Top Stories: Northern Ireland Protocol Deal Imminent, New Energy Price Cap Announced
Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen are expected to announce a new Northern Ireland Protocol deal. (Alamy)
Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen will meet today in Berkshire to sign off on a long-awaited Northern Ireland Protocol deal.
Sunak and European Commission president von der Leyen are set to hold a joint press conference later this afternoon on the deal before the Prime Minister delivers a statement to MPs in the House of Commons.
The deal is expected to reduce the number of checks carried out on goods traded across the Irish Sea through a "green lane" on items remaining in Northern Ireland, and a "red lane" for those heading to the Republic of Ireland, which is in the EU.
Politicians in Northern Ireland are also expected to be given more control through the deal, with the powers of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) likely to be hemmed in.
Northern Ireland has lacked a functioning government since early 2022 after the DUP walked out of the country’s power sharing agreements due to unhappiness with post-Brexit arrangements with the EU.
It comes after years of tension between the UK and the EU over the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland as politicians tried to prevent a hard border down the island of Ireland to avoid jeopardising the Good Friday Agreement.
A deal on the issue would be a major political accomplishment for Sunak less than six months into his time as Prime Minister, with Boris Johnson – and briefly Liz Truss – unable to get one across the line since the UK left the EU in 2020.Appearing on Sky News on Monday morning, Tory MP and former cabinet minister Robert Buckland said “the majority of the Conservative Party will want the prime minister to succeed”.
"I think now is the time for us to press ahead with much-needed change," Buckland told Sky News.
"I think that we need to think about citizens in Northern Ireland and their lives and the reality of life on the ground in Northern Ireland and work together for that change."
However, No 10 is bracing itself for backlash from Tory MPs in the hardline pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who are expected to criticise concessions in the deal.
In good news for Sunak, Labour has also suggested that they would back a deal in the "national interest" if he were to put it to the vote in the Commons.
"I don't want to jump the gun, we haven't seen this deal,” said Rachel Reeves.
"We don't know how the DUP and others in the Conservative Party are going to respond.
"The best thing would be to have cross-party support from right across the political spectrum for this deal, and I hope that the Prime Minister can secure that."
Keir Starmer launches “growth mission” for Labour
Labour leader Keir Starmer is today expected to outline the party's agenda to achieve the highest sustained growth in the G7, and will describe the UK as currently stuck in a “low wage, high tax, doom-loop”.
Last week Starmer announced his five pledges for if Labour were to gain power as the party gears up for the next general election.
Analysis by the party for today’s launch reveals that on the current trajectory, the average household in the UK will be poorer than in Poland by 2030.
“I don’t want a Britain where young people, in our great towns and cities, are left with no option but to get out,” Starmer will say as he lays out how the party will achieve their growth plan.
“A brain drain – not just to London or Edinburgh, but to Lyon, Munich and Warsaw. That’s not the future our country deserves.”
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves will say the UK "has immense potential but we’re being left behind" – and will claim Labour "will increase economic growth to drive higher living standards and lower poverty, leading to good jobs and stronger public services”.
Ofgem energy price cap updated
The energy watchdog has announced its new average yearly energy bill price cap will be £3,280 from April 2023, down from £4,279 in January 2023.
However the new cap will be overridden by the government's Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) mechanism, which is currently capping the average yearly energy bill at £2,500 until April – when it will increase to £3,000.
The government's decision to increase the cap in April has sparked backlash from campaigners, with money saving expert Martin Lewis describing the increase as an act of "national act of self-harm".
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to cancel the £500 rise and introduce another package of measures to support businesses and public services struggling with sky-high bills.
"This confirms the government could easily afford to reduce energy bills in April instead of increasing them," Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said.
"People are already struggling to afford their rents and mortgages, food shopping and bills.
"It is unforgivable that the Conservatives are choosing to push desperate families over the edge by hiking their energy bills by another £500.
"Ministers must listen to our calls for an energy rescue package to save families and businesses from this cost of living cliff-edge, funded through a proper windfall tax."
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