Today’s daily politics briefing
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab on Monday announced a package of travel bans and asset freezes against four senior officials and the state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau (XPCC PSB), after labelling the abuse “one of the worst human rights crises of our time”. The US, EU and Canada did the same.
But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement this morning the move was “based on nothing but lies and disinformation” and would sanction nine politicians and four British institutions as a result. They include Mr Duncan Smith, Conservative MP Neil O’Brien, Lord David Alton, Labour’s Baroness Helena Kennedy – as well as the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and Essex Court Chambers.
Responding to the news, Mr Duncan Smith said he considered China’s anger at him “a badge of honour” while Mr Raab implored China to grant the United Nations access to Xinjiang “to verify facts”.
Elsewhere, at least 10 EU countries will no longer extradite their nationals to face prosecution in the UK because of Brexit, the government has admitted, which means British authorities may have to attempt prosecutions in other countries.
Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden will be “invoking constitutional rules as reason not to extradite their own nationals to the UK”.
China sanctions ‘flagrant assault’ on democracy, says IPAC
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) has condemned China’s sanctions on UK parliamentarians as a “flagrant assault” on democracy and said there would be no change in members’ approach to criticising the East Asian nation’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.
Five of those sanctioned are IPAC members: Tory MPs Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Nusrat Ghani and Tim Loughton, and peers Baroness Kennedy and Lord Alton.
“The decision to sanction five of our British members is a flagrant assault on those parliamentarians’ rights to conduct their duties,” an IPAC spokesman said.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick also added his voice to the row, calling the move by China “completely wrong”.
He told Times Radio: “I think it was completely wrong for China to place these restrictions on members of our parliament, who were simply exercising their democratic right in this country. Knowing those MPs, I doubt that they will be silenced or intimidated by this action and the UK certainly won’t step back from its important role in calling out China for its human rights abuses.
“We’ve been leading the world in that respect, at the United Nations and with our international partners, and I know the foreign secretary will continue that work.”
“We’ve already applied restrictions on certain Chinese individuals and we’re taking action against companies which are importing products into the UK and other markets from those provinces in China – that’s the right course and the foreign secretary will keep up that work on the international stage.”
He added: “We completely condemn the action we’ve heard from China this morning.”
Sam Hancock26 March 2021 08:56
Government’s vulnerable family scheme moves into next phase
A government programme to support vulnerable families is poised to move into its next phase, backed by £165m in funding.
The scheme, previously known as the Troubled Families programme and renamed as the Supporting Families programme, sees vulnerable families assigned a dedicated keyworker, who brings local services together to resolve issues facing families at an early stage before they develop into more significant problems.
More than 400,000 vulnerable families have received help through the programme since 2015, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
The programme, which began in 2012, includes work supporting people to leave abusive relationships, access support for mental health issues and helps people to find work.
Figures suggest the proportion of children supported by the scheme going into care reduced by a third, while the proportion of adults going to prison reduced by a quarter, according to MHCLG.
Sam Hancock26 March 2021 08:44
MPs respond to ‘badge of honour’ China sanctions
Some of the MPs sanctioned by China, in retaliation for sanctions the UK imposed on Chinese officials over the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, have begun responding to the news.
Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said he considered being the target of Chinese sanctions as a “badge of honour”.
Tory MP Nusrat Ghani told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a wake-up call for all democratic countries and lawmakers that we will not be able to conduct our day-to-day business without China sanctioning us for just attempting to expose what’s happening in Xinjiang and the abuse against the Uighurs.
“To sanction MPs who are just doing their jobs here in the UK is extraordinary. I know I won’t be intimidated, this has now made me feel even more determined to speak about the Uighur.”
Meanwhile, Dominic Raab urged Beijing to allow the UN access to Xinjiang in order to prove sanctioned criticisers wrong.
“While the UK joins the international community to sanction human rights abuses, Chinese govt sanctions its critics. If Beijing want to credibly rebut claims of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, it should give @UNHumanRights access to verify facts,” the foreign secretary wrote on Twitter.
Sam Hancock26 March 2021 08:18
‘No immediate plan’ for pub vaccine passport, Jenrick says
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has said there is “no immediate plan” for people to need vaccine passports when pubs reopen.
It comes after widespread criticism for the potential policy on Thursday, with hundreds of thousands of British people raising concerns about the inequality and injustice it could cause to unvaccinated people trying to ‘get back to normal’.
The Mirror’s political correspondent Lizzy Buchan reports:
Sam Hancock26 March 2021 08:09
Loss of access to EU crime database ‘concerning’ – report
The UK’s loss of access to EU policing data has been branded “concerning” by peers, who have said they fear new law enforcement arrangements put in place after Brexit are “complex” and “untested”.
Having examined security provisions in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), introduced after the UK left the EU, the Lords EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee warned “significant areas are missing” and “many important details are still to be agreed”.
The report highlights the UK’s loss of access to the EU’s Schengen Information System II (SIS II) criminal database as the “most significant gap in terms of lost capability”. The committee described this as an “area of concern” and recommended parliament monitor whether alternative arrangements were providing equivalent access to information.
Government officials previously insisted the UK is not missing out on intelligence about wanted criminals after losing access to SIS II alerts about people and stolen items such as guns and cars, which it has been using since 2015.
As a result some 40,000 alerts on dangerous criminals and wanted suspects had to be deleted at the end of December, when the post-Brexit transition period ended.
British negotiators had sought to maintain access to the system as part of a deal, following concerns raised by police chiefs, but the EU said it was legally impossible to offer access to any country not in the Schengen area, including the UK.
The findings also described new extradition arrangements as “ambitious”.
National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) bosses have previously expressed confidence in the agreement.
Sam Hancock26 March 2021 08:04
Ten EU countries will not extradite criminals to UK due to Brexit
At least 10 EU countries will no longer extradite their nationals to face prosecution in the UK because of Brexit, the government has admitted, meaning British authorities may have to attempt prosecutions in other countries or circulate wanted criminals on an Interpol database in the hope they leave their home nation and can be caught elsewhere.
Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden will be “invoking constitutional rules as reason not to extradite their own nationals to the UK”. Plus, Austria and the Czech Republic will only extradite their own nationals to Britain with their consent.
The UK was previously part of the European Arrest Warrant system, which allows a streamlined extradition process between EU states and has been used for high-profile terrorists, drug smugglers and murderers.
Our home affairs correspondent Lizzie Dearden reports:
Sam Hancock26 March 2021 07:57
Senior MPs including Duncan Smith sanctioned as China hits back at UK
China has hit British institutions and MPs, including former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, with sanctions in response to similar moves by the UK over the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Britain, the US, Canada and the European Union on Monday slapped sanctions on Chinese officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses in the country’s autonomous northwest territory, with Dominic Raab announcing a package of travel bans and asset freezes against four senior officials and the state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau (XPCC PSB).
The foreign secretary said the abuse of Uighur people in Xinjiang was “one of the worst human rights crises of our time” and the international community “cannot simply look the other way”.
But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement early on Friday that the move by Mr Raab was “based on nothing but lies and disinformation, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs, and severely undermines China-UK relations”.
The ministry said it had sanctioned nine people and four British institutions “that maliciously spread lies and disinformation”. Mr Duncan Smith, Tory MP Neil O’Brien, Lord David Alton, Conservative MPs Tim Loughton and Nusrat Ghani, Labour’s Baroness Helena Kennedy, barrister Geoffrey Nice, Joanne Nicola Smith Finley, and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat were the individuals sanctioned.
The groups were the China Research Group, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Uyghur Tribunal and Essex Court Chambers.
“As of today, the individuals concerned and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of China, their property in China will be frozen, and Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them,” the ministry said, adding it “reserves the right to take further measures”.
The ministry also said it had summoned the UK’s ambassador to China, Caroline Wilson, “to lodge solemn representations, expressing firm opposition and strong condemnation”.
Sam Hancock26 March 2021 07:53
Hello, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of Brexit and wider UK politics.
Sam Hancock26 March 2021 07:48