David Cameron's press conference -- live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Tory leader's monthly press conference

9:28am: David Cameron is holding his monthly press conference at 9:45am today. Cameron is likely to be questioned about the "broken society" speech he delivered on Friday, which has come under attack in the FT and elsewhere today.

Follow The Staggers for live coverage from 9:45.

9:45am Cameron begins by discussing the "broken society". He says his speech on Friday wasn't an attack on "any one party or government". But he adds that Labour's response shows how "little they have to offer" on this issue. The government should allow the full case report into the Edlington case to be published.

9:47am Now we're on to the economy. Cameron claims "Labour's debt crisis" is the biggest threat to economic recovery.

9:50am Cameron discusses how the Tory party has "changed". He says black and minority candidates now make up almost 10 per cent of Tory candidates and says that he expects to treble the number of female Tory MPs.

9:51am The BBC's James Lansdale asks Cameron to outline the nature of Tory discussions with the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party. Cameron says his aim is to see devolution completed -- "that comes before everything else".

9:54am Nick Robinson asks Cameron to confirm if he will cut public spending and raise taxes by tens of billions of pounds. Cameron says the risks of not cutting the Budget deficit outweigh the risks of cutting it.

He calls on the government to admit that it needs to begin cutting the deficit in 2010. Labour needs to put away its "pathetic dividing lines" and "moral cowardice", he says.

9:56am Cameron is asked to provide details of his party's policy on marriage. He says "the message is more important than the money".

9:58am After Bob Ainsworth unwittingly revealed 6 May as the election date, Cameron is asked if he would end the right of the Prime Minister to call an early election. He says he is attracted by fixed-term parliaments but he fears they would allow a "weak minority government" to remain in power.

10:01am Channel 4's Gary Gibbon asks Cameron if he gives the government any credit for keeping unemployment lower than in previous recessions. Cameron replies by saying that "we have record levels of youth unemployment". The government's strategy has been "staggeringly unsuccessful", he says.

10:05am Adam Boulton of Sky News presses Cameron for a full answer to Robinson's question on spending cuts. Cameron says the key is "early action", not the amount. Is he suggesting that the Tories would cut earlier, but not more, than Labour?

10:08am ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie urges Cameron to reconsider his decision not to join Twitter. He points out that while Downing Street and Sarah Brown have over a million followers, the most popular Conservative, Boris Johnson, has only 60,000. The Tory leader says he'll think again, but argues that politicians talk too much already.

10:16am Peter Hitchens asks Cameron for his opinion on politicians who "ostentatiously support" comprehensive education but send their children to faith schools (as David Miliband has done). Cameron says he rejects the premise of the question, pointing out that faith schools lie within the state sector.

10:19am Cameron is asked for his thoughts on Barack Obama's banking reform plan. He says the plan is a "positive step forward" and says that the US president has raised the important issue of how we deal with the "moral hazard" of banks that now believe they are "too big to fail".

10:22am The final question comes from the FT's Jean Eaglesham. Cameron is asked if he is still considering all-women shortlists for Westminster constituencies. He says they "absoutely remain an option" if more Tory MPs resign before the election. That's likely to anger the right of his party.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Forget planning for no deal. The government isn't really planning for Brexit at all

The British government is simply not in a position to handle life after the EU.

No deal is better than a bad deal? That phrase has essentially vanished from Theresa May’s lips since the loss of her parliamentary majority in June, but it lives on in the minds of her boosters in the commentariat and the most committed parts of the Brexit press. In fact, they have a new meme: criticising the civil service and ministers who backed a Remain vote for “not preparing” for a no deal Brexit.

Leaving without a deal would mean, among other things, dropping out of the Open Skies agreement which allows British aeroplanes to fly to the United States and European Union. It would lead very quickly to food shortages and also mean that radioactive isotopes, used among other things for cancer treatment, wouldn’t be able to cross into the UK anymore. “Planning for no deal” actually means “making a deal”.  (Where the Brexit elite may have a point is that the consequences of no deal are sufficiently disruptive on both sides that the British government shouldn’t  worry too much about the two-year time frame set out in Article 50, as both sides have too big an incentive to always agree to extra time. I don’t think this is likely for political reasons but there is a good economic case for it.)

For the most part, you can’t really plan for no deal. There are however some things the government could prepare for. They could, for instance, start hiring additional staff for customs checks and investing in a bigger IT system to be able to handle the increased volume of work that would need to take place at the British border. It would need to begin issuing compulsory purchases to build new customs posts at ports, particularly along the 300-mile stretch of the Irish border – where Northern Ireland, outside the European Union, would immediately have a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which would remain inside the bloc. But as Newsnight’s Christopher Cook details, the government is doing none of these things.

Now, in a way, you might say that this is a good decision on the government’s part. Frankly, these measures would only be about as useful as doing your seatbelt up before driving off the Grand Canyon. Buying up land and properties along the Irish border has the potential to cause political headaches that neither the British nor Irish governments need. However, as Cook notes, much of the government’s negotiating strategy seems to be based around convincing the EU27 that the United Kingdom might actually walk away without a deal, so not making even these inadequate plans makes a mockery of their own strategy. 

But the frothing about preparing for “no deal” ignores a far bigger problem: the government isn’t really preparing for any deal, and certainly not the one envisaged in May’s Lancaster House speech, where she set out the terms of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, or in her letter to the EU27 triggering Article 50. Just to reiterate: the government’s proposal is that the United Kingdom will leave both the single market and the customs union. Its regulations will no longer be set or enforced by the European Court of Justice or related bodies.

That means that, when Britain leaves the EU, it will need, at a minimum: to beef up the number of staff, the quality of its computer systems and the amount of physical space given over to customs checks and other assorted border work. It will need to hire its own food and standards inspectors to travel the globe checking the quality of products exported to the United Kingdom. It will need to increase the size of its own regulatory bodies.

The Foreign Office is doing some good and important work on preparing Britain’s re-entry into the World Trade Organisation as a nation with its own set of tariffs. But across the government, the level of preparation is simply not where it should be.

And all that’s assuming that May gets exactly what she wants. It’s not that the government isn’t preparing for no deal, or isn’t preparing for a bad deal. It can’t even be said to be preparing for what it believes is a great deal. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.