Boris Johnson says legislative solution needed for NI protocol
Boris Johnson has gathered his cabinet as the government prepares to tear up the Northern Ireland protocol, despite warnings from Brussels that it will breach the UK’s international legal obligations and a plea from the Bank of England not to spark a damaging trade war with Europe.
After the meeting, Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, will announce to the House of Commons the government intends to bring legislation to unilaterally override the protocol.
Ms Truss held calls last night with Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, and European Commission vice-president, Maros Sefcovic in which she said she underlined the importance of upholding the Good Friday Agreement and re-establishing the Northern Ireland Executive.
The prime minister spent Monday in meetings with the leaders of Northern Ireland’s five main political parties, seeking to make progress on the impasse over the post-Brexit arrangement, with the Democratic Unionist Party refusing to enter a powersharing agreement while the protocol remains in place.
Mr Johnson said he wanted to “fix” the protocol rather than scrap it.
John Rentoul to host ‘Ask Me Anything’ about NI protocol
Join The Independent’s chief political commentator to look beyond the sabre-rattling of the past week and get to the root of Britain’s problems with the post-Brexit arrangement for Northern Ireland and the propsoed solutions:
Liam James17 May 2022 11:20
Poorest families yet to receive Rishi Sunak’s promised £150 for energy bills
Some of the poorest families in the country have yet to receive the £150 council tax rebate promised by chancellor Rishi Sunak to ease soaring energy bills, a leading charity has warned (Adam Forrest writes).
National Energy Action said many of the hardest-pressed people in England and Wales who do not pay their council tax via direct debit were still waiting for their payment.
Local authorities were expected to distribute the £150 rebate when the energy price cap was raised in April, but say they are struggling to pay the one-off sum to everyone.
“There are serious concerns that those with the greatest need will be least able to access the money,” said chief executive Adam Scorer.
Liam James17 May 2022 11:10
Reporter asks Johnson why he signed ‘bad’ Northern Ireland protocol
Boris Johnson has defended agreeing to the Northern Ireland protocol after being asked by a reporter why he “signed up to a deal this bad”.
The prime minister said he signed up on the condition it would protect the Good Friday Agreement and the UK internal market and hoped the EU “would not necessarily implement the deal in quite the way” it had.
Reporter asks Johnson why he signed ‘bad’ Northern Ireland Protocol
Liam James17 May 2022 10:51
EU wants to breach Brexit treaty, says NI secretary
The European Union’s desired implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol “breaches” the conditions of the Brexit treaty, according to Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.
Britain last week formally rejected prosposals the EU laid out in October which aimed to reduce the difficulties Northern Ireland had encountered since the protocol took effect last year.
The bloc proposed changing customs arrangements to cut paperwork for goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, simplifying certification for certain goods in order to reduce checks, safeguarding medicine supplies and improving communication between relevant authorities on implementation of the protocol.
Discussing Britain’s intention to take unilateral action on the protocol, Mr Lewis told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We agreed a protocol that says in its running paper very clearly its vision is: it won’t disturb people’s everyday lives and their communities, it will respect all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, respect the UK internal market and state functions as well as the EU single market.
“The implementation the EU wants to put in place breaches four of those things straight off the bat, and that is just something that isn’t sustainable.
“We have got to ensure that products moving within the UK can do so freely and ensure that goods that are moving into the EU via Ireland are properly dealt with, but not products that are staying within the UK.”
Liam James17 May 2022 10:32
Cost of living ‘tsunami’ coming, says Labour’s Ashworth
Ministers are “sleepwalking into a cost of living tsumami”, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said.
Labour is seeking a vote on a windfall tax on the huge profits made by energy companies to help households cope with surging bills – one of many cost of living troubles.
Discussing the proposed tax on Sky News this morning, Mr Ashworth said: “Consumers are paying more for their energy bills. There’s this huge transfer of wealth from the consumer to oil and gas producers.
“Not because the producers have taken a risk or invested but because of energy markets so it is literally a windfall – so tax that windfall and use the money from that to bring the bills down for struggling households and pensioners.”
Liam James17 May 2022 10:13
Brexit: Lorry drivers ‘need 700 pages of documents partly written in Latin’ to export UK goods to EU
But Mr Norman said those exports from Britain escaped the quagmire currently, because of temporary grace periods, saying: “At the moment we’re pretty much okay in Northern Ireland.”
Liam James17 May 2022 09:54
Bank of England governor’s ‘apocalyptic’ language ‘surprising’
It was surprising to hear the governor of the Bank of England say food prices faced an “apocalyptic” rise, Brandon Lewis said.
Asked on BBC Breakfast about the comments made by Andrew Bailey to the Commons Treasury Select Committee on Monday, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said: “I was surprised to see that particular turn of phrase, I have to say.
“But the Bank of England is independent, they will have their view of their assessment, their economic view of where things are and where things are going.”
Mr Bailey said admitted feeling “helpless” in the face of surging inflation. He said there could be a further rise in food costs if Ukraine, a major exporter of agricultural products, is unable to ship wheat and cooking oil from its warehouses because of a Russian blockade.
“Sorry for being apocalyptic for a moment, but that’s a major concern,” Mr Bailey said yesterday, noting that wheat prices alone had risen by just under 25 per cent in the past six weeks.
Liam James17 May 2022 09:33
UK wants ‘green lanes’ for NI goods
The Northern Ireland secretary said he wanted to see light-check “green lanes” established for goods entering the region from Great Britain that were not destined to travel into the European Union’s single market.
Under post-Brexit trade arrangements companies shipping from Britain to Northern Ireland can declare their goods “not at risk” at moving further on to the EU. Such goods are not subject to duties but can still face checks at the border.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Brandon Lewis said: “The solution is, and what we’ve been outlining to the EU, that products that are moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland should effectively go through what has colloquially been called a ‘green lane’.
“So, those products that are being consumed in the UK, used in the UK, from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, should not be going through the same checks as products that are moving into the EU, into the single market – that’s pretty much what we have been outlining.
“There are too many companies, including major supermarkets, at the moment who have no stores in the Republic of Ireland, who are moving their products from their depots in Great Britain into Northern Ireland for sale and consumption in Northern Ireland, but going through checks as if they were going into the EU.
“That just doesn’t work and there are products that can’t travel that way.”
Liam James17 May 2022 09:14
William Hague attacks Boris Johnson as weak and immoral over obesity plan U-turn
Tory MPs who pushed the prime minister into the climbdown are “acquiescing in a future of higher dependence, greater costs, reduced lifestyle choice and endless pain,” he warned.
Lord Hague said: “For the government to give in to them is intellectually shallow, politically weak and morally reprehensible.”
Liam James17 May 2022 08:55
Labour seeks vote on windfall tax
Labour will today seek to force a Commons vote to put pressure on Conservative MPs to support a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers in a bid to cut energy bills.
MPs will debate “tackling the short-term and long-term cost of living increases” on day five of the Queen’s Speech debate.
Labour is seeking the backing of MPs for an amendment expressing regret at the omission of a windfall tax from the Queen’s Speech – after a Labour motion in favour of the policy won the support of the Commons in February.
The government has been cold towards a windfall tax. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he was not “naturally attracted” to such a policy though had not taken the option of the table, while Kwasi Kwarteng, the business and energy secretary, is squarely opposed.
Ed Miliband, shadow climate change and net zero secretary, said of a windfall tax: “This fair and principled measure now has support from business, trade unions, across the…
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