Watch excruciating exchange as Boris Johnson dodges Partygate questions 17 times
Boris Johnson will lose the support of at least two cabinet ministers if he is fined for breaching his own coronavirus laws, according to a report.
Allies of the prime minister have said that he will not resign if he is handed a fixed penalty notice (FPN) for attending parties in Downing Street.
But a source close to a member of the cabinet told TheTimes: “If he gets an FPN he’ll have to go. How can you have a prime minister who has been found guilty of breaking the law?”
A minister and ally of another cabinet member said his position would be made “extremely difficult” if police found he had broken regulations.
It comes as the elections watchdog has made a last-gasp plea to the government to drop a planned power-grab, warning it has “no precedent” in Western democracies.
The shake-up – enabling ministers to set the Electoral Commission’s “strategy” – would see ministers able to “influence the operational functions and decision-making”, it has protested.
Economic growth hits highest rate since June, survey suggests
British businesses, especially those in the service industry, are rebounding from the impacts of the Omicron wave of coronavirus and leaving behind the sluggish growth seen in January, new data suggests.
According to an influential survey, the economy has scored 60.2 so far in February, up from 53.4 in January.
The IHS Markit/CIPS flash UK composite PMI counts anything above 50 as growth; anything below that means a sector is contracting. The measure has hit more than 60 for the first time in months – the best performance since June last year.
It came after January’s figures showed the worst growth in 11 months, when the Delta variant of Covid-19 was widespread.
February’s reading is based on preliminary data and a full score will be released early next month.
Thomas Kingsley21 February 2022 12:29
Boris Johnson gives Covid statement later as all remaining restrictions expected to be axed
Boris Johnson will give a statement to MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon as he sets out his government’s plan to live with Covid.
The prime minister is scheduled to speak in the chamber at around 3pm when he is expected to scrap all remaining virus restrictions.
At a Downing Street press conference at around 5pm, he will address the nation and confirm the changes, which are likely to include the scrapping of self-isolation for people who test positive and a scaling back of testing to focus on vaccination, particularly among the elderly and vulnerable.
ourreporters, Matt Mathers and Joe Sommerlad, have the full story below:
Thomas Kingsley21 February 2022 12:09
Elections watchdog warns government proposals could allow excessive influence
The elections watchdog has warned that government plans could allow ministers to shape how electoral law applies to their own party and their political opponents.
In a strongly-worded letter on Monday, the Electoral Commission doubled down on its calls to ax the proposals that could reduce its independence.
Its commissioners wrote to Leveling Up secretary Michael Gove warning that the move in the Elections Bill would allow governments to influence the watchdog’s “operational functions and decision-making”.
Deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner used the letter to allege that Boris Johnson is “rigging our democracy for himself”.
Our deputy political editor, Rob Merrickhas the full story below:
Thomas Kingsley21 February 2022 11:47
A Cabinet meeting where Boris Johnson was due to present ministers with his “living with Covid” plan has been delayed, the PA news agency understands.
Some ministers had been photographed arriving in Downing Street ahead of the planned meeting.
It is understood it is due to take place later today, after the prime minister has received further briefings, in order for the plans to be signed off.
Thomas Kingsley21 February 2022 11:33
Liz Truss arrives in Brussels ahead of NI Protocol talks
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss has arrived in Brussels ahead of talks about the NI protocol.
Announcing her arrival she wrote: “In Brussels to co-chair a Joint Committee meeting with Maros Sefcovic on the Withdrawal Agreement.
“We continue to work intensively to find practical solutions that preserve peace and stability in Northern Ireland and protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.”
Thomas Kingsley21 February 2022 11:30
MP Andrew Bridgen stands by letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson
Thomas Kingsley21 February 2022 11:15
Coalition leaders to discuss changes to mask-wearing rules
The leaders of the three coalition parties in the Irish Government will on Monday discuss proposals to end the rules on mandatory mask-wearing.
It comes ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, at which ministers are expected to accept the advice from health officials.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin confirmed last Friday that the Government would be accepting the guidance from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) that will bring an end to mandatory mask wearing.
Thomas Kingsley21 February 2022 11:02
Tory tensions over Brexit exposed as Iain Duncan Smith lashes out at delays in ripping up EU rules
Iain Duncan Smith has lashed out at the government for dragging its heels on ripping up EU rules, exposing Tory tensions over how to find a Brexit “dividend”.
Ministers have “done absolutely sweet FA” since being handed a taskforce’s report proposing around 100 deregulatory measures last summer, the former Conservative leader protested.
Sir Ian, who led the taskforce, warned time is running out because it would be too difficult to make big changes close to the next general election, in 2023 or 2024.
Our deputy political editor, Rob Merrickhas the full story below:
Thomas Kingsley21 February 2022 10:40
Sadiq Khan urges the government to agree long-term TfL deal
In response to the short-term extension of Transport for London’s (TfL) funding package, Major of London Sadiq Khan said: “This extension to the current funding deal until Friday 25 February will allow negotiations to continue.
“The pandemic is the only reason TfL is facing a financial crisis.
“I urge the government to engage with TfL and City Hall in good faith so that we can finally agree to a fair, long-term funding deal that will protect London’s transport network – for the sake of the capital and the whole country.
“London’s economy plays a huge role in the national economy and around 43,000 jobs outside London depend on TfL’s investment.
“If the government fails to support TfL at this difficult time, it could impact TfL’s UK-wide supply chain, hitting jobs and growth and holding back the economic recovery in London and across the UK.”
Thomas Kingsley21 February 2022 10:19
David Lammy calls for Boris Johnson to resign if fined by the police
Shadow foreign secretary David called for Boris Johnson to resign if he receives a fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan Police over illegal Covid parties.
Writing on Twitter, the MP for Tottenham responded to comments from Conservative minister James Cleverly he said: “Asked if Boris Johnson should resign if he is fined by police, James Cleverly says: ‘I don’t think what the country needs right now is a vacuum at the center of government.’
“I totally agree – this is exactly why Boris Johnson should resign.”
Thomas Kingsley21 February 2022 09:49