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Sir Keir Starmer self-isolating after household member displays coronavirus symptoms

Sir Keir Starmer may have to miss PMQs for the next fortnight – PA

Sir Keir Starmer is self-isolating after a member of his household started showing “possible symptoms of the coronavirus”.

The household member has had a test, and the Labour leader will continue to quarantine “while awaiting the results of the test and further advice from medical professionals,” a spokesperson said. 

The Labour leader had gone into the studio at LBC this morning, and the radio station has been made aware of the possible transmission risk.  

The Labour leader is not speaking during today’s debate on the Internal Market Bill, when it is expected that a number of Conservative MPs will look to rebel against the Government. It is not clear how this will affect his ability to take part in other debates such as PMQs. It is understood that Sir Keir is not displaying symptoms. 

MPs are due to debate the legislation from 4pm today.

11:10 AM

Red Wall Tory hits back over Cox intervention

Red Wall Conservative MP Dehenna Davison has hit back at Geoffrey Cox’s intervention, asking the former attorney general: “What of our word to our constituents?

The Bishop Auckland MP said: “We gave people our word that we would deliver Brexit.

“We gave people our word that we would not allow there to be a wall down the Irish Sea.

“We gave people our word that we would protect the integrity of the UK. This matters.”

11:07 AM

Watch: David Cameron says he has ‘misgivings’ about controversial new Brexit bill

David Cameron is the latest prime minister to express concern about the Government’s controversial new Brexit bill, saying he has “misgivings about what is being proposed”.

Boris Johnson’s former boss has broken his silence, saying: “Passing an Act of Parliament and then going on to break an international treaty obligation is the very, very last thing you should contemplate. It should be an absolute final resort.

“So, I do have misgivings about what’s being proposed.”

His intervention comes after Theresa May, Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown all raised their own concerns.

Watch below

10:59 AM

Labour leader self-isolating after household member shows coronavirus symptoms

Sir Keir Starmer is self-isolating after a member of his household started showing “possible symptoms of the coronavirus”.

He is not speaking during today’s debate on the Internal Market Bill, but it is not clear how this will affect his ability to take part in other debates such as PMQs. It is understood that Sir Keir is not displaying symptoms. 

The household member has had a test, and the Labour leader will continue to quarantine “while awaiting the results of the test and further advice from medical professionals,” a spokesperson said. 

The Labour leader had gone into the studio at LBC this morning, and the radio station has been alerted.  

10:46 AM

Special envoy quits over Government’s controversial new Brexit bill

The Government’s special envoy for freedom of religion and belief has quit over the Internal Market Bill. 

Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti, who is based at the Foreign Office, tweeted that he had handed Boris Johnson his resignation this morning.

“I can’t support Internal Market Bill in its current form, which unilaterally break UK’s legal commitments,” he said. “As an MP for 10yrs and former barrister, values of respecting rule of law & honouring one’s word are dear to me.”

As resignations go, it’s a pretty minor one but will still be unwelcome while the whips office is trying to win over backbenchers. 

10:38 AM

Have your say on: the Government’s controversial Brexit bill

Today MPs will begin debating a controversial new bill that overrides part of the Withdrawal Agreement, just months after the UK signed up to it. 

Ministers freely conceded it would break the law but Number 10 and loyal MPs such as Theresa Villiers (8:18am) argue that desperate times call for desperate measures – and there would be no need to resort to this if the EU granted third country status, enabling Great Britain to continue exporting goods to Northern Ireland. 

Critics including Geoffrey Cox, Bob Neill and Ed Miliband have warned that it will erode the UK’s international standing, meaning we have no leg to stand on when to comes to dispute with other countries.

Former prime ministers including David Cameron, Theresa May, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have also raised concerns. 

But what do you think? Have your say in the poll below.

10:27 AM

Michael Fabricant to back Government on controversial bill ‘with enthusiasm’

This afternoon is likely to witness a certain amount of drama in the Commons, with numerous MPs suggesting they will abstain or vote against the Government over a controversial piece of legislation that would enable the UK to override the Withdrawal Agreement. 

But not Michael Fabricant, the MP for Lichfield. 

This morning he tweeted that the EU’s position – potentially blocking Britain from exporting food to Northern Ireland – was “wholly unacceptable”.

“The Government must now introduce its own backstop to prevent this and the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill does just that,” he said, later adding he would be backing the bill “with enthusiasm”. 

Michael Fabricant - PA
Michael Fabricant – PA

10:20 AM

Wimbledon MP hints at Brexit bill rebellion

Wimbledon MP and former minister Stephen Hammond has shown a bit of ankle on the Internal Market Bill. 

Mr Hammond, whose majority was squeezed during December’s election, has a very pro-Remain constituency and fought hard to persuade long-standing Conservative voters to stick with him, despite their misgivings about Brexit. 

But other MPs have suggested that they’ve not had much in the way of outrage from constituents, with one saying he was “only getting emails from arch Remainers or 38 degrees types”. 

10:02 AM

Watch: Public should call police if they see others breaking ‘rule of six’, says minister

Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, did the broadcast round this morning on behalf of the Government, setting out the new ‘rule of six’ regulations, which came into force overnight. 

Among other things, he advised people to call the non-emergency police number if they are “concerned” about people breaching the new rules. 

Watch below.

09:59 AM

Sir Graham Brady challenges Government over ‘peak infringement’ on rule of six

It’s not just Brexit that is exercising backbenchers today. Several backbenchers are also up in arms over new rules making it illegal for more than six people to “mingle”.

Changes to regulations in England were published late on Sunday night, around 30 minutes before they came into force.

People face fines of £100, doubling to a maximum of £3,200 for repeat offences, for breaching the law, which bans social gatherings of more than six people both indoors and outdoors.

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Exemptions include schools and work settings, while places of worship, gyms, restaurants and hospitality settings can still hold more than six in total, while weddings and funerals can still go ahead with a limit of 30 people.

But Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 committee, has said England should be brought into line with Scotland and Wales, where the limit of six people gathering does not include the under-12s.

“It’s peak infringement of people’s liberties and their right to a normal family life,” Sir Graham told Times Radio.

Sir Graham Brady - Telegraph
Sir Graham Brady – Telegraph

09:47 AM

Nick Timothy: The bad-faith EU is furious that the UK now has a backstop of its own

Theresa May might not like the latest action from Number 10 – but her former aide Nick Timothy sees things somewhat differently. 

Writing for us today, the former Downing Street chief of staff explains not just what the Prime Minister is doing, and why, but also argues that Parliament must support the Internal Market Bill.

Read what he has to say here.

09:31 AM

Former minister to go against Government as Tory rebellion grows

It is not hugely surprising given his interventions, but former transport minister George Freeman has said he will vote against the Government on the Internal Market Bill. 

Earlier today, the Mid-Norfolk MP tweeted: “Our democracy & global standing rests on UK ministers not breaking the law & keeping our word.” He also described former PM Theresa May as a “heavyweight Brexiteer” which might be stretching it a tad.

Just now he has followed that up, saying: “Having read the Internal Market Bill & all the briefings over w/e I’m clear:

“The Clauses clearing up the legal uncertainty over the GB Internal Mkt in Wales & Scotland are necessary – the unilateral ripping up of the Northern Ireland Protocol Withdrawal Agreement is not.”

He added:

09:23 AM

Labour supports Government on ‘rule of six’, says Keir Starmer

Labour supports the Government’s “rule of six” restrictions which have come into force this week, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The opposition leader said the new rules were “simple, easily understood” and an improvement on the “slow” response to the outbreak in February and March, although he called on the Government to improve Test and Trace. 

“We can’t repeat that error again, so I do support the ‘rule of six’,” he told LBC. “As the leader of the Opposition I say to everybody, please follow the Government advice, please follow these rules.”

He added: “You can make the argument of why not five or why not six or seven – you have to go with a number backed by the science and they say six and I think we should abide by that rule.”

However, not everyone agrees…

09:19 AM

XR newspaper blockade ‘put more people off’, says Labour leader

Extinction Rebellion’s newspaper blockade was “counterproductive” and put more people off than it did win them over, the Labour leader has said. 

Sir Keir Starmer told LBC radio the climate change protest group was “wrong in my view and counterproductive” to deploy such tactics.

“A free press is a cornerstone of our democracy and people should be able to read the newspaper that they want to read,” he added. “I actually think it was counterproductive, I think it put more people off than brought people on.

“The test of this is actually is it persuading people that this cause is the right cause and make them more likely to take action themselves in the way they go about their every day lives and I actually think this action was counterproductive.

“I suspect there is more people now who are less sympathetic than there were before.”

09:17 AM

Labour leader has not spoken to MPs who praised XR newspaper blockade

Sir Keir Starmer has not spoken to Labour MPs Dawn Butler and Diane Abbott who expressed support for the Extinction Rebellion blockade of the newspaper printing presses. 

The Telegraph was among several national newspapers disrupted by the protest last weekend, which the MP for Brent praised on Twitter as “excellent work”, before her tweet was later deleted.

The Labour leader told LBC: “I haven’t directly spoken to either of them about it – I disagree with them.

“Obviously people will have different opinions but my strong opinion is this was counterproductive, it was wrong and we shouldn’t miss the bigger picture here which is that climate change is a very important issue and we do need to shine a light on that but this is the wrong way to do it.”

Sir Keir said it was “rubbish” that he had been slow to condemn the actions of the environmentalist group – as has been claimed by Oliver Dowden.

“The Labour Party put out a line, that’s what we do, but I in fact put out a line myself anyway,” he added.

Dawn Butler - PA
Dawn Butler – PA

09:06 AM

Breaking Withdrawal Agreement will damage UK reputation, Keir Starmer warns

Boris Johnson’s plan to override the Withdrawal Agreement through new legislation will erode international trust in the UK for years to come, Sir Keir Starmer has warned. 

“He is making a mistake reneging on a treaty, that will have reputational damage for the UK,” the Labour leader told LBC radio. “Here we are on the world stage for the first time in many years on our own and what’s the first thing we do? We break a treaty.

“It’s basic stuff – if you say to other nations we agree something and a few months later you say no we don’t, the chances are they aren’t going to trust you going forward.”

Sir Keir claimed Labour would support legislation on an internal market “if the Government took away these problems, didn’t breach international law and act in this way.”

He added: “I would say to the Prime Minister, look go away, go back to the drawing board, drop these problems, don’t act in this reckless and wrong way and we’ll look again at the legislation.”

Keir Starmer - PA/Wire
Keir Starmer – PA/Wire

08:58 AM

Pro-Brexit groups urge MPs to back controversial bill, claiming EU is in breach of Withdrawal Agreement

MPs are being petitioned by pro-Brexit groups to back the controversial Internal Markets Bill, saying this action is “justified under international law” because of the EU’s own breaches of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Groups including Facts4EU.Org, Brexit Watch, Scientists for Britain and Global Britain, and individuals including  Professor Patrick Minford former MEP David Campbell Bannerman and economist Catherine McBride, have signed a letter calling on backbenchers to support the bill, despite concerns that it would break the rule of law. 

The letter says: “It is our collective assessment – backed by highly-respected and EU-experienced lawyers – that the European Union is in serious and material breaches of its ‘good faith’, ‘best endeavours’ and other obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement, in which it committed to respect the UK’s sovereignty and internal market.

“We therefore believe that the Government is entitled to act to protect the UK to the fullest extent from EU demands purportedly based on this document, and that such action is justified under international law on account of these breaches. 

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“We ask you to vote in support of the Internal Market and Finance Bills so that a strong and consistent message from the British people and its Parliament is sent to Brussels… The entire country needs certainty in the coming months and we hope you will play your part in providing this.” 

08:41 AM

Boris Johnson ‘all over the place’ on Brexit, says Labour leader

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister needed to “get on with” getting a deal with the EU rather than re-treading old ground.

Speaking to LBC, he said: “Boris Johnson is all over the place. Here he is, he’s signed a deal – he either knew what he was signing, in which case how has he got himself in this position? Or else he didn’t know, which I think is probably worse.

“I don’t think the outstanding issues can’t be resolved so my message to Boris Johnson is: get on with it and actually focus on what most people are speaking about this morning which is how on Earth do we defeat and deal with this pandemic?

“That’s what’s on people’s minds – they thought this was over, he’s reopening it, I think the nation would say to Boris Johnson, ‘Get on with it, you’re wrong’.”

Sir Keir made this very point in the Telegraph this weekend – read it here if you haven’t already.

08:23 AM

Government needs law-breaking legislation to solve Brexit ‘conundrum’, says minister

The Government is bringing forward legislation that breaks international law because it needs “a solution to that conundrum”, the policing minister has said.

Number 10 has been fending off criticism this morning after former attorney general Geoffrey Cox said the plans would do “unconscionable” damage to Britain’s international reputation.

Mr Cox  — whose legal advice killed Theresa May’s Brexit deal last year – said there was “no doubt” the “unpalatable” implications of the Withdrawal Agreement were known when the PM signed it.

But Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we get to a situation where we are not recognised as a third country and it therefore becomes illegal to move food to Northern Ireland, what is the UK Prime Minister supposed to do?

“I think this is the solution that needs to be offered if we’re going to have resolution to that – Northern Ireland is unequivocally part of the UK customs territory, so the fact that is now being brought into question is a very difficult thing for us to face, very concerning but no doubt that will all be thrashed out this afternoon.”

This afternoon’s second reading of the bill, which is due to kick off at 4pm, will set the stage for a more significant showdown next week when an amendment put forward by veteran MP and serial rebel Bob Neill comes to a vote.

08:19 AM

Tory whips in ‘gentle, beseeching phase’ to head off rebellion over controversial new bill

Conservative whips are in “the gentle, beseeching phase” of calling MPs in an attempt to head off a rebellion over the Government’s controversial new bill, which will be debated this afternoon. 

One former minister told the Telegraph she expected a “massive, massive row” but the drama over the Internal Markets Bill is not expected to block it at this stage. Sources suggested there would be fewer than 30 Tory MPs rebelling, which means it will pass the second reading stage this evening. 

However the Bob Neill amendment due next week presents a bigger headache for the whips office. It is understood that MPs are being placated with promises to review the planning reforms, another sticking point for Tory MPs and one that hits home harder.

One said: “Planning is the bigger prize.”

Another added: “I don’t especially like what is going on, but I would rather rebel on other things… you have to pick the battles.”

08:11 AM

Have your say on: the Government’s law-breaking bill

Today MPs will begin debating a controversial new bill that overrides part of the Withdrawal Agreement, just months after the UK signed up to it. 

Ministers freely conceded it would break the law but Number 10 and loyal MPs such as Theresa Villiers (8:18am) argue that desperate times call for desperate measures – and there would be no need to resort to this if the EU granted third country status, enabling Great Britain to continue exporting goods to Northern Ireland. 

Critics including Geoffrey Cox, Bob Neill and Ed Miliband have warned that it will erode the UK’s international standing, meaning we have no leg to stand on when to comes to dispute with other countries.

Former prime ministers including David Cameron, Theresa May, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have also raised concerns. 

But what do you think? Have your say in the poll below. 

07:57 AM

ICYMI: The Frost-Barnier Twitter spat that spelled it all out

Political Twitter spats are hardly anything new, but the one that took place yesterday afternoon is well worth having a glance over, if you haven’t already. 

Michel Barnier took to the social media platform to argue against the UK Government’s claim that the Northern Ireland Protocol could be used to break up the UK and insisted that Brussels was not refusing to grant Britain third party status.

But David Frost hit back on Twitter by insisting the EU “knows perfectly well all the details of our food standards rules” and warned that without third party listing it would become “automatically illegal” for Northern Ireland to import food products from mainland Britain.

You can read the full thing here.

David Frost and Michel Barnier in Brussels - Reuters
David Frost and Michel Barnier in Brussels – Reuters

07:45 AM

David Cameron says he has ‘misgivings’ about controversial new Brexit bill

David Cameron is the latest prime minister to express concern about the Government’s controversial new Brexit bill, saying he has “misgivings about what is being proposed”

The former Conservative leader said: “Passing an Act of Parliament and then going on to break an international treaty obligation is the very, very last thing you should contemplate. It should be an absolute final resort.

“So, I do have misgivings about what’s being proposed.”

But he stressed “the bigger picture here is we are in a vital negotiation with the European Union to get a deal”, urging people to “keep that context, that big prize, in mind”.

He joins Theresa May, Tony Blair, John Major and Gordon Brown in voicing concerns about the bill.

07:39 AM

Rule of law should not be broken for ‘mess of pottage’, says senior Tory MP

Northern Ireland Committee chair Simon Hoare has said the rule of law should not be broken “for a mess of pottage”, in a further sign of the growing Tory rebellion.

Following Geoffrey Cox’s intervention overnight, the North Dorset MP said: “I remember hearing lots of colleagues saying at the time: ‘if Geoffrey says it’s no dice; I’m not playing’.  Lots saying ‘if Cox unhappy I’m not going for it’.  As a committed Brexiter he should remain an important lightening rod.”

He added: 

07:30 AM

Government must clarify plans for controversial law-breaking Brexit bill

Geoffrey Cox said the Government had not done enough to explain how it would use the powers set out in the Internal Market Bill.

Speaking to Times Radio, the Former attorney general said: “I think the fundamental problem at the moment is that it is not clear the circumstances in which the powers taken by the Bill would be used.

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“The Government thus far has not given any definition to those circumstances.

“If the powers are to be used simply to nullify the foreseeable and ordinary consequences of an agreement we signed, that to me is simply to go back on an agreement that both the British Government signed solemnly and Parliament itself ratified in February.

“I think it is wrong that the British Government or our Parliament should renege on an agreement on which we gave our solemn word.”

07:28 AM

Geoffrey Cox suggests he could be persuaded on controversial Brexit bill

Geoffrey Cox has intimated that he could still back the controversial bill, if he is convinced of “extreme circumstances.. involving a breach of duty of the good faith by the EU.”

The former attorney general told Times Radio that if the Government was able to “dispel the impression, a very unfortunate impression” that Brandon Lewis had given last week – namely that the Internal Markets Bill would be use expressly to  “violate a treaty into which we solemnly entered just a few months ago” – then he might be persuaded. 

If the powers are only to be used in “these specific circumstances” then he might be minded to back it, the MP said, although noted that “I haven’t had those assurances” yet. 

“I will be listening keenly today,” he added. 

But Mr Cox made it clear he thought that was unlikely, noting that there were “lawful remedies open to us and it is those we should take rather than violating international law and a solemn treaty.”

He continued: “The breaking of the law leads ultimately to very long-term and permanent damage to this country’s reputation and it is also a question of honour to me – we signed up, we knew what we were signing, we simply can’t seek to nullify those ordinary consequences of doing that and I simply can’t support that.

07:21 AM

Minister rubbishes ‘poetic’ intervention from Geoffrey Cox

Arguments against the UK Internal Market Bill do not “solve the problem we’re faced with”, the policing minister has said. 

Asked what he thought of former attorney general Geoffrey Cox’s intervention overnight, Kit Malthouse told the BBC: “Well it’s very poetic but it doesn’t, for me personally, solve the problem that we’re faced with, which is we’re in a situation where if this third-country status is withheld from the UK.

“It means that food exports from GB to Northern Ireland could in theory become illegal in the future and in those circumstances I’m not quite sure what a British Prime Minister is supposed to do.

“What we’ve done is to say transparently that this is a situation which we think may occur, certainly that’s what’s being intimated from the EU, that it’s a problem we have to solve so here’s a bill that solves it.”

He added: “In the end those people that oppose this bill have to tell us what the resolution is.”

Kit Malthouse - Christopher Pledger for the Telegraph
Kit Malthouse – Christopher Pledger for the Telegraph

07:18 AM

Former minister Theresa Villiers to support controversial new Brexit bill

Former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers has said she won’t be rebelling on the controversial Internal Market Bill, despite ministers admitting it breaks international law.

Number 10 insists it is a vital “insurance policy” to ensure that Britain can continue to export food to Northern Ireland after Brexit. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “I will be supporting the Bill because I think it is sensible to have a fall-back position if the EU continues to refuse to negotiate reasonably on arrangements for transporting goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

Ms Villiers said the Government was “certainly taking a tough approach” to the negotiations with Brussels by tabling the legislation but added that the measures in the Bill would only be required if no agreement was forthcoming on how the Northern Ireland Protocol could be “exercised”.

She added that a “day-to-day part of the international law system” involved discrepancies over its domestic application, citing David Cameron’s refusal to introduce votes for prisoners despite a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.

Theresa Villiers - PA
Theresa Villiers – PA

07:13 AM

Former attorney general accuses Boris Johnson of ‘unconscionable’ damage to UK reputation

Overnight, former attorney general Geoffrey Cox has said he will not back the Government’s attempts to override the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement when it comes before the Commons.

He accused Boris Johnson of doing “unconscionable” damage to Britain’s international reputation.

Mr Cox  — whose legal advice killed Theresa May’s Brexit deal last year – said there was “no doubt” the “unpalatable” implications of the Withdrawal Agreement were known when the PM signed it.

“We, the British government and Parliament, have given our word. Our honour, our credibility, our self-respect and our future influence in the world all rest upon us keeping that word,” Mr Cox wrote in The Times.

He said that there were lawful ways for the government to deal with its concerns, such as using a procedure set out in the agreement to take “temporary and proportional measures” to protect the UK’s interests if approved by the Commons.

“What ministers should not do, however provoked or frustrated they may feel, is to take or use powers permanently and unilaterally to rewrite portions of an agreement into which this country freely entered just a few months ago,” he said.

Geoffrey Cox - AFP
Geoffrey Cox – AFP

07:10 AM

Government accused of ‘legislative hooliganism’ over controversial new Brexit bill

Labour shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said the Government’s plan to use domestic law to override the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels was an act of “legislative hooliganism”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the former Labour leader said: “The fundamental thing is – I think we should take a step back – this is not normal.

“I’ve come on your programme many times to discuss many issues – I have never been on your programme discussing a British government coming along and seeking to break international law, an agreement it signed.

“It is honestly a sad day and that’s why I think you hear people across the political spectrum condemning the Government.”

He added: “Of the most sensitive issues around Northern Ireland, at the most sensitive stage of the Brexit negotiations – I mean it’s sort of legislative hooliganism that the Government is engaged in and it will be self-defeating, I fear.”

06:40 AM

Justice Secretary threatens to quit over Brexit divorce deal

​The Justice Secretary has said he will resign over any “unacceptable” breach of international law as Boris Johnson tried to quell a Tory rebellion over his plans to amend the Brexit divorce deal.

Robert Buckland said he did not believe the Government would “get to that point” where it had to break the Withdrawal Agreement signed with the EU last year, but added that, if it did, “I know in my mind what I have to do”.

As Parliament prepares to debate legislation that would reverse aspects of the EU divorce deal this week, Mr Johnson is facing the growing threat of an attempt to defeat it from his own MPs.

The Telegraph has learned that Government whips have begun talks with rebels about a possible compromise that could give Parliament more say in the matter.


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