. Tom Harris, thank you for
Now, Liam Fox is speaking
in an address focusing
on the benefits of life
outside a customs union.
The International Trade Secretary
tore into Labour's plans
for a customs union with the EU
after Brexit and highlighted
the opportunities for global
trade outside the EU.
Let's have a look at
what he had to say.
We cannot let the practices
and the patterns of the past
constrain the opportunities
of the future.
We require an economic outlook that
allows us to take advantage
of the substantial opportunities
that Europe will continue to bring,
but without limiting our ability
to adapt to a changing and growing
world beyond the European continent.
The UK is perfectly placed
to partner with the economic
powerhouses of the future
and they in turn are eager
for the mutual prosperity that such
a partnership would bring.
To do this, we need the ability
to exercise a fully
independent trade policy.
We have to maximise our overall
trading opportunities from the UK
to secure the prosperity
of our people.
Joining us now is the Conservative
MP and Leave supporter Nigel Evans.
He's also a member
of the International
Trade Select Committee.
Rather helpfully! Nigel, despite
what Liam Fox has just said, his
former permanent secretary as you
will know has argued that leaving
the single market and because and
union is like rejecting a three
course meal now in favour of a
promise of a packet of crisps later.
How can you make up for such loss of
So negative. I heard what he
had to say.
believe so. They IMF said 90% of the
growth over the next ten to 15 years
will happen outside the EU.
our export with the EU. It is an
important market to put at
is but we won't turn our backs on
the EU. We still wants to do deals
Liam Fox has been to visit 150
countries throughout the world with
his colleagues. I was in the USA
just three weeks ago talking to some
of their congressmen. Really keen to
do a trade deal with the UK. I sat
with the trade representative of New
Zealand last week. They want to do a
trade deal with us. I think the
potential is absolutely brilliant
but if people are like his former
civil servant, who were saying how
bleak it was all going to be but yet
last year our exports went up 11%.
We have more venture capital coming
But we haven't left
the EU! But we are still part of the
EU, we haven't left. There is now
more pressure, Jeremy Corbyn has
cemented Labour's position to remain
part of the union... Customs union.
The EU 27 have so much more weight
when it comes to negotiating trade
deals than the UK on its own. It
will be much harder to do, take
longer and be more difficult to make
trade dipped -- make trade dispute.
It easier than when you are somebody
requisite in 28 countries.
more have to.
Canada took eight
years, that's still not come into
play. As far as Jeremy Corbyn is
concerned, his Orwellian doublespeak
has to be the greatest mis-selling
Help concerned are you
that you're pro-EU colleagues are
going to walk through the lobby with
Jeremy Corbyn on that amendment to
stay in a customs union?
that would be thwarting the wishes
of the British people. Not so many
months ago, the manifesto said we
were leaving the EU. You can't stay
in a customs union website you are
chained to the EU to do all your
trade deals with you. Part of reason
people want to leave it so that we
can do trade deals with the rest the
world and the fastest growing
economies outside the EU.
point. People voted to leave the EU.
We will still be half in and half
out every part of the customs union.
They did but I find the leadership
of government on this incredibly
disappointed. I was in Brussels last
week. I got to meet the two key
characters before we'd had chance to
sit around the table with our own
government. There's been no
proactive engagement with the ten
biggest cities outside London
talking about what we need. If you'd
seen us you wouldn't be getting a
Bristol City Council perspective,
you'd be speaking to our chamber of
commerce, our universities, all
those places that are saying they
need government to be listening to
what goes on outside Westminster.
literally a few seconds, how much is
Theresa May under pressure to give
She won't give way. To leave
the EU we need to leave the customs
The answer to our quiz...
The question was...
Post-Brexit, one of Winston
tipples is going to be sold
in pint-sized bottles -
a size that Churchill
considered to be just perfect.
But which drink is it?
I'll take that one!
It is champagne,
we gave you the answer! That's all
we've got time for today. Goodbye.
Jo Coburn is joined by the Labour mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees to discuss Brexit and the Northern Ireland border, local government funding and the state of the Labour party.