Boris Johnson criticises Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland
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Westminster is bracing for a day packed with betrayal, rebellions and the long-awaited trial of Boris Johnson over whether he lied to Parliament over Partygate. The Express is on hand to explain how the day will play out.
The morning so far
At seven o’clock this morning we learned of two big developments.
Firstly Boris Johnson said he will vote against the crunch deal on the Northern Ireland protocol.
This will prove a big headache for Downing Street, as Boris’s emphatic decision not just to abstain but vote against the ‘Stormont Brake’ may galvanise other wavering pro-Brexit Tory MPs, and increase the size of the rebellion.
No.10 had been hoping for a Tory rebellion of around 20, anything significantly larger than that could damage Mr Sunak’s standing and reputation for calm political leadership.
Secondly, the ONS revealed that inflation unexpectedly increased in February, contrary to the expectations of many economists who predicted it would fall from the January rate of 10.1 percent to single figures.
Instead, the price rate increased to 10.4 percent, largely driven by food and alcohol prices.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt reacted to the news by saying “Falling inflation isn’t inevitable, so we need to stick to our plan to halve it this year”.
10.30 am – European Research Group make their decision on Northern Ireland
Yesterday the Eurosceptic group of Tory MPs, the ERG, held a long meeting to discuss their legal analysis of Rishi Sunak’s new Windsor Framework on Northern Ireland, which is being voted on after PMQs.
Despite slamming the newly-announced ‘Stormont Brake’ – the supposed ability of Northern Ireland Assembly members to block EU rules – they refused to say how they’d vote today.
Late this afternoon they’ll hold another meeting to decide whether to formally recommend members vote against the deal.
While they can’t force any of the group’s MP members to vote a certain way, Boris’s announcement may sway any waverers.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith also announced this morning that he will vote against the deal.
12 pm – PMQs
At midday, there will be the usual PMQs showdown between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer.
Mr Starmer will have plenty of topics to go on, from the Met Police to Boris Johnson, from inflation to the Budget.
2pm – Northern Ireland debate and vote, Boris Partygate hearing
2 o’clock is when the day really kicks off. The debate on the PM’s Northern Ireland deal with the EU and Boris’s Partygate trial both collide.
The Northern Ireland debate will start first, though many MPs are furious with the government for only allowing 90 minutes of Commons scrutiny.
Labour will back the bill, though may choose to stick the knife in over the Fovernment’s refusal to allow MPs more say on the agreement.
Tory and DUP MPs meanwhile will be keen to slam the PM on both the content of the agreement and accuse the Government of trying to dodge scrutiny.
At this point, the trial of Boris Johnson will begin.
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It is reported the Privileges Committee hearing will start with the former premier swearing on a bible, he will then be shown video clips of him telling the Commons that he had been assured Covid rules had been followed at all times inside No. 10.
Both the committee chair Harriet Harman and Boris Johnson will then get opening statements of around 15 minutes.
Mr Johnson will be flanked by around three top lawyers who have been advising him on, and prepping him for, the interrogation.
They will not be able to speak to the committee, but can pass Boris notes and offer advice on how to answer particular questions.
The Committee will be suspended come the Commons vote on the Northern Ireland protocol, at which point Mr Johnson will head to the No Lobby to object to the EU deal.
He will be hoping to avoid bumping into Mrs Harman on their mutual walk from the committee room in Portcullis House to the Commons chamber inside the Palace of Westminster.
We will know the result of the Northern Ireland vote shortly after, at which point Boris Johnson and the committee members will return for around three hours of more questioning.
Also this afternoon
If all that wasn’t enough, the OBR will be up in front of the Treasury Select Committee for a grilling over their Budget figures.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace will be grilled by MPs at 2.30 pm over diplomacy and soft power
Baroness Casey of Blackstock will also be up in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee to answer questions about her damning report into the Met Police at 2.45 pm.
Michael Gove will also face up to questions from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee at 3 pm, over the government’s decision to introduce voter ID for the local elections.
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