Minister says taking the knee doesn’t ‘address’ racism
The UK government could this week warn EU leaders it will move away from terms agreed in the Brexit deal if more flexibility is not shown over the Northern Ireland Protocol, a report suggests.
David Frost is reportedly set to announce a significant change to the Protocol, a source allegedly told Reuters, which could jeopardise the already strained relationship between the UK and the EU.
The news agency said Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator is due to update Parliament in the next two days and will present a fresh paper on Brexit to lawmakers, in what could be a critical moment for the five-year divorce settlement.
It comes after DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said this morning it was time EU leaders admitted the Protocol “has failed” and is creating “very substantial trade problems”. Speaking after a virtual meeting with EU Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, Sir Jeffrey told the BBC “both the UK government and the EU must now renegotiate”.
Timeline: When PM was ‘pinged’ and when he left for Chequers
Boris Johnson is currently isolating at Chequers until 26 July after he was identified as a close contact of health minister Sajid Javid, who was tested positive for Covid on Saturday morning.
The PM was condemned for initially trying to take advantage of a pilot scheme which would allow him to avoid self-isolation – before a U-turn on Sunday saw him submit to the same rules as the rest of the public.
Since then, Downing Street has gotten into quite a muddle over Mr Johnson’s movements in the past few days – sparking a series of awkward questions about who knew what when.
So how did the confusion begin? When did Mr Johnson head up to Chequers? Adam Forrest takes a closer look.
Sam Hancock19 July 2021 15:39
Frost refuses to give details on Protocol announcement
Following my earlier post, David Forst said he was “constrained” in what he could say about a possible change to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
It comes after a report by Reuters revealed Lord Frost would make an announcement on the Brexit deal to Parliament later this week.
“I think what I can say at the moment is that it must work in a different way if we’re to find the stable route going forward,” he told a committee.
“If the workings of the protocol are undermining the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, then the protocol isn’t doing its job. And one of the core elements of the Belfast agreement was that all the different strands, the three strands, had equal status, and at the moment, it feels as if the east-west elements of the protocol are not working as well as north-south, and clearly that imbalance is not what the Good Friday Agreement intended, so that’s the core of the problem.”
Sam Hancock19 July 2021 15:29
Harri quits GB News after row overing taking the knee
Guto Harri has quit GB News after rowing with producers over him taking the knee during a debate on the racism directed towards England football players, according to the BBC.
The journalist and former advisor to Boris Johnson decided to leave the channel after he was suspended following a viewer backlash over his actions.
“GB News stands four square against racism in all its forms. We do not have a company line on taking the knee,” the broadcaster said in a statement. “Some of our guests have been in favour, some against. All are anti-racist. We have editorial standards that all GB News journalists uphold.”
It continued: “On Tuesday a contributing presenter took the knee live on air and this was an unacceptable breach of our standards. We let both sides of the argument down by oversimplifying a very complex issue.”
On Saturday it was announced that Nigel Farage would present a daily show on GB News.
The former Ukip and Reform UK leader said he “will not be taking the knee for anyone on this show” in a video announcing the news.
Sam Hancock19 July 2021 15:18
Women and children among migrants arriving on Dungeness Beach
Some 50 people have arrived on a beach in Kent after crossing the English Channel in a single dinghy.
Dozens of people, including women and young children, were seen arriving on Dungeness Beach at around 1pm on Monday.
Some raised their hands in celebration as they stood on the beach, while others sat down on the shingle shoreline amid 24C sunshine.
The large dinghy is believed to have left northern France or Belgium earlier on Monday before crossing the dangerous 21-mile Dover Strait. It came after 241 people arrived in the UK on Sunday on board eight boats.
Border Force and Kent Police were in attendance at the scene as they awaited the arrivals on Monday afternoon. Among them were women and children, some too young to walk.
More than 1,850 people have succeeded in reaching Britain on board small boats in July so far, according to data analysis by the PA news agency, more than the total for the whole of 2019.
Sam Hancock19 July 2021 15:02
Confusion as No 10 changes story on PM’s isolation – again
Downing Street today changes its story about when Boris Johnson left for his Chequers country home, as Labour demanded to know if Sajid Javid already had Covid “symptoms”, following the pair’s meeting.
The PM’s spokesman first said the departure was at “the start of the weekend”, then said it was on Friday morning – before correcting himself by stating it was at 3pm on Friday.
“The correct process has been followed,” the spokesman said, stating Mr Johnson was at the country home when he was identified as a close contact of Mr Javid, by the test and trace system. “Once contacted by NHS Test and Trace over the weekend, he has isolated and has not travelled subsequently because he did not want to travel across the country.”
Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick has more:
Sam Hancock19 July 2021 14:43
Probe launched into adult social care decision complaints
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched an inquiry into how older and disabled people can complain about decisions made regarding their social care.
The watchdog will examine how decisions made by local authorities about a person’s entitlement to social care can be meaningfully challenged in England and Wales.
It comes after organisations supporting older and disabled people raised concerns that they face barriers to complaining about or challenging decisions regarding their care.
The inquiry will look at whether the existing ways to challenge decisions are accessible and effective, including whether those affected are given adequate advice and support, and can obtain redress. It will also examine whether councils and other bodies learn from challenges, and whether there are effective systems to monitor the quality and consistency of decision-making.
“We know that the social care system has been under significant pressure and many problems have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” EHRC chairwoman Baroness Kishwer Falkner said. “With vital decisions about people’s care being made under such pressure, it is essential that there are effective ways to challenge them if people feel they have been left without the support they need.”
The Commission will publish a report on its findings in 2022.
Sam Hancock19 July 2021 14:16
UK and EU ‘must renegotiate’ NI Protocol, says DUP
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has called on the UK government and EU to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol, following a crucial meeting between himself and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic.
He described his message to Mr Sefcovic afterwards as “simple: the protocol has not worked”.
The policy was negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland but unionists strongly oppose the additional checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK as undermining the union itself.
“The barriers and distortion to trade within the UK internal market brought about by it must be swept away and not replaced,” Sir Jeffrey said. “We have pressed the UK government to that end. Both the government and the EU must now renegotiate.”
Sir Jeffrey said if the EU is “unwilling to recognise the harm caused by the Protocol” then the UK Government “must take appropriate unilateral action using Article 16”.
“Subjecting Northern Ireland to laws and regulations upon which its representatives and Westminster has no say can never work and does not have the support of both communities,” he added.
Sam Hancock19 July 2021 13:53
UK could threaten to deviate from Brexit deal over NI – report
Britain could this week threaten to deviate from the Brexit deal unless the European Union shows more flexibility over Northern Ireland, one UK and three EU sources are said to have told Reuters.
Deviating from the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol is a risky step, considering the aim of the deal was to ensure the peace that was brought to Northern Ireland by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement Deal – ending three decades of sectarian conflict.
Boris Johnson, who signed the 2020 divorce deal, has been largely criticised for agreeing to the Protocol which has imposed paperwork and checks that London says could prevent British food staples such as sausages going to Northern Ireland.
David Frost, the British minister who leads Brexit negotiations, is preparing to announce a significant potential change on the protocol that could have far-reaching consequences for the relationship with the EU, one of the sources said.
Brussels allegedly expects Mr Frost to push for a deviation from the Protocol unless the EU agrees to compromise, said an EU diplomat who was briefed on talks with British negotiators. A third source, a senior EU official, told Reuters Britain would caution the EU that unless Brussels can reach an agreement, then unilateral measures by the UK would be possible by using Article 16 of the Protocol.
“It will be a plea for more talks with the EU combined with a threat,” said the official. “But we will not agree to the reopening of the Irish Protocol.”
Sam Hancock19 July 2021 13:46
More details on China’s supposed Microsoft ‘cyber sabotage’
The UK government has accused the Chinese government of being behind “systematic cyber sabotage” following a hacking attack this year which affected a quarter of a million servers around the world, targeting Microsoft Exchange servers.
Officials said the attack was highly likely to enable “large-scale espionage”, including acquiring personal information and intellectual property. And that at the time of the attack, the UK quickly provided advice and recommended actions to those affected and Microsoft said that by end of March, 92 per cent of customers had patched against the vulnerability.
A group known as Hafnium compromised Microsoft Exchange, allowing it further access into the IT networks of victims.
Officials added the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is “almost certain” that the compromise was initiated and exploited by a Chinese state-backed actor and it is “highly likely” that Hafnium is associated with the Chinese state.
“The attack on Microsoft Exchange servers is another serious example of a malicious act by Chinese state-backed actors in cyberspace,” NCSC director of operations Paul Chichester said. “This kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable, and alongside our partners we will not hesitate to call it out when we see it.”
The UK is also attributing the Chinese ministry of state security as being behind activity known by cyber security experts as “APT40” and “APT31”.
Sam Hancock19 July 2021 13:17
Starmer says PM ‘played the system’ while others followed Covid rules
Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of trying to “play the system” and avoid following Covid-19 rules requiring him to self-isolate.
Speaking to reporters on Monday the Labour leader accused the prime minister of looking for “loopholes” after Downing Street claimed the prime minister was taking part in a pilot scheme which meant he did not have to self-isolate.
But Sir Keir said Mr Johnson’s story was “inconsistent” and demanded details on which other ministers had dodged a requirement to stay at home by claiming to be part of the pilot. Mr Johnson this weekend U-turned and said he would stay at home, following a backlash.
The Independent’s policy correspondent Jon Stone reports.
Joe Middleton19 July 2021 13:03