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Top Stories: James Cleverly Signs Off Windsor Framework With EU, £1bn Lost Covid Grants

James Cleverly and Maros Sefcovic pictured last month (Alamy)

3 min read

Rishi Sunak’s Windsor Framework for Northern Ireland is due to receive final sign off today at a meeting between Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and vice-president of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič.

The pair are due to hold discussions in London today, where the UK and the EU will formally adopt the new post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland as laid out in the Windsor framework, the deal secured by Sunak alongside the EU last month. 

The deal was endorsed by MPs in Westminster earlier this week, when they voted to pass legislation to enable the Stormont brake mechanism, which will give assembly members in Northern Ireland a say over whether future EU laws will apply in the country. 

The vote passed comfortably despite a small rebellion from a number of Conservative MPs, including former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, who both voted against the Brake. 

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party also rejected the deal.

Speaking ahead of the meeting today, Cleverly said that the approval of the framework means “we are delivering on our commitment to provide stability and certainty for Northern Ireland”. 

He added: “I look forward to further effective co-operation with the EU on key issues such as security and energy.” 

One per cent of £1.1bn lost to Covid business scheme has been recovered, report suggests

Around £11.4m of the £1.1bn lost in Covid business grant schemes to fraud and error have been recovered, according to a public spending watchdog. 

The National Audit Office (NAO) said in a report  that £1.1bn accounted for around 5 per cent of the total value of the grants paid to businesses under eight schemes between March 2020 and March 2022, and cites government figures from last month suggesting that £11.4m has now been recovered, which equates to just over one per cent. 

According to the watchdog, the “overwhelming majority” of the losses came during the earliest iterations of the schemes when the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) “did not require any pre-payment checks”. 

However, they said that their department “learned lessons” from the initial response. “It established strengthened governance arrangements and also mandated pre-payment checks which helped to greatly reduce the level of losses in later schemes,” the report read.

The head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, said that the new Department for Business and Trade, which has replaced BEIS, “can now use these lessons to improve contingency planning and to build government resilience for responding to future national emergencies”.

People think Boris Johnson misled Parliament

Two thirds of people (66 per cent) still believe that Boris Johnson misled Parliament over partygate, according to a new poll by YouGov.

The pollsters, who asked the question following the former prime minister’s appearance in front of the Privileges Committee on Wednesday, say that the figures have remained at the same level as they were before Johnson’s three-hour question session.  

The same proportion of 66 per cent think that the committee was right to open their investigation. 

It has been reported that Johnson is planning for the “worst-case” scenario and will be increasing campaigning in his constituency ahead of a potential by-election. 

The committee of seven MPs – including four Conservatives – are now considering their evidence before they make their recommendations on any potential sanctions, which will then need to be voted on in the Commons. 

Should Johnson be suspended from the Commons for more than 10 days, a recall petition would be triggered, meaning there would be a by-election in Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency should 10 per cent of the voters there call for one. 

An ally of Johnson told The Times today that he would “intensify” campaigning in his London seat. 

“He is planning for the worst case, there’s no point in waiting until they’ve delivered their verdict,” they said. “He’ll be ready regardless of the outcome.”

 

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