Andrew Marr: Who is Rishi Sunak? A radical Brexiteer, or a PM close to an EU deal? He can't be both.

6 February 2023, 18:45 | Updated: 6 February 2023, 18:56

Andrew Marr has said Rishi Sunak needs to show what his intentions are on the UK's membership of the ECHR, but it's impossible to know his positions on some of the most important issues because "he never addresses them".
Andrew Marr has said Rishi Sunak needs to show what his intentions are on the UK's membership of the ECHR, but it's impossible to know his positions on some of the most important issues because "he never addresses them". Picture: LBC

By Chris Samuel

Andrew Marr has said Rishi Sunak needs to show what his intentions are on the UK's place in the ECHR, but it's impossible to know his positions on some of the most important issues because "he never addresses them".

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Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr, the presenter said the PM is being "hemmed about by Tory critics" and is failing to provide clarity on questions concerning the future of this country.

He said: "Who is Rishi Sunak? Is he the kind of Brexit radical who would tear up our membership of the European Convention on human rights to allow a much tougher migration policy? Many Tory MPs desperately want that and there’s been a weekend leak from suggesting Sunak’s seriously considering it.

"Other Tory MPs think it would be catastrophic for Britain's reputation. Sir Robert Neill, who’s chair of the Commons justice committee, told the Financial Times: “If Conservatives don’t believe in the rule of law, what do we believe in? Are we going to put ourselves in the same company as Russia and Belarus?” So… which side is Rishi Sunak on?

"Again, is he the kind of Brexit radical who wants to shove the Northern Ireland protocol bill through the Lords so that he can override parts of the agreement his government signed with the EU? Or is he a prime minister in the final stages of getting a deal with the EU?

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"He really can’t be both. Finally, is he a prime minister fighting desperately hard to keep alive the retained EU law bill going through the Lords right now, which would hand ministers the future of our employment rights, our environmental regulations and much more?

"He's a Brexiteer, who talks a lot about the benefits of Brexit but he also knows that if this bill goes through, Britain is likely to face a higher wall of tariffs and barriers, making it that much harder for our already low-productivity economy to grow.

"Take these questions, which are all live tonight, and put them together and they are about nothing less than the future of this country.

Andrew Marr: 'Which side is Rishi Sunak on?'

"But it's impossible to know, in detail, what the prime minister thinks about all that because, to be brutal about it, he never addresses these issues. Is he an orthodox economic leader trying to calm everything down, or is he a Brexiteer radical on a mission? Search me.

"Maybe I am being a little unfair, because Sunak’ s hemmed about by Tory critics - Liz Truss bouncing back apparently unharmed by her brief and disastrous encounter as prime minister with the real world - she’s telling him to cut taxes - Boris Johnson pretty unapologetic about those parties - telling him to be bolder on Ukraine.

You can also listen to the podcast Tonight with Andrew Marr only on Global Player.

"And now the suggestion, reported in the Daily Telegraph, which isn't being hugely helpful to this Tory Prime Minister, that the 1922 committee of backbenchers are thinking about changing their rules - again - to allow a further leadership challenge after the local election results.

"It’s said that Bengal tigers, having once tasted human blood, find everything else a bit insipid and the same broadly speaking may well be true of Conservative backbenchers.

"At any rate, you can see why Rishi Sunak is being cautious. It was one of his predecessors as a Tory Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, who famously said that to govern is to choose. Well these big choices really can't be avoided for very much longer.

That Lawson quote is famous but many people have forgotten that it went on, as follows: “to appear to be unable to choose is to appear to be unable to govern.”"

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