Boris Johnson and Joe Biden are “entirely aligned” on the so-called sausage wars, a Cabinet minister has claimed, ahead of the US President’s arrival in the UK today.
The Prime Minister will meet his counterpart face-to-face for the first time tomorrow, where escalating tensions sparked by the post-Brexit trade issues with Northern Ireland are likely to dominate.
Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, told Sky News that US President would have the “good sense” to recognise how unfair it was to block produce made in one part of the country from being sold in another.
The pair would be “entirely aligned in their position”, he added, saying it would be “ridiculous for a US president to even consider that something grown in Alabama couldn’t be moved across the border”.
Ahead of a crunch joint committee meeting, which will be jointly chaired by Lord Frost and Maros Sefcovic, Mr Jenrick rejected the “rigid” approach taken by the EU, saying it was “not a good use of either side’s time” to stop “sausages made in Birmingham being exported to a Sainsbury’s in Belfast”.
He added: “There are more serious things than sausages at stake here – medicines, for example.”
Follow the latest updates below.
Boris Johnson ‘pretending’ not to have understood Brexit trade deal consequences
The former chief of staff to Theresa May has suggested Boris Johnson is “pretending” not to have understood the implication of the Northern Ireland protocol on goods when he signed it.
Lord Barwell said it is “difficult to conceive of any explanation” than this, saying the Prime Minister “perfectly understood the previous iteration” and that the “explanatory memorandum for the bill, which explained what the bill meant, was very clear”.
He added: “[Mr Johnson] and David Frost are intelligent people, I find it inconceivable they didn’t understand what they were signing up to.”
The Prime Minister had decided to “fight an election with an oven-ready Brexit deal, so I think the calculation was sign up to whatever is on offer and see if we can deal with anything we don’t like further down the line”, Lord Barwell added, noting the EU had “come to same conclusion”, which is why they are resisting any change now.
Being arrested would be ‘most interesting’, says Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber has doubled-down on his suggestion that he will reopen his theatres without social distancing later this month “come hell or high water”.
The West End composer told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The feeling is that the reaction of the Government if they do stop us going forward is neither rational, nor is it proportionate.”
He added: “The Government has in its hands a report that seems to say it is absolutely fine to go to live events… this is the Government’s moment to really show they do care about the musicians and actors, and all those who work in live events.
“If we are not allowed to open, and there is something really serious going on, have another circuit breaker or total lockdown, but don’t keep penalising the poor live music and theatre sector.”
Asked if he was willing to be arrested, he said: “It would be most interesting.”
Unelected spin doctors had too much influence in charity funding, say MPs
Unelected spin doctors had too much influence in assigning government funding for charities during the coronavirus pandemic, a report by Parliament’s public accounts committee (PAC) has found.
MPs on the committee, which scrutinises government spending on behalf of Parliament, raised concerns about the role of Whitehall special advisers in the allocation of £513 million of public money to keep charities afloat.
In a report released on Wednesday, they also questioned why some organisations received money at all, since officials were unsure if they were actually “eligible for government funding in the first place,” and suggested there was no clear rationale for paying external consultants £2 million to assess the bids on behalf of the Government.
The report said it was “unclear what influence special advisers had over some funding decisions, with some charities awarded government funding despite the department’s officials initially scoring their bids in the lowest-scoring category, including four out of the five lowest-scoring applications”.
‘Get a sense of proportion’, Andy Burnham tells Oxford students over Queen portrait row
The Mayor of Greater Manchester has said he “does not support” the idea of removing a portrait of the Queen from a common room at Oxford University after reports said a college committee voted to take it down due to concerns over its colonial links.
“These kind of gestures are getting a bit out of hand,” Andy Burnham told Nick Ferrari on LBC. “We should always respect the Queen but particularly now given things that have happened in the last few months. I don’t support that.
“Let’s get a sense of proportion and a bit of respect. People can air their views but those kind of gestures are divisive actually – they just divide people, and I don’t think they achieve much, to be honest.”
Oxford College indulging in ‘student union politics’ over Queen’s portrait row
Robert Jenrick has attacked an Oxford College for “student union politics” after a group of graduates removed a portrait of the Queen from the the middle common room (MCR) of Magdalen College.
The MCR committee claimed the picture – a colourised print based on a 1952 photo of the monarch -represented an unwelcoming symbol of “recent colonial history”.
The Communities Secretary said it was “student union politics”. He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I have got a portrait of the Queen at my office at Ministry of Housing and proud to have that hanging in my wall.”
Yesterday Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, said it was “simply absurd”.
No plan to return to local lockdown, minister insists
Robert Jenrick has said there is “no plan to return to the regional or tiered approach” from last year, despite hotspots surfacing in parts of the country.
“We have seen in Bolton that [new] approach has worked,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme. “That approach of going door to door with testing, doing surge testing, doing the vaccine buses, getting everybody out to be vaccinated, has worked there.
“If we can replicate that in other areas where you see similarly concerning rises in the number of cases, that is the best way forward.”
However, he did not explain what would happen if they can’t replicate it.
Greater Manchester under new ‘guidance, not law’, stresses minister
Robert Jenrick has insisted that those living in Greater Manchester are being “supported to bring down cases in the way we have done so successfully in Bolton”, through surge testing and mobile vaccine units.
It also involves extra “guidance – not law, but guidance to ask people to use a degree of personal responsibility in how they conduct themselves in the day ahead, until we have this situation under control”.
The Communities Secretary told Radio 4’s Today programme the country was “in a race against time between the vaccine and the virus”, but challenged over surge programmes for hotspots, he highlighted the JCVI’s advice to work through the vulnerable groups rather than prioritise jabs by geography.
He noted the “vast, vast majority” of people are now able to book a jab, thanks to having dropped to those aged 25 and up.
Minister strikes cautious note over June 21 reopening
Robert Jenrick has struck a note of caution about the prospect of the final stage of the roadmap on June 21, saying coronavirus cases are “clearly rising”.
The Communities Secretary told Sky News: “The Prime Minister is reviewing the data, and more data is coming in, which is very important…. it’s a finely balanced decision.
“We need to see that data of cases, which are clearly rising, but the link to hospitalisations and ultimately to death.”
He declined to offer his view of the current data, but added: “We do think it important w e don’t throw away the gains we have made, so we will take a cautious approach.
“If we can reopen on June 21, all of us would love that.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber must ‘abide by the rules’, says Cabinet minister
Andrew Lloyd Webber must “abide by the rules”, a Cabinet minister has said, after the composer told The Telegraph he would risk arrest in order to fully reopen his theatres.
Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, said he “sympathised” with the West End impressario, and that “people are desperate to go to them, tickets are selling fast for all those productions because people have been away too long”.
He attempted to pass off Lord Lloyd Webber’s comments as having been made “in the heat of the moment”, adding: “I am sure he feels this very strongly.”
When asked if Lord Lloyd-Webber should be arrested if he does open theatres without restrictions relaxing, Mr Jenrick said: “We all have to abide by the rules.”
We need to end this beef, Lord Frost tells Brussels
Lord Frost has told Brussels to stop threatening a sausage trade war with the UK and focus on solving the problems faced by families and small businesses in Northern Ireland, ahead of a showdown summit on Wednesday.
On the eve of the first UK-EU Partnership Council in London, the Brexit minister warned that “further threats of legal action” would do nothing to solve the “damaging impact” that the Northern Ireland Protocol was having on the ground.
“Trade retaliation from the EU won’t make life any easier for the shopper in Strabane who can’t buy their favourite product,” he continued. “Nor will it benefit the small business in Ballymena struggling to source produce from their supplier in Birmingham.”
His comments were echoed by Boris Johnson, who in a call with Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, stressed the UK needed to see “quick progress” to “minimise the impact” of the protocol “on the lives of people in Northern Ireland”.