Politics

Boris Johnson claims planned Northern Ireland protocol law is ‘insurance’ in case talks fail – live


Johnson claims planned law allowing UK to ignore parts of NI protocol just ‘insurance’ in case talks fail

Andrew Sparrow

Andrew Sparrow

Boris Johnson has recorded a clip for broadcasters about his meeting with the political parties in Northern Ireland. Here are the key points.

  • Johnson said all five of the parties he spoke to today (Sinn Féin, the DUP, the Alliance party, the UUP and the SDLP) agreed the Northern Ireland protocol needed to be reformed.
  • He said that the proposed legislation that would give the UK the right to ignore parts of the protocol was just an “insurance” option. He explained:

None of the parties – I spoke to all five parties just now – not one of them likes the way [the protocol] operating, they all think it can be reformed and improved – from Sinn Féin to SDLP, DUP, all of them.

The question is how do you do that? We would love this to be done in a consensual way with our friends and partners, ironing out the problems, stopping some of these barriers east-west.

But to get that done, to have the insurance, we need to proceed with a legislative solution as well.

  • He insisted that he did appeal personally to the DUP to reform the power-sharing executive. He said: “I think everybody should be rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck into the government of Northern Ireland.”
  • He dismissed suggestions that the proposed legislation that would give the government the right to ignore parts of the protocol might start a trade war with the EU. When this was put to him, Johnson replied:

What we’re doing is sticking up for the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, and what we are doing it trying to protect and preserve the government of Northern Ireland.

That is all from me for today. My colleague Harry Taylor is taking over now.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson Photograph: BBC News

Evening summary

After today’s meeting in Belfast between Boris Johnson and politicians in Northern Ireland

Away from Northern Ireland, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey spoke to MPs amid rising living costs.

Unite criticise Bailey for comments on wage restraint

The head of the UK’s biggest trade unions, Unite, has said that the governor of the Bank of England should not “lecture” workers about holding off asking for a pay rise.

Earlier on Monday, Andrew Bailey had repeated his assertion that workers should “think and reflect” about asking for wage increases (see 4:54). His comments have already been criticised by the TUC.

Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Yet again workers are being asked to pay the price, this time for inflation and the energy crisis. Inflation has not been caused by workers. Why should they be expected to pay for the failures of the energy market and the total shambles of government policy?

“Workers don’t need lectures from the governor of the Bank of England on exercising pay restraint. Why is it that every time there is a crisis, rich men ask ordinary people to pay for it?

“Enough is enough, we will be demanding that employers who can pay, do pay. Let’s be clear, pay restraint is nothing more than a call for a national pay cut.”

The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has discussed the situation in Stormont with the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

Washington has expressed concern at the prospect of the UK getting rid of parts of the Northern Ireland protocol, and the UK government has been attempting to reassure US politicians and officials.

In a tweet, Truss said: “I reiterated the UK’s commitment to protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and the importance of getting the NI Executive up and running.”

Good to speak @SpeakerPelosi 🇺🇸🇬🇧. I reiterated the UK’s commitment to protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and the importance of getting the NI Executive up and running. pic.twitter.com/Q0xoy1Z8zM

— Liz Truss (@trussliz) May 16, 2022

The Ulster Unionist party’s leader, Doug Beattie, said that if parts of the problems with the protocol were fixed, then a speaker for the assembly needed to be nominated as soon as possible.

If the UK government takes steps tomorrow or this week to fix some of the issues that we see with the protocol, it is important that we then nominate a speaker and we get back to government and start doing the work.

And if we do not get back into government, then we need to identify who is blocking it and we need to bypass them.

Meanwhile the leader of the SDLP, Colum Eastwood, said:

If the British government tomorrow signal their intent to break international law by legislating to rip up the protocol at Westminster, he [Johnson] will not have the support of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland.

More reaction coming in from the Alliance party, who won the third-largest number of seats in the elections earlier this month.

Alliance’s deputy leader,Stephen Farry, said the meeting with Johnson was “robust and very frustrating”.

We were giving him a very clear warning that if he plays fast and loose with the protocol and the indeed Good Friday Agreement, then he is going to be adding more and more instability to Northern Ireland.

On the one hand, he is coming here with a certain set of stated outcomes, but all his actions belie what he is notionally trying to achieve.

Johnson claims planned law allowing UK to ignore parts of NI protocol just ‘insurance’ in case talks fail

Andrew Sparrow

Andrew Sparrow

Boris Johnson has recorded a clip for broadcasters about his meeting with the political parties in Northern Ireland. Here are the key points.

  • Johnson said all five of the parties he spoke to today (Sinn Féin, the DUP, the Alliance party, the UUP and the SDLP) agreed the Northern Ireland protocol needed to be reformed.
  • He said that the proposed legislation that would give the UK the right to ignore parts of the protocol was just an “insurance” option. He explained:

None of the parties – I spoke to all five parties just now – not one of them likes the way [the protocol] operating, they all think it can be reformed and improved – from Sinn Féin to SDLP, DUP, all of them.

The question is how do you do that? We would love this to be done in a consensual way with our friends and partners, ironing out the problems, stopping some of these barriers east-west.

But to get that done, to have the insurance, we need to proceed with a legislative solution as well.

  • He insisted that he did appeal personally to the DUP to reform the power-sharing executive. He said: “I think everybody should be rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck into the government of Northern Ireland.”
  • He dismissed suggestions that the proposed legislation that would give the government the right to ignore parts of the protocol might start a trade war with the EU. When this was put to him, Johnson replied:

What we’re doing is sticking up for the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, and what we are doing it trying to protect and preserve the government of Northern Ireland.

That is all from me for today. My colleague Harry Taylor is taking over now.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson Photograph: BBC News

TUC says it is ‘unbelievable’ that Bank of England governor has restated his call for wage restraint

The TUC has criticised Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, for restating his call for wage restraint. (See 4.54pm.) Paul Nowak, the TUC’s deputy general secretary, said:

It is unbelievable that the Bank of England has repeated its calls for workers to take a wage hit – while saying virtually nothing about soaring profits at the likes of BP and Shell.

The last thing working people need right now – in the middle of the worst living standards crisis in generations – is to have their wages held down.

Let’s be crystal clear. Global energy prices are driving up inflation – not pay claims.

Suppressing pay will suck demand out of our economy and cause widespread hardship.

Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, has written to the Speaker in the House of Lords (the Lord Speaker), saying that, as the minister in charge of the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, he will stop the Lords using it when they move out of parliament for the refurbishment of the building, it was reported yesterday. Gove wants the Lords to move out of London, which he says will be good for levelling up.

As PA Media reports, peers dismissed his proposal angrily during an urgent question on it this afternoon. PA says:

Raising an urgent question in parliament, Tory former cabinet minister Lord Forsyth of Drumlean pressed for the publication of Gove’s analysis on “how he thought this would enable parliament to function if one House was sent to Stoke or somewhere else”.

Pressing the minister, Lord Forsyth said: “Would he just remined the secretary of state … that the matter for the location of this House is a matter for this house and not for the executive.”

Lord True, the Cabient Office minister, said: “The secretary of state is always inventive. These are matters for parliament.”

He also pointed out he had been in York last week on a ministerial visit and “did not look at any alternative site”.

Questioning on whose authority Gove had contacted the Lord Speaker, Tory peer Lord Cormack said: “Was he speaking for the government and if so does he not realise this is not a matter for the government or was this just another freelance exercise by an intellectual flibbertigibbet?”

Amid laughter, Lord True said: “I couldn’t possibly comment on that.”

Irish PM urges UK to resume substantive talks with EU over Northern Ireland protocol

Micheál Martin, the taoiseach (Irish PM), has urged the UK to resume substantive negotiations with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol. Addressing the media in Dublin, he said:

The only way to flesh that out is really to re-engage and have substantive talks between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

The UK government has issues but I can’t see any other way to resolve those issues other than through negotiations and substantive talks.

He also said he had made this point in a conversation with Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, who agreed. Michel posted a message on Twitter just a few minutes ago saying the same thing.

Discussed with @MichealMartinTD , the only way forward on Protocol is engagement between EU and UK.

Any unilateral action by 🇬🇧 on Protocol – which would undermine its international legal obligations – clearly not welcome all the more so in these difficult geopolitical times.

— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) May 16, 2022

Martin also said he found it hard to see why the DUP were obstructing the resumption of the Northern Ireland assembly. He said:

It seems to me to be very, very difficult to comprehend that in any jurisdiction in the modern world, where we have had an election, particularly in the European context, the idea that a parliament is prevented from convening is hard to comprehend.

The people have spoken, the people have elected their representatives. At a minimum it seems, without any delay, the assembly should be established, of course followed by the formation of the executive.

Micheál Martin speaking to the media outside the Government Buildings in Dublin today.
Micheál Martin speaking to the media outside the Government Buildings in Dublin today. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Boris Johnson leaving Hillsborough Castle after his talks with party leaders. He now has a visit scheduled.
Boris Johnson leaving Hillsborough Castle after his talks with party leaders. He now has a visit scheduled. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Bank of England still thinks Brexit will cut GDP by 3.25% in long term, MPs told

At the Treasury committee Sir Dave Ramsden, the Bank of England’s deputy governor for markets and banking, said the main impact of Brexit would be on trade intensity. He said the Bank thought it would cut GDP by about 3.25% in the long term (over the next 15 or 20 years). That estimate had not changed, he said.

Because it was a long-term impact, it was hard to track, he said. He said the impact of shocks such as Covid and the Ukraine war were more visible because they were more immediate.

Dave Ramsden
Dave Ramsden Photograph: HoC





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