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Boris Johnson has claimed the EU is keeping the “revolver on the table” in trade negotiations, which is why he has had to threaten to break international law.

The Prime Minister justified his widely condemned move as he and former leader Ed Miliband traded blows in the Commons ahead of tonight’s crunch vote on his controversial internal markets bill.

More than a dozen Tory MPs, including former chancellor Sajid Javid, are set to abstain on the vote, significantly denting Johnson’s 80 seat majority for the first time since the 2019 general election.  

Johnson appeared in person in the Commons to ask MPs to vote for the bill which would allow him to overrule parts of the withdrawal agreement. This would give the UK the right to unilaterally interpret key trade arrangements between Britain and Northern Ireland and make judgements on state aid.

He claimed the EU was going to “unreasonable and extreme” lengths to have future control over the UK in terms of trade, which may include blockading food by failing to list UK food and agricultural products for sale in the EU.

Johnson said: “As we debate this matter the EU has not taken that particular revolver off the table. And I hope they will do so and that we can reach a Canada-style free trade agreement as well.

“Indeed it is such an extraordinary threat and it seems so incredible the EU can do this, that we are not taking powers in this bill to neutralise that threat, but obviously reserve the right to do so if these threats persist.

“I’m afraid these threats reveal the spirit in which some of our friends are currently minded to conduct these negotiations.”

All five living former British prime ministers have expressed concerns over Johnson threatening to break international law to disapply parts of the Northern Ireland protocol in the withdrawal agreement.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who is now shadow business secretary, responded on behalf of Labour with a fiery line-by-line attack on Johnson’s justification for breaking the law.  

He said his talk of EU food blockades was ridiculous, that they were negotiating with a “blunderbuss” approach and his “bill gets Brexit undone”.

“I don’t like the ramping up of the rhetoric from the European Union. Even by the standards of this Prime Minister, this is as ridiculous an argument I’ve ever heard,” he said.

Miliband said the bill was not even about food transport from Britain to Northern Ireland, only exit declarations and state aid. 

He called the government incompetent and added that the prime minister had to take responsibility for the deal that he signed last autumn, saying: “He can’t blame the judges, he can’t blame the civil servants, he can’t sack the cabinet secretary again, there’s only one person responsible for it and that’s him. This is his deal, his mess, his failure.

“For the first time in his life it’s time to take responsibility. It’s time to fess up. Either he wasn’t straight with the country in the first place or he didn’t understand it.”

He said the government had no need to override the withdrawal agreement because it included a body designed to resolve issues such as goods at risk of going into the EU, the joint committee on the Northern Ireland protocol.

 

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Nigeria protests: Eyewitnesses say security forces fired at protesters

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Demonstrators have taken part in daily protests across the country for nearly two weeks over widespread claims of kidnapping, harassment, and extortion by a police unit know as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Tuesday saw the state governor impose a 24-hour curfew and deploy anti-riot police to the city.

One witness at the protests, Akinbosola Ogunsanya, said the shooting began after the lights were turned off at the Nigerian city’s Lekki tollgate. “Members of the Nigerian army pulled up on us and they started firing,” he said. “They were shooting, they were firing straight, directly at us, and a lot of people got hit. I just survived, barely.”

Ogunsanya added that barricades on either side of the scene were blocking ambulances.

Another witness, Temple Onanugbo, said he heard what he believed were bullets being fired from his home nearby and that the sound lasted “for about 15 to 30 minutes.”

Speaking to CNN from the scene of the shooting, Onanugbo said he saw “multiple bodies laying on the ground,” when he arrived to help those injured.

CNN has not yet been able to confirm casualties.

The State Government has ordered an investigation into the incident, according to the Lagos Governor’s spokesman, Gboyega Akosile. According to a tweet by Akosile, Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has also “advised security agents not to arrest anyone on account of the curfew.”

The protests at the Lekki toll gate have been mostly peaceful, with demonstrators singing the national anthem, staging sit-ins, and praying.

Earlier in the day, Sanwo-Olu had imposed a 24-hour curfew, including the closure of all Lagos schools. Only essential service providers and first responders have permission to be on the streets of Lagos, which has an estimated population of more than 20 million people.

“Dear Lagosians, I have watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society,” Sanwo-Olu tweeted as he announced the 4 pm (local time) curfew.

SARS was disbanded on October 11 and a new police unit to replace it will be trained by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Reuters reported Monday. Protesters are demanding further protections against the police, including independent oversight and psychological evaluation of officers.

Death and severe injuries amid the protests have been reported since the weekend.

Amnesty International said on its Twitter account Tuesday that it has received “credible but disturbing evidence” of “excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters.”

A 17-year-old died in police custody on Monday in Kano, a city in the north of the country, after allegedly being tortured, according the human rights group. Many protestors and journalists were assaulted by police and thugs in the capital Abuja on the same day. Videos on social media show dozens of cars belonging to protestors burning and Amnesty International said three people died.

“While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the authorities that under international law, security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury,” Amnesty also tweeted.

Other videos show a mass breakout of hundreds of prisoners from the Benin Correctional Center in Edo state in southern Nigeria. It is uncertain who is to blame for the breakout, with protestors claiming it was staged by police. The Nigeria Police Force said in a tweet that protestors carted away arms and ammunition from the armory before freeing suspects in custody and setting the facilities alight.

Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki imposed a curfew on Monday, tweeting about “disturbing incidents of vandalism and attacks on private individuals and institutions by hoodlums in the guise of #EndSARS protesters.”

Riot police have been deployed across the country. According to a tweet from the Nigerian Police Force on Tuesday evening, the Inspector-General of Nigeria’s Police has ordered the immediate nationwide deployment of anti-riot police officers “to protect lives and property of all Nigerians and secure critical national infrastructure across the country.”

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Judge tosses lawsuit challenging DeVos’ sexual misconduct rule for schools, colleges

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Background: The ruling comes as a major victory for DeVos, whose Title IX policies will be a key part of her legacy as secretary. She has said the rule officially codifies protections to hold schools accountable by ensuring survivors are not brushed aside and no student’s guilt is predetermined.

The ACLU had charged that DeVos’ Title IX rule, which took effect in August, violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the provisions “were arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.” The lawsuit had sought to vacate the rule.

On behalf of four plaintiffs, the ACLU argued that the rule will reduce the number of sexual assault and harassment complaints requiring a response from schools.

The lawsuit took aim at the rule’s definition of sexual harassment, as well as provisions that allow institutions to use a “clear and convincing evidence standard.” The groups that brought the lawsuit also take issue with the fact that DeVos’ rule only holds institutions accountable under Title IX for “deliberate indifference” and only requires a school or school official to respond to sexual harassment if there is “actual knowledge.”

Other legal challenges: The lawsuit was one of four ongoing cases challenging the Title IX rule. The other three are still pending but have been largely unsuccessful. All argue that the Education Department violated the law with its new rule by acting beyond its authority, and that the rule is arbitrary and capricious.

A circuit court judge in the District of Columbia denied a request from attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia to stop the new rule and to block it as legal action continues. Another judge also denied a motion to block the rule from taking effect in New York while the litigation is ongoing. Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl said state officials failed to show they are likely to win in their argument that the Trump administration acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when it finalized its rule.

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Labour Will Force A Commons Vote Over A “Fair Deal” For Areas Facing The Harshest Lockdown Restrictions

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Talks between the government and mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham collapsed without a deal in place (PA)


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Labour are set to force a Commons vote on Wednesday demanding a “fair deal” for regions which are facing new lockdown restrictions.

The vote will ask MPs to agree that ministers should publish a “clear and fair national criteria for financial support for jobs and businesses” in those facing the highest level of restrictions.

It comes after Number 10 scrambled to reassure politicians in Greater Manchester that a £60m financial settlement is still on the table after Boris Johnson said the region was going into a Tier 3 lockdown with no deal in place.

The government has so far only agreed to hand over an extra £22million for helping with track and trace and enhanced enforcement of the restrictive rules, which will shut pubs, gyms, casinos and soft play centres.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick is understood to be set to approach each local council in Greater Manchester tomorrow to hammer out a package individually after talks with the metro mayor Andy Burnham collapsed today.

MPs had reacted with fury to the news their constituencies will face the toughest coronavirus restrictions for at least a month without extra economic support.

The news was set out on a call with the health secretary Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Sir Edward Lister, shortly after Mr Burnham gave a press conference saying Downing Street was unwilling to offer enough support for businesses and employees.

One of those MPs on the line, Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, told PoliticsHome: “Does the government really hate Greater Manchester that much, that they acknowledge that we have a need for support, then dangle what we would say is insufficient, though not an insubstantial amount of money in front of us, and then withdraw it completely?”

The Denton MP said Mr Hancock was repeatedly asked about any additional money to help businesses but obfuscated, however it was Sir Edward who came on the call at the end and delivered the “cup of cold sick” news that Greater Manchester was not getting anything more.

“The government agreed there was a case for support but don’t agree with what that amount should be. This is an atrocious way to treat businesses and people’s livelihoods,” said Gwynne.

Other Labour MPs, including shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, also expressed their anger on social media.

But updating MPs on the plans, Mr Hancock said the £60m support package for the region remained “on the table”.

“Over the last 10 days we’ve sought to reach agreement with local leaders and unfortunately we were not able to reach an agreement,” he said.

“As well as the support we’ve outlined we’ve made a generous and extensive offer to support Manchester’s businesses.

“This offer was proportionate to the offer we’ve given Lancashire and the Liverpool city region but unfortunately the Mayor rejected it.

“That offer remains on the table. Our door is open to further discussions with local leaders in the coming days about business support.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said people in Greater Manchester “will be watching the news in disbelief”.

“They will be asking why was it right to cover 80 per cent of wages in March and just two-thirds of their wages in October,” he said.

“What happened to that Chancellor who plastered across social media soft focus selfies of himself boasting he would do whatever it takes?

“That Chancellor is forcing people on the national minimum wage to live on just £5.76 an hour. From ‘whatever it takes’ to taking from the lowest paid.

“Where is the Chancellor? He should be here to defend the consequences of his decisions that will mean a winter of hardship across the North.”

And he insisted the civic leaders had been “willing to compromise” over the level of financial support.

“Rather than finding the £5 million extra, the Prime Minister pulled the plug on negotiations and then took £38 million off the table,” he said.

“What a petty, vindictive, cowardly response. The Prime Minister may think he’s punishing the politicians, in fact he’s punishing the people.”

He added: “This isn’t a game, it’s about people’s lives. People need proper financial support. This is a national crisis and we won’t defeat this virus on the cheap.”

Meanwhile, in a statement following the announcement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ministers had treated local communities with “contempt”.

“This is not just a matter of fairness for people in Greater Manchester, but for people across the country who could find themselves in Tier 3 in the weeks ahead,” he said.

“Families and businesses will be deeply anxious that they might not be able to make ends meet under the Government’s wholly inadequate proposals.

“The Prime Minister and the Chancellor need to make good on their commitment to the British people to do whatever it takes to help us through this pandemic…

“I would urge all Conservative MPs, particularly those in areas of the country that are most affected by this, to vote with us tomorrow and force the Government’s hand.”



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