European Commission VP: EU will do utmost to protect peace in Northern Ireland
The DUP and other unionist parties in Northern Ireland have teamed up to launch a legal challenge against the protocol, part of the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU aimed at avoiding a hard border in Ireland.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said judicial review proceedings were now necessary, arguing the protocol has driven “a coach and horses” through both Good Friday Agreement and Act of the Union.
It comes as it emerged that sausages and mince from Great Britain will now require EU health certificates to be exported to Northern Ireland, as red tape continues to mount after Brexit.
Raab offers to visit Beijing to calm tensions
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has offered to visit Beijing in an effort to calm tensions between UK and China after relations soured over the security law in Hong Kong.
“I’ve offered to go to Beijing,” Raab said during a call organised by the Conservative Friends of the Chinese to mark the Lunar New Year.
“For me it’s not more difficult to talk when we have a challenge. That’s the time the foreign secretary must engage in dialogue. We will always have the door of diplomacy open and will always look for the positives.”
It’s a big day for Raab, who is giving a speech to the UN Human Rights Council around 11.30. The foreign secretary is expected to call on them to address abuses in China, Myanmar and Russia.
Adam Forrest22 February 2021 09:18
UK universities fighting to remain in EU scheme
UK universities are reportedly lobbying Boris Johnson’s government “hard” to remain part of a flagship EU scheme aimed at sharing important research.
The European Universities Initiative (EUI) has involved up to 11 British universities in various partnerships, according to Politico.
But Downing Street’s decision to quit the Erasmus+ scheme – which funds the EUI – means British institutions can no longer bid for funding to take part.
“We want to be involved, completely engaged, ideally as a full partner,” said Anthony Forster, the University of Essex’s vice chancellor. “But if that is not possible legally then as an associate partner, playing as full a part as possible.”
Adam Forrest22 February 2021 08:59
Frost appointment ‘hits hopes of deal on border checks’
Boris Johnson’s appointment of David Frost to lead future talks with the EU is dashing hopes of a deal with the EU to lift some of the harshest border checks, food industry insiders have said.
One industry source told The Independent that the decision to bring him back showed that “ideology” – rejecting any and all alignment with Brussels – had trumped the desire for improving the agreement in practical ways. “The problem is not technical, but political,” said another.
To the dismay of the food industry, the UK failed to strike an “equivalence” deal to avoid most form-filling and physical inspections on products of animal origin – so-called sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls.
It is hoped a veterinary agreement could still move the UK closer to the EU agreement with New Zealand – where only 1 per cent of goods are subject to SPS checks.
But Frost is seen as potentially too hawkish on alignment for a mini-agreement to be forged.
Adam Forrest22 February 2021 08:43
Politics Explained: Starmer has closed the gap – but Johnson is still preferred as PM
Many Labour supporters and some commentators say that Keir Starmer’s opinion poll ratings are disappointing. What they usually mean is that they dislike Boris Johnson and think that he has handled the coronavirus badly, and as a result believe that Labour ought to be miles ahead in the polls by now, writes John Rentoul.
In fact, the polls suggest that enough people think the government has handled the crisis well to keep the Conservatives afloat, and an overwhelming majority think the government has done well on vaccines.
What has happened in the past few weeks, then, is that the prime minister and the Conservative Party have received a modest boost in the polls thanks to the vaccines, and this has little to do with what people think of the Labour leader.
Jon Sharman22 February 2021 08:42
Culture secretary to meet with Facebook over Australia news ban
The culture secretary is reportedly due to meet with Facebook executives to discuss the company’s ban on news outlets in Australia.
Oliver Dowden has sought the meeting because he views Facebook’s deletion of news stories as a “worrying development”. Facebook imposed the ban in retaliation for a proposed new Australian law that would force it to pay for news it links to.
The social media firm’s blanket erasure of Australian news content also impacted community information pages and even overseas media firms.
It not only affects people in Australia accessing news by the country’s publishers and broadcasters via Facebook, but also their access to international news content.
Canberra’s new proposed law would create an arbitration panel to set a binding price for news in situations where Google, Facebook and media businesses do not reach deals of their own accord.
The Daily Telegraph and The Times reported that a meeting would be held this week.
Read on below for our latest on the situation:
Jon Sharman22 February 2021 08:23
Now sausages tied up in Brexit red tape
A new layer of bureaucracy is now in force, with sausages and mince now required to carry health certificates as they move from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The UK government-designed export health certificates (EHCs) to allow such products to enter Northern Ireland are only temporary.
Sausages, mince and pate-type products made in Great Britain are currently only permitted to move into Northern Ireland under a six-month grace period, which will expire at the end of June if a new deal cannot be struck between the UK and EU.
Bans on other GB agricultural and food products, like seed potatoes, potted plants and some seeds, have been in place since the start of the year.
Under the terms of the protocol, which, post-Brexit, regulates the movement of goods in and out of the region, all non-banned agri-food items entering from GB need EU health certificates declaring them risk-free.
Because sausages and other chilled meat products are not normally allowed to be imported into the EU under the bloc’s tight sanitary rules, there is not an EHC covering them.
Adam Forrest22 February 2021 08:04
DUP launches court challenge to Northern Ireland protocol
DUP leader Arlene Foster has launched legal action to challenge the Northern Ireland protocol amid unionist anger over post-Brexit trade disruption, writes Peter Stubley.
The judicial review proceedings will argue that the new checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland were imposed without the consent of the public.
Ms Foster is joined by DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, the party’s Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and chief whip Sammy Wilson, as well as former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib, Eurosceptic peer Kate Hoey and Jim Allister, the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party.
Jon Sharman22 February 2021 07:41