Blog: Boris Johnson news – live: Rees-Mogg accused of Brexit ‘gimmick’ and ‘vanity project’ – The Independent

Boris Johnson fails to deny he offered Carrie Symonds top job

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been accused of unveiling a Brexit “gimmick” – a quarterly dashboard of reformed EU laws – which will “do nothing to address the real challenges that the public face today”.

The Brexit opportunities minister sought to claim the new digital publication would usher in a “British-style revolution”, pointing to regulations on vacuum cleaners as he spoke of the need to “ultimately grow the economy and cut the cost of living”.

Labour frontbencher Stephen Doughty called it “quite extraordinary” for the government to introduce what “simply appears to be a vanity project” on the day that inflation topped a 40-year high of 9.1 per cent.

Earlier at PMQs, Boris Johnson failed to deny he offered his then-lover Carrie Symonds a top job while foreign secretary, ducking the question when challenged in the Commons.

Shortly afterwards, justice secretary Dominic Raab proposed a new Bill of Rights which will allow the government to ignore interim rulings from a European court and potentially make it easier to deport foreign offenders.

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Consultation launched on bill to pardon thousands convicted of witchcraft

Thousands of Scots convicted of witchcraft could be legally pardoned after almost 300 years as an MSP launched a consultation on a new bill.

Natalie Don, the SNP MSP for Renfrewshire North and West, has launched consultation on a Member’s Bill to “right the historic wrong of witchcraft convictions” and give legal pardons to those convicted.

It follows a posthumous apology from Nicola Sturgeon on International Women’s Day, in March, to those convicted, vilified or executed under the Witchcraft 1563 Act.

Estimates suggest around 4,000 Scots were accused of the crime, which was in law until 1736, with around 85% of those convicted being women. Campaigners have been trying to secure a legal pardon for around 200 years for the approximately 2,500 people who were convicted of breaking the law.

While the convictions occurred centuries ago, it is hoped the pardons would send a message to other countries who still criminalise those accused of witchcraft that the punishment is “deplorable”.

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Boris Johnson and Prince Charles head to Rwanda for Commonwealth summit

Our political correspondent Adam Forrest reports:

Boris Johnson and Prince Charles are preparing for talks with Commonwealth leaders on trade, climate change and the future of the association at a crucial summit in Rwanda this week.

The prime minister is set to make the economic case for remaining part of the 54-member club, as leading Republican figures in both Australia and Jamaica discuss cutting ties with the monarchy.

The Prince of Wales will represent the Queen, head of the group made up of mostly former territories of the British Empire, when prime ministers and presidents gather for the first time since 2018.

But the visit of the prince and the PM has been overshadowed by a recent report in The Times which claims Charles branded Mr Johnson’s policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as “appalling”.

The newspaper said a source had heard Charles express opposition to the policy several times in private, and that he was “more than disappointed” by the deportation plan.

PM hoping row over deportation flights does not overshadow talks on trade and climate change

Andy Gregory22 June 2022 18:17

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Rees-Mogg plays down suggestion EU reforms could lead to fresh Brexit protocol headaches

Jacob Rees-Mogg has played down any suggestion that plans to reform retained EU law could lead to further clashes over the post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.

“It is very important the benefits of divergence feed through to Northern Ireland. It can’t just be left out in the cold. So this will fit in with the reforms of the protocol,” the Brexit opportunities minister said.

However, he stressed that the efforts to catalogue and target longstanding EU law were not “driving” unilateral UK efforts to make changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has provoked a major row with the EU.

Andy Gregory22 June 2022 18:02

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Suspended Tory MP David Warburton faces fresh investigation into ‘paid advocacy’

An MP suspended by the Conservatives over allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use is facing a fresh Commons inquiry, our deputy political editor Rob Merrick reports.

David Warburton was disciplined by his party and is already being investigated by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), it is understood.

Now the MP for Somerton and Frome is also the subject of a probe the parliamentary standards commissioner into whether he broke the MPs’ code of conduct on three counts.

They are “paid advocacy”, failure to declare an interest, and over rules concerning the declaration of “gifts, benefits and hospitality”.

The whip was stripped from Mr Warburton in April, over allegations of sexual harassment and drug use

Andy Gregory22 June 2022 17:44

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Rees-Mogg hits out at ‘hopeless’ government department over EU law reforms

Jacob Rees-Mogg has declined to specify a target for how much EU law currently on UK statute books he would like to remove or reform, after unveiling his dashboard in the Commons earlier showing on a quarterly basis how much retained European law has been reformed.

Speaking to reporters in Westminster, Mr Rees-Mogg hit out at one department that reported only 2 per cent of retained EU law it would like to reform, calling such a suggestion “hopeless”.

“We want to really try to make sure that every single one is looked at,” Mr Rees-Mogg said. “Do I have a particular target percentage? No. But it needs to be a thorough exercise.”

He also defended any suggestion that the government had delayed in tackling EU regulations, saying: “We only formally left two years ago, at which point Covid rather interfered. This is 50 years of accretions to the legal system of the UK.”

Andy Gregory22 June 2022 17:30

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PMQs verdict: Boris Johnson floundered as Keir Starmer won the rhetorical battle

Giving his verdict on this week’s PMQs, The Independent’s chief political commentator John Rentoul argues that, because everyone expected Boris Johnson to ask Keir Starmer six times to condemn the rail strikes, the PM “was robbed of the element of surprise”.

“That advantage lay with Starmer instead…” he writes. You can read his analysis in full with Independent Premium:

The Labour leader had no solutions, but he looked in charge at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, writes John Rentoul

Andy Gregory22 June 2022 17:16

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Raab says leaving ECHR would not be ‘magic wand’

As he introduced the governemnt’s new Bill of Rights to the Commons earlier, Dominic Raab said withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) would not be the “magic wand” some people – many of them in his own party – hoped for.

Tory former cabinet minister Damian Green thanked Mr Raab for “resisting the siren voices” telling him to withdraw from the ECHR altogether, adding: “I think his decision to stay in it is in the best traditions of pragmatic, sensible, one nation conservatism.”

Mr Raab replied that the reforms are “principled and pragmatic” and that the UK will retain membership of the European Convention.

He added: “I’ve heard various arguments against that but when you look at what you’d gain from leaving the ECHR, because of the UN Convention Against Torture which we stay party to, and various other conventions, it wouldn’t solve all the problems, it’s not the magic wand some people suggest it is, and I say that with great respect.”

But Labour MP Andy Slaughter described the document as a “legal nonsense”, adding: “It sets up confusion and conflict between domestic and European courts.”

Andy Gregory22 June 2022 17:01

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‘Impossible’ to say how many Rwanda flights needed to deter Channel crossings, top civil servant says

The top civil servant in the Home Office has said it is “impossible” to say how many people need to be sent to Rwanda to achieve the government’s aim of deterring desperate people from crossing the Channel in small boats.

Appearing before the Commons home affairs committee, Matthew Rycroft – the department’s permanent secretary – said the success of the scheme should be measured by the number of journeys deterred by flying those deemed to have arrived in Britain illegally thousands of miles away to the east African nation.

But he was unable to quantify exactly how many would need to be deported for this disincentive to kick in.

Andy Gregory22 June 2022 16:44

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Majority of British voters think workers do not have enough power, poll suggests

Six in 10 people in Britain think workers do not have enough power, a poll has found.

The survey, carried out by Ipsos as strikes gripped the UK rail network, found 61 per cent of British adults aged 18 to 75 thought workers had “too little” power while just 9 per cent thought they had too much.

While the strikes have led some to criticise trade unions as too powerful, the poll found only 32 per cent of people thought that was the case, compared with 36 per cent who thought employers had too much power.

Ipsos also found that an overwhelming majority of people thought it was important to have trade unions in order to protect workers’ interests, with 85 per cent of people saying unions were very or fairly important – including 77 per cent of Conservative voters.

Keiran Pedley, director of politics at Ipsos, said the results suggest “that there may be more public sympathy for striking workers than many assume, although how long the public are prepared to put up with the strikes themselves – and the disruption caused – remains to be seen”.

A poll by Ipsos found considerable sympathy with striking railway workers, but the country remains divided on support for the strikes themselves.

Andy Gregory22 June 2022 16:28

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Tory MP insists UK benefit system is ‘very generous’

The benefit system in the UK is “very generous”, with people getting £24,000 a year for working 16 hours a week, according to the Conservative MP who recently claimed there was no “massive use” for food banks in Britain and suggested people “can make a meal for about 30p a day”.

Lee Anderson told MPs: “The answer the Labour Party had when all these people were stuck on 16-hour jobs, and we couldn’t get them to work a full-time job, was simple, their answer was simple. Open the floodgates, you know, import cheap labour, import cheap foreign labour, which is what happened.

“Then all of a sudden, 20 years later, we have got a failed migration policy. We have got a failed benefit policy, which has led to millions of people being trapped in the poverty cycle, and we have spent the last 12 years trying to put this mess right. And it’s not easy when you’ve got people trapped in the poverty cycle.”

Mr Anderson insisted “our benefit system is very generous in the UK”, saying that a single parent in Ashfield, with two children, working 16 hours a week on the living wage, would get £18,000 a year in universal credit and another £6,000 or £7,000 in wages.

Challenged by SNP work and pensions spokeswoman Kirsty Blackman on how the system compares to “significantly more generous” systems across the EU, the Ashfield MP replied: “I’ll tell you what is generous … is a single parent like I was, or my friend was all those years ago, getting £24,000 a year for working 16 hours a week.”

Andy Gregory22 June 2022 16:16

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