Australia-UK trade deal is 'not a threat', Boris Johnson says amid Cabinet row

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·33 min read
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Edwin Poots expressed his "strong opposition" to the proposed zero tariff, zero quota deal - PAUL FAITH/AFP
Edwin Poots expressed his "strong opposition" to the proposed zero tariff, zero quota deal - PAUL FAITH/AFP

Boris Johnson has said that zero tariff, zero quota trade deals should not be seen as "threats" amid an ongoing Cabinet row over a potential deal with Australia.

Asked about the prospective agreement on Friday, the Prime Minister said he wanted the UK to "see these new openings not as threats but as opportunities" as he praised the benefits of free trade.

"I do think that free trade deals present a fantastic opportunity for our farmers, for businesses of all kinds, and for manufacturers," he said.

Downing Street said on Friday that "negotiations are still ongoing" after a Cabinet row took hold, despite several reports claiming ministers on Thursday had resolved their differences.

Ministers are split between free traders pushing for full liberalisation to boost the flow of goods and sceptics who are concerned about cheap Australian meat imports impacting British farms.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will today speak to Australian trade minister Dan Tehan as they race to seal the terms of a free trade deal within three weeks.

However, Stormont's incoming DUP leader warned that the deal would damage Northern Ireland's beef and sheep trade and said the prospect of such an agreement posed a "high level of risk" to farmers across the UK.

Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland's agriculture minister who will take over as DUP leader from Arlene Foster, outlined his concerns in a letter to the UK's Environment Secretary George Eustice, in which he expressed his "strong opposition".

03:28 PM

That's it for another day...

The Prime Minister said today that he wanted the UK to "see these new openings not as threats but as opportunities" as he praised the benefits of free trade while his Cabinet is split over the zero tariff, zero quota trade deal with Australia.

Downing Street said this afternoon that "negotiations are still ongoing" after the Cabinet row took hold, despite several reports claiming ministers on Thursday had resolved their differences - namely, disagreements over whether the deal would "undercut" British farmers.

Clinching this deal is important for Boris Johnson because it would finally provide grist to his much-vaunted vision for a post-Brexit "Global Britain", to which free trade deals across the world are integral.

Meanwhile, Stormont's incoming DUP leader warned today that the deal would damage Northern Ireland's beef and sheep trade and said the prospect of such an agreement posed a "high level of risk" to farmers across the UK.

In the other big story of the day, the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said that the Government has a responsibility to look at whether the BBC needs reform in the wake of Lord Dyson's report on BBC failings over the 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, the Princess of Wales.

The Culture Secretary chimed in on the findings too, saying that Lord Dyson’s report "reveals damning failings at the heart of the BBC". Scotland Yard has said it will "assess the contents" of the report to ensure there is no "significant new evidence".

In travel news, a senior EU diplomat said today that the bloc won't take a decision on whether to lift coronavirus travel restrictions on UK tourists for up to 10 days due to concerns about the spread of the Indian variant.

Downing Street said the emergence of a new 'triple mutant' variant of coronavirus in Yorkshire will continue to be monitored and people have advised not to "be alarmed".

For more news and analysis, keep reading.

03:09 PM

Boris is fighting a lonely battle against his own officials to reopen Britain

At the start of the pandemic, Boris Johnson warned his Cabinet about the danger of panic. Covid-19 certainly kills, he said, but there was a real danger that the Government’s response would take more lives than the virus itself.

If you discourage people from seeking healthcare, deep-freeze the economy then this, too, will cost lives. The question is how many. This point was made a few times before he decided to lock down, on 23 March. After that, it was never made again.

Which is a shame, because it’s a good question. After 15 months and 127,000 Covid deaths, Cabinet ministers have still never been briefed about the wider effects of lockdown.

The most basic question – whether various policies cost more lives than they save – has never been considered because estimates have never been compiled. Such calculations used to be made, especially for public health, but not lockdown. So when the Indian variant was discussed this week it was – as ever – a one-sided discussion.

Should restrictions be tightened? The public health case was made but there was no attempt to quantify the economic or social hit.

02:46 PM

Why a trade deal with Australia matters for Boris Johnson

The ability to pursue buccaneering free trade deals across the world was one of the core arguments in support of Brexit.

Since leaving the European Union, few targets for such a pact have looked more obvious than Australia: an Anglophone ally with close historical and cultural links to Britain, which is also relatively well-aligned in terms of standards.

Furthermore, its geographical location fits neatly with Boris Johnson’s tilt to the Indo-Pacific, a recognition of the growing economic might and geostrategic importance of the region.

Clinching the deal would finally provide grist to the Prime Minister’s much-vaunted vision for a post-Brexit "Global Britain", which critics snipe remains more a slogan than a policy at present.

PM - Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS
PM - Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS

02:31 PM

Boris Johnson: Global Covid response as disunited as Achilles and Agamemnon in the Illiad

Sarah Newey, our Global Health Security Correspondent, has the latest on the Prime Minister's poetic analogy:

Rather bucking the norm in speeches to the Global Health Summit today, Boris Johnson kicked off with a comparison to a plague almost 3000 years ago. It's quite the comparison, so we'll include the full extract here:

"I want to remind everybody, certainly my fellow Europeans, that Western literature begins with a bitter political fight about how to handle a zoonotic plague.

"Because, as you will recall, the Iliad, the fountainhead of Western literature, opens with a row between Achilles and Agamemnon, after a fatal new zoonotic disease arrives - hitting first the mules, and then the dogs, and then the human beings.

"And if you recall Achilles is very much in favour of pulling out, and he'd have been very much in the pro lockdown party, and he says they need to get out of there. Whereas Agamemnon vehemently disagrees and the bust up is the basic whole conflict of the Iliad, between the armies of the Greeks.

"And my point is that almost 2800 years later, the world has been just as disunited, I'm afraid, as Achilles and Agamemnon. And I think now is the time to come together and to defeat the pandemic and to prevent another."

02:22 PM

First Minister condemns 'completely unacceptable' scenes at Swansea vigil

The First Minister of Wales has condemned "completely unacceptable" scenes in Swansea, where a vigil descended into violence.

Mark Drakeford said the disorder would "not be tolerated anywhere in Wales" and thanked police officers for bringing the incident under control.

South Wales Police asked people not to return to the Mayhill area of the city and warned those involved should expect to face "robust action".

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "Absolutely disgraceful scenes in Swansea last night. My thoughts are with Mayhill residents who had to endure such shocking behaviour.

"Thank you to the brave officers at South Wales Police for bringing it under control.

"Police have my backing to take robust action against those involved."

01:59 PM

Watch: Boris Johnson 'very concerned' about report into Bashir's Diana BBC interview

01:50 PM

Fantastic opportunities for farmers in Australia trade deal, PM suggests

Boris Johnson said farmers will have a "fantastic opportunity" as part of free-trade deals, as reports suggest the UK Government is on the verge of signing a post-Brexit agreement with Australia.

Downing Street said "negotiations are still ongoing" with Canberra, despite several reports claiming ministers on Thursday had resolved their differences over the terms of a deal.

The Prime Minister, asked about the prospective deal on Friday, said he wanted the UK to "see these new openings not as threats but as opportunities" as he praised the benefits of free trade.

Speaking to broadcasters in Portsmouth, where he was visiting the HMS Queen Elizabeth II aircraft carrier, Mr Johnson said: "We are certainly looking at doing free trade deals with countries around the world, and I'm here on this incredible aircraft carrier, which is really a symbol of the way we want to do things - we see a global future for this country.

"I do think that free trade deals present a fantastic opportunity for our farmers, for businesses of all kinds, and for manufacturers.

"I think it is vital that as a great historic free-trading nation that grew to prosperity thanks to free trade, and thanks indeed to the Royal Navy, that we see these new openings not as threats but as opportunities."

01:30 PM

Review of the BBC will not look at its editorial independence, says Downing Street

The mid-term charter review of the BBC will only look at the corporation's governance and regulation, not its editorial independence, Downing Street has said.

Following the publication of Lord Dyson's report into the handling of the Panorama interview of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Prime Minister's official spokesman was asked if the BBC's editorial independence was under threat in an upcoming review of the Royal Charter under which it operates.

He pointed to a statement made by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden who said ministers would now consider whether further governance reforms were needed, and added: "I would point you to the details of the mid-term charter review which, as you know, takes place between 2022 and 2024 and it can only look at the way the BBC is governed and regulated."

01:15 PM

Boris Johnson: No signs we will have to 'deviate' from scrapping all restrictions next month

Boris Johnson said he has not seen any signs that he will have to "deviate" from his plans to scrap all coronavirus restrictions in England by next month, with no need for so-called vaccine passports to be used to gain entry to pubs.

Speaking to broadcasters in Portsmouth on Friday, the Prime Minister said: "We will be letting everybody know exactly what sort of arrangements to expect for June 21.

"But what I can tell you, and just to stress that I am still seeing nothing in the data that leads me to think that we're going to have to deviate from the road map - obviously we must remain cautious but I'm seeing nothing that makes me think we have to deviate.

"But on June 21 and vaccine certification - or Covid status certification I should say - people should bear in mind that I don't see any prospect of certificates to go into pubs or anything else."

Pressed on whether the public will continue to be asked to wear masks, Mr Johnson replied: "We will let people know as much as we possibly can by the end of the month about weddings, for instance.

"All the details we'll try and let people know by the end of the month about exactly where we think we'll be on June 21, Step 4."

The Prime Minister visiting HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in Portsmouth today - Leon Neal/Getty Images
The Prime Minister visiting HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in Portsmouth today - Leon Neal/Getty Images

01:04 PM

People advised not to be alarmed over new coronavirus variant in Yorkshire

People have been advised "please don't be alarmed" after a new coronavirus variant was identified in the Yorkshire region.

Greg Fell, director of public health in Sheffield, said his team had been monitoring the new strain - referred to as VUI-21MAY-01 or AV.1 - after Public Health England (PHE) announced 49 cases were identified, mostly in Yorkshire and the Humber region.

But Mr Fell stressed there is no evidence to suggest this strain is any more transmissible than other variants or that the vaccines do not work against it.

Mr Fell issued a statement as Downing Street also said the emergence of this new variant will continue to be monitored.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "There have been a number of variants throughout the pandemic and there will continue to be so.

12:55 PM

No 10 plays down suggestion of reshuffle to distract from Cummings appearance

Downing Street has played down the prospect of the Prime Minister carrying out a Cabinet reshuffle on the same day that his former aide Dominic Cummings gives evidence to MPs.

A senior minister reportedly told the BBC that Boris Johnson was planning a shake-up of his top team on Wednesday to distract from the appearance of his former chief advisor Mr Cummings in front of a committee of MPs.

Mr Cummings has been critical of the Government's response to the coronavirus pandemic, and on Wednesday said he had "a crucial historical document" which would expose decision making surrounding the first coronavirus lockdown that he would hand over to the Commons Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee to which he will give evidence next week.

However, No 10 played down the suggestion of a reshuffle and the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "It's not something that we would comment on.

12:49 PM

Lobby latest: No 10 says airports need to ensure red list arrivals are separated from other travellers

Downing Street said it was up to airports to ensure those returning from "red-list" countries were separated from other travellers.

Asked about whether No 10 thought airports were doing enough to keep travellers from red list destinations away from others in UK border queues, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "We've asked airports to make sure there are mitigations in place to make sure people can socially distance and, where possible, to allow people from red list countries not to have to intermingle with those who have returned from amber or green-list countries.

"But it is a matter for the airports to ensure provisions are in place."

12:47 PM

Dominic Cummings takes to Twitter again

Mr Cummings, who left Downing Street in November after a behind-the-scenes power struggle, has called for a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

He said the Covid plan was supposed to be "world class" but turned out to be "part disaster, part non-existent".

12:38 PM

Government to hold weekly talks with Australia to get trade deal over the line

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will today speak to Australian trade minister Dan Tehan as they race to seal the terms of a free trade deal within three weeks.

The pair have agreed to talk weekly in a "sprint" to get the deal over the line by the second weekend of June, when Australian prime minister Scott Morrison is in the UK for the G7 summit.

The intensification of the negotiations comes after Boris Johnson chaired a crunch meeting with senior Cabinet colleagues on Thursday to thrash out the UK's red lines on agriculture in the negotiations.

The free traders pushing for full liberalisation to boost the flow of goods, led by Ms Truss, gained the upper hand over sceptics led by Environment Secretary George Eustice, who are concerned about cheap Australian meat imports impacting British farmers.

Britain is set to agree to a zero tariff, zero quota deal, but is pushing for a 10-15 year transition period for tariffs to be phased out, so that the UK agricultural sector has time to adjust.

Most parts of the agreement are already in principle, including liberalisation of car exports and deeper access for both nations on investment and services, it is understood.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to hold weekly "sprint" talks with Australian trade minister Dan Tehan - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to hold weekly "sprint" talks with Australian trade minister Dan Tehan - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

12:29 PM

Pictured: Spotted out and about

Boris Johnson sits in the cockpit of an Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II during a visit to HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier - Leon Neal/Getty Images
Boris Johnson sits in the cockpit of an Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II during a visit to HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier - Leon Neal/Getty Images
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan visits Nine Elms station on the Northern Line extension to see the ticket hall and platforms as work is completed - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan visits Nine Elms station on the Northern Line extension to see the ticket hall and platforms as work is completed - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak during a visit to the London Screen Academy, a Free School for 16-19-year olds wanting to work in the film and TV industry - Simon Walker/HM Treasury
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak during a visit to the London Screen Academy, a Free School for 16-19-year olds wanting to work in the film and TV industry - Simon Walker/HM Treasury

11:58 AM

Boris Johnson: 'I can only imagine the feelings of the Royal family'

Boris Johnson called on the BBC to ensure the events surrounding the 1995 Martin Bashir interview with the Princess of Wales cannot happen again.

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to Portsmouth, the Prime Minister said: "I'm obviously concerned by the findings of Lord Dyson's report - I'm very grateful to him for what he has done.

"I can only imagine the feelings of the Royal family and I hope very much that the BBC will be taking every possible step to make sure nothing like this ever happens again."

11:51 AM

PM 'very concerned' about report into Bashir's BBC interview with Diana

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "obviously very concerned" about the report into Martin Bashir's BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, adding that he hoped the broadcaster "will be taking every possible step to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again".

boris johnson
boris johnson

11:48 AM

Lobby latest: Emergence of new variant in Yorkshire will continue to be monitored

Downing Street said the emergence of a new variant of coronavirus in Yorkshire will continue to be monitored.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "There have been a number of variants throughout the pandemic and there will continue to be so. There are three mutations of the B1617 strain, as I think has been discussed previously, but as we do with all variants where we spot and identify them through our genomic sequencing programme, we will continue to monitor them and we will designate them as variants under investigation, and then variants of concern if we deem them to be of greater risk.

"But again, as you've seen throughout the pandemic, that's what we've done and we won't hesitate to put in measures that we think are necessary to try and tackle the transmission of any variants."

Asked whether the discovery of the new variant would have an impact on the next stage of restrictions lifting on June 21, the spokesman said the five-week gap between measures relaxing would allow the variant to be monitored.

He added: "As the Prime Minister has said, we will continue to look at all the statistical evidence and data, and we'll set out our plans as soon as the data allows."

11:24 AM

Incoming DUP leader opposes zero tariff Australia trade deal in letter to Environment Secretary

Edwin Poots outlined his concerns in a letter to UK environment secretary George Eustice, in which he said:

"The prospect of such a deal presents a high level of risk to Northern Ireland and UK farmers.

"Therefore I believe that the UK should maintain tariff protection at present levels for all agricultural products where the UK has a significant production interest.

"Australia has a number of distinct advantages over Northern Ireland, and the rest of the UK, in terms of the land available for farming, climate and lower standards, that allows its farmers to be able produce at a considerably lower cost, particularly in the beef and sheep sectors.

"Consequently there is a lot of potential for Australian beef and sheep exports to the UK to expand substantially over time if tariffs are eliminated.

"Australian beef and sheep products have the potential to undercut UK producers and to reduce Northern Ireland's market share in GB which is our most important market for these products."

11:11 AM

Australia deal poses 'high level of risk' to Northern Irish farmers, says Edwin Poots

A zero tariff, zero quota trade deal between the UK and Australia would damage Northern Ireland's beef and sheep trade, Stormont's agriculture minister has warned.

Edwin Poots, who is the incoming leader of the DUP, said the prospect of such an agreement posed a "high level of risk" to farmers across the UK.

Mr Poots outlined his concerns in a letter to UK environment secretary George Eustice.

The letter, in which he expressed "strong opposition" to a zero tariff, zero quota agreement, comes amid reports that the Government is poised to agree such a deal with the Australians.

Mr Poots is concerned that Australian beef and lamb producers would be able to undercut local farmers.

Edwin Poots - PAUL FAITH/AFP
Edwin Poots - PAUL FAITH/AFP

10:51 AM

EU to take no decision on lifting travel restrictions for UK tourists for 10 days

The EU won't take a decision on whether to lift coronavirus travel restrictions on UK tourists for up to 10 days, a senior EU diplomat said, James Crisp reports.

It was expected that Brussels would put the UK on its travel "white list" today but, amid fears of a spread in the Indian variant, the decision was not taken.

Sources said the reason for delaying the decision was that new criteria for the list had to be approved and implemented by authorities in EU countries.

A senior EU diplomat said: "So it's not a delay, we have to work through these decisions, implement them at the national, regional level, and then we can take the formal decision to change this and apply this.

"This is not a delay but this is normal, I think we need 10 days to work this through."

10:32 AM

Wedding plans face more upheaval with delay to easing of guest limits

Wedding plans are set to be thrown into more uncertainty on Monday, with Boris Johnson expected not to announce an easing of restrictions as originally planned.

Last week, Mr Johnson committed to giving 28 days' notice on changes to wedding rules before the June 21 reopening so couples could have their banns read out in time for ceremonies.

But Downing Street sources have told The Telegraph it was now "very unlikely" that announcements would be made on Monday due to the spike in cases of the Indian Covid variant.

Wedding industry representatives warned that a delay would create more "uncertainty" and "panic" for couples who had been planning to finally tie the knot before many relatives and friends. Scores pushed back their wedding dates by a year when the pandemic hit and face further delays if reopening does not happen as planned next month.

Attendees at weddings are currently limited to 30 under government rules, and it had been hoped those limits would be ended on June 21 under Mr Johnson's roadmap reopening schedule.

Attendees at weddings are currently limited to 30 under government rules - CIRO DE LUCA/Reuters
Attendees at weddings are currently limited to 30 under government rules - CIRO DE LUCA/Reuters

10:18 AM

Watch: A 'lot of work for BBC to do' to make good over Diana interview, says Justice Secretary

The Lord Chancellor, when asked whether BBC journalist Martin Bashir had committed "fraud" with the fake bank statements he had had made up during his pitch for an interview with the Princess of Wales, said the documents were "hugely serious".

He said: "These are hugely serious matters that don't just raise questions about the individuals and the journalists involved but also the senior leadership, sadly, who made decisions that Lord Dyson has I think rightly scrutinised and has found to be wrong.

"So there is a lot of work for the BBC to do in order to make good what happened here."

10:01 AM

Dominic Raab welcomes Israeli ceasefire in Gaza

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab welcomed the Israeli Security Cabinet's approval of a ceasefire to end the 11-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The move came hours after the Government pledged to provide a £3.2 million aid package for civilians under attack in the region.

Mr Raab welcomed Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's move to stop the offensive, and called on Hamas to halt the firing of rockets on Israel.

He said: "The UK welcomes the announcement of a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza, an important step to ending the cycle of violence and loss of civilian life.

"Hamas must end all attacks on Israel. It is also now important for Israel to facilitate rapid humanitarian access in and out of Gaza."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street in 2019 - Alastair Grant/WPA Pool/Getty Images
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street in 2019 - Alastair Grant/WPA Pool/Getty Images

09:44 AM

Watch: Palestinians in East Jerusalem celebrate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas

Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, as the White House said Israeli forces were in a position to start "winding down" their bombardment of the Palestinian enclave.

After a two-hour meeting, Israeli ministers voted in favour of a ceasefire, which according to Israeli media reports was due to come into effect at 2am on Friday. The Israeli cabinet decision was unanimous, the Israeli broadcaster Kan said on Thursday night.

In a statement on Thursday night, Israel said the ceasefire was brokered by Egypt and that it would be mutual and unconditional.

09:33 AM

Australia trade deal negotiations continuing, Number 10 says

Downing Street has said "negotiations are still ongoing" amid reports the Cabinet is in agreement over a planned trade deal with Australia.

The Sun reported Prime Minister Boris Johnson will offer Australia a 15-year transition to a zero-tariff, zero-quota trade pact, with the BBC reporting it was understood a Cabinet row over the matter had been resolved on Thursday night at Number 10.

Mr Johnson chaired the meeting of senior colleagues, with International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Environment Secretary George Eustice thought to be at odds over the proposals and the impact they might have on British farmers.

Despite reporting that Cabinet was now in agreement over the matter, a Downing Street spokesman said on Friday morning "negotiations are still ongoing".

Ms Truss, who has said she wants an agreement in principle by early June, is thought to favour a zero-tariff, zero-quota approach in order to boost the flow of trade.

But such a move could leave British farmers vulnerable to competition from beef and lamb producers in Australia, and Mr Eustice has suggested that quotas could be used to protect them.

09:21 AM

'Quite a few' countries on cusp of green list, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has privately told MPs "quite a few" countries are on the cusp of joining the green list for quarantine-free holidays at the beginning of next month.

The Prime Minister and Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, gave the upbeat assessment at a meeting of the 1922 Conservative backbench committee in advance of the review of which amber countries will join the green list in the first week of June.

The frontrunners are likely to be destinations that The Telegraph understands were "near misses" in the current green list, which is limited to just 12 countries and territories including Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel.

The borderline countries:

  • Malta

  • Grenada

  • Cayman Islands

  • Fiji

  • British Virgin Islands

  • Finland

  • Caribbean islands thought to include Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos and Anguilla

Read the full report from Charles Hymas, our Home Affairs Editor.

09:11 AM

Spain to allow British holidaymakers without PCR tests from May 24

Spain will allow travellers from Britain and Japan into the country without a negative PCR test for Covid-19 from May 24, according to an order published in the state gazette on Friday.

Spain is not yet on the UK's green list of countries which people can visit without quarantining upon return. However, it is on the amber list, meaning that visiting the country is legal and travellers who return from Spain can isolate at home, rather than in special quarantine hotels.

Here are the UK's current 'green list' countries alongside the percentage of the adult population in each country that has been vaccinated.

09:00 AM

Cabinet minister insists that British farmers will not be 'undercut' by Australia trade deal

The Government will ensure British farmers are "not undercut" and "not put at a disadvantage" as part of any free trade agreement, the Justice Secretary has said.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Robert Buckland was asked what reassurance he could give to people who feared free trade was being put ahead of the future of farming, livestock welfare and the environment and climate change.

Mr Buckland said: "The Government's always said that any free trade agreement that we reach with Australia, or indeed other countries around the world as we're now able to do, and we've been making huge progress on that front over the last few months, will of course take into account the very high welfare standards we apply here the UK.

"And will of course make sure that British farming and British farmers are not undercut, are not put at a disadvantage, bearing in mind the quality and excellence of the products that are made here in the UK.

"That's at the heart of our trade policy that will be adhered to in respect of both Australia and indeed other trade deals that will be looming over the horizon in the months and years ahead."

The Justice Secretary Robert Buckland - JULIAN SIMMONDS
The Justice Secretary Robert Buckland - JULIAN SIMMONDS

08:50 AM

Boris Johnson told to cut farmers' red tape to offset 'damage' from Australia trade deal

Boris Johnson is facing pressure to slash red tape for British farmers to "offset" the impact of a trade deal with Australia with whom he is expected to reach a zero-tariff, zero-quota agreement.

On Thursday morning the Prime Minister chaired a meeting with Cabinet colleagues to thrash out Britain's red lines on agriculture in the final round of free trade negotiations with Canberra.

It came amid a Cabinet split over how much unfettered access to the UK marketplace to offer Australian farmers, with concerns about the potential impact on Britain's agricultural sector.

Australia's biggest cattle farmer said on Thursday that it expected to increase its beef exports to Britain by up to tenfold if a trade agreement removing tariffs and quotas was secured.

The National Farmers' Union in Britain has warned that a UK-Australia deal could cause "irreversible damage".

boris johnson in the house of commons - JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP
boris johnson in the house of commons - JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP

08:37 AM

Police involvement cannot be ruled out over Bashir interview, Justice Minister says

Police involvement cannot be ruled out in the wake of Bashir interview, the Justice Minister has said.

It comes after the Duke of Cambridge said it brought him "indescribable sadness" that Martin Bashir’s BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales had "contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation" in the final years of her life.

Robert Buckland said it remains "a matter for the police and the independent prosecutorial authorities" as to whether the police should be involved following Lord Dyson's inquiry into the 1995 Panorama Diana interview.

He added: "I'm not going to say anything to prejudge or to influence any such line of inquiry.

"But I think anybody reading the headlines and the summary of Lord Dyson's findings will be struck by his use of those words, fraud and deception and the like, and clearly those sort of issues, I'm afraid, could and do arise."

It comes as Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, last night said the report "reveals damning failings at the heart of the BBC".

"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," he said.

Mr Buckland added that "careful consideration" would be given to the report and that the Government would do that "soberly and calmly".

He added that while the BBC’s apology "is a start", he did not "think it's the end of it".

Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama - Tim Graham/Corbis Historical
Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama - Tim Graham/Corbis Historical

08:31 AM

Ministers to look into possible BBC governance issues

Robert Buckland said ministers would be looking into whether there were BBC governance issues outside of the remit of Lord Dyson's reports that needed reviewing.

The Justice Secretary told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "My colleague the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has rightly said that we should look at the governance structures of the BBC.

"We will take time to do that - the report that Lord Dyson issued yesterday is 127 pages long, so that needs to be looked at very carefully.

"And 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."

08:09 AM

Scotland Yard to 'assess the contents' of report into Diana's BBC interview

Scotland Yard has said it will "assess the contents" of the report into Martin Bashir's BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales "to ensure there is no significant new evidence".

In a statement, it said: "In March 2021, the MPS determined it was not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into allegations of unlawful activity in connection with a documentary broadcast in 1995 but should any significant new evidence emerge it would be assessed.

"Following the publication of Lord Dyson's report we will assess its contents to ensure there is no significant new evidence."

07:51 AM

Free trade agreements

As The Telegraph reported this morning, Boris Johnson is facing pressure to slash red tape for British farmers to "offset" the impact of a trade deal with Australia with whom he is expected to reach a zero-tariff, zero-quota agreement.

Now Mr Buckland has pledged that the Government will ensure British farmers are "not undercut" and "not put at a disadvantage" as part of any free trade agreement.

The Justice Secretary was asked on the Today programme what reassurance he could give to people who feared free trade was being put ahead of the future of farming, livestock welfare and the environment and climate change.

He said: "The Government's always said that any free trade agreement that we reach with Australia, or indeed other countries around the world as we're now able to do, and we've been making huge progress on that front over the last few months, will of course take into account the very high welfare standards we apply here the UK.

"And will of course make sure that British farming and British farmers are not undercut, are not put at a disadvantage, bearing in mind the quality and excellence of the products that are made here in the UK.

"That's at the heart of our trade policy that will be adhered to in respect of both Australia and indeed other trade deals that will be looming over the horizon in the months and years ahead."

07:45 AM

Facemasks and social distancing

Away from the Princess Diana interview, coronavirus grumbles on.

Mr Buckland said he would be minded to keep wearing a face covering in public if he was suffering with a cold, even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

He told Sky News: "I think that whatever the regulations might be, and clearly as we come out of this Covid period all of us want to see an end to the use of regulations so we can live our lives as we would want to live, there will be a certain sense I think for a lot of us to carry on wearing masks.

"I for one, if I've got a cold or a minor ailment, I think wearing a mask is going to be the right thing to do because I don't want to spread my cold to somebody else.

"If I've got a runny nose and I'm still able to get out there and work, I think wearing a mask is not a bad idea if we can reduce the spread of even the common cold."

He said "caution has been the watchword" when it comes to lifting restrictions, and that June 21 remained the "at the earliest" date for scrapping all measures.

07:37 AM

'Damning failings at the heart of the BBC'

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden set out his feelings towards the report's findings into the Princess Diana interview in this twitter thread last night:

07:31 AM

Government must look at BBC reform

Robert Buckland also said that the Government has a responsibility to look at whether the BBC needs reform in the wake of Lord Dyson's report on BBC failings over the 1995 Panorama interview.

He said: "The Government has to, in the light of these serious findings, consider the matter very carefully and comprehensively indeed.

"Because it wasn't just the decision of a reporter or a production team, there were decisions made much further up the chain about the conduct of these individuals that have now proved, according to Lord Dyson, to be unfounded and wrong.

"And therefore, Government does have a responsibility to look very carefully to see whether the governance of the BBC does need reform in the light of these devastating findings."

07:25 AM

Politics today

The story everyone is talking about is the Lord Dyson report which led the Duke of Cambridge to say last night that it brought him “indescribable sadness” that Martin Bashir’s BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales had “contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation” in the final years of her life.

Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, spoke out on the matter this morning. He said the "personal loss" expressed by the sons of Diana "cannot be ignored" .

He said: "The BBC is our public broadcaster, freedom of speech and expression are clearly at the heart of what the BBC and indeed Sky and other broadcasters do, but there is a responsibility that they have to the rest of us, to families, like the royal family in this instance, and that needs to be taken very seriously indeed."

Now questions will be asked about the future of the BBC and how it can move on from this damning report.

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