Johnson defends Rwanda asylum policy as Truss says near-empty flight ‘still value for money’ – UK politics live | Politics

Johnson claims his cabinet more pro-migrant than many previous ones because of ministers’ backgrounds

Talk TV has the full clip of Boris Johnson addressing cabinet this morning and, for anyone interested in political iconography, it is well worth watching. Presumably No 10 is now increasingly inviting in the cameras to record Johnson’s opening pep talk to his ministers (see 10.36am) because broadcasters are more likely to use a clip like this, from cabinet, than a clip of Johnson saying the same thing to journalist.

But there is something very politburo about the whole set-up. While Johnson is delivering his spiel, cabinet ministers are reduced to appearing like extras on a film set, and not all of them seem happy about that. At one point Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, looks as if he would rather be undergoing root canal surgery.

The full clip also shows Johnson claiming that his cabinet is more pro-migration than many of its predecessors (because of the heritage of several key ministers). Having claimed that he loves lawyers, and that there are many lawyers around the cabinet table, Johnson goes on:

There are even more people around this table who aren’t lawyers … but whose immediate ancestors came to this county to seek a new life here, many of us [Johnson’s great grandfather was a Turkish politician who sought refuge in Britain] whose ancestors came in fear of their lives and fleeing persecution.

This is a government unlike many others in the way we represent that tradition of this country, that tradition of welcoming people, that tradition of allowing talent to come to this county.

And what is happening with the attempt to undermine the Rwanda policy is that they are, I’m afraid, undermining everything that we are trying to do to support safe and legal routes for people to come to the UK and to oppose the illegal and dangerous routes.

In fact, many of those opposed to the Rwanda policy argue that those crossing the Channel on small boats don’t, realistically, have the option of finding a safe and legal means of applying for asylum in the UK. In their letter in the Times this morning (see 9.04am), the Church of England bishops say safe routes are exactly what they are calling for.

At the Downing Street lobby briefing, echoing the point made by Liz Truss in her interviews this morning (see 9.41am), the PM’s spokesperson defended the decision to spend a reported £500,000 on chartering a flight that could end up taking just a handful of asylum seekers to Rwanda tonight. While not confirming the cost of the flight, the spokesperson said:

The broader point is that you will know the cost of the current approach to the UK taxpayer is £1.5bn every year already, we spend almost £5m a day accommodating asylum seekers in hotels in this country, so this is about finding a long-term solution to a longstanding problem.

The spokesperson also said that Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, made a presentation at cabinet about the potential impact of the rail strikes planned for next week. The spokesperson said:

The transport secretary said the government would remain on the side of the public, adding that strikes would also be bad for rail workers as it risked driving away customers when numbers were already down since the pandemic

He highlighted that median pay of rail workers was significantly higher than other public sector workers, with nurses receiving a median of £31,000 compared to £59,000 for train drivers.

He said the strikes also risk disrupting exams at a time when schoolchildren had already had their education significantly affected during the pandemic.

‘Reasonable’ to suggest PM may have broken code over Partygate, says ethics adviser

And here is my colleague Jessica Elgot’s story on Lord Geidt’s evidence to MPs this morning.

Airlines and ministers both underestimated post-Covid capacity problems at airports, MPs told

The aviation industry and the government must “shoulder the responsibility” for the chaos suffered by airline travellers, MPs were told. As PA Media reports, Sue Davies, head of consumer rights at consumer group Which?, told the Commons business committee this morning the cancellation of thousands of flights and long queues at airports in recent months were caused by the impact of staffing shortages being “underestimated”. She said:

Both the industry and the government need to shoulder the responsibility for the chaos that we’ve seen …

Particularly appallingly, we’ve been hearing from lots of people who have just had very little information about actually what’s happening on the ground.

The airlines and the government were encouraging people to travel again, and we think they’ve just underestimated the capacity issues, and the shortages both within the airlines and the airport services, including baggage handlers.

Jonathan Powell, who as chief of staff for Tony Blair played a leading role in facilitating the Good Friday agreement and subsequent peace developments in Northern Ireland, says Boris Johnson is lying about the NI protocol. He explains why in a Twitter thread starting here.

Johnson is lying when he claims the bill to kill the NI Protocol is designed to save the Good Friday Agreement. A thread explaining why he is trying to mislead and why this bill in fact threatens the peace process 1/10

— Jonathan Powell (@jnpowell1) June 14, 2022

And here is one of his conclusions.

The tragedy is there is an obvious solution.The EU is offering the equivalent of a green lane for goods destined for NI.That is what the DUP say they want – the Sainsbury’s test. All the ideological demands, ECJ jurisdiction, are for Johnson and the ERG not for anyone in NI. 9/10

— Jonathan Powell (@jnpowell1) June 14, 2022

Earlier I posted some lines from Lord Geidt’s appearance at the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee. (See 11.08am.) Here is the story on the hearing from PA Media filed once the hearing was over.

Boris Johnson’s independent ethics adviser has refused to deny he considered resigning over the prime minister’s response to being fined for attending a party in Downing Street during lockdown.

Lord Geidt told the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee he had felt “frustration” and that the option of resignation was always “on the agenda”.

However, he said that he did not believe there was ever a point when he formed “a single direct proposition” in his own mind.

Asked about the report that he threatened to quit, Geidt acknowledged that “the commentariat” had picked up on his “frustration” at that time.

“I am glad that the prime minister was able to respond to my report and in doing so addressed aspects of the things about which I was clearly frustrated,” he told the committee.

“Resignation is one of the rather blunt but few tools available to the adviser. I am glad that my frustrations were addressed in the way that they were.”

Pressed by Labour MP John McDonnell if he had contemplated resignation, Geidt said: “There are few instruments available to an independent adviser and [it is] important to consider what is going to work best in the interest, not of me, but preserving the integrity of the system …. I haven’t given you a direct answer but I don’t think there was ever a single, direct proposition in my own mind.”

McDonnell replied: “I am going to take that answer as at least it was on the agenda.”

The SNP MP Patrick Grady should be suspended from the Commons for two days for breaching parliament’s sexual misconduct policy, a report by the Independent Expert Panel has said.

In a statement to MPs a few minutes ago Grady apologised unreservedly. He said that he was “profoundly sorry” for what he did, that he had learnt significant lessons through the disciplinary process and that this behaviour would never happen again.

Government schedules rail strike debate for tomorrow in move to encourage unions back to negotiating table

In the Commons Mark Spencer, the leader of the Commons, has just announced that tomorrow’s business in the house has been changed to allow for a debate relating to the train strikes next week.

But, in response to questions from opposition MPs, Spencer refused to say what the motion would be. He said the motion would be published later today. But he said he hoped the debate would put pressure on the unions “to come back to the negotiating table” ahead of the strike.

Supreme court rejects last-minute legal bid to stop asylum seeker being deported to Rwanda

The supreme court has rejected an appeal bid over a judge’s refusal to block the removal of an asylum seeker due to be deported on the first flight from the UK to Rwanda, PA Media reports.

A panel of three justices refused permission to an individual to challenge the court of appeal’s ruling on Monday, which upheld the earlier decision of a high court judge not to grant an injunction to remove the man from the first scheduled flight to Rwanda today.

Giving brief reasons for the decision, the court’s president, Lord Reed, said there had been an “assurance” that, if the government’s policy of removing asylum seekers to Rwanda was found to be unlawful, steps would be taken to bring back any migrants flown to the east African nation in the interim.

Johnson claims his cabinet more pro-migrant than many previous ones because of ministers’ backgrounds

Talk TV has the full clip of Boris Johnson addressing cabinet this morning and, for anyone interested in political iconography, it is well worth watching. Presumably No 10 is now increasingly inviting in the cameras to record Johnson’s opening pep talk to his ministers (see 10.36am) because broadcasters are more likely to use a clip like this, from cabinet, than a clip of Johnson saying the same thing to journalist.

But there is something very politburo about the whole set-up. While Johnson is delivering his spiel, cabinet ministers are reduced to appearing like extras on a film set, and not all of them seem happy about that. At one point Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, looks as if he would rather be undergoing root canal surgery.

The full clip also shows Johnson claiming that his cabinet is more pro-migration than many of its predecessors (because of the heritage of several key ministers). Having claimed that he loves lawyers, and that there are many lawyers around the cabinet table, Johnson goes on:

There are even more people around this table who aren’t lawyers … but whose immediate ancestors came to this county to seek a new life here, many of us [Johnson’s great grandfather was a Turkish politician who sought refuge in Britain] whose ancestors came in fear of their lives and fleeing persecution.

This is a government unlike many others in the way we represent that tradition of this country, that tradition of welcoming people, that tradition of allowing talent to come to this county.

And what is happening with the attempt to undermine the Rwanda policy is that they are, I’m afraid, undermining everything that we are trying to do to support safe and legal routes for people to come to the UK and to oppose the illegal and dangerous routes.

In fact, many of those opposed to the Rwanda policy argue that those crossing the Channel on small boats don’t, realistically, have the option of finding a safe and legal means of applying for asylum in the UK. In their letter in the Times this morning (see 9.04am), the Church of England bishops say safe routes are exactly what they are calling for.

The supreme court is considering whether to hear an appeal against a decision by the court of appeal on Monday to dismiss a challenge over the first Rwanda deportation flight, PA Media reports. The matter is being considered by the court’s president, Lord Reed, and two other supreme court justices, who will announce their decision at 12.15pm.

Back at the Nicola Sturgeon press conference, the first minister says she will give her speech to MSPs giving details of how she intends to hold a second independence refernedum without backing from Westminster (see 11.22am) before the summer recess.

Q: The outlook for an independent Scotland would be difficult. How many years of economic pain would it have to endure before it is able to stand on its own feet?

Sturgeon says Scotland is struggling as things are now. She says the fate of Scotland will be determined by the decisions it takes.

Here is the footage of Boris Johnson addressing cabinet this morning. (See 10.36am.)

Sturgeon concedes there will be customs and regulatory issues for trade with England if independent Scotland joins single market

Q: Can you confirm that there would have to be a trade border under independence?

Sturgeon says she is not going to repeat the mistakes made by Boris Johnson.

I am not going to repeat the mistakes of Boris Johnson and pretend the implications of the decisions we take don’t exist. If we are in the single market, and the rest of the UK is outside the single market, then yes, there are issues in terms of regulatory and customs requirements that need to be met.

What I’m saying is not that these challenges don’t exist but these challenges can be managed in a way that doesn’t present disadvantages to our businesses.

And of course, what the benefits of that situation is the ability to trade within a market that is seven times bigger than the UK.

Asked again if there would be a trade border, Sturgeon says:

I think I’ve said very clearly there will be customs and regulatory issues on trade if we are in the single market.

Sturgeon says she will be ‘honest’ about border problems Scottish independence would pose for goods

Q: Won’t independence inevitably lead to a hard border in Britain. The Scotland/England border will be the EU border, so there will have to be one.

Sturgeon says the government will publish later a paper, or two papers, addressing these trade and border issues.

She says the UK government never levelled with people about the implications of Brexit.

She says there is no issue with people; no one is suggesting abandoning the common travel area. But she concedes there is an issue with goods.

The EU market place is seven or eight times the size of the UK market place, she says.

She says the government will have to set out a plan for dealing with these issues.

The UK government’s problem has been that it has not been “honest” about Brexit trade issues, she says. She suggests she will not make the same mistake.

Q: How could you hold a second independence referendum without approval from London?

Sturgeon says she is not going to set that out now. She says the work on this is still under way. And she is not meant to disclose legal advice, she says.

But, she says, Scotland is dealing with a PM who does not respect the law, or any of the norms that undermine democracy.

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