Watch live as Boris Johnson faces Keir Starmer and MPs at PMQs
The government will not ditch the Northern Ireland protocol but will work to improve post-Brexit trade disruption in the territory, a minister has said.
This comes after unionists called for it to be scapped, claiming that customs checks across the Irish Sea threatened the constitutional “integrity” of the UK.
Ahead of a meeting between the UK and the EU on Wednesday to discuss the situation, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, told BBC Radio Ulster that the protocol should remain in place but should be “put right”.
Asked whether it should be scrapped, he said: “No, the protocol is a legal agreement that’s there, that’s in place, and we’ve got to make sure that we make it work in a positive way for people in Northern Ireland.”
David Cameron tells PM to be ‘muscular’ in reshaping economy
David Cameron has said that Boris Johnson should be more interventionist in order to achieve a green recovery after the pandemic.
Speaking to the Guardian, the former prime minister added that Mr Johnson’s approach to reshaping the economy needed to be “muscular”.
“My advice would be…you have to roll up your sleeves and be quite muscular in your interventionism,” he said.
Here’s our Whitehall editor Kate Devlin with more details:
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 14:37
Williamson to lead Downing Street press conference at 5pm
Education secretary Gavin Williamson will lead today’s 5pm press conference from Downing Street.
Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, will also be speaking.
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 14:22
Government should commit to ‘major fiscal stimulus’, says Blackford
The government should commit to a “major fiscal stimulus” to help the UK recover from the pandemic, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has said.
During PMQs, he urged Boris Johnson to “rule out a return to Tory austerity cuts”, saying that the stimulus should be worth at least 5 per cent of GDP.
The prime minister responded by expressing his pride at the “massive investments” made so far by the Treasury. He also added that more than £13 billion of these funds have gone to Scotland.
In reply, Mr Blackford said: “The prime minister’s boasting, but the cold hard reality is that the UK has suffered the worst slump of any major economy and 120,000 people have lost their lives – that’s under your guidance, prime minister.”
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 14:15
Some hauliers in Northern Ireland see 30 per cent drop in revenue after Brexit
Some hauliers in Northern Ireland saw a 30 per cent drop in revenue last month, an industry representative has said.
Seamus Leheny, Northern Ireland policy manager at Logistics UK, said this was the result of too many trailers returning empty from the UK, unable to find freight because of post-Brexit bureaucracy.
“A significant amount of those lorries going over laden are struggling to find loads to come back to Northern Ireland,” he said.
Mr Leheny has called on the British government to financially compensate those having to ship empty trailers back to Northern Ireland.
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 14:04
Why is the SNP in a state of civil war?
Internal feuding threatens to ruin the Scottish National Party, a party formerly known as the slickest political machine in the UK.
There is the well-known dramatic rupture between the party’s two towering figures, current boss Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond – the once-close allies who are now sworn enemies. And, among other issues, there is also a dispute over the timing of the second independence referendum.
So how deep do the divisions go? Can they be healed? And could they damage the party’s push for another independence referendum in the coming year?
Adam Forrest has all the answers:
Sam Hancock24 February 2021 13:50
Davidson: ‘Salmond v Sturgeon case calls Scottish democracy into question’
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Conservative Party in Scottish parliament, has said the Crown Office’s decision to redact evidence by former SNP leader Alex Salmond raised “real question marks” over the independence of government institutions.
Parliament agreed to belatedly redact large sections of Mr Salmond’s written evidence in which he accused Nicola Sturgeon of misleading Holyrood and breaching the ministerial code, following a letter from the Crown Office expressing concern about possible contempt of court.
Ms Davidson told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “This actually has gone far beyond Sturgeon versus Salmond, it has gone beyond the complainant versus the treatment they received and how they were failed – this has now got to the structure of democracy in Scotland and whether our institutions are robust or whether they have been corrupted.
“And that matters, and that should matter to everybody within the United Kingdom, whether they are in Scotland or not.
“And we have real question marks now over the Scottish government, around the officialdom in Scotland, whether that’s the civil servants, and we have real question marks now around the Crown in Scotland, which is the supposedly independent prosecution service in Scotland and you need to have a rule of law that works and works well.
“This is absolutely striking at the heart of how Scotland is governed, how it works and what we can expect of a government and the institutions that run all our lives.”
If you missed the updates on Mr Salmond’s case yesterday, you can catch up via our Whitehall editor Kate Devlin here:
Sam Hancock24 February 2021 13:39
Minister refuses to apologise for Hancock’s ppe comments
Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick reports the following:
In the Commons, the health minister Edward Argar has refused to apologise for his boss Matt Hancock’s incendiary claim that that there was “no national PPE shortage” last year.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, said the comment – made after the High Court ruled against the health secretary over the award of contracts – was “so insulting” to medical staff forced to wear bin bags and home-made goggles, demanding he say sorry.
But Mr Argar insisted a National Audit Office report backed up the claim, because the NHS did not run out of PPE, although there were what he called “local shortages and challenges”.
Labour secured the urgent question to put pressure on Mr Hancock, who has brushed off the court ruling as simply “delayed paperwork”, amid a national emergency.
Significantly, Conservative MPs clearly back the argument that he did what was necessary to meet that emergency – despite the furore over contracts going to Tory friends, including the former landlord of the health secretary’s local pub.
Sam Hancock24 February 2021 13:28
‘Certainty’ needed around post-Brexit grace periods, NI warns
Businesses in Northern Ireland need “certainty” around post-Brexit grace periods, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director has said.
Aodhan Connolly warned the NI Protocol had produced the greatest disruption to commerce since the foundation of the state a century ago, saying: “It has to lead to certainty, not just for Northern Irish businesses but for those people who want to invest in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Connolly told Stormont’s Economy Committee being part of the EU and NI presented opportunities for the manufacturing sector but risked leaving others behind.
“We need to ensure that we take all sectors of business with us,” he said.
“There are going to be some changes. It is a new trading regime, it is the biggest economic shift as far as supply chains and how we trade since the foundation of the state 100 years ago.”
Sam Hancock24 February 2021 13:18
Hancock ‘takes down’ picture of pub linked to Covid contract
Matt Hancock appears to have taken down a photograph of the local pub formally run by an acquaintance caught up in controversy over a government Covid contract.
A company owned by Alex Bourne – the former landlord of the health secretary’s local pub the Cock Inn – is currently under investigation by the UK’s medical regulator over a contract to produce Covid test vials for the NHS.
In recent months Mr Hancock has been seen doing live TV interviews with a framed photo of the Cock Inn, located in his West Suffolk constituency, on the wall of his study. But on Tuesday, a different picture could be seen in its place.
My colleague Adam Forrest reports:
Sam Hancock24 February 2021 13:00
Video: Johnson turns back on Winter Olympics boycott
Boris Johnson turns his back on winter olympics boycott
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 12:39