BORIS JOHNSON has been warned he faces “two huge issues” with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill that could see it completely torn apart and deal a monumental blow to the UK Government.
MPs have voted to give the bill a second reading, with the legislation designed to override parts of the post-Brexit deal on trading arrangements in Northern Ireland. It comes after the DUP in the country warned it will not nominate ministers to allow a new Stormont Executive to be formed until the UK takes actions on its concerns around the protocol. But the move from the UK has come in for heavy criticism, with many branding it illegal and a clear breach of international law.
The European Union has also repeatedly warned it would retaliate in the strongest possible way should the UK decide to press ahead with the legislation.
This has triggered fears of a destructive trade war between the two sides at a time when millions of Britons are already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
Boris Johnson has been warned there is “no legal or political justification” for his plans to override the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland, in an extraordinary joint denunciation by the Irish and German governments.
With senior figures already warning Johnson that he risks the break-up of the union by ploughing ahead with the plan, the German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and her Irish counterpart Simon Coveney make a rare joint statement condemning the UK for “unilaterally breaking an international agreement”.
Writing in the Observer, the two ministers suggest that Johnson’s determination to effectively override the so-called Northern Ireland protocol, which he agreed two years ago, risks undermining the “rules-based international order” just as the continent is attempting to confront Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
The two ministers say that recent elections to Northern Ireland’s assembly, which delivered a majority of members who back the protocol, showed support for the current arrangements. They add that the EU had been and would continue to be “flexible and creative” to deal with issues that have hampered trade between the region and Great Britain.
Boris Johnson is risking the break-up of the United Kingdom with his push to override the Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, according to Ireland’s deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar.
The Tánaiste hit out at the Prime Minister for not being ‘even-handed’ in his approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol – as he accused Mr Johnson of siding with Unionists in the dispute.
Mr Varadkar, who is set to take over as Irish PM – or Taoiseach – later this year, claimed Westminster was making a ‘strategic mistake’ by attempting to create new laws to unilaterally change the Protocol.
He warned that ‘more people will turn away from the Union’ if the UK ploughs ahead with its planned legislation.
Mr Varadkar also lashed out at Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis over their recent statements and claimed that Irish-Anglo relations had never been ‘as bad’ as they currently are.
The deepening war-of-words between Dublin and the EU on one side, and London on the other, comes after MPs this week allowed Mr Johnson’s plan – which aims to unpick key parts of the Protocol – to clear its first hurdle in the House of Commons.
The government has been accused of an “outrageous” cover-up after refusing to reveal how much its plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda will cost.
The Home Office claimed that it needed a “safe space” to negotiate agreements and releasing the actual or estimated costs of the scheme would “prejudice relations between the UK and Rwanda”.
An initial £120m payment has already been made to the country’s government and the Home Office has confirmed its intention to spend around £100,000 on publicising the deal to migrants in the hope of deterring small boat crossings of the English Channel.
A substantial amount of money is believed to have been spent on a deportation flight that failed to take off after legal challenges by migrants facing removal.
But the government refused to answer questions put to it in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The Independent on legal costs, the expected payments for each asylum seeker relocated or any other funding associated with the deal.
COVID -19 infections in the UK have jumped by more than half a million in a week, with the rise likely to be driven by the latest Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.
Hospital numbers are also steadily rising, with early indications of more intensive care admissions among older age groups. An estimated 2.3 million people in private households had the virus last week, up 32 per cent from a week earlier, said the Office for National Statistics.
This is the highest estimate for total infections in Britain since late April – but way below the record high of 4.9 million seen at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave at the end of March.
Covid remains most prevalent in Scotland, where one in 18 were estimated to be testing positive last week.
This grew from one in 20 the week prior and is Scotland’s highest figure since early April.
In England, around one in 30 were thought to have had it, up from one in 40 the previous week – while Wales saw infections jump from one in 45 over the seven days to one in 30.
In Northern Ireland, there was a slightly less severe spike to an estimated one in 25, growing from one in 30.
Health authorities need to act urgently to prepare for an autumn that could see further waves of Covid-19 cases spreading across the UK.
That is the clear warning from scientists and doctors after last week’s figures revealed another dramatic jump in cases. More than 2 million people across Britain were found to be infected for the week ending 24 June, a rise of more than 30% on the preceding week.
And while most experts said they expected the current wave – driven by the Omicron BA4 and BA5 variants of the virus – to peak in a few weeks, they also warned that it will inevitably be followed by another wave this autumn. “Our current planning assumptions are that we will see at least one wave [of Covid] in the autumn-winter period once we have got through the current wave that we’re in right now,” said Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency.
This view was backed by virologist Prof Lawrence Young of Warwick University. “We need to prepare now for the autumn and winter months, when colder weather will drive people indoors, increasing the risk of infection, not only with new Covid variants but also with other respiratory virus infections.”
A key component of these preparations will be the selection of those vaccines that will be best suited to counter the next big wave of the disease. Moderna, Pfizer and other drug companies are all working on vaccines that target different Omicron variants in different ways.
Covid vaccines must be urgently updated to target new variants as infection rates in the UK soar to near-record levels, leading scientists have warned.
An average of 285,507 people are being infected with the virus each day in the UK, according to the latest data from the ZOE Covid Study. Its lead scientist ProfessorTim Spector said cases were soon expected to exceed the 300,000 mark, “bringing us to levels seen during the height of the pandemic for the UK”.
With the country now in its fifth wave, and hospital admissions once again on the rise, scientists argue a new vaccine specific to Omicron could offer better protection against future variants, helping keep people out of hospital and reduce cases.
HEALTH campaigners have called for an immediate return to free Covid-19 testing today after infections soared by 600,000 in one week to 2.3 million.
They condemned the government for advising people to take “personal responsibility” to protect themselves and avoid infecting others and said action was needed, including a return to mask-wearing and test and trace.
The alarming figures were released by the Office of National Statistics.
Dr John Puntis, co-chair of the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, launched a petition for the return of free testing, which gathered 425,000 signatures.
“The current new wave of Covid-19 once again emphasises that we cannot simply rely on vaccination to prevent infection,” he said.
“Standing on the sidelines and talking about personal responsibility is the antithesis of leadership and condemns many more to infection and its sometime devastating consequences.”
Covid infections have jumped by almost a third in a week, official data showed as health officials gave the first public backing to an omicron-specific booster vaccine for the autumn.
Around 2.3 million people in the UK now have the virus, up by more than half a million – around 32 per cent – from the previous week.
European health officials said on Friday that data show omicron-specific jabs “increase and extend” protection. Moderna has said it has hundreds of millions of doses of its omicron-specific bivalent jab in storage ready to be administered.
Official NHS guidance sent to GPs earlier this week revealed that the autumn booster jab campaign will begin on Sep 1, but a new omicron vaccine will need approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before it can be used.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that over-65s, adult care home residents, front line health workers and vulnerable patients should receive a fourth jab.
Just a quarter of GP appointments in England are face-to-face and with an actual doctor, MailOnline can reveal.
Critics have warned general practice is heading down a ‘slippery slope’ where nurses and other staff are picking up the burden amid crippling staffing shortages.
An NHS source told MailOnline that of the 27.5million GP appointments carried out across England in May, just 27 per cent were both in-person and with a qualified doctor.
That figure is not routinely published but publicly-available data shows 64 per cent of total GP appointments were face-to-face and roughly half were with a real GP. The rest were a mixture of virtual or telephone consultations and appointments led by practice nurses, physiotherapists and even acupuncturists.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has demanded GPs do more in-person consultations after the share done physically plummeted during the pandemic. Campaigners argue remote consultations increase the risk of doctors missing signs of serious illnesses.
The exodus of general practitioners could mean a quarter of posts will be vacant within a decade, new analysis suggests.
The Health Foundation think tank called for urgent action as it published a forecast showing there could be thousands of vacancies across England.
It found the current shortage of 4,200 full-time equivalent GPs in England is set to rise to 10,700 in 2030-31.
The analysts said this could mean more than one in four of the 37,800 GP posts needed to deliver pre-pandemic standards of care would be vacant.
Under a worst-case scenario, up to half of posts could be vacant and the projected shortfall could rise to more than 20,000.
The researchers warned that shortages of GPs could pose a significant risk to the quality of care patients receive.
It was also estimated there could be 6,400 nursing vacancies in GP surgeries by 2030/31.
The prospect of industrial action at NHS hospital gates is looming once again as doctors warn of dire consequences if they are refused a 30 per cent pay rise. But behind the picket lines, bloody internal battles are also being fought over the future of Britain’s most powerful medical trade union.
Amid rows over sexism, racism and other infighting, a new, left-wing alliance of militant doctors has achieved substantial gains, winning a third of seats on the British Medical Association’s ruling council and hardening its position on pay increases.
A CABINET battle is underway with Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak urged to cut taxes now rather than wait for the next election.
Champions of tax cuts within the Government warn that people struggling with the cost of living crisis need more help right away and will be angry if action is delayed until the country goes to the polls.
A Government source said: “The British people aren’t stupid, they’ll remember if we help them out with tax cuts now when they desperately need it, or if we let people suffer for a few years so we can trot them out as a pre-election gimmick.”
Leading figures on both the Left and the Right of the Tory party are pressing the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to ease the tax burden as prices rise at the fastest rate for 40 years.
A second Government source said: “The public aren’t foolish; they know when governments try and wait for things until an election. If tax cuts are good for the economy and good for the cost of living, then they should happen as soon as possible.”
(by Boris Johnson & Rishi Sunak)
ACROSS Britain, The Sun on Sunday’s readers are feeling the squeeze.
The extra demand caused by global industry roaring back into life post-Covid, together with Vladimir Putin’s abhorrent invasion of Ukraine, are pushing up prices all around the world.
And every day you can see exactly what all that means for you and millions of others . . .
When you get to the till in the supermarket, when you see the digits spinning ever faster at the petrol pump, and when your latest energy bill lands on the doormat.
We know it’s tough but we want you to know that this government is on your side.
And while it will be tough, we will get through this.
VLADIMIR Putin’s officials are drawing up plans for a referendum to be held in the Ukrainian territory of Kherson Oblast – with a view to turning it into Russian territory, according to intelligence.
The region, located south of Ukraine and just north of Russia-controlled Crimea, was invaded in February. Russia captured the capital of the oblast, Kherson on March 2, with Secretary of the United Russia General Council Andrey Turchak declaring: “Russia is here forever.”
The area, pre-war, had a population of around one million people.
On Sunday, July 3, the British Ministry of Defence, in its regular intelligence update, said: “Russian-backed officials have said they will hold a referendum on Kherson Oblast joining the Russian Federation by autumn 2022. Russia is likely prioritising a pseudo-constitutional vote in an attempt to legitimise its control of the region.
“Finding a constitutional solution for the occupation is likely a priority policy objective for Russia. It will highly likely be prepared to rig voting to achieve an acceptable result.”
Russia is planning to hold a “rigged” referendum in the Kherson Oblast, UK defence chiefs have said.
The Kremlin-backed authorities in the key southern city have previously announced they will request to be annexed from Ukraine.
In its latest intelligence update on Sunday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Russia is “likely prioritising a pseudo-constitutional vote in an attempt to legitimise its control of the region”.
It also adds that it is “likely be prepared to rig voting to achieve an acceptable result”.
The city has been under Russian control since early March, while its former mayor, Ihor Kolykhayev, was detained last month after he refused to hold a referendum on annexing the city from Ukraine.
The MoD said: “On 28 June 2022, Ilhor Kolykhaiev, the elected mayor of Kherson city, was arrested, highly likely in an attempt to suppress to the occupation.
Russia must ensure that two British soldiers sentenced to death in Ukraine are not executed, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.
Aiden Aslin and Sean Pinner, two Britons who were fighting in Ukraine’s ranks before being captured in Mariupol in April, are now facing execution by firing squad after being sentenced as ‘foreign mercenaries’ by a court in occupied Donbas.
Judges sitting in Strasbourg issued an edict to Moscow on Thursday, saying Putin must ‘ensure that the death penalty [is] not carried out’ and work to make sure the men are being kept in humane conditions and given medical care.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said Russia no longer complies with the court’s rulings and the pair’s fate will be decided by Ukraine rebel groups.
Russia announced its intention to withdraw from the Council of Europe – a diplomatic body linked to the court – back in March, and was subsequently expelled.
But the court can still issue rulings against Russia because there is a ‘grace period’ in the council treaty, meaning the court retains jurisdiction until September 16.
Two more British men who fought for the Ukrainian armed forces and who are currently being held by pro-Russian troops in eastern Ukraine could face death sentences after they were accused of being mercenaries.
Russian-backed prosecutors in the occupied territories of Ukraine have charged Andrew Hill and Dylan Healy with “forcible seizure of power”, and undergoing “terrorist” training, according to a state news agency in Russian-controlled Donetsk.
The charges sparked a furious response from the British government. “We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes and have raised this with Russia,” a spokesperson for the Foreign Office said in a statement. “We are in constant contact with the government of Ukraine on their cases and are fully supportive of Ukraine in its efforts to get them released.”
Under the Geneva conventions, captured combatants should be humanely treated at all times. Human rights campaigners accused Russia of exploiting their capture in order to exert diplomatic pressure on the west.
“The chances of Healy and Hill receiving a fair trial in either the Donetsk People’s Republic or in Russia itself are vanishingly small,” said Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International UK’s crisis response manager. “Unless the authorities present clear evidence that Healy and Hill are implicated in war crimes, this sham judicial process should be halted immediately.”
Hill, who was identified as a father of four from Plymouth, has been paraded on Russian television in several clips, including one that aired last month with the headline: “Exclusive – before the execution.”