Boris Johnson news latest: UK threatens to ditch NI protocol as Stormont talks begin

‘Frustrating’ lack of flexibility from EU over protocol, says Northern Ireland secretary

Boris Johnson’s government has threatened to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol unless the EU agrees to back down amid heightened tough tensions over the impact of post-Brexit trade rules.

The Independent Understands that foreign secretary Liz Truss is pushing for unilateral action unless Brussels agrees to remove checks on goods at the border.

Meanwhile, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary has suggested the government was ready to “do what we need to do” to override the protocol.

On the prospect of legislation to override the protocol, Mr Lewis added: “We’ve always said we take nothing off the table, and that hasn’t changed. We will do what we need to do … There is a point we will have to make some decisions.”

It comes as Mr Lewis will meet the leaders of the main parties at Stormont later on Monday to press for the return of devolved government, with Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill in line to become the first nationalist or republican first minister after Thursday’s election. The Stormont Executive has been unable to fully function since February.

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Nearly half of Britons say Starmer should go if he is fined for breaking lockdown rules, finds poll

Almost half (46 per cent) of Britons say Sir Keir Starmer should resign if he is fined for breaching Covid rules, according to a poll. Some 48 per cent of 2019 Labor voters say he should go if he receives a fine.

Around a third (32 per cent) of Britons say that Sir Keir should remain in his role even if he fined, the poll suggested.

The poll of 1,674 British adults on 7-8 May found 30 per cent believe he probably broke the rules and 24 per cent say he definitely did.

Tom Batchelor9 May 2022 11:44

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Labor MP staff were drunk during Starmer visit

Labor MP Mary Foy has denied reports that staff were drunk at an event held in the City of Durham MP’s constituency office which has led to claims Sir Keir Starmer was in breach of lockdown rules.

In a statement, she said: “These claims about my staff are untrue.

“I have already said that I and my team were working during a very busy period, including facilitating the leader’s visit. I do not believe either I or my office staff broke any rules.”

Tom Batchelor9 May 2022 11:26

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London council to recount votes after ‘small difference’ in ballot numbers

A London council is to begin a recount of votes cast in last Thursday’s local election after a “small” discrepancy in counting.

Havering Borough Council in north-east London is due to begin a recount in the Rainham and Wennington ward on Monday evening.

A parties spokesman for the council said: “Due to the small number in difference in the votes for Rainham and Wennington Ward, two recounts were asked for from the involved.

“A further recount was asked for and a decision was made in conjunction with the candidates to do this on Monday at the town hall, 6pm, as the counts had been taking place all through the night.”

Tom Batchelor9 May 2022 11:10

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Alliance Party warns DUP over ‘gamble that Northern Ireland can’t afford to take’

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has urged the DUP to “step up to the plate” and enter a new Stormont Executive.

Ms Long led her new enlarged team of MLAs to assembly buildings on Monday. “As promised in the election campaign we’re here on Monday morning on day one ready to start delivering for the people of Northern Ireland,” she told media in the Great Hall at Stormont.

“I want us to sit down, get the negotiations under way on the program for government and the budget, and I want to see us getting government up and running as quickly as possible.

“We’re going to see a functioning Assembly hopefully pretty soon, that will be the easier part of all of this, but to get a functioning Executive we need the DUP to step up to the plate. With power comes responsibility, and people now need to take the responsibility seriously.

“I think the DUP need to reflect on their mishandling of Brexit, on the fact they had huge influence at Westminster and overplayed their hand.

“It would be foolhardy for them to overplay their hand with devolution because that is a gamble that Northern Ireland can’t afford to take.”

Tom Batchelor9 May 2022 10:51

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Moscow’s generals ‘utterly complicit’ in ‘lowly gangsterism’ under Putin, says Wallace

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has accused Moscow’s generals of being “utterly complicit” in the “lowly gangsterism” under Vladimir Putin at a speech at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, southwest London.

In his speech, Mr Wallace said: “Shame on those who seek to use the suffering or the Russians as a launchpad for their own imperial ambitions.

“They are the ones who truly insult the memory of the immortal regiment. So, let’s call out the absurdity of Russian generals resplendent in their manicured parade uniforms, weighed down by the gold braid and glistening metals.

“They are utterly complicit in’s hijacking Putin of their forebearers’ proud history of defending against the ruthless invasion, of repelling fascism and sacrificing themselves for higher purpose.

“Now they are the ones inflicting needless suffering in the service of lowly gangsterism and for them, and for Putin, there can be no Victory Day, only dishonour and surely defeat in Ukraine.”

Tom Batchelor9 May 2022 10:31

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Plans to stop students with lower grades going to university might be dropped, minister says

Controversial plans to prevent teenagers going to university if they fail to achieve tougher minimum school grades could be dropped, a minister has suggested.

The proposals – widely criticized for penalising disadvantaged students – are an attempt to “start a conversation”, Michelle Donelan said, adding: “We might not do it.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has joined the outcry at the new barriers in the way of higher education, warning youngsters from minority ethnic backgrounds and on free school meals would suffer.

Here is the story from our deputy political editor, Rob Merrick:

Tom Batchelor9 May 2022 10:11

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UK ministers not giving ‘fair assessment’ of EU position on trade talks

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has defended the approach taken by the EU towards the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said: “I don’t think the assessment that is coming from the British government is a fair assessment of the EU’s position. I think the European Union has been flexible, has demonstrated flexibility, but every time up to now that the European Union has demonstrated flexibility, it hasn’t been reciprocated.

“And that has made the EU more ambitious in terms of the discussions with the United Kingdom Government.”

The Irish premier said he believes that, following the assembly elections, agreement can be reached between the UK and the EU on the protocol.

“I think the moment is now for both the EU and the UK,” he said.

“The British Government wants to bring this to a conclusion

“Any further sort of negative developments on this front will prove that Brexit isn’t being done.

“I think all of us now have to have due regard to stability within the North, to the full workings of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.”

Tom Batchelor9 May 2022 09:41

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Tory minister says Starmer resignation ‘decision for Keir’

Asked whether the labor leader should step down if he was given a fine amid a probe into whether he broke lockdown rules, universities minister Michelle Donelan told Sky News: “That’s a decision for Keir, not for me. My constituents are saying that this whole thing smacks of sheer hypocrisy given the relentless focus he has placed on partygate.

“I think this is a decision for him, he’s going to have to search his soul after making this a top priority over the last few months at the expense of key issues like rising cost of living, etc, but look this is a decision for him.”

Tory MPs are in a difficult position, as calling for Sir Keir to resign would suggest Boris Johnson should also quit, with the prime minister having already been fined for a lockdown breaking event.

As polling expert Chris Curtis tweets:

Tom Batchelor9 May 2022 09:19

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Poll suggests public backs foie gras ban as ministers ‘ditch’ policy

Amid reports that a ban on fur imports and foie gras have been dropped by the government from tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech over fears it could anger backbench Tory MPs, a new survey suggests that the public would overwhelmingly support such a move.

MRP polling found nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of voters in 20 of the most marginally held Conservative seats want to see the government pass more laws to protect animals.

Some 77 per cent across the UK want the government to ban the importation of animal products, such as fur, where production methods are banned in the UK, the polling suggested.

Support for banning fur and other similar imports reached 79 per cent in Cabinet members’ constituencies, the polling commissioned by a coalition of animal rights charities, including the Humane Society International, the RSPCA and PETA.

Constituencies in the former Red Wall also showed strong support for additional animal protection legislation, with seven in 10 (70 per cent) supporting import bans on products such as fur.

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, said: “Our new poll leaves no doubt that we’re a nation of animal lovers, and that the British public expect the government to deliver more animal protection laws.

“In terms of showing it is in tune with public opinion, banning the importation of cruelly produced products, such as fur and foie gras, is an open goal for Number 10.

“We urge Boris Johnson to ensure that the forthcoming Queen’s Speech delivers on the Conservative’s 2019 manifesto promise to better protect animals, both at home and abroad.”

The polling was run on the Focaldata platform. Data was collected from a nationally representative sample of 10,018 adults between 11 and 20 April 2022. Using the polling data, Focaldata completed a constituency-level analysis using MRP modeling.

Tom Batchelor9 May 2022 08:53

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Northern Ireland stability ‘in peril’ unless protocol ditched, says Raab

Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab suggested over the weekend that Northern Ireland Protocol checks need to be scrapped to resolve power-sharing at Stormont following Sinn Fein’s election success.

Asked if Downing Street was ready to take action to tear up the deal without consent with Brussels, Mr Raab said “that option has not been taken off the table”.

The justice secretary told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday that “stability is being put at risk, imperilled if you like, by the problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

He added: “It’s clear from the dynamic that we now see that we won’t get to that position of stability unless and until [the protocol] is fixed.”

Read the full report here:

Tom Batchelor9 May 2022 08:31

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