Politics latest news: UK to make Brexit protocol ultimatum as M&S boss warns of 'gaps on shelves …

Politics latest news: UK to make Brexit protocol ultimatum as M&S boss warns of ‘gaps on shelves …

T he Government is expected to give Brussels an ultimatum on the Northern Ireland protocol today, as the chairman of Marks & Spencer warned it would lead to “gaps on the shelves” if left unresolved.  Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, will give a statement to Parliament this lunchtime in which he is expected to threaten to tear up post-Brexit trading arrangements if the EU doesn’t show more flexibility. Lord Frost will also publish a “command paper” setting out the UK’s stance.  It comes as Archie Norman warned the situation would become “incendiary”, particularly towards Christmas, saying “there will be gaps on the shelves… because it’s simply not worth the risk of trying to get it through.”  The retail boss has written to the Government about the pressures the “byzantine and pointless and pettifogging” enforcement of the protocol is causing, as he revealed M&S was already having to “delist” Christmas stock.  He told Radio 4’s Today programme:  “I can’t think of a more visible demonstration of how you are no longer a full part of the UK than you can’t get your favourite Christmas products, can’t buy M&S chicken, free range eggs.” He warned that Northern Ireland was on course to face the same level of restrictions as the Republic of Ireland, adding: “You would not think butter would be threatening to the EU – it’s the same butter that has been going there.” T he Government will roll out a “public communications campaign” to better inform the public about existing offences against women and girls, but will consider making some behaviour criminal, a minister has said.  Victoria Atkins, the Home Office minister, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “We looking very very carefully at this. What came out through the public consultation is that people aren’t necessarily aware of offences that already exist, and that they can report people to police for their behaviour. “And similarly, the police don’t always understand [what can be prosecuted], so we are appointing a new national policing lead to really drive forward.” Asked if the policy was more about improving awareness of existing offences or broadening the list of offences, she said: “Both.” A Home Office minister has said the “very significant agreement” struck by Priti Patel last night will lead to a reduction in people attempting to make the illegal crossing across the Channel.  Victoria Atkins told Radio 4′ Today programme “we do believe this will help to stem the flow of people seeking to make that very dangerous crossing”, saying that the previous deal had cut the numbers doing so already. But challenged over the fact that the number of migrants has increase, she said: “We are working both internationally and nationally to address this, it is incredibly complicated… what we are tying to do is work with other countries to ensure that when people arrive in safe country they remain there.”  She insisted the Nationality and Borders Bill would help people to travel to the UK safely and legally.  S treet harassment such as wolf-whistling could become a specific crime as plans to better protect women and girls widespread safety concerns are unveiled, Priti Patel has indicated. The Home Secretary said the Government would be “taking action” on street harassment, adding: “We will continue to look at gaps in existing law and how an offence for sexual harassment could address those.” Writing in the Times, she added: “I am committed to ensuring not only that the laws are there, but that they work in practice and women and girls are confident their concerns will be taken seriously. “It is important that the police enforce the law and give women the confidence that if they report an incident, it will be dealt with.” More than 180,000 contributors have helped shape the strategy, designed to tackle violence against women and girls, which is due to be published later today.  P ost-Brexit issues surrounding Northern Ireland are a “constant concern” for the White House, Joe Biden’s climate envoy has said. John Kerry told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s a constant concern. My principal concern is now climate and it’s not my portfolio but, suffice to say, President Biden is deeply immersed in the issue. He’s been dealing with it for years on the foreign relations committee. “Secretary of State Tony Blinken is as knowledgeable and has worked with the president on this for years and they’re both deeply committed in making certain that the agreement holds and there is peace ultimately.” I t’s gearing up to be a busy day, with plenty of work to get through before the start of recess. Here’s what to expect today:  10:30am: Priti Patel to give evidence on illegal Channel crossings and the Government’s Covid border strategy as she goes before Yvette Cooper’s home affairs committee. 12pm: Boris Johnson faces his last weekly clash with Sir Keir Starmer before the summer break at PMQs. 12:40pm: Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis to set out the Government’s thinking on the Northern Ireland protocol. That will slightly cross over with Lord Frost’s statement to peers, due at 1pm.  1:45pm: Social care minister Helen Whately to give a Commons statement on the NHS, expected to reveal that staff will be offered a higher-than-expected three per cent pay rise.  2:30pm: The Treasury Select Committee will hear evidence from Office for Budget Responsibility on 2021 Fiscal Risks Report  7pm: Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins sets out the strategy for tackling violence against women and girls A minister has defended the Government’s “firm but fair” approach to immigration, after the Home Secretary agreed a £53 million deal with France last night in a bid to tackle illegal Channel crossings.  The money, on top of £25 million last year, will pay for a doubling in the number of police to around 200 a day who will patrol the French beaches in a bid to prevent the gangs of traffickers shipping the migrants across the Channel for an average £2,500 per person. It comes as Monday marked a new record high in the number of people making the journey.  Victoria Atkins, the Home Office minister, said it was “a really significant agreement”, coming alongside the Nationality and Borders Bill.  She told Sky News: “We are acting both at home but importantly internationally to address this… We are trying to ensure we have immigration system that is firm but fair, cracking down on criminal gangs that are exploiting peoples wishes.” T he supply chains for meat products are “starting to fail” because of rising staff absences caused by the pingdemic, the British Meat Processors Association has warned.  Chief executive Nick Allen said the industry cannot rely on exemptions announced by Boris Johnson because it has been made clear that “very, very few people” will benefit from the plan. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s an air of despondency creeping through the industry really. Until now we’ve managed to keep the food supply chain running but there’s a sense of we’re starting to fail on that front. “Morale isn’t helped by the confusion that comes from these confusing messages from Government.” Asked if production lines are stalling, he said: “They are. It’s happening already. We’re starting to see that at retail level and in restaurants – everyone is struggling to get things out really.”  G overnment borrowing stood at £22.8 billion in June, dropping from £28.2 billion a year earlier, according to official figures. Last month’s figure was the second highest June borrowing since records began in 1993, the Office for National Statistics said.  The data shows borrowing so far this financial year has reached £69.5 billion since the end of March – £49.8 billion less than the same period a year ago. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, said it was “right that we ensure debt remains under control in the medium term, and that’s why I made some tough choices at the last Budget to put the public finances on a sustainable path.” N HS staff in England could be offered a three per cent pay rise today, despite the Government saying only one per cent was affordable. The offer, which is expected to attract criticism for being too low, comes after the independent NHS Pay Review Body looked at evidence submitted by ministers as well as unions such as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). The Government sparked anger in March by saying it could only afford a one per cent increase despite the extraordinary efforts of NHS staff to deal with the pandemic. Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the plan and former health secretary, Matt Hancock said the decision to recommend such a small increase was due to an assessment of “what’s affordable as a nation” following the Covid crisis. Health minister Helen Whately will make statement in the Commons on the NHS on Wednesday afternoon. T he Government is readying a list of professions that will be exempt from isolation if they are pinged after being double-vaccinated, a minister has said.  Yesterday Downing Street said that individual firms would have to apply for exemptions, which would be granted on a case-by-case basis.  However this morning Victoria Atkins, the Home Office minister, told Sky News the list was “being worked on at the moment”.  She suggested it wouldn’t be as extensive as the key worker list, because “suddenly the numbers expand”, adding it was “a complicated exercise”. I reland’s European affairs minister has insisted a post-Brexit solution on Northern Ireland must be found within the confines of the existing agreement on the region. Asked about a reported UK proposal for an “honesty box” approach to checks, Thomas Byrnetold BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re going to listen carefully to what the British Government have to say. “We’re willing to discuss any creative solutions within the confines of the protocol but we have to recognise as well that Britain decided itself to leave the single market of the European Union, to apply trade rules, to apply red tape to its goods that are leaving Britain, to goods that are coming into Britain.” D ominic Cummings has claimed that he held talks about trying to force Boris Johnson out of 10 Downing Street just weeks after the Conservatives’ last general election landslide. The Prime Minister’s former chief adviser claimed he held discussions about trying to replace Mr Johnson over his apparent unsuitability to run the country during a BBC interview.  Mr Cummings said advisers around the PM had raised the prospect of a coup against Mr Johnson because the Prime Minister’s now-wife Carrie Johnson was trying to force them out. He said: “Before even mid-January [2020] we were having meetings in Number 10 saying it’s clear that Carrie wants rid of all of us… At that point we were already saying by the summer either we’ll all have gone from here or we’ll be in the process of trying to get rid of him and get someone else in as Prime Minister.” T oday is the last PMQs before summer recess, and Sir Keir Starmer has ample ammunition to use.  Pressure is building on the Government over its management of the pandemic – and pingdemic – with both sides of the House united against a mandatory Covid passport, while concerns about staff absences mean calls for clarity on the exemption list are likely.  The front page of tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph: ‘PM urged to expand Covid app exemptions’#TomorrowsPapersToday Sign up for the Front Page newsletterhttps://t.co/x8AV4Oomry pic.twitter.com/s2ZrLkKxPz We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future.
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