The RAF celebrated its 100th birthday this week with a flying display of some of its most iconic warplanes along the coast of southeast England, and the River Thames and terminating at various places west of London. 100 military planes were engaged in the show, including Spitfires, Hurricanes and F-35 Lightning II jets, and over 1,000 RAF service people performed in the show.
The Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, Calum Macleod, has announced his retirement which will be effective from August, after eight months in the role. He cited personal reasons for his decision, which comes ahead of this months’ elections which already have two prospective candidates.
The NATO Summit happened this week with US President Donald Trump calling on other members to double their defence spending to four percent of GDP. European leaders were braced for the US, NATO’s biggest member, possibly leaving the Alliance as it continues with its increasingly isolationist foreign policy stance. The UK failed to publish its Modernising Defence Programme ahead of the event as planned, and remains with a budget of two percent of GDP, the current NATO minimum requirement.
- Brexit and Foreign Secretary resign over Government’s Brexit stance
- MP considers enlisting help of MDP to enforce stalking protections
- Police taking sick leave increases
- Trump visit has biggest police operation since 2011 riots
- MP publishes report highlighting economic contribution of defence as MoD delays publishing defence review
Brexit and Foreign Secretary resign over Government’s Brexit stance
After Theresa May forcefully established cabinet unity on what is considered a “soft Brexit” negotiating stance with the EU at Chequers last Friday, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigned their positions within 24 hours of each other. Such a quick succession of cabinet resignations has not happened in nearly 40 years, but it has failed to destabilise Theresa May’s Government.
The maverick David Davis has been replaced by the rising star Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson has been replaced by Jeremy Hunt. Matt Hancock steps into the health portfolio despite not having a background in the sector and most surprising of all Attorney General Jeremy Wright has been moved to the Department for Culture Media and Sport to be replaced by devout defender of the PM Geoffrey Cox.
Davis took a principled position in choosing to resign recognising that he could not, in good conscience, promote a compromise Brexit arrangement which he did not believe in. Davis has not been happy with Number 10's strategy for some time and has been increasingly sidelined by Theresa May's Europe Advisor, Olly Robbins. In his resignation letter, Mr Davis told Mrs May that “the current trend of policy and tactics” was making it “look less and less likely” that the UK would leave the customs union and single market.
Once Davis had stepped down Johnson knew he had to do the same otherwise he’d look weak and unprincipled. He’s been critical of Theresa May’s decision-making and has grown increasingly frustrated at the Foreign Office where his power and influence has been significantly curbed. Some commentators have referred to him as a gilded bird locked in a cage. His exit is not a great surprise and Jeremy Hunt, a loyal supporter of May, should steady the ship and install some sensible thinking. Johnson’s hopes of one day becoming leader have surely now ended. A YouGov poll of Conservative Party members finds more (48 per cent) think he would be a poor leader than good (47 per cent).
Before the resignations, Defra Secretary and pro-Brexit campaigner, Michael Gove, called on fellow Eurosceptic MPs to support the new agreement. The three page-government statement issued after the meeting outlined plans to:
- “Maintain a common rulebook for all goods” with the EU after Brexit, including a treaty committing the UK to “continued harmonisation” with EU rules.
- A joint institutional framework to be established to interpret UK-EU agreements. As part of this cases will still be referred to the European Court of Justice as an interpreter, but the ECJ “cannot resolve disputes between the two”.
- The borders between the UK and the EU will be treated as a “combined customs territory”. The UK would apply domestic tariffs and trade policies for goods intended for the UK, but charge EU tariffs and their equivalents for goods which will end up heading into the EU. It also said that the UK and EU would ensure a fair trading environment by incorporating “strong reciprocal commitments related to open and fair trade”.
- The agreements will end the free movement of people with the Government claiming it will give the UK control over how many people enter the country. A new mobility framework will be set up to allow UK and EU citizens to travel to each other’s territories, and apply for study and work.
The proposals have not received widespread support with a Conservative Home snap poll showing that 60% of Conservative Party members believe the Prime Minister’s new Brexit plan represents a ‘bad deal for Britain’. This places Theresa May in a difficult position, having to now commit to a plan and having got her cabinet to commit to a plan that receives little party support.
Speaking in the main chamber of the House of Commons immediately after Boris Johnson’s resignation, Theresa May said the Chequers agreement, “provides a responsible and credible” proposal for a new relationship with the EU, which “will take back control of our borders, our money and our laws”. May claimed the two alternative models on offer from the EU are “simply not acceptable”.
New Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is a dedicated Leaver and active supporter of the European Research Group who has often rallied against European institutions such as the European Court of Justice and the European Convention on Human Rights. This will help to send the signal that this is still a Brexit Brexiteers can support helping to keep at bay a Parliamentary Brexit rebellion, at least for now. For a rebellion to happen 48 Tory MPs must trigger a no confidence vote in the PM which seems unlikely even with the continued threats from Jacob Rees-Mogg. The party will be well aware that a summer leadership election will seriously hamper the chances of successful discussions on Brexit ahead of October (when negotiations must be concluded) and increase the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn entering 10 Downing Street. David Davis said after his resignation that Theresa May is a “good PM” and will stay, and a leadership contest is “the wrong thing to do… I won’t throw my hat in the ring”. Other possible leaders such as Sajid Javid and Michael Gove will have no appetite to overthrow the PM at this stage.
The government will publish a white paper today putting in place the foundations for talks on the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The paper is likely to propose an end to budget contributions, freedom of movement and ECJ oversight along with plans to remain in the single market for goods – something which the EU will perceive as “cherry picking”. While some on the UK side point to the Swiss deal as an example of a country being in the single market for goods only, it's understood that the EU views that agreement as a major mistake. Expect the EU to say no to the plans with a new set of proposals coming from Brussels.
MP considers enlisting help of MDP to enforce stalking protections
Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totness and Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee and the Liaison Committee, has been pushing forward a bill enhancing protections for victims of stalking, and she has said she is “exploring the possibility” of enlisting the help of the MDP and British Transport Police to help implement it as well as their Home Office peers.
At Public Bill Committee Stage, Ms Wollaston highlighted that the intention of the Bill is to “provide the police with an additional tool with which to protect victims and deter perpetrators” by giving them the ability to apply to the courts for stalking protection orders said she is considering giving the MDP and the British Transport Police the ability to apply for these orders. She said that such orders would help take the onus off victims to take action, and would give police “end-to-end sight of the entire process from application to enforcement of the orders.”
The Bill has received support from the Government and has now passed through Committee stage in the Commons. Ms Wollaston said she hopes to provide an update on the details, including whether the MDP and BTP will be empowered to apply for such orders very shortly.
Police taking mental health related sick leave increases
The Times has reported on a Freedom of Information request audit conducted by Police Oracle which found that the number of police officers signed off with stress and other mental health related problems has increased by over a half in the past six years to six percent of all officers. A record 10,000 officers went on mental health-related sick leave last year, amidst forces having to respond to five terrorist attacks. 9,672 officers across the UK took leave linked to anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in the year up to March, up 405 on the previous 12 months.
Regionally, 1,086 police were signed off from the Metropolitan Police in the period, and there was a 22 percent increase in the number of officers in Greater Manchester taking mental health-related sick leave, increasing from 590 officers to 720. Forces in this area had to respond to the explosion at a concert in Manchester Arena that killed 22 people and injured over 800.
Vice-Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, Ché Donald, called the figures unsurprising and said that the best way to tackle the issue is to “reduce the strain that officers are under” instead of only addressing the symptoms with occupational health. He said that more police were needed on the streets “otherwise the future remains bleak.” This follows the publication of the Chief Inspector of Constabulary’s annual report which said that police officers face some gruesome things” and that these affect officers and prevent them from doing their best.
The Home Office responded to the figures putting responsibility for officer welfare on chief officers who are supported by the College of Policing and saying that it has dedicated £7.5 million to police wellbeing.
Trump visit receives largest police operation since 2011 riots
The US’s controversial President, Donald Trump, has come to the UK for his much-anticipated state visit. In response the UK has implemented the biggest police operation since the 2011 riots. Chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation Ken Marsh has estimated that the operation will cost between £8 million and £10 million. Almost every force in England has agreed to mobilise its officers for the visits to Blenheim Palace, Chequers, Windsor Castle, the US ambassador's official residence in Regent's Park, London, and Scotland. Trump is expected to avoid central London where mass protests against him are expected.
Police leaders have warned that this will put “unquestionable pressure” on forces and leave them covering owed time for months as all leave has been cancelled. Forces are also under pressure from an increase in emergency calls since England’s Word Cup match against Sweden last Saturday.
Prime Minister Theresa May is hoping that the visit will protect the close ties the UK has with the US as she brings the UK out of the EU on controversial terms. To her dismay, Trump has said that the UK Government is in “turmoil” and implied that he did not fully support the Chequers agreement on the UK’s negotiating position for Brexit. Trump has further undermined Mrs May by saying that he might meet up with his “friend” Boris Johnson, who resigned as Foreign Secretary earlier this week.
MP publishes report highlighting economic contribution of defence as MoD delays publishing defence review
Former Defence Minister Philip Dunne has published a report highlighting the integral role defence plays to “British prosperity.” The review Mr Dunne conducted was commissioned by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson as part of his Modernising Defence Programme aimed at resetting the UK’s defence priorities and budget. The report said that the defence industry supports half a million jobs and £7 billion worth of UK exports to the British economy. He found the sector had an annual turnover of £22 billion.
Mr Williamson is using this report to support his case for increased defence spending of £4 billion a year,and has the backing of numerous current and former military chiefs. He said: “Philip Dunne’s review shows how vital defence is, not only protecting us from global dangers and safeguarding our national prosperity, but also to our economy by creating thousands of specialist and highly skilled jobs and creating billions in exports.”
The MoD has had to delay the publication of its Modernising Defence Programme, which it had planned to announce the key findings of ahead of the NATO Summit this week, because of an ongoing dispute between the MoD and Treasury regarding the budget. The DPF has contributed written evidence to the Modernising Defence Programme directly to the MoD’s consultation, and also to the Defence Select Committee’s inquiry into the matter.
The DPF is hosting a parliamentary drop-in event next week to brief MPs on the DPF’s recommendations for the Programme, particularly highlighting the need to ensure MoD assets are appropriately secured and the MDP is sufficiently resourced to help with that. MP support will help increase the reach of the DPF’s recommendations to policymakers as they continue to search for cost-saving measures. Many MPs that have confirmed their attendance so far, including the MP representing HMNB Devonport, Labour’s Luke Pollard, and Labour’s Shadow Defence Minister with responsibility for the MDP, Gerald Jones.