Boris Johnson news – live: PM says ‘Trump deal’ should replace Iran nuclear pact, and says Royal Family will ‘sort out’ Megxit

Boris Johnson news – live: PM says ‘Trump deal’ should replace Iran nuclear pact, and says Royal Family will ‘sort out’ Megxit


Boris Johnson has backed Donald Trump to come up with a new agreement to “replace” the existing Iran nuclear deal, describing the US president as “a great deal maker” in an interview with the BBC.

The PM also backed the royal family to “sort out” the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s exit from full-time duties – and revealed he is considering a crowdfunding campaign to encourage the public to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” to mark Brexit on 31 January.

It comes as Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed Mr Johnson was “fuelling support for independence” after he formally rejected her request to hand referendum powers from London to Edinburgh.

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‘You are talking about £50,000 a bong,’ says Speaker

The House of Commons Commission has explained the cost and logistical difficulty in having Big Ben bong for Brexit – stating it could cost over £500,000 to do so.

Dozens of MPs would like to hear Big Ben bong at 11pm on 31 January to mark the moment the UK leaves the EU.

But the House of Commons Commission was told that bringing the Great Bell back to life during essential re-flooring work on the belfry could result in huge costs to the public purse.

For the Bell to ring on 31 January, the temporary striking mechanism used for Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve would need to be reattached and tested to ensure the timing is correct. Alongside this work, a temporary floor of the belfry where Big Ben is housed, would also need to be installed as extensive work is currently taking place in this area. 

These would include bringing the ‘bonging’ mechanism back, testing it and allowing it to chime – and building a temporary floor to the belfry and removing it (£120,000), and delaying to the ongoing and vital conservation work by up to four weeks (£100,000 a week).

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “The Commission believes it is important to weigh up the costs this would involve if Big Ben is to chime on 31 January. You are talking about £50,000 a bong.”

The House of Commons Commission put the minimum cost of sounding Big Ben at £320,000 – but said it could rise to up to £500,000.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (Reuters)


Jess Phillips condemns ‘racism’ at Labour meeting in Ilford

Labour leadership candidate Jess Phillips has called for a change in the party’s culture after a member claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a local meeting.

Phillips responded after Alex Holmes, vice-chairman of the party’s Ilford South branch in east London, tweeted about a meeting he described as the worst he had ever attended.

Holmes said he and another member were called “agents of a foreign power” after speaking against a motion attacking the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The organisation has published “10 pledges” it said would end Labour’s problems with anti-Semitism, which were signed by leadership candidates including Rebecca Long-Bailey and Sir Keir Starmer.

“The proposers used multiple anti-Semitic tropes to make their point that the Board of Deputies is a ‘Tory organisation’ illegally interfering in the Labour leadership contest,” Mr Holmes tweeted of the meeting.

“Racists of any kind have no place anywhere near the Labour party, nor any other mainstream political party.”

Phillips responded: “Today I will seek to speak to Alex about what happened … this will not be easily solved but we must change culture that accepts without shame and embarrassment calling Jewish orgs, Jewish people and their allies ‘agents of a foreign power’. It’s racism.”

Following Holmes’ tweets, the Board of Deputies responded: “We are profoundly saddened to see yet another example of the hatred which has infested parts of Labour.”


Sturgeon responds: ‘Tories are terrified … It will not stand’

Scotland’s first minister Nicolas Sturgeon has responded quickly to Boris Johnson’s rejection of her request for a transfer of referendum powers from London to Edinburgh.

“Tories are terrified of Scotland’s right to choose – because they know that when given the choice we’ll choose independence. Tories have no positive case for the union – so all they can do is attempt to deny democracy. It will not stand.

“The problem for the Tories is the longer they try to block democracy, the more they show the Westminster union is not one of equals and fuel support for independence. This response predictable – but also unsustainable and self defeating. Scotland will have the right to choose.”


PM rejects Sturgeon’s request for indyref2 powers

Boris Johnson has written to Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday refusing her request to be given the powers to hold another Scottish independence referendum.

Sturgeon wrote to Johnson in December asking him to enter negotiations on transferring the power to hold a referendum from London to Edinburgh.

“I cannot agree to any request for a transfer of power that would lead to further independence referendums,” Johnson wrote in a letter which he posted on Twitter, telling Sturgeon she had agreed a 2014 referendum, in which Scots opted to stay in the United Kingdom, would be a “once in a generation” vote.

“Another independence referendum would continue the political stagnation that Scotland has seen for the last decade … it is time that we all worked to bring the whole of the United Kingdom together.”


UK, France and Germany to report Iran over breaches in nuclear pact, say foreign ministers

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany said it was referring Iran’s breaches of the nuclear deal to the dispute resolution mechanism.

They said: “We do this in good faith with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPOA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue, while preserving the agreement and remaining within its framework.

“In doing so, our three countries are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran. Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA.”

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab will make a statement on the Iran nuclear deal in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, the Commons Leader’s office has said.

It follows reports that the UK, France and Germany will trigger the dispute resolution mechanism (DRM) in the deal over breaches of the agreement by Iran.

Raab has previously said the breaches are “acute” and “we will be looking at all measures including potentially triggering the DRM”.

This morning Boris Johnson suggested the pact had no future, backing Donald Trump to “replace” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab (Getty)


Labour rejects state aid rescue package for Flybe

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, has responded to reports suggesting the government is ready to come up with a package of support for the stricken airline Flybe.

“Bailing out a company through a tax cut across the industry is not the way forward,” said McDonnell, set to depart from the frontline when the Labour leadership contest comes to an end in early April.

“Working with the company and unions the government should look at targeted assistance to support routes judged on economic, environmental and social grounds.”

Chancellor Sajid Javid will hold talks with the business and transport secretaries to discuss if the loss-making regional carrier can defer paying this year’s estimated air passenger duty (APD) bill of £106m for three years or whether the tax should be cut for all domestic flights, according to multiple reports.

Boris Johnson said earlier the government was “working very hard to do what we can” to save the regional airline.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell (PA)


‘We’re through the looking glass’: Shock at PM’s crowdfunding for Big Ben bong claim

Some reaction Boris Johnson’s suggestion that the government could encourage the public to raise the £500,000 needed for Big Ben to chime on 31 January. “We are working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong,” he said.

SNP MP Stewart Macdonald said: “A ‘global Britain’ that has to run a crowdfunder to ring the bells of its most famous clock tower. We really are really through looking glass.”

“All totally normal,” said The Daily Mirror’s Dan Bloom.

Nigel Farage, meanwhile, has poured scorn on the half-a-million pounds figure, which comes from the House of Commons Committee. “Can we be told how much it costs to ring Big Ben on New Years Eve? Surely not £500,000.”

The right-wing broadcast Julia Hartley-Brewer has suggested an alternative. “Everyone celebrating in Parliament Square brings their own bell to ring. Wouldn’t that be more fun?”


PM says likelihood of US suspect returning to UK in Harry Dunn case ‘very low’

Boris Johnson has said the chances of a return to the UK for the US suspect charged in connection with the death of teenager Harry Dunn are “very low”.

The Home Office said it submitted an extradition request for Anne Sacoolas on Friday after she was charged with causing the 19-year-old’s death by dangerous driving last month.

Despite saying it was “right that we made the appeal for extradition”, Johnson said that sending Sacoolas back to face justice was “not what (the US) do”.

Reacting to the PM’s comments from Denver in the US, the Dunn family spokesman Radd Seiger said: “I do not know what is in the prime minister’s mind in making those comments because the parents and I have not yet had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him – but we expect to do so within the next few days.

“Certainly, if he is basing those comments on what is currently emanating from Washington he may well be right.

“Harry’s family will as always take things one step at a time and will not prejudge the outcome of the process but as I have stated many times publicly, my analysis of the prospects of success are diametrically opposed to Mr Johnson’s given my detailed discussions with officials both in London and Washington.”


Starmer ‘firmly on the left’ says leading left-wing commentator

The influential left-wing author and broadcaster Paul Mason – supportive of much of the Corbyn project – has backed Keir Starmer to become the next Labour leader

Mason has offered his Twitter follows 10 reason why. He claims the shadow Brexit secretary is “firmly on the left”, wants to move beyond factionalism, looks like he has a plan to win and has been clear that Brexit is done.


PM vows not to ‘prejudice’ security over Huawei 5G involvement

Boris Johnson said he would not risk Britain’s security when upgrading the nation’s 5G communications network – but said critics of Chinese tech giant Huawei must come up with an “alternative” provider.

It was reported on Tuesday that Washington had stepped-up efforts to try and persuade Downing Street against backing Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s switch over to 5G.

Senior US officials, according to the Financial Times, presented the British government with technical information in a bid to prevent the company getting a foothold in the UK.

Asked about the reports in an interview with BBC Breakfast, Johnson said: “The British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology.

“I have talked about infrastructure and technology. We want to put in gigabit broadband for everybody. Now, if people oppose one brand or another, then they have to tell us which is the alternative.

“On the other hand, let’s be clear, I don’t, as the UK prime minister, want to put in any infrastructure that is going to prejudice our national security or our ability to co-operate with Five Eyes intelligence.”

Johnson also addressed the fortunes of the stricken regional airline Flybe. With the company’s finances at breaking point, government officials will meet later to discuss potentially cutting air passenger taxes on all domestic flights to help rescue it.

“It is not for government to step in and save companies that simply run into trouble, but be in no doubt that we see the importance of Flybe in delivering connectivity across the whole United Kingdom,” Johnson said. “We’re working very hard to do what we can.”

Huawei could be involved in the UK’s 5G network (Reuters)


PM claims veganism a ‘crime against cheese lovers’

Boris Johnson said he wants to lose weight in 2020, but will not do “Veganuary” – the popular practice of becoming vegan in January

He said the process would take too much concentration and mean giving up his beloved cheese.

“I had thought of it but it requires so much concentration. I do take my hat off to vegans who can handle it,” he said during his interview with BBC Breakfast, having confessed he wanted to shed some pounds in the next year.

“You can’t eat cheese if you’re a vegan. It’s just a crime against … cheese lovers,” he added.

On the royal family’s problems, Johnson was reluctant to be drawn on the Megxit drama – other than saying he was “confident” the palace would resolve the withdrawal of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from full-time duties.

“I am absolutely confident that they are going to sort this out,” he said. “And you know what, I think they’re probably going to be able to sort this out all the easier without any particular commentary from me.”


Stormont funding package ‘falls way short’

The Northern Ireland assembly’s finance minister, Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy, said the government’s offer for extra funding to help restore power-sharing arrangements and boost public services “falls way short” of what was promised.

“The political parties have fulfilled their responsibilities, now it is time for the British government to do the same,” said Murphy after the parties met Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith on Monday.

“It’s not just about money,” said Boris Johnson on his trip to Belfast on Monday. But DUP leader and first minister Arlene Foster said Johnson should “must deliver” the cash.

“We have stepped up to the plate in relation to the political agreement.

“He [Johnson] put forward an agreement, he asked us to sign up to it. We have all signed up to it and come into a multi-party executive, therefore it is now incumbent on the prime minister to step up to the plate in relation to financial resources.”

The Stormont executive meets again today to discuss the financial offer to support the power-sharing deal – but no word on what the sum on the table actually is. 

NI finance minister Conor Murphy (PA)


PM admits social care crisis solution could be five years away

Boris Johnson has admitted he does not have a worked-up plan to end the social care crisis and that a solution could be five years away.

In his BBC interview, the prime minister backtracked on his pre-election claim to have a ready-to-go rescue package – instead saying he would be “bringing forward a proposal” later this year.

Asked for a date for action to finally be taken to improve social care, Johnson said: “We will certainly do it in this parliament” – prompting interviewer Dan Walker to point out: “That’s five years away.”

More details here:


PM wants people to ‘bung a bob for a Big Ben bong’

Boris Johnson said the government is considering a crowdfunding campaign to allow Big Ben to chime on 31 January to mark the country’s exit from the EU.

The 13.7-tonne bell has been largely silent since 2017 while renovation works are carried out on the Elizabeth Tower which houses it, sounding only for important events such as New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Johnson said one of the main problems was that it would cost £500,000 pounds to allow Big Ben to sounded at 11pm on “Brexit day”, but were looking at how to fund it – and suggested people could donate cash to pay for it.

“But we are working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong,” Johnson said in his BBC interview. “We’re looking at whether we can fund it.”

He said “we need to restore the clapper, in order to bong Big Ben on Brexit night, and that is expensive”.

Boris Johnson speaking on BBC Breakfast (BBC Breakfast / PA Wire)


‘Let’s replace it with the Trump deal’: Johnson wants US president to come up with new nuclear agreement with Iran

Boris Johnson has backed Donald Trump to come up with a new agreement to “replace” the existing Iran nuclear deal.

In an interview with BBC Breakfast, the PM said: “Somehow or other we’re got to stop the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“The problem with the [existing] agreement, from an American perspective, it was a flawed agreement, it expires, plus it was negotiated by president Obama – from their point of view it has many, many faults.

“If we’re going to get rid of it, let’s replace it and let’s replace it with the Trump deal. I think that would be a great way forward. President Trump is a great deal maker.

“Let’s replace the JCPA {Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and get the Trump deal instead.”

Johnson said he “did not envisage” any escalation in the tensions between the US and Iran.The PM said: “I’m glad the Iranians have accepted responsibility and identified it as an appalling mistake and it does appear that it was a mistake.

“It is very important that the bodies are repatriated in a dignified way and that the families are allowed to grieve and to have closure.

“Clearly, as president Rouhani has said, Iran made a terrible mistake. It is good they have apologised. The most important thing now is that tensions in the region calm down.”


Francois ‘disappointed’ after he’s told Big Ben won’t bong for Brexit

Big Ben will remain hushed for Brexit due to financial and logistical issues, according to reports.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the House of Commons Commission on Monday, however it was ultimately ruled out after it was revealed that it would cost £500,000 – up from the original estimate of £120,000.

The expanded budget stems from the need to put in and remove a temporary floor in order to ring the bell.

A source told The Daily Telegraph: “No-one in the meeting thought it was worth spending £500,000 on having Big Ben strike the hour on one occasion.

“When you consider what else that money could be spent on, it’s very hard to make an argument in favour of it.”

Another source reportedly said there wasn’t enough time to plan for the bell to ring, saying the project team would need “at least two weeks” to prepare.

Tory MP Mark Francois told the paper he was “very disappointed” with the commission’s decision.

“I’ve already offered to go up Big Ben myself, ably assisted by (European Scrutiny Committee chair) Bill Cash, to ring the bell myself to save money,” he said.

“If all else fails, the BBC must have a recording of Big Ben chiming they could play at 11pm at no cost whatsoever to taxpayers.”

Tory Brexiteer Mark Francois (Getty)


Senior Tory urges ‘slaughter’ of international development department

Former Tory cabinet minister Liam Fox is calling for the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to be merged.

Dr Fox will use an address to the Institute for government in London on Tuesday to urge Downing Street to “slaughter sacred cows” in a Whitehall shake-up.

The former international trade secretary will say: “New roles and new responsibilities will require new ways of doing business.

“With a new government in place with a strong mandate at such a key moment in our history, this is the time to slaughter the sacred cows to which successive governments have given a last-minute reprieve in order to buy political peace.

“Our victory has created a political moment which is as important as Mrs Thatcher’s victory in 1979.”

Speaking ahead of Dr Fox’s speech, international development minister Andrew Stephenson told MPs on Monday evening that Boris Johnson had not made any decisions on the future of the DfID.

But he insisted that the government is “proudly maintaining our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI (gross national income) on development”.

Stephenson’s comments came after The Sunday Times reported that Johnson had planned a “revolutionary” structure that would see the DfID merge with the FCO.

Liam Fox outside Cabinet Office (Reuters)


Lisa Nandy says voters found idea of Labour government ‘frightening’

Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy has claimed voters found the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government “frightening” rather than empowering ahead of the party’s worst electoral defeat of the post-war era.

Delivering the first major speech of her campaign to succeed Corbyn, the Wigan MP urged party members to make the “brave, not the easy choice” and change course with a different type of leader.

Nandy is one of five contenders to reach the second stage of the contest after a scramble for nominations went down to the wire on Monday. 

She will now join Jess Phillips, Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Emily Thornberry – secured the required number of nominations at the last minute after Clive Lewis pulled out of the race – in lobbying for the backing of key unions and Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) across the country.


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