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Scottish Parliament recalled to remember Prince Philip

Talks are underway aimed at resolving problems related to the Northern Ireland protocol after disorder and violence blighted the region throughout much of the last week.

UK and EU officials are said to be examining how issues related to the post-Brexit agreement, which has drawn a de facto border down the Irish sea, can be addressed, Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE reported.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal with the EU has put the future of many exporting businesses at risk, with 41 per cent reporting decreased overseas sales in the first three months of the new arrangements, according to a new survey by one of the UK’s leading business organisations.

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Stormont pledges to pay for Troubles pensions, court told

Stormont’s Executive Office has pledged to pay for a Troubles pension scheme, a court has been told.

The declaration concludes a lengthy legal battle over who should cover the £1.2bn cost.

In a letter to Belfast High Court, the Department of Finance said the payments will be made.

The guarantee will allow thousands of victims who suffered physical or mental trauma to apply for up to £10,000 a year.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 12:14

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Labour MP calls on government to maintain foreign aid funding for sexual health

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi has called on the government to maintain foreign aid budget funding for sexual and reproductive health to guard against the negative impacts of the pandemic.

The shadow international development minsiter said the coronavirus outbreak had disrupted contraceptive use for 12 million women and had caused one-and-a-half million unintended pregnancies.

“As part of my role in the @LabourDfID team, I have called on the government to maintain the same levels of funding for 2021-22 to support these women,” she tweeted.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 11:53

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Gordon Brown calls for five-year ban on ex-ministers lobbying

Here is Gordon Brown proposing a five-year ban on former members of government lobbying in the wake of the allegations against David Cameron.

Gordon Brown calls for tougher lobbying rules in wake of David Cameron-Greensill row

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 11:37

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MSPs pay tributes to Prince Philip

MSPs, led by Nicola Sturgeon, have begun paying tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh in Holyrood.

The first minister described the Queen and her late husband as a “true partnership”.

There will be more of the same from political representatives throughout the day.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 11:26

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Just how bad are the opinion polls for Keir Starmer?

Two new opinion polls over the weekend, from Opinium and Deltapoll, put the Conservatives nine percentage points ahead of Labour, by 45 per cent to 36 per cent. This suggests that Keir Starmer has made some progress since Jeremy Corbyn recorded the worst defeat for Labour since 1935, but not much.

Indeed, because the constituency boundaries are likely to be redrawn by the time of the next election, removing the bias in the system that benefited Labour last time, a nine-point Tory lead would probably result in another majority of about 80 seats for the government.

However, the picture is not necessarily as gloomy as it seems for the leader of the opposition, who has just marked his first year in post.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 10:57

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MPs to spend more time giving tributes to Prince Philip than they got to scrutinise final Brexit deal

MPs will dedicate a whole day of work to a marathon session of tributes to Prince Philip, parliamentary authorities have confirmed.

No other Commons business will be conducted on Monday, with MPs set to spend seven and a half hours praising the Royal until 10 o’clock at night.

Significantly more parliamentary time is being allocated to the occasion than to debating Boris Johnson’s final Brexit trade deal – which was given just five hours in December.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, said at the time that the five-hour debate for the Brexit deal was appropriate because “we have now been discussing this subject for four, five, six or perhaps nearly 50 years”.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 10:45

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Keir Starmer can’t pin down Boris Johnson on vaccine passports – or anything else | Opinion

The Labour leader has carefully constructed an alliance against ‘Covid-status certificates’, only to find that the prime minister has escaped again, writes John Rentoul.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 10:32

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Talks underway to resolve NI protocol issues – report

UK and EU officials are reportedly working on a new joint document which it is hoped would resolve some of issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

According to the Irish national broadcaster, RTE, “technical and political talks” are being held with a view to address concerns around the post-Brexit settlement, with violence having played out on the streets of Northern Ireland since late last month.

RTE’s Tony Connelly said the process could take “several weeks”.

Loyalists are angry at Northern Ireland’s new trading arrangements, which were implemented because of Brexit under a mechanism known as the protocol.

Because Northern Ireland stayed in the EU’s single market after Brexit, customs checks are required on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK – effectively created a border down the Irish Sea.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 10:14

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Lobbying row reflects ‘very casual way of running governments’

Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin, who is chair of the Commons Liaison Committee, has said that the David Cameron lobbying row reflects a culture of “a very casual way of running governments”.

Asked about the former prime minister’s statement, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, he is clearly feeling acutely embarrassed.

“And in some respects, he is reflecting a culture of a very casual way of running governments and running the country that didn’t start with David Cameron; ‘sofa government’ long pre-dated David Cameron.

“This very informal way of conducting relationships about very important matters and the distribution of public money, well I don’t think the public thinks that’s acceptable.

“But I am not going to pass judgment on David Cameron, I think in some respects it’s a distraction.”

David Cameron giving evidence to the National Security Strategy Committee on the subject of the national security strategy in 2019

David Cameron giving evidence to the National Security Strategy Committee on the subject of the national security strategy in 2019

(PA)

He added: “What is more important is not who is lobbying, and even if you have a five-year ban as suggested by Gordon Brown, is it OK for an ex-prime minister to start lobbying after six years?

“You can’t make laws stretch far into the future to bind people to previous employment, it just doesn’t work.” 

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 10:02

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MPs, business leaders and economic experts to scrutinise post-Brexit trade deals

A new cross-party group comprising of MPs, business leaders and economic experts is being established to scrutinise of the UK’s trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world.

The Trade and Business Commission will be co-convened by Labour MP Hilary Benn and the chairman of Virgin Group, Peter Norris.

It will bring together 11 MPs from nine parties in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and will initially assess the economic impact of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and other UK trade deals.

The group will also take written and oral evidence from expert witnesses, businesses and the public to assess how the changes have affected the UK economy, from financial services to manufacturing.

Roger Gale, a Tory MP on the panel, said the group would study how small businesses are “bearing the brunt of new red tape at our borders”.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 09:47

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