June 28, 2022

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Number 10 insists it will not rip up Withdrawal Agreement and is only seeking ‘clarifications’

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​Downing Street has insisted it is only seeking “minor clarifications” to the Brexit divorce deal, after it emerged that ministers are planning legislation which would override key parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Sections of the Internal Market Bill, due to be published this Wednesday, hope to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas such as state aid and Northern Ireland customs.

However, Number 10 said the legislation only makes “minor clarifications in extremely specific areas”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’re fully committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol, and we’ve already taken many practical steps to do.”

It comes after Environmental Secretary George Eustice said the Government planned to merely tie up “one or two loose ends”.

“The Government has to offer legal certainty to businesses, and the Government has a role to protect the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.

Boris Johnson also plans to give Brussels a five-week deadline to agree fresh trade terms or risk a no deal arrangement.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier this morning admitted that he was “worried” about the chances of striking a free trade deal, saying the UK still wants “the best of both worlds”.

12:09 PM

Boris Johnson tells EU leaders that progress must be made

The Prime Minister has told European leaders that progress must be made in the eighth round of Brexit negotiations which begin on Tuesday, Downing Street said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that Mr Johnson “has spoken with his counterparts on a number of occasions so far, most recently on this issue with Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen and Angela Merkel”.

“He is clear that we need to make progress this week. We can’t be in the same position as we are now by the end of the upcoming negotiating round if we are going to reach an agreement in the time available,” the spokesman added.

11:46 AM

UK official says new legislation necessary to protect Good Friday Agreement

The official echoes Downing Street, saying any changes to the withdrawal agreement will be ‘minor’ and in ‘extremely specific areas’.

“If we don’t take these steps we face the prospect of legal confusion at the end of the year and potentially extremely damaging defaults, including tariffs on goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland,” the official said.

11:42 AM

Number 10 insists peace process will not be ‘compromised

A Number 10 spokesman says the Government is taking “limited and reasonable” steps to clarify the Northern Ireland protocol.

Here is the full statement:

“We will continue to work with the EU in the Joint Committee to resolve outstanding issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

However, as a responsible Government, we cannot allow the peace process or the UK’s internal market to inadvertently be compromised by unintended consequences of the protocol.   

The Northern Ireland Protocol was designed as a way of implementing the needs of our exit from the EU in a way that worked for Northern Ireland and in particular for maintaining the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, the gains of the Peace Process, and the delicate balance between both communities’ interests. It explicitly depends on the consent of the people of Northern Ireland for its continued existence. As we implement the Northern Ireland Protocol this overriding need must be kept in mind.

So we are taking limited and reasonable steps to clarify specific elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol in domestic law to remove any ambiguity and to ensure the government is always able to deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland.

These limited clarifications deliver on the commitments the Government made in the General Election manifesto, which said: ‘We will ensure that Northern Ireland’s businesses and producers enjoy unfettered access to the rest of the UK and that in the implementation of our Brexit deal, we maintain and strengthen the integrity and smooth operation of our internal market.’

This was reiterated in the Command Paper published in May.”

11:41 AM

Downing Street insists it only plans to make ‘minor clarifications’ to withdrawal agreement

Number 10 insists  that it is not trying to rip up the Withdrawal Agreement, saying Wednesday’s Internal Markets Bill only makes “minor clarifications in extremely specific areas”.

Downing Street says the Government will take “limited and reasonable steps to clarify specific elements of the Northern Ireland protocol in domestic law to remove any ambiguity”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman says: “We’re fully committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol, and we’ve already taken many practical steps to do.”

11:21 AM

EU ready to walk away if withdrawal agreement torn up

A European Commission spokesman says EU negotiators have “engaged constructively and in good faith” and  says the withdrawal agreement is a “precondition for negotiations”.

The spokesman continues: “While we are determined to reach an agreement with the UK, the EU will be ready in the event of a no deal scenario to trade with the UK on WTO terms as of Jan 1, 2021. 

“The full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and in particular the protocol on Ireland and NI are essential these are legal obligations under international law. 

“This is a matter of trust. This is a prerequisite, a precondition for the negotiations on the future partnership and I think that’s clear.”

11:16 AM

UK shipping industry seeks ‘urgent clarity’ from Government

The Chamber of Shipping chief executive Bob Sanguinetti is calling for “absolute clarity” from the Government, after reports that ministers are planning new legislation to override the withdrawal agreement,

Mr Sanguinetti said: “The UK shipping industry urgently needs absolute clarity from the Government on what our future trading relationship with our European partners will look like.

“Time is running out and what businesses, manufacturers and consumers need is certainty on the ability to continue to trade across the Channel with ease, to give the UK economy the best chance of achieving a swift recovery post Covid-19.”

11:06 AM

Scottish Government warns UK is ‘hurtling towards a disastrous Brexit outcome’

Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Michael Russell has responded to reports that the UK Government is planning new legislation that would override a key part of last year’s EU withdrawal agreement by stressing the need for independence.

Mr Russell said:

“The UK Government is now hurtling towards a disastrous Brexit outcome in the midst of a deep recession and global pandemic. With talks with the EU due to resume tomorrow the UK has put itself in the position of being able to leave the transition period with one of two terrible outcomes  – either a low deal or no deal. Either will, without a shadow of a doubt, hit Scottish jobs and the Scottish economy very hard.

Scotland’s interests are being damaged as the whole of UK governance is mired in chaos and confusion and as we have seen in the Tony Abbot debacle, is the laughing stock of the world. Fortunately Scotland has a better option. The Scottish Government remains of the firm belief that the people of Scotland have the right to choose their own future and is determined to make that happen. That is why, before the end of this parliament, we will set out the terms of a future independence referendum clearly and unambiguously to the people of Scotland, in a draft referendum bill.”

10:42 AM

EU verdict: Not so grrrreat

Boris Johnson said he wanted to put a “tiger in the tank” of Brexit negotiations.

“It looks like the tiger in the tank has shrivelled into a salted slug,” one EU diplomat tells James Crisp.

10:25 AM

Ursula von der Leyen says she ‘trusts’ UK to implement withdrawal agreement

The president of the European Commission says she expects the UK to implement the withdrawal agreement.

She said: “I trust the British government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law and a prerequisite for any future partnership.

“Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is essential to protect peace and stability on the island & integrity of the single market.”

10:13 AM

Biggest back to work barrier is fear, new research shows

New research by City Hall has found the biggest barrier to the economic recovery is fear of infection.

Two-thirds of Londoners view the virus as at least a moderate risk to themselves and 86 per cent think it is a risk to others.

When asked what would encourage them to start travelling to central London more, the most common answers were lower prevalence of the virus, smaller crowds and greater compliance on face coverings.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says that this is why “berating people or shouting at them to return to central London is a counterproductive approach”.

“It simply won’t work,” he adds.

09:54 AM

Michel Barnier says NI protocol is a ‘prerequisite for peace’

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has told a French radio station he is “worried” by reports that the Government plans to rip up with withdrawal agreement and says he will seek answers from his UK counterpart Lord Frost.

Mr Barnier said the Northern Ireland protocol in the withdrawal deal was a “prerequisite for peace since the end of the conflict” and a “prerequisite for a united and coherent economy for the entire island, and also to respect the single market”.

He said: “Everything that has been signed must be respected. We demand quite simply, and calmly, and until the end, that the political commitments in the text agreed by Boris Johnson be legally translated into this treaty.

“The important thing for me is what the Prime Minister says and does, and what the British government itself says and does.”

Read more here:

09:31 AM

Levelling Up Taskforce launched by 40 Tory MPs

The Conservative Party now holds more low-pay seats that Labour, new research reveals, as Tory 40 backbenchers launch the Levelling Up Taskforce.

Earning are on average five per cent lower in Tory seats, with houses in Labour constituencies worth £62,000 more.

The new taskforce, including several ‘Red Wall’ MPs, will champion ideas to boost “lagging areas” and aim to ensure equality of opportunity across the country.

You can see the full list of MPs here:

09:10 AM

Ripping up withdrawal agreement would be ‘self-defeating’, EU diplomat says

An EU diplomat tells The Guardian that failure to respect international obligations would undermine the UK’s international standing.

They ask: “Who would want to agree trade deals with a country that doesn’t implement international treaties? It would be a desperate and ultimately self-defeating strategy.”

It might all sound a bit bleak, but our man in Brussels James Crisp is still confident there will be a trade deal.

09:03 AM

Vaccine roll out ‘most likely’ in early next year, Matt Hancock claims

Mr Hancock says the Government has contracted 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Health Secretary says that once approval comes through “then we are ready to roll out”.

He told LBC: “The best-case scenario is that happens this year. I think more likely is the early part of next year – in the first few months of next year is the most likely.

“But we’ve also bought vaccine ahead of it getting approved from a whole different series of international vaccines as well.”

08:48 AM

MPs call for for furlough extension for arts and leisure sectors

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee is calling on the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the furlough scheme for companies working in the arts and leisure sectors amid warnings of “mass redundancies”.

The Conservative Chair of the DCMS Committee Julian Knight said: “The job retention scheme has been a lifeline for companies that employ people in the arts and leisure sectors. We’re making it absolutely clear to government that if furlough is cut off in October, not only will mass redundancies follow but we can expect many cultural organisations to go out of business, never to return.

“We know that more workers in these industries depend on the scheme to pay their wages than in any other. Minister should recognise their duty to provide ongoing support for people hard hit by this crisis and extend the help on offer to organisations facing restrictions on how they operate.”

08:39 AM

Mass testing could mean a Merry Christmas, Matt Hancock says

The Health Secretary says the Government hopes mass testing will be able to “get things going” and could even help theatres reopen for panto season.

He says that coronavirus tests with a turnaround time of 20 minutes could enable people to go to “the theatre, or to a sports event or to work”.

He adds: “That is what we’re working on. I’m not saying categorically, but I am saying that is the hope, and that will also, I hope, allow us to have a Merry Christmas.”

08:36 AM

Matt Hancock: ‘We back people going back to work’

Asked if people should return to their workplaces this week, the Health Secretary replies: “Absolutely, you should.”

He says that going back to work is a “discussion that you should have with your employer but we back people going back to work, it is safe to go back to go to secure workplaces”.

Today train operators will ramp up to 90 per cent of pre-pandemic schedules as the Government seeks to encourage Britain’s office workers back to their desks.

08:27 AM

Ministers working to reduce quarantine, Matt Hancock says

The Health Secretary tells LBC that ministers are “working to try to find a way to allow for the quarantine to be reduced”.

Mr Hancock says this will be “done in a way that also keeps people safe” as soon as it is “practical” to do so.

He says that one coronavirus test at the border “doesn’t work” because “the virus can incubate for a period inside your body” without the test being able to pick it up.

He adds that he is “working with Grant Shapps and the travel industry” to introduce tests for people eight days after arriving in the UK.

“It’s one of the things that we’d like to bring in as soon as it’s practical to do it,” he insists.

08:16 AM

The Health Secretary insists that school is ‘safe’ despite rising cases

Matt Hancock says the rise in coronavirus infections is not understood to be coming from schools as they “have only gone back in the last few days”.

He says the spike of cases is coming from “people a bit older than school” and insists “the numbers amongst the school age population are really, really low”.

08:11 AM

Matt Hancock: ‘Nobody wants to see a second wave’ 

LBC’s new Call The Cabinet show kicks off with Matt Hancock, who is under pressure as coronavirus cases soared to just under 3,000.

The Health Secretary says that the rise is “concerning” because “we’ve seen a rise in cases in France, in Spain… nobody wants to see a second wave here”.

He notes that the vast majority of new cases are in those under 25, especially in those aged between 17 and 21.

Mr Hancock notes that even though younger people are “at lower risk of dying” that they could still develop “really serious symptoms” and pass the virus on to those more at risk.

07:58 AM

West Midlands police and commissioner’s comments were not ‘appropriate’, Andy Street says

The West Midlands police and crime commissioner had previously said a rise in violence was “almost inevitable” due to the pandemic in the wake of a spate of stabbings in Birmingham.

David Jamieson said: “I have been saying for some time, in the context of Covid-19, that a lot of the pent-up feelings that people have, and not being able to get out, and combine that with people who are now unsure about their future and about their jobs, it was almost inevitable that we would see a growth in violence.”

The Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said he did not think it was “appropriate” to make the comments during a press conference dedicated to the incident.

He said: “You cannot draw a link between this incident and Covid and the pressure society is under.”

This morning a  27-year-old was arrested on suspicion of murder and seven counts of attempted murder following Saturday night’s attacks.

07:45 AM

Government ‘committed to implementing’ Northern Ireland protocol

The Environment Secretary denies the the Government is trying to get rid of the Northern Ireland protocol, saying it wants to instead “iron out a few remaining technical details”

“We have a withdrawal agreement and that includes Northern Ireland protocol and we are committed to implementing that,” George Eustice says.

He says that the Government plans to “iron out a few remaining technical details as to how the Northern Ireland protocol would work”.

If there remain “one of two loose ends” then ministers may “legislate to provide that legal clarity”, he adds.

07:39 AM

Extinction Rebellion’s ‘aggressive tactics’ are ‘not justified at all’, minister claims

Environment Secretary George Eustice says that “the aggressive tactics” deployed by Extinction Rebellion are “not justified at all”.

He said: “I think that the aggressive tactics that Extinction Rebellion deploy on a range of things like disrupting public transport, blocking the roads, and yes, blocking newspapers from being printed, it’s not justified at all in my view.

Mr Eustice said the Home Secretary Priti Patel “doesn’t need any encouragement” to act.

07:31 AM

Environment Secretary concedes there will be tariffs of 40% on British beef in no-deal Brexit

George Eustice admits that tariffs of 40 per cent could be slapped on British beef in the event of a no deal arrangement.

He said: “Yes, it would be that those are the tariffs in the event of no free trade agreement.

“It would be a good outcome in that we will have regained our independence as a country and we’ll be making our own laws again and I think there’s an important point here.

“There’s no reason whatsoever why we could not have gotten an agreement similar to Canada. We’ve gone into these negotiations asking for something that’s very realistic and reasonable.”

07:19 AM

Today’s front page

Today’s Daily Telegraph leads on the news that Boris Johnson will give the European Union just 38 days to strike a Brexit deal, warning that if there is no breakthrough by October 15 Britain will accept a no-deal scenario and “move on”.

You can read the report here:

07:14 AM

Reaction to the Brexit latest

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called UK ministers “charlatans”, but Tory MP John Redwood has backed the idea of overriding parts of the withdrawal agreement.

Here’s some of the reaction so far: 

07:05 AM

Good morning

We’re waking up to the news that ministers are planning legislation which would override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Sections of the internal market bill, due to be published this Wednesday, hope to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs.

Some support from the backbenches coming through. John Redwood says it is time for the UK to “move on from talks going nowhere” but moderate Tories are already jittery. 

Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney, a veteran of Brexit talks, says it would be a “very unwise way to proceed”.

We’ll also bring you the latest on the fall out from those Extinction Rebellion protests and the Government’s back to work push.

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