From a leadership fiasco to the ‘sausage wars’, the Democratic Unionist party’s stance on Brexit has forced it to contend with a new – perhaps even existential – set of problems. What will they mean for the region’s future?
When the Democratic Unionist party decided to support Brexit, many warned that the decision could have profound consequences for Northern Ireland’s position within the UK. Five years on, new customs arrangements and an Irish Sea border mean trade flows with the Republic of Ireland are growing – even as imports from Great Britain are slowing. And some on the unionist side fear that bit by bit, the argument for a united Ireland is gaining ground.
Now the region has found itself in the grip of a so-called ‘sausage war’ over chilled processed meats. At the same time, the DUP is about to install its third leader in a month, a crisis at the top that has exacerbated fears that the party could face electoral annihilation. Anushka Asthana speaks to the Guardian’s Ireland correspondent, Rory Carroll, and the Brexit correspondent, Lisa O’Carroll, about a seismic moment for Northern Ireland – and what a political crisis for Stormont’s leading unionist party could mean for the region’s future.Continue reading...
Brexit minister says dispute over border checks in Northern Ireland main barrier to better relationship
The deterioration in relations with the EU, partly driven by the Northern Ireland “sausage war”, has come as a surprise to those, who campaigned to leave the bloc five years ago, the government has admitted.
The Brexit minister, Lord Frost, said they had dreamed of a sovereign Britain, which could set forth on a global mission while maintaining friendly relations with its neighbours.Continue reading...
UK removes quarantine requirement for arrivals from Balearics, Malta and some Caribbean islands – as it happened
- Portuguese PM hints at tighter Covid rules for tourists from UK
- Public inquiry into Covid must begin now, says senior judge
- No 10 says mass event pilot findings will be published ‘shortly’
- Long Covid sufferers face new ordeals as sick pay runs out
- Coronavirus global updates – live
That’s it from the UK blog team. You can follow our global coronavirus coverage here -
Here is some reaction to the changes to the UK’s green list from our transport correspondent, Gwyn Topham.
The Balearic islands accounted for more than 8% of UK flights to EU countries in the last pre-Covid summer of 2019, when almost 1,000 flights a week would depart from the UK, according to data from analysts Cirium.
Rory Boland, travel editor for consumer group Which?, said travellers still needed to be “extremely cautious” about booking trips abroad.
He said: “Countries can be downgraded quickly and with little warning, as we saw with Portugal, while several European countries have introduced quarantine requirements for UK residents.
Eluned Morgan MS, minister for health and social services in Wales, said: “International travel is resuming but the pandemic is not over and protecting people’s health remains our main priority.
“Our strong advice continues to be not to travel overseas unless it is essential because of the risk of contracting coronavirus, especially new and emerging variants of concern.
The Welsh government said following the three-week review of the restrictions on international travel it will follow the same traffic-light approach as the rest of the UK.
Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Balearic Islands, Barbados, Bermuda, British Antarctic
Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands,
Dominica, Grenada, Madeira, Malta Montserrat, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno
Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands have been moved to the green list.
We have also agreed to add Israel to the green watch list – this identifies countries most at risk of moving from green to amber, so travellers have some warning a destination may be moved to amber.
Six countries – the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Haiti, Mongolia, Tunisia and Uganda – are joining the red list. All changes to the lists will come into effect at 4am on Tuesday 30 June.”
We are awaiting an announcement from Wales on changes to its travel list.
It is expected to follow the same approach as the rest of the UK after the Scottish government said earlier that a “four-nation” approach had been taken following a strategic meeting.
Commenting on the updated green list, Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said: “Any extension of the green list is welcome, however small, but we also have to be realistic: this is not yet the meaningful restart the aviation industry needs to be able to recover from the pandemic.
“While this is not yet the vaccine dividend people in the UK had hoped for, it is welcome that Government intends to exempt fully vaccinated travellers from quarantine.
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said the government’s announcement of an expanded travel green list “fails to go far enough”.
“The Government’s own evidence shows that the US is low risk and should be added to the green list now,” he added.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We’re moving forward with efforts to safely reopen international travel this summer, and thanks to the success of our vaccination programme, we’re now able to consider removing the quarantine period for fully vaccinated UK arrivals from amber countries - showing a real sign of progress.
“It’s right that we continue with this cautious approach, to protect public health and the vaccine rollout as our top priority, while ensuring that our route out of the international travel restrictions is sustainable.”
The Department for Transport said: “In recognition of our successful domestic vaccination programme, and as part of the Global Travel Taskforce’s checkpoint review, our intention is that later in the summer, arrivals who are fully vaccinated will not have to quarantine when travelling from amber list countries.
“We expect this to occur in phases, starting with UK residents.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said later in the summer the government’s intention is fully vaccinated UK residents will not need to isolate when travelling from amber list countries.
Thanks to our successful vaccination programme, our intention is that later in the summer ☀️ UK residents who are fully vaccinated will not have to isolate when travelling from amber list countries
We’ll set out further details next month.
Countries including Tunisia and Haiti will be put on the red list. All these changes will come into effect from Weds 30 June at 4am.
Here is the full list:
Six countries including Tunisia and Haiti will be put on the red list
All these changes will come into effect from Weds 30 June at 4am.
The UK government has announced Malta is being added to the green list and green watch list from June 30 along with Madeira, the Balearic Islands, several UK Overseas Territories and Caribbean Islands including Barbados.
Israel and Jerusalem are also added to the green watchlist.
Scotland has moved 16 countries in total to the green travel list.
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson, said: “From the outset we have said caution is required regarding international travel and people should think very carefully about travelling abroad as situations can suddenly change.
The Scottish government has announced that Malta, Madeira, Barbados and the Balearic Islands are among the countries that will be added to the green list from 30 June.
It said that all of the same countries are being moved around its travel list as those announced by Northern Ireland in the past hour.
Following the announced changes to Northern Ireland’s travel green list in the past hour, Huw Merriman, chairman of the Commons Transport Select Committee, said: “These changes are a move in the right direction. The additions to the green list offer more potential for quarantine-free holidays for UK travellers.
“But like an oasis just out of reach - travel to more than 150 countries on the amber list is still unnecessarily difficult.
Coronavirus cases are continuing to rise across every region in England but health leaders have said that vaccines are breaking the chain from infections to hospital admissions and deaths.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said that with more than nine million people in their 20s and 30s having had a first jab, the country is “well on track” for July 19 when Covid restrictions could be eased.
The authorities in Hong Kong have re-classified Britain as a “very high-risk” country - moving it from the “high-risk” category - as delta variant continues to spread across the UK.
The new categorisation, which is to take effect on Monday 28 June, will mean that passengers from the UK to Hong Kong will have to go through an extended period of monitoring after arriving in the city. There will be no reduced quarantine period even for fully-vaccinated travellers. https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202106/24/P2021062400893.htm
PA has this summary of what we know about the expanded green list via the Northern Ireland Executive:
Travellers arriving in Northern Ireland from several popular holiday destinations, including the Balearic Islands, will no longer need to self-isolate.
The Northern Ireland Executive confirmed that anyone travelling from a country on the Green list must:
The Northern Ireland Executive has the full details of the expanded Green list of countries deemed safe for travel from next Wednesday morning.
These are destinations that have been added:
Officials in Northern Ireland appear to have jumped the gun.
Looks like the Northern Irish government may have pipped DFT to the post on announcing green list changes, coming into force from 4am next Wednesday:
- Balearic Islands
- Cayman Islands
NI govt also says countries being added to red list from 4am next Wednesday are:
Earlier, I was told NI would be following travel restriction changes England were announcing.
Politics For All has a list of the destinations added to Northern Ireland’s green list:
| BREAKING: Balearic Islands, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands all on Northern Ireland Green list
Sky News reckons the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is expected to make an announcement about an easing of some travel restrictions in the next 10 minutes.
This is Matthew Weaver covering the blog for the next hour or so.
Boris Johnson’s plans to back summer holidays for the fully vaccinated faced a stumbling block as Portugal’s prime minister became the first EU leader to suggest he would abide by Berlin’s calls for tighter Covid restrictions on British tourists, my colleagues Daniel Boffey and Aubrey Allegretti report.
The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has announced that its vaccine certification scheme will go live by, or before, 19 July.
Downing Street has said the government will publish the evidence gathered from piloting mass events such as concerts and festivals “shortly”, as music industry figures including Andrew Lloyd Webber take legal action in an effort to force its disclosure, my colleague Heather Stewart reports.
Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, has said that Ireland has been “very much” involved in the EU’s attempt to find a “generous and pragmatic” solution to the problem of the Northern Ireland protocol.
Speaking after the British/Irish intergovernmental conference in Dublin, he said:
We have been advocating for more ambition around sanitary and phytosanitary standards, food standards, vet standards and a common approach to that from the UK and the EU which could reduce significantly the number of checks required in airports and airports in Northern Ireland on product coming from GB.
Hopefully, this week and into next week, if we can get agreement on the chilled meats issue, at least for the temporary extension of that grace period, that can be a catalyst for improved relationships and the building up of trust and allow negotiating teams to try to solve some of these other issues over the summer months, because they need to be solved.
Scotland has recorded 2,999 new coronavirus cases. That is a record total for recorded new cases in Scotland, and it represents an increase of 30 on the total for yesterday - which at the time was also a record total for new cases.
Of all the tests carried out, 7.7% were positive.
Reporting to the parliament earlier this week, I said that 10 per cent of cases were translating into hospital admissions earlier this year; it is now down to 5 per cent. That is really positive news, but 5 per cent of a daily case rate of 3,000 is still a massive number heading into our hospitals. That is loss for people. That is pain and suffering, as well as pressure on the national health service.
The British and Irish governments have decided to intensify efforts to find a way of resolving legacy issues from the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In a joint statement issued after today’s British/Irish intergovernmental conference in Dublin, they said they agreed “there was a need for a process of intensive engagement in the period immediately ahead with the Northern Ireland parties and others on legacy issues”.
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, said talks would start “very, very quickly with the parties in Northern Ireland, and with the stakeholders and victims’ groups and civic society more widely” to address these issues.
If you are planning a holiday in the UK, and have not yet booked, then consider a city break, Avvio says. The firm, which supplies hotel booking technology, says that most resort hotels in Britain are fully booked for the summer, but that city centre hotels are only at 30 to 40% occupancy.
Avvio’s chief commercial officer, Michael De Jongh, said:
With the UK’s resorts pretty much full up for the summer months there’s been some overspill into city centre hotels. But with almost no inbound international travel many of them are still really struggling.
There’s so much to see in and around Britain’s beautiful cities and I’d urge holidaymakers to really think about having a UK city break - in precisely the same way they’d have considered going to Prague or Barcelona before the pandemic.
Which?, the consumers’ organisation, is warning that, even if a country like Malta does get added to the green list when we get the government’s travel announcement later (see 9.28am), people should be cautious when booking a holiday. Rory Boland, the Which? travel editor, said:
The addition of more holiday destinations to the green list would be welcomed by holidaymakers and industry alike, but travellers still need to be extremely cautious about booking trips this summer, even to green list destinations. Countries can be downgraded quickly and with little warning, as we saw with Portugal, while several European countries have introduced quarantine requirements for UK residents.
Restrictions around international travel are changing regularly and when they do, the cost to holidaymakers is significant. Most providers will not pay refunds if a country is moved from green to amber, and ‘free’ amendments are often anything but, with many companies requiring significant notice of any changes and bookings for new dates usually costing hundreds of pounds. Travel insurance is also unlikely to pay out in these circumstances.
The UK has recorded 16,703 new coronavirus cases, according to the latest update on the government’s Covid dashboard. That is up 568 on yesterday’s total and the highest daily total since early February. The total number of cases over the past week is up 44.8% on the total for the previous week.
And there have been 21 further deaths. The total number of deaths over the past week is up 32.1% on the total for the previous week.
London continues to lag behind the rest of England in the proportion of people aged 50 and over who are fully vaccinated, PA Media reports. PA says:
An estimated 83.1% of over-50s in the capital had received both doses of vaccine by 20 June.
All other regions are above 90%, with south-west England reporting the highest proportion at 95.0%.
The Labour party has announced that, as expected, Jenny Chapman, who until now has been Sir Keir Starmer’s political secretary, has been appointed shadow Brexit minister.
NEW: @JennyChapman formally appointed to @UKLabour Shadow Cabinet to shadow @cabinetofficeuk Lord Frost; & also joins our frontbench team in @UKHouseofLords.
Response below from Jenny & @LadyBasildon: pic.twitter.com/tLtXlzHd4Z
A total of 63,439,292 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between 8 December and 23 June, according to NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 316,201 on the previous day.
NHS England said 36,564,938 were first doses, a rise of 187,513 on the previous day, while 26,874,354 were a second dose, an increase of 128,688.
EE will impose roaming charges on customers using their mobile phones in other European countries from next year, despite previously saying it had no plans to reintroduce them after Brexit, PA Media reports. PA says:
The move will affect new customers and those upgrading from 7 July, who face a £2 daily fee from January 2022 to use their data, minutes and text allowance when roaming in 47 European destinations.
The Republic of Ireland will be exempt.
Boris Johnson is being urged to adopt the Brexit “take back control” slogan and apply it to devolution. In a report (pdf) on the UK internal market, the Institute for Government thinktank says that a new approach to it is needed that pays more regard to the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It says:
A key argument made by pro-Brexit campaigners during the 2016 referendum was that leaving the EU would allow the UK to “take back control” and have the freedom to make regulatory decisions that best reflected the UK context and preferences. The UK government should apply the same logic to the devolved administrations and their ability to make policy choices for their part of the UK.
The UK government holds the ultimate decision-making power. However, it must be mindful of its dual role as both the government of the whole of the UK, and the government of England in devolved areas like food standards, and do all it can to guard against perceptions that it is prioritising the interests of part of the UK over the others.
David Frost, Boris Johnson’s Brexit-aftermath negotiator and Cabinet Office minister has accused his fellow Conservative peer Chris Patten of being irresponsible after Patten used a speech to accuse the government of lying about the Northern Ireland protocol.
In a speech on Wednesday evening in honour of Seamus Mallon, the former Northern Irish deputy first minister, Lord Patten – who chaired a 1998 commission on policing in the region, a key element of the peace process – said ministers must be truthful about the post-Brexit arrangements for the Irish border.
The problem at heart is not the sausages you get from Sainsbury’s but the porkies that we all get, home and abroad, from Downing Street.
I obviously don’t believe the conclusions he draws from the Brexit process as it affects Northern Ireland are correct ones, and I do think it’s important that all those commenting on the situation in Northern Ireland show responsibility in the way they do so. And, if I may say so, I don’t think the tone of some of his comments in that speech were entirely consistent with that.
The backlog of criminal cases in crown courts in England and Wales was 59,532 as of 31 March , up 45% on a year ago and the highest numbers since figures first began to be compiled in this way in 2014, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics published on Thursday show.
There was a 4% rise compared with the previous quarter. At the same time, outstanding cases at magistrates courts were 21% higher than a year ago and 3% up on the previous quarter.
The latest figures show that the backlog of cases waiting to be heard is growing in the crown court and magistrates court. In the recent rape review the government committed to significant increases in the number of cases that will be brought to court. Greater numbers of police officers will only increase these pressures in the coming years. Unless the government urgently commits to long-term and sustained investment in the courts and the wider justice system, the number of cases stuck in the courts will continue to rise.
Behind every number in this backlog are victims of crime, defendants, witnesses and their families, putting their lives on hold while they wait years to see justice done.
Students wishing to go to university may be required to prove they have passed English and maths GCSE as a basic minimum requirement in order to progress onto a degree course, the education secretary has warned.
Gavin Williamson told a conference he couldn’t understand how students who failed to achieve a pass in English and maths at GCSE could enrol for an honours degree at university, and said it would form part of the government’s consultation on introducing a minimum entry requirement for university.
Is it really in anyone’s interest if entry requirements are relaxed so much that an 18-year-old who has not yet passed their English or maths GCSEs should progress straight to an honours degree?
We have to make sure that those with an ability can go to university if they have the desire and application to do so, as long as they can prove they are up to it.
Though it is valid to ask if the pain would be worth it.
For example, would it stop the Open University from being so ‘open’, are maths and English necessary for some hands-on creative courses and how do you recognise that people change a lot between the ages of 16 and 18?
Schools in England are being urged to press ahead with sports day, amid reports that many are mistakenly cancelling because of Covid concerns.
According to the Department for Education, in most circumstances outdoor events like sports day can go ahead as long as schools do risk assessments and follow guidance around cleaning shared equipment and not mixing bubbles.
We’re aware that some schools are cancelling sports days and citing Covid guidance as the reason for it.
This needn’t be the case in most circumstances as outdoor events like sports days can go ahead as long as they’re thoroughly risk assessed and conducted in line with guidance around cleaning shared equipment and not mixing bubbles. This applies for parents attending too.
Here are the main points from the Downing Street lobby briefing.
All I can say is that we continue to consider the latest data and we will take a final decision in due course. It is entirely right to say we do want to remove as many restrictions as are safe to do so once we take the steps to step 4.
Currently it is down to individual EU member states to decide on the rules governing their borders.
We are moving at speed through our vaccination programme to help us curb this latest variant and that will allow us to move to step 4, and we are confident that over time it will bring cases down, and that’s the approach we are taking.
It’s a matter for Germany and France ... We would obviously support engagement with Russia in order to deliver tough messages and encourage a change in their behaviour.
Received my new office portrait of The Queen today. In Australia citizens can write to their MP for a free portrait of The Queen - why can’t we do the same in the UK??
I feel a campaign coming on… @themonarchists pic.twitter.com/MqMRrbLOex
I think this is a wonderful, patriotic and unifying campaign for our country. I will be writing to the Prime Minister to ask him to give it careful consideration and looking for opportunities to discuss further in Parliament. pic.twitter.com/Y2nU4yhGRP
Speaking at the Times’s CEO Summit today, Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has also said that vaccine certification would open up travel for people wanting a foreign holiday this summer. Echoing remarks made by Boris Johnson (see 12.19pm), Sunak said:
We are looking at what role vaccine certification can play in loosening some of the quarantine requirements.
I absolutely understand people’s desire to be able to go and travel.
And here is a summary of the key points from Boris Johnson’s TV interview this morning.
My plans at this stage are at the unformed stage, I’m afraid ... I’m certainly not ruling it in or ruling it out.
I think that the real opportunity we all have now is to open up travel through the double jab. If you look at it we’ve got more than 60% of our population have now had two jabs, I think 83% have had one jab, we’re really getting through it now.
I think we’re taking the right approach, I think it’s important that we send out a message that, I’m afraid, we do have a national struggle with obesity and we need to deal with it.
The costs on the NHS are vast. We’ve just seen during the Covid pandemic sadly how obesity can be one of the comorbidities in serious illness. Let’s get a grip on it and I think that sending out a signal ... through advertising is entirely right.
These are a matter for the MoD (Ministry of Defence) but if you want my view I think it was wholly appropriate to use international waters, and by the way the important point is that we don’t recognise the Russian annexation of Crimea, this is part of a sovereign Ukrainian territory, it was entirely right that we should vindicate the law and pursue freedom of navigation in the way that we did, take the shortest route between two points, and that’s what we did.
Yesterday Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said that Britons should be quarantined when they arrive in the EU to stop the Delta variant, which is dominant in the UK, spreading on the continent, where it is currently less prevalent.
Speaking to the German parliament this morning, Merkel said she would be pushing for a more coordinated approach at the EU summit starting later today. As Politico Europe reports on its summit live blog, she said:
Even today, we are not sufficiently successful in coordinating entries from third countries - especially from virus variant areas. I will be very critical of that there. This must be improved.
I’m not sure that such an approach would be justified given the highly advanced stage we are currently at now in terms of vaccination, with 80% having had one jab, and now 60% having had the second jab.
I don’t think such a move would be justified. But obviously it’s for individual countries to make these judgments.
Boris Johnson has said in a TV interview that there is a “real opportunity” now to open up travel through “the double jab”. He said:
I think that the real opportunity we all have now is to open up travel through the double jab.
We’ve got more than 60% of our population have now had two jabs, 83% have had one jab, we’re really getting through it now.
At the Lords European affairs committee this morning João Vale de Almeida, the EU’s ambassador to the UK, said the EU was willing to be flexible in how it implements the Northern Ireland protocol.
Vale de Almeida also said he was confident that the UK and the EU would be able to resolve their dispute about how the protocol is implemented, and he said the protocol actually offered “huge opportunities” for Northern Ireland.
I’m not talking about the protocol as such, I’m talking about the flexibilities that we agreed that have not yet been fully implemented.
If they had been fully implemented, some of the problems we have today would no longer exist.
[The UK not acting unilaterally is] a sign that we understood as a constructive sign. I think it contributes to a better atmosphere.
We need to build on that and try to find within the bodies that we set up, within the procedures that we set up, consensual and jointly agreed solutions.
There are huge opportunities for Northern Ireland [under the protocol]. This is a territory that has access to the biggest internal market in the world for goods, our own internal market, and to the British, to the GB market. No one else has this access.
So for industry, for farmers, for the retailers, but also foreign investors, there’s a case to be made about the attractiveness of Northern Ireland.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has joined others in the entertainment industry in launching legal action to force the government to hand over the results of its coronavirus events research programme, which ran test events at sporting, music and other venues, PA Media reports.
The events research programme involves pilot schemes using testing to explore if large-scale attendance at sports and cultural events can be allowed to go ahead safely.
The Department of Health and Social Care has just published its plans to restrict the advertising of unhealthy foods on TV. The new rules are intended to reduce childhood obesity, and the government claims that over time they could reduce the number of obese children by more than 20,000.
But there are loopholes in the new restrictions, which do not cover small businesses.
Following a public consultation, regulations will come into force at the end of next year to introduce a 9pm watershed for advertisements of foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS).
The new rules apply to TV and UK on-demand programmes, as well as restrictions on paid-for advertising of HFSS foods online as part of the government’s ongoing commitment to tackle unhealthy eating habits at source.
In his Sky News interview this morning George Eustice, the environment secretary, said that he hoped all legal Covid restrictions would be removed in England after 19 July. He said:
What we want to do on July 19, and the prime minister said that the data looks good to be able to have that end, is to remove all of the legal restrictions.
That’s all of the legal requirements to do things, to be taken away completely.
I wouldn’t, no. I have to be honest, once I’m told that it’s safe not to, I want to get back to normal. I think a lot of people will want to shed those masks.
A row over Scotland’s ban on non-essential travel to Manchester has escalated after a Scottish government briefing dismissed the explanation of the Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, for protesting against the restrictions as “incoherent and absurd” , my colleague Libby Brooks reports.
Good morning. This afternoon ministers are due to announce their review of the traffic light system for international travel, which places countries on either the red list (high Covid risk, and a virtual ban), the amber list (medium risk, with people subject to quarantine on return) or the green list (low risk and suitable for holidays, with people not subject to quarantine on their return). As of this morning there are only 11 places on the green list, and none of them are favourite summer holiday destinations for Brits.
According to some of the news reports previewing the announcement, Malta, Madeira and the Balearic Islands (ie, Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza) are either certain or possible additions to the green list today. But government sources have been playing down the prospects of a major opening up.
I want us to get back to a position where we can support those who want to travel to do so. Nobody likes the draconian restrictions we have had to put in place over this last year as we have wrestled with the pandemic.
So, yes, we want to get to a position where we can support people who want to travel to be able to do so, but it is difficult.Continue reading...