EU engaged in ‘very serious escalation’ over UK financial services, says Bank of England Governor
Tensions were high on Wednesday evening at a meeting of the UK and EU Joint Committee, which ended in Arlene Foster blasting European officials as “tone deaf”.
Northern Ireland’s first minister said she did not have “high expectations [beforehand]… given the attitude of the European Commission thus far”, but was still shocked by Brussels’ “stubborn and inflexible response” to issues surrounding the protocol.
Speaking to the BBC afterwards, Ms Foster said it was now up to Boris Johnson and the government “to step up and protect the United Kingdom internal market”.
It comes after a junior DUP minister warned the party that Irish Sea checking processes could become “overwhelmed” when a grace period covering supermarket goods lapses on 1 April, at which point all retail agri-food products will require EU Export Health Certificates (EHCs) to move from Britain in to Northern Ireland.
“We can’t have a situation where the internal market of the United Kingdom is disrupted so much to the point where it’s effectively crippling our businesses,” Gary Middleton told an Assembly committee.
Morning, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling UK politics coverage.
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 07:59
Government suffers third defeat from peers over genocide amendment
The government has once again been defeated heavily in the House of Lords in a vote over a genocide amendment, designed to stop trade deals with countries guilty of such crimes.
A new amendment put forward by the crossbench peer Lord Alton, allowing a parliamentary panel of judicial experts to decide whether genocide had been committed, was backed by 367 votes to 214 in the Lords.
“Parliament must not allow itself to become part of an alibi for inaction,” Lord Alton warned.
Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports:
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 08:07
Ministers urged to introduce new laws tackling ‘glorification’ of extremism
A “gaping chasm” in existing legislation on countering terrorism needs to be filled, an official watchdog has warned.
A report released by the Commission for Countering Extremism has urged ministers to introduce laws outlawing the “praising and glorifying of terrorists”, after it found that many extremist groups can spread their reach with impunity.
Sir Mark Rowley, the ex-national police lead on counter-terrorism who worked on the report, said: “Not only have our laws failed to keep pace with the evolving threat of modern-day extremism, current legal boundaries allow extremists to operate with impunity.
“Hateful extremism is creating an ever-bigger pool for terrorists to recruit from, as well as increasing violence, hate crime and tensions between and within communities. The current situation is simply untenable.”
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 08:31
Here’s Adam Forrest with today’s politics round-up, which looks at Tory MPs’ complaints about the prime minister’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 08:44
Government pledges extra £400m to help pupils catch up with lost learning
The government has pledged £400 million to help students catch up with learning they have missed during the pandemic.
The money will be put go towards schemes including summer schools and comes after ministers announced £300 in extra education spending in January.
Although education leaders called the measures a “promising start”, they said that it will take more than a single summer for students to catch up with lost learning.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said: “Our package of measures will deliver vital support to the children and young people who need it most, making sure everyone has the same opportunity to fulfil their potential no matter their background.”
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 09:10
PM has LGBT+ ‘blind spot’, says first openly gay MP
LGBT+ representation in government has stalled under Boris Johnson, the first openly gay cabinet minister has said.
Lord Chris Smith, who was a minister under Tony Blair, told the BBC in an interview for LGBT+ History Month that the prime minister had a “blind spot” on the issue.
The former minister said: “The glass ceiling in the cabinet has been broken by quite a number of us over the years.”
“Sadly at present they seem to want to put it back in again,” he added.
My colleague Tom Batchelor has more details:
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 09:31
Chancellor to extend stamp duty holiday, report suggests
Rishi Sunak is set to extend the stamp duty holiday by another three months, according to the Times.
Last year, the Treasury raised the stamp duty threshold from £125,000 to £500,000 to help the housing market during the pandemic.
This temporary measure is due to expire on 31 March. However, reports suggest that the chancellor will use next week’s Budget to prolong the deadline until the end of June.
Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, called the alleged plan “another tax giveaway to second homeowners”.
“These are the wrong priorities in the middle of the worst economic crisis of any major economy,” she said.
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 09:48
Vaccine passports could be banned in some circumstances, says PM
Vaccine passports to prove immunity against coronavirus could be banned in some circumstances, the prime minister has said.
Boris Johnson’s comments come after some employers said they planned to implement “no jab, no job” policies.
The government’s review into vaccine and testing certification, to be led by Michael Gove, will reported by 21 June.
Our political editor Andrew Woodcock reports:
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 10:16
Scottish government acting like ‘cesspit of vipers’ over Salmond saga, says Tory MSP
A Scottish Conservative MSP, who serves on the committee investigating the Scottish government’s handling of complaints made against Alex Salmond, has said he is “heartily sick of the whole affair”.
Murdo Fraser wrote in the Scotsman: “I am sick of the lies, the evasion, the deceit, the obstruction, and the obfuscation.”
He claimed that the saga showed the Scottish government was a “cesspit of vipers obsessed with personal vendettas, tearing at each other and destroying public trust”.
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 10:36
Government focused on making Northern Ireland protocol work, says minister
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.
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.”
“I do understand that the lived experience of some people in Northern Ireland is not what it should be under the protocol, we’ve got to get that put right,” he added.
Rory Sullivan24 February 2021 10:58