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Politics latest news: Joe Biden and Boris Johnson to be ‘all smiles’ at G7

US President Joe Biden addresses US Air Force personnel at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall. - PA

US President Joe Biden addresses US Air Force personnel at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall. – PA

Joe Biden and Boris Johnson will be “all smiles” when they meet for the first time in Cornwall today, a former ambassador has said, despite the backdrop of rising tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Ahead of the G7 summit, it has emerged that Lord Frost was issued with a formal diplomatic reprimand by America’s most senior diplomat in Britain.

Greg Hands, trade minister, appeared to confirm that Yael Lempert handed the Brexit minister a demarche but insisted that “we agree with the US that there should be negotiation… and we agree on preserving the peace process”.

He told Sky News the EU was “following a very officious interpretation of these rules”, and failed to rule out the unilateral extension of grace periods, saying: “A very important part of that peace process is making sure people in Northern Ireland’s lives are not disrupted… What is the threat to health from sausages being moved from Birmingham to Belfast?”

Lord Darroch, former ambassador to the UK, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there were “issues around the Northern Ireland protocol” but said there was plenty the two men “shared”, particularly on climate change and geopolitics.

“Almost certainly you will see all smiles after the talks,” he added, noting the Atlantic Charter, which has echoes of the agreement struck between President Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill, was a “very positive signal of both the personal relationship between Biden and Johnson and how they see the UK”.

Meanwhile, in Westminster Matt Hancock faces a four-hour grilling in front of the same MPs who heard from Dominic Cummings last month. You can watch him live here.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

08:45 AM

You can’t point fingers in a pandemic: Matt Hancock hits out at Dominic Cummings

Rishi Sunak “played his part in resolving those blockages” to procure PPE and “Sir Simon Stevens has worked incredibly hard”, Matt Hancock has said.

The Health Secretary strikes a very different tone to Dominic Cummings, as he highlights the “team effort” approach.

“You can’t respond to a pandemic by pointing fingers,” he says. “You have to respond to a pandemic by bringing people together, trying to provide that leadership, by having a positive attitude to team work.

“That is the only way through it.”

08:41 AM

Matt Hancock flatly denies Dominic Cummings’s claims

Greg Clark, chair of the science committee, opens the four-hour sessions with the Health Secretary stressing that Dominic Cumming’s claims “are not the committee’s” and that the former aide has not provided evidence to back his claims up.

Asked about the most damning of his allegations, Matt Hancock tells Mr Clark that he never said anything to the Prime Minister that he knew not to be true.

On the question of treatment, he says “there was no point at which I was advised that people were not getting the treatment they needed”, and says that whole point had been to “protect the NHS so that people got the treatment they needed”.

Asked if he ever blamed Sir Simon Stevens or Rishi Sunak for PPE shortages, he says “that is not a fair recollection of the situation”, noting that while there had been “huge challenges” at the start of the pandemic.

08:29 AM

Watch live: Matt Hancock faces four-hour grilling over pandemic handling

Matt Hancock will be looking to set the record straight during the four-hour session before MPs today.

The Health Secretary is appearing before the same two committees who heard from Dominic Cummings last month – and will be looking to push back against some of the former aide’s damning allegations.

Watch the video below:

08:26 AM

EU expressing ‘more and more worries’ over Northern Ireland protocol, says Charles Michel

Member states in Europe are “expressing more and more worries” about the Northern Ireland protocol and so-called sausage war, Charles Michel has said.

The European Council boss said it was of “fundamental” importance to the EU, adding: “It’s paramount to implement what we have decided this is a question of rule of law, which is an important value that we share in common.

“The Good Friday Agreement is of course a priority,” he said ahead of the G7 summit. “We want to make sure that this Good Friday Agreement will be fully implemented, and it is very important for European Union to implement what you’ve decided to be a loyal partner,

“But at the same time, we will use all the tools we have in order to make sure that we defend our interests that we protect the integrity of the single market and that we guarantee the level playing field,”

08:13 AM

Protocol ‘one and only’ way to avoid hard border on Ireland, says von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen will tell Boris Johnson that the Northern Ireland protocol is the “one and only solution” to preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland at this week’s G7 summit.

Ahead of the gathering the European Commission president said she still saw “fundamental gaps” in the UK’s implementation of the protocol, and warned against any unilateral action on extending grace periods, which minsters are understood to be considering.

“We will discuss that in a trilateral meeting in Cornwall together,” she said. “We are determined to do everything to keep peace and stability on the island of Ireland. It is important that there is deep respect for the protocol.”

She noted that both sides had signed up to a dispute settlement mechanism, with potential for remedial measures that can be taken, but did not specify what action the EU would take if Britain failed to respect the protocol

08:09 AM

Vaccine patent waiver ‘no silver bullet’, says Charles Michel

Charles Michel, European Council president - Shutterstock

Charles Michel, European Council president – Shutterstock

A proposed waiver of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments is “no silver bullet”, European Council president Charles Michel has said, ahead of the G7 summit.

“The question of intellectual property rights will likely be raised,” Mr Michel told a news conference.

“The patent waiver might sound good, but it’s no silver bullet. The TRIPS agreement already offers flexibility and we want to focus on concrete proposals, such as promoting voluntary licences and knowledge transfers and patent-pooling on mutually agreed terms,” he added.

The Eurocrat also pledged to support the US by standing up to aggressive actions by China and Russia.

“We will defend ourselves against practices that pose security risks,” Mr Michel said. “We will continue to stand up to defend human rights and the rule of law in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and elsewhere,

07:57 AM

‘Absolutely outrageous’: DUP leader hits out over Joe Biden’s EU backing

It would be “absolutely outrageous” for Joe Biden to side with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol, Edwin Poots has said.

The DUP leader told Radio 4’s Today programme: “America may be ignoring problems, may be prepared to drive a coach and horses through the Good Friday Agreement

“How are they upholding it by creating a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain? East-West relationship is a key strand of the Good Friday Agreement,” he added.

“This is effectively a constitutional change… would President Biden allow Alaska… to take laws from Canada?

“I don’t think so, and I don’t think he should ask to impose those things on the United Kingdom that he wouldn’t accept for the United States of America.”

07:52 AM

EU ‘damaging peace process’ with food checks, claims DUP leader

The European Union is “hurting the people of Northern Ireland” and “damaging the peace process” with its insistence on food checks, Edwin Poots has said.

The checks, which are set out in the protocol, are “not applicable and not appropriate” because Northern Ireland is not in the EU, he stressed.

“Over 50 per cent of our trade is with Great Britain… the impact that is being had on Northern Ireland is absolutely devastating. European Union is hurting the people of NI, they are damaging the people with the lowest incomes.

They really need to reconsider their position, and stop hurting people in Northern. They are damaging the peace process, they have taken little account of the East-West relationship, which is a particular strand of the Good Friday Agreement, which needs to be honoured and respected just as the North-South element is.”

07:47 AM

DUP leader attacks ‘obscene’ checks on food from Britain to Northern Ireland

DUP leader Edwin Poots - PA

DUP leader Edwin Poots – PA

Edwin Poots has called on the EU to show “actions not words” over the Northern Ireland protocol, saying it is “the lowest paid who are being threatened as a result of this – the people with the least disposable income anywhere in the UK – by Ursula von der Leyen”.

The DUP leader said “her actions do not match her words”, as he called on the EU to help protect the people in Northern Ireland from the expense caused by the “15,000 checks” that will begin once the grace period ends this month.

He said it was “obscene” and “unreal” of the EU to impose checks on food travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland.

07:37 AM

Oxford boycott ‘ridiculous’, says universities minister

A boycott at Oxford University over the statue of Cecil Rhodes is “a ridiculous threat”, the universities minister has said.

More than 150 Oxford dons refusing to teach at Oriel College, in protest at its decision to keep the Cecil Rhodes statue, The Telegraph has revealed this morning.

But Michelle Donelan said she stood by the college’s decision “to keep the statue and explain the context”, and attacked the boycott instead.

07:29 AM

What’s on the menu at the G7?

Leaders will feast on Cornwall’s finest food and soak up some of the county’s culture during the G7 summit.

At a lavish dinner at the Eden Project on Friday night they will be served fish caught off the Cornish coast and cooked by Emily Scott, chef at the Watergate Bay hotel near Newquay.

Here’s the menu:

– Starter: spiced melon, gazpacho, coconut, high note herbs.

– Main: Turbot roasted on the bone with Cornish new potatoes and wild garlic pesto with greens from the local Padstow kitchen gardens.

– Cornish cheese course: Gouda, Cornish yarg, helford blue.

– Dessert: English strawberry pavlova.

– Petit fours: clotted cream fudge, mini clotted cream ice cream cone with chocolate earl grey truffles.

Saturday night’s dinner will be a less formal affair, with the leaders tucking into a barbecue on the beach in Carbis Bay.

Drinks include Cornish sparkling wine, German Riesling, Australian Shiraz, Cornish beer and a hedgerow fizz cocktail.

07:23 AM

G7 will be opportunity to ‘put Covid behind us’, says Boris Johnson

The G7 must be an opportunity to “put [Covid] behind us”, Boris Johnson has said ahead of the two-day summit in Cornwall.

“This is the first visit by President Biden to the European continent after five months in office. It is the first time that the leaders of the world’s richest and most powerful democracies have had the chance to meet in person since the pandemic began 18 months ago — and it could not come at a better time,” the Prime Minister said.

“The world needs this meeting. We must be honest: international order and solidarity were badly shaken by Covid. Nations were reduced to beggar my neighbour tactics in the desperate search for PPE, for drugs — and, finally, for vaccines.”

“We will begin the framing of a new global treaty on pandemic preparedness so the world is never caught out in the same way again.”

07:15 AM

Care home crisis should not be ‘laid at door of Matt Hancock’, says minister

Matt Hancock removes his face mask as he arrives on Downing Street  - Getty

Matt Hancock removes his face mask as he arrives on Downing Street – Getty

Matt Hancock is facing a four-hour grilling by the same group of MPs who heard from Dominic Cummings, as the Health Secretary looks to clear his name.

Mr Cummings made a series of damning allegations about the Government’s handling of the pandemic during his seven-hour session, but focused much of his ire at Mr Hancock, who he accused of having lied repeatedly, including about the ‘protective ring’ around care homes.

So far, the former chief aide to the Prime Minister is yet to have provided any evidence to back up his claims.

This morning, Greg Hands, the trade minister, told Sky News that while the “situation in care homes was an absolute tragedy,” the nature of the problems will be “examined as part of the public inquiry” next year.

“All these questions need to be answered, but I don’t think it should be laid at the door of Matt Hancock,” he added. “A lot of difficult decisions had to be made last March/April.”

07:10 AM

UK and EU set for ‘unfortunate’ trade war, says former top Brexit official

The UK is on course to enter a trade war with the EU at the end of this month, the former Brexit permanent secretary has said.

Asked whether he thought the current tensions could erupt into a full-blown trade war, Sir Philip Rycroft, who was the most senior official at DexEU under Theresa May, told LBC: “I fear that looks the case.

“The end of the month is another crunch point as we come to the end of another grace period for chilled meats, so both sides are going to have to work pretty hard to avoid that,” he added. “It would be an unfortunate evolution in our relationship.”

Sir Phillip said suggestions that the UK would “step aside” from its obligations to Northern Ireland was not “helpful”.

07:05 AM

UK submits ‘very serious proposals’ to end sausage wars with EU

The UK has “submitted some very serious proposals” to break the deadlock over the sausage wars, a trade minister has sad.

Greg Hands told Sky News that for talks to make any progress there needed to be “a more pragmatic approach from the European Union in terms of how it interprets the Protocol”.

He added: “We have submitted some very serious proposals to Brussels about how to improve the situation. Talks are ongoing. They didn’t get a breakthrough yesterday but nor have they broken down.

“We need to find something that works well for everybody. The EU is following a very officious interpretation of a lot of these rules. We are looking for a more pragmatic approach.”

But he repeatedly failed to rule out unilaterally extending the grace period for chilled meats, which ends this month, which is likely to trigger some retaliatory measures from the EU.

07:02 AM

Working group launched to restart UK-US travel

The UK and US are setting up a working group to look at how transatlantic travel can reopen following the pandemic, a trade minister has said.

Greg Hands said it was one of the agreements Boris Johnson and Joe Biden will be launching during the US president’s attendance at the G7 summit in Cornwall.

“We are launching a working group together. We will be looking at how we can reopen transatlantic travel between the US and the UK,” Mr Hands told Sky News.

“We are looking at that as a matter of priority. It is very important that we get that transatlantic relationship reset up in terms of travel between the two countries.”

06:53 AM

Biden fears Britain is ‘inflaming’ tension in Ireland and EU

Joe Biden ordered US officials to rebuke Boris Johnson for jeopardising the peace process in Northern Ireland due to its stand-off with the European Union, it emerged on Wednesday night.

In a significant diplomatic intervention which now threatens to overshadow the G7 summit in Cornwall, America’s most senior diplomat in Britain told the Brexit minister Lord Frost that the UK’s stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol was “inflaming” tensions in Ireland and Europe.

Yael Lempert is said to have issued Lord Frost with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – at a meeting on June 3 in London, during which she relayed to him the US President’s “great concern” over the UK’s approach to the protocol, which was established to prevent a hard Irish border.

A demarche is an official communication or protest to a foreign government that is more commonly lodged with adversaries than a close ally.

The details emerged after Mr Biden’s national security adviser warned ahead of his bilateral meeting with Mr Johnson on Thursday that resolving problems with the protocol was “critical” to protecting the Good Friday Agreement and not imperilling the peace process in the province.

Source

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