Britain tried for 18 months but must now change the Northern Ireland Protocol, Liz Truss insisted as she presented new Brexit laws this evening.
Nearly every part of the agreement can be swept away by ministers under the legislation, which the Government insists complies with international law amid criticism from Sinn Fein and other Northern Irish political parties.
A Foreign Office statement setting out its legal position warned the Protocol had created an “exceptional situation” and said its current assessment was that that situation and its causes would “persist into the medium to long-term”.
Ms Truss said: “We’re fixing these problems that are causing real difficulties for communities within the United Kingdom and that is the duty of the United Kingdom Government to make sure we maintain political stability in our own country.
“We have sought a negotiated settlement for the last 18 months, but as yet the EU have been unwilling to change the terms of the Protocol.
“So I would strongly encourage the Irish Taoiseach to discuss this issue with the EU to get a change in the mandate and then we can go to the negotiating table.”
Follow the latest updates below.
‘They are taking a wrecking ball to their own deal’
Labour has accused the Government of taking a “wrecking ball to their own deal” with this evening’s legislation.
Peter Kyle, the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, admitted the Protocol was “not ideal [and] does need to be improved” but said Boris Johnson’s approach contrasted with New Labour achievements including the Good Friday Agreement.
“The previous generation…that generation delivered peace. They stopped people in Northern Ireland killing themselves.
“This government under Boris Johnson and Liz Truss cannot even get a prawn sandwich across the Irish Sea.”
The Protocol impasse needs “statecraft, diligence and graft” in negotiations with Brussels, Mr Kyle added in comments made to Andrew Marr on his LBC show.
Not that much Protocol reaction from MPs so far…
… but it won’t be long until they get to have their say in Parliament, with the Second Reading of the new Bill taking place in Parliament tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Oliver Dowden, the Tory Party chairman, is stepping up his attacks on Labour amid its apparent indecision over the planned National Rail Union strikes later this month.
“Families are facing global cost of living pressures. Labour’s response? Backing national rail strikes,” he writes.
In a separate email sent to party members, Mr Dowden adds: “Labour’s strikes will cause a week of chaos – costing families more to get to work, impacting NHS operations and disrupting students taking GCSE exams.”
Alongside a link to a petition, he asks: “Will you help us stop Labour’s strikes?”
Analysis: Brexit Bill is Boris Johnson’s chance to redeem himself
If the reconvening of the Brexit ‘Star Chamber’ to pore over “every line” of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill feels a bit 2019, then that’s precisely the point, writes Camilla Tominey.
Having won last Monday’s confidence ballot by a rather unconvincing 63 votes, the Prime Minister needs to galvanise support, starting with the leavers who propelled him to power in the first place.
And what better way to do that than to “take back control” of those parts of the Withdrawal Agreement that have long been loathed by leavers?
None of them ever liked the deal Boris Johnson managed to renegotiate with the EU, but voted for it fearing that Brexit might be lost completely if they didn’t.
Now there is a chance for “big dog” to right those wrongs – while saving the Good Friday Agreement, the Union and even his divided party in the process, not to mention his own premiership.
Sinn Féin: ‘Boris Johnson’s action is illegal’
The leader of Sinn Féin at Stormont has accused Boris Johnson of making laws she claim are in breach of his own agreement.
“Boris Johnson’s action is illegal, he is in clear breach of international law, regardless of the detail,” Michelle O’Neill said this evening.
“He himself signed up to an agreement, he signed on the dotted line and he’s now legislating to breach that international agreement.”
She insisted the Protocol is working and once again criticised the DUP, which is blocking the return of a power-sharing agreement in the Northern Ireland because of concerns about the deal and its impacts.
‘A new low’ for Boris Johnson, says Taoiseach
Ireland’s premier Micheal Martin has claimed today’s new Brexit rules mark a “new low point” for Boris Johnson.
In a statement, Mr Martin said it was “very regrettable for a country like the UK to renege on an international treaty”.
“It represents a new low point because the natural expectation of democratic countries like ourselves, the UK and all across Europe is that we honour international agreements that we enter into.”
The protocol is “an international deal ratified by British Parliament and approved by the PM”, the Taoiseach said, and breaching it “goes to the heart of the issue of trust”.
Brandon Lewis: New Bill ‘restores balance’ of Good Friday Agreement
The Northern Ireland Secretary writes:
Blair Institute: Northern Ireland Protocol ‘wrong’ and ‘counterproductive’
The Northern Ireland Protocol is “wrong in principle and counterproductive in practice”, the Tony Blair Institute has said.
Anton Spisak, its senior fellow for UK policy, claimed Boris Johnson was “wrong to suggest the changes contained in today’s bill are a ‘trivial set of adjustments’.”
“One of the most significant effects of the bill will be its impact on Northern Ireland politic,” he said.
“The DUP will likely see it as a vindication of their strong position on the Protocol, disincentivising them from returning to power-sharing at least until the legislation has been enacted.
“The overall effect of this bill is that it will make the EU’s, as well as the DUP’s position more, not less, entrenched.”
EU will not renegotiate – and could restart legal action, says Maros Sefcovic
It will be “unrealistic” to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol, Maros Sefcovic has said this evening after Britain unveiled the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill – as he suggested the EU could restart legal action against Britain.
“No workable alternative solution has been found to this delicate, long-negotiated balance. Any renegotiations would simply bring legal uncertainty for the people and businesses of Northern Ireland. For these reasons, the European Union will not renegotiate the Protocol.
” It is with significant concern that we take note of today’s decision by the UK government to table legislation disapplying core elements of the Protocol. Unilateral action is damaging to mutual trust. The Commission will now assess the UK draft legislation.
“Our aim will always be to secure the implementation of the Protocol. Our reaction to unilateral action by the UK will reflect that aim and will be proportionate.
“As a first step, the Commission will consider continuing the infringement procedure launched against the UK government in March 2021. We had put this legal action on hold in September 2021 in a spirit of constructive cooperation to create the space to look for joint solutions. The UK’s unilateral action goes directly against this spirit.”
‘The fact is the EU have refused to change the Protocol’
Liz Truss warned of “very real problems” on trade diversion “causing a feeling of inequality between the different communities of Northern Ireland”.
“What is so important is we restore the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, we restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland and that is the priority of the UK Government.
“We’re very clear that we’re acting in line with the law. What is vitally important is that we do resolve this situation in Northern Ireland that is causing real problems. We haven’t seen the Executive operating since February, we need to get power-sharing reestablished.”
Ms Truss said it was because the Good Friday Agreement had been so “hard-won” it was all the more important the changes were made, adding: “The fact is the EU have refused to change the Protocol which is causing these problems on trade, on tax and more broadly in Northern Ireland.”
How ministers will be able to tear up and rewrite almost all of Protocol
Ministers will be able to tear up and rewrite virtually all of the Northern Ireland Protocol under sweeping changes announced in Parliament this evening, writes Nick Gutteridge, our Political Correspondent.
Legislation to end border checks in the Irish Sea contains an “insurance” clause which could be used to cancel almost all other parts of the deal with Brussels.
It may even be activated to scrap a consent vote on whether to keep or ditch the Brexit agreement, which will be held by members of the Stormont Assembly in 2024.
Article 15 of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill grants the UK Government the power to disapply any part of the current arrangements under certain circumstances.
Breaking: Government sets out legal position
The Government has set out its legal position on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which it insists is within international law.
“The doctrine of necessity provides a clear basis in international law to justify the non-performance of international obligations under certain exceptional and limited conditions,” the Foreign Office says in a statement.
After reaching a “difficult compromise” on the final text of the Protocol, it says the agreement “currently stands as a barrier to forming a new Executive in Northern Ireland” and the Government”has no other way of safeguarding the essential interests of stake” amid a “genuinely exceptional situation”.
“It is the Government’s position that in light of the state of necessity, any such non-performance of its obligations contained in the Withdrawal Agreement and/or the Protocol as a result of the planned legislative measures would be justified as a matter of international law.
“This justification lasts as long as the underlying reasons for the state of necessity are present. The current assessment is that this situation and its causes will persist into the medium to long term.”
Liz Truss: ‘This is a very serious issue we need to fix’
In comments given to RTE News, Liz Truss warned of “a very serious situation in Northern Ireland”.
“People can’t access the goods they need to access, we’re not able to implement the same tax benefits in Northern Ireland as we are for the people of Great Britain,” she said.
“So this is a very serious issue that we need to fix. We have sought a negotiated settlement for the last 18 months, but as yet the EU have been unwilling to change the terms of the Protocol.
“So I would strongly encourage the Irish Taoiseach to discuss this with the EU to get a change in the mandate and then we can go to the negotiating table.”
Liz Truss: ‘We are acting within international law’
Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, has been speaking to RTE News and says:
“We’re doing this in a way that protects the EU single market to make sure they receive information about what goods are crossing the Irish Sea, so we are maintaining the core principles of what we’re doing, and we are acting within international law and we will be publishing a legal statement later today to show that.
“What we are doing is we are changing the Agreement to have exactly the same effect as far as the EU is concerned, so we continue to protect the EU single market through our agreement, but we’re fixing these problems that are causing real difficulties for communities within the United Kingdom and that is the duty of the United Kingdom Government to make sure we maintain political stability in our own country.
“But as I’ve said I am very willing to negotiate with the EU, but they do have to be willing to change the terms of this agreement which are causing these very severe problems.”
Second reading of Protocol Bill tomorrow – reports
The second reading of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill will take place tomorrow, according to Virgin Media News in Ireland.
A page for the Bill has also been published on the Parliament website – although the PDF file with the full legislation does not seem to be working yet.
Breaking: New law tabled in the Commons
The Government has tabled the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill in the Commons in the last few minutes.
We’ll have more very soon, including from Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary.
Breaking: PM signs joint declaration with Portugal
Rwanda policy is ‘immoral’ and shames England, say archbishops
Plans to deport Channel migrants to Rwanda are an “immoral policy that shames Britain”, the whole Church of England leadership has claimed.
The 25 Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords – including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York – have spoken after Prince Charles was said to have privately branded the policy as “appalling”.
The Most Rev Justin Welby used his Easter sermon to say the policy raised “serious ethical questions” and could neither “stand the judgment of God” nor “carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values”.
The letter, to be published in the Times newspaper tomorrow, says: “Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation. The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries.”
Matthew Laws: New smoking laws would mark the end of our liberty
This week a new review into government tobacco policy made a number of extraordinary proposals – most controversially to ban tobacco sales to individuals born after a certain year, writes Matthew Lewsh. It would be the understatement of the decade to describe these suggestions as “bonkers”.
They would infantilise future generations as never before, treating every person born after an arbitrary date as if they were a child forever. You could be sent to war, have sex, drink alcohol, get married – but not smoke a cigarette.
It might lead to a cosmically absurd situation in which one day a 50-year-old would be forced to ask their 51-year-old mate to purchase a cig on their behalf. Overnight, the ban would create a gigantic illegal market, stripping the Treasury of revenue and handing it straight to criminal gangs.
The review, led by Dr Javed Khan, contains a number of other recommendations “to make England smoke-free by 2030“, from further increases to the UK’s already vast array of regressive sin taxes, to banning smoking in beer gardens, on beaches and in new council estates. So much for supporting the UK pub industry, or even defending the concept of privacy in your own home.
‘Get on and send them’
Only 11 migrants are left on tomorrow’s first flight to Rwanda after legal challenges, the Court of Appeal heard today as it threw out a last-ditch attempt to stop the flight going ahead (see 4.42pm).
Tory backbencher Peter Bone has told MPs: “We hear that a number of the people who are on the flight to Rwanda tomorrow have somehow miraculously got some Lefty lawyer to intervene and stop it.”
He suggested to Tom Pursglove, the immigration minister: “‘Instead of booking 50 people on each flight to Rwanda, book 250 people on it then when they stop half of them from travelling you still have a full flight – come on, get on and send them.”
Mr Pursglove said he “certainly takes on board” the situation, but declined to comment on operational matters.
Breaking: First Rwanda flight will go ahead after challenge thrown out
Judges at the Court of Appeal have thrown out a legal challenge that would have blocked tomorrow’s first deportation flight to Rwanda.
Lord Justice Singh confirmed the “appeal is dismissed”, although the charities involved have already indicated they will appeal again.
Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has already described the decision as “welcome news”.
David Davis: This is a negotiating gambit
David Davis, the former Brexit minister, gives me the following assessment of what the Government has planned:
Removing checks on ‘green lane goods’ is sensible, creating a dual regulatory system is a bit more arguable, applying UK VAT levels to Northern Ireland a bit more sensible, removing European Court of Justice jurisdiction is a complete renegotiation – and will almost certainly trigger a trade war – and fixing state aid is, I think, quite sensible.
But the point about this is I don’t know if this is an opening gambit in a new round of negotiation, or were they intending to do it unilaterally and take the consequences. If it’s the former it would be very stupid of Remainer MPs to vote against it – very stupid.
I would be very surprised if enough Remainers voted for it to stop it. But at the moment, as far as I’m concerned, this is just a negotiating gambit on our part. We’re a long way from actually putting this into law.
You think about the behaviour of the Lords in all of this, and we’re unlikely to see this happen in three or four months, in which time hopefully there’ll be movement down the EU path.
Blocking Protocol reform ‘would be a huge betrayal’
Michael Fabricant, the MP for Lichfield, said he feared the only alternative to reforming the Protocol would be rejoining the single market and “surrendering the sovereignty of British courts”.
He said: “It would be a huge betrayal of Brexit and the 52 per cent who voted for it. It would also be a huge betrayal of the leadership of the Government, who are trying their best for the people of Northern Ireland.
“I know of one colleague who has already suggested we rejoin the single market, but to fight the old Brexit battles all over again is not something the general public wants.”
Andrew Bridgen, the MP for North West Leicestershire who last week confirmed he resubmitted a no-confidence letter in Boris Johnson, accused those planning to rebel of “playing into the false No 10 narrative that those opposing the Prime Minister are part of a Remainer plot”.
“This is at a time when the parliamentary party has never been more eurosceptic. I guess it just shows how divided the Conservative parliamentary party is now.”
Could Boris Johnson face a Protocol rebellion on two fronts?
Boris Johnson risks facing a revolt from the staunch Brexiteer wing of his party as well as so-called ‘Tory wets’ over new Protocol legislation.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Craig Mackinlay, the MP for South Thanet and a member of the European Research Group of eurosceptic backbenchers, accused a “small group of Conservative colleagues [of] seemingly risking the Good Friday agreement” by opposing “any plan” to reform the Protocol.
“For them, the Brexit battle continues, and they’d seemingly risk the Good Friday Agreement for part of the UK remaining within the orbit of the EU and with it the likelihood of limited divergence by the whole of the UK. “
But he added: “That said, unless the Bill solves the Northern Ireland Protocol problems cleanly and absolutely to the satisfaction of the Unionist community, this Brexiteer MP might similarly oppose it but for constitutional reasons.”
Dominic Penna here, taking over from Jack for the rest of today.
We can shortly expect new Government legislation allowing ministers to tear up post-Brexit border rules without needing consent from Brussels.
It comes after 18 months of fruitless talks which has seen the UK and the EU caught in an impasse, meaning No 10 now views the new measures as necessary.
PM: Best way to lose weight is to ‘eat less’
Boris Johnson has said the best way to lose weight is to “eat less”, citing his own experience, as he responded to criticism of the Government’s new food strategy.
The Prime Minister denied that the proposals fail to tackle obesity after the lead adviser on the strategy said it had fallen short in addressing the UK’s health problems.
Mr Johnson insisted he was “very grateful” for the work done by Henry Dimbleby, the co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain.
However, the new strategy rejected proposals from Mr Dimbleby for a salt and sugar tax to help people eat more healthily.
You can read the full story here.
EU ‘will restart legal action’ against UK
The European Union will restart legal action against Britain over breaches of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, with a looming threat of a trade war if the Government refuses to comply.
Maros Sefcovic, a European Commission vice-president, said that the UK’s move to unilaterally override the Northern Ireland Protocol was “damaging to mutual trust and a formula for uncertainty”.
His warning came after a phone call with Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, on Monday morning to discuss Britain’s plans to bring forward the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.
The EU’s initial response is expected to be muted and will arrive in a statement after the first reading of the legislation in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.
You can read the full story here.
Micheal Martin accuses UK of ‘reneging’ on international treaty
Micheal Martin, the Irish Taoiseach, has accused the UK of “reneging” on the Brexit deal it struck with the EU as he criticised Boris Johnson’s plans to unilaterally make changes to post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland.
Speaking in Co Cork, he said: “It’s very regrettable for a country like the UK to renege on an international treaty.
“I think it represents a new low point because the natural expectation of democratic countries like ourselves, the UK and all across Europe is that we honour international agreements that we enter into.”
Mr Martin said the “only way to resolve issues around the operation of the protocol is to have substantive negotiations”.
What have Northern Ireland’s pro-protocol parties told Boris Johnson?
MLAs from Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party and the SDLP have all signed a letter sent to Boris Johnson (see the post below at 15.00) setting out opposition to the Government’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. The letter stated that the parties “collectively represent a majority inside the Northern Ireland Assembly”.
It said: “We reject in the strongest possible terms your Government’s reckless new protocol legislation, which flies in the face of the expressed wishes of not just most businesses, but most people in Northern Ireland.”
The MLAs said they want to see the protocol “work as smoothly as possible” but believe “the way to achieve this is through engagement with the European Union”.
“It is clear that solutions are available and deliverable – as have already been delivered in the area of medicines – but this must be on the basis of trust and the rule of law rather than law breaking and unilateral abrogation of treaty obligations,” they said.
The MLAs also said that they “strongly reject your continued claim to be protecting the Good Friday Agreement as your Government works to destabilise our region”.
“To complain the protocol lacks cross-community consent, while ignoring the fact that Brexit itself – let alone hard Brexit – lacks even basic majority consent here, is a grotesque act of political distortion,” they said.
Sinn Féin: PM’s plan ‘clearly a breach of international law’
Michelle O’Neill, the vice president of Sinn Féin, has labelled the Government’s Northern Ireland Protocol plan as “utterly reckless”.
Sinn Féin and other pro-protocol parties in Northern Ireland have written to Boris Johnson to set out their opposition to the Government’s approach.
Ms O’Neill tweeted: “The unilateral actions of Boris Johnson are utterly reckless. It is clearly a breach of International Law.
“The impact on our businesses & economy could be colossal. The pro-protocol parties have jointly written to Boris Johnson today to firmly reject his legislation and approach.”
‘I don’t believe that is what they are going to do’
A senior Tory MP has predicted the EU would not trigger a trade war with the UK over No 10’s plans to unilaterally tear up parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Theresa Villiers, a former Northern Ireland secretary, told the BBC: “It is open to the European Union to start some kind of trade war with the United Kingdom but that clearly wouldn’t be in their interests or ours.
“So I don’t believe that is what they are going to do.”
Tory MP predicts UK and EU will do a deal
Theresa Villiers, the Tory former Northern Ireland secretary, said she believes the UK and the EU will ultimately agree a negotiated solution to post-Brexit border problems in Northern Ireland.
She told the BBC: “I believe that the negotiations will ultimately succeed, as they did for the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
“That negotiation demonstrates that taking a firm but fair position on the UK’s national interest delivers a good outcome.”
‘We broadly welcome what we hear of the Bill’
Theresa Villiers, a former Northern Ireland secretary and a member of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteer MPs, said she believes the Government will have the numbers to get its new Brexit law through the Commons, despite a growing revolt among some Conservative backbenchers.
Asked if she believes the Government can get the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill through the Commons, Ms Villiers told the BBC: “I think they can. Speaking from my perspective and that of the ERG, we broadly welcome what we hear of the Bill so far but we will be wanting to look at it in some technical detail, so my colleague, Sir Bill Cash, is going to be consulting his star chamber of lawyers.
“But I think what the Foreign Secretary looks to do is to make what are reasonable amendments to the protocol which are crucial to saving the political institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement.”
‘Britain should be a country that keeps its word’
David Lammy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said the Government’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill will “only bring more uncertainty”.
He said: “Today’s protocol legislation is a desperate attempt by Boris Johnson to distract from the drama of his leadership crisis. It risks creating new trade barriers in a cost-of-living crisis and will only bring more uncertainty for the people of Northern Ireland who are trying to make the protocol work.
“Britain should be a country that keeps its word. By tearing up the protocol it negotiated just a couple of years ago, the Government will damage Britain’s reputation and make finding a lasting solution more difficult.
“The EU must show more flexibility as Labour has said from the start. But this legislation is not the way to unlock progress.
“The Government must now publish its legal advice in full and start acting responsibly to protect the Good Friday Agreement to support peace and prosperity.”
Publication of Northern Ireland Protocol Bill could be delayed
It looks like we will have to wait a little bit longer than hoped for the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill to be published.
It would have been presented to the House of Commons just after 3.30pm if there was no urgent business.
But two urgent questions have been granted – one on today’s GDP figures and another on the Government’s Rwanda policy – while a statement on the Government’s Food Strategy has also been scheduled.
That means the presentation of bills probably will not happen until 5.30pm at the earliest.
Pictured: Boris Johnson welcomes PM of Portugal to No 10
No 10: UK economy has ‘strong foundations’
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said this morning’s GDP figures (see the post below 08.23) were “significantly impacted” by the end of mass Covid-19 testing and “when we exclude the falling numbers of Covid tests, the rest of the economy saw positive growth of 0.1 per cent in April”.
The spokesman said: “We think we have strong foundations within our economy which will help it to grow. We recognise there are strong headwinds as we emerge from this pandemic and with war in Europe. That is challenging not just for the UK but for countries across the world.”
The spokesman said it was “too early to pass judgment” on the impact of Brexit, particularly given the effects of the pandemic but the Government is “confident that the opportunities Brexit provides will be a boon to the UK economy in the long term”.
Keir Starmer: Government is ‘out of touch’
Sir Keir Starmer said today’s GDP figures (see the post below at 08.23) will be a “real cause for concern for millions of people who are struggling already to pay their bills”.
He said the ONS numbers represent a “very gloomy forecast” and “it’s not new”.
“We’ve had low growth in our economy for 12 years – the entire period of this Conservative government,” he said.
“We’ve had low growth and high taxes and it’s that combination that is really punishing people across the country. What we need is a plan to get the economy going – investment in the right places, cutting those taxes, the emergency budget that we’ve been calling for.”
During a visit to Wakefield, he said: “But I’m afraid all that we’ve got is a government that’s out of touch and out of ideas.”
No 10: ‘No plans’ for further fuel duty cut
Downing Street has said there are “no plans” for a further fuel duty cut. Rishi Sunak unveiled a temporary 5p cut in March but the Government has faced calls to go further as prices at the pump continue to increase.
Asked if Boris Johnson is ruling out another cut, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “There are no plans for that.
“You will know we have a £37 billion package which includes the 5p fuel duty cut and a raft of other measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable and indeed also ensuring that the majority of workers, 70 per cent, are better off thanks to Government action in July.”
PM has ‘nothing but respect’ for Prince Charles
Downing Street has said Boris Johnson has “nothing but respect and admiration” for the Prince of Wales after he reportedly criticised the Rwanda policy.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has nothing but respect and admiration for the Prince of Wales, who’s spoken out on a number of issues, not least the environment.”
‘We will continue to robustly defend our position’
The Government continues to face legal challenges over its Rwanda asylum seekers policy. The first flight to Rwanda is supposed to depart tomorrow but it is currently unclear how many people will be on it.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “I am not going to speculate on numbers. We have the flight planned for tomorrow. There are legal challenges which makes it hard to say with certainty on numbers at this stage.
“We will continue to robustly defend our position.”
PM and Chancellor joint speech delayed
We had been expecting a joint speech on the economy from Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak this week.
But it is now understood that the speech has been delayed.
It is no longer expected this week but is expected to happen in the next couple of weeks.
It is unclear why the speech has been pushed.
Taoiseach condemns UK Brexit plans
The Irish Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, has reportedly suggested the UK’s Northern Ireland Protocol plans will breach international law.
He said it is “pretty serious stuff” – a big contrast to Boris Johnson saying the plans are “not a big deal” (see the post below at 11.11)
Gavan Reilly, a political correspondent at Virgin Media News, has the remarks:
Pound slumps after GDP falls in April
Sterling slumped while the FTSE 100 dropped to its lowest level in a month after the UK economy suffered a shock contraction in April (see the post below at 08.23).
The pound crashed 0.8per cent against the dollar to $1.2214 after new data showed GDP shrank 0.3 per cent in April – worse than economists’ expectations.
Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 dropped 1.8 per cent to its lowest level since May 12, putting it on track for a fifth day of losses.
You can read the full story here.
‘Keir Starmer takes his declaration responsibilities very seriously’
A spokeswoman for Keir Starmer has now responded to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards’ investigation (see the post below at 10.59).
They said: “Keir Starmer takes his declaration responsibilities very seriously and has already apologised for the fact that administrative errors in his office have led to a small number of late declarations.
“The Standards Commissioner has asked for more information which we are happy to provide.”
Changes to Northern Ireland Protocol ‘not a big deal’
Boris Johnson has insisted the UK’s plans to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol are “not a big deal”.
Speaking in Cornwall, the Prime Minister said: “The protocol isn’t actually even yet being implemented, because it has all been put into cold storage while we try and manage it.
“Were it to be implemented it would do even more damage, diverting trade and that is upsetting the balance of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.
“You have got a problem at the moment which is that in Northern Ireland the Stormont Assembly, the government of Northern Ireland, can’t meet because of the effects of the protocol.
“What it does is it creates unnecessary barriers on trade east-west. What we can do is fix that. It is not a big deal, we can fix it in such a way as to remove those bureaucratic barriers but without putting up barriers on trade moving north south in the island of Ireland as well.”
‘There’s no problem here’
Sir Keir Starmer has insisted he is confident he has not broken the MPs’ code of conduct, saying “there’s no problem here”, after an investigation was launched by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
During a visit to Wakefield, the Labour leader told broadcasters the allegations were not a surprise, adding: “My office is dealing with it and will be replying in due course.”
Asked if he was sure he had done nothing wrong, he said: “Absolutely confident, there’s no problem here.”
A Labour source said the investigation centres on a number of slightly late declarations.
Keir Starmer facing probe by Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is being investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over potential breaches of rules on earnings and gifts.
The Commissioner’s website shows an investigation was opened on June 8 of this year.
The first matter under investigation is stated as: “Registration of interests under Category 1 of the Guide to the Rules (Employment and earnings).”
And the second: “Registration of interests under Category 3 of the Guide to the Rules (Gifts, benefits and hospitality from UK sources).”
PM: UK will get through inflationary period ‘very strongly’
Boris Johnson has predicted the UK will get through the current period of spiking inflation “very strongly indeed”.
Speaking at Southern England Farms in Cornwall, he emphasised the “very strong” fundamentals of the economy and low unemployment, pointing to the vegetable grower’s search for more pickers.
He said: “That’s so different from the economic crises I remember when I was younger in the 80s, in the 90s, millions of people … told they were on the scrap heap because of mass unemployment.
“That was a total disaster, we’re in a different situation now, we’ve got an inflationary price bump that we got to get through… I think we’ll get through it very strongly indeed.”
Lib Dems criticise PM over tax cuts
Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has criticised Boris Johnson for failing to back immediate tax cuts (see the post below at 09.51).
He said: “All we got from Boris Johnson this morning was more bluff and bluster and no actual plan to help people through this cost of living emergency.
“He could cut taxes now, helping households and the economy but instead he just sits on his hands. Instead of cutting taxes – in the middle of this crisis chooses to raises them, something struggling families and pensioners will never forgive him for.”
What time will the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill be published?
The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is due to be presented to Parliament in the House of Commons this afternoon.
If there are no urgent questions then it should take place just after 3.30pm. The Government is then expected to publish the draft legislation.
Downing Street has also promised a summary of the Government’s legal advice relating to the Bill.
PM defends Rwanda plan
Boris Johnson has defended the Government’s plan to send migrants on a one-way trip to Rwanda despite reported criticism from the Prince of Wales.
The Prime Minister insisted the plan is aimed at breaking the business model of people-trafficking gangs.
Asked if Prince Charles is wrong, Mr Johnson told LBC Radio: “What I don’t think we should support is continued activity by criminal gangs.”
He added: “I do think that it’s the job of Government to stop people breaking the law and to support people who are doing the right thing; that’s what we are doing.”
Boris Johnson hints taxes cuts are linked to falling inflation
Boris Johnson has hinted that inflation will need to be falling before the Government can act to cut taxes.
He told LBC Radio: “Yes of course I understand that we need to bear down on taxation and we certainly will.
“But we’ve got an inflationary spike that we’ve got to get through right now, looking after people as we go through that. And that is what we’re going to do.”
No Commons statement on Northern Ireland plans
It had been thought that Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, would deliver a statement in the House of Commons this afternoon to take questions on the Government’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.
But while the Bill will be presented to Parliament, likely at 3.30pm, Ms Truss is now not expected to make a statement. She is expected to do a brief TV clip.
MPs are unlikely to be happy with that arrangement and may well push for an urgent question to be granted on the subject.
EU: ‘Unilateral action is damaging to mutual trust’
Liz Truss has also spoken to Maros Sefcovic, the vice president of the European Commission, about the UK’s Northern Ireland Protocol plans.
Mr Sefcovic said action to “unilaterally disapply” parts of the protocol will damage trust between the two sides.
Dublin warns Northern Ireland plan will be ‘deeply damaging’
The Irish Government has warned the UK’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill will be “deeply damaging” to the relationship between Britain and the EU.
Dublin has published a readout of a 12-minute phone call between Simon Coveney, the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, and Liz Truss which took place this morning.
An Irish Government spokesman said: “Minister Coveney said publishing legislation that would breach the UK’s commitments under international law, the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol is deeply damaging to relationships on these islands and between the UK and EU.
“Minister Coveney said it marks a particular low point in the UK’s approach to Brexit, especially as Secretary Truss has not engaged with negotiations with the EU in any meaningful way since February.”
They added: “Far from fixing problems, this legislation will create a whole new set of uncertainties and damage relationships.”
Liz Truss: ‘We cannot wait to fix the issues facing the people of NI’
Boris Johnson visits farm in Cornwall to launch food strategy
Boris Johnson has joined farm workers to pick courgettes on a vegetable farm in Cornwall to mark the launch of the Government’s new food strategy.
The Prime Minister was shown how to look under the leaves, select the ready courgettes, twist and turn the vegetables and place them in crates at the back of a tractor moving slowly across the field.
“Beautiful shiny courgettes,” Mr Johnson said. “They’re very prolific, aren’t they?”
PM: Trade war would be ‘perverse’ and ‘preposterous’
Boris Johnson has warned the EU against triggering a trade war over the UK’s Northern Ireland Protocol plans as he said such a move would be a “gross, gross overreaction”.
Told that there have been warnings of a potential trade war, Mr Johnson told LBC Radio: “I think that that would be a gross, gross overreaction. All we are trying to do is simplify things to actually to remove barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“How perverse, how preposterous at this time when we want to see greater facilities… to be introducing further restrictions on trade when all we are trying to do is have some bureaucratic simplifications between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
Boris Johnson: Northern Ireland plans will not break law
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has rejected claims that the Government’s Northern Ireland plans could breach international law.
He told LBC Radio: “Well, I disagree with that and I will tell you why, because I think our higher and prior legal commitment as a country is to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.”
PM insists Brexit changes are ‘relatively trivial’
Boris Johnson was told during an interview on LBC Radio that his Northern Ireland Protocol plans appear to be “dead in the water” and will struggle to take off because of a mounting backlash.
Mr Johnson replied: “No, absolutely not… it is a sea plane this thing, it is going to take off from the water because it is the right way forward.
“What we have to respect, this is the crucial thing, is the balance and the symmetry of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and we have to understand there are two traditions in Northern Ireland… two ways of looking at the border issues and one community at the moment feels very, very estranged from the way things are operating and very alienated and we just have got to fix that and it is relatively simple to do it.
“It is a bureaucratic change that needs to be made. Frankly it is a relatively trivial set of adjustments, in the grand scheme of things.”
Food tsar criticises Government
Henry Dimbleby, the Government’s food tsar, said the food strategy due to be published by ministers today represents “progress” but more needs to be done (see the post below at 08.19).
Mr Dimbleby made a series of recommendations in an independent review published last year after he was commissioned to look at the issue – but the Government is not taking all of them forward.
The co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain who has seen the final version of the food strategy, told BBC Breakfast: “Is it the big, bold, unified strategy I think we need? No. Do I think we’re going in the right direction? Yes.”
He said his recommendation of introducing an effective salt and sugar tax would be responded to by the Health Secretary Sajid Javid at a later date.
He said: “I’m hoping that the Health Secretary will be bold and brave in a difficult political context and act to break that junk food cycle and we get away from this narrative of personal responsibility and education which is important, but it isn’t going to get us out of the hole we’re in.”
Minister insists Rwanda plan is ‘right thing to do’
The Government continues to face legal challenges over its Rwanda asylum seekers policy.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, said he expects legal firms to continue to make “noise” about the “offshoring” plans but he insisted the approach is the “right thing to do”.
He told Sky News: “Lawyers will continue to make these sorts of noises but of course we put in place an agreement with Rwanda.
“I think it was a very big step forward when the Home Secretary Priti Patel secured that agreement it’s something actually that the governments and oppositions have talked about as a potential solution for a very long time going back some 20 years and it is we think the right thing to do in order to address this problem of people putting their lives at risk and putting their lives in the hands of terrible people smugglers.”
Labour accuses Tories of using ‘sticking plasters’ on economy
Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said the latest GDP figures (see the post below at 08.23) will “add to the worry families are still feeling about their own finances and the long term health of our economy”.
She said: “They will also add to growing concern about abysmal growth and plummeting living standards under the Conservatives.
“Instead of properly addressing the structural weaknesses and insecurity they’ve created, all the Conservatives use are sticking plasters.
“Labour will create a stronger, more secure economy by boosting our energy security, supply chain security and business security.”
‘Their incompetence is nothing short of dangerous’
The Liberal Democrats have accused the Government of being in “disarray” after the UK economy contracted for two months in a row (see the post below at 08.23).
Christine Jardine, the party’s Treasury spokeswoman, said: “The Government’s barrage of tax hikes and lack of cost-of-living support are leaving people to suffer, and now that’s translating into worrying economic figures.
“The UK has the best universities, the best services sector and the best workforce – yet this Government is in such disarray that we’re headed for the lowest growth in the G7. Their incompetence is nothing short of dangerous.
“Instead of giving speeches full of empty promises, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak need to start listening to people and give them real help with the cost of living.”
Rishi Sunak: UK ‘not immune’ to global challenges
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has responded to today’s GDP figures which were published by the Office for National Statistics at 7am (see the post below at 08.23).
Mr Sunak said: “Countries around the world are seeing slowing growth, and the UK is not immune from these challenges.
“I want to reassure people, we’re fully focused on growing the economy to address the cost of living in the longer term, while supporting families and businesses with the immediate pressures they’re facing.
“We have a plan to turbocharge productivity through investment in capital, people and ideas, so everyone across the country can benefit from a strong, healthy economy.”
Minister: ‘Real challenges ahead’
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, has conceded there are “some real challenges ahead” after the UK economy contracted in March and April (see the post below at 08.23).
He told Sky News: “We’ve known for some time this was going to be a challenge.
“We’ve got unemployment that’s at record lows, the lowest it’s been since 1974, but of course there are some real challenges ahead and these GDP figures are a reminder of those challenges.”
UK economy shrinks by 0.3 per cent
The UK economy contracted by 0.3 per cent in April this year following a decline of 0.1 per cent in March as fears of a recession continue to grow.
The decline was driven by the end of free Covid testing in April, which removed a major support for the economy, although there were contractions in all major sectors.
It also came as the energy price cap jumped 54 per cent and National Insurance payments increased, piling more pressure on household budgets as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.
George Eustice defends Government’s food strategy
Henry Dimbleby, the co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, was commissioned by the Government to conduct a review of the nation’s food system and he published a series of recommendations last year.
The Government is today unveiling its new food strategy but it has faced criticism after leaked versions of the document suggested ministers had failed to adopt many of Mr Dimbleby’s key asks.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, defended the Government’s approach, telling Sky News the “vast majority” of the recommendations have been taken forward.
He said: “I have spoken directly to Henry Dimbleby about this. We take forward the vast majority of his recommendations and so on health and obesity, for instance, he recommended a data partnership, that was his flagship recommendation, we are taking that up because business has access to far better consumer data than government ever can. And of course we have already introduced many things in this space.”
Cabinet minister: Protocol is a ‘serious threat’ to peace
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, said the Northern Ireland Protocol is a “serious threat” to peace in Northern Ireland and must be changed.
He also argued the UK has been forced to act unilaterally to make changes to post-Brexit border rules because the EU has refused to give ground during negotiations.
He told Sky News: “Obviously when the Bill is introduced we will set out the legal basis for that and the Attorney General has been involved closely with this and has given her advice on it.
“But the crucial thing is we have to make this Northern Ireland Protocol work properly because at the moment it is a serious threat to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and we don’t have the inter-ministerial committees meeting which is supposed to bring together politicians on both sides of the Irish border, Stormont is not sitting and trade from GB to Northern Ireland is being severely affected.
“So we have to get a durable solution to this. We have been trying very hard with the European Union to get them to discuss, they are refusing to even change their mandate and so we have to basically give clarity about what the protocol means, how it should be interpreted. Only the UK can do that.”
Good morning and welcome to today’s politics live blog.
The Government will publish its Northern Ireland Protocol Bill this afternoon – the legislation which will give ministers the power to unilaterally tear up post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland.
The publication of the draft laws will spark a political firestorm, with the EU having warned the UK’s approach could breach international law.
Ministers will also publish the Government’s new Food Strategy amid claims it does not go far enough to change the nation’s approach to healthy eating.
I will guide you through all of the key developments.