Budget news live: Latest updates as trust in Boris Johnson falls

Today’s daily politics briefing

Labour has warned chancellor Rishi Sunak against raising taxes in his Budget, urging him instead to focus on securing the recovery. Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said now is “not the time” for tax rises, but signalled the party could support a hike in corporation tax in future.

Trust in Boris Johnson’s government to “do the right thing” has tumbled from 60 per cent at the first lockdown to just 44 per cent, according to a new survey. Poll analysts said the integrity of the UK “may now be under threat”, with voters expressing more trust in devolved leaders.

Elsewhere, the DUP has defended its controversial move to halt work on inspection posts for Brexit checks in Northern Ireland. The DUP’s Brexit spokesperson has declared “guerrilla warfare” against the protocol, but Sinn Fein has accused the party of “foolish” games.


‘Unionist parties could undo protocol after 2024 elections,’ suggests Rees-Mogg

Jacob Rees-Mogg has suggested unionist parties could undo the Northern Ireland protocol his government has agreed to fully implement if they sweep to victory at local elections in 2024.

The House of Commons leader said unionist members of NI’s Assembly could “get rid of the protocol” by uniting but urged them not to collapse Stormont’s institutions.

Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments came less than a week after Michael Gove and European Commission vice president Maroš Šefcovic announced in a joint statement that both sides are committed to making the protocol work for the “benefit of everyone” in NI.

My colleague Matt Mathers has the story:

Sam Hancock1 March 2021 16:20


Round up of Sunak’s Budget measures

Here’s a look at the measures Rishi Sunak is set to deliver as part of his Budget on Wednesday:

  • A £5 billion grant scheme to help pubs, restaurants and other businesses in England hit hardest by coronavirus.
  • A £1.65 billion boost for the coronavirus vaccine rollout programme.
  • £22bn for a new UK Infrastructure Bank to drive £40bn of investment in infrastructure projects as part of the government’s “levelling up” agenda.
  • A mortgage guarantee scheme to encourage home ownership and help buyers get on to the property ladder.
  • Reform of the migration system to encourage highly-skilled workers to come to the UK.
  • The world’s first sovereign green savings bond for retail investors, which will invest £70m in long-term, low-carbon energy storage, £20m in offshore wind and £4m for green-energy crops.
  • A new UK Taxpayer Protection Taskforce to crack down on Covid-19 fraudsters exploiting schemes such as furlough.
  • Guaranteed financial support for thalidomide sufferers for the rest of their lives, with a £39m down payment to cover the next four years.
  • £126m to create 40,000 new traineeships in England, while the cash incentive for employers who take on an apprentice will be raised to £3,000.
  • £10m to support military forces veterans across the UK.

In addition, these are some of the newer measures Mr Sunak is thought to be considering for inclusion:

  • An increase in corporation tax paid by businesses on their profits, which looks set to rise from 19p in the pound to between 23p and 25p.
  • An increase in National Insurance contributions paid by the country’s 4.5 million self-employed.
  • The extension of a series of Covid support measures currently due to come to an end, including the furlough scheme, the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift and the stamp duty holiday.


Sam Hancock1 March 2021 16:05


Foster under fire again for meeting with loyalist paramilitaries

Northern Ireland’s justice minister Naomi Long has expressed concern after Arlene Foster met with representatives of loyalist paramilitaries.

The first minister led a DUP delegation last week to meet with the Loyalist Communities Council to discuss tensions around the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking during questions in the Stormont Assembly, Ms Long said: “It is a matter for me as justice minister when all ministers in the Executive have signed up to tackling the paramilitarism programme, because that programme requires us all to ensure that where we wish to engage with at-risk communities, where we wish to hear the voices of those who may be vulnerable to paramilitary influence, that we do so through the appropriate legal mechanisms, that we don’t give any credence or validity to members of paramilitary organisations, irrespective of the community from which they emerge.”

She added: “And I do believe that by giving a platform to people who are still in proscribed organisations or who claim to be, I think that is a matter of concern and sends out a worrying message to those in many parts of our community who still live under the coercive control of those same paramilitary organisations.”

Sam Hancock1 March 2021 15:45


‘Vital for Britain’s reputation that aid budget cut is temporary’

A former Foreign Office diplomat has warned it is “vital” for Britain’s reputation the government ensures a contentious multi-billion pound cut to the overseas aid budget remains a “temporary” measure.

In his first public remarks on the issue since leaving his role as permanent secretary, Sir Simon McDonald said the timing of the spending reduction “could not have been worse” with the Department for International Development being merged into the Foreign Office just months earlier.

Lord McDonald, who will deliver his maiden speech in the House of Lords this week afer being awarded a life peerage, claimed the UK remained in the “premier league” for aid spending, but told The Independent: “There’s no way to present this as a great move”.

Political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports:

Sam Hancock1 March 2021 15:26


Brand Sunak’s latest offering

Rishi Sunak’s latest slick social media output offers a Sky Sports-style interview – asked the questions by his own team. He says Treasury staff have done a “genuinely heroic job” in responding to the pandemic.

Adam Forrest1 March 2021 15:10


DUP minister to hold showdown talks over border move

The DUP’s agriculture minister Gordon Lyons has been challenged by Northern Ireland executive colleagues over his bold decision to halt work on inspection posts for Brexit port checks.

Ministers from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance Party argued that he does not have the authority to act unilaterally on an issue so significant.

It is understood the NI executive’s attorney general Brenda King concurred with this view on Monday and advised that Lyons would be required to bring such proposals to the wider executive. Lyons is set to hold discussions with King ahead of further crunch talks on the matter on Tuesday.

While the DUP’s Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson claimed the party would wage “guerrilla warfare” against protocol arrangements, Sinn Fein has called the move “foolish”.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman insisted the issue was one for the NI executive to resolve. “We will obviously will continue to liaise and speak to them.”

Gordon Lyons with DUP leader Arlene Foster


Adam Forrest1 March 2021 14:59


European Arrest Warrant replacement facing ‘multiple’ legal challenges

The post-Brexit replacement for the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is facing multiple legal challenges, Police Scotland has said. Brexit has left forces with “suboptimal measures” for dealing with crime across the continent, MSPs have been told.

Holyrood’s policing committee heard that the legality of the fast-track arrangement introduced to replace the EAW is now facing challenges in the courts.

Police Scotland deputy chief constable Will Kerr told MSPs: “There’s a number of ongoing legal challenges to the UK in respect of extradition and the European Arrest Warrant, they will take some time to resolve.”

He explained that the replacement system retained “mandated time limits for surrender” to return suspects to Scotland quickly and an executive power of arrest for warrants issued from the start of January.

Adam Forrest1 March 2021 14:49


PM: UK has one of the world’s ‘toughest’ border regimes

Boris Johnson said he was “absolutely confident” that the Budget would “build on everything we have done to look after the businesses” and paves the way for a “strong, jobs-led recovery”.

During a visit to Stoke-on-Trent on Monday morning, the PM also insisted the UK has “one of the toughest border regimes anywhere in the world” despite the Brazilian coronavirus strain being detected.

Among his other interesting remarks to reporters, Johnson claimed the government “moved as fast as we could” to launch its quarantine hotel policy – despite criticism from Labour he has been too slow.

Boris Johnson: windswept and interesting?


Adam Forrest1 March 2021 14:21


Labour hints at support for corporation tax hike in future

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said now is “not the time” for tax rises, but signalled that she could support an increase in corporation tax in the future.

It comes amid a split in the party over the mooted plan, after reports suggested the chancellor is considering hiking corporation tax to as much as 25 per cent from 19 per cent.

Some Labour MPs have arguing for a hike since it’s a progressive tax. Ms Dodds said that over the last 10 years Conservative-led governments have “pulled the UK further and further away from the average corporation tax level of OECD nations”.

But she added: “Should the chancellor be focused on particularly imposing additional tax rises right now? … Now is not the time for immediate tax rises – it is the time for a chancellor focused on jobs and securing our recovery.”

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds


Adam Forrest1 March 2021 14:01


Brexit team ‘outstanding’, says departing Barnier

Michel Barnier – who is finally stepping down as the EU Commission’s head of task force for relations with the UK – has thanked his Brexit negotiating team.

“Each and every person was outstanding,” he tweeted. “Today is the 1st day of the rest of our lives.”

Adam Forrest1 March 2021 13:51

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