Northern Ireland protocol latest: Boris Johnson vows unilateral action despite EU warnings

Boris Johnson says legislative solution needed for NI protocol

Boris Johnson has confirmed he will press ahead with legislation to override the Northern Ireland protocol, despite warnings from Brussels that it will breach the UK’s international legal obligations and a plea from the Bank of England not to spark a damaging trade war with Europe.

Speaking after a day of meetings with the leaders of Northern Ireland’s five main political parties, where he sought to make progress on the impasse over the post-Brexit arrangement, the prime minister said his government wanted to “fix” the protocol with unilateral action.

“We don’t want to scrap it. But we think it can be fixed. And actually, five of the five parties I talked to today also think it needs reform,” said Mr Johnson on Monday.

But the risky move looked unlikely to break the deadlock over the formation of a new power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland, with the Democratic Unionist Party insisting that it wants “decisive action” from the PM before it will drop its boycott.

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William Hague attacks Boris Johnson as weak and immoral over obesity plan U-turn

William Hague has attacked Boris Johnson’s decision to shelve his obesity action plan as weak and immoral, warning Britain will pay a high price for it (Rob Merrick writes).

Tory MPs who pushed the prime minister into the climbdown are “acquiescing in a future of higher dependence, greater costs, reduced lifestyle choice and endless pain,” he warned.

Lord Hague said: “For the government to give in to them is intellectually shallow, politically weak and morally reprehensible.”

Liam James17 May 2022 08:55

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Labour seeks vote on windfall tax

Labour will today seek to force a Commons vote to put pressure on Conservative MPs to support a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers in a bid to cut energy bills.

MPs will debate “tackling the short-term and long-term cost of living increases” on day five of the Queen’s Speech debate.

Labour is seeking the backing of MPs for an amendment expressing regret at the omission of a windfall tax from the Queen’s Speech – after a Labour motion in favour of the policy won the support of the Commons in February.

The government has been cold towards a windfall tax. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he was not “naturally attracted” to such a policy though had not taken the option of the table, while Kwasi Kwarteng, the business and energy secretary, is squarely opposed.

Ed Miliband, shadow climate change and net zero secretary, said of a windfall tax: “This fair and principled measure now has support from business, trade unions, across the political spectrum and most importantly, the overwhelming majority of the public.

“Conservative MPs must now join the British people in calling for a windfall tax – or explain why they continue to oppose measures that would ease the cost of living crisis.”

Liam James17 May 2022 08:36

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NI protocol bill was never planned this week, says Lewis

Brandon Lewis said there had been no intention to introduce legislation this week to unilaterally overwrite parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will announce to the Commons today that the government plans to bring legislation to tear up the protocol – though a bill is not expected for weeks.

The Northern Ireland secretary, asked whether plans to bring a bill this week had been delayed, told Sky News: “Something like that this week was never on the cards.

“We’re still debating the Queen’s Speech and won’t finish debating the Queen’s Speech and voting on that until later this week, later tomorrow, so in that sense it was never on the cards.

“But what we have always said is that we will not take anything off the table.”

Liam James17 May 2022 08:17

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Employment rises from March to April

The number of UK workers on payrolls rose by 121,000 between March and April to 29.5 million, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: “While the economy was still growing in the first three months of 2022, there continued to be a mixed picture for the labour market.

“Total employment, while up on the quarter, remains below its pre-pandemic level.

“Since the start of the pandemic, around half a million more people have completely disengaged from the labour market.

“However, job vacancies are still rising, reaching yet another record high.”

Job moves were at a record high in the first quarter of the year, with 994,000 changes.

Liam James17 May 2022 08:01

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Truss to announce plans to rip up Northern Ireland protocol

The Foreign Secretary will today declare her intention to bring forward legislation which rips up parts of the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal on Northern Ireland.

It is understood that Liz Truss will make the announcement in a statement to the Commons following a full cabinet meeting, in an attempt to restore powersharing in the region.

The row over the Northern Ireland Protocol has created an impasse in efforts to form a new Executive in Stormont, with the Democratic Unionist Party refusing to join an administration unless its concerns over the arrangements are addressed.

The protocol created a trade barrier between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The DUP says Northern Ireland’s economy is suffering as a result but the party’s opposition is also borne of the separation the protocol created.

It is understood that the legislation planned by the UK – not thought to be introduced for a few weeks – will grant London unilateral powers not only to relax checks on goods heading to Northern Ireland from mainland Britain, but also to remove all European Court of Justice involvement in border issues and to vary VAT rates in the province without agreement from Brussels.

Britain’s threat to unilaterally change the terms of the protocol risks a trade war with the European Union.

Liam James17 May 2022 07:46

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Priti Patel to allow volunteer police officers to carry Tasers

Priti Patel is to announce that volunteer police officers will be able to carry Tasers for the first time.

Ms Patel is to speak at a conference held by the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers across England and Wales, where she is expected to announce that she has given approval for special constables to carry Tasers if they undergo the same training as regular officers and are authorised by chief constables.

The home secretary does not have the power to mandate their use, and Tuesday’s announcement comes amid allegations of a “power grab” over changes to a protocol that governs relations between the government and police.

Our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden has more:

Stuti Mishra17 May 2022 07:30

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Labour urges MPs to back windfall tax

Labour has renewed its call for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies as the party claimed household savings were being “crunched” or “disappearing altogether” as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

It comes as Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, prepares to table an amendment to the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday, urging MPs of all political stripes to back a tax on the extraordinary profits of energy companies.

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more details:

Stuti Mishra17 May 2022 07:10

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Government to bring Troubles legacy proposals

The UK government is set to bring forward legislation on the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The secretary of state for Northern Ireland said late on Monday that the government would introduce the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill on Tuesday.

It comes the day after prime minister Boris Johnson visited Northern Ireland in a bid to restore power-sharing, amid ongoing fall-out over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Stuti Mishra17 May 2022 06:50

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Labour to pressure Tory MPs with windfall tax Commons vote

Conservative MPs are facing fresh pressure to support a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers in a bid to cut energy bills.

Labour on Tuesday will seek to force a Commons vote on its amendment which expresses regret at the omission of the policy from the Queen’s Speech.

It comes as MPs debate “tackling the short-term and long-term cost of living increases” on day five of the Queen’s Speech debate.

Richard Wheeler has more:

Stuti Mishra17 May 2022 06:26

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ICYMI: Britons struggling with cost of living should get ‘better job’, says minister

Britons struggling with the cost of living crisis should consider taking on more hours at work or moving to a better job, a minister in Boris Johnson’s government has said.

Home Office minister Rachel Maclean said the government wanted to see people help themselves more in the long term — arguing that they could use their local job centre in a bid to boost their pay.

“Over the long term we need to have a plan to grow the economy and make sure that people are able to protect themselves better — whether that is by taking on more hours or moving to a better-paid job,” she told Sky News.

Read more from Adam Forrest here:

Stuti Mishra17 May 2022 05:53

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