Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen
- Afternoon summary
- Downing Street lobby briefing – Summary
- Brexit deadlock as No 10 insists EU must scrap backstop before talks
- Dublin accuses Boris Johnson of putting UK on ‘collision course with EU’
- Johnson says hiring 20,000 more police officers starts ‘within weeks’
Earlier, in response to a question from a reader, I posted a paragraph explaining why Boris Johnson might not be quite as fearful of an early general election as people generally think he should be. (See 2.37pm.) But my colleague Severin Carrell, the Guardian’s Scotland editor, points out (fairly) that I left out the Scottish dimension. He’s sent me this.
Amidst all the talk of a snap election this autumn, it is unwise to ignore the likely scale of an Scottish National party “win” in Scotland. All the recent polls show the SNP will romp home with a larger number of seats: not quite as high as the 56 out of 59 seats they won in 2015 but they’re on course to easily surpass 40, leaving the other parties trailing.
Those numbers will have significant impact on the prospects of both the Tories and Labour of winning a majority in the Commons, where the SNP is currently the third largest party.
Angela Merkel has wished Boris Johnson “a sure hand” in his new role as British prime minister inviting him to visit Berlin in a telephone call.
The German chancellor interrupted her summer break to speak to Johnson today, in a conversation which a spokeswoman said focussed on Brexit as well as future bilateral relations.
Here are some pictures from Boris Johnson’s visit to West Midlands Police’s learning and development centre. I have not found any pictures of people posing for selfies with him yet.
This is from Sky’s Sam Coates, who has obviously seen TV footage of Boris Johnson’s walkabout this afternoon that has not been broadcast yet.
Interesting watching pictures of Boris Johnson doing a walkabout. Public coming up and doing selfies with the PM, without the police intervening. Not very Theresa May.
This is from the Mail on Sunday’s Harry Cole.
Ohhh… Sunday Times journalist Andrew Gilligan is the Prime Minister’s new adviser on Transport.
There had been rumours of this. Good news for cycling – based on their double act in London, anyway. https://t.co/MsMKDo0R8V
Downing Street has announced that six junior ministers (all parliamentary under secretaries of state) are saying in post. They are:
Kevin Foster, a Welsh Office minister and Cabinet Office minister, and government whip
And here is the German read-out from the Boris Johnson/Angela Merkel call. This is from Ulrike Demmer, a German government spokeswoman.
Chancellor #Merkel spoke to the new UK Prime Minister Boris #Johnson on the telephone today; they discussed #Brexit as well as bilateral relations. The Chancellor invited the Prime Minister to come to Berlin for his first visit in the near future. @10DowningStreet pic.twitter.com/TdW1NUDKSb
Boris Johnson has had a telephone call with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. According to the Downing Street read-out, Merkel got exactly the same message about how the backstop must go that Emmanuel Macron received. (See 12.38pm.) A Number 10 spokesman said:
The PM today received a call of congratulations from German chancellor Angela Merkel. They agreed to continue to strengthen our bilateral relationship, and to work together closely on foreign policy and security issues.
On Brexit, the PM said that he would be energetic in reaching out as much as possible to try to achieve a deal, but he reiterated the message he delivered in the House of Commons yesterday: parliament has rejected the withdrawal agreement three times and so the UK must fully prepare for the alternative – which is to leave without a deal on October 31.
The pound has been falling in value this afternoon in the light of Simon Coveney’s comments about Brexit (see 1.08pm), the BBC’s Faisal Islam reports.
Sterling now dipping below 1.24 to $1.2395 this afternoon, after comments such as this from Ireland’s Tanaiste Coveney that PM Johnson “deliberately” put UK “on collision course” with EU and Ireland, and No 10 saying EU needs to drop backstop for talkshttps://t.co/xSgR7yOK8q
It looks like Tobias Ellwood has been sacked. Ellwood, a defence minister, said at the weekend that a no deal Brexit could plunge the Tories into opposition for an awfully long period of time. But two days later he said he would not be resigning from government.
Now he is out. He has posted this on Twitter.
It’s been a privilege.
I return to the backbenches with ever more passion, respect and humility for our amazing Armed Forces. And will continue to make the case for further defence spending.
Si vis pacem, para bellum pic.twitter.com/j535Go7Ui1
Julian Smith, the new Northern Ireland secretary, has been visiting Derry.
We’ve had another instalment of the reshuffle.
These are all parliamentary under secretary of state appointments, or the equivalent, which is the most junior level of minister.
Here are two questions from below the line that I’ll answer up here because they raise issues of general interest.
Andrew – with all eyes on a possible vote of No Confidence as a way of stopping Boris Johnson as PM taking the UK out of the EU on No Deal:
Given that a vote of NC would lead to a General Election, after a cooling off period of 14 days when the PM would try to turn things round (and 25 working days to prepare, after Parliament is dissolved), how can MPs force the date of the GE to be set before 31st October?
Andrew – could you please explain what Boris’s thinking might be behind an autumn election, assuming it’s planned to occur pre-Brexit? Much though Labour is in a fairly miserable position, aren’t the Tories equally vulnerable to their vote being split by Brexit Party candidates standing everywhere? If the Remain factions do get themselves sorted enough to identify a single remain-friendly candidate in most consituencies, hasn’t Boris got an awfully hard job on his hands to get a majority?
Boris Johnson could be joined in Downing Street by a new companion – a pet dog, the Press Association reports. The prime minister is understood to have raised the prospect of bringing in man’s best friend when he addressed staff in Number 10 for the first time. Johnson began by declaring that he wanted to end the feud between Downing Street cat Larry, and his rival across the street at the Foreign Office, Palmerston, who famously do not get on. He then apparently suggested the idea of getting a dog – to cries of approval from the assembled staffers. Insiders acknowledged that any new four-legged resident of Number 10 would have to get on with Larry, who was originally brought in by David Cameron to deal with the Downing Street mice. However a decision may be some way off. “It is a longer-term project,” a source said.
Downing Street has just announced a new tranche of ministerial appointments.
This is what Simon Coveney, the Irish deputy prime minister, said this morning about how Boris Johnson has put the UK “on a collision course” with the EU over Brexit. (See 11.56am.) Coveney said:
The statements of the British prime minister yesterday in the House of Commons were very unhelpful to this process.
He seems to have made a deliberate decision to set Britain on a collision course with the European Union and with Ireland in relation to the Brexit negotiations, and I think only he can answer the question as to why he is doing that.
I think from a Brexit negotiating perspective, it was a very bad day yesterday, we will have to wait whether that message coming from London changes in the weeks ahead.
Yesterday “was a very bad day” from a #Brexit negotiating perspective.
Steve Baker, the Tory Brexiter and deputy chair of the European Research Group, has told the Evening Standard that he is is worried Boris Johnson will ask MPs to back “a ‘compromise’ withdrawal agreement with a time limit on the backstop”, Joe Murphy reports. Baker and his fellow ERG hardliners think only the complete removal of the backstop would be acceptable.
In his Commons statement yesterday Johnson did say the backstop would have to go for good. He told MPs:
If an agreement is to be reached it must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop.
Here is a full summary of the Downing Street lobby briefing.
The purpose of the call was to congratulate the prime minister. They did discuss Brexit.
When the prime minister has these conversations with fellow leaders and the discussion moves onto Brexit, he will be setting out the same message which he delivered in the House of Commons yesterday and in his conversation with President Juncker.
We are clear-eyed about what needs to happen if we are going to be able to secure a deal which parliament can support.
The French government has warned Boris Johnson against playing games with the Irish border after the new British prime minister demanded the ditching of the backstop, my colleague Daniel Boffey reports.
At its regular briefing the European Commission also said that there are no meetings scheduled yet between the EU and Boris Johnson’s government. The commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, spoke to Johnson on the phone yesterday, and said officials remain available should the UK wish to hold talks. But today the commission’s spokeswoman, Natasha Bertaud, said:
I have no further announcements in terms of timing or planning of that to announce today.
David Mundell, who was sacked as Scottish secretary by Boris Johnson on Tuesday, has said he “will not shirk” from challenging the new prime minister if his policies risk boosting calls for Scotland’s independence.
Mundell had been openly hostile to Johnson’s leadership bid, making it widely known he feared his populist and at time jingoistic brand of politics, and his openness to a no deal Brexit, threatens the future of the UK.
The new prime minister must work hard to ensure that does not happen. Having listened carefully to everything he has had to say over the past few weeks, I’m hopeful …
I take the prime minister at his word, but I made clear that I see my role as a backbench MP as holding him to account on his commitment to the union – and I will not shirk from doing so.
These are from my colleague Lisa O’Carroll, who has been following Simon Coveney, the Irish deputy prime minister’s, meeting with the new Northern Ireland secretary, Julian Smith, at Stormont.
PA reporting from Coveney presser:
Yesterday was a very bad day for Brexit negotiations perspective
NEW: Coveney press (via press association)
IRELAND’S COVENEY SAYS APPROACH BY UK’S JOHNSON IS NOT THE BASIS FOR AN AGREEMENT
Coveney: – Johnson’s comments designed to set UK on collision course with the EU
Coveney: – Boris Johnson’s comments in House of Commons have been very unhelpful
Coveney says hopes to have deal on restoring Stormont “concluded in a matter of weeks”
I’m just back from the Downing Street lobby briefing. Here are the three main lines
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, has restated her view that congress will not pass a UK-US trade deal if Boris Johnson’s government puts the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland at risk, the Irish Times reports. Pelosi said:
We made it clear in our conversations with senior members of the Conservative party earlier this year that there should be no return to a hard border on the island. That position has not changed. Any trade deal between the US and Great Britain would have to be cognisant of that.
Some figures in the Boris Johnson camp are pushing back against the conventional media assumption, which has been fuelled by what Johnson has been doing and saying over the last 48 hours, that he is planning for an early general election. This is from the Spectator’s James Forsyth.
Leading Number 10 figure tells me that there’s no plan for an election in September and that the focus is on leaving on October 31st without a general election. Am informed that this has been made extremely clear to both Downing Street SPADs and officials
Punditocracy already deciding that the primary mission of the government is to get re-elected. Wishful thinking. Primary mission of that team in Downing Street is to Brexit. An election before Brexiting is a possibility, not the priority.
Good news for all those in Downing Street working on the reshuffle: Peter Bone, the outspoken Tory Brexiter, is available to serve. Bone, a serial rebel, is one of those MPs assumed at Westminster to be destined for a lifetime on the backbenches, but when he was asked on Sky’s All Out Politics if he would take a job in Boris Johnson’s government, he replied:
Yeah, I would, actually. The odds of that are extremely unlikely. But I would, because I want to support Boris. I went up and down the country running the ‘Back Boris’ rallies to support him.
According to Jim Pickard and Gillian Tett in today’s Financial Times (paywall), Nigel Farage, the Brexit party leader, and some Donald Trump supporters in the US are backing a new group, World4Brexit, which is being set up to lobby for Brexit. Farage told the FT he was not convinced Boris Johnson will deliver Brexit.
Mr Farage, speaking just before the fundraiser at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan, said the donations would all be “above the board and legal”.
The cash would not go to political candidates and would be used to “dig deep, find out who is really running the show”, according to the fundraising documents …
The new Farage-linked group, World4Brexit, is telling potential donors that George Soros has given “tens of millions” to the Remain cause.
In reality the only Soros donations I can find so far (to Best For Britain) amount to under £1m. pic.twitter.com/bwfldQAgut
There were three council byelections yesterday. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party was putting up candidates for the first time in council byelections in two of the wards. They did not win, and instead the Lib Dems gained two seats.
Britain Elects has the results.
Three council by-elections tonight: two in Gloucester (one Conservative defence, one Labour); and one in Hartlepool (Labour defence).
Hart (Hartlepool) result:
LAB: 30.5% (+1.3)
INDU: 29.8% (+29.8)
GRN: 16.3% (+12.7)
FBM: 13.8% (+13.8)
UKIP: 9.5% (-17.7)
No Independent (-20.3) and Conservative (-19.7) as previous.
INDU: Independent Union.
FBM: For Britain Movement.
Podsmead (Gloucester) result:
LDEM: 30.0% (+30.0)
CON: 29.6% (-18.5)
LAB: 18.0% (-33.9)
BREX: 16.4% (+16.4)
GRN: 4.3% (+4.3)
UKIP: 1.6% (+1.6)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Labour.
Lib Dem gain by just three votes. https://t.co/e9IL0lgo9C
Barnwood (Gloucester) result:
LDEM: 46.5% (+15.1)
CON: 34.1% (-6.0)
BREX: 10.5% (+10.5)
LAB: 4.4% (-6.9)
GRN: 4.1% (-1.3)
UKIP: 0.4% (-11.2)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative.
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, is meeting the new Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith at 10am, in the first British-Irish engagement since Boris Johnson became prime minister.
Smith is in Belfast this morning for his first round of meetings with parties at Stormont followed by a trip to Derry this afternoon.
On the Today programme this morning Bertie Ahern, who was Irish prime minister at the time of the Good Friday agreement said that Boris Johnson was being “not bright” in trying to make 31 October a rigid deadline for Brexit. He told the programme:
I just don’t see how such a tight timescale – [it’s] nothing to do with the determination, or skill, or ability, or anything – just to agree a whole new agreement, it’s just very hard to see how that can be done by Halloween.
I think we should all avoid trying to come up with simplistic solutions that this can all be done just by waving a hand or the stroke of a pen.
It is complex, it is difficult, it is new, and I think forcing a deadline into that is not bright, and I put it no stronger than that.
These are from Alan Travis, the Guardian’s former long-serving home affairs editor, on the announcement about extra police officers.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to recruit 10,000 extra mental health nurses and 10,000 extra police officers rather than 20,000 extra police? Much growing demand on the police result of cuts to other services..
Metropolitan police have said that 40% of their time is spent dealing with incidents that ‘have a mental health element”. Kent police say 30%.
Turns out that crime wasn’t down.
Turns out that police reform wasn’t working.
It’s Boris Johnson’s second full day in office and, in a move that will do nothing to quell suspicions that we’ve already slipped into the early phase of a general election campaign, Johnson has announced that he will start the process of recruiting 20,000 extra police officers “within weeks”. Interestingly, he also says that he will set up a new national policing board to ensure that police forces do hire the extra officers needed.
Here is an explanation from the news release.
Chaired by the home secretary and bringing together key police leaders, it will hold the police to account for meeting this target and drive the national response to the most pressing issues that affect communities right across the country.
There are a wide variety of logistical challenges that come with the recruitment process … Not just getting people through the doors, [but] the assessment process, the attraction, recruitment campaigns, the vetting, all of those sorts of logistical challenges, and then of course training people, making sure they are fit for the responsibilities that they have.
When it comes to policing, Boris Johnson simply cannot be trusted. He served in a government which promised to protect the police, then voted for brutal real-terms cuts.
As mayor of London, he vowed to recruit thousands of officers, but police numbers fell on his watch.