Brexit latest news: EU turns own rules 'inside out' as it vows to slash Northern Ireland custom checks

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic addresses a news conference - Yves Herman/Reuters
European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic addresses a news conference - Yves Herman/Reuters

The European Union has vowed to slash checks on British goods entering Northern Ireland as the bloc bent its own rules to revise the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission negotiator, set out proposals that would eliminate 80 per cent of border checks for products of animal origin entering Northern Ireland from mainland Britain, while checks on all goods will be at least halved.

Meanwhile, drugs companies on mainland Britain will not be required to move regulatory functions to the bloc, marking a shift change from current EU regulations.

"We have completely turned our rules upside down and inside out to find a solution to an outstanding challenge, which involves the EU changing its own rules on medicines," he said.

Mr Sefcovic said that the EU's number one priority was to maintain the "hard-earned gains of the Good Friday Agreement" while also maintaining the "integrity of the Single Market".

He described the EU's proposals as a "package of enhanced opportunities" and said the bloc maintained an "unwavering comitment to the people of Northern Ireland".

However, Mr Sefcovic insisted it was “very clear” that the European Court of Justice must act as a “final arbitrator” - despite Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, warning that its involvement remains a "red line".

“It is very clear we cannot have access to the internal market without the supervision of the European Court of Justice,” he said. “We are really doing our utmost and I hope this will be reciprocated.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

06:03 PM

And that's it for another day...

The European Union turned its own rules "inside out" on Wednesday as it vowed to slash Northern Ireland custom checks in a bid to reach a revised agreement on the Protocol.

Responding to Tuesday's speech from Brexit minister Lord Frost (see 9.37am), European Commission negotiator Maros Sefcovic said the bloc's number one priority was to find a long-term solution that worked for all partners.

As part of this, 80 per cent of border checks for products of animal origin entering Northern Ireland from Britain will be eliminated (5.48pm), while checks on all other goods from the mainland will be at least halved. There were also concessions on previously stringent medicine laws (5.46pm).

But the path ahead may not be as smooth as Mr Sefcovic may hope. Responding to The Telegraph's Joe Barnes, he insisted the European Court of Justice must remain "the final arbitrator" (6.09pm).

This will no doubt cause concern among Brexit minister Lord Frost and his negotiating team. The new package of measures was unsurprisingly hailed by Sinn Fein, while being panned by the DUP for not going far enough. It is also unlikely to please Eurosceptics.

Brussels delegates have now arrived in London with a view to making the EU's proposals a reality - whether any "red lines" frustrate the proceedings will remain to be seen.

05:51 PM

MP Claudia Webbe found guilty of harassment

Claudia Webbe, the former Labour MP, has been convicted of harassment after threatening a woman with acid and telling her she would send naked pictures of her to her daughters, writes Martin Evans.

The politician, who now sits as an independent MP for Leicester East, was accused of conducting a campaign of harassment against Michelle Merritt after becoming obsessively jealous of her relationship with her boyfriend, Chelsea Football Club scout Lester Thomas.

She was found guilty of one count of harassment following a trial at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

A Labour spokesman said: "The Labour Party strongly condemns Claudia Webbe's actions and she should now resign."

Read the full story here

05:40 PM

'Brexit won’t have been achieved until Northern Ireland is no longer subject to EU law'

In the early days of December 2017, Theresa May agreed, against my strong advice, to concede what she termed “full alignment” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, writes David Davis.

That concession gave the EU continuing power over a part of the United Kingdom, destabilised the fine balance in Ulster that had been achieved by the Good Friday Agreement, and gave the EU a formidable negotiating lever for the rest of the process.

It eventually led to the fall of her administration, and the Protocol that implemented it has posed an insuperable problem ever since.

That is why Lord Frost described the Protocol as “the biggest source of mistrust between us” and the EU. It not only threatens business and the flow of goods, but also the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland and the fabric of our national unity.

David Davis: Brexit must be a matter of sovereignty

05:35 PM

Northern Ireland Protocol proposals 'fall a long way short' - DUP

Sinn Fein may be full of praise for today's Protocol proposals (see 6.31pm), but on the other side of the coin the DUP is less than pleased with Sefcovic's speech.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the imminent discussions between Britain and Brussels risked becoming a "wasted opportunity" and gave an unfavourable snap verdict on the plans that the EU has put forward.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson gives a keynote speech at the La Mon House Hotel - Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson gives a keynote speech at the La Mon House Hotel - Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

"These proposals clearly fall a long way short of being the basis of a sustainable solution and are presented within the framework of a Protocol that has failed," he said. "The proposals in the Government command paper, in our view, are the best direction of travel to start creating sustainable arrangements for Northern Ireland.

""It is vital this new round of negotiations does not become another missed opportunity to make fundamental change and to replace the Protocol.

"We have a window of opportunity to get this right. The prize for doing so will be great for both sides but most of all for the people of Northern Ireland who can break free from the Protocol infecting day-to-day decisions."

05:31 PM

Maros Sefcovic has delivered 'crucially important' updates, says Sinn Fein

Maros Sefcovic has delivered on the promises that he made to listen to Northern Irish concerns about the Protocol, Sinn Fein has said.

"Brexit is the problem and the Protocol is a solution, the Protocol remains today. We have always said there needed to be flexibility inbuilt into that Protocol to make it work," said Michelle O'Neill, the party's vice-president.

"That was what Maros Sefcovic committed to when he met business and civic leaders here back in September and he's true to his word today. He has delivered upon what he listened to and I think that's crucially important."

05:26 PM

'The NI Protocol made political sense when Boris signed up to it. That’s no longer the case'

It says much about the level of political discourse in Britain during the period between the 2016 EU referendum and the 2019 general election that the Good Friday Agreement seemed to morph into whatever you wanted it to be, writes Tom Harris.

The peace deal that ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland had barely had a look in during the referendum campaign. But once voters decided to back a Leave vote, it assumed a new importance to the Brexit negotiations.

Whatever support the Northern Ireland Protocol once had on both sides of the Brexit impasse, it contained too many faults to survive for long.

Tom Harris: Protocol no longer makes political sense

05:09 PM

European Court of Justice must remain final arbitrator, Sefcovic tells Telegraph

The Telegraph's own Joe Barnes asks whether there are any international mechanisms that preserve a role for the ECJ "at arm's length" that could bridge the gaps between the EU and UK on governance.

Mr Sefcovic's response:

I would say that we should have the discussions on all of these elements with the team of Lord Frost. I'll have that opportunity to go into greater detail with him.

If you are talking about the single market, which is clearly respecting the EU rules, that we have the European Court of Justice as a final arbitrator. That's very clear.

It was very clear from the outset when we started to discuss the Withdrawal Agreement and the different protocols which became part of the package. Here our position is quite clear.

But I'm glad if Lord Frost thinks we should put aside the red lines and thinks we should solve, in a practical way, problems on the table and complications and burdens which were so eloquently described by the people in Northern Ireland I had the honour and pleasure to listen. I came there to solve the problems...

I hope we can really resolve all difficult issues that have been presented to me which have been presented to me, and I think this is the area into which we should really channel all our positive energies.

05:02 PM

No internal market access without European Court of Justice, says Sefcovic

Asked whether the UK Government will negotiate earnestly and once again about the European Court of Justice, Mr Sefcovic points to "so much effort" having been invested in the negotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement.

"In the end we found the solution which we both agreed is the best one for the future. We share the goals of stability, of prosperity [and] peace on the island of Ireland."

He describes Wednesday's measures as "unprecedented" and reiterates his commitment to the EU's goals - which he says he hopes the UK will share.

"It is very clear we cannot have access to the internal market without the supervision of the European Court of Justice," he caveats. "But I think we should really put aside this business of red lines, deadlines... We should really focus on what we really hear from the stakeholders and the people in Northern Ireland. They want us to solve the practical issues."

Mr Sefcovic admits there have been "teething problems and issues" over the last year, and says the bloc is seeking to address "legitimate concerns" with the proposals being set out: "We are really doing our utmost and I hope this will be reciprocated."

04:59 PM

EU making 'enormous effort' to bend its own rules, Sefcovic insists

Mr Sefcovic says the EU is "making an enormous effort" for a Northern Ireland only solution on the transportation of medicines.

"What we would like to see here is that public health is protected.

"If it comes to the transport of the live animals, I would refer you to the set of measures presented already by the end of June."

04:56 PM

I want to stay on positive note, says Sefcovic when asked about ECJ

Asked if the involvement of the European Court of Justice is as much of a red line for him as it was for Lord Frost yesterday, Mr Sefcovic does not directly answer.

"Our aim today is to stay on a positive note. It is to stay on all the benefits which this package and which the dual market access is offering to Northern Ireland.

"What we are presenting today is such an appealing picture - we should focus all of our energy on how to make this as good as possible for the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.

"I want to focus on the positive agenda, the positive solutions and I hope Lord Frost will join me in that effort."

Let's see how that goes down back in Britain...

04:53 PM

'Structured dialogues' will pave the way for economy to flourish, says Commission

The EU will ensure the exchange of information by establishing "structured dialogues" between stakeholders and the European Commission, Mr Sefcovic says.

Northern Irish stakeholders will be invited to meetings of specialised committees, he says, and says a "strong link" will be created between different partners.

"With this robust package of practical, imaginative solutions we can continue to implement the Protocol for the benefit of all communities on the ground," the Commission negotiator concludes, praising its "stability and predictability".

"It also paves the way for enhanced opportunities. Now I invite the UK Government to engage with us earnestly and intensely on all of our proposals... I am convinced we could be in the home stretch when it comes to the Protocol.

"I hope we can come to a solution that Northern Ireland deserves."

04:51 PM

Further customs proposals set out by EU

On customs, the EU proposes to expand the number of small and medium enterprises whose goods would be free from customs duties because they stay in Northern Ireland.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic addresses a news conference on a package of measures designed to ease the flow of goods from Britain to Northern Ireland - Yves Herman/Reuters
European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic addresses a news conference on a package of measures designed to ease the flow of goods from Britain to Northern Ireland - Yves Herman/Reuters

"We also propose to cut in half the number of customs and processes that are required for these goods," Mr Sefcovic says.

04:49 PM

'UK Government must do its part'

"For all this to work, however, the UK Government needs to do its part - for example, by ensuring that permanent border control posts are up and running as agreed a long time ago.

"We also need clear labels and the ability to monitor every link of the supply chain.

"The remaining controls must be done properly. In this way, we want to protect the integrity of our EU single market."

04:48 PM

Maros Sefcovic: Border bureaucracy will be cut by around 80 per cent

Mr Sefcovic notes that "a significant range of goods" will benefit from simplified certification and a border checks reduction of "approximately 80 per cent".

"Imagine you are a Northern Irish business importing products of animal origin like cheese or chickens from Great Britain," he says. "More than 80 per cent of the identity and physical checks required will now be removed.

"This will significantly ease the process for bringing food supplies from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Similarly, a lorry transporting different food products - like dairy, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables - will now just need one certificate stating all goods of different types, class or description meet [EU standards]."

04:46 PM

EU will turn its rules 'upside down' on medicines, Sefcovic says

"Our proper solutions are a direct, genuine response to concerns [stakeholders] have raised," Mr Sefcovic says.

On medicines, he recalls his visit to Belfast in September when he said he would guarantee an uninterrupted, long-term supply of medicines to Northern Ireland.

"We have completely turned our rules upside down and inside out to find a solution to an outstanding challenge, which involves the EU changing its own rules on medicines."

British medicine wholesalers will be able to continue to supply Northern Ireland from their current location in Britain, and they will not need to relocate any facilities or infrastructure, he confirms.

04:42 PM

Maros Sefcovic praises 'package of enhanced opportunities'

Maros Sefcovic thanks people for tuning in at "this rather late hour" and praises what he sees as an "important moment" in UK-EU relations.

"If I were to label these solutions, I would dub them 'the package of enhanced opportunities'," he says. "This is in fact our core purpose.

"The EU has an unwavering commitment to the people of Northern Ireland and for this reason to the implement of the Protocol which brings out the unique advantages of dual access to EU and UK markets."

The number one priority remains the protection of the "hard-earned gains of the Good Friday Agreement", Mr Sefcovic says.

"Today's package has the capacity to make real, tangible difference on the ground."

04:40 PM

Revealed: EU's four-pronged plan to reform Northern Ireland Protocol

Brussels negotiators will on Wednesday travel to London promising to bend and break their own rules, with new proposals to cool tensions over the implementation of Northern Ireland Protocol, Joe Barnes reports.

The talks, due to start on Thursday, could end months of post-Brexit bickering between the bloc and the British government.

Here are the four key ways the EU plans to reform the Protocol.

04:36 PM

While you wait... Lord Frost weighs in

The EU appears to have “moved significantly” with its offer of a new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, Lord Frost said as he called for intensive talks with Brussels to begin.

In a sign that the threat of triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol had been put on ice for now, the Brexit Minister said he would work “very hard” to strike a deal with the EU.

But Brussels is expected to reject a UK demand to strip European judges of their role overseeing EU law in the province, which continues to follow some Single Market rules to avoid a hard Irish border.

04:24 PM

Coming up: EU to set out proposals to end Protocol standoff

The EU will set out its proposals to end the standoff with the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

On Tuesday, Brexit minister Lord Frost said the Protocol in its current form was unacceptable to the UK.

However he has pledged to “seriously, fully and positively” consider the EU’s revised offer.

04:13 PM

Claudia Webbe made string of threatening phone calls to partner's friend

Claudia Webbe has been found guilty of harassing a female friend of Lester Thomas, her partner (see 4.58pm).

Ms Webbe made a string of threatening calls to 59-year-old Michelle Merritt between September 1 2018 and April 26 last year because she was jealous of her friendship with her boyfriend, Westminster Magistrates' Court heard.

Claudia Webbe arriving at Westminster Magistrates Court with Lester Thomas, her partner - Geoff Pugh
Claudia Webbe arriving at Westminster Magistrates Court with Lester Thomas, her partner - Geoff Pugh

After the verdict, Ms Webbe said she was "deeply shocked" at the outcome of the trial.

"I am innocent and will appeal this verdict," she told the PA news agency. "As I said in court and repeat now, I have never threatened violence nor have I ever harassed anyone."

03:58 PM

Breaking: Claudia Webbe found guilty of harassment

Claudia Webbe, the MP for Leicester East, has been found guilty of harassment by Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring after a trial at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

More to follow.

03:50 PM

Travellers miss flights after Covid passport issues on NHS App

An issue with the NHS App and website has left people unable to access their Covid Pass, leaving some unable to confirm they are vaccinated and safe to travel.

NHS Digital confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the Covid Pass section of its official app and website has been hit by a problem.

The NHS App has gained more than 10 million new users in recent months as it became the platform for accessing the pass, which shows proof of a person's vaccination status and is required for international travel.

"There are currently issues with accessing the Covid Pass on the NHS App and website," NHS Digital said on Twitter.

"We are investigating the issue and will update as soon as we can."

Gareth Davies has more here.

03:35 PM

Northern Ireland is not a bargaining chip

The final battle of Brexit is about to be joined. In his thoughtful and well-judged speech in Lisbon, Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, indicated that without significant progress on the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the UK will take unilateral action to repudiate it, possibly within weeks.

This is not an argument about sausages or empty supermarket shelves, though they matter to consumers in the province. Fundamentally, it is a dispute about sovereignty, territorial integrity and democracy.

Almost from the moment the UK voted to leave the EU, Brussels used the ambivalent status of Northern Ireland as a means of leverage in talks about the final Withdrawal Agreement.

Because the EU’s only land border with the UK lies on the island of Ireland, the Commission and some member states, notably France, have exploited its troubled past to their own advantage.

Telegraph View: The Protocol isn't working - Lord Frost is right to propose an alternative

03:20 PM

No end in sight for shipping crisis, says Southampton and London ports boss

Amid fears of empty shelves at Christmas, the operator of the London Gateway and Southampton container ports has warned that there is no end in sight for the current crisis in shipping.

Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the chairman of DP World - one of the world's largest port operators - suggested that problems ripping through the global supply chain are likely to last for months.

Thousands of shipping containers at the port of Felixstowe in Suffolk - Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Thousands of shipping containers at the port of Felixstowe in Suffolk - Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Speaking at a conference in Dubai, he said: "Nobody knows how long it’s going to take. I think it’s going to take a long time. The problem is complicated because you have a backlog of cargo.”

Ports are struggling from Covid shutdowns amid a massive global shortage of lorry drivers, with turmoil in America directly linked to the disruption that has been seen on British shores.

Hannah Boland has the story.

03:11 PM

'Macron’s France-first strategy shows why the EU is doomed to fail'

In a last-minute bid to make France great again in the run-up to next year’s presidential election, President Emmanuel Macron revealed a fundamental truth about the body he claims to cherish, writes Jonathan Saxty.

There might be a Europe, but there is in fact little Union. The French President yesterday announced an investment of €30bn to create a ‘France first’ industrial strategy.

Like the UK, France has suffered years of industrial decline, stymied as it has also been by labour-market laws. Like Mr Macron’s tough talk on immigration, the announcement was no doubt designed to win over voters as much as anything else.

French President Emmanuel Macron makes a statement at the Elysee Palace  - Chesnot/Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron makes a statement at the Elysee Palace - Chesnot/Getty Images

The plan – dubbed “France 2030” – will pour money into nuclear energy, electric cars and robotics, among other things, with an emphasis on making France less reliant on imports.

The plan came with a strong scent of nationalism, likely to jar with pro-Europeans and possibly running into compatibility problems with EU state-aid rules.

Read more: Macron has exposed fundamental the European dilemma of conflicted interests

02:56 PM

Have your say: How serious is the Government's new ECJ demand?

Lord Frost's demand that the European Court of Justice no longer have jurisdiction over the Northern Ireland Protocol has put the cat among the pigeons both in Brussels and back here in Westminster.

Ministers have stopped short of saying it is a deal-breaker or 'red line' - a phrase that gives many a Brexit-watcher harrowing flashbacks. But it has been described as "a major issue" that must be resolved, not least for Unionists.

The EU have accused the Government of being a "troublemaker" and made clear Court's oversight will remain as long as Northern Ireland remains within the Single Market.

In London, it's been suggested that it could be a "bluff" to get a Swiss-style arrangement, or a "dead cat" strategy to continue stirring the pot against Brussels. Dominic Cummings meanwhile has claimed Boris Johnson "didn't have a scoobydoo" what he had signed.

So is it a genuine request? Have your say in the poll below.

02:48 PM

Food costs will soar 10pc in 'great reset', warns Britain's biggest chicken firm

The boss of Britain’s biggest chicken producer has warned that shoppers face a “great food reset” in which prices will rise more than 10pc as businesses scramble to adapt to supply chain chaos.

Ranjit Boparan, founder of 2 Sisters Food Group, said the days when a family could buy a whole chicken for just £3 were “coming to an end” and suggested consumers must brace for double-digit inflation.

He warned that food manufacturers are grappling with a raft of expensive problems and have no choice but to pass the costs on to consumers.

Mr Boparan said: “Food is too cheap, there’s no point avoiding the issue.

"In relative terms, a chicken today is cheaper to buy than it was 20 years ago. How can it be right that a whole chicken costs less than a pint of beer?

“You’re looking at a different world from now on where the shopper pays more.”

02:37 PM

No shift on ECJ as Ireland warns about 'retaliatory measures' if Article 16 triggered

Simon Coveney has played down any prospect that the European Commission will end the oversight of the European Court of Justice on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking ahead of Maros Sefcovic's press conference today, Ireland's foreign minister told RTE radio: "Very few people in Northern Ireland have raised the issue of the ECJ as a fundamental issue.

"I don't see how the EU can change an international treaty that removes the ECJ from being the arbiter of the rules of the Single Market."

He said that contingency plans had been drafted by the EU in the case of the UK triggering Article 16, warning that discussions would enter a "very difficult space in terms of retaliatory measures".

But he also expressed optimism that the two sides could find a compromise, saying: "The EU has said this is not their last word. This is a very genuine and serious effort to respond to the issues that have been raised."

02:34 PM

Time to move away from Brexit 'rancour', says Ireland's foreign minister

Ireland's foreign minister has said that he hopes new proposals on the Northern Ireland Protocol can take the EU and the UK beyond the "rancour" of the past week.

Speaking ahead of Maros Sefcovic's press conference today, Simon Coveney told RTE radio the Commission was making "a major intervention", with four different papers being published this evening.

He added: "It is a very genuine and honest effort to try to resolve and to provide answers for the concerns that many people in Northern Ireland have expressed."

Mr Coveney added: "The British Government decided to create other issues that they say must be solved. That goes back to their command paper, over the summer months, but I think focus on the EU side is to be calm and comprehensive about what they're offering.

"There has been a lot of rancour, a lot of stand-offs, a lot of red lines, a lot of cliff edges. We need to try to move away from that type of negotiation now."

02:29 PM

EU's 'threats' suggest they don't want Britain to succeed, says Lord Frost

Lord Frost has said "threats" made against the UK made him believe that some in the EU did not want the Brexit Britain to succeed.

The minister told broadcasters: "We are looking at some of the things that have been said and done this year, some of the threats that have been made against us - energy supplies, the issue about Article 16 earlier this year in Northern Ireland.

"I hope it's not true. We need to build trust on both sides, we want the European Union to succeed and I hope they want us to succeed."

02:26 PM

Government will 'look at EU proposals positively', says Brexit minister

Lord Frost the EU had "moved significantly" in its position ahead of its announcement.

He told broadcasters: "So we need to find a solution everybody can get behind, and that means looking at some of the fundamentals, it means we need to get to a solution of significant change.

"Obviously, we haven't seen what the Commission have put forward, I hope they have moved significantly, and obviously we will look at it positively if they have, but we'll wait and see what they come forward with, and then we'll see what we can do."

He may not have seen the full proposals, but he will have seen the briefings - which show movement on trade but not the ECJ. Read more here.

02:24 PM

Lord Frost: We all understood what Brexit deal meant when we signed it

Lord Frost has insisted that everyone in Government knew exactly what they were signing up to with the Brexit deal, after Dominic Cummings claimed Boris Johnson "didn't have a scoobydoo" (see 10:08am).

Asked about the former aide's comments, the Brexit minister told broadcasters: "We all understood extremely well what this deal meant, it was a deal that delivered on democracy and delivered on the referendum result."

He added that "it took the United Kingdom out of the European Union" and "it was a very good deal from that point of view".

Asked why, therefore, he wanted to renegotiate it now, Lord Frost said: "Because unfortunately, it's clear that the protocol as it's being implemented in Northern Ireland is not being implemented with the necessary sensitivity.

"We have to come back to these arrangements again if they don't enjoy consent across Northern Ireland, that unfortunately is the situation. So that's why it has to be redone."

02:21 PM

Lord Frost: ECJ cannot remain as 'enforcer' of Northern Ireland Protocol

The UK cannot allow the European Court of Justice to remain "the enforcer" of the Northern Ireland protocol, Lord Frost has said.

Speaking ahead of Maros Sefcovic's speech at 5:30pm, the Brexit minister told journalists: "The problem with the protocol at the moment is that EU law, with the ECJ as the enforcer of it, is applied in Northern Ireland without any sort of democratic process.

"That has to change if we are to find governance arrangements that people can live with and a protocol that genuinely has consent across Northern Ireland, in all its dimensions - East-West, North-South.

"We are asking everyone to be flexible, find compromises that will protect its delicate, sensitive position."

02:15 PM

Lord Frost: Intensive talks should yield 'consensus solution' on Northern Ireland

Lord Frost has called for an "intensive talks period" ahead of new proposals from the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol, saying a "consensus solution" should be reached.

The Brexit minister, who yesterday gave a speech calling for the end to the ECJ's oversight of the protocol, reiterated his belief that it was "undermining" the Good Friday Agreement.

But asked if a compromise was possible based on briefings so far, he said: "So we really would like to get a consensus solution, we're working very hard to get one, it's obviously the best way forward if we can find agreement and build a new future for Northern Ireland.

"We will work very hard for that."

Lord Frost added: "We're expecting proposals from the EU today, and obviously we will look at those very carefully and positively. We now need an intensive talks process and to try and find an agreement that everybody can get behind. That's what we want to happen."

02:09 PM

NHS Digital: Covid Pass is suffering from 'issues'

British holidaymakers hoping to get away ahead of the half term have been dealt a blow, after the NHS said the Covid Pass was suffering from "issues".

02:06 PM

Port of LA to operate '24/7' as Joe Biden moves to fix US supply chain crisis

Joe Biden has lifted restrictions to enable the Port of Los Angeles to "begin operating around the clock 24/7", in a bid to unblock the US' supply chain.

Amid similar pressures to those experienced in the UK, Europe and beyond, the President said he would "make sure Americans can get the goods they need".

01:53 PM

Make FTSE100 firms bring forward climate plans, says Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband has urged the Government to ask all financial institutions to bring forward by 2023 credible climate transition plans that are consistent with a 1.5 degree pathway.

Speaking at an event by the Green Alliance think tank, the shadow business secretary noted that while the UK is only responsible for one per cent of global emissions, the investments made in the City of London were responsible for around 15 per cent.

He added: "Government should ask all financial institutions not just to report on climate risks, as they plan to, but to bring forward by 2023 credible transition plans that are consistent with a 1.5 degree pathway. This would make a profound difference in the flow of finance out of fossil fuels and into green energy.

"We should ask all our FTSE 100 companies to do the same and have their own climate transition plans, consistent with 1.5 degrees, by 2023. And furthermore, we should be asking in Glasgow that all major economies follow suit."

01:48 PM

Stewart Jackson: Optimistic Brexiteers are at last vindicated

Pro-EU commentators are baffled as to why Lord Frost gave his keynote speech on the Northern Ireland Protocol from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, writes Stewart Jackson.

It may not have occurred to them that Portugal is our longest-standing ally (since the signing of the Treaty of Windsor in 1386), and that there was a world before the hegemonic behemoth that is the European Union.

These are the same commentators and former politicians, some now well paid advisers to big business, who cheered on Theresa May's disastrous decision to sequence the Article 50 talks after the 2016 referendum entirely in the EU's favour – placing negotiating the Northern Ireland Protocol and a generous deal on citizens rights and a financial settlement before trade talks.

There is not the slightest hint of a mea culpa, however. The very fact that today the EU will resile from its hitherto absolutist and inflexible approach gives the lie to the idea that the negotiated protocol was inviolate and set in stone.

Read more from Stewart here.

01:39 PM

Former mandarin questions Government's motives on protocol demands

The Government "will have known absolutely what it was signing up to when it agreed to the protocol", the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union has said.

Philip Rycroft, who was the most senior DexEU civil servant between 2017 and 2019, told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme some compromise was possible, but asked: "Does the UK Government want the protocol to work? I have to say I'm just not sure what the answer to that is right now, but if the answer is no, what is the alternative?...

"Nobody wants a hard border on the island of Ireland, so some form of protocol is absolutely essential."

He added: "I think the Government now has to demonstrate unequivocally that it is committed to making this work because that's in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, as well as the rest of the UK.

"What we're hearing is very mixed signalling and that is worrying."

01:37 PM

Boris Johnson should 'get off his sun lounger' and deal with climate crisis, says Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband delivers his speech at Church House in Westminster - PA
Ed Miliband delivers his speech at Church House in Westminster - PA

Ed Miliband has told Boris Johnson to "get off his sun lounger", as he urges the Prime Minister to make a success of Cop26.

The shadow business secretary and former Labour leader said the country was "miles away" from the point it needed to be as it hosts the global climate in just under three weeks.

"We are about to enter the most important few weeks in nations fight against climate crisis," he said.

Blasting the Prime Minister - who is currently on holiday in Marbella - the Labour MP said: "It’s time for the Prime Minister to get off his sun lounger, be a statesman, put away the easel and make Glasgow the success we need it to be."

He called for a "step change" to meet climate ambitions, noting that the point of events like Cop26 was to "embarrass leaders" into action.

01:08 PM

Lord Frost's last-minute demands have resurrected 'Brxit merry-go-round'

Fine Gael's spokesman on European affairs has doubled-down on his criticism of the UK Government for having put negotiations back on "the Brexit merry-go-round".

Neale Richmond told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that Brussels had "spent months preparing a really generous set of proposals" that would deal with the "everyday concerns of people in Northern Ireland".

He added: "To call for a complete renegotiation of the protocol without ever considering the impact or indeed engaging with the Irish Government, the European Commission or political leaders in Northern Ireland, it's a very worrying state of affairs."

Mr Richmond attacked Lord Frost for saying "he made a mistake the first time - no mistake was made, if anything the only mistake was Brexit in its first place".

See 11:22am for more

12:58 PM

The picture that shows why Brexit is not to blame for Britain's shortages

“This is not a Brexit issue," says British Ports Association boss Richard Ballantyne. - Bloomberg
“This is not a Brexit issue," says British Ports Association boss Richard Ballantyne. - Bloomberg

Standing on the Pacific coast in California, a casual observer might find themselves thinking America had just severed close ties with its biggest trading partners.

Outside Los Angeles and Long Beach - the country's two biggest ports - a queue of container ships stretches to the horizon, waiting to dock and offload their wares. But this clear evidence of a supply chain crisis has nothing to do with any Brexit-style rupture.

Instead, it has been caused by global chaos as ports struggle to recover from Covid shutdowns and the world struggles with a massive shortage of lorry drivers.

“Britain is by no means alone in suffering these problems," says Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association. “This is not a Brexit issue - rather than the haulage problem - and it’s unfair to say that border controls resulting from leaving the EU are a cause of this.”

Read more here.

12:43 PM

Scotland must not leave people behind in energy transition, says Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland must not leave communities behind as it transitions away from oil and gas, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Giving a Ted Talk in Edinburgh on Wednesday, the First Minister refused to voice opposition to the Cambo oil field development proposed near Shetland which has proven controversial with politicians and environmental campaigners alike.

Ms Sturgeon stressed the supply of oil and gas cannot be turned off completely in the short term because that may lead to a spike in imports, as well as economic problems caused by mass lay-offs.

"We've got to be careful that we don't leave people and communities behind in that transition," the First Minister said. "We've got to be careful we don't switch domestic production to imports of oil and gas - that would be counter-productive.

"So the way in which we make the transition matters, but we can't have business as usual, because if we keep telling ourselves we can rely on fossil fuels forever, then we'll never make that transition and that's the key point we've got to address."

12:28 PM

Ireland gives Brussels backing on protocol proposals

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has given his backing to EU proposals for changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The proposals, set to be unveiled on Wednesday evening, are expected to slash red tape on Irish Sea trade but fall short of a UK demand on axing the role of European judges.

Mr Martin told the Dail on Wednesday that European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic had worked in "good faith" and "epitomised the spirit of the Commission's consistent strong support for the Good Friday Agreement".

He added: "If everyone is operating in good faith, and if the focus is on addressing disruption in trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, then these proposals address the problem and respect the treaties we all agreed to."

He said he would be "further communicating with the British Prime Minister".

12:25 PM

Have your say: How serious is the new ECJ demand?

Lord Frost's demand that the European Court of Justice no longer have jurisdiction over the Northern Ireland Protocol has put the cat among the pigeons both in Brussels and back here in Westminster.

Ministers have stopped short of saying it is a deal-breaker or 'red line' - a phrase that gives many a Brexit-watcher harrowing flashbacks. But it has been described as "a major issue" that must be resolved, not least for Unionists.

The EU have accused the Government of being a "troublemaker" and made clear Court's oversight will remain as long as Northern Ireland remains within the Single Market.

In London, it's been suggested that it could be a "bluff" to get a Swiss-style arrangement, or a "dead cat" strategy to continue stirring the pot against Brussels. Dominic Cummings meanwhile has claimed Boris Johnson "didn't have a scoobydoo" what he had signed.

So is it a genuine request? Have your say in the poll below.

12:12 PM

Government making 'false promises' over HGV driver conditions

The Government has been accused of "political deception" over funding for lorry drivers' facilities amid warnings they are in an "abysmal" state.

Union officials met Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last week but it is understood no mention was made about how much money will be spent on facilities.

Adrian Jones, national officer at the Unite union, said "false promises" of improved conditions were "nothing short of political deception".

He added: "The abysmal state of truck stop facilities needs real money and action or it will never be improved. Our members are demanding genuine public investment in lorry parking, not just putting money into the private sector, the same private sector that has failed our members for years.

"Unite is calling on the Government and the employers to sit down with our members now to establish appropriate standards and make detailed plans for swift improvements in facilities for drivers," he added. "Without that, an industry that's at the heart of our economy will limp from crisis to crisis."

12:11 PM

France readying retaliatory measures over fishing row

France is readying retaliatory measures against Britain over the ongoing row regarding fishing rights, a spokesman for Emmanuel Macron's government has said.

The measures could be enforced as early as next week, Reuters reports.

It is not clear what the measures could include, but ministers have threatened to cut energy supplies and goods to the British mainland and Jersey, which is at the centre of the row.

11:50 AM

Inside the battle for Chevening – the luxury estate that ministers just can’t stop fighting over

Chevening has long been the cause of rows in the Cabinet. - Getty
Chevening has long been the cause of rows in the Cabinet. - Getty

Forget Downton Abbey. The latest country house drama is being played out in the Cabinet, between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab.

The two greedy babies are at war over who gets to live in Chevening, the 115-room stately home in Kent, traditionally awarded as a grace-and-favour country seat for the Foreign Secretary. Liz Truss may have just supplanted Raab as Foreign Secretary, but he feels he has the superior claim as Deputy PM.

Not that the PM thinks Raab is all that superior – it’s just been declared that, even while Boris Johnson relaxes in Marbella with his family, he’s very much still in charge and won’t let Raab anywhere near the nuclear button.

Meanwhile, Liz Truss has made her first big move to become Chevening’s sole chatelaine.

Read Harry de Quetteville's inside story here.

11:42 AM

British consumers told not to panic because 'some items are not on shelves'

British consumers may find that some items "won't be on the shelves" this autumn and winter but must not panic, a shipping boss has said.

Peter Wilson, managing director the Cory Brothers Shipping Agency, said the "rolling issue of delays... has been going on for 18, 19 months", having started by the "shut down of Asia" at the outset of the pandemic and would continue after Christmas.

He urged consumers to take a "sensible approach to buying", particularly for electrical items, white goods, clothing, and Christmas gifts.

"It is sensible to plan what you want so you can get what you need," he told Sky News. "There may be a short delay in distribution, but there will be plenty to go around."

Mr Wilson added: "The supply chain will not fail in the UK. We are able to manage the situation, but just be conscious there may be items that wont be on the shelves."

11:28 AM

'Staggering' low uptake of HGV visa will mean 'misery' in run-up to Christmas, says Lib Dem MP

The admission that just over 20 HGV drivers who applied for the UK's emergency visa scheme are on the road is "staggering", a Liberal Democrats MP has said.

Responding to Oliver Dowden's comments today (see below) Alistair Carmichael, the party's home affairs spokesperson said: "In the face of a national crisis and our ports going into gridlock, the response from Conservative ministers is too little too late.

"This incompetence will mean more empty shelves and more misery for British consumers in the run-up to Christmas.

"The immigration system is broken, and it is hurting everyone," he added. "The Government needs to end their arbitrary rules that shut out lorry drivers as ‘unskilled’ and take visa applications away from the Home Office to get them decided quickly and fairly.”

11:24 AM

Minister admits 'just over 20' new foreign HGV drivers are on the road

A minister has admitted "just over 20" foreign HGV drivers who have applied for a visa scheme are on British roads, weeks into the supply chain crisis.

This morning Oliver Dowden was unable to confirm the numbers (see 7:59am). But in a later interview with LBC, the Conservative Party co-chairman said there had been 300 applicants for the temporary visas.

"We have 300 people that have applied for these visas, I believe the number is just over 20 who are actually on the road," he explained. "I expect that number to rise over time."

11:14 AM

Government at 'high risk' of missing fuel poverty targets

The Government missed its 2020 fuel poverty targets and is already at "high risk" of failing to meet its goals for 2025 as well, according to its own advisers. .

The Committee on Fuel Poverty said it was "unacceptable" that the Government had failed to achieve its aim of ensuring all fuel poor homes had an energy efficiency rating of E or higher by 2020 "despite schemes and sufficient funding being able to meet it".

In its annual report the committee said: "Government failed to apply its own fuel poverty guiding principle to target available funds on assisting those in the deepest levels of fuel poverty to improve the energy efficiency levels of their homes and assist them to pay their fuel bills.

"Instead, assistance was targeted (and continues to be targeted) predominantly on higher income households."

The warning comes as concerns about energy bills continues to mount thanks to spiralling wholesale gas prices.

11:04 AM

Boris Johnson under pressure to strip EU judges of power

Conservative MPs today heaped pressure on Boris Johnson to strip EU judges of their role in Northern Ireland after it emerged that Brussels had rejected UK demands over the European Court of Justice.

An EU official confirmed there would be no mention of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in today's paper, which will kick-start intense negotiations on Thursday in London.

But David Jones, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Conservative MPs, told The Telegraph: “He has to stand firm because the whole point is that we will not complete our departure from the European Union until every part of the UK is no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the ECJ.

“Until such time as we have got rid of it we will not be an independent country and David Frost has got to stand firm. "

Mr Jones raised the prospect of triggering Article 16, adding: "I think he needs to show that we mean business.”

Read more here.

11:00 AM

HGV driver misses job interview because of 'retired' climate change protesters

An HGV driver has said he lost a job that he had an interview for because of the Insulate Britain protests.

"None of them work - they are all retired!" he told LBC.

Watch the video below.

10:50 AM

NHS in Wales entering 'most challenging period'

The NHS in Wales is entering its "most challenging period" as it deals with the coronavirus pandemic and rising waiting lists, its chief executive has said.

Dr Andrew Goodall told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that despite a drop in hospitalisations there were "significant numbers" of Covid cases in the system as a result of "high community prevalence".

Meanwhile "the recovery of activity" elsewhere was adding to pressure as planned operations and other services resume.

"The numbers are increasing and we are probably at the fullest that we've seen across our system in the last 20 months at this stage," he said. "We need to continue to make sure that we're also able to bring in patients who have been waiting for access to care over the last 20 months."

10:34 AM

Scrap social distancing and see more patients, GPs will be told

Sajid Javid is expected to announce plans to ensure any GPs resisting the return to in-person consultations would be “held to account”, - PA
Sajid Javid is expected to announce plans to ensure any GPs resisting the return to in-person consultations would be “held to account”, - PA

GPs will be told to scrap the two-metre social distancing rule in surgeries to allow them to see more patients.

The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, is expected to announce a package of measures in the coming days to cut NHS bureaucracy and free up family doctors’ time to carry out more face-to-face appointments.

Part of the package, first reported by the Daily Mail, will include the removal of the two-metre rule in practices and an easing of cleaning regimes.

Last month hospitals were told they could scrap the two-metre rule in an effort to help the NHS see more patients.

The guidance also removed the need for patients to undergo PCR tests and isolation before surgery. Infection control experts could look at GP surgeries to determine if rules could be relaxed there also.

10:22 AM

ECJ is 'red herring', says Fine Gael spokesman

The UK has "belatedly brought up" the European Court of Justice as an issue requiring urgent resolution, a spokesman for Fine Gael has said as he questions the rationale for raising it now.

Neale Richmond, TD for Dublin Rathdown, told Sky News the EU's proposals today would "absolutely resolve the issues on the ground" in Northern Ireland in an "extremely generous package".

But Lord Frost's speech yesterday "was quite disappointing, and was premature", he added, saying the ECJ was "a red herring".

"I think it's a bit odd that the British Government has re-entered this as an issue... belatedly it has been brought up. The ECJ isn't affecting anyone in Northern Ireland - it is having no impact."

He added: "I am very disappointed in the actions of the British Government, not just yesterday but for the last few months... to have misnomers and red herrings brought into it as this stage int eh debate is really disappointing."

10:07 AM

Q&A: The Telegraph answers your questions on the Northern Ireland Protocol

This week is shaping up to be another critical juncture in the UK's relationship with the EU, with Lord Frost setting out new demands yesterday and Maros Sefcovic publishing Brussels' proposals later today.

But underneath all the political jostling, what is actually going on?

If you have a question on the new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, fill out the form below for one of our experts to answer.

09:58 AM

New Gov.uk app will let people access 300 services at the blink of an eye

The public will be able to use dozens of online government services from changing their driving licence to getting benefits via a new app, ministers have announced as part of plans to replace a failed £175 million scheme.

Later today Stephen Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, will unveil proposals for a new Gov.uk app that will allow users to verify their identity using features already on their smartphones, such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanning.

The Cabinet Office says that the new app will merge 191 different ways people can currently create Gov.uk accounts into one simple log-in process.

Ahead of the launch, Mr Barclay said: During the pandemic, people have had to interact with Government services in a variety of new ways, including the NHS app and the vaccine booking service.

“People rightly expect government to be data-driven and digitally literate, and this will be a priority for me in my new role.”

09:53 AM

Philip Johnston: Lockdown delay was understandable, but the energy crisis is unforgivable

A core function of government, arguably its primary function, is preparedness – ensuring the country is ready to withstand whatever is thrown at it within reason, writes Philip Johnston.

To that end, risk assessments are undertaken and lists of threats compiled; secretariats are established to imagine every possible eventuality and identify what might be needed in mitigation; models are produced to establish a range of possible outcomes; exercises are carried out so that everyone knows what to do when the worst happens; and plans are drawn up and published amid great fanfare to show that the government is doing its job.

Then along comes the very event for which we have readied ourselves so meticulously and everything goes to pot. As Robert Burns said: “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men/ Gang aft agley”.

Or more colloquially, as the boxer Mike Tyson put it: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Read more from Philip here.

09:44 AM

'Cheating foreigners is a core part of the job,' says Dominic Cummings

Dominic Cummings has doubled-down on his claims that the UK always intended to "ditch" parts of the Brexit deal, saying it is "cheating foreigners is a core part of the job".

Comments by the Prime Minister's former right-hand man last night prompted Leo Varadkar to say the current UK Government "doesn't necessarily keep its word" and world leaders should be wary of striking future deals (see 9:31am). He accused Downing Street of agreeing things in "bad faith".

Mr Cummings has posted a typically forthright response - including calling the Tanaiste a clown:

09:39 AM

Have your say: How serious is the new ECJ demand?

Lord Frost's demand that the European Court of Justice no longer have jurisdiction over the Northern Ireland Protocol has put the cat among the pigeons both in Brussels and back here in Westminster.

Ministers have stopped short of saying it is a deal-breaker or 'red line' - a phrase that gives many a Brexit-watcher harrowing flashbacks. But it has been described as "a major issue" that must be resolved, not least for Unionists.

The EU have accused the Government of being a "troublemaker" and made clear Court's oversight will remain as long as Northern Ireland remains within the Single Market.

In London, it's been suggested that it could be a "bluff" to get a Swiss-style arrangement, with one former minister even suggesting it was a "dead cat" strategy to continue stirring the pot against Brussels.

So is it a genuine request? Have your say in the poll below.

09:31 AM

'Brexit hasn't happened yet': Border disruption to get worse, warns expert

A Brexit and trade expert has warned that January 1 will bring further disruption at the borders.

Shanker Singham, chief executive of Comptere, told Sky News: "At the moment it is quite easy to get goods from the EU into GB. That will change on Jan 1 of next year, when the additional requirement order comes in.

"Industry needs to prepare for that moment," he added. "In terms of EU into GB trade - in many ways Brexit hasn’t happened yet - it happens on Jan 1."

09:27 AM

Brussels' proposals go 'further than expected', says Brexit expert

Brussels' proposals to resolve the "logjams" caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol go further than expected - but may not be quite enough, a key Brexit expert has said.

Shanker Singham, a trade consultant who played a critical role in the campaign against Theresa May's proposals, told Sky News there were "various logjams that need to be addressed", including ECJ jurisdiction and trade.

"The EU is coming out with proposals today that are very interesting and go a bit further than many of us thought they would - I suspect not far enough for the UK Government, but we are in a period of negotiation," he added.

"There is a pathway to a landing zone I think."

09:22 AM

ECJ demand a 'dead cat', suggests former minister

Brussels has made clear its scepticism about Lord Frost's new demand to end the jurisdiction of the ECJ, with one MEP suggesting the UK was being a "troublemaker" (see 8:17am) while Leo Varadkar has suggested the Government can't be trusted (see 9:31am).

Those doubts are shared by some in Westminster.

One former minister tells The Telegraph: "It's come from nowhere. It could be a dead cat... Number 10 know they get a poll boost from bashing the EU, so just keep bashing seems to be the tactic. I find the whole things utterly depressing - I thought we were a serious country."

One Brexiteer source adds: "My gut tells me it's a bluff and Boris will go for a compromise."

09:08 AM

Dominic Cummings: Boris Johnson 'never had a scoobydoo' about details of Brexit deal

Boris Johnson "never had a scoobydoo" about the details of the Brexit deal he signed, Dominic Cummings has claimed.

In a series of tweets following the latest demands for change to the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Prime Minister's former aide said Mr Johnson was not lying when he said he had an "oven-ready deal" during the 2019 General Election,, because "he never had a scoobydoo what the deal he signed meant".

Mr Cummings added: "He never understood what leaving Customs Union meant until November 2020."

When the Prime Minister did finally comprehend, "he was babbling 'I'd never have signed it if I'd understood it' (but that WAS a lie)".

The agreement was struck during a chaotic period in Westminster, "so we wriggled through with best option we could and intended to get the trolley to ditch bits we didn't like after whacking (Labour leader Jeremy) Corbyn. We prioritised," he said.

09:04 AM

More arrests made as Insulate Britain returns to major roads

Further arrests have been made after members of Insulate Britain blocked roads for a 13th time, despite injunctions granted by the High Court.

Clashes ensued between protesters and angry motorists on Wednesday morning, with demonstrators being dragged out of roads near a busy industrial estate in Essex.

Around 20 protesters blocked the junction to St Clements Way and London Road, in Thurrock, forcing multiple vehicles including HGVs to stop and turn round.

Vehicles blasted their horns and members of the public got out of their cars to confront protesters, who lay down in the roads in front of them. Some were physically dragged out of the road but immediately returned, only to be dragged away again by the frustrated drivers.

Essex Police said: "We are currently on scene and have made arrests following reports of people blocking the slip road of the M25 in Thurrock.... Officers were at the scene within five minutes and are currently working to resolve the situation quickly and safely. Arrests have been made.

"We know this will be frustrating for people caught up in traffic but we appreciate your patience and understanding."

08:37 AM

No red lines drawn over ECJ, says minister

Hopes that the UK and EU might agree a new deal over the Northern Ireland Protocol were given a boost this morning, after a Cabinet minister refused to describe the European Court of Justice as a red line.

Maros Sefcovic, Brussels' Brexit negotiator, is expected to respond to Lord Frost's speech with a press conference of his own this afternoon, setting out a new set of proposals to resolve issues with the agreement, including vowing to cut up to 50 per cent of customs checks on goods entering Northern Ireland.

However, overnight there appeared to be little movement on the ECJ - despite Lord Frost making it a central request yesterday.

This morning Oliver Dowden, the Conservative Party co-chairman, said cutting checks on trade were "welcome steps". Although he stressed the ECJ remained a "major issue" that must be resolved, he stopped short of saying it was a a deal-beaker, telling Sky News: "I am not going to start writing red lines here and there."

The Government would "engage fully, constructively with these proposals, but we need fundamental change to the protocol," he added.

08:36 AM

Government 'not setting arbitrary targets' to resolve HGV driver shortage

Oliver Dowden has shrugged off suggestions that the Government is failing to resolve the lorry driver shortage, saying they are "not in the business of setting arbitrary targets".

Latest figures suggest just 27 people have taken up the offer of 5,000 short-term visas to resolve the supply chain crisis in the run-up to Christmas.

But asked how far the Government will have got in addressing the shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers by that point, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We're not in the business of setting arbitrary targets.

"What I can assure you is that the Government is straining every sinew and the Government is committed to making sure we increase HGV driver capacity through a whole range of different measures...

"It is already increasing the supply of HGV drivers, we're seeing welcome progress in terms of HGV fuel drivers, the situation in most parts of the UK is easing. This is a challenging situation, it's not just unique to the UK."

08:31 AM

Leo Varadkar: Don't strike agreements with British until protocol is honoured

Ireland's deputy premier has warned political leaders not to enter any agreements with the British Government until they are confident they will keep to their promises.

Leo Varadkar was responding to claims by Dominic Cummings that it had always been the plan to "ditch bits we didn't like after whacking Corbyn".

The Tanaiste told RTE Morning Ireland said the comments were "very alarming" because they suggested the UK Government had "acted in bad faith".

He added: That message needs to be heard around the world... that this is a British Government that doesn't necessarily keep its word and doesn't necessarily honour the agreements it makes.

"You shouldn't make any agreements with them until such time as you're confident that they keep their promises, and honour things, for example, like the protocol."

08:18 AM

Ed Miliband savages Boris Johnson's 'half-baked' Brexit deal

The former Labour leader has been scathing about Boris Johnson's Brexit 'triumph' - Reuters
The former Labour leader has been scathing about Boris Johnson's Brexit 'triumph' - Reuters

Ed Miliband has criticised the Government's Brexit deal as being "half-baked", drawing on the Prime Minister's slogan that it was "oven-ready" at the time of signing.

The shadow business secretary told Sky News: "I hope there's compromise on both sides. I think people will be scratching their heads because this was an agreement signed by Boris Johnson, he said it was a fantastic triumph, it was all going to be fine - and now they want to rip up their own protocol.

"I actually think there's a case for a wider EU-UK veterinary agreement because that would then make the goods situation in Northern Ireland much easier, it would agree common standards."

Asked if he thought the deal was "oven-ready", he replied: "It was half-baked."

08:05 AM

Port of Dover boss admits wondering about 'pre-buying early Christmas presents'

The head of the Port of Dover has admitted wondering whether to "pre-buy some early Christmas presents for the kids", after cargo vessels were turned away yesterday.

Doug Bannister, chief executive of the Port of Dover, said there is "no congestion" at Dover, and that he was not feeling "particularly Grinchy".

But he told Times Radio: "Felixstowe, London Gateway, Southampton, these big container ports, for the goods coming on the long supply routes, on these big ships from Asia and India and the Middle East, these are providing a lot of the goods that people want to have around Christmas time."

He added: "So I don't feel particularly grumpy knowing our business, but I do wonder about, you know, if my wife needs to pre-buy some early Christmas presents for the kids."

07:57 AM

UK is not seeking to take Northern Ireland out of Single Market, minister insists

A Cabinet minister has insisted the UK is not seeking to take Northern Ireland out of the Single Market, despite Brussels stressing that would be the logical consequence of ending ECJ jurisdiction.

"Lord Frost has correctly highlighted challenges with the role of the ECJ," Oliver Dowden told BBC Radio 4''s Today programme.

"This is not a dogmatic point - it is a point that goes to trust in this arrangement.. given the mechanisms are overseen by the court of one party."

He stressed the UK Government has "not changed our position" on the special status allowing Northern Ireland to remain within the Single Market, but added: "It is incumbent on us as the Government and the EU to make sure we have a sustainable future."

07:52 AM

ECJ power 'highly anomalous', says Cabinet minister

The continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over the Northern Ireland Protocol is "highly anomalous", a Cabinet minister has said.

Oliver Dowden, the Conservative Party co-chairman, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If they are making progress that it very welcome. We will engage with the detail and constructively."

He said it was very welcome that the EU had said it would not be "take it or leave", but stressed the need to "look fundamentally at the protocol, because it is not working for one community".

07:49 AM

'There is no such thing as a holiday for a prime minister'

Oliver Dowden said he was expecting to see the Prime MInister later this week - Anadolu Agency
Oliver Dowden said he was expecting to see the Prime MInister later this week - Anadolu Agency

Oliver Dowden has defended Boris Johnson's decision to go on holiday in a Spanish villa while the UK faces energy shortages and problems recruiting much-needed HGV drivers.

The Conservative Party co-chairman told ITV: "I've worked closely with three prime ministers and I can assure you that there's no such thing as a holiday for a prime minister.

"I know the Prime Minister will be and is working out there and is engaged with issues going on in the UK.

"But also, I hope your viewers will appreciate that the Prime Minister has been through a challenging time in a lot of different ways - he had Covid-19, he's got a new child on the way, and very sadly he lost his mother just a few weeks ago.

"So this is a just a short break and he will be returning to the UK and I am expecting to see him later this week."

07:38 AM

Brussels protocol proposals: What we know so far

Maros Sefcovic is expected to set out Brussels' latest set of proposals on the Northern Ireland Protocol from 5:30pm (UK time) today.

The Commission's vice president is expected to focus on four key areas in a bid to finally resolve the many issues that have emerged since the start of the year. Lord Frost yesterday set out his expectations - including not only a resolution on trade but also an end to the jurisdiction of the ECJ over the arrangements.

It is thought the EU will avoid responding directly to the Brexit minister's speech in Portugal, instead highlighting the lengthy process it has gone through to find its own set of solutions. Under the proposals, up to 50 per cent of customs checks on goods would be lifted, or even more for some areas.

That will be done through the creation of a "green lane" for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain and a separate "red lane", with more customs controls, for products intended to travel beyond the province.

One diplomat likened the plan to the "maximum facilitation" strategy previously called for by Brexiteers, which employed technological solutions to minimise the need for physical checks.

07:32 AM

Owen Polley: Coveney has some cheek attacking Britain

As the UK and the EU prepare to renegotiate aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Irish Republic’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, accused Britain of risking a “breakdown of relations” with the EU by objecting to the European Court of Justice’s interference in Ulster.

He has quite a cheek, writes Owen Polley.

Coveney and his boss, the Fine Gael leader and former taoiseach Leo Varadkar, have done more than most politicians to damage friendship between London and Dublin, undermine cooperation between the two parts of Ireland and destabilise the Belfast Agreement.

Read more from Owen here.

07:28 AM

Growth stutters with muted figures for August and contraction in July

Britain's economy grew lower than expected in August, as revised figures have revealed a contraction in July.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP) rose 0.4 per cent between July and August. However it downgraded its estimate for July from a 0.1 per cent expansion to a contraction of 0.1 per cent.

The data showed further signs of a slowdown in the UK's recovery from the pandemic as global supply chain woes take their toll.

The economy would need to soar by 2.1 per cent in September to remain on track with the Bank of England's forecast for the third quarter - something Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics said was "implausible" in light of the growing supply crisis.

Growth rebounded strongly in the second quarter, with GDP rising by 5.5 per cent, but the recovery has been more modest than expected, with supply chain problems and the lorry driver crisis holding back the economy.

07:21 AM

Treasury wrong to view energy support as 'unreasonable', says Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband has attacked the Treasury for acting as though support for hard-pressed firms during the energy crisis was "just unreasonable".

The shadow business secretary told the BBC's Today programme: "There does need to be cash support which is going to keep these industries going. The trouble of the last few days was the Treasury looking like it thought this was just unreasonable and they were against it happening, and that is just completely wrong.

"There's a longer-term issue here though. Yes there is a global dimension to this, but we are so exposed because we don't have the gas storage," the Labour MP added. "We've stalled on renewables including on on-shore wind and solar, and nuclear programme is stalled.

"And crucially, we haven't made the steps we need on energy efficiency. This is a decade of inaction we've seen that's led us to this point."

07:17 AM

UK accused of being 'troublemaker' over fresh protocol demands

Nathalie Loiseau questioned "who is the trouble-maker and who is the problem-solver?" - AP
Nathalie Loiseau questioned "who is the trouble-maker and who is the problem-solver?" - AP

Ending ECJ jurisdiction would "tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol", which cannot be "agreed", a senior MEP and former French minister has said.

Asked if ending the Court's jurisdiction would end Northern Ireland' special status in relation to the Single Market, Nathalie Loiseau told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, that she "sincerely hoped", that the UK would properly consider proposals being tabled by Brussels today, saying it "fixes problems".

She added: "I am wondering who is the troublemaker and who is the problem-solver? I never heard people in Northern Ireland saying it was terrible that there was a role for the ECJ.

"People in Northern Ireland talk about goods, talk about medicine - this is exactly what the Commission is addressing. Let's start getting visibility and stability for people in Northern Ireland."

07:13 AM

'Not accurate' to say Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed in hurry, says French MEP

A senior MEP and former French minister has rejected suggestions the Northern Ireland Protocol should be overhauled because it was agreed under great time pressure.

Nathalie Loiseau, who was previously a European affairs minister, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The only pressure was on the British side - the British side was in a hurry.

"But this is not accurate, it took months. There was an offer on the table when Theresa May was Prime Minister - backstop - which was rejected by some members of the Conservative Party.

"We came to the protocol but not in 14 hours - it took months," she added. "It was the very same person - Frost - who says he doesn't agree with the protocol."

07:09 AM

Brussels willing to find solutions 'within Northern Ireland Protocol', says French MEP

A senior MEP and former French minister has said she is "comfortable" with Brussels' efforts to try and broker a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol within the agreement, as she urged an end to "posturing".

Nathalie Loiseau, who was previously a European affairs minister, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she was "really disappointed" that the British reaction "has not been put on the table yet".

But she said: "I am comfortable with the fact that the Commission is willing to go the extra mile and fix the problems, and try to find solutions within the protocol. There is certainly pragmatism and good will on the EU's side."

She expressed hope that it would stop the UK "denying the benefits of protocol" for Northern Ireland.

"What can we think of David Frost negotiating the protocol, signing the protocol and pushing hard for the British Parliament to ratify the protocol if now he says that he doesn't agree with the protocol? That's a big problem."

07:04 AM

France must 'do their part of the bargain' to get £54m to deal with migrants

A Cabinet minister has taken a tougher line on the issue of outstanding payments to France to deal with the numbers of migrants attempting to cross the Channel.

Last week Damian Hinds, the security and borders minister, stressed that it was an administrative issue that would be resolved within a few days or weeks.

However this morning, Oliver Dowden told Sky News the £54m was dependent on more action being taken first.

The Conservative Party co-chairman said: "We expect the French to do their part of the bargain. The Home Secretary has already raised concerns about that...

"This is not us reneging on a deal, this is making sure we deliver on what was agreed," he added. "We very much hope to make payments as agreed but need the French to keep up their side of the agreement."

07:00 AM

Government will 'engage constructively' with EU on Northern Ireland Protocol

The Government will "engage fully constructively" with the EU proposals on the Northern Ireland Protocol, a Cabinet minister has said.

Asked if the EU proposals were sufficient, Oliver Dowden, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, told Sky News: "Well clearly we'll wait to receive the full announcement from the EU and I know that Lord Frost, as he said yesterday, and the Government as a whole will engage fully, constructively with these proposals.

"It is though important that there is fundamental change to the Northern Ireland Protocol so we'll be looking to see that, but let's see exactly what the EU comes up with."

06:59 AM

Children 'will get their toys for Christmas', minister insists

Oliver Dowden has said he is "confident" that children will get their "toys for Christmas" after shipping containers were turned away from the UK's biggest port yesterday.

The Conservative Party co-chairman stressed that Felixstowe has said this morning the situation is improving, but that work was underway to strengthen supply chains in the run-up to the festive period. However he was unable to confirm whether there had been more than 27 applications for visas from overseas HGV drivers to make up the shortfall.

Asked if people should buy Christmas goods earlier than usual, he told Sky News: "It is sensible that you buy when you want, some people buy very early for Christmas - my wife is quite an early Christmas buyer."

He added: "Just buy as you buy normally."

06:50 AM

Matt Hancock handed new job

Matt Hancock ran the London Marathon earlier this month -  WireImage
Matt Hancock ran the London Marathon earlier this month - WireImage

Matt Hancock has been appointed as a United Nations special representative for Africa – his first role since resigning as Health Secretary in June.

Mr Hancock will advise the UN Economic Commission for Africa on issues related to climate change and sustainable economic development.

In a statement, he said: "I care deeply about making this happen, not only because of the strong economic opportunity but because we share a view of Africa as a strategic long-term partner."

He resigned as Health Secretary in June after he was caught on camera kissing an aide in his Whitehall office in breach of Covid restrictions.

06:47 AM

Life expectancy was falling before pandemic, new study finds

Life expectancy in many communities in England was declining even before the pandemic, according to new figures.

From 2014 until 2019 life expectancy went down in almost one in five communities for women, and one in nine communities for men, Imperial College London (ICL) researchers have found.

The study, published in The Lancet Public Health, found communities with the lowest life expectancy - below 70 and 75 years for men and women, respectively - were typically situated in urban areas in the north of England.

Communities with the lowest life expectancy were typically located in urban areas in the North, including Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Blackpool. Communities with the highest life expectancies were often based in London and the surrounding home counties.

Although recent data from the Office for National Statistics found that life expectancy for men in the UK had fallen for the first time in 40 years due to the pandemic, the new research shows that life expectancy was declining in many communities years before the pandemic began.

06:41 AM

Brussels to offer new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland

Brussels will offer Britain a new Brexit deal on Northern Ireland on Wednesday, but is set to reject demands to strip European judges of their role in the province.

The European Commission will hold a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to launch proposals to resolve the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol once the plans are approved at a meeting of the College of Commissioners.

EU officials are expected to say they can significantly cut the number of checks on British goods exported to Northern Ireland if they are given real-time access to UK trade databases in order to police which products cross into the Republic of Ireland.

06:41 AM

Good Morning

You wait for months for a Brexit proposal and then two come along at once.

Fresh from Lord Frost's speech in Portugal yesterday, we are expecting to hear from his counterpart Maros Sefcovic today as Brussels sets out its gambit for solving the Northern Ireland protocol.

But will it match expectations in London and Belfast?

Here is today's front page.

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