Politics latest news: Post-Brexit border talks end without breakthrough, says Lord Frost – watch press conference live


  • We need to end this beef, Lord Frost tells Brussels

  • Covid laws to be replaced by ‘stringent guidance’

  • Boris Johnson denies MPs a vote on aid cuts

  • Dominic Raab could be second high-profile casualty of boundary changes

  • Ray Bassett: The case for an Irish Brexit is growing stronger

  • Andrew Lloyd Webber: ‘You’ll have to arrest us to stop us reopening theatres’

  • Coronavirus latest news: Andrew Lloyd Webber ‘must abide by rules’, says minister

Crunch talks aimed at resolving post-Brexit trade issues have ended with “no breakthroughs”, Brexit minister Lord Frost has said.

Talks with the European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, including over sausages and chilled meats, lasted more than three hours and were “frank and honest”, he added.

But Lord Forst told broadcasters: “The problem we’ve got is the protocol is being implemented in a way which is causing disruption in Northern Ireland and we had some pretty frank and honest discussions about that situation today.”

He added: “There weren’t any breakthroughs. There aren’t any breakdowns either and we’re going to carry on talking.

“What we really now need to do is very urgently find some solutions which support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, support the peace process in Northern Ireland and allow things to return to normal.”

Mr Sefcovic is expected to set out his side of the argument at a press conference shortly.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

11:41 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson blasts MP for ‘cowering’ over Brexit trade deals

Jonathan Edwards, the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, says “Brexit is quickly turning into a story of betrayals”.

He tells the Commons: “First it was the Northern Irish unionists, then our fisherman and now our farmers face a skewed trade deal with Australia. The big question is who comes next.”

Mr Edwards asks if the steel industry is “next in line”.

Boris Johnson says “no”, adding: “He is completely missing the dynamism and optimism of so many people I see in the agricultural sector, who see opportunities for Welsh lamb and Welsh beef.

“Why isn’t he thinking of this as something of an opportunity for exports, instead of cowering in this way? Welsh farmers can do brilliantly from the deals we are opening up.”

11:35 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson ‘certainly’ will look at Hillsborough court case

Theresa May raises the question of the ongoing “injustice of the families of the Hillsborough 96” in light of the recent court case.

Two retired police officers and an ex-solicitor accused of altering police statements after the Hillsborough disaster were acquitted last month, after Mr Justice William Davis ruled they had no case to answer.

He said this was not a statutory inquiry and therefore not considered “a court of law”, so it was not a “course of public justice” which could be perverted.

Boris Johnson says the families “have shown tremendous courage and determination”.

The Prime Minister adds he will “certainly be looking at the case she describes”.

11:33 AM

PMQs: Lord Frost ‘greatest Frost since 1709’, says Boris Johnson

Conservative MP David Jones says the EU is “unhappy with the negotiating style of Lord Frost”, but says he is doing a fantastic job.

In a softball question, he asks if Boris Johnson agrees the protocol is “unsustainable and matters would be considerably easier if the EU were to adopt a more pragmatic approach, rather than the purist approach they have adopted so far.”

Surprisingly, Boris Johnson agrees “completely”, saying Lord Frost is “the greatest Frost since the Great Frost of 1709”.

11:30 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson claims levelling up agenda ‘transforming people’s lives’

Labour MP Barry Sheerman says the Prime Minister “has had a life of privilege” and “doesn’t know much” about the public sector.

He asks when we will see “genuine signs” of the levelling up agenda.

Boris Johnson says “bit by bit” the investment is “transforming people’s lives, hopes and opportunities.

“We believe there is talent, genius, flair around the country but opportunity is not evenly distributed.”

11:28 AM

PMQs: Government working to protect post-Brexit integrity of UK, Boris Johnson insists

Colum Eastwood, SDLP MP, asks why Boris Johnson is prioritising “cheap dodgy beef from Australia over the concerns of the people of Northern Ireland, and reducing checks in the Irish Sea”.

The Prime Minister says he is prioritising “the right and ability of the people of Northern Ireland to have access, freely and uninterruptedly, to goods and services from the whole of the UK.

“We are working to ensure we protect the territorial and economic integrity of our country – that’s what matters.”

11:25 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson highlights vaccine support in foreign aid debate

Ian Blackford goes back for a second attempt on foreign aid, but Boris Johnson shows no sign of backing down.

He highlights the contribution to Gavi and Covax, to support the vaccination of the world’s poorest, as well as the AstraZeneca support “thanks to the deal this Government did”.

11:23 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson is ‘on the run’ over foreign aid, says Ian Blackford

Ian Blackford accuses Boris Johnson of being “on the run” over his foreign aid cut, saying he has been “hiding on this issue for many months”.

The SNP’s Westminster leader says he “can’t hide from this issue any longer” and demands he give MPs a straight vote on the cuts.

Mr Johnson says “the people of this country… were given a vote on this very recently”.

“We are in very, very difficult financial times. You shouldn’t believe the lefty propaganda.. we have increased spending on girls’ education alone to half a billion pounds.”

11:21 AM

PMqs: Speaker cuts PM off by calling Felicity Kendal

The Speaker attempts to cut Boris Johnson off by calling the next MP to ask question – unfortunately he calls her Felicity Kendal.

The MP for Kensington is in fact Felicity Buchan.

Amid widespread laughter, she accuses him of having aged her.

11:19 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson attacks Labour over foreign aid cut

Sir Keir Starmer says the G7 provides “a real opportunity to restart a meaningful Middle East peace process”.

The deaths of 63 children in Gaza and two in Israel “shows just how urgent this is”.

“The promise of an end to the occupation and a recognised sovereign Palestine state feels more distant than ever,” he says, asking the Prime Minister to press the case on this issue.

Boris Johnson says it has been “a long-standing objective of the Government”, and that there is consensus across the House, in the need for a two-state solution.

He also picks up on the cut to foreign aid, saying the Tories have spent more “than Labour ever did… even when they were spending money on Brazilian dancers in Hackney to raise consciousness of global poverty”.

11:15 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson challenged over global vaccine support

Sir Keir Starmer says the “Prime Minister has been all over the place when to comes to education”.

But he then turns to the G7, saying the UK must lead on the plan to vaccinate the world.

Boris Johnson “has made big promises on this” but he must make it a reality.

Mr Johnson says the UK’s deal with Oxford-AstraZeneca was “Global Britain in action”.

He also highlights the Covax support.

11:13 AM

PMQs: Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson clash over schools plans

Sir Keir Starmer says Sir Kevan Collins’ review “was very clear” and that if action isn’t taken the attainment gap will rise between 10 and 24 per cent.

He asks which of Labour’s measures Boris Johnson opposes. Breakfast clubs for every child? Mental health support? Tutoring? “Which part of our plan does the Prime Minister object to?”

But Mr Johnson highlights “what the Labour Party stood on at the last election”.

But he says if Sir Keir “supports our tutoring programme… that is a good thing”.

The Government is “coming in on the side of all the other kids who can’t afford it,” he adds. “It is a revolution in education for this country.

11:10 AM

PMQs: Sir Keir Starmer takes aim at Chancellor over education spending

Sir Keir Starmer says “who does he think he is kidding”.

He takes aim at Rishi Sunak, saying “the Chancellor’s decision – it is always the Chancellor’s decision – is a completely false economy”.

The Labour leader says it will “hold Britain back for a generation”, arguing that his plan would be “for every child”, and will go to a vote this afternoon. He asks Boris Johnson to back the opposition day motion.

But the Prime Minister says the Government is backing children across the country.

11:08 AM

PMQs: Sir Keir Starmer ‘helps Prime Minister with the numbers’ on catch-up plan

Sir Keir Starmer challenges the Prime Minister over the plan, saying the Treasury “bolts at it” to cover just a tenth of what was required.

“Let me help the Prime Minister with the numbers,” he adds. It is worth £50 per child per year, and even with additional announcements it is only £310 over four years.

However equivalent programmes in the US are worth £1,600 per child, while in the Netherlands it is £2,500 per child.

Why is the UK’s too small, too narrow and too slow, he asks.

Boris Johnson says the Labour leader “needs to catch up on his own mathematics”, arguing that the £3bn plan is “just for starters”.

11:05 AM

PMQs: Sir Keir Starmer offers ‘warm congratulations’ over PM’s wedding

Sir Keir Starmer opens PMQs with “warm congratulations” to the Prime Minister and his wife Carrie for their wedding, saying he admires how the pair “kept it secret”.

The Labour leader quickly pivots to criticise the “half-hearted” catch-up programme which resulted in Sir Kevan Collins resigning.

Boris Johnson thanks the tsar for his work, and teachers, and says the Government has already committed £14bn to schools and is putting another £3bn into tutoring programme “based on the best evidence we could find and that Sir Kevan could supply”.

11:02 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson ‘delighted’ to host G7

Boris Johnson has said he is “delighted” the UK is hosting the first meeting of the G7 leaders since the start of the pandemic.

The Prime Minister is expected to travel to Cornwall before the summit begins tomorrow, where he will meet with US President Joe Biden face-to-face for the first time.

11:00 AM

Government must be ‘upfront’ over live events, says culture committee chairman

The chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport committee has called on the Government to be “absolutely upfront” with the sector about whether live events will restart from June 21.

Julian Knight said: “It is very frustrating for the live events industry as we can see from Lord Lloyd-Webber’s (see 8:40am) comments though clearly I wouldn’t support anyone breaking the law.

“With the 21 June reopening on a knife edge the Government needs to be absolutely upfront about the results of its pilot events and how they feed in to decision-making.”

10:57 AM

Coming up… PMQs

Boris Johnson is on his way to the Commons chamber for PMQs – watch live from 12pm.

Boris Johnson is en route for PMQs - PA
Boris Johnson is en route for PMQs – PA

10:51 AM

Women should ‘not take no for an answer’ when seeking medical advice, says minister

Nadine Dorries has said women should not be “fobbed off” by doctors when seeking medical advice.

The health minister told Radio 4’s Women’s Hour: “Many women feel that a doctor is so much more qualified, so much more knowledgable, he must be right because he knows what he is talking about.

“I want women to be more confident and not take no for an answer… demand it, because it is your right to do so.”

Challenged over whether she is “patient shaming”, the minister said it is “patient empowering”.

10:46 AM

High Court ruling shows ‘no suggestion of actual bias’, says Cabinet Office

A Cabinet Office spokesman has insisted the High Court ruling over a £500,000 contract granted to a company run by friends of Dominic Cummings “makes clear there was no suggestion of actual bias”.

Responding to the Public First ruling (see 10:59 and 11:07am), the spokesman said: “We welcome the court’s ruling that we were entitled to award the contract on grounds of extreme urgency in response to an unprecedented global pandemic.

“The judge recognised the very complex circumstances at the height of the pandemic and that failure to provide effective communications would have put public health at risk.

“The judgment makes clear that there was no suggestion of actual bias and that the decision to award the contract was not due to any personal or professional connections.

“Procedural issues raised in this judgment have already been addressed through the implementation of the independent Boardman review of procurement processes.”

10:42 AM

NHS is sexist, health minister suggests

Health minister Nadine Dorries has suggested the NHS is sexist, saying the system puts “women at the bottom”.

Speaking to Women’s Hour, she said: “Sexist is a strong word to use… but I think the system gets into the people who are working within the [service], and they become part of that system, sometimes unknowingly.

“We have so many examples, in so many ways… it is always about women, vulnerable women being exploited.

“It’s always women at the bottom of an inquiry or something that is going wrong in the NHS.”

Asked if the system is sexist, she said: “I think it is, to a degree. It is a system which, unknowingly maybe, we have got to that situation.”

10:37 AM

Vaccine hesitancy three times higher in most deprived parts of England: ONS

Adults living in the most deprived areas of England are three times more likely to be hesitant about getting a coronavirus vaccine than those in the least deprived parts, figures suggest.

One in 10 people in the most deprived parts reported vaccine hesitancy between April 28 and May 23, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This compares with three per cent of those in the least deprived areas.

Overall, hesitancy levels in Britain are slightly down from the previous month, the survey of 15,173 adults aged 16 years and over found.

10:25 AM

Northern Ireland protocol seen as ‘attack on Britishness’, MPs told

Loyalists in Northern Ireland view the Irish Sea trade border as a form of attacking “their Britishness”, MPs have heard.

Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) leader and Belfast city councillor Billy Hutchinson told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee: “People are angry, people misunderstood how Brexit was going to play out and people didn’t realise that Brexit would have a bigger impact in Northern Ireland than it would have in the rest of the UK.

“So the Protocol is a manifestation of people attacking their Britishness or taking something away.”

He warned that loyalist leaders had a “very difficult” job convincing some people within their community that protests should remain peaceful.

The PUP has a long-established link with the loyalist paramilitary organisation the Ulster Volunteer Force.

10:17 AM

Policing minister ‘regrets’ not securing vaccine priority for officers

The policing minister has said “it’s a point of regret” that he did not succeed in convincing health experts to give officers priority for the Covid vaccine.

Speaking during a Police Federation conference panel discussion, Kit Malthouse insisted he “made the case strongly about police officers” when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) was drawing up its list.

He added: “We did repeatedly make the case and make the request but obviously the JCVI made the decision that they did.

“From my point of view it’s a point of regret that we didn’t manage to make our point strongly enough.

“Having said that, as was said earlier, quite a number of officers managed to get vaccinated with spare vaccines, hopefully now everybody is done or will be done shortly.”

10:07 AM

Public First defends ‘life-saving’ work, following High Court ruling

Public First, the market research firm which was handed a £500,000 contract by the Government, has defended the work it carried out.

A High Court judge found the decision to award the contract to the firm – which has close ties to Dominic Cummings – was unlawful (see post below).

But a spokesman for Public First said: “We’re deeply proud of the work we did in the early stages of the pandemic, which helped save lives.

“The judge rejected most of the Good Law Project’s claims, not finding actual bias in the awarding of this work, nor any problems with the pace or scale of the award. Rather, the judge found that weak internal processes gave rise to the appearance of bias.”

09:59 AM

Government contract with Cummings allies ‘unlawful’, says High Court judge

A Government decision to award a contract to a company whose bosses were friends of adviser Dominic Cummings was unlawful, a High Court judge has ruled

Campaigners took legal action against the Cabinet Office over the decision to pay more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money to market research firm Public First, following the start of the coronavirus crisis in March 2020, and questioned the involvement of Mr Cummings.

Lawyers representing the Good Law Project said Mr Cummings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s then-chief adviser, wanted focus group and communications support services work to be given to a company whose bosses were his friends.

Mrs Justice O’Farrell said: “The claimant is entitled to a declaration that the decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful.”

09:53 AM

Two charged over ‘grossly offensive’ social media video aimed at Priti Patel

The pair is alleged to have sent a grossly offensive video targeted at Home Secretary Priti Patel - PA
The pair is alleged to have sent a grossly offensive video targeted at Home Secretary Priti Patel – PA

Two men have been charged over an alleged racist social media video targeted at Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Jake Henderson and Robert Cumming are accused of an offence under section 127 of the Communications Act following complaints about a post in January 2021.

It is alleged the pair sent a grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing message or matter via a public communication network.

The CPS said the defendants were summonsed on May 29.

Henderson, 28, from Newark, Nottinghamshire, and Cumming, 26, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, are due before magistrates on June 29.

09:48 AM

Boris Johnson thanks police for their work during ‘awful pandemic’

Boris Johnson has recorded a surprise clip for the nation’s police forces, thanking them for “the work that you’ve done to keep people safe during this awful pandemic”.

In a recorded video message played as the virtual Police Federation event opened, he said: “You’ve encouraged people to stick to the rules the same time as you’ve been fighting crime and you’ve each risen to an enormous challenge.

“Just as I could never have imagined being forced, as Prime Minister, to close pubs and bars and restaurants or tell people how many households could get together, I bet that policing restrictions in that way was not something you ever dreamt you would be doing.

“But you did it because you knew it was how we were going to protect the NHS and save lives.”

09:41 AM

EU will use ‘all tools at our disposal’ over sausage war, says European Council boss

Charles Michel warned the EU was ready to use “all the tools at our disposal to protect our interests” after Brussels threatened Britain with a sausage trade war.

He boasted of the EU’s “serenity and serene strength” in a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg as UK and EU official meet in London for talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said, “We believe deeply in the rule of law. Pacta sunt servanda – when agreements are reached, they must be implemented in good faith. And this is the expression of serenity and serene strength within the EU.

“We wish to be a loyal partner, we want a fruitful and cooperative partnership with the UK. That’s always been the spirit of the negotiations around the table, where we were able to showcase our unity,” he said. “But we’re also ready to make use of the different tools at our disposal to protect our interests, the integrity of the single market and ensure our agreements are respected and upheld, and also to protect the Good Friday Agreement.”

09:36 AM

Blaming Boris Johnson over protocol is ‘a bit rich’

Theresa May’s former chief of staff might be arguing that the flaws of the Northern Ireland protocol were clear for all to see – but not everyone agrees with Lord Barwell’s version of events.

Patrick O’Flynn argues: “The source of the problem was May’s weakness at the negotiating table having given away UK leverage and narrowed options.”

Arlene Foster clearly agrees.

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09:31 AM

Analysis: What does the Irish border story tell us about UK-EU relations?

What do the strongly denied reports (see 9:48am) that the EU is considering introducing border checks with Ireland really mean, asks James Crisp.

Abandoning Ireland would be an astonishing move from the EU, which would raise serious questions about the bloc’s unity and the value of EU membership for smaller countries. Simply put – it isn’t going to happen.

However, it can tell us something about the state of UK-EU relations. Some member states, whose patience with the UK is wearing thin, may want to send a warning shot to Ireland to not push Brussels too hard for flexibilities in Single Market rules in today’s negotiations in London.

They may also calculate that a threat to Ireland may encourage proud Irish-American Joe Biden to press Boris Johnson harder over the Irish Sea border when the two leaders meet today.

There are also suspicions in Brussels that UK disinformation is responsible for the story, which has been roundly rebutted by numerous EU sources. That may not be true but the fact Britain is suspected of such dirty tricks shows just how little trust there is in the UK in EU circles at the moment.

09:22 AM

Sausage trade war: We need to end this beef, Lord Frost tells Brussels

Lord Frost and Maros Sefcovic meet today - Getty
Lord Frost and Maros Sefcovic meet today – Getty

Lord Frost has told Brussels to stop threatening a sausage trade war with the UK and focus on solving the problems faced by families and small businesses in Northern Ireland, ahead of today’s showdown summit.

The Brexit minister warned that “further threats of legal action” would do nothing to solve the “damaging impact” that the Northern Ireland Protocol was having on the ground.

“Trade retaliation from the EU won’t make life any easier for the shopper in Strabane who can’t buy their favourite product,” he said.

Ahead of today’s meeting Boris Johnson held a call with Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, stressing the need for “quick progress” to be made

However, signalling that the row could now spill over into the G7 this weekend, Mrs von der Leyen said she had expressed her “deep concern” to Mr Johnson and intended to “discuss how to progress and ensure compliance” in the margins of the summit.

09:10 AM

Have your say: Would you accept a delay to June 21?

The data leading up to June 21 remains mixed, with cases on the rise in vast swathes of the country, although the vaccine appears to have “broken” the link (see 9:57am).

The big question before a decision is made appears to be to what extent people need to be fully vaccinated – and how many of the most vulnerable will have been to hit the current schedule.

There has been talk about a temporary delay to the final stage of the roadmap – or that some restrictions may remain as “guidance”.

Rishi Sunak is reportedly relaxed about a delay – as long there is no return to lockdown. But are you? Have your say in the poll below.

09:02 AM

Will Freedom Day still be lockdown in all but name?

MPs have raised concerns that a web of stringent guidance could be put in place of the legal restrictions, encouraging people to act as if they are still in lockdown.

In particular, plans for nightclubs to be allowed to open on that date are in doubt, with concerns about Covid spreading on packed dance floors.

It is also thought the work-from-home guidance could remain in place after June 21, along with face masks and social distancing.

Meanwhile this morning the Guardian has reported that Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor who has been among the lockdown hawks throughout the pandemic, is relaxed about a possible delay to the final stage of the roadmap – as long as it remains permanent.

“The Treasury’s main thing is that freedoms are irreversible and businesses have clarity,” a source told the paper.

08:57 AM

Vaccines appear to have broken link between infections and death, says NHS boss

Vaccines appear to have “broken” the link between infections, hospital admission and deaths, and hospitals were reporting less sick, younger patients than before, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.

“If, and it is a big if, if Bolton has gone through its complete cycle and if others areas follow Bolton, the view from the hospital there was that they were able to cope with the level of infections,” Chris Hopson told Times Radio.

“What chief executives are consistently telling us is that it is a much younger population that is coming in, they are less clinically vulnerable, they are less in need of critical care and therefore they’re seeing what they believe is significantly lower mortality rate which is, you know, borne out by the figures.

“So it’s not just the numbers of people who are coming in, it’s actually the level of harm and clinical risk.”

However, he said those people who are admitted but survive may still end up with long Covid.

08:48 AM

Plan to restricting Ireland’s access to Single Market ‘unadulterated b——-‘

Suggestions that the EU might restrict Ireland’s access to the Single Market in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock are “pure unadulterated b——-“, sources have told The Telegraph.

Politico has reported that such an approach is being discussed by officials and diplomats, although it is said to be prompting anxiety among Dublin figures.

James Crisp, our man on the ground, says the “feeling around Brussels that the story could be a kite flying exercise or a warning shot from tough member state to Ireland not to push too hard for flexibilities on Single Market rules in Northern Ireland.

“Interesting that this is possibly more about intra EU politics than UK-EU.”

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08:37 AM

Public urged to ‘apply our Covid sense’ to avoid restrictions being reimposed

Lancashire’s public health director has urged people to “apply our Covid sense”, as he warns unlocking further could result in restrictions being reimposed.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi told BBC Breakfast there was great variation in the number of people who have been double-jabbed – from 20 to 70 per cent, which when combined with the new Indian/Delta variant meant “we need to really tread carefully in unlocking further”.

It should be done “sustainably”, without “having the prospect of going back in again”, he said.

“Whatever happens is a national decision and it has to be one that applies across the country and not necessarily different places treated differently.”

He said the message to local people was there “is no local lockdowns, there’s no travel restrictions, but let’s all apply our Covid sense…”

08:31 AM

Ross Clark: Theresa May saw that the Irish Protocol was a toxic trap. Why couldn’t Boris?

So long had the Brexit process dragged on for that you can see why MPs fell for Boris Johnson’s ‘oven-ready’ deal, without taking the trouble to read the E numbers, writes Ross Clark.

Had they done so, they would have realised there was an ingredient so toxic that it was inevitably going to produce vast clouds of cyanide gas as soon as it was taken out of the microwave.

It should have been obvious that the protocol had little to do with its stated aim to preserve the peace in Northern Ireland; a border down the Irish Sea could not be better construed to inflame tensions in the province.

The protocol was yet one more device dreamed up by the EU to try to punish Britain, to make life so miserable that other countries would think twice before emulating Britain and holding an in-out referendum.

Read the rest of Ross’s column here.

08:19 AM

Boris Johnson and Joe Biden ‘entirely aligned’ on sausage wars ahead of G7

Boris Johnson and Joe Biden are “entirely aligned” on the so-called sausage wars, a Cabinet minister has claimed, ahead of the US President’s arrival in the UK today.

Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, told Sky News that US President would have the “good sense” to recognise how unfair it was to block produce made in one part of the country from being sold in another.

The pair would be “entirely aligned in their position”, he added, saying it would be “ridiculous for a US president to even consider that something grown in Alabama couldn’t be moved across the border”.

Ahead of a crunch joint committee meeting, which will be jointly chaired by Lord Frost and Maros Sefcovic, Mr Jenrick rejected the “rigid” approach taken by the EU, saying it was “not a good use of either side’s time” to stop “sausages made in Birmingham being exported to a Sainsbury’s in Belfast”.

He added: “There are more serious things than sausages at stake here – medicines, for example.”

08:13 AM

Watered-down education programme a ‘false economy’, says Labour

The Government’s £1.4bn catch-up programme is a “false economy”, Labour’s shadow education secretary has said, ahead of an opposition day debate in the House of Commons.

“The cost of not investing in children and young people now will amount to many, many more hundreds of billions of pounds of costs for our economy from lost earnings, from poor productivity and so on down the years,” Kate Green told Sky News.

“It’s a false economy and their own choice really for Rishi Sunak not to be making this investment in children and young people now.”

The decision to allow children to remove face masks in schools, especially in areas where there has been an increase in coronavirus cases, was “premature”, she added.

08:06 AM

EU diplomat: A sausage might as well be €2.7bn Chinese shoes

Boris Johnson might be hoping that the EU blinks on the so-called sausage wars – but the mood music in Brussels suggests he may be in for disappointment.

One EU diplomat has told The Telegraph that, as they see it, the question of sausages being exported from Britain to Northern Ireland is viewed as a threat to the internal market, saying “a sausage might as well be Chinese footwear worth €2.7bn”.

The source added: “What can be done in the protocol will be done but ask for things going beyond and you unlock the internal market…. the EU will always be maximalist in its approach because Frost is forcing us to with his uncompromising negotiation stance and self defined Brexit baseline.”

He also emphasised “unity above all”, noting that “Ireland will not be dropped”; and that “we have the market of the 27 as well as the global market so we can be patient.

“We just hope Poots and Frost don’t accidentally set fire to the UK’s backyard first.”

07:59 AM

‘Not credible’ that Boris Johnson didn’t understand consequences of Brexit deal

Boris Johnson signed the post-Brexit trade deal “hoping that over time they would be able to negotiate themselves out of the most damaging effects of it”, Theresa May’s former chief of staff has said.

“The original EU proposal for a Northern Ireland-only backstop had these regulatory checks – the same kind of regulatory checks as the deal he signed up to,” Lord Barwell told Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I find it inconceivable that he would sign up to something similar without understanding what the potential consequences would have been… I don’t think anyone who was involved in the process is going to find it credible that the Government signed up to something and didn’t understand the consequences.

“The attempts to potentially get out of this started fairly quickly – we had in the autumn of last year the Internal Markets Bill, where the Government was very open with Parliament that potentially it was prepared to consider breaking its international legal obligations.

“There is a pattern of behaviour here which I think is clear for everyone to see.”

07:54 AM

Boris Johnson ‘pretending’ not to have understood Brexit trade deal consequences

The former chief of staff to Theresa May has suggested Boris Johnson is “pretending” not to have understood the implication of the Northern Ireland protocol on goods when he signed it.

Lord Barwell said it is “difficult to conceive of any explanation” than this, saying the Prime Minister “perfectly understood the previous iteration” and that the “explanatory memorandum for the bill, which explained what the bill meant, was very clear”.

He added: “[Mr Johnson] and David Frost are intelligent people, I find it inconceivable they didn’t understand what they were signing up to.”

The Prime Minister had decided to “fight an election with an oven-ready Brexit deal, so I think the calculation was sign up to whatever is on offer and see if we can deal with anything we don’t like further down the line”, Lord Barwell added, noting the EU had “come to same conclusion”, which is why they are resisting any change now.

07:40 AM

Being arrested would be ‘most interesting’, says Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber has doubled-down on his suggestion that he will reopen his theatres without social distancing later this month “come hell or high water”.

The West End composer told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The feeling is that the reaction of the Government if they do stop us going forward is neither rational, nor is it proportionate.”

He added: “The Government has in its hands a report that seems to say it is absolutely fine to go to live events… this is the Government’s moment to really show they do care about the musicians and actors, and all those who work in live events.

“If we are not allowed to open, and there is something really serious going on, have another circuit breaker or total lockdown, but don’t keep penalising the poor live music and theatre sector.”

Asked if he was willing to be arrested, he said: “It would be most interesting.”

07:26 AM

Unelected spin doctors had too much influence in charity funding, say MPs

Unelected spin doctors had too much influence in assigning government funding for charities during the coronavirus pandemic, a report by Parliament’s public accounts committee (PAC) has found.

MPs on the committee, which scrutinises government spending on behalf of Parliament, raised concerns about the role of Whitehall special advisers in the allocation of £513 million of public money to keep charities afloat.

In a report released on Wednesday, they also questioned why some organisations received money at all, since officials were unsure if they were actually “eligible for government funding in the first place,” and suggested there was no clear rationale for paying external consultants £2 million to assess the bids on behalf of the Government.

The report said it was “unclear what influence special advisers had over some funding decisions, with some charities awarded government funding despite the department’s officials initially scoring their bids in the lowest-scoring category, including four out of the five lowest-scoring applications”.

07:23 AM

‘Get a sense of proportion’, Andy Burnham tells Oxford students over Queen portrait row

The Mayor of Greater Manchester has said he “does not support” the idea of removing a portrait of the Queen from a common room at Oxford University after reports said a college committee voted to take it down due to concerns over its colonial links.

“These kind of gestures are getting a bit out of hand,” Andy Burnham told Nick Ferrari on LBC. “We should always respect the Queen but particularly now given things that have happened in the last few months. I don’t support that.

“Let’s get a sense of proportion and a bit of respect. People can air their views but those kind of gestures are divisive actually – they just divide people, and I don’t think they achieve much, to be honest.”

07:22 AM

Oxford College indulging in ‘student union politics’ over Queen’s portrait row

The original photograph taken in 1952 by Dorothy Wilding to mark the Queen's accession and coronation  - Hulton Royals Collection
The original photograph taken in 1952 by Dorothy Wilding to mark the Queen’s accession and coronation – Hulton Royals Collection

Robert Jenrick has attacked an Oxford College for “student union politics” after a group of graduates removed a portrait of the Queen from the the middle common room (MCR) of Magdalen College.

The MCR committee claimed the picture – a colourised print based on a 1952 photo of the monarch -represented an unwelcoming symbol of “recent colonial history”.

The Communities Secretary said it was “student union politics”. He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I have got a portrait of the Queen at my office at Ministry of Housing and proud to have that hanging in my wall.”

Yesterday Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, said it was “simply absurd”.

07:12 AM

No plan to return to local lockdown, minister insists

Robert Jenrick has said there is “no plan to return to the regional or tiered approach” from last year, despite hotspots surfacing in parts of the country.

“We have seen in Bolton that [new] approach has worked,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme. “That approach of going door to door with testing, doing surge testing, doing the vaccine buses, getting everybody out to be vaccinated, has worked there.

“If we can replicate that in other areas where you see similarly concerning rises in the number of cases, that is the best way forward.”

However, he did not explain what would happen if they can’t replicate it.

07:09 AM

Greater Manchester under new ‘guidance, not law’, stresses minister

Robert Jenrick has insisted that those living in Greater Manchester are being “supported to bring down cases in the way we have done so successfully in Bolton”, through surge testing and mobile vaccine units.

It also involves extra “guidance – not law, but guidance to ask people to use a degree of personal responsibility in how they conduct themselves in the day ahead, until we have this situation under control”.

The Communities Secretary told Radio 4’s Today programme the country was “in a race against time between the vaccine and the virus”, but challenged over surge programmes for hotspots, he highlighted the JCVI’s advice to work through the vulnerable groups rather than prioritise jabs by geography.

He noted the “vast, vast majority” of people are now able to book a jab, thanks to having dropped to those aged 25 and up.

07:05 AM

Minister strikes cautious note over June 21 reopening

Robert Jenrick has struck a note of caution about the prospect of the final stage of the roadmap on June 21, saying coronavirus cases are “clearly rising”.

The Communities Secretary told Sky News: “The Prime Minister is reviewing the data, and more data is coming in, which is very important…. it’s a finely balanced decision.

“We need to see that data of cases, which are clearly rising, but the link to hospitalisations and ultimately to death.”

He declined to offer his view of the current data, but added: “We do think it’s important that we don’t throw away the gains we have made, so we will take a cautious approach.

“If we can reopen on June 21, all of us would love that.”

07:03 AM

Andrew Lloyd Webber must ‘abide by the rules’, says Cabinet minister

Andrew Lloyd Webber must “abide by the rules”, a Cabinet minister has said, after the composer told The Telegraph he would risk arrest in order to fully reopen his theatres.

Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, said he “sympathised” with the West End impressario, and that “people are desperate to go to them, tickets are selling fast for all those productions because people have been away too long”.

He attempted to pass off Lord Lloyd Webber’s comments as having been made “in the heat of the moment”, adding: “I am sure he feels this very strongly.”

When asked if Lord Lloyd-Webber should be arrested if he does open theatres without restrictions relaxing, Mr Jenrick said: “We all have to abide by the rules.”

Read in full ‘You’ll have to arrest us to stop us reopening theatres’, says Andrew Lloyd Webber

06:40 AM

We need to end this beef, Lord Frost tells Brussels

Lord Frost has told Brussels to stop threatening a sausage trade war with the UK and focus on solving the problems faced by families and small businesses in Northern Ireland, ahead of a showdown summit on Wednesday.

On the eve of the first UK-EU Partnership Council in London, the Brexit minister warned that “further threats of legal action” would do nothing to solve the “damaging impact” that the Northern Ireland Protocol was having on the ground.

“Trade retaliation from the EU won’t make life any easier for the shopper in Strabane who can’t buy their favourite product,” he continued. “Nor will it benefit the small business in Ballymena struggling to source produce from their supplier in Birmingham.”

His comments were echoed by Boris Johnson, who in a call with Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, stressed the UK needed to see “quick progress” to “minimise the impact” of the protocol “on the lives of people in Northern Ireland”.


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