Brexit news – live: DUP accused of ‘silly games’ over legal action, as No 10 denies influence of Boris Johnson’s fiancee

Too much Brexit ‘red tape’, says Keir Starmer

Downing Street has denied that Boris Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds has a key role in running the country, after a Tory think tank called for an inquiry into the extent of her influence.

The Bow Group has called for a public review into whether Ms Symonds has power in shaping policy. “It’s incorrect,” said No 10 press secretary Allegra Stratton when asked if the PM’s fiancée had a key role.

Meanwhile, the DUP and other unionist parties in Northern Ireland have teamed up to launch a legal challenge against the protocol, part of the Brexit deal with the EU aimed at avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

However Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill urged the DUP to stop playing “silly games” and focus on solving the difficulties caused by Brexit.


That’s it for our live Brexit coverage today. You can follow the prime minister’s live briefing on the lockdown exit plan on our coronavirus liveblog.

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 18:13


Daffodils hit by Brexit and Covid

The world’s largest daffodil grower has lost hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of flowers because of the combined effects of Brexit and the pandemic.

Alex Newey, owner of Varfell Farms, said stock was being left to rot because the firm was unable to attract enough workers.

The company produces around 500 million stems a year and needs around 700 staff to work at the farm to keep up with demand.

Mr Newey told BBC Radio 4 The World This Weekend: “We can’t harvest them, we don’t have enough pickers to pick them. We’re losing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“We have significant recruitment drives for local workers to come and harvest crops.

“It’s idealistic to think that because of Covid and the higher than usual unemployment rates that those people would come in and do that work.

“I would say that a daffodil harvester is to be highly respected because the work is very hard.

“You’re out in the cold weather, it’s in Cornwall, it blows pretty hard down there. It’s wet and you’re bending over picking daffodils for three months.

“Frankly, the people that we’ve had to come and do this work, the locals, may last a day or two days, but they certainly don’t last two or three months.”

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 18:07


Sausages hit by Brexit red tape

Health certificates for sausages are one example of some of the Brexit red tape being encountered by firms exporting to Northern Ireland.

The temporary documents have been designed by the government to satisfy EU requirements on meat products entering the bloc during the six-month grace period.

However from 1 July exports of sausages, mince and pate-type products are set to be banned altogether under strict laws on animal and plant health – unless the EU and UK can reach an agreement.

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 17:47


Brexit causing ‘enormous difficulties’ to NI business

Businesses in Northern Ireland are experiencing “enormous difficulties” with their supply chains, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said as he called for the triggering of Article 16 of the Brexit protocol.

“This is the UK internal market, the difficulties are within that market,” he added during a debate at Westminster.

“It is the responsibility of the UK government to act and 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.

“In this, the centenary year of Northern Ireland, we expect the government and the prime minister to act to address and resolve these issues and to replace the protocol with arrangements that respect Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.”

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 17:30


Corbyn urges PM to sack Matt Hancock

Boris Johnson should sack Matt Hancock and replace him with “somebody who will obey the law”, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 17:18


Scrapping NI protocol ‘naive’

Scrapping the Northern Ireland protocol would be “naive and premature”, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chairman Simon Hoare said during a debate on the impact on trade to Northern Ireland.

The Tory MP said the 1998 Good Friday Agreement could only work when nationalists and unionists were broadly on the same page.

He added: “We cannot just dismiss these concerns, they need to be addressed, but calling for the triggering of Article 16 or abandonment of the protocol is, I would suggest, naive and premature and hopefully not needed.”

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, of the DUP, said there was enormous strength of feeling about the issue.

He said a constituent had a birthday gift opened and delayed in transit from the rest of the UK. “It is nonsense and it has to be dealt with,” he added.

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 17:03


Boris Johnson vows to keep financial support

Financial support for jobs and livelihoods will continue “for the duration of the pandemic”, Boris Johnson has announced, telling MPs the government “will not put the rug out” from under businesses and workers.

Setting out his roadmap for a gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions, Mr Johnson said non-essential shops will not open until 12 April at the earliest, with pubs, restaurants and hotels subject to restrictions for longer and no date for people to stop working from home.

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 16:56


Commons to debate NI protocol

The DUP’s “five-point-plan” of opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol will continue in a few minutes when the Commons debates her e-petition calling for the triggering of Article 16 and “immediately remove any impediment or barrier to unfettered trade within the United Kingdom.”

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 16:26


MPs Tea Room to be renamed in honour of Commons worker

A tearoom for MPs is expected to be renamed in honour of a parliamentary worker who died after testing positive for Covid-19.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle led tributes to Julia Clifford, commonly known on the parliamentary estate as Julie, who contracted the disease after “bravely fighting cancer”.

MPs heard Ms Clifford joined the Commons in October 1985 and was a “very hard-working and popular member” of the parliamentary family who “always had a smile and time for everybody”.

Sir Lindsay added: “She will be greatly missed and in her honour I have asked the House authorities to consider renaming the Members’ Tea Room to Julie’s Tea Room.”

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 16:23


Boris Johnson has renewed his Brexit-based attack on Keir Starmer, claiming that the Labour leader’s desire to remain in the European Medicines Agency would have slowed down the UK’s vaccine rollout.

He welcomes the Labour leader’s support for his exit plan, before adding that past experience suggests Sir Keir may change his mind by next week.

Meanwhile Theresa May calls for a firmer timetable for the return of air travel so that Britain is “open for business”.

The PM says the taskforce looking at the issue will report back on 12 April and says he is confident the aviation industry will be back in business later this year.

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 16:07


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