Blog: UK politics news – live: New Cameron lobbying revelations as Labour accuses Tories of helping ‘elite donors’ – The Independent

Boris Johnson says stop and search policy is ‘kind and loving’

David Cameron has become embroiled in yet more lobbying allegations, after official transparency records showed he and representatives of a private health firm which he advises met with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, two months before the US firm won public contracts worth up to £870,000.

While applying for clearance for the role in 2018, the former prime minister told the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments that he would not play any role in contract negotiations between Illumnia Cambridge Ltd and the Department of Social Care or “lobby ministers or the UK government in any way on behalf of Illumina or its partners”.

An Illumina spokesperson said: “The vast majority of David Cameron’s work with Illumina is outside the UK, representing the best practices of the UK in genomics to other countries.” Mr Cameron is yet to comment on the allegations.

Meanwhile, Labour has accused the Conservatives of granting a “select group of elite donors” access to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak through a secretive club. Chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said that the Party’s so-called ‘Advisory Board’ “appears to be less of an advisory board than a means for a select group of elite donors to gain privileged access to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor”.

Her comments follow a report in The Financial Times that says that Conservative officials have confirmed the ‘Advisory Board’ of major Tory donors “occasionally” meet with Johnson and Sunak. The Conservatives says that donations to their Party “comply fully with the law”.

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COP26 President Alok Sharma had a “constructive visit” to Saudi Arabia, he said.

The front-bencher confirmed that he met with the nation’s energy, environment and finance ministers.

Joanna Taylor30 July 2021 20:20

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Boris Johnson urged to step up efforts to get agreement at climate summit

Boris Johnson has been urged to step up efforts to secure agreement on stemming global warming, amid concern in some corners of Whitehall over a lack of urgency ahead of a crucial international summit he will chair in November.

With less than 100 days to go to the Glasgow conference, there were warnings that hopes of a landmark deal may be unravelling.

And Mr Johnson’s independent climate change adviser warned it was time for him to use “every diplomatic lever” to secure pledges from fellow leaders on cutting emissions of greenhouse gases and financial support to help developing countries adapt.

One Whitehall insider said the government’s response to the climate crisis would have been deadly if it had been applied to the pandemic, warning: “If we had the same approach on Covid, we would still be debating which groups would get the first vaccine trials. We are out of time.”

‘We are out of time’: Insider warns of lack of urgency

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Tories could struggle to retain support in traditional heartlands, poll suggests

The Conservatives are struggling to retain popularity in their traditional heartlands, a new poll has suggested.

The party would lose up to 16 of the 53 seats they currently hold in the South and East of England that voted Remain in 2016 and have a higher-than-average concentration of degree holders if an election were held tomorrow, YouGov say.

That represents a change of -8 from their 2019 performance in these constituencies. Among the major issues cited by poll respondents in these areas were the Tories’s handling of Brexit and development of HS2.

Joanna Taylor30 July 2021 19:40

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Drugs crisis is Scotland’s ‘national shame’, MEP says

More than 1,300 people died as a result of drug use in Scotland in 2020, official figures show.

This represents an increase of five per cent on the previous year.

Scotland has the highest drug death in Europe; it is three-and-a-half times that of England and Wales.

Drug minister Angela Constance said: “These figures demonstrate a shocking scale of loss of life, the loss of life is both heartbreaking and utterly unacceptable and I want to offer my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross criticised the government’s record on drugs.

“The drugs crisis is our national shame. It is a stain on Scotland that so many of our most vulnerable people have been left without hope, crushed by a system that is thoroughly broken,” he said.

“This is not a day for political posturing but it is a simple fact that the government’s small steps are not cutting it. The crisis is getting worse and spiralling out of control.

“We need a united national effort to make the drastic changes necessary to overhaul the broken system.”

Joanna Taylor30 July 2021 19:17

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MPs received more than £100k worth of free tickets to Covid pilot scheme events, reports say

MPs received more than £100,000 worth of free tickets as part of the government’s Covid pilot scheme for large events, reports say.

Cabinet ministers Ben Wallace and Brandon Lewis, as well as Labour leader Keir Starmer, benefited from free tickets this summer, The Guardian report, while a further 35 MPs took part in the research project.

Tickets were to sporting and cultural events including the Euro 2020 final, tennis at Wimbledon and the Brit awards.

Joanna Taylor30 July 2021 19:02

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‘No jab no job’ policies set to spark deluge of employment tribunals, lawyers warn

Lawyers expect a wave of legal action against UK companies over attempts to make sure staff are double-vaccinated against Covid, amid growing fears of draconian “no jab no job” policies in the workplace.

Trade unions have criticised the government for encouraging the idea of mandatory vaccination for office staff – after transport secretary Grant Shapps said it was a “good idea” for companies to insist staff are double-jabbed.

Tech giant Google has said mandatory jabs for US employees will later be rolled out to staff in 40 countries where it operates, and Mr Shapps said he expected some British firms will soon “require” full vaccination.

Employment lawyers told The Independent that British firms had been in touch to explore their options on putting Covid vaccination requirements in place.

Unions lead backlash after minister claims ‘good idea’ for companies to insist staff are double-jabbed

Adam Forrest 30 July 2021 18:19

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Conservatives respond to secretive club of ‘elite donors’ claims

The Conservative Party has responded to claims that major donors are granted access to the prime minister and chancellor through a secretive club.

A spokesperson for the Party said: “Donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law.

“Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer-funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals.”

Joanna Taylor30 July 2021 18:04

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Labour accuse govt of granting Tory donors access to PM through secretive club

Labour has accused the Conservative Party of granting a “select group of elite donors” access to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak through a secretive club.

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said that the Party’s so-called ‘Advisory Board’ “appears to be less of an advisory board than a means for a select group of elite donors to gain privileged access to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor”.

Her comments follow a report in The Financial Times that says that Conservative officials have confirmed the ‘Advisory Board’ of Tory donors “occasionally” meet with Johnson and Sunak.

The report also quotes businessman Mohamed Amersi as saying that, in order to join, “one needs to cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben”.

Ben Elliot, the Conservative Party’s co-chair, developed the ‘Advisory Board’.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “Donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law.

“Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer-funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals.”

Joanna Taylor30 July 2021 17:54

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Scottish drug minister will consider ‘Right to Rehab’ plans

Scotland’s drugs minister has pledged to look “seriously” at Conservative plans to legislate a “Right to Rehab” for drug users.

Angela Constance, an SNP MEP, said that she would consider the Scottish Conservatives’s Right to Recovery bill on its publication.

She said that she would “look at it very seriously”, adding: “Meantime, I would argue people already have rights to health care that meets their needs.”

Joanna Taylor30 July 2021 17:28

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Green Party welcome High Court ruling on Stonehenge tunnel

The Green Party has welcomed the High Court’s decision to quash government-approved plans for a road tunnel to be built near Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

A Green spokesperson, Caroline Russell, said that the court was “right” to accept this legal challenge which “stops the carbon-smashing, heritage-destroying road under Stonehenge in its tracks”.

Ms Russell added that her Party would like to see the government “halt the whole of their damaging and emissions busting £27bn road building programme”.

The Highways England project was aimed at reducing traffic and cutting journey time in between the South East and South West.

Joanna Taylor30 July 2021 17:14

Blog: Ian Botham’s brilliant Brexit outburst to silence whinging Remainers: ‘Lets get competing’ – Daily Express

The legendary cricketer, regarded by many as England’s greatest ever player, will return to screens tonight for the second episode of Channel 5’s Fishing Scotland’s Lochs and Rivers. Affectionately known as Beefy, Mr Botham wowed audiences across the Seventies and Eighties with his flamboyant batting and pacy bowling, with his abilities appearing to peak in 1981. That year Mr Botham shone as England won The Ashes against Australia – the all-rounder picking up the Man of the Series award following his 399 runs, 34 wickets and 12 catches.

On the new show, Mr Botham will be joined by presenter Fern Britton, former sprinter Linford Christie, comedian Les Dennis and TV chef Rosemary Shrager.

Among the challenges the quintet are set to face include fishing near Loch Tay, which comes after their exploits last week where they travelled from the east of Scotland to Auchmithie beach to enjoy smoked fish in barrels.

But away from the world of celebrity, Mr Botham has become outspoken about British politics, and was a key voice in the Leave campaign’s bid to see the UK quit Brussels.

Such was his influence, Prime Minister Boris Johnson later recommended the 65-year-old for a peerage, and he now sits in the House of Lords.

And in the aftermath of Leave’s victory in 2016, Mr Botham demanded the UK sort its act out and hit the Brexit button to trigger the UK’s departure.

In a brilliant take-down of Remainer complaints, Mr Botham outlined his pride of when the UK “took back control of our laws, trade and borders”.

He noted that, after Brexit, nations such as the US, India and China were queuing up to strike trade deals with the UK, and that it was time to start negotiating.

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He wrote in the Daily Mirror at the time: “Theresa May’s visit to India last week showed the close links that already exist and which will be hugely strengthened as we go global following Brexit.

“The only thing stopping us achieving our potential is confidence. We need to believe in ourselves and our capabilities.”

The combined might of the US, China and India, Mr Botham argued, represented an “export market worth £17trillion”.

And he condemned those looking to fight the result, continuing: “If the referendum had been a General Election, Leave would have won a landslide majority of 166 seats! No ifs, no buts!

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“Voters like me just want the Government to get on with it. Let’s trigger Article 50 and negotiate an amicable, sensible split.

“The sooner we get that behind us, the quicker we can start doing trade deals with the likes of India and America.”

He added: “The referendum result marks a milestone in British history. The people believe Britain is still a world-beater.

“They’re right. Let’s get out there and start competing again.”

In the build-up to Brexit, Mr Botham became more outspoken about the UK’s place in the EU, arguing that “England is an island” and that he felt “we should keep that”.

He appeared at a series of pro-Leave campaign events, and became close to Mr Johnson – one of the group’s key figureheads in the debate.

Fishing Scotland’s Lochs and Rivers airs tonight at 7pm on Channel 5.

Blog: UK faces vet shortage due to Brexit export rules amid surge in pet ownership during Covid lockdown – iNews

The UK is facing a critical shortage of vets that is set to intensify in the coming months as new EU export rules kick in, industry insiders have warned.

The pandemic has sparked a surge in pet ownership in the past 18 months, while Brexit rules demand more vets to sign export health certificates to move animals or meat between the UK and the EU.

But the number of EU vets arriving to work in Britain – which has traditionally plugged the shortfall in UK-trained vets – has dropped dramatically.

The number of new EU vets being registered to work in the UK is down to as little as 20 individuals per month, according to a private briefing shown to ministers this month. In previous years this figure would have been closer to 80 or 100.

The shortfall could affect the food supply chain as well as pet owners.

Charles Hartwell is the chief executive of Eville & Jones, which supplies veterinary services to abattoirs. He said staffing shortages are partly driven by new rules set by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), which requires vets to formally meet high standards of English.

“Most European vets, although they meet all the technical standards and before 1 January 2021 could have come and worked here without any problem, they don’t have that level of English,” he said.

“Therefore, what we are seeing is where we need a load more vets to come into the system, the number of vets coming in from the European Union has collapsed.”

Mr Hartwell said his firm is short of 30 vets, out of a total workforce of 300. A temporary exemption to the English language requirement, valid until June 2022, has meant that the company has been able to cope.

But he warned that the new rule will have a severe effect on the wider sector, risking wage inflation and price rises. This will escalate after 1 October, when all exports of animal-based food products will require inspection and certification from a vet.

“It’s a challenge for the whole profession,” Mr Hartwell said.

Last month, a letter sent to vet practices across the country by out-of-hours provider Vets Now warned it was becoming “increasingly challenging to staff our clinics”. It listed the rise in pet ownership during the pandemic and an industry shortage of vets as the primary causes.

“We are doing all we can to ensure continuity of service in our clinics, but on occasion, when we do not have adequate staff to operate our service safely, we have made the difficult decision to close one of our clinics and divert the staff and the caseload to another nearby clinic,” the letter read.

A spokesman for the RCVS said the language requirements for vets coming from the EU to the UK were to ensure that foreign vets are “appropriately trained” to practise in the UK. He said training and support is on hand to support vets who are moving to the UK.

“Ultimately, we need to boost the numbers of UK veterinary graduates so that we are less reliant on overseas-qualified vets, which will require additional funding and support from Government,” he added.

Blog: Applicability of the Lugano Convention after Brexit – Lexology

In a landmark decision the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled that the Lugano Convention remains applicable after Brexit with regard to the recognition and enforcement of UK judgments if such judgments were handed down while the Lugano Convention was still in force (i.e. before 31 December 2020).

Background

The recent decision concerns attachment proceedings which were instituted by the applicants in Switzerland based on a judgment of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales dated 17 October 2019 (the “UK Judgment”), which ordered the debtor to pay to the applicants an amount of GBP 8 million plus interest. The debtor filed appeals against the attachment before the lower courts mainly requesting that the attachment be lifted. Before the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, the debtor, inter alia, argued that in view of Brexit the Lugano Convention was no longer applicable in the pending proceedings. The Swiss Federal Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower courts and concluded that the Lugano Convention continues to be applicable in the present case.

The Lugano Convention was applicable during the transitional period…

The modalities of the UK leaving the European Union on 31 January 2020 were regulated by the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union which provided, inter alia, for a transitional period until 31 December 2020 during which the UK continued to be treated as a member state of the EU. Therefore, the Lugano Convention was applicable up and until 31 December 2020.

…and remains applicable on recognition and enforcement matters thereafter.

The Swiss Federal Supreme Court first noted that the Lugano Convention does not contain transitional provisions applicable to the present case. It then discussed the published legal doctrine which preponderantly holds the view that the Lugano Convention should continue to apply to foreign judgments rendered while the Lugano Convention was still in force. It further noted that in the present case not only the UK Judgment was rendered before Brexit but the entire proceedings before the lower instances took place before the end of the transitional period, i.e. in a period during which the Lugano Convention was still in force. Hence, Swiss Federal Supreme Court concluded that in the absence of a major public interest which would justify applying the Federal Act on Private International Law (“PILA”) instead of the Lugano Convention, the present case continues to be governed by the Lugano Convention.

Remarks

The recognition and enforcement-friendly approach of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court is most welcome. The court left politics aside and simply applied the law. The approach ensures that Swiss recognition and enforcement proceedings concerning UK judgments rendered before 31 December 2020 continue to be governed by the Lugano Convention. For UK judgments handed down on 1 January 2021 or later, the (the slightly more stringent) recognition and enforcement requirements of the PILA must be fulfilled.

The full text of the judgment (in French) can be accessed here: Case No. 5A_697/2020.

Blog: EU backs £4.3m bailout of failing German fishing industry as fleets see 30% Brexit decline – Daily Express

The European Commission backed the state aid handout after Berlin warned its trawlermen had seen at least 30 percent of their income disappear overnight. Fishing vessels around the bloc have lost a significant portion of their access to Britain’s coastal grounds as a result of the Brexit trade agreement. Under the deal, Brussels agreed to hand back 25 percent of the fish caught by value in UK waters over a five-and-half-year transition period.

Germany is proposing handing out non-repayable grants to its vessels hit hardest by the post-Brexit agreement.

Fishing chiefs that have lost at least 30 percent of their income, between January 1 and March 31, compared to the same period in 2018-2020, are welcome to apply for the bailout.

The compensation will be paid out per day where boats were unable to fish in the first three months of this year.

It will initially be funded out of the German state budget before eventually being replaced by cash from the EU’s Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

The Commission said it “found that the measure enhances the sustainability of the fisheries sector and its ability to adapt to new fishing and market opportunities arising from the new relationship with the UK”.

“Therefore, the measure facilitates the development of this sector and contributes to the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy,” the EU’s Brussels-based executive added.

“The Commission concluded that the measure constitutes an appropriate form of support in order to facilitate an orderly transition following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

“On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU State aid rules.”

Cash from the EU’s Brexit bailout fund is not expected to be ready for distribution until the end of the year.

The first instalment of around £1.4billion of the £4.3billion war chest will be available in December.

The same £1.4billion amount will also be handed out at the beginning of 2022 and 2023.

The remaining £850million with be distributed in 2025.

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Ireland will be by far the largest beneficiary, followed by the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium.

Berlin is expected to receive around £400million from the pot, whereas Dublin is set to be given around £850million.

The pot was announced to help the most-impacted nations deal with the new trading relationship with the UK.

Member states, particularly those with coastal ties to Britain, are expected to spend most of their positions on their fishing industries.

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An agreement has been reached between the European Council and Parliament but MEPs will not vote on its terms until September.

Last month Belgian MEP Pascal Arimont, the EU Parliament’s negotiator on the package, said: “The European Parliament has kept its promise.

“We wanted a quick European response and swift assistance to regions and businesses suffering from the negative effects of Brexit.”

Blog: Spain using EU vileness over Brexit to unwisely bash Britain – FREDERICK FORSYTH – Daily Express

The latest ploy is to use the EU and its ongoing vengefulness over Brexit to decree that Spain should take over all border controls. So time for us once again to roll out the actual text of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1715, which conceded the Rock to us in perpetuity.

At the time it had one inhabitant, a lone Spanish fisherman who left. Ever since, whenever Spain has had an internal problem like Catalan’s lust for independence, up pops Gibraltar as a diversionary tactic.

For the record, Gibraltarians are not even Spanish or Spain-descended. Their ancestors came from all over the Mediterranean.

They are fiercely loyal to old Blighty and the Rock prospers to the point that 30,000 Spaniards come in every morning to work there and much appreciate the salaries. So the constant complaining comes only from Madrid.

If we are going to start rewriting solemn old treaties, we could respond by encouraging Morocco to claim back the two Spanish enclaves on her coast, Ceuta and Melilla, for whose Spanish ownership there is far less justification.

One might hope that the EU would have got over Brexit by now but the bad temper – as the nightmare of rules wrecking peaceful trade with Northern Ireland shows – just goes on and on. Would a large banner with the words, in Spanish, “For Pete’s sake grow up” help in any way? Alas, almost certainly not.