Britain not breaking rules with unilateral action over Northern Ireland, says business secretary
The UK will not be deterred from taking action to maintain political stability in Northern Ireland by “irresponsible” threats of a trade war with the European Union, Kwasi Kwarteng said.
EU leaders have warned of retaliatory measures if the UK acts unilaterally to suspend or change the Northern Ireland protocol of the Brexit agreement in the face of Unionist opposition.
But Mr Kwarteng, the business secretary, said that under Article 16 of the protocol the government was entitled to act unilaterally to protect political stability. A trade war with the EU over any measures the UK decides to take would be “completely self-defeating”, he said.
The prime minster will visit Belfast for the first time since the Stormont elections earlier this month where Sinn Fein made history by becoming the first nationalist party to win power in the assembly.
Gove’s idea to move Lords out of London ‘bonkeroony’
A former Lords speaker has dismissed Michael Gove’s suggestion of moving peers out of London while the House of Lords undergoes resortation work.
Baroness Hayman said the communities secretary’s idea to temporarily relocate the peers would not make sense if the House of Commons remained in the capital.
Mr Gove has reportedly suggested that the Lords could move to the North, to places such as Stoke, Burnley and Sunderland.
Baroness Hayman echoed his use of the word “bonkeroony” to describe his suggestion. He used it earlier this week to dismiss calls for PM Boris Johnson to resign over the partygate scandal.
“I think it’s – what did Michael Gove say – bonkeroony?” she told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend.
Lady Hayman said she believed ministers wanted to punish the Lords for challenging the government over important legislation in the last parliamentary session.
“I think they are really quite angry with the House of Lords at the moment and, therefore, kick them out. It’s punishment.”
MoD: ‘Russia may have lost third of troops Putin sent to Ukraine’
Russia may have lost a third of troops it sent into Ukraine as its offensive continues to struggle in the face of stiff resistance, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.
Vladimir Putin’s campaign in the east of Ukraine had “lost momentum” and was now “significantly behind schedule”, the MoD said in its latest assessment.
At a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Berlin, foreign secretary Liz Truss said it was essential to maintain support for Ukrainian government to help it “push Russia out” of Ukraine.
She said in a statement: “Putin must face a sustained defeat in Ukraine, Russia must be contained and such aggression must never happen again.
“Ukraine’s security must come from it being able to defend itself. Allies must support Ukraine’s move to Nato-standard equipment, immediately providing artillery, training and the required expertise.”
Nato deputy secretary-general Mircea Geoana said the Ukrainians were now in a position to defeat the Russians and win the war.
“The brutal invasion of Russia is losing momentum,” he told reporters.
“With significant support from allies and partners in billions of dollars, in military support, in financial support, humanitarian support, we know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”
‘Severe risk’ of UK ‘heading into trade war with EU’
There is a “severe risk that we are heading into a trade war” with Brussels, Britain’s former ambassador to the EU has said.
Sir Ivan Rogers resigned as ambassador and from the civil service in January 2020.
Today, he told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend programme: “I think there’s a severe risk that we are heading into a trade war.
“Obviously, it’s a time like this with the worst conflict on European soil since the Second World War and the real risk of recession in both the eurozone and the UK, I would have thought in the second half of the year and into next year, this may feel like madness, but I think there is a severe risk of it happening.”
Sunak will ultimately bring in windfall tax, suggests Miliband
Rishi Sunak will ultimately decide to impose a windfall tax on energy giants to help families deal with the cost-of-living crisis, Ed Miliband has suggested.
Labour will put forward an amendment to the Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons on Tuesday for a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas firms’ bumper profits.
There have been mixed messages from the Government on such a levy. Mr Sunak said he was “not naturally attracted” to the idea but “no option is off the table” while Boris Johnson said he did not think it was “the right way forward” and Kwasi Kwarteng, the business and energy secretary, said he was opposed.
Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Mr Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for climate change and net-zero, said he believes the chancellor will ultimately impose a windfall tax because it is “an unanswerable case”.
Rishi Sunak has said ‘no option is off the table’ when it comes to measures to ease the cost of living.
Police make no arrests over Thatcher statue egging
Lincolnshire Police said no arrests have been made in connection with the egging of the statue of Margaret Thatcher that was installed today in Grantham.
A man threw eggs at the statue within two hours of it being installed – police said they received a report of criminal damage shortly after 10am.
The statue was originally planned to be installed in Parliament Square in Westminster but the location was moved to Thatcher’s Lincolnshire home town due to fears of vandalism.
Bank of England’s inflation woes ‘clearly an issue’ – Kwarteng
Kwasi Kwarteng said it is clearly “an issue” that the Bank of England is failing to meet its inflation target.
By the Bank’s most recent forecast, inflation is set to rise above 10 per cent against a target set by the government of 2 per cent.
Mr Kwarteng said he believed the governor, Andrew Bailey, was doing a “reasonable job” in difficult circumstances, but the 2 per cent target was part of the Bank’s mandate “and they have to keep it to 2 per cent”.
“Inflation is running into almost double digits now. That is an issue, clearly,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
The troubling economic outlook, cost of living crisis and sharp increase in inflation, has rankled Tory MPs and caused unexpected criticism of the bank, which was made independent of government in 1997.
Earlier, The Sunday Telegraph reported some Cabinet ministers were unhappy with the bank’s performance and questioning its independence.
No one will believe UK didn’t understand Brexit deal, says Tory NI chair
The government cannot expect anybody to believe that it did not understand the Northern Ireland protocol when it agreed to it, the Conservative chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has said.
Simon Hoare told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend programme the protocol was not “perfect” but unilateral action by Britain was not the way to fix it.
It is through the dispute resolution mechanisms within the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) that things should be sorted out, he said.
He said: “I think the first thing the government has got to do is stop rattling the sabre, get around the table and have grown-up, meaningful conversations.
The Tory MP for North Dorset insisted it is “frankly naive nonsense for the government to ask anybody to believe, one, that it didn’t understand what it signed up to” and “to ask us to believe that people thought, or ministers thought, that one signatory to it, ie the EU, would behave in a way entirely different to that which was stipulated within the agreement, or indeed that we would be allowed to as well”.
The prime minister’s planned visit to Belfast tomorrow is welcome and might prove effective in defusing the tension, he added.
Hunt accepts his mistakes fuelled ambulance delays
Jeremy Hunt has admitted that his own failings as health secretary have contributed to people waiting hours for an ambulance or in A&E departments.
The ex-Cabinet minister has also described sitting at the top of a “rogue system” during his stint as health secretary from 2012 to 2018, and criticised a “blame culture” in the NHS.
He told Sunday Morning on BBC One that in his new book, he “tried to be honest about the things I succeeded in doing and the things I wasn’t successful in”.
Referring to reports of heart attack or stroke victims having to wait an hour for an ambulance, Mr Hunt said: “One of the root causes of that was something I didn’t manage to do, which was to get a long-term plan or long-term funding for the social care system.
“In a way I did succeed for the NHS, but obviously if you can’t discharge people from hospitals into the care system, then hospitals don’t have the capacity to deal with people who come in in an emergency, and that remains an unsolved problem.”
Mr Hunt, the current chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, denied the NHS is on the brink of collapse, but said the situation is “very, very serious” with doctors and nurses “run ragged by the intensity of work”.
UK won’t bow to EU threats of trade war – Kwarteng
The UK will not be deterred from taking action to maintain political stability in Northern Ireland by “irresponsible” threats of a trade war with the EU, Kwasi Kwarteng said.
EU leaders have warned of retaliatory measures if the UK acts unilaterally to suspend or change the agreement, which governs post-Brexit trading arrangements, in the face of Unionist opposition.
But Mr Kwarteng, the business secretary, said that under Article 16 of the protocol – which forms part of the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU – the government was entitled to act unilaterally to protect political stability.
“There has been a lot of talk, a lot of threats, about what the EU will or won’t do. That is up to them,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme.
“As far as I am concerned, our primary duty as the British government is to look after political stability in Northern Ireland. If that means relooking at the protocol, we absolutely have to do that.
“I think this talk of a trade war is irresponsible and I think it is completely getting ahead of ourselves.
“It is up to the EU. We think it would be completely self-defeating if they went into a trade war, but that is up to them.”
Civil service cuts mark return to austerity, says TUC
Boris Johnson’s plan to cut 90,000 civil service jobs marks a return to austerity and will damage public services, a trade union leader has said.
The prime minister recently tasked his Cabinet with shrinking the size of the service by one-fifth, using the savings for tax cuts to ease the cost-of-living crisis.
However, Frances O’Grady, head of the Trades Union Congress, argued the move would provoke widespread anger.
Speaking to Sky News’s Sophy Ridge, she said: “This is back to austerity – and we saw how austerity failed not only ordinary people, families, but it failed the country in the end by holding back growth.
“How on earth the government expects to be able to shed 90,000 (jobs) at a stroke and for it not to damage communities in the country, I really don’t know.
“Communities will be extremely angry if they’re looking to get hit again in terms of key public services.”