Five questions answered on… BP's record fine for Deepwater Horizon

The oil giant's in giant trouble.

How much does BP have to pay in the settlement? 

The oil giant pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 11 men during the 2010 spill and have been ordered to pay $4.5bn (£2.8bn) to the US authorities. 

How much has the oil spill cost BP altogether? 

After this latest settlement it is estimated the biggest oil spill disaster in America’s history has caused the offending company £43bn. 

However, there is also a civil case that remains unresolved accusing BP of gross negligence, which if BP are found guilty it will no doubt have to pay out even more. 

What about the manslaughter charges?

BP has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 11 men. The Department of Justice has also charged BP’s two highest-ranking supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, with manslaughter, negligence and gross negligence.

Also, David Rainy a former senior BP executive who served as deputy commander during the spill has been arrested for allegedly underestimating the spill. 

BP will also plead guilty to two criminal misdemeanor counts over the spill and to a criminal felony charge of obstructing Congress by lying about the amount of leaking from the Macondo well. 

What have officials said about the settlement? 

The Telegraph report that the New Orleans assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said:

“Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that the deaths of the 11 men on board the Deepwater Horizon could have been avoided. As the oil spill continued, BP made a tragic situation worse: it began misleading Congress and the American people about how much oil was pouring out of the Macondo well.”

What has BP said? 

BP chief executive Bob Dudley said:

“All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region.

“We apologise for our role in the accident and, as today’s resolution with the US government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions.”

Deepwater Horizon burns in 2010. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
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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.