Today’s daily politics briefing
The prime minister’s spokesperson did not give a commitment on the issue, simply saying that the UK will not “compromise on our animal welfare or food standards” and that imported produce will need to “comply with our import requirements”.
This comes amid reports that Boris Johnson’s government is ready to offer Australia a zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal – despite opposition from cabinet ministers and British farmers’ fears of ruin from cheap meat imports.
The prime minister is believed to have given his international trade secretary Liz Truss the go-ahead for a free trade agreement, with the goal of inking a deal in time for next month’s G7 summit in Cornwall.
Labour claimed the government had failed to understand protocol arrangements contained in Mr Johnson’s deal. It follows an admission by Brexit minister David Frost that No 10 had failed to secure the agreement it wanted for Northern Ireland.
Good morning and welcome to the latest updates on the world of UK politics fromThe Independent.
Samuel Osborne21 May 2021 07:47
Prime minister welcomes Israel and Gaza ceasefire
Boris Johnson has said he welcomes news of a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza.
The prime minister tweeted: “Leaders in the region must now work to find a durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that prevents terrorism, ends the cycle of violence and delivers a sustainable and just peace.”
Samuel Osborne21 May 2021 07:56
UK ministers accused of ‘shocking lack of knowledge’ on Northern Ireland protocol
UK ministers have been accused of having a “shocking” lack of knowledge about the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland following Brexit.
Labour MP Karin Smyth said ministers had been “really quite ignorant” about protocol arrangements.
She told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee: “It was perhaps surprising that Lord Frost said last week that the government and ministers perhaps didn’t understand the protocol that they had indeed drafted.
“I agree with Lord Frost; the level of ignorance amongst many ministers speaking at the despatch box about the UK not understanding the very different situation of Northern Ireland has really been quite shocking.”
It follows an admission by Brexit minister David Frost that No 10 had failed to secure the agreement it wanted for Northern Ireland.
Adam Forrest21 May 2021 08:08
UK farmers won’t be ‘undercut’ with Australia deal, minister promises
The government will ensure British farmers are “not undercut” in any free trade agreement with Australia, cabinet minister Robert Buckland has claimed.
The justice secretary said any deal “will of course take into account the very high welfare standards we apply here the UK”.
He also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the government would “make sure that British farming and British farmers are not undercut, are not put at a disadvantage”.
British farmers don’t see it that way. Neil Shand, chief executive of the UK’s National Beef Association, told The Independent that cheap imports deal could cause “a slow, painful death” to the domestic sector.
Adam Forrest21 May 2021 08:25
Boris Johnson ‘wants Australia deal for G7 summit’
Boris Johnson has apparently ended the row among ministers over a zero-tariff trade deal with Australia, making clear he wants the agreement struck soon.
The PM is understood to have backed international trade secretary Liz Truss’s goal of inking a deal by the G7 summit in Cornwall.
“Johnson made clear he was with Liz on this,” a government official told The Times on Thursday’s cabinet showdown meeting. Truss is expected to speak to her Aussie counterpart Dan Tehan today about pushing it through in the next few weeks.
It seems environment secretary George Eustice’s concerns have been overruled. Michael Gove is also believed to be concerned it will boost support for Scottish independence, since farmers north of the border could be hardest hit.
Adam Forrest21 May 2021 08:35
Government will consider ‘reforms’ at the BBC, says culture secretary
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said the government would consider whether further reform of governance at the BBC was needed after the broadcaster was pilloried by an inquiry into Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Diana.
“We will now reflect on Lord Dyson’s thorough report and consider whether further governance reforms at the BBC are needed in the mid-term Charter review,” Dowden said on Twitter.
“I welcome the fact that the new leadership launched this independent inquiry and expect them to ensure that this can never happen again.”
Adam Forrest21 May 2021 08:50
Government to look at ‘wider issues of BBC governance’
Robert Buckland said ministers would be looking into whether there were BBC governance issues outside of the remit of Lord Dyson’s report that needed reviewing.
The justice secretary told GMB: “There may be issues that Lord Dyson wasn’t asked to cover that need to be looked at more widely, so it is a very serious moment for the BBC.
“They have apologised, which is appropriate, but clearly the wider issues of governance and the way things are run now need to be looked at.”
Asked whether BBC journalist Martin Bashir had committed “fraud” with the fake bank statements, Buckland told LBC radio: “I think looking at the findings of Lord Dyson, there are clearly some very serious issues arise.
“I’m not going to comment on whether criminal offences have been committed here – I think that is a matter for the police and the investigating authorities. You wouldn’t expect me to opine about that.”
In a statement this morning, Scotland Yard has said it will “assess the contents” of the report into Martin Bashir’s interview with Diana “to ensure there is no significant new evidence”.
Adam Forrest21 May 2021 09:04
Buckland stomps off ITV interview
Robert Buckland doesn’t appear to be a very good mood this morning, as he carries out the media round on behalf of the government.
The justice secretary ended his GMB interview rather abruptly after he was grilled about the confusion over amber-list countries. The minister said he hadn’t been able to “get a word in edgeways”.
Buckland stressed that “amber is a no” in terms of going on holiday – but said it allowed “necessary journeys”. He said he thought “a lot of” the public could be trusted to self-isolate after visiting a country on the amber list.
Adam Forrest21 May 2021 09:14
UK is a bit like Runrig, Gove tells SNP
In case you missed it, Michael Gove told MPs the government will “not be legislating to prevent all future referenda”.
The Cabinet Office minister suggested the Tory government would not legislate to block a second Scottish independence vote from taking place (though No 10 is confident the Scotland Act 1998 prevent a referendum without consent).
He was pressed on the issue by the SNP’s Pete Wishart, who insisted the recent Scottish elections had resulted in an “emphatic” victory for parties who supported independence.
Gove told the SNP MP and former musician the UK was like his former band Runrig – saying more could be achieved by working together than in solo careers. The flatterer said Runrig “worked brilliantly” together.
Adam Forrest21 May 2021 09:46
British youth turning Republican?
A new poll has found that young people in the UK are no longer enthralled with the monarchy and would rather do away with the institution.
The YouGov survey shows 41 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 preferred an elected head of the state, compared to 31 who wanted a king or a queen.
Adam Forrest21 May 2021 09:48