Politics latest news: UK could face quotas or tariffs in Brexit sausage trade war

·19 min read
George Eustice said the EU should 'respect' the protocol - AFP
George Eustice said the EU should 'respect' the protocol - AFP

The UK could be hit with tariffs and quotas "if the UK keeps breaching its commitments" in the post-Brexit treaty, a senior French MEP has said.

Nathalie Loiseau told Radio 4's Today programme that threats made by the vice-president of the European Commission, should Britain unilaterally extend the grace period in the Northern Ireland Protocol, were a “warning” that should be taken seriously.

Asked what Maros Sefcovic meant in his Telegraph column, the former French European minister said: "There are a number of possibilities within the trade and cooperation agreement if the UK keeps breaching its commitments. There can be tariffs, there can be quotas.

"We are warning - you have signed an agreement, you have to implement it otherwise there are measures we can take, legally, which protect our Single Market.”

But George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, hit back at the "bonkers" restrictions, saying it was “impossible to comply” with this part of the protocol because it was "an outright ban, a prohibition, on those goods flowing".

He added: "We have to ask in the cold light of day does it really make sense to ban the sale of sausage and chicken nuggets manufactured in Great Britain from being sold anywhere in Northern Ireland - clearly that is bonkers."

​​Follow the latest updates below.

09:52 AM

Former top official washes hands over civil servant's second job at Greensill

Bill Crothers' move from Government to Greensill Capital took place three days after Sir John Manzoni became the top official at the Cabinet Office, the former mandarin has said.

The discussions about him leaving "were transparent to both the head of propriety and ethics at the time, and the cabinet secretary at the time, both of whom approved the final agreement that he would leave on September 1, go part-time in the civil service and be a senior adviser to Lex Greensill", Sir John tells MPs.

"I had honestly assumed I was the permanent secretary for the Cabinet Office but I actually wasn't in July, and wasn't until the end of August that year, so even if checks were supposed to have been done, somebody else in the Cabinet Office would have done them."

09:41 AM

Tory MP fined after his puppy caused stampede of 200 deer

A Tory MP has been ordered to pay more than £700 by a court after his Jack Russell caused a stampede of 200 deer in Richmond Park.

Danny Kruger, the MP for Devizes, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday and pleaded guilty to letting his 11-month old Jack Russell puppy, Pebble, chase deer off the lead in the park in March.

Mr Kruger, who lives in Hammersmith, west London, was said to have been "contrite and apologetic" following the incident, which lasted around 45 seconds, telling police: "I'm sorry, I had no idea, I didn't see the deer. Anyway, obviously he needs to be on a lead."

In a statement, the MP said that the episode was a "lesson learned" but that it was "just his luck" that a police car happened to be stationed right next to where the stampede took place.

09:27 AM

UK cuts risk 'resurgence' of Aids pandemic, MPs and campaigners warn

UK aid cuts alongside Covid-19 risk “setting the stage for a resurgence” of the Aids pandemic around the world, according to an open letter shared with The Telegraph.

Ahead of a United Nations high-level meeting on Aids and the G7 in Cornwall later this week, a group of cross-party MPs, business leaders, global health experts, medical professionals and people living with HIV have signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling for an urgent re-think.

The UK has slashed funding to organisations working in this field, including UNAids, UnitAid and UNFPA, by around 80 per cent as part of its £4.5bn cut to the international aid budget.

These cuts are “alarming”, say the letter’s 140 signatories, such as former Conservative health minister Lord Fowler, international development committee chair Sarah Champion and former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Read the rest of our exclusive story here.

09:14 AM

Boundary changes to cause headaches for ministers

Northern England and the West Midlands will lose MPs under a planned shake-up of Westminster constituencies, with Cabinet ministers set to be hit by the changes.

The proposals, aimed at ensuring seats with broadly similar numbers of voters, will see England gain 10 additional seats overall, but the bulk of those will be in the South.

The upheaval could cause problems for Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, whose Wyre and Preston North seat is carved up, and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who faces major changes to his South Staffordshire constituency. Matt Hancock's Suffolk seat could also be significantly redrawn, as will Dominic Raab’s Esher and Walton constituency

Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak's seats will remain largely unchanged under the proposed new electoral map of England, however Sir Keir Starmer may end up with part of Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington seat.

09:03 AM

Jeremy Heywood 'perhaps saw something I didn't' in Lex Greensill, says Lord Maude

It was "perfectly clear" that Jeremy Heywood had brought Lex Greensill into Government because the UK's former top civil servant was "the principle advocate" of supply chain finance, Lord Maude has told MPs.

"If a scheme is sold effectively - and all prime minsters are susceptible to wanting to have things to announce - I can see why this would have been attractive," he adds.

The former Cabinet Office minister says he "could not see how this would have made a difference" however.

"I took proper time over this, because Jeremy asked you to look at something, he is a bloody serious guy, but I couldn't see how it was useful so I put it on one side. But Jeremy knew Lex Greensill from before.. and perhaps saw something I didn't."

08:52 AM

Lord Maude 'surprised that Lex Greensill had No 10 paraphernalia'

Lord Maude has said it was "surprising" that Lex Greensill "had all that Number 10 paraphernalia".

The financier was found to be touting a Downing Street business card, describing him as a "senior adviser" to the Prime Minister.

Lord Maude tells MPs that colleagues within the Cabinet Office were also surprised, noting that officials were not enthusiastic about the supply chain finance business model because SMEs would end up paying for the process.

08:44 AM

Lord Maude has 'no idea' what Lex Greensill's role was

Lord Maude said he would "occasionally hear references to the fact that Lex Greensill had some kind of role in the Cabinet Office", but was not within his purview.

"I have absolutely no recollection," he repeats. "I haven't seen a document.. there may not have even been a bit of paper."

The former minister confirms he did not approve the extension of Mr Greensill's appointment after three months, adding: "From my point of view, this was not something I wanted to be spending time on."

Asked to clarify Mr Greensill's role, he tells MPs he has "no idea". Normally the system is "pernickety" for a minster to bring people in "with real expertise", he adds, although it was not "that uncommon" for unpaid advisers to be brought in "to fill a need".

08:40 AM

Lord Maude has 'absolutely no recollection' of hiring Lex Greensill

Lord Maude has said he has "absolutely no recollection" of having appointed Lex Greensill to the Cabinet Office as a supply chain adviser.

"I've been told I authorised it, but I have absolutely no recollection of it," the former minister has told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC).

He says he is only aware of it because of documents sent to the Boardman inquiry.

The ex-Cabinet Office minister and Paymaster General said his work reforming Whitehall "saved the taxpayer over £52bn" but he has seen nothing to suggest that involvement in supply chain finance "saved the Government in any way - this was a distraction".

08:25 AM

Dominic Cummings has not backed up claims with evidence, says Jeremy Hunt

Dominic Cummings has not provided MPs with written evidence to back up his claims about the Government, Jeremy Hunt has said.

The former aide levelled a series of charges, including that Matt Hancock lied publicly and privately, and that concerns were raised with Boris Johnson about his trustworthiness. The Health Secretary is due to give evidence before the same two committees on Thursday.

Mr Hunt told Times Radio: "Well, obviously, Dominic Cummings made some very serious allegations against [Mr Hancock] in particular, saying that he lied repeatedly.

"So we will put those allegations to him, but we haven't received the written evidence to back those claims up that we were expecting.

"But we'll be putting all those allegations to him to give him his rightful chance to respond."

08:22 AM

Freedom Day beckons - but perhaps with temporary delay, says Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt has said he is "feeling quite optimistic that we are going to see the restrictions lifted", although suggested there could be a "temporary" delay to boost vaccine numbers.

The former health secretary told Times Radio: "Being double-jabbed works against this new variant, so, if Freedom Day ends up being put back a couple of weeks so we can get more people double-jabbed, I think it will only be a temporary setback.

"I think we are on the way to getting back to normal."

08:18 AM

Tory MP blasts 'nonsense' boundary changes

Senior Tory Michael Fabricant has said he will oppose the proposed changes to parliamentary boundaries in England, saying the recommendations made by the Boundary Commission "displays no knowledge of the area and is a rehash of their proposals made a few years back which were never enacted by Parliament".

The Lichfield MP told constituents: "Frankly, it’s a nonsense. It bears all the hallmarks of boundaries drawn in the 19th and 20th centuries by Whitehall mapmakers in days of Empire without any knowledge or care of the regions and people concerned.

"In fact, the Lichfield constituency could remain unchanged as it has the correct population. If it is necessary to ‘top up’ Tamworth, other wards could be moved."

08:14 AM

'Optimist' Jeremy Hunt plans Italian holiday

George Eustice might be holidaying in the UK this year, but Jeremy Hunt is planning an overseas trip.

The former health secretary told Sky News: "As far as the summer is concerned, I'm still an optimist. I have got a family holiday booked in Italy, but I also got it with those easyJet tickets that you can change the date at no extra cost.

"So, I'm fully prepared to do that if that's what we have to do."

The Environment Secretary however has opted to stay in Cornwall - and advised that British holidaymakers do likewise.

See 7:46am for more.

08:07 AM

Roadmap delay must only be to 'double-jab a few more people', says Jeremy Hunt

Any delay to the roadmap will only be to ensure that more people can receive two doses, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

The Tory backbencher highlighted some "exciting"news shared by Matt Hancock yesterday namely that out of 12,500 cases of the Delta/Indian variant there were only three people hospitalised who had received both doses of the vaccine.

"So what that says is that a double dose of the vaccine works against the Delta Indian variant, so I think that is actually basically very encouraging," he told Sky News.

"I think what will happen is really a decision about whether we just need to double-jab a few more people before we relax the regulations or not."

08:04 AM

Environment Secretary hasn’t got a sausage why EU is banning British meat

The Environment Secretary has said he has "no idea" why the EU wants to ban chilled meats being exported from Britain to Northern Ireland.

George Eustice has insisted "there's no problem with our sausages or indeed our chicken nuggets", telling LBC radio he had "no idea" why the bloc imposed "idiosyncratic" rules.

"I suspect it links to some kind of perception that they can't really trust any country other than an EU country to make sausages," he said.

"I think that's a nonsense. I think we've got a very good sausage industry in this country, we've got the highest standards of food hygiene in the world."

08:02 AM

EU urged to drop 'nonsensical' sausage ban as trade war looms

The EU must "respect" the Northern Ireland Protocol and drop its "nonsensical ban on selling sausages", the Environment Secretary has said, amid growing fears of a trade war.

George Eustice this morning blamed the EU for not having made "best endeavours to make the Northern Ireland Protocol work", including supporting "the free flow of goods to Northern Ireland".

He told Sky News: "What we really need the EU to do is to respect that part of the protocol and put in place sensible measures to remove things like the nonsensical ban on selling sausages or chicken nuggets to Northern Ireland - not just requiring paperwork, but actually having an outright ban on some of those goods - that clearly doesn't make sense."

He added: "We're committed to making it work but we just need the European Union to engage in that process to iron out those issues."

07:29 AM

Minister defends lack of vote on foreign aid cut

George Eustice has defended the decision not to put the cut to foreign aid to a vote, saying "parliament has plenty of mechanisms" to allow for a debate.

"I think we can expect there to be a debate," he added.

Rebel Tory MPs sought to amend the Aria Bill yesterday to include a vote but Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle ruled it out of order, however he has granted an emergency debate today.

07:27 AM

EU being 'slow to engage' on solutions to protocol, says minister

The Environment Secretary has sad there are "lots of ways to give EU the assurance they say they want for their Single Market", as he urged the two sides to work together on solutions.

"What we should be doing is working together to identify ways forward, and that is where the EU is being quite slow to date, to engage," George Eustice told Radio 4';s Today programme.

"We really need to step up now to get a long-term resolution and a full reading of the Northern Ireland protocol, not a partial reading that we sometimes get from the European Union."

Ahead of the G7 summit this week, Mr Eustice said the US President Joe Biden will "have an understanding, an appreciation, that if we truly believe in the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Northern Ireland... that means making the Northern Ireland protocol working properly."

Mr Biden would be "amazed if you said a sausage made in Texas couldn't be sold to California".

07:23 AM

Environment Secretary hits out at 'bonkers' ban on GB sausages

George Eustice has said the EU "also need to abide by the Northern Ireland protocol", in retaliation to Nathalie Loiseau's threats (see post below).

He notes that the agreement recognises Northern Ireland's "critical" and "integral" place within the UK, saying there is "an outright ban, a prohibition, on those goods flowing".

"It is impossible to comply with... it is not possible to comply.

"We have to ask in the cold light of day does it really make sense to ban the sale of sausage and chicken nuggets manufactured in Great Britain from being sold anywhere in Northern Ireland - clearly that is bonkers."

07:19 AM

UK could face quotas or tariffs if it extends grace period for sausages, warns MEP

A senior French MEP has warned that the UK could be slapped with tariffs and quotas "if the UK keeps breaching its commitments" in the post-Brexit treaty.

Nathalie Loiseau told Radio 4's Today programme: "There has to be more commitment from the British side to do everything possible, to implement the rules that were accepted. If there is a need for more staff, let's have it. We are facing the Brexit chosen by the British."

Asked what Maros Sefcovic meant in his Telegraph column, she added: "There are a number of possibilities within the trade and cooperation agreement if the UK keeps breaching its commitments

"There can be tariffs, there can be quotas.

"We are warning - you have signed an agreement, you have to implement it otherwise there are measures we can take, legally, which protect our Single Market.

"The Northern Ireland protocol is about two things - protecting the Good Friday Agreement and protecting the European Single Market."

07:13 AM

Latest data 'not grim', says Environment Secretary

The Environment Secretary has played down reports that the data being shown ministers is "grim" and likely to lead to a delay in the roadmap.

George Eustice told Sky News: "I’m not sure I would say it’s grim. We have seen an increase in the infection rates, it’s ticked up

"But what we are not seeing is that growth in hospitalisations associated with it, and that's because we know that if people have the vaccine, particularly once they've had the second jab of the vaccine, it actually does give them immunity to this new strain that's around."

He would not go any further on June 21 than saying the was a "critical test" would be whether those who are vaccinated are being infected and that it was "too early to say" what would happen.

07:10 AM

Maros Sefcovic: The EU will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely

Brussels will start a trade war with Britain if Boris Johnson overrides the Brexit treaty so that Northern Irish shops can keep selling British sausages, a vice-president of the European Commission has warned.

Here is an excerpt from Maros Sefcovic's column:

The entire EU team and I have been working hard to find ways to ensure that the protocol is implemented in a way that both facilitates the everyday life of Northern Ireland’s communities and preserves the integrity of the EU's Single Market.

But we cannot do this alone. It has to be a joint endeavour between the EU and the UK.... Unfortunately, we see numerous and fundamental gaps in the UK’s implementation – even though the protocol entered into force over 17 months ago.

Mutually agreed compliance paths, with concrete deadlines and milestones for the UK to fulfil its existing obligations, would therefore be an important stepping stone – and, I believe, a credible outcome of this joint committee. If this does not happen, and if the UK takes further unilateral action over the coming weeks, the EU will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK abides by its international law obligations.

Read the column in full here.

07:06 AM

People urged to get vaccine to keep roadmap on track

The director of primary care at NHS England has urged people to get their Covid vaccine in a bid to keep the final stage of the roadmap on schedule.

Asked about whether she thought the June 21 reopening would still go ahead, Dr Nikki Kanani told BBC Breakfast: "We're doing everything we can.

"This vaccination programme has always promised that if we have the supply we will keep rolling out the programme, and as you can see on this really momentous day we've continued to do so.

"My message to anyone listening today is: Please, please come forward. If you get the message, either for your first dose, or your second dose, because that is the best thing that we can all do to start to get back to the lives that we love and that we've been missing.

"But the actual (decision on) June 21, that's one for Government."

06:50 AM

India red list delay because 'they were doing more testing', says minister

The UK did not put India on the red list earlier - despite rising infections - because the country had better testing in place than neighbouring countries, George Eustice has said.

The Environment Secretary told Sky News: "Initially, the incidence of the virus in people arriving from India was lower and, overall, while they were reporting high numbers of cases, that's because they were doing more testing.

"We were also looking at factors such as their ability to do genome sequencing and we're looking at all of this where we assess other countries."

He denied the decision not to close the borders to India sooner had been a political decision.

He said: "India was added as soon as we saw a spike in rates and as soon as we saw there was a reason to."

06:46 AM

Green list unlikely to be expanded for summer holidays, Environment Secretary hints

The Environment Secretary has suggested the summer holidays are likely to remain heavily restricted this year, as he confirmed he would be holidaying in Cornwall this year.

George Eustice told Sky News: "Our advice has been don't travel unless it's absolutely necessary.

"Obviously we had hoped, with these three categories that we had, we had hoped that situation would be improving in other parts of the world, that we'd be able to progressively add other countries to the green list.

"Sadly, that's not the situation, we do have this new variant of concern first identified in India that is now cropping up in other countries, and we've just got to take a very cautious approach."

He added: "I will be staying at home, I have no intention of travelling or going on a holiday abroad this summer."

06:42 AM

Exclusive: EU threatens sausage trade war

Brussels will start a trade war with Britain if Boris Johnson overrides the Brexit treaty so that Northern Irish shops can keep selling British sausages, a vice-president of the European Commission has warned.

In an article for The Telegraph, Maros Sefcovic said the EU would react "swiftly, firmly and resolutely" if Britain unilaterally extended the grace period in the Northern Ireland Protocol, which expires at the end of June.

Britain has already unilaterally extended grace periods – on supermarket goods and parcels – earlier this year. The Telegraph understands that ministers are now considering, as a last resort, another unilateral extension for chilled meats, including sausages and mince.

Any such action would enrage the EU, which hit the UK with legal action after the move on supermarket goods.