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The Guardian - UK

EU to use ‘all measures at its disposal’ if UK abandons parts of Northern Ireland protocol – as it happened

A summary of today's developments

  • Micheál Martin, Ireland’s taoiseach, has criticised the UK government for introducing measures to deal with unsolved crimes committed during the Troubles without Dublin’s support. Martin said any changes to the mechanisms agreed in the 2014 Stormont House agreement should be made in conjunction with the Irish government and the Stormont parties and involve “serious and credible engagement” with victims. He was speaking as the UK government announced plans introduce a form of statute of limitations for people involved in killings during the Troubles who cooperate with a Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery. The Stormont House agreement said unsolved crimes from the Troubles should be investigated by a historical investigations unit.
  • Liz Truss has claimed the east-west relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been “undermined” by the Northern Ireland protocol as she confirmed plans to table legislation that would scrap parts of the agreement. The foreign secretary told MPs during her statement that 78% of people in Northern Ireland thought the protocol needed to change, according to a poll from December. Truss seems to have been referring to polling from Lord Ashcroft published in December. The figure 78% only appears once in that report in relation to the protocol, in a passage saying 78% of unionists thought the protocol had been a major cause of food shortages. The same poll found, amongst the Northern Ireland population as a whole, only 42% of people said the protocol should be scrapped (33%) or needed serious reform (9%).
  • Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commisison vice-president in charge of Brexit negotiations for the EU, issued to the Truss statement. In it he stresses the EU’s desire to reach a negotiated settlement with the UK on changes to the Northern Ireland protocol, and says “the potential of the flexibilities” proposed by the EU have “yet to be fully explored”. But Šefčovič says the UK plan to ignore parts of the protocol “raises significant concerns”. If the UK goes ahead with this, Brussels will respond “with all measures at its disposal”, he added.
  • Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, accused Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, of missing three chances to act on energy bills in the last seven months. The chancellor told MPs in the Queen’s speech debate that it would be a mistake for the government to try using unrestrained borrowing and spending to address the cost of living crisis. Sunak said that history showed that an “unconstrained fiscal stimulus” at such a time risked “making the problem worse”.
  • Two byelections in Wakefield and in Tiverton and Honiton will take place on 23 June with the Conservatives fighting to keep the seats from Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Both seats will be fought after the Tory MPs resigned following scandals. The former Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan resigned after being found guilty of child sexual assault against a 15-year-old boy. In the Devon seat, Neil Parish resigned as MP after admitting watching pornography twice in the House of Commons chamber.

That’s it for today. Thanks for following along.

Updated

Labour peer Lord Foulkes of Cumnock took aim at former chief Brexit negotiator and minister Lord Frost, who was sat on the backbenches in the upper chamber for the government statement on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said: “We are just a wee bit fed up with those people who were responsible for it and got their peerages as a result of supporting that campaign get up now and criticise what they advocated.”

Having “pushed this on us”, Lord Foulkes said the Tory peer now “snipes from the sidelines”.

“We should blame those whose responsibility it really is,” he added.

Referring to the protocol, former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Empey said: “All of the consequences were foreseeable and indeed were foreseen.”

The Home Office intends to move 60 asylum seekers into a disused North Yorkshire RAF base by the end of the month, the local council has said.
Hambleton District Council says it has asked the Government to pause the controversial proposal “immediately” amid opposition from residents in the village of Linton-on-Ouse. Ministers announced plans for the new accommodation and processing centre last month. The Home Office says the asylum reception centre will provide “safe and cost-effective” accommodation for single adult males who are claiming asylum in the UK and meet the relevant suitability criteria. A Home Office spokesperson said: “The asylum reception centre at Linton-on-Ouse will help end our reliance on expensive hotels which are costing the taxpayer almost 5 million a day. We are engaging with local stakeholders about the use of the site.

“The New Plan for Immigration will fix this broken asylum system, allowing us to support those in genuine need while preventing abuse of the system and deterring illegal entry to the UK.”

Sunak says government should not just borrow and spend its way out of cost of living crisis

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, told MPs in the Queen’s speech debate that it would be a mistake for the government to try using unrestrained borrowing and spending to address the cost of living crisis. He said that history showed that an “unconstrained fiscal stimulus” at such a time risked “making the problem worse”. He explained:

Prices pushed up still further, expectations of higher inflation becoming ingrained, a vicious cycle leading inexorably to even higher interests and more pain for tens of millions of mortgage holders and small businesses.

Make no mistake, simply trying to borrow and spend our way out of this situation is the wrong approach and those paying the highest price would be the poorest in our society.

Instead, on this side of the house we’re taking a careful, deliberate approach. We will act to cut costs for those people without making the situation worse, we will continue to back people who work hard - as we always have - and we will do more to support the most vulnerable.

Sunak also repeated his claim that “no option is off the table” in relation to a windfall tax. He said:

We are pragmatic and what we want to see are energy companies who have made extraordinary profits at a time of acutely elevated prices investing those profits back into British jobs, growth and energy security.

But as I have been clear, and as I have said repeatedly, if that doesn’t happen soon and at significant scale then no option is off the table.

That is all from me for today. My colleague Nadeem Badshah is now taking over.

Right to left: Boris Johnson, transport secretary Grant Shapps and London mayor Sadiq Khan on an Elizabeth line train at Paddington station today to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project.
Right to left: Boris Johnson, transport secretary Grant Shapps and London mayor Sadiq Khan on an Elizabeth line train at Paddington station today to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

Updated

What polling says on attitudes to the protocol in Northern Ireland

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, told MPs during her statement that 78% of people in Northern Ireland thought the protocol needed to change, according to a poll from December. (See 1.17pm.)

Truss seems to have been referring to polling from Lord Ashcroft published in December. The figure 78% only appears once in that report in relation to the protocol, in a passage saying 78% of unionists thought the protocol had been a major cause of food shortages.

The same poll found, amongst the Northern Ireland population as a whole, only 42% of people said the protocol should be scrapped (33%) or needed serious reform (9%).

More than half of people said either it was acceptable with some adjustments (36%), or that it did not need to change at all (21%).

Ashcroft’s report said:

In our poll, one third (33%) of voters said they thought the protocol was wrong in principle and should be scrapped – including 83% of 2017 DUP voters and 66% of unionists as a whole. A further 9% – including 32% of UUP voters – said the protocol as it stands is too much of a burden and needs serious reform.

Another 36% of all voters – including 81% of 2017 SDLP voters, two thirds (67%) of Alliance voters and neutrals, and 26% of 2017 UUP voters – said they thought the protocol would be acceptable with some adjustments. Only 4% of 2017 DUP voters said this.

Just over one in five voters overall (21%) – including a majority (56%) of those who voted Sinn Féin in 2017 – said they thought there were no problems with the protocol.

Those currently leaning towards voting UUP at the next assembly elections were much more inclined to accept the protocol with some adjustments than those inclined to support the DUP and (especially) the TUV – 96% of the latter said they thought the protocol was wrong in principle and should be scrapped.

If you add 33% and 9% and 36%, you reach 78%, and so Truss may have been referencing this calculation - and not misremembering the figure used in the report that only applied to unionists. It would be fair to say that 78% of people, according to this polling, favoured some sort of changes to the protocol.

But Truss implied that the majority of people in Northern Ireland favoured change along the lines she is proposing. But the polling shows that, of those people who do want change (or did in December), almost half wanted more modest adjustments (which is in line with what the EU is offering).

Polling on NI protocol
Polling on NI protocol. Photograph: Lord Ashcroft Polling

I am grateful to bats2in2the2belfry in the comments below for flagging up these figures.

Updated

Miliband accuses Sunak of failing in his duty to people struggling with cost of living

Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, accused Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, of missing three chances to act on energy bills in the last seven months. Speaking in the Queen’s speech debate, he said:

The chancellor wants us to believe that his measures in response are the best we can do. But they are not. Not by a long shot. The cost-of-living crisis is driven most of all by what is happening to energy bills. Let’s look at the three chances he has had in the last seven months to act on energy bills.

It was last August, last August, nine months ago, when the first energy price rise was announced. A £139 increase in the price cap. So, way back then he knew what was happening. And then in October, he delivered his budget. Wholesale energy prices were rocketing, the warning signals were flashing, but the chancellor did nothing.

In February another chance he had as the largest energy price rise in our history, 52%, was announced. He could have responded, commensurate with the crisis. He says he did, let’s look at it. What was his grand offer to the country - a £150 council tax discount based on outdated property values, which misses out hundreds of thousands of the poorest families. And of course, his £200 buy now, pay later loan scheme. A loan scheme, which he reasonably claims isn’t a loan, although it has to be paid back, and a scheme that doesn’t even come in til October.

His recent spring statement was his most recent chance for the Chancellor to redeem himself. Days before the April energy price rise came into effect. It was apparent to everyone across this House and the country that what he had offered was woefully inadequate.

Miliband also said he and other MPs would have no idea how to manage on the sums available to benefit claimants. He explained:

The basic level of universal credit this year for a single person over 25 is £334 a month. [Sunak’s] measures this April are so feeble that someone on that benefit will be expected to find as much as £50 more a month or more to simply cover the increase in their energy bills. That’s leaving aside the soaring costs of food and other goods. It’s about 15% of their income. So, what are they going to do? They won’t be able to afford to pay their bills. They will get deeply into debt and they will go without food. It’s already happening to millions.

I met someone in the CAB [Citizens Advice Bureau] in my constituency on Friday in similar circumstances, and let me be honest, I would have no idea how I would cope in these circumstances. Would any member of this house? Maybe the chancellor can tell us what somebody in these circumstances is supposed to do?

And if you are the chancellor of the exchequer and you can’t answer that question, it should tell you something. That you are failing in your duty to the people of this country who most need your help. And of course, what makes him even more culpable is that there is something that could help staring him right in the face, where the case has become unanswerable, where the government has run out of excuses, where oil and gas producers are making billions: a windfall tax.

Ed Miliband in the Commons this afternoon.
Ed Miliband in the Commons this afternoon. Photograph: HoC

Irish PM criticises UK plan for new legislation to address legacy issues from killings during Troubles

Micheál Martin, Ireland’s taoiseach, has criticised the UK government for introducing measures to deal with unsolved crimes committed during the Troubles without Dublin’s support.

As PA Media reports, Martin said any changes to the mechanisms agreed in the 2014 Stormont House agreement should be made in conjunction with the Irish government and the Stormont parties and involve “serious and credible engagement” with victims.

He was speaking as the UK government announced plans introduce a form of statute of limitations for people involved in killings during the Troubles who cooperate with a Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery

Speaking at a commemoration to mark the 48th anniversary of the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which killed 33 people, Martin said:

It has been our consistent position that the basis for progress on legacy is the Stormont House agreement that was reached between the two governments and political parties back in 2014.

Any attempt to depart from that agreement would need to be discussed by both governments and with all of the parties in an inclusive process.

And there would need to be serious and credible engagement with victims and families.

The Stormont House agreement said unsolved crimes from the Troubles should be investigated by a historical investigations unit. But the British government has been under pressure to adopt a different approach after complaints about army veterans being prosecuted under this process over events that took place decades ago and over which they were cleared at the time.

Micheál Martin laying a wreath in Talbot Street, Dublin, during a ceremony marking the 48th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
Micheál Martin laying a wreath in Talbot Street, Dublin, during a ceremony marking the 48th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Updated

These are from Robert Peston, ITV’s political editor, on the Liz Truss statement.

In a Twitter thread starting here, Anton Spisak, the Brexit expert at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change thinktank, highlights aspects of the statement pointing to a similar conclusion.

Here are two of his conclusions.

And the Electoral Psychology Observatory, an academic project, has posted a thread on Twitter arguing it could all end very badly. It starts here.

And here are its conclusions.

In the Commons Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, have been speaking at the opening of today’s Queen’s speech debate.

As the Scotsman’s Alexander Brown points out, Miliband ridiculed Sunak’s response to the cost of living crisis.

And Sunak said he would be “pragmatic” when deciding whether or not to implement a windfall tax, as the FT’s George Parker points out.

I will post extracts from both speeches soon.

The UK’s announcement about the plan to change the Northern Ireland protocol is straining relations once again with Ireland. The Irish foreign secretary, Simon Coveney, said:

I deeply regret the decision of the British government to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that will unilaterally dis-apply elements of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

Coveney said such action was “damaging to trust and will serve only to make it more challenging to find solutions to the genuine concerns that people in Northern Ireland have about how the protocol is being implemented”.

Here is the Coveney statement in full.

Updated

This is from Matthew O’Toole, an SDLP member of the Northern Ireland assembly, on the line used by Boris Johnson yesterday, and Liz Truss today, about all parties in the Northern Ireland assembly wanting changes to the protocol.

It is true that parties like the SDLP, the Alliance party and Sinn Féin think aspects of the protocol regime could be improved, But the EU itself has also accepted that implementation of the protocol should be reformed, and it has proposed changes. There is a significant difference between the Northern Ireland parties wanting adjustments in line with that the EU would accept, and the DUP, which wants changes that are unacceptable to the EU and that would be tantamount to the abolition of the protocol.

The UK government’s position is much closer to the DUP’s than to Sinn Féin’s, the Alliance’s or the SDLP’s.

Updated

Back in the Commons, Claire Hanna from the SDLP says it is telling that Truss quoted opinion polling on the Northern Ireland protocol in Northern Ireland. (See 1.17pm.) Truss should instead consider the recent election results, Hanna suggests, which showed a substantial majority of people backing parties that support the protocol.

Updated

Johnson says NI protocol plan about getting rid of 'some relatively minor barriers to trade'

Boris Johnson has said the UK’s plans involve getting rid of “relatively minor barriers to trade”. Speaking on his visit to Paddington station, he said:

We need to address the problems with the [Northern Ireland] protocol. What that actually involves is getting rid of some relatively minor barriers to trade.

I think there are good, common sense, pragmatic solutions. We need to work with our EU friends to achieve that.

This is from David McAllister, the German MEP who chairs the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

Updated

Sir Robert Buckland, the former Tory justice secretary, told Truss earlier that wording contained in article 1 of the Northern Ireland protocol meant “surely” that the Good Friday agreement “takes primacy over the protocol”. He said:

Article 1 of the protocol makes it very clear that that agreement is to be without prejudice to the Good Friday/Belfast agreement regarding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. That means, surely, that the Good Friday agreement takes primacy over the protocol.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, asks Truss why she won’t agree a veterinary agreement with the EU.

Truss says her plan would reduce bureaucracy generally.

EU diplomats say no decision has been taken on the nature of retaliatory action, which would only follow a move by the UK government to override the protocol, my colleague Jennifer Rankin reports.

EU says it will respond 'with all measures at its disposal' if UK goes ahead with plan to abandon parts of NI protocol

Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commisison vice-president in charge of Brexit negotiations for the EU, has issued a response to the Truss statement. In it he stresses the EU’s desire to reach a negotiated settlement with the UK on changes to the Northern Ireland protocol, and says “the potential of the flexibilities” proposed by the EU have “yet to be fully explored”.

(My colleague Lisa O’Carroll explains those “flexibilities” in more detail here.)

But Šefčovič says the UK plan to ignore parts of the protocol “raises significant concerns”. If the UK goes ahead with this, Brussels will respond “with all measures at its disposal”, he says.

That could mean trade measures, including tariffs and other measures that involve shelving the post-Brexit free trade deal.

He says:

The announcement by the UK government, however, to table legislation that would disapply constitutive elements of the protocol, raises significant concerns. First, because the protocol is the solution agreed between the EU and the UK to address the challenges posed by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU for the island of Ireland, and to protect the hard-earned gains of the peace process. Second, because the protocol is an international agreement signed by the EU and the UK. Unilateral actions contradicting an international agreement are not acceptable. Third, because the withdrawal agreement and its protocol are the necessary foundation for the trade and cooperation agreement, which the EU and the UK have agreed upon to organise their overall relationship after the UK’s withdrawal.

Should the UK decide to move ahead with a bill disapplying constitutive elements of the protocol as announced today by the UK government, the EU will need to respond with all measures at its disposal. Our overarching objective is to find joint solutions within the framework of the protocol. That is the way to ensure legal certainty and predictability for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

Updated

Ian Paisley (DUP) asks Truss about the comments from the Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman this morning. (See 10.40am.) He accuses the EU of being engaged “in a trade war to crush business in Northern Ireland”. And he says power-sharing will not return to Northern Ireland until the protocol is resolved.

UPDATE: Paisley said:

[Norman’s] business in the Republic of Ireland to export goods has to fill in 700 pages. It has to do that within an eight-hour period, it has to do some of that wording in Latin to satisfy the European community, and it also has to do it in a certain type font or else it will not be allowed. It costs him an additional £30m. He has said this morning on the radio that the EU has told him they would like the same procedures for his businesses in Northern Ireland.

This is power grab. People talk about trade war. This is a trade war to crush business in Northern Ireland. Will the foreign secretary ensure that whenever she is speaking to the cabinet, that they know clearly that if they keep the protocol, power sharing isn’t coming back?

Updated

Steve Baker (Con) says this is the “right solution”. He says the Northern Ireland protocol itself made allowance for the fact it might need to be changed in the future.

Truss says MPs across the house accept there are issues with the protocol. Her preference is for a negotiated solution with the EU, she says.

Paul Blomfield (Lab) suggests that Truss is fuelling Brexit division because that suits her own political ambitions.

Truss says it is the government’s duty to restore peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

Layla Moran (Lib Dem) says that, despite what Truss says, unilaterally changing a treaty is breaking it, and to say otherwise is “doublespeak”. She asks how much extra people might have to pay for goods if the EU retaliates by triggering a trade war.

Truss says the government is confident this move is legal. She says people in Northern Ireland are already facing higher costs.

Updated

Sir Bernard Jenkin (Con) says the Labour party has accepted that parts of the protocol need to change. It is a shame they will the ends but not the means to achieve this, he says.

Fleur Anderson (Lab) asks Truss what her assessment is of the costs of this course of action.

Anderson seems to be referring to the cost of a possible trade war with the EU, but Truss does not address this. She just says the arrangements proposed by the UK would cut costs for traders.

Truss says she is “very open” to doing a deal with the EU on this. She says she is meeting Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, later this week to discuss the protocol.

Colum Eastwood, the SDLP leader, says Truss is going against the wishes of the majority of people in Northern Ireland who back the protocol. He asks how anyone in Northern Ireland can ever trust the government again given that it is ignoring a deal it signed.

Truss says a poll last year showed 78% of people in Northern Ireland want the protocol changed.

Updated

Chris Grayling (Con) asks Truss to comment on claims that it is the EU that is in breach of its obligations under the protocol, not the UK.

In response, Truss says the protocol is not working – but she ignores Grayling’s claim about the EU being in breach of the law.

Updated

Jeffrey Donaldson says DUP will respond with 'graduated approach' as legislation progresses

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, says this move is a “welcome, if overdue” step.

He says the DUP want to see the legislation come forward in days and weeks, not months.

In response, his party will take “a graduated approach”, he says.

(That implies that it might re-engage with the Northern Ireland assembly step by step, as the legislation goes through parliament. As a first step, it could agree to nominate a speaker, allowing the assembly to start sitting.)

He goes on:

We want to see the political institutions properly functioning as soon as possible. But to restore unionist confidence, decisive action is now needed in the form of legislation to repair the harm done by the protocol to the acts of union and to put in place sensible arrangements that, in the words of the Queen’s speech, ensure the continued success and integrity of the whole of the United Kingdom, including the internal economic bonds between all its parts.

Updated

Sir Bill Cash (Con) urges Truss to ignore “siren voices” telling her that her move is illegal.

Truss says she is “hopeful” that the EU will accept the UK’s proposals. She says they would leave the EU no worse off.

Simon Hoare (Con), chair of the Northern Ireland affairs committee, said he was concerned that Truss needed to be reminded of the importance of the rule of law.

In response, Truss said the government’s plans were legal.

Stephen Doughty, a shadow Foreign Office minister, responded for Labour.

He said Labour accepted the need for some changes to the protocol. “It cannot, for example, be right that goods leaving Great Britain that have no realistic prospect of leaving Northern Ireland, like supermarket sandwiches, face excessive burdens, and the EU needs to understand that practical reality,” he said. He said both sides needed to negotiate in good faith.

But he said that Good Friday agreement was one of Labour’s proudest achievements, and that it should be protected.

And he said it was “deeply troubling” that the government was proposing a bill that would break a treaty it signed only recently.

UPDATE: Doughty said:

Britain should be a country that keeps its word.

The rest of the world is looking at us and wondering if we are a country that they want to do business with.

When we seek to negotiate new deals abroad, does the Government want to make other countries question whether we will keep our end of the bargain?

There are wide-ranging and damaging repercussions undermining our ability to hold others to account for their own commitments, when we should, for example, be pulling together in support of Ukraine, not fuelling divisions with our European allies.

Updated

Truss says the law will maintain those parts of the protocol that are working, but not those that are not.

Our aim is to deliver on the protocol’s objectives.

We will cement those provisions which are working in the protocol, including the common travel area, the single electricity market and north-south co-operation, whilst fixing those elements that aren’t, on the movement of goods, goods regulation, VAT, subsidy control, and governance.

The bill will put in place the necessary measures to lessen the burden on east-west trade and to ensure the people of Northern Ireland are able to access the same benefits as the people of Great Britain.

She says the bill will allow goods going to Northern Ireland that are not heading for Ireland to go through a “green channel”. Goods going to Ireland will have to undergo full checks under the protocol, but “green channel” goods will be exempt

[The bill] will allow both east-west trade and the EU single market to be protected whilst removing customs paperwork for goods remaining in the United Kingdom. The bill will remove regulatory barriers to goods made to UK standards being sold in Northern Ireland. Businesses will be able to choose between meeting UK or EU standards in a new dual regulatory regime.

The bill will also allow the government to set tax policy for the whole of the UK, she says. (Currently Northern Ireland is still covered by EU VAT law, which means some cuts applying to Britain cannot apply there.)

More detail will be published in coming weeks, she says.

She says the bill will include “an explicit power to give effect to a new revised protocol if we can reach an accommodation [with the EU]”.

UPDATE: Truss said:

The bill will provide the government with the ability to decide on tax and spend policies across the whole of the United Kingdom.

It will address issues related to governance bringing the protocol in line with international laws.

At the same time, it will take new measures to protect the EU single market by implementing robust penalties for those who seek to abuse the new system and it will continue to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.

I will publish more detail on these solutions in the coming weeks.

The bill will contain an explicit power to give effect to a new revised protocol if we can reach an accommodation that meets our goal of protecting the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.

We remain open to a negotiated solution but the urgency of the situation means we can’t afford to delay any longer. The UK has clear responsibilities as the sovereign government of Northern Ireland to ensure parity of esteem and the protection of economic rights.

We are clear that the EU will not be negatively impacted in any way just as we have ensured the protection of the EU single market since the existence of the protocol. We must restore the primacy of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in all of its dimensions as the basis of the restoration of the executive.

We will do so through technical measures designed to achieve the stated objectives of the protocol, tailored to the reality of Northern Ireland.

Updated

Truss tells MPs proposed law to amend Northern Ireland protocol does not breach international law

Truss says she is announcing the government’s intention to introduce legislation “in the coming weeks” to change the implementation of the protocol.

As the prime minister said, our shared objective has to be to find a solution that commands the broadest possible cross-community support for years to come and protect the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions.

That is why I am announcing our intention to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to make changes in the protocol.

Our preference remains the negotiated solution with the EU. And in parallel with the legislation being introduced, we remain open to further talks if we can achieve the same outcome through negotiated settlement.

She says she has invited Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission vice-president, to talks in London on this.

She says the government is clear that “proceeding with the bill is consistent with our obligations under international law”.

The government will consult businesses and people in Northern Ireland, she says.

She goes on: “This is not about scrapping the protocol.”

UPDATE: Truss said:

To respond to the very grave and serious situation in Northern Ireland, we are clear there is a necessity to act to ensure the institutions can be restored as soon as possible.

The government is clear that proceeding with the bill is consistent with our obligations in international law and in support of our prior obligations in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

Before any changes are made, we will consult businesses and people in Northern Ireland.

Updated

Truss says there are problems with how the protocol is working.

She says the government wants to reach a negotiated outcome with the EU.

It has worked tirelessly with the EU on this, she says, and it will continue to do so.

She says the UK has proposed a “comprehensive and reasonable” solution to the problems.

The UK’s solution would meet both the UK and the EU’s original proposals for the protocol, she says.

But this would require a change to the protocol. And the EU’s negotiating mandade does not allow this.

The EU proposals would actually go backwards, she says.

Liz Truss starts by saying the government’s first priority is to uphold the Good Friday agreement. That agreement involved a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, enhanced north/south relations, and enhanced east-west cooperation.

She says the government wants to see a power-sharing executive in place.

But devolution is under strain because the Northern Ireland protocol does not have the support of one community in Northern Ireland.

And all parties in Northern Ireland want to see some changes to it, she says.

Liz Truss's statement to MPs about proposals to allow UK to ignore parts of Northern Ireland protocol

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, is about to make her statement to MPs.

No 10 has just put out the readout from this morning’s cabinet. This is what it says on Northern Ireland.

Moving to the issue of the Northern Ireland protocol the prime minister said that it was clear all five parties in Northern Ireland wanted changes to how the protocol was currently operating. The Northern Ireland secretary updated cabinet on the current situation, saying the lack of a functioning executive meant opportunities to further invest in and improve public services were being missed. The prime minister said the foreign secretary would provide an update to parliament later following agreement at the global Britain (strategy) meeting earlier this morning.

In Treasury questions Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said the government was “ready” to do more to help people with the cost of living crisis. He said:

Of course the government appreciates that global forces are making life difficult for families at the moment and that is why we have brought forward, as we have heard, £22bn of support this year to help those in work and the most vulnerable in our society, and we stand ready to do more as the situation evolves.

But that support is part of a broader plan that will grow our economy, encourage investment and create more skilled, more high wage jobs. That is the priority of this government.

Minister for refugees refuses to say he backs plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

Lord Harrington, who was appointed minister for refugees in March, has refused to say he supports the government’s plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

In an interview with Matt Chorley for Times Radio, Harrington refused several times to say he backed the policy. Sidestepping one of the questions, he says:

Well, I’m a minister for Ukrainian refugees. And it’s my job to resettle them. They come in via legal routes. I mean, it is a legal route to come in as refugees from Ukraine. And this country has always been very good at legal routes.

Illegal routes are different and the government has to do what it thinks right to try and stop these people smugglers from smuggling people in.

The leader of the SDLP, Colum Eastwood MP, has accused the government of abandoning its obligations as co-guarantors of the Good Friday agreement with its plans for protocol legislation. This was unacceptable, he said. But he claimed the proposed legislation on legacy investigations was even worse. He said:

This British government has abandoned the concept of partnership when it comes to the sensitive politics of Northern Ireland. What they’re about to do regarding the protocol is unacceptable but to take unilateral action on an issue as sensitive as legacy investigations over the heads of victims and survivors, political parties and the Irish government is unbelievable.

Updated

Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London,joined the Queen at Paddington station today where she unveiled a plaque saying she had opened the Elizabeth Line.
Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan joined the Queen at Paddington station today where she unveiled a plaque saying she had opened the Elizabeth Line. Photograph: Ian West/PA

Updated

A leading women’s rights campaigner and an internationally recognised nature expert have been appointed to the House of Lords, PA Media reports. PA says:

Shaista Gohir and Prof Katherine Willis will sit on the crossbenches, meaning they will not be affiliated with any party.

They have been recommended by the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission, with the move approved by the prime minister and the Queen, but they are yet to be formally introduced to the House.

Gohir is a women’s rights campaigner and highly influential Muslim woman, who heads up the national award-winning charity Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK).

Willis is an internationally recognised expert on nature and the relationship between biodiversity, climate change and human wellbeing.

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Downing Street has decided it wants to focus on crime this week (stopping it, not committing it), and No 10 has sent out the text of a spiel that Boris Johnson delivered on the subject at cabinet today. Here is an extract.

The crucial duty of our government is to make our communities safer, which is what we are doing.

That’s why we put, of the 20,000 police that we promised at the 2019 election, we’ve already put 13,576 on the streets.

They are bringing down neighbourhood crime and that’s a great thing to see. But we’ve got more to do.

We want to make sure our streets are safer and we will round up those county lines drugs gangs with Project Adder, taking the criminals off the streets, stopping the deaths of young people from knife crime and gun crime.

Johnson also welcomed the news that unemployment is at its lowest level since 1974, saying this showed “our plan for jobs is working’.

Boris Johnson chairing cabinet this morning.
Boris Johnson chairing cabinet this morning. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images

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When he was in Belfast yesterday Boris Johnson suggested that pay for members of the Northern Ireland assembly could be cut if it does not start meeting. It cannot meet at the moment because the DUP won’t agree to the election of a speaker.

Sam McBride from the Belfast Telegraph says this may have been a mistake.

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, says he has written to Boris Johnson urging him not to go ahead with legislation that would allow the UK government to ignore parts of the Northern Ireland protocol. He says this would “risk material damage to the British economy”.

Daniel Ferrie, a European Commission spokesperson, restated the EU’s call for the UK to negotiate changes to the Northern Ireland protocol with Brussels, instead of acting unilaterally, at his briefing this morning. This is from Georg von Harrach from Channel 4 News.

In the Commons the government chief whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, has just moved the writ for two forthcoming byelections - in Wakefield, and in Tiverton and Honiton.

Both byelections are expected to be held on Thursday 23 June - the sixth anniversary of the Brexit referendum.

These will be two of the most eagerly awaited byelections in years. In Wakefield Imran Ahmad Khan had a majority of 3,358 in the 2019 election, but until then it had been a Labour seat since the 1930s, and Keir Starmer will need a comfortable win here to reassure his party that it is on course to win the next general election.

In Tiverton and Honiton Neil Parish had a majority of 24,239 in 2019. In normal circumstances a seat this safe would never be in play, but the Lib Dems are hoping that they will be able to pull of a shock victory here, following their gains in the byelections in Chesham and Amersham, and in North Shropshire, where they overturned Tory majorities of 16,223 and 22,949 respectively.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Chris Heaton-Harris. Photograph: HoC

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PM performed 'reprehensible' U-turn on junk food deal ban partly to avert leadership challenge, William Hague suggests

At the end of last week the government announced that it was delaying a ban on “buy one get one free” deals on junk food for at least a year, ostensibly to help people with the cost of living crisis. It is now questionable whether the ban will ever be implemented by this government. Health campaigners criticised the U-turn, but No 10 will have been heartened by the fact that it was warmly welcomed by the Sun.

However, today the move has come under withering attack from perhaps an unlikely source – William Hague, the former Conservative leader. He has writtten about it in his Times column, under the headline: “Obesity U-turn is weak, shallow and immoral.” It’s a good read. Here are some of his main points.

  • Hague suggests Boris Johnson dropped the cheap supermarket junk food deals partly to avert a leadership challenge from Tory MPs. He says:

Under pressure from some Conservative MPs, some of whom have been threatening to write letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson unless they get their way, ministers have retreated from banning “Buy One Get One Free” deals and from imposing a watershed of 9pm on junk food advertising. While some measures, such as rules on the positioning of unhealthy foods by retailers, will still go ahead in October, this U-turn adds to the long history of failed obesity strategies.

  • Hague rejects claims that the proposed ban was un-Conservartive because it would have restricted people’s freedom to buy what they want. Accusing food companies of exploiting their customers, he says:

Humans evolved, when food was scarce, to indulge in calorie-dense foods if the opportunity arose. Now, the abundance of food and its particularly highly processed nature, which means we go on eating for a long time before feeling full, leads us to eat a lot of the wrong things. Food companies have an overwhelming incentive to design products that lead us ever further down this chemically induced addiction to foods that make us overweight, more prone to disease, and less able to work and enjoy life to the full. This is not freedom ...

Freedom is, most crucially, being free from oppression, violence or discrimination. But it is also the freedom of a child to skip and somersault; of an adult to enjoy running down a country lane or in a city park; of an old person to keep their quality of life until their final days ... These are the freedoms being denied to vast numbers of people who are the victims, not the free agents, in a system that wants to fill them up with salt, sugar and saturated fat.

  • He rejects claims that “buy one get one free” deals help people with the cost of living, quoting research saying they encourage people to buy food they do not need.
  • He says failing to tackle obesity will make it harder to cut taxes in the long run. Quoting analysis saying that by the mid-2030s the NHS could be spending more treating type 2 diabetes than treating cancer, he says:

It is therefore a terrible error to associate conservatism with a reluctance to protect people from their natural appetites being abused, in an industrial age for which they were not designed. If we could liberate more people from that fate, they could enjoy greater personal freedom and have some chance of a lighter tax burden.

  • He describes the U-turn as “intellectually shallow, politically weak and morally reprehensible”. He says:

MPs who have pressed, seemingly successfully, for the dilution of the obesity strategy are profoundly mistaken. They are acquiescing in a future of higher dependence, greater costs, reduced lifestyle choice and endless pain. For the government to give in to them is intellectually shallow, politically weak and morally reprehensible.

William Hague.
William Hague. Photograph: David Hartley/Rex/Shutterstock

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Boris Johnson addressing cabinet this morning.
Boris Johnson addressing cabinet this morning. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

In the light of Archie Norman’s comments (see 10.40am), it is worth pointing out that business groups in Northern Ireland say that, on balance, so far the protocol is working well. My colleague Rory Carroll explained this in a good article for the Observer. It’s here.

Archie Norman, the Marks & Spencer chair and a former Conservative MP, told the Today programme this morning that the Northern Ireland protocol imposed “very, very onerous” burdens on firms moving goods from Britain to Northern Ireland. He explained:

At the moment, wagons arriving in the Republic of Ireland have to carry 700 pages of documentation. It takes about eight hours to prepare the documentation. Some of the descriptors, particularly of animal products, have to be in Latin. It has to be in a certain typeface. We employ 13 vets in Motherwell to prepare it all.

Norman said the protocol took up “30% more driver time” and he said the EU plans for the protocol checks to be fully implemented (some have been shelved until now) would make the situation worse. He said:

The EU are looking for us to impose comparable controls for Northern Ireland and were that to happen, it would mean that quite a lot of product from the UK simply wouldn’t get to Northern Ireland and what does go there would be very very costly.

Norman said the EU customs rules were designed to protect consumers from “unsafe food arriving from some far-flung country” but that UK food standards were “equivalent or higher” than the EU’s. He said the UK government’s plans for reform of the protocol were sensible.

What the British government is proposing at the moment seems to me a triumph of common sense over rules-based mentality and will make sure at a time of inflation that the Northern Irish people can get the fresh food that they’re used to and entitled to.

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Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, and Tim Barrow, political director at the Foreign Office, arriving at 10 Downing Street this morning ahead of cabinet.
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, and Tim Barrow, political director at the Foreign Office, arriving at 10 Downing Street this morning. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

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EU plan for Northern Ireland protocol would 'make matters materially worse', Brandon Lewis claims

And here are some of the main lines from Brandon Lewis’s interviews on the Northern Ireland protocol.

  • Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, said the EU’s plan for the protocol would “make matters materially worse” because they wanted to end some of the “grace periods” in place that have prevented some full checks coming into force. The “grace periods” were only ever meant to be temporary, because they were meant to allow businesses time to adjust to the new rules. The UK now wants them to be permanent, and for the proposed new checks to be abandoned for good. The EU does not agree. Lewis said:

What sometimes gets missed in this is that what the EU is proposing now is that some of the checks we’ve had grace periods for - we are at a standstill at the moment where we are not fully applying some of the checks the EU wants - they actually want to bring those in, so they want to make matters materially worse for the people of Northern Ireland, and that’s just not viable.

  • He said it was never the government’s intention to bring the proposed new legislation on the Northern Ireland protocol to parliament for a vote this week.
  • He said the UK wanted to set up a system of “green lanes” for goods entering Northern Ireland for Britain, so that items not destined for Ireland are exempt from checks. He explained:

The solution is, and what we’ve been outlining to the EU, that products that are moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland should effectively go through what has colloquially been called a ‘green lane’.

So, those products that are being consumed in the UK, used in the UK, from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, should not be going through the same checks as products that are moving into the EU, into the single market - that’s pretty much what we have been outlining.

There are too many companies, including major supermarkets, at the moment who have no stores in the Republic of Ireland, who are moving their products from their depots in Great Britain into Northern Ireland for sale and consumption in Northern Ireland, but going through checks as if they were going into the EU.

That just doesn’t work and there are products that can’t travel that way.

Brandon Lewis at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland yesterday, where he attended the talks Boris Johnson had with party leaders.
Brandon Lewis at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland yesterday, where he attended the talks Boris Johnson had with party leaders. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

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UK pay hit by inflation but unemployment falls to 48-year low

Soaring bonuses for City bankers and high signing-on fees for construction and IT professionals pushed Britons’ average annual pay up by 7% in March, but most workers suffered a fifth consecutive month of falling living standards. My colleague Phillip Inman has the story here.

Bank of England governor went too far with warning about 'apocalyptic' food prices, minister suggests

Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, had the morning interview round this morning on behalf of the government. Mostly he was talking about the protocol, but he also delivered what sounded like a mild rebuke to the governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, over his comments to MPs yesterday. Lewis implied that Bailey went too far.

As my colleague Larry Elliott reports, Bailey blamed the war in Ukraine for the highest inflation in the UK for three decades and warned that “apocalyptic” food prices caused by Russia’s invasion could have a disastrous impact on the world’s poor.

Asked about the comments, and particularly about Bailey’s use of the word “apocalytic”, Lewis told the BBC:

I was surprised to see that particular turn of phrase, I have to say.

But the Bank of England is independent, they will have their view of their assessment, their economic view of where things are and where things are going.

Lewis went on:

We do recognise ... and as a constituency MP I see the challenges that some of my constituents face, that we all face.

In my part of the world [Lewis represents Great Yarmouth in Norfolk] we are all - the majority of people - on oil fire heating and you see that change in the price which has a big impact on people.

That’s why I think it is important as a government we put in the packages of support we’ve put in and, as the chancellor said, this is something we will keep under review because of the global pressures, as the Bank of England governor said yesterday, that we’re seeing on economies around the world.

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Dublin says 'breaking international law not the answer' as Truss set to announce Northern Ireland protocol plan

Good morning. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, will make a statement to MPs later about government plans for legislation that would allow it to ignore parts of the Northern Ireland protocol – the agreement signed with the EU imposing checks on some goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland, to ensure that Northern Ireland can remain in the EU’s single market and to prevent checks having to be imposed at its border with Ireland.

The proposal is potentially inflammatory – because it would involve the UK unilaterally abandoning a deal it agreed with the EU less than three years ago.

But there are signs that it might not be quite as provocative as originally envisaged. Truss is not going to publish an actual bill today, and government sources have been indicating that MPs won’t start debating the legislation until later this year. That, of course, fuels suspicions that No 10 is not particularly serious about this anyway, and that it may be no more than an empty threat. In our overnight story Rowena Mason, Lisa O’Carroll and Rory Carroll write:

No 10 has not appeared to be as keen as Truss on the option of legislation to undermine the protocol in recent days.

One diplomatic source said one of the prime minister’s top aides had been privately telling people that the government was very committed to negotiations and no decision had been taken on pressing ahead with the legislation.

The full story is here.

In the light of these briefings, it will be interesting to see quite what tone Truss adopts. At the weekend the Sunday Times carried a report by Tim Shipman suggesting that some of Boris Johnson’s allies view her as a “knucklehead” on this. Shipman wrote:

There is ill-disguised fury in some parts of No 10 that Truss and David Canzini, the deputy chief of staff, are so privately gung-ho about confrontation with the EU. One senior official said: “The object of the exercise with some people seems to be to have a fight. The object of the exercise for the prime minister is to restore democratic processes to Northern Ireland. We want a weapon on the table, we don’t want to use it. It’s like the nuclear deterrent. The PM does not want to use nuclear weapons, whatever the knuckleheads tell him.”

Truss briefed Simon Coveney, her Irish opposite number, on the plan last night, and this morning he says he told her that “breaking international law” is not the solution.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.

11.30am: Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, takes questions in the Commons.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

After 12.30pm: Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, makes a Commons statement about proposed legislation allowing the government to ignore parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.

After 1.30pm: MPs resume their debate on the Queen’s speech. At 7pm there will be a vote on a Labour amendment calling for a windfall tax on energy companies.

2.30pm: Alistair Burt, the former foreign minister, gives evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee on how the government responds when people like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe are taken hostage by foreign states; at 3.30pm Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary, will give evidence.

3pm: Greg Dyke, the former BBC director general, and Andrew Neil, the broadcaster, give evidence to a Lords committee about the future of BBC funding.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

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Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com.

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