Politics: Priti Patel says UK Government ‘won’t be deterred’ by Rwanda flights legal challenges


Good morning

Good morning and welcome to the Evening Standard’s live politics blog, where we’ll be bringing you the latest from Westminster.

We’ll be bringing you live updates from Prime Minister’s Questions, set to kickoff at midday as usual.

Today’s PMQs comes on another busy week for the PM as he seeks to push ahead with his controversial Rwanda deportation policy and changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.


EU to launch legal action over NI Protocol

The EU has announced fresh legal action against the UK as part of a series of measures in response to the Government’s move to unilaterally scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The two new infringement proceedings announced on Wednesday relate to alleged UK failures around Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks on agri-food produce entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The EU is issuing formal notices of action in respect of the two new infringement proceedings, alleging that the SPS checks are not being carried out properly, with insufficient staff and infrastructure in place at the border control posts at the ports in Northern Ireland.

Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said the Bill is “extremely damaging to mutual trust and respect between the EU and the UK”.

“It has created deep uncertainty and casts a shadow over our overall co-operation, all at a time when respect for international agreements has never been more important,” he said.

“That is why the Commission has today decided to take legal action against the UK for not complying with significant parts of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.”


PM ‘knew what he was signing up for’, says Sefcovic

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said Boris Johnson’s Government knew what it was signing up to when it agreed the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He told reporters in Brussels: “I’m sure the UK Government knew perfectly well what they signed up to when they agreed to the protocol – although I have to admit they didn’t do a very good job explaining it to the public.

“Most importantly, it is legally inconceivable that the UK Government decides what kinds of goods can enter the EU single market.”


Sefcovic: Dispute could end in trade war

Mr Sefcovic warned that the dispute could ultimately lead to a trade war.

He acknowledged that this could result in tariffs or even the suspension of the entire Brexit deal between the UK and European Union.

Asked about potential further action against the UK, he told reporters in Brussels: “If this draft Bill becomes the law then I cannot exclude anything.

“But we are not there yet and we want to solve this issue as the two partners should, through negotiations, looking for the common ground and delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.”

The European Commission vice-president warned the UK against simply ignoring any European Court of Justice rulings on breaches of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“Not respecting the European Court of Justice rulings would be just piling one breach of international law upon another,” he said.


EU has ‘no intention’ to interfere with NI Government, says Sefcovic

Mr Sefcovic said the European Union had “no intention” to interfere with the formation of a Government in Northern Ireland after the DUP refused to enter a power-sharing arrangement as a result of the Protocol.

He told a press conference in Brussels: “We respect first and foremost the the Good Friday/Belfast agreement in all its dimensions.

”We do not seek a political victory, what we want is to find a workable, long-term solution … giving the legal certainty to the operators in Northern Ireland how the protocol would be implemented…

“What we need is the political will from London to engage with us, to work on smoothing operations and implementation of the protocol and to do it in a way that brings lasting benefits for the people of Northern Ireland”.


Furious Tory MPs call from exit from ECHR

Furious Tory MPs have called on the Government to withdraw the UK from the European Court of Human Rights after it blocked a deportation flight to Rwanda at the eleventh hour on Tuesday.

According to The Times, a number of Tory MPs vented their fury in a WhatsApp group last night.

James Sunderland, the MP for Bracknell, said: “Did we expect any less? Outrageous that the UK is still beholden to the ECHR as a sovereign nation.”

Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, wrote on Facebook: “It is clear that the ECHR prevented the flight from departing, after efforts in UK courts were exhausted.

“The ECHR has no place in the UK judicial system. The government needs to free itself from it entirely!”

Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey denied that there was any plan to leave the Court, saying: “I don’t think that’s even a question that I’m aware is on the table at all.”


Half of rail lines to close during strikes

Half of Britain’s rail lines will be closed during next week’s strikes, Network Rail said.

Network Rail said no passenger services will serve locations such as Penzance in Cornwall, Bournemouth in Dorset, Swansea in South Wales, Holyhead in North Wales, Chester in Cheshire and Blackpool, Lancashire.

There will also be no passenger trains running north from Glasgow or Edinburgh.


Starmer asks PM why UK is set for low economic growth

PMQs has begun.

Sir Keir Starmer begins by paying tribute to soldiers who served in the Falklands War, including his uncle who served in the conflict.

He asks why Britain is set for lower growth than every other major economy except Russia.

The PM responds by saying the UK is actually set to see growth according to alternative projections.

“We have the nighest number of people on the payroll than any other period,” he adds.


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