EU condemns ‘threats of violence’ as Northern Ireland-GB port checks suspended
The UK has urged the EU to extend the Brexit “grace period” to 2023 in a bid to avoid more border chaos.
The prime minister’s message follows the EU’s decision to backtrack on its threat to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol by introducing emergency vaccine checks on doses heading from the bloc to Northern Ireland.
Alluding to this, Mr Johnson tweeted on Tuesday evening claiming that the EU’s recent actions had undermined the Northern Ireland Protocol and had “understandably provoked concerns”.
However, Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney had a different interpretation. “The protocol isn’t primarily the problem here; the problem is Brexit and the kind of Brexit that the British Government pursued and insisted on. There were alternatives that would have been much easier to implement,” he told the Irish broadcaster RTE.
“The EU wanted to share a customs union and a single market with the UK – that would have meant no barriers to trade,” he added.
The comments came ahead of a meeting between British, EU and Northern Irish leaders on Wednesday to discuss trade issues between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Scottish parliament to debate Trump golf resort financing
Eric Trump has lashed out at a Scottish parliamentary debate scheduled for Wednesday, in which politicians will vote on whether to launch an investigation into his father’s business dealings in Scotland.
The motion comes amid increasing pressure on Holyrood to authorise a probe against Donald Trump, whom the Scottish Greens accuse of “shadowy” business dealings in the country.
In response to the upcoming debate, Mr Trump’s son branded Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens who has led the calls for an investigation, a “national embarrassment”.
Rory Sullivan3 February 2021 11:39
UK asks EU to extend Brexit ‘grace period’ to 2023
The UK has reportedly urged the EU to extend the Brexit “grace period” to 2023, meaning checks and controls would be relaxed until then to avoid more border chaos.
Cabinet office minister Michael Gove made the request in a letter to his EU counterpart, Maroš Šefčovič, ahead of a virtual meeting between the pair and DUP leaders to discuss the trade situation in Northern Ireland.
Since the end of the transition period, Northern Ireland has been beset by trade disruption, with goods from Great Britain affected.
Rory Sullivan3 February 2021 11:16
Hancock unable to say when quarantine hotels will open
Health secretary Matt Hancock has refused to say whether the government will open quarantine hotels this month for travellers from high-risk countries.
Although ministers have said they will introduce the policy, no date has been given for its launch.
Under the new system, people flying to the UK from areas including South America will have to self-isolate in a hotel upon their arrival in the UK.
Leaving the timeline for the hotels vague, Mr Hancock told LBC: “We’ll set out more details of that when we’re ready to, but you’ve seen that we’re perfectly prepared to take very tough action if that’s what’s needed.”
Critics disagree, saying the government’s limited border restrictions are not enough to protect the UK from the arrival and spread of Covid-19 variants from other countries.
Rory Sullivan3 February 2021 11:00
PM defeated in Lords over trade deals with genocidal regimes
Last month, MPs narrowly voted against a bid to outlaw trade deals with genocidal regimes, despite a rebellion from some Tory backbenchers.
However on Tuesday, the House of Lords approved two amendments to the government’s trade bill.
The first, introduced by Labour, requires the government to check whether parties to any proposed trade deals have committed crimes against humanity.
The other, raised by crossbencher Lord Alton, would give the High Court the power to decide whether a country has committed genocide.
Rory Sullivan3 February 2021 10:38
Leak reveals Labour’s rebranding plan
A leak seen by the Guardian has revealed that Labour plans to win “red wall” voters back through a patriotic rebranding, a move criticised by some members of the party.
The strategy, which was presented in January, said Labour should make “use of the [union] flag, veterans [and] dressing smartly”.
The rebranding exercise has been condemned by some, with Clive Lewis, the Labour MP and former soldier, telling the paper: “It’s not patriotism; it’s Fatherland-ism. There’s a better way to build social cohesion than moving down the track of the nativist right.”
Rory Sullivan3 February 2021 10:12
Calls to remove Northern Ireland Protocol ‘unrealistic’, says Irish foreign minister
Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney has branded calls to do away with the Northern Ireland Protocol “unrealistic”.
This comes amid rising tension between the EU and the UK over the post-Brexit trade arrangements between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Speaking to RTE Morning Ireland on Wednesday, Mr Coveney said Ireland, the UK and the EU “have a legal obligation, in an international treaty, to implement the protocol”.
He added: “The protocol isn’t primarily the problem here; the problem is Brexit and the kind of Brexit that the British Government pursued and insisted on. There were alternatives that would have been much easier to implement.
“The EU wanted to share a customs union and a single market with the UK – that would have meant no barriers to trade.”
Rory Sullivan3 February 2021 09:50
MPs urge government to restart care home visits
A group of MPs and peers has drafted its own law to allow care home visits to restart, saying the current blanket ban is a breach of human rights.
The human rights joint committee criticised ministers’ approach to the issue, which the group says has caused further trauma for those separated from their vulnerable loved ones.
“Relatives must now be reunited with their loved ones in care homes and that needs to be backed up by law,” the committee said.
The law would allow a “designated care-giver” to enter care homes and mental health hospitals, as long as they test negative for Covid-19 before each visit.
Rory Sullivan3 February 2021 09:30
UK’s first openly lesbian MP – Maureen Colquhoun – dies at 92
Tributes have poured in for Maureen Colquhoun, the UK’s first openly lesbian MP, who died on Tuesday aged 92.
The former Labour MP for Northampton North campaigned for gender balance and protection for prostitutes, and faced discrimination from her own party as well as wider society after her sexual orientation was disclosed.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner praised her, saying Labour had lost a “great sister” and that everyone had lost “a woman of huge integrity and courage”.
Rory Sullivan3 February 2021 09:12
Government too slow to act on the environment, say MPs
The government has been too slow to act on the environment, MPs have said.
In a scathing report published on Wednesday, the influential public accounts committee found that the UK has been long on “aspirational words” but “painfully slow” on actions to improve the natural environment.
Our policy correspondent Jon Stone has more on the story:
Rory Sullivan3 February 2021 08:55
Here’s a round-up of the main political events happening today, including the virtual summit between minister Michael Gove, Northern Irish leaders and EU officials over post-Brexit Irish Sea trading arrangements.
Elsewhere, there’s PMQs. “Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer will agree on one thing at PMQs by paying tribute to Captain Tom Moore – before normal hostilities resume,” writes our political commentator Andrew Grice.
Rory Sullivan3 February 2021 08:37