Brexit news – live: DUP accused of ‘silly games’ over legal action, as No 10 denies influence of Boris Johnson’s fiancee

Too much Brexit ‘red tape’, says Keir Starmer

Downing Street has denied that Boris Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds has a key role in running the country, after a Tory think tank called for an inquiry into the extent of her influence.

The Bow Group has called for a public review into whether Ms Symonds has power in shaping policy. “It’s incorrect,” said No 10 press secretary Allegra Stratton when asked if the PM’s fiancée had a key role.

Meanwhile, the DUP and other unionist parties in Northern Ireland have teamed up to launch a legal challenge against the protocol, part of the Brexit deal with the EU aimed at avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

However Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill urged the DUP to stop playing “silly games” and focus on solving the difficulties caused by Brexit.

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Boris Johnson is now making his statement on his plans for easing lockdown.

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 15:36

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Fast-track return to Lords for Brexit chief

Normal rules are being bypassed to fast-track Lord Frost’s return to the upper house following his appointment to the Cabinet.

In his role as chief Brexit negotiator, the Conservative peer has been on leave of absence from the unelected chamber ever since he joined last September.

Three months’ notice are usually needed before being readmitted, but peers heard an “exception” was being made in the case of Lord Frost to allow him to come back “at an early date”.

The move was announced as peers stressed the importance of ministers being held to account by parliament, amid concerns over long delays in government responses to written answers and select committee reports.

Press Association

Peter Stubley22 February 2021 15:28

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Some parliamentary staff don’t want Salmond dossier published

Some women at the Scottish parliament have taken to Twitter to urge the parliament’s corporate body not to publish Alex Salmond’s dossier – as expected – later this afternoon. They claim it would risk identifying a complainer.

Adam Forrest22 February 2021 15:08

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Stop the ‘silly games’ over protocol, says Sinn Fein

The DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley suggested advantages to the protocol “did not exist” and insisted it should be “destined for the dustbin” during a session at the Northern Ireland assembly.

Urging the DUP to stop playing “silly games”, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill replied: “My own personal view is, thank goodness for the protocol.

“What we’re experiencing right now is the fact that the British government didn’t prepare, they didn’t work with businesses in terms of being ready for a post-Brexit world.

The deputy first minister said: “What we’re dealing with now is the new trading reality as a direct result of Brexit. So what this executive has to focus on … is actually ironing out the difficulties that have now arisen as a direct result of Brexit

“It’s around stability, it’s around certainty, and it’s not around playing games with the protocol that has been agreed over the course of four years.”

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Deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill

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Deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill

(PA)

Adam Forrest22 February 2021 14:48

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Protocol avoids hard border, says EU Commission

We heard earlier from the Irish premier Micheal Martin, who reaffirmed the value of the protocol. The EU Commission is having to do the same today in the face of attacks from the DUP and other unionist parties in Northern Ireland.

Asked for its response to the legal action supported by the main NI unionist parties, commission spokesman Dan Ferrie said the protocol was about “protecting the gains of the peace process, protecting and maintaining stability, avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland”.

He added that it was also about “minimising the impact of Brexit on the everyday lives of communities north and south of the border”. But that’s certainly not the way the DUP feels about its impact.

Adam Forrest22 February 2021 14:31

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Emergency meeting? Latest twist in Salmond inquiry row

We were expecting the Scottish parliament’s authorities to publish Alex Salmond’s “bombshell” dossier later today. The controversial document contains claims about what Nicola Sturgeon knew and when during the early stages of Scottish government inquiries into harassment claims against Salmond.

But Rape Crisis Scotland has demanded Scottish parliamentary authorities convene an “emergency” meeting today to rethink the decision to publish, according to Scotland’s Daily Record.

The charity’s chief executive Sandy Brindley said accused the parliament of “knowingly” publishing material which would risk identifying a complainer. “I think the lack of priority given to protecting complainers by the [Scottish parliament] corporate body is a disgrace, and makes me ashamed of the parliament.”

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Alex Salmond at centre of parliamentary inquiry saga

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Alex Salmond at centre of parliamentary inquiry saga

(PA)

Adam Forrest22 February 2021 14:15

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Raab calls for UN to force China to allow investigators into Xinjiang

Dominic Raab has placed pressure on the UN to respond to China’s “appalling treatment” of the Uighur Muslims and people in Hong Kong.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, the foreign secretary said “no one can ignore the evidence any more” of a deteriorating human rights situation in China and called for a UN motion to be passed to allow investigators into Xinjiang.

In his online speech, Mr Raab said people’s rights in Hong Kong are being “systematically violated” and that the national security law is a “clear breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration” that is having a “chilling effect on personal freedoms”.

He told council members the situation in Xinjiang was “beyond the pale”, saying: “The reported abuses – which include torture, forced labour and forced sterilisation of women – are extreme and they are extensive. They are taking place on an industrial scale.

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, or another independent fact-finding expert, must – and I repeat, must – be given urgent and unfettered access to Xinjiang.

“If members of this Human Rights Council are to live up to our responsibilities, there must be a resolution which secures this access.”

China has constantly defended the so-called “re-education” camps in Xinjiang, saying they aim only to promote economic and social development in the region and to stamp out radicalism.

It comes after a former teacher at two of the camps spoke to CNN on Friday, to share the systematic abuse she witnessed Uighur people suffering at the hands of guards. You can read our report on that interview here:

Sam Hancock22 February 2021 13:45

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No 10 ‘concerned’ over Facebook ‘restricting news’ in Australia

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman has has said No 10 is “concerned” about Facebook’s decision to pull news content from its platform in Australia.

“We are obviously concerned about access to news being restricted in Australia,” he told a Westminster briefing. “As we always have done, we will be robust in defending free speech and journalism.

“And as you know are setting up a Digital Markets Unit to promote competition in digital markets and ensure major tech companies cannot exploit dominant market positions.

“The Digital Markets Unit will be established within the Competition and Markets Authority from April and we will consult on proposals on its form and function later this year.”

The spokesman added that culture secretary Oliver Dowden is expected to meet executives from Facebook some time this week.

Sam Hancock22 February 2021 13:20

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No 10 denies Johnson’s fiancée Carrie has role in running country

Here’s our political editor Andrew Woodcock on No 10 denying Carrie Symonds has any unelected role in running the country:

Sam Hancock22 February 2021 13:14

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Claims Carrie Symonds helps PM run UK ‘incorrect,’ says No 10

Downing Street has responded to claims Boris Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds plays a central role in running the country, rubbishing them as “incorrect”.

Conservative think tank The Bow Group called for an inquiry into her activities following reports of her influence within No 10.

Allegra Stratton, the PM’s press secretary, said there was “no response to that at all” and stressed Mr Johnson was focused on getting the coronavirus crisis under control.

Asked whether Ms Symonds was taking a central role with no authority or accountability, Ms Stratton said: “It’s incorrect. The prime minister’s fiancee is on maternity leave, she’s raising their son Wilf and shortly she will be taking up a new role at the wildlife charity the Aspinall Foundation.”

(Getty)

Adam Forrest22 February 2021 13:05

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