Good morning. In a long profile published yesterday, Boris Johnson was quoted as suggesting that politics is all about stories. “People live by narrative,” he told The Atlantic. “Human beings are creatures of the imagination.” And so, with tension with the EU over the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol escalating (or non-implementation – the UK has unilaterally delayed implementing some of the rules it agreed), Johnson may be pleased that its version of the story references one of the great plot lines from the classic Whitehall comedy, Yes Minister.
My colleague Daniel Boffey’s slightly more measured take on the story is here.
George Eustice, the environment secretary, did an interview round this morning and he claimed the Northern Ireland protocol would make it impossible for traders to sell sausages from Great Britain in Northern Ireland. He told Sky News:
What you have to bear in mind is that the protocol always envisaged that both parties would show best endeavours to make the Northern Ireland protocol work, and that included recognising that Northern Ireland was an integral part of the UK and that you should support the free flow of goods to Northern Ireland.
What we really need the EU to do is to respect that part of the protocol and put in place sensible measures to remove things like the nonsensical ban on selling sausages or chicken nuggets to Northern Ireland – not just requiring paperwork, but actually having an outright ban on some of those goods – that clearly doesn’t make sense.
On the Today programme Eustice said this rule was “bonkers”. And on LBC he described it as a “nonsense”. He said:
I suspect it links to some kind of perception that they can’t really trust any country other than an EU country to make sausages. I think that’s a nonsense. I think we’ve got a very good sausage industry in this country, we’ve got the highest standards of food hygiene in the world.
The UK did, of course, agree to these rules when it signed the protocol. Asked to justify this, Eustice argued that the protocol also included a commitment that both sides would use their best endeavours to ensure goods can flow from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. He said the EU should be more willing to look for solutions. He told the Today programme:
There are lots of ways to give the European Union the assurance that they say they want for their single market, and what we should be doing is working together to identify ways forward. And that’s where the European Union have been quite slow to date to engage.
He also suggested that, if this becomes an issue at this week’s G7 summit, President Biden might side with the UK. Until now Biden has effectively been siding with the EU, warning that Britain’s stance could undermine the Good Friday peace agreement. But Eustice said:
I suspect that any US administration would be amazed if you were to say, for instance, that a sausage from Texas couldn’t be sold to California, there would be an outright ban – they really wouldn’t understand how that could even be contemplated.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.
9.30am: The ONS publishes its weekly death figures for England and Wales.
9.30am: Bill Crothers, who worked for Greensill Capital for a period while still chief commercial officer at the Cabinet Office, gives evidence to the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee.
11.30am: Matt Hancock, the health secretary, takes questions in the Commons.
12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.
After 2pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, makes a statement on Covid to the Scottish parliament.
After 2.30pm: MPs begin an emergency debate on cuts to the aid budget. The motion is a neutral one – “that this house has considered the matter of the 0.7% official development assistance target” – and there will be no division at the end.
Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently, and that is likely to be the case today. For more Covid coverage, do read our global live blog.
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