Economy will be opened up ‘gradually’ after schools reopen, says vaccines minister
Unionist leaders in Northern Ireland have called on the UK government to scrap part of the Brexit deal to “protect the integrity” of the UK.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the country’s first minister Arlene Foster said the Northern Ireland Protocol “needs to be replaced” and urged Boris Johnson to take actions to that effect.
Ian Paisley Jr, another DUP politician, told the BBC on Wednesday evening that the 34 days since the end of the Brexit transition period have been an “unmitigated disaster” for Northern Ireland.
Their words follow trade disruptions between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, leading to shortages of some items in supermarkets.
Tensions worsened last week when the EU threatened to introduce vaccine checks on the island of Ireland to prevent doses made in the bloc reaching the UK via Northern Ireland.
EU and UK officials met on Wednesday to discuss concerns over Northern Ireland, with cabinet office minister Michael Gove and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic concluding they would “work intensively to find solutions to outstanding issues”.
Mr Johnson has left his position open, insisting he will ensure “there is no barrier down the Irish Sea”.
From tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol to Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer’s allegedly heated exchange after PMQs yesterday, here is our daily round-up of the big political stories.
Rory Sullivan4 February 2021 09:56
UK could see ‘significant return to normality’ by summer, says government scientist
The UK could see a “significant return to normality” by the summer, a government scientific adviser has said.
Andrew Hayward, the head of UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology, anticipated a gradual lifting of restricting once the most vulnerable people in society have been vaccinated.
However, he urged caution, saying: “We’re still in a very serious situation with amongst the highest coronavirus rates in the world and the number of deaths are still very high.”
Ashley Cowburn has the details:
Rory Sullivan4 February 2021 09:39
Northern Ireland Protocol will not be scrapped, says Irish government
The Irish government has said the Northern Ireland Protocol should not be replaced, amid calls from Stormont to scrap the post-Brexit measure designed to keep the Irish land border open.
This comes amid concerns about trade disruption between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which unionists say is threatening the “integrity” of the UK.
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said: “We need to be truthful with everybody – the protocol is not going to be scrapped.”
He added that the problems were the result of the UK’s negotiating stance with the EU over Brexit. “The EU wanted to share a single market and customs union and that was turned down,” he said.
Instead of scrapping it, Mr Coveney told BBC’s Radio Ulster that all sides should take a pragmatic approach to problem solving.
“We want the protocol to function in a way that works for everyone, north and south, on the island of Ireland,” the foreign minister said.
Rory Sullivan4 February 2021 09:19
Climate crisis expert urges PM to stop coal mine opening
James Hansen, the former leading climate scientist at Nasa, has written to Boris Johnson urging him to reverse his decision to press ahead with a coal mine in Cumbria.
In a letter seen by the Guardian, Mr Hansen said the plan is “in contemptuous disregard of the future of young people and nature”.
He goes on to encourage the prime minister to “earn a special place in history” by acting to protect the environment and future generations.
His comments come nine months before the UK hosts COP 26, the UN’s climate change conference.
Rory Sullivan4 February 2021 08:53
UK consulting with allies on response to coup in Myanmar
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has said the UK is in talks with its international partners on the “next steps” of its response to the military coup in Myanmar.
Earlier this week, charges were brought against the deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected officials in the south-east Asian country.
“We condemn the detention and charges against Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected officials. They must be released immediately and have charges removed,” Mr Raab tweeted on Thursday morning.
“There must be no backsliding from democracy. The UK is consulting with international partners on next steps,” he added.
Rory Sullivan4 February 2021 08:37
Government must learn lessons on technology from Huawei debacle, say MPs
The government must form a new strategy on implementing nascent technologies after the Huawei debacle, MPs have said.
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said ministers should look in advance into the risks associated with emerging forms of technology.
This comes after the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei was excluded from the UK’s 5G rollout late in the process, leaving the country reliant on just two equipment vendors and leading to a likely delay in the process.
Greg Clark MP, the committee’s chair, said: “A lack of strategic foresight in 5G has seen the UK become dependent on only two vendors for a crucial technology.
“We must learn from this experience to avoid making our economy and security vulnerable from a lack of acceptable alternatives in emerging technologies.”
Rory Sullivan4 February 2021 08:23
PM threatens to call time on Northern Ireland Brexit deal
Boris Johnson has threatened to override some of the Northern Ireland Protocol to ensure free flowing trade between Great Britain and the province, after unionists called for it to be scrapped.
It comes as cabinet office minister Michael Gove urged the EU to extend new bureaucracy on importers and exporters until 2023.
Our policy correspondent Jon Stone reports:
Rory Sullivan4 February 2021 08:12
Morning, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling politics coverage.
Rory Sullivan4 February 2021 08:08