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    Legal action launched over Boris Johnson award of peerage to Tory donor

    Anti-corruption campaign the Good Law Project has launched a legal action over the award of a peerage to Conservative party donor Peter Cruddas.Boris Johnson overruled advice last year from the House of Lords Appointments Committee against making the businessman a Lord – the first time the watchdog’s recommendation has been ignored.A former Tory treasurer, Lord Cruddas resigned in 2012 after reports he had offered access to then prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne in return for donations.In a letter to government lawyers setting out their case for judicial review, the Good Law Project said that Cruddas, his wife and his company had between them given £3m to the Tories – including £1.2m since Mr Johnson became PM in 2019, as well as donating £50,000 to his campaign for the Conservative leadership.The letter before claim states that the former party treasurer gave £250,000 to the Tories weeks before it became known last year that Mr Johnson had nominated him for a peerage, and a further £500,000 three days after becoming a peer in February 2021.The director of the Good Law Project, barrister Jolyon Maugham, said: “The independent watchdog didn’t think Peter Cruddas should be given a peerage. But Boris Johnson ignored their advice and appointed him anyway.“Just three days after he entered the Lords, he gave the Conservatives half a million quid.“I don’t think this is lawful. I think a fair-minded observer, presented with the facts, would conclude there was a real possibility or danger of bias in the Prime Minister’s decision-making.” More

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    Boris Johnson’s strongest hint yet that planned 21 June lifting of lockdown will be delayed

    Boris Johnson gave his strongest hint yet that the planned 21 June lifting of lockdown will be delayed as he described the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant as a “serious, serious concern”.Speaking to broadcasters at the G7 summit in Cornwall, Mr Johnson insisted that no final decision will be taken until Monday on the implementation of step 4 of his roadmap to recovery, which would see limits on attendances at weddings, football matches and arts performances lifted and nightclubs reopen.But he admitted that he was less optimistic than he was just two weeks ago and added that “where it’s necessary to be cautious, we will be.”He made clear that the swift rise in cases has sparked fears within government that a full reopening on the earliest possible date of 21 June would risk a rapid return to restrictions.“It’s clear that the Indian variant is more transmissible and it’s also true that the cases are going up, and that the levels of hospitalisation are going up,” he told Sky News.“Now, we don’t know exactly to what extent that is going to feed through into extra mortality, but clearly it’s a matter of serious, serious concern.”Ministers have been considering a delay of up to four weeks in the final relaxation of lockdown, taking the date for the return to near-normality to 19 July.There were hopes that weddings could be spared the delay, but it is understood that the PM will sanction only a limited increase in maximum numbers, amid worries that they could become “super-spreader events”.Mr Johnson said that scientists do not believe there is “any case” to reverse previous relaxations of lockdown, such as the reopening of non-essential shops and indoor hospitality last month.He added: “What we want to do is make sure that the roadmap is irreversible, but you can’t have an irreversible roadmap unless you’re prepared to be cautious.” “Some of the data is still open to question, but we’ll be making an announcement on Monday.”Asked if he could guarantee that there would be no delay in the rollback of lockdown, Mr Johnson replied: “Where it’s necessary to be cautious, we will be.”The prime minister also appeared to accept that it may be better to allow more time for a larger proportion of the population to get fully vaccinated.“We’re looking at all the data but what we’re wanting to do is avoid another wave of deaths that could be prevented by allowing the vaccines to work in the way that they are,” he told ITV News.“The vaccine programme has been absolutely astonishing and there’s no question that if you look at the people going into hospital now they tend to be in different groups, younger groups, than we saw in the first couple of waves of the pandemic.“But it may be that in the race between the vaccines and the virus, we need to make sure we give the vaccines extra legs.”The British Medical Association became the latest body to call for a delay after the most recent data showed the R rate of reproduction of the virus at its highest since January – between 1.2 and 1.4.Daily cases reached 8,125 on Friday, the highest number since February. And figures published by Public Health England (PHE) showed that 42,323 cases of the Indian variant had been confirmed in the UK over a seven-day period, an increase of 240 per cent from the previous week. PHE estimates the strain is 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant first identified in Kent, with cases doubling every four and a half days in some areas. More

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    G7 summit news — live: Johnson raises ‘sausage war’ tensions with EU as Macron warns PM over Brexit deal

    Watch live as G7 leaders gather for second day of summitBoris Johnson has raised tensions with the EU over the so-called “sausage war” on imports, arguing that he “will not hesitate” to invoke measures to suspend elements of the Northern Ireland protocol.At a meeting on Saturday, Emmanuel Macron warned the PM to keep his word on Brexit in order to reset relations between the UK and France amid a stand-off over the impact of leaving the EU on Northern Ireland.The French president reportedly said the two countries had common interests but the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement signed with the bloc last year had to be respected.It came as leaders from the G7 launched a new plan to quash future pandemics within the first 100 days, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the Covid-19 crisis.The so-called ‘Carbis Bay Declaration‘ will see the UK create a new animal vaccine centre aimed at preventing future diseases crossing from creatures to humans.Show latest update

    1623508687You can watch action from the second day of the G7 summit live below:Conrad Duncan12 June 2021 15:381623507961ICYMI: Boris Johnson says post-Covid world needs to be ‘more feminine’Boris Johnson told G7 leaders on Friday that he wanted to create a “more feminine” world through the global recovery from the Covid crisis.The prime minister made his comments at the first round-table session of the summit of world leaders, including US president Joe Biden and German chancellor Angela Merkel, in Cornwall.Our political editor, Andrew Woodcock, has the full story below:Conrad Duncan12 June 2021 15:261623506897Opinion: ‘Macron has told Johnson to keep his word over Brexit. The very best of luck with that’France’s president Emmanuel Macron will struggle to make any progress with Boris Johnson over Brexit due to the “scale of the absurdity” around the UK government’s position on Northern Ireland, according to our columnist Tom Peck.Tom writes:“The French president, Emmanuel Macron is not stupid, so quite what he expects from having told Boris Johnson to stop lying is not clear. Johnson’s lies are not an unfortunate side effect of the government position. The lie is the position. It is only the lie that makes the unsolvable problem solved. There is no alternative but to ignore reality, pose for the G7 photo, and hope, for enough people, it somehow goes away.”You can find his full piece below:Conrad Duncan12 June 2021 15:081623506195An ominous take on the meeting between EU leaders and Boris Johnson today, from Politico Europe’s chief Brussels correspondent…Conrad Duncan12 June 2021 14:561623505083You can find some more images below from the climate change protests in Cornwall earlier today: More

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    ‘Sausage war’ tensions heightened as Boris Johnson says he ‘will not hesitate’ to suspend protocol

    Boris Johnson has ramped up tensions with Brussels by saying he “will not hesitate” to invoke measures to suspend elements of the Northern Ireland protocol if EU leaders do not compromise in the so-called “sausage war” over imports of chilled meat.The prime minister gave a defiant response to a string of EU leaders who this morning warned him that he must deliver on his side of the Brexit deal struck with Brussels in 2019.French president Emmanuel Macron told the PM he must “keep his word” over arrangements for the Northern Irish border if he wants a reset of relations with France.And European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told him there was “complete EU unity” that he must implement the measures he agreed in the protocol, which include a ban on movements of chilled meat products from the British mainland to Northern Ireland from the end of this month.Despite pleas from Brussels chiefs for the UK to tone down its rhetoric in a row which has dominated the G7 summit in Cornwall this week, foreign secretary Dominic Raab took a provocative tone, telling the EU to stop being “bloody-minded” on the issue.And Mr Johnson suggested Europe had failed to show goodwill, accusing Brussels of taking a “theologically draconian” approach.Speaking to broadcasters at the Carbis Bay summit, Mr Johnson left no doubt he is ready to escalate the stand-off into a trade war by invoking Article 16 of the protocol, which allows either side to suspend the agreement if it is having damaging economic, societal or environmental consequences.The move would pave the way to the imposition by the EU of tariffs or quotas on UK exports, which need not be limited to the products involved in the Northern Irish dispute.In an interview with Sky News, Mr Johnson was asked whether he was lying when he claimed his deal would not produce a customs border in the Irish Sea or had failed to understand the treaty which he signed.He responded: “I think the treaty I signed is perfectly reasonable. I don’t think that the interpetation or application of the of the protocol is sensible or pragmatic. “I think that the protocol can work if it is sensibly applied but at the moment, it’s not just a question of chilled meats or or sausages, there are all kinds of impediments being constructed, and we need to sort it out.“I think we can sort it out, but … it is up to our EU friends and partners to understand that we will do whatever it takes.“I think if the protocol continues to be applied in this way, then we will obviously not hesitate to invoke Article 16.” More

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    Government backs call to raise legal age of marriage in England and Wales to 18

    The minimum legal age of marriage is set to rise to 18 in England and Wales after ministers signalled their support for the landmark reform.At the moment 16- and 17-year-olds can marry with their parents’ consent. But campaigners warn some teenagers are being coerced into marrying too young.Now the government has said it backs moves to protect them from what the former chancellor Sajid Javid described as “child abuse”.A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “The government supports raising the legal age for marriage to protect vulnerable children and will outline its next steps in due course.”Mr Javid has said he will introduce a private member’s bill in the Commons next week to raise the current age limit, and is optimistic it could become law.Mr Javid criticised what he said was the current legal “loophole” that saw teenagers forced into marriage.“The British government is working tirelessly to end child marriage in the developing world and yet our own laws are permitting child marriage by the back door,” he told the Times.“Indeed, when Bangladesh lowered the legal age of marriage from 18 to 16, ministers there were said to have directly pointed to our laws to justify their move.“It’s clear that we must legislate to close this loophole so that vulnerable children cannot be pushed into such serious and life-changing commitments before they are ready.“I’ve seen this myself in the community I was raised in, young girls expected to enter into marriage far before they were ready to, with painful consequences,” he said.“Let’s call this what it is: child abuse.”Mr Javid said he had looked at a change in the law when he was home secretary under Theresa May’s government.The bill is expected to attract cross party support. Natasha Rattu, director of the charity Karma Nirvana, which campaigns on child marriage, said: “We are delighted that after relentless campaigning the government has listened to our joint calls to end child marriage by committing to raising the legal age to 18.“But while this is a huge step in the right direction, it remains imperative the government also makes child marriage a crime,” she told the Guardian. “This would ensure maximum safeguards against all forms of child marriage and sends out the strongest possible message that child marriage is not accepted or tolerated by our government.” More

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    Selena Gomez calls out Boris Johnson over surplus vaccine pledge

    Selena Gomez has tweeted at Boris Johnson criticising him over his announcement that the UK will have donated five million surplus doses of coronavirus vaccines by September. On Thursday 10 June, the prime minister said the UK will begin donating vaccines to poorer countries in the next few weeks. Five million doses will be given by the UK by the end of September, with a further 25 million donated by the end of the year. “[Boris Johnson], five million doses by September is too little too late,” Gomez wrote on Twitter, tagging the PM’s account. “You promised Britain would donate ALL its surplus vaccines.” The pop star and actor then addressed her followers: “Ahead of the #G7 summit in Cornwall, call on the PM to help meet one billion doses.”Gomez linked to a Global Citizen petition calling on Johnson to “act now”.“As a result of the success of the UK’s vaccine programme we are now in a position to share some of our surplus doses with those who need them.” Johnson said in a statement made ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall. “In doing so we will take a massive step towards beating this pandemic for good.”US president Joe Biden has pledged that 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccines will go to 92 low and middle-income countries and the African Union.Earlier in the week, stars including Priyanka Chopra, Billie Eilish and David Beckham appealed to G7 leaders to donate 20 per cent of their vaccines to poorer nations.“The pandemic will not be over anywhere until it is over everywhere, and that means getting vaccines to every country, as quickly and equitably as possible,” they said in an open letter.“This weekend’s G7 Summit (11 to 13 June) is a vital opportunity for you to agree to the actions that will get vaccines where they are most needed, fast.”Gomez also signed the letter, along with fellow celebrities including Liam Payne, Olivia Colman, Orlando Bloom, Ewan McGregor and Lucy Liu. More

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    G7 summit: No 10 denies PM feels ‘ganged up on’ as EU leaders tell him to honour his side of Brexit deal

    Downing Street has denied that Boris Johnson feels “ganged up on” at the G7 summit in Cornwall, after a succession of EU leaders delivered a blunt message that he must deliver on his Brexit promises.French president Emmanuel Macron told the PM he must “keep his word” over arrangements for the Northern Irish border if he wants a reset of relations with France.And European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told him there was “complete EU unity” that he must implement the measures he agreed in the 2019 Northern Ireland Protocol, which include a ban on movements of sausages from the British mainland from the end of this month.Downing Street signalled that the PM was prepared to breach the agreement by extending a “grace period” for chilled meat exports if he fails to achieve a  compromise solution by the 30 June deadline, telling reporters that it was only “currently” Mr Johnson’s desire to remain within the bounds of the protocol.And foreign secretary Dominic Raab took a provocative stance, telling the EU not to be “bloody-minded”.An EU official said Ms von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel urged Mr Johnson to tone down UK rhetoric on the issue.Downing Street confirmed that the bitter stand-off was brought up not only by Mr Macron and Ms von der Leyen, but also by German chancellor Angela Merkel in a series of meetings at the Carbis Bay beach resort which were also attended by Brexit minister and key UK architect of the protocol Lord David Frost.Mr Macron left no doubt that refusal to honour the terms of the deal agreed by Mr Johnson as part of his EU withdrawal agreement will sour relations with Paris.Speaking in English, the French president told Mr Johnson that their two countries had common interests, but that ties could only improve if the PM delivered on his promises.“The president told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship,” said a source close to the French leader.“This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans.”Speaking after her meeting with the PM alongside Mr Michel, Ms von der Leyen said: “Both sides must implement what we agreed on. There is complete EU unity on this.”The deal had been agreed, signed and ratified by both Johnson’s government and the EU, she pointed out.And she added: “The Good Friday Agreement and peace on the island of Ireland are paramount.”The PM’s official spokesperson was unable to point to any indication that the EU leaders were willing to display the “pragmatism” demanded by Mr Johnson, but rejected suggestions of a deep cross-Channel rift.Asked if Mr Johnson felt “ganged up on”, he replied: “No, not at all. They were very constructive discussions on a range of issues and the EU leaders agreed on the need for further talks.”No threats were made this morning of legal action or the imposition of tariffs on UK exports in the case of a breach of the protocol, said the PM’s spokesperson.But an aide to Ms von der Leyen told The Independent ahead of the talks that such reminders were not thought necessary as the sanctions were clearly set out in the text of the agreement signed by Mr Johnson.The UK has said it will keep taking with the EU to find a “radical” way of resolving the issue by the June 30 deadline, but Downing Street made clear that it is ready to breach the protocol with a unilateral extension, telling reporters: “All options are on the table.”Mr Johnson’s spokesperson said today: “The prime minister’s desire currently is to work within the existing protocol to find radical and pragmatic solutions. That is our immediate focus. We keep all options on the table.“What we are seeking is a solution. Currently as implemented, the protocol is having a damaging impact on the people of Northern Ireland. We need to find urgent and innovative solutions.”The row arises from strict EU rules barring movements of chilled meat products into the 27-nation bloc on food quality and safety grounds.Mr Johnson’s decision to draw a customs border down the Irish Sea in order to prevent the creation of a hard border with the Republic means that Northern Ireland is covered by the ban.’Nothing is negotiable’ Macron holds firm on Brexit negotiationsThe UK is resisting EU proposals to resolve the problem by formally aligning food safety and hygiene regulations, fearing that this would prevent future trade deals with countries like the US.Downing Street accepts there has been no breach of the agreement by the EU, but insists Brussels is imposing the rules in an excessively “purist” way. London argues the EU should simply accept that UK standards are equivalent to those on the continent.Mr Raab today suggested that the implementation of the ban agreed by Mr Johnson in 2019 would put the integrity of the UK at risk.The foreign secretary said the protocol was designed to ensure “all communities in Northern Ireland” are protected, insisting the EU must respect “both sides of that pact”.“They can be more pragmatic about the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol in a way that is win-win or they can be bloody-minded and purist about it,” he told BBC Radio 4.“In which case I am afraid we will not allow the integrity of the UK to be threatened.” More

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    Dominic Raab hits out at ‘bloody-minded’ EU ahead of talks on Brexit stand-off on Northern Ireland

    Dominic Raab has told the EU not to be “bloody-minded” about implementing the Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, ramping up tensions ahead of crucial talks.In a defiant message, the foreign secretary said the bitter stand-off was putting the unity of the country at risk, vowing: “We will not allow the integrity of the UK to be threatened.”The criticism came as Boris Johnson faced an onslaught of pressure to end his refusal to impose agreed checks and restrictions on trade across the Irish Sea, in face-to-face talks with EU leaders.He is meeting Emmanuel Macron, the French President, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, at the G7 summit in Cornwall – where the controversy will be raised.On the summit eve, Mr Macron branded the UK’s attempt to reopen the Northern Ireland Protocol, a legal treaty signed in 2019, as “not serious”, saying: “Nothing is renegotiable.”The EU has warned it is ready to start a trade war if the UK defies unilaterally an agreed ban on chilled meats being exported from Great Britain across the Irish Sea, from July.But Mr Raab said the Protocol was designed to ensure “all communities in Northern Ireland” are protected, insisting the EU must respect “both sides of that pact”.“They can be more pragmatic about the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that is win-win or they can be bloody-minded and purist about it,” he told BBC Radio 4.“In which case I am afraid we will not allow the integrity of the UK to be threatened.”In the interview, Mr Raab faced the suggestion that the UK’s clout on the world stage is weakening, because “people don’t trust the word of the British government”.“They make a treaty on Brexit and N Ireland, now they want to break it. They say they’ll give international aid at a certain level, then they change their mind,” the foreign secretary was told.But he rejected the charge, insisting: “When I go outside of Brussels, probably not even outside of Europe, no one talks to us in those terms.”As he travelled “around the world”, the UK’s “respect for international law” was recognised, Mr Raab claimed, pointing to its strong stance on the Belarus’s s seizing of a dissident journalist.“The answer is for the Northern Ireland protocol in its entirety, in its letter and its spirit, to be properly implemented – that is all we asked for,” Mr Raab said.“The threat to the Northern Ireland Protocol, also the Good Friday Agreement, is coming from the one-sided approach that the EU has taken, and I think that’s a reasonable argument.”Downing Street has made clear it will shelve the agreed ban on chilled meat exports if necessary, saying: “All options are on the table.” More