Today’s daily politics briefing
Poll analysts found the integrity of the UK “may now be under threat”, with voters expressing more trust in devolved administrations than No 10. It comes as a cross-party group of MPs warns chancellor Rishi Sunak his upcoming Budget is not the time for tax rises.
Elsewhere, the DUP has defended its controversial move to halt work on inspection posts for Brexit checks in Northern Ireland. The DUP’s Brexit spokesperson has declared “guerrilla warfare” against the protocol, but Sinn Fein has accused the party of “foolish” games.
PM promises ‘ruthless’ crack down on people traffickers
Boris Johnson has said the government is determined to crack down on people traffickers smuggling migrants across the English Channel.
Speaking on a visit to Stoke-on-Trent, the PM said: “It is outrageous that the gangsters, the people smugglers, these thugs, are still putting people’s lives at risks in the way that they are, taking money to help people cross the Channel in unseaworthy vessels, risking their lives.
“What we are going to do is to absolutely, ruthlessly stiffen the sentences for anybody who is involved in this kind of people smuggling and trafficking human beings across the Channel.”
Home secretary Priti Patel wants to upgrade the maximum term for people smugglers to increase the average length of sentences of those found guilty.
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 12:18
Our ‘ugly’ Brexit: View from across the pond
The latest piece on Britain’s Brexit by The New York Times focuses on the bad blood created by last month’s row over vaccines.
Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, is among the experts telling the US newspaper that No 10 appears stuck in old habits of antagonism – despite significant trade disruption.
“Brexit is the gift that keeps giving for the Johnson government,” he said. “In Europe, there is this sense that the UK keeps trying to score points. The risk is that the Europeans will feel the need to smack back.”
Timothy Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London adds: “Why not kick the EU when it’s down? That’s long been a reflex for this government, and it is very hard to get out of this reflex.”
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 12:12
We’ve got to make the current Brexit deal work, says Dodds
Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has been asked about the party’s approach to Brexit at a Q&A session after her speech at Bloomberg.
“Would we would be seeking to immediately renegotiate this deal? No, we’ve got to make the current deal work,” she said. Dodds said she did not want to be “blasé about the challenges around customs that we face at all”.
She added: “I’ve time and time again highlighted the enormous gulf where the government have said we would be around the number of customs agents and customs officials, compared to where we are right now.
“Businesses have faced so much uncertainty because of coronavirus, they shouldn’t have to be facing this current degree of uncertainty because of the government’s lack of preparedness around Brexit as well.”
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 11:48
Labour’s new Scottish leader wants ‘greater alignment’ with EU
Labour’s new Scottish leader has challenged Keir Starmer to end his silence on Brexit and campaign for “greater alignment” with the EU.
Anas Sarwar became the first senior party figure to push for what would be a renegotiation of the threadbare trade deal negotiated by Boris Johnson.
“I support the EU, I want us to have as close a relationship with the EU as possible,” Sarwar told The Guardian. “I have been advocating for us to have greater alignment around the single market and customs union ever since the UK voted to leave the union.”
He also described Scottish independence as “an amplifier” of economic problems – “a multiplier of the negatives of Brexit.”
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 11:42
Sunak will take your questions after Budget
Rishi Sunak will answer questions from both the public and media on Wednesday afternoon following his big statement – claiming it to be a “Budget first”. The event will take place at 5pm on Wednesday.
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 11:33
By-election record looms, as door knocking set to resume
By-election geeks will be delighted to learn a new record is about to be set for the longest period of time since a parliamentary by-election was held in the UK.
On March 5, a total of 582 days will have passed since voters last went to the polls in a Westminster by-election – beating the previous record set between early 2002 and late 2003.
And party activists will be ecstatic at the news that door-to-door campaigning will get back to normal pretty soon ahead of England’s local elections. Activists will be permitted to canvas alone from 8 March, with groups of six allowed from 29 March.
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 11:28
British manufacturing still struggling with Brexit disruption
UK factory output last month grew at its lowest level since May as manufacturing firms were weighed down by supply chain disruption.
Experts behind the IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) report said further delays within supply chains have impacted upon trade.
Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit, said: “The UK manufacturing sector was again hit by supply chain issues, Covid-19 restrictions, stalling exports, input shortages and rising cost pressures in February.”
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 11:13
DUP defends ‘right’ move to halt Brexit border posts
The DUP’s agriculture minister Gordon Lyons – who stunned Northern Ireland at the end of last week with his controversial decision to halt work on permanent inspection posts for Brexit port checks – has defended the move.
“We’re facing practical barriers and legal uncertainty about what comes next,” Lyons told BBC Radio Ulster on Monday morning. “It’s right that we stop, and that we get that clarity from the EU and the UK.”
Asked about the latest remarks by the DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson – who told The Irish Times that the party would “fight guerrilla warfare” against the protocol – Lyons said the protocol was “at the root of so many problems we are facing”.
But Sinn Fein has accused Lyons and his party of recklessness over their opposition to the protocol.
MP Chris Hazzard said: “The DUP are leading their supporters up to the top of the hill, and they’re going to leave them stranded. They haven’t been honest throughout this [Brexit] process.”
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 11:00
SNP support ‘on the slide’, says poll guru
The great Sir John Curtice – the country’s top polling analyst – says SNP support has been “gradually on the slide” for a while now.
Support for Scottish independence has dropped down to 50 per cent for the fisrt time since June, a weekend Survation poll found – ending a run of almost two dozen polls in favour of a breakaway.
Sir John has pointed out that SNP poll support peaked at 54 per cent for the Holyrood election constituency vote (and 43 per cent on the regional ballot) in November and has slipped since then.
“If over the next two months support continues to fall at this rate, the SNP could fall short of the 65 seats it needs for a majority,” writes Sir John in Scotland’s Daily Record.
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 10:37
Gordon Brown: ‘I don’t think UK has economic plan’
Former Labour PM Gordon Brown offered his thoughts on GMB this morning – saying Rishi Sunak should focus on making sure one million young people are not “lost” to unemployment.
“You have to be two steps ahead. You can’t be behind the curve. We’ve got a plan for getting out of lockdown but I don’t think we have an economic plan.”
Brown revealed he has had his vaccine, and his wife Sarah is getting her first jab today.
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 10:18