Too much Brexit ‘red tape’, says Keir Starmer
Alex Salmond’s written evidence has been removed from the Scottish parliament’s website, and is set to be replaced with a redacted version, after the Crown Office raised concerns about possible contempt of court.
The former first minister’s evidence relating to the Scottish government’s infamous mishandling of harassment claims was published on Monday evening, ahead of his appearance at the inquiry this Wednesday. The Crown Office had written to Holyrood’s corporate body to ask for redactions or for the evidence to be removed from the website altogether.
Meanwhile, a senior DUP MP has warned that the Northern Ireland Protocol has “the potential to cause political instability” as his party called on the government to remove it and restore the nation’s ability to trade freely with the rest of the UK post-Brexit.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told MPs that Northern Irish businesses were experiencing “enormous difficulties” with their supply chains and warned it was the government’s “responsibility” to act.
He said: “That is why we are calling on them to use their powers under the protocol to take the necessary action through Article 16 to resolve the diversion of trade, the disruption in trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and to restore the citizenship rights of the people of Northern Ireland to trade freely with the rest of the UK, a freedom they have enjoyed for 200 years.”
Our deputy political editor, Rob Merrick, has more details below on the delay to the full approval of the Brexit trade deal:
Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 14:55
Brexit deal will not be fully approved until end of April, Gove says
The Brexit trade deal will not be fully approved until the end of April as the UK has agreed that the provisional application of the agreement should be extended, Michael Gove has admitted.
The deal is yet to be ratified by the European Union and Brussels had requested an extension to the 28 February deadline.
“Provisionally applying the agreement was not the United Kingdom’s preferred outcome given the uncertainty it creates for individuals and businesses and indeed the parties,” the Cabinet Office minister said.
“Extending the period of provisional application prolongs that uncertainty.”
In a letter to European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, Mr Gove said the UK expected the EU to “satisfy its internal requirements” before 30 April and “that we would therefore not be asked to further extend the period” beyond that date.
Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 14:44
Sturgeon breaks with England by announcing return to tiered restrictions
Scotland’s economy will begin a “phased reopening” from the last week of April, as the country moves to a regional level system of coronavirus restrictions, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
Our political editor, Andrew Woodcock, has more on this breaking story below:
Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 14:38
Salmond lawyers demand legal justification for redacting evidence
Alex Salmond’s lawyers have demanded to know the legal justification for the Scottish parliament redacting swathes of his written evidence, warning that the decision could jeopardise his planned appearance before a Holyrood committee tomorrow.
The Scottish parliament took down evidence from its website today, in which Mr Salmond alleged Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, after concerns about possible contempt of court were raised by the Crown Office.
It was replaced with a redacted version of the written submission with five sections censored.
“Our client’s submission was carefully reviewed by us and by counsel before submission,” David McKie of Levy and McRae solicitors wrote.
“There is no legal basis for the redactions that we are aware of which you now propose having gone through that extremely careful exercise.”
Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 14:27
Labour warns delaying gender pay gap measures could cause ‘permanent damage’
Labour has warned that the decision to postpone enforcement measures against companies that do not report their gender pay gap by an extra six months could cause “permanent damage” to gender equality.
Marsha de Cordova, shadow women and equalities secretary, said on Tuesday that all available evidence suggested that the coronavirus crisis was having “awful consequences” on women’s representation in the workforce.
Our women’s correspondent, Maya Oppenheim, has the full story below:
Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 14:19
Johnson should apologise for remarks about journalists, Labour says
Boris Johnson should apologise for his suggestion that journalists are always “abusing” others, Labour’s shadow media minister has said.
“For Boris Johnson to say journalists are ‘always abusing people’ probably says more about his own career,” Chris Matheson said in a statement.
“It is particularly troubling coming so soon after the prime minister stood by one of his ministers who attacked a journalist who was just trying to do her job.”
Mr Matheson added: “We know from Donald Trump that these kind of assaults on the free press are dangerous and designed to stir up distrust and division.
“Boris Johnson should withdraw these remarks and apologise.”
Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 14:02
Our reporter, Adam Forrest, has more details below on the removal of former SNP leader Alex Salmond’s evidence to the inquiry into harassment allegations against him:
Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 13:47
Car-makers ‘paddling furiously below water’ to maintain post-Brexit supply chains
Car-makers are “paddling furiously below the water” to maintain their supply chains post-Brexit, an industry leader has warned.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, told MPs that the movement of parts had been “difficult” since the end of the transition period.
Mr Hawes told the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that there was a “pervading sense of relief” in the industry that an agreement on trade had been negotiated with the EU.
“We ended up, I think, with a deal that in many ways works for the sector, most obviously in the avoidance of tariffs and quotas which would have been a severe brake on the industry,” he said.
“However, it doesn’t mean zero cost. The industry is trying to manage its supply chains. We are integrated within the European, if not the global, industry, so the supply chains do stretch far and wide.
“All the industry is … I characterise it as paddling furiously below the water to keep things going.”
Mr Hawes added that the administration required to move goods in and out of the UK is “significant” and a “major challenge”.
Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 13:41
Boris Johnson suggests journalists are always ‘abusing’ others
Boris Johnson has suggested that journalists are always “abusing” others and that “guilt” led him to swap the profession for politics.
Speaking to a group of schoolchildren, the prime minister said: “When you are a journalist you think ‘great, great job’… But the trouble is that… sometimes you find yourself always abusing people or attacking people.”
Our Whitehall editor, Kate Devlin, has the full story below:
Conrad Duncan23 February 2021 13:18
PM: Vaccine passports could be banned in some circumstances
A government review of Covid vaccine and testing certification could lead to a ban on demands for proof of immunity in certain circumstances, Boris Johnson has suggested.
The PM’s comments raise the possibility that the review, to be led by Michael Gove and report by 21 June, will bar employers from implementing “no jab, no job” rules or pubs and restaurants excluding people who have not been vaccinated.
Mr Gove’s review is expected to look not only at the question of vaccine passports but also into whether people could be issued with official certification to prove a recent negative Covid-19 test, possibly in the form of an entry on the NHS smartphone app.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi previously warned the implementation of vaccine passports could lead to “discriminatory” issues.
Our political editor Andrew Woodcock reports:
Sam Hancock23 February 2021 12:50