A summary of today's developments
- The government has won the vote on the second reading of the Northern Ireland protocol bill by 295 votes to 221. The vote result means Boris Johnson’s bid to effectively tear up parts of the Northern Ireland protocol has cleared its first Commons hurdle, amid Tory warnings the plans are illegal. Former prime minister Theresa May said she could not support the Bill, saying it will “diminish” the UK in the eyes of the world.
- The majority of 74 gives the Northern Ireland protocol bill a second reading which clears the way for it to undergo detailed scrutiny in the coming weeks.
- Earlier, Boris Johnson claimed the legislation - that will allow the UK government to abandon large parts of the protocol, in what critics argued is a clear breach of international law - could become law by the end of the year. Asked if the measures could be in place this year, he replied: “Yes, I think we could do it very fast, parliament willing.”
- Boris Johnson has said that he considers the Conservative party leadership issue now “settled”.
- Downing Street rejected a claim from Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, that the online harms bill makes speech that is legal offline effectively illegal online.
- Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has given a Commons statement to mark the publication of the draft mental health bill. He told MPs it would address a number of “alarming issues” with the way the current Mental Health Act is used.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss has warned against an “uneasy peace” in Ukraine that would involve the country giving up any lands it has lost to Russia since 2014.
In an interview with Die Welt, La Repubblica and El Pais, Truss called for the West to provide “all the equipment”, training and “all the support we can” to Kyiv.
“The consequences of Ukraine not prevailing are very severe for the rest of Europe,” she said.
“What we cannot have is some uneasy peace, where Russia is still present in Ukraine; that is not going to work.
“We know what happened in 2014 with the Minsk agreements, ultimately, Russia regrouped and came back for more afterwards, so we cannot allow that situation to happen again”.
The Labour party has pushed for more careers guidance for pupils, saying that “all too often” pupils are unaware of apprenticeship schemes while they are at school.
The party has pledged to fix a “broken system” when it comes to the careers advice pupils receive at school.
In a speech to the Association of Education and Learning Providers, Toby Perkins, Labour’s shadow minister for further education and skills, is expected to say that there is “uncertainty” over legislation in the Skills Bill, and that the Bill itself has been a “missed opportunity”.
He is expected to say that “it remains unclear” how independent training providers will be affected by employer representative bodies and local skills improvement plans.
The aim of the bodies and skills improvement plans is for colleges to make sure their training courses align with local business needs.
The division list showed no Conservative MPs voted against the Northern Ireland Protocol bill at second reading.
It added 283 Tory MPs supported the bill along with eight DUP MPs.
Here is the full story on the Commons vote:
The vote result means Boris Johnson’s bid to effectively tear up parts of the Northern Ireland protocol has cleared its first Commons hurdle, amid Tory warnings the plans are illegal.
MPs voted 295 to 221, majority 74, to give the Northern Ireland Protocol bill a second reading which clears the way for it to undergo detailed scrutiny in the coming weeks.
The prime minister claimed the proposed legislation, which gives ministers powers to override parts of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, could be carried out “fairly rapidly”, with the proposals in law by the end of the year. But his predecessor in No 10, Theresa May, led the criticism from the Tory benches as she delivered a withering assessment of the legality and impact of the bill. A Number 10 spokesman said the government had never put a “hard target date” on when it would hope to see the bill enacted.
Government wins vote on the second reading of the Northern Ireland protocol bill
The government has won the vote on the second reading of the Northern Ireland Protocol bill by 295 votes to 221.
MPs voting on Northern Ireland protocol bill at second reading
The result is expected in around 15 minutes.
Conservative former Northern Ireland minister Andrew Murrison said he will support the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, but said he is “somewhat bewildered” by ministers’ refusal to consider triggering Article 16.
The MP for South West Wiltshire, told MPs: “I have to say to ministers also, whilst assuring them of my support this evening, that I remain somewhat bewildered by their refusal to consider, in a meaningful way, triggering Article 16. “That is already available to them and nobody has marshalled credible argument, that satisfies me certainly, that it could not be done, should not be done. The grounds for triggering Article 16 are clearly there, in that we don’t have anything approaching proper covenants in Northern Ireland, not at all. “Despite the May elections, the Assembly has failed to assemble, and the institutions are not working.”
Former prime minister Theresa May’s criticism of the Northern Ireland Protocol bill:
Conservative former minister Sir Bob Neill told the Commons: “I will not support the Bill tonight, I will not vote against it, I’m deliberately abstaining tonight to see how the Bill develops because I think it could be amended into a workable form, but it comes with very many caveats and a lot of questions I think the ministers need to answer.
“I hope they will seek to address those as we go forward.”
Alliance MP Stephen Farry (North Down) said: “This is an extremely bad Bill, it’s unwanted, unnecessary and, indeed, it’s dangerous.”
DUP MP Sammy Wilson criticised Labour’s Stella Creasy, suggesting she was “hoping that the toffs down the other end of this building will defeat this bill”.
The East Antrim MP was also disdainful of Creasy for suggesting that politicians “consult the people of Northern Ireland” on future post-Brexit trade arrangements, adding: “They didn’t consult too much ... when it came to abortion.” Commons deputy Speaker Nigel Evans intervened, asking: “I think the honourable member is talking about the members in the Other Place?” with Mr Wilson confirming that he was. The SNP’s Angus Brendan MacNeil raised a point of order to ask if MPs were now allowed to refer to the Lords as “the House of Toffs”, adding: “I think it is a rather good suggestion.” Evans replied: “I think you’ll find that that was corrected to members of the Other Place, even noble members of the Other Place. Toffs – no.” Walthamstow MP Ms Creasy earlier said she had “hopes for the other place” to deal with the bill.
Conservative former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland said there is necessity for the government to act because there is a growing and “real threat”.
He said: “A lot has been said about necessity, as if it requires imminent peril, the sort of immediate threat that faces us just outside that door now.
“Now, nobody’s saying that. But necessity in this context doesn’t require that degree of imminence. What it requires is a degree of real threat and a growing evidence of a real threat to those essential interests. I would argue that there is that growing evidence.”
“There is a growing problem when it comes to east-west,” he said, referencing trade-related issues, before going on to urge colleagues to vote for the Bill “in the hope and expectation that we see real progress and the stability that the people of Northern Ireland and the people of Britain want and deserve”.
However, Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale said the Bill “will be a gross breach, if it is enacted and implemented, of international law”.
SDLP MP Claire Hanna called for a “negotiated solution” with the EU as she told MPs “we have solved bigger problems than these before”.
The MP for Belfast South insisted “there’s no doubt that the protocol can be smooth” and “the operation can be improved”, adding: “Everybody says that.
“Nobody, as I’ve said before, in Northern Ireland loves the protocol, but we know that the better options were voted down, but like everything that’s worth doing in Northern Ireland that will be achieved through partnership, through compromises, and not through unmeetable red lines that would remove the people of Northern Ireland from the single market, which is something that has no support.
But instead of doing the hard work and levelling with the people of Northern Ireland, this Government, to whom the DUP have shackled themselves, are choosing to distort and deflect.”
Labour former minister Sir Tony Lloyd warned using legislation “tactically” when it comes to issues related to Northern Ireland is “foolish” and “very dangerous”.
Sir Tony told the Commons: “Anybody in this House who takes legislation seriously ought to start from the presumption that operating tactically is a dangerous process.
“It is a short sighted and short term. But this in the context of Northern Ireland is not simply foolish, it is very, very dangerous.”
He added: “We’ve got to maintain international law under all circumstances. We’ve got to because when I stand up and say to people in other countries we have an expectation of those very high standards, I’m right to be able to say because my country also respects those very high standards.
“That actually is true patriotism. Real patriotism comes from those measures there. Not simply the jingoist flag waving.”
The Belfast Agreement has survived almost 25 years despite objections to some parts of it, Northern Ireland’s former First Minister said.
The peace agreement brokered in 1998 saw the establishment of the powersharing Assembly at Stormont which remains in place today despite being unable to fully function in a stalemate over the Brexit Protocol.
Lord Trimble, who attended the unveiling of a new portrait of him at Queen’s University today, told the PA news agency: “The Good Friday Agreement is something which everybody in Northern Ireland has been able to agree with, it doesn’t mean they agree with everything, there are aspects which some people thought were a mistake, but the basic thing is that this was agreed.
“That is there. People are actually not throwing the agreement to pieces, their complaints are still based on the existence of the agreement. They are not saying ‘throw it out’, so that’s the thing to bear in mind.”
Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has told the Commons that in the protocol, it is “clear” that if it does not work, it will be changed in whole or in part.
He told MPs: “The reason why we ended up getting locked down in these original negotiations and ending in this position is because it was seen as a stick to beat the dog. The dog was Brexit Britain, and they were going to use it no matter what to make sure that it couldn’t be clean. Well, it’s time to recognise that has to stop. So, I support this bill tonight.”
Making an intervention, SNP MP Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) asked him when he had the “epiphany”, given Sir Iain had told the Commons in October 2019 that “this matter was debated and thrashed to death”.
The former Tory former replied: “I don’t know if he did, I read the protocol.
“In it, it is clear that the protocol if it does not work will be changed in whole or in part. He should have read it.”
He added: “You can change it. That was the whole point about the protocol.”
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told the Commons: “The Northern Ireland Protocol bill seeks to finally and fundamentally reset and restore Northern Ireland’s relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom, given the devastating impact of the protocol on the economic, constitutional, social and political life of Northern Ireland over the last 18 months.”
The MP for Lagan Valley highlighted limits on goods reaching Northern Ireland and criticised a situation which has left MLAs presiding over regulations “over which they have no say”.
Renegotiating the protocol rather than scrapping it is not “beyond the weight and ability of politicians”, ministers have been told.
Labour former minister Hilary Benn said the Bill was “proof if ever it were needed that Brexit is not done” and claimed the UK’s relationship with the EU was currently in “a very, very bad place”.
He added: “I find this very frustrating because you hear (Irish foreign minister) Simon Coveney on the radio when it is put to him the idea of a green lane and he says ‘Well, we have proposed something very similar’.
“Well, why can’t the two parties get on with a negotiation to make this happen?
I mean, heaven forbid if you can negotiate the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, this astonishing achievement... if you can do that, is the Government really incapable with the EU of negotiating for a prawn sandwich to cross the Irish Sea without a lot of accompanying paperwork?
“This cannot be beyond the weight and ability of politicians.”
Plans to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol are a “displacement activity” from negotiating a better deal, ministers have heard.
Conservative former Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith told the Commons that businesses were engaging “in good faith” with the protocol and looking at ways to improve the deal. He added: “Their view is that the need for stability and balance can only be achieved through a negotiated settlement and that they want to preserve the opportunities of the protocol. “They also want to protect the strong position of the Northern Ireland economy, which has now been shown in multiple reports to be performing amongst the best in the country.”
May said the Bill will not achieve its aims and suggested the confidence vote in Boris Johnson’s leadership may have damaged his negotiating position.
She said: “I’m assuming that the aims are either to encourage the DUP into the Northern Ireland executive, or it’s a negotiating tool to bring the EU back round the table.
“On the first of these, so far I have seen no absolutely commitment from the DUP that the executive will be up and running as a result of this Bill.”
She added: “But if the Bill is a negotiating tool, will it actually bring the EU back round the table? Well, so far we have seen no sign of that. Can I just say that actually my experience was that the EU looked very carefully at the political situation in any country.
As I discovered after I had faced a no confidence vote, despite having won ... they then start to ask themselves ‘well, is it really worth negotiating with these people in Government because will they actually be there in any period of time?’, regardless of justification or not for them taking that view.
“But also, actually, I suspect they are saying to themselves why should they negotiate in detail with a Government that shows itself willing to sign an agreement, claim it is a victory and then try to tear part of it up in less than three years’ time.”
Former prime minister May said the Bill would give ministers “extraordinarily sweeping powers”.
She said: “Thinking about this Bill, I actually started off by asking myself three questions: First of all, do I consider this to be legal under international law? Second, will it achieve its aims?
“Third, does it at least maintain the standing of the UK in the eyes of the world? My answer to all three of those questions is ‘no’.
“That is even before we look at the extraordinarily sweeping powers that this Bill would give to ministers.”
She added: “First of all, it is claimed that it is the only way if the necessity argument is to hold this must be the only way to achieve the Government’s desires.
“Yet the Government’s legal position paper itself accepts there are other ways. For example, it says the Government’s preference remains a negotiated outcome.”
May also questioned the argument that a legal principle of necessity allows for the UK Government’s plans, describing the Bill as going against international law.
She told MPs: “Necessity suggests urgent. Imminent peril is the phrase that is used. There is nothing urgent about this Bill.
“It has not been introduced as emergency legislation. It’s likely to take not weeks but months to get through Parliament.”
She added: “So, my answer to all those ... the question of whether this is legal under international law, is for all of the above reasons, no, it is not.”
Theresa May says NI protocol bill will 'diminish standing of UK in eyes of the world'
Theresa May said she could not support the Bill, saying it will “diminish” the UK in the eyes of the world.
She told the Commons: “The UK’s standing in the world, our ability to convene and encourage others in the defence of our shared values, depends on the respect others have for us as a country, a country that keeps its word, and displays those shared values in its actions.
“As a patriot, I would not want to do anything that would diminish this country in the eyes of the world.
I have to say to the Government, this Bill is not, in my view, legal in international law, it will not achieve its aims, and it will diminish the standing of the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world, and I cannot support it.”
Theresa May tells MPs: 'I do not welcome this Bill'
Former prime minister Theresa May told MPs: “I do not welcome this Bill.”
The Conservative MP said: “I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate on this Bill, although I have to say to the lone minister sitting on the frontbench that I do not welcome this Bill.
“I fully understand and indeed share the Government’s desire to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. I understand and share the desire to keep the Union of the UK.
“I recognise the frustration and difficulty when the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive are not in place and operating, and I also share the Government’s desire to get that Assembly and Executive back operating for the good of the people of Northern Ireland, but I do not believe that this Bill is the way to achieve those aims.”
The DUP should reserve its anger for ministers responsible for the Northern Ireland Protocol, not those criticising plans to scrap it, MPs have heard.
As Conservative chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Simon Hoare criticised the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill while DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson intervened to say there was a “democratic deficit” in Northern Ireland as a result of the current post-Brexit arrangements. Sir Jeffrey added: “Many of the laws that now regulate how we trade with the rest of the United Kingdom are made by a foreign entity over which we have no say whatsoever. “Our VAT rates are set by that foreign entity. No taxation without representation. I don’t need to be bribed to ask for what is the right of my people: Democracy. Democracy.” Hoare replied that he had “some sympathy” with the argument, but added: “I am tempted to say to him, don’t shout at me, shout at the ministers who advocated the protocol and that we should sign it all.”
Labour shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said he believes there is a “better way forward” than triggering Article 16.
DUP MP Ian Paisley (North Antrim) asked Lammy if he believes Article 16 should be triggered and triggered now.
Lammy said: “This Opposition thinks that there is a better way forward through negotiation, but at least the proposition he suggests is legal.”
Responding to another intervention about discussions he has had with the DUP and Labour’s solutions, he added: “The DUP, in our discussions, has consistently said that they wanted a negotiation settlement until this Bill was published today.”
Paisley asked: “Is it in order for the shadow secretary of state to indicate that he has had negotiations with the Democrat Unionist Party when no such negotiations have taken place?”
The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill risks “shredding” the UK’s reputation as a guardian of international law, ministers have been warned.
Conservative chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Simon Hoare said: “It is not a well-thought out Bill, it is not a good Bill, it is not a constitutional Bill.
“The integrity of the United Kingdom can only be changed by the Good Friday Agreement. The protocol and trading arrangements does not interrupt or change the constitutional integrity of the UK, so for those who try to position this as a constitutional Bill, I don’t agree with them.”
He added: “I think this Bill is a failure of statecraft and it puts at risk the reputation of the United Kingdom.
“The arguments supporting it are flimsy at best, and irrational at worst.
“How in the name of heaven can we expect to speak to others with authority, when we ourselves shun at a moment’s notice our legal obligations?”
Labour shadow foreign secretary David Lammy told MPs the government is “taking a wrecking ball to its own agreement”.
He made reference to remarks by Boris Johnson almost three years ago and said: “(The Prime Minister) reassured us that above all we and our European friends have preserved the letter and the spirit of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.
“His deal, he argued, was in perfect conformity with the Good Friday Agreement.
Today, 18 months after it came into force, the Government is taking a wrecking ball to its own agreement.”
Labour MP Chris Bryant has criticised foreign secretary Liz Truss for not listening to the other speeches:
On Radio 4’s PM programme Lord Darroch, the former UK ambassador to the US, said he was opposed to the Northern Ireland protocol bill because he thought it was illegal. He said:
I don’t think that it’s consistent with international law, I don’t think it’s going to help us find an outcome to our issues with the European Union. Lawyers whose opinions I trust say it’s illegal ...
I’m far from convinced that the negotiating track has been fully exploited.
I’m far from convinced that the government should be giving the DUP a veto on the whole process and I think that the way that you preserve all the gains of the Good Friday agreement is to continue negotiating with the European Commission and behind them the member states, and trying to improve the proposals they put on the table.
That’s all from me for today. My colleague Nadeem Badshah is now taking over.
Lammy says the Hansard Society has said the bill gives extraordinary powers to ministers to rewrite law. He is referring to the analysis in this document, and in the Twitter thread starting here.
He says the bill amounts to “brazen executive over-reach”.
MPs should vote against it, he says.
Mark Francois (Con) asks Lammy if he has read the Good Friday agreement. And, if so, what does he say about the clause allowing it to be amended?
Lammy says Francois should know that this is too serious a matter for someone like him to have come to the house without having spent the weekend working on this. Of course he has read it, he says.
'Hypocrisy is corrosive to our foreign policy', says Lammy
Lammy says the Foreign Office, under Liz Truss has repeatedly urged countries like Iran and China and Russia to stand by their international obligations. He goes on:
In just the last fortnight the Foreign Office under [Truss’s] leadership has publicly called on Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nicaragua, South Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia to meet their international obligations.
Madam Deputy Speaker, hypocrisy is corrosive to our foreign policy, and I know members from across the house share these concerns.
In response to an intervention from Chris Bryant (Lab), Lammy says MPs call themselves honourable. He goes on:
That means something. It’s something about the integrity of this place. And it’s something about the pre-eminent position that this parliament, and this country, finds itself in on matters of international affairs. And that’s why this moment is such a very sombre moment.
He cites legal experts saying this bill is illegal.
Lammy says the bill breaks international law.
The government has chosen not to use article 16, the mechanism in the protocol that enables one side to unilaterally disapply parts of it.
He says the government is relying on the doctrine of necessity to justify what it is doing. That is only supposed to be used in dire circumstances.
But no one can argue that the need to equalise VAT rates, which is one of the arguments being used for the bill by the government, is the sort of problem that puts the state in grave peril, and would justify the doctrine of necessity.
Joanna Cherry (SNP) intervenes. She points out that, when these sorts of points are put to ministers, they have no reply to them.
Lammy says Tory MPs argued the situation in Ukraine was so serious that it was not the right time to change prime minister.
But they are not arguing that the Ukraine crisis is serious enough to stop the UK starting a diplomatic war with its closest allies.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, says he gave “a lot of time” to waiting for negotiations with the EU to work. But they didn’t. Will Labour go to the EU and say they need to change?
Lammy says he has made that case to the EU. And he did again in a speech last week, he says.
Sir Bernard Jenkin (Con), says his father (the Tory cabinet minister Patrick Jenkin) was almost blown up in the Grand Hotel in Brighton. He understands Labour’s commitment to the Good Friday agreement. But what can the government do if the EU will not renegotiate?
Lammy says trust is at an all-time low. He suggests this bill will make it worse.
Sir John Redwood (Con) says under the the protocol the EU is meant to respect the primacy of the Good Friday and respect the UK single market. It is doing neither. What would Labour do to force them to change their approach?
Negotiate, says Lammy. That is what the government should do, he says.
David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, is opening now for Labour.
He says that less than three years ago Boris Johnson told MPs he had reached an agreement what would support the Good Friday agreement.
Ian Paisley (DUP) asks what Labour thinks about triggering article 16.
Lammy says Labour thinks it would be better to find a negotiated settlement. But at least triggering article 16 would be legal, he says.
Sir Edward Leigh (Con) asks what the DUP told Labour about its attitute to the problem.
Lammy says, until this bill was published, the DUP indicated to Labour that it favoured a negotiated solution.
Paisley intervenes again. He says the DUP has not held negotiations with Labour.
Truss is winding up.
She says the government wants a better relationship with the EU, so that they can both focus on the threat from Russia.
This bill will “restore the balance between the communities [in Northern Ireland] and uphold the Belfast/Good Friday agreement”, she says.
Simon Hoare, the Conservative chair of the Commons Northern Ireland committee, says he is concerned about Truss’s reply to Benn. (See 4.57pm.) She seemed to be implying that people with concerns about the bill, who include some Conservatives, are not patriots.
Truss says she was explaining why she supports Brexit now when she campaigned against it.
Hilary Benn (Lab) says when Truss campaigned for remain in 2016 she cannot have imagined she would ever be doing this. He says the government has not been able to give a single example of the UK abrogating another treaty like this that it has signed.
The reason I’m putting his bill forward is because I’m a patriot and a democrat, and our number one priority is protecting peace and stability in Northern Ireland and protecting the Good Friday agreement.
Back in the Commons Truss says the government considered triggering article 16 as an alternative to the bill.
But article 16 (a provision in the protocol allowing one side to suspend elements of it in exceptional problem) would not provide a solution, she says.
She says the government has not ruled out using it in the future.
This is from Matthew O’Toole, an SDLP MLA, on Truss’s speech.
Truss says the government is legislating because all other options have been exhausted.
Other treaties are renegotiated the whole time, she says. She says the EU and the UK are currently renegotiating the energy charter treaty.
But the EU has said it will not renegotiate the protocol.
It has put forward reform proposals. But they would make the situation worse, she claims.
Mark Francois, the Tory Brexiter, says the bill will uphold the Good Friday agrement. That is why Lord Trimble, one of the architects of the Good Friday agrement, is one of its biggest supporters, he says.
Truss says Francois is absolutely right.
Chris Bryant (Lab) asks which body will decide whether or not this bill is legal.
Truss says the government has published its legal case.
The opposition does not have an alternative, she claims.
Truss says the role of the European court of justice in the way the protocol operates has been cited by unionists as the cause of a democratic deficit. This is not a hypothetical issue, she says.
Passage of NI protocol bill through parliament expected to lead to power sharing being restored, says Truss
Sir Bob Neill (Con), the chair of the Commons justice committee, asks when the government will publish the evidence base showing that the doctrine of necessity has been met. He implies that he needs to see this before he can reach a judgment on the bill.
Truss says there are severe problems in Northern Ireland. The institutions are not up and running, she says.
Asked what assurances she has had from the DUP that they will let power sharing resume if the bill is passed, Truss says it is the government’s expectation that “the passage of this bill will result in the institutions being re established”.
UPDATE: Neill said:
I know that the government has been working hard to assemble that evidential base, but can she tell us as to when that evidential base is going to be available to the house, so that we can form a judgment as to whether or not those legal tests are met, and that therefore proportionality and necessity is actually met. It would be very helpful to have that, perhaps, before we come to a conclusion on the bill.
And Truss replied:
There are clearly very, very severe issues in Northern Ireland, including the fact that the institutions in Northern Ireland aren’t up and running, which means that the UK has to act and cannot allow this situation to drift.
I don’t think we have heard from the opposition about what their alternative would be, apart from simply hoping that the EU might suddenly negotiate or come up with a new outcome.
NI protocol bill 'breaks treaty, trashes our international reputation' and risks trade war, says former Tory chief whip
Truss is now summarising the bill’s provisions.
Andrew Mitchell, the former international development secretary and former Tory chief whip, says he has a great deal of sympathy with Truss’s position. But, he goes on:
Many of us are extremely concerned that the bill brazenly breaks a solemn international treaty, trashes our international reputation, threatens a trade war at a time when our economy is flat and puts us at odds with our most important ally. Can she say anything to reassure me in my anxieties on these points?
Truss says the government would like to reach an agreement with the EU, but it will not compromise.
Our preference is for a negotiated solution and we have sought a negotiated solution for 18 months, but as recently as last weekend the EU have refused to change the text of the protocol.
That is why there’s strong legal justification, as set out in our legal statement, for us taking this action because our priority as the United Kingdom government has to be political stability within our own country.
Joanna Cherry (SNP), a QC, says the government has used the “doctrine of necessity” to justify what it is doing on legal grounds. But the International Law Commission says this cannot be used when a state itself contributed to the problem. In this case the UK did, she says, because it signed the protocol knowing the problems it would create.
Truss says the doctrine of necessity has been used in the past where there is a severe problem and the other side will not renegotiate. She says the EU is not willing to reopen the treaty.
Liz Truss says Northern Ireland protocol bill is 'both necessary and legal' as she opens debate
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, opens the debate by saying the Northern Ireland protocol bill is designed to protect the Good Friday agreement.
Growing problems with the protocol are baked into it, she says.
But the EU has ruled out reasonable changes to it, she says.
John Redwood, the Tory Brexiter, asks Truss to confirm that this “very moderate” bill is “completely legal”.
Truss says the bill is “both necessary and legal”.
The government has published a summary saying why it is legal, she says.
Many legal experts have criticised the Northern Ireland protocol bill. With the debate about to start, here is the start of a new Twitter thread criticising it, from Michael Doughan, professor of European law at the University of Liverpool.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has given a Commons statement to mark the publication of the draft mental health bill. He told MPs it would address a number of “alarming issues” with the way the current Mental Health Act is used.
Since the 1983 Act, our understanding and our attitude towards mental health has transformed beyond recognition. And it’s right that we act now to bring this up to date.
The Mental Health Act was created so that people who have severe mental illnesses and present a risk to themselves or others can be safely detained and treated for their own protection, and for the protection of those around them.
But there are a number of alarming issues with the way that the act is currently used: too many people are being detained. They are being detained for too long. And there are also inequalities amongst those that are detained.
Irish PM says NI protocol bill is fresh evidence of worrying 'trend towards unilateralism' by UK
At the G7 summit Boris Johnson said there had not been a row about the Northern Ireland protocol summit (see 10.15am). He said there had been “little” talk about it, even though three EU countries are in the G7 (Germany, France, and Italy), the US takes a close interest in Northern Ireland and two EU leaders - the commission president and the council president - get to attend too. All these parties have expressed concern or opposition to the UK bill.
Responding to Johnson’s comment, Micheál Martin, the taoiseach (Irish PM) said that if Johnson thought this did not mean the legislation would cause a major diplomatic incident, he was wrong. Johnson’s assessment “doesn’t stack up”, Martin said. He went on:
Any unilateral decision to breach international law is a major serious development. There can be no getting out of that. One cannot trivialise the breaching of an international agreement between the UK government and the EU.
My concern is a trend towards unilateralism that is emanating from the UK government. We had it on the protocol, we had it on legacy issues, we have it now in terms of the application of the decision of European court of human rights in Strasbourg in terms of domestic British law.
We know that the Good Friday agreement incorporates protections under the human rights convention and that is something we will keep a close eye on. I have been in touch with the president of the European Commission and the president of the European Council, and they are concerned about this.
Earlier Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, released this statement about the bill.
DUP will consider returning to power-sharing after Northern Ireland protocol bill passes Commons, Donaldson says
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, has said that his party will consider returning to power-sharing in the Northern Ireland executive once the Northern Ireland protocol bill passes the Commons. It has been boycotting powersharing while the protocol, in its current form, remains in place.
At a briefing with journalists he said:
I have made clear that we will be condition-led, not calendar-led, and that we want to see real progress with this bill [before the DUP returns to power-sharing], and that’s our message today to the House of Commons.
After the bill passed the Common the DUP would “consider what steps we can take”, he said.
Donaldson also claimed that if peers blocked the bill (see 10.15am), they would be wercking the Good Friday agreement. He said: “If the House of Lords seeks to wreck the bill, then they need to understand they are wrecking the Good Friday agreement as well.”
A summit on improving access to abortion services has been “constructive” and “helpful”, Nicola Sturgeon has said. PA Media reports:
The first minister convened the summit in Edinburgh in order to ensure women in Scotland can access services without fear, harassment or intimidation.
Representatives from local government, third sector organisations, Police Scotland, the NHS and campaigners were brought together, in addition to cross-party representation.
Discussions were held over the options available for legislative mechanisms to establish buffer zones around clinics in response to anti-abortion vigils taking place as women attend to access services.
The first minister said there was “no doubt” that the long-term solution was to introduce national legislation, though she said there was a need to get the balance right for such action to withstand “inevitable” challenges from European human rights legislation.
She added that there is “work to be done” over short-term solutions, with local authorities indicating at Tuesday’s summit a willingness to work with the Scottish government in exploring the use of local bye-laws.
The most recent ONS figures put the coronavirus infection rate in Scotland at one in 20. The SNP MP Amy Callaghan says she is one of those with the virus.
Dominic Cummings may not approve (see 2.51pm), but Boris Johnson’s stance on Ukraine is popular in leading developed countries. A poll of people living in G7 countries suggests the UK is seen as the member of the group that has responded best to the crisis, the pollster James Johnson reports.
Letting Russia win in Ukraine would be ‘absolutely chilling’, says Boris Johnson
At the G7 summit today Boris Johnson has been arguing forcefully that, even though support for Ukraine and sanctions are hurting consumers in the west, it is a price worth paying - not just morally, but economically too. He said:
But just in terms of staying the course, imagine if we didn’t. Imagine if we allowed Putin to get away with the violent acquisition of huge chunks of another country, a sovereign independent territory – the lessons for that would be absolutely chilling in all of the countries of the former Soviet Union. In terms of the economic effects, that would mean long-term instability, and anxiety across the world ...
Just remember, it took the democracies in the middle of the last century a long time to recognise that they had to resist tyranny and aggression. It was very expensive.
But what it bought in the end, with the defeat of the dictators, particularly of Nazi Germany, it bought decades and decades of stability, a world order that relied on a rules-based international system. And that is worth protecting, that is worth defending, and that delivers long-term prosperity.
My colleague Peter Walker has the story in full here.
Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser, originally fell out with his then boss over Covid policy. (Cummings was more pro-lockdown than Johnson.) Now Cummings believes Johnson is mistaken on Ukraine too. He has described Johnson’s staunch anti-Putinism as “JCR-style politics”.
From the Mirror’s Pippa Crerar
This morning, ahead of the Commons debate on the Northern Ireland protocol bill, Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, held the first of what are being described by the Foreign Office as “structured engagements” (or meetings, as they are more commonly called) with the business community to discuss implementation of the bill. The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Asda, John Lewis and the Dairy Council NI were among the groups attending today.
Lord Garnier, a Tory peer and a former solicitor general, has joined those calling on government ministers to orchestrate a coup against Boris Johnson. In a letter to the Times, he says cabinet ministers are not likely to do this, but junior ministers might. He says:
It therefore needs ministers of state and parliamentary under-secretaries to do what the cabinet cannot or will not do in order to bring about change at the top. They and several coming along behind them are the future of the Conservative party in government and parliament. The future needs to be grasped.
There is now quite a list of Tories have been been saying something similar. Damian Green, the former first secretary of state, used an article in the Sunday Telegraph to call for a cabinet uprising against Johnson. William Wragg, the Conservative chair of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, told Radio 4’s Westminster Hour last night.
The sense of disappointment that there is on the backbenches towards the Cabinet is palpable because you would have expected for some of them at least to show a bit of backbone and indeed leadership. Indeed any of them with leadership aspirations might wish to consider this and do something about it.
Former party leaders William Hague and Michael Howard, and the former foreign secretary Sir Malcom Rifkind, have also urged cabinet ministers to act.
But there is no evidence yet that this chorus of support for a cabinet revolt is having an effect. Oliver Dowden resigned as co-chair of the Conservative party around dawn on Friday morning, after the two byelection defeats, but no one else has left the government since then.
Yesterday Emmanuel Macron, the French president, met Boris Johnson for a bilateral at the G7. He claimed afterwards that that Johnson expressed an interest in the “European political community”, a concept Macron is promoting that involve the creation of an EU outer circle, that would allow EU countries to hold talks with other European countries applying to join, as well as those choosing to stay out. Macron’s comment implies Johnson left him thinking the UK might sign up.
According to the Telegraph’s Tony Diver, if Macron did come away with that impression, he joins the long queue of people who have mistakenly taken something said by Johnson at face value. Diver reports:
Sources close to the prime minister said it was very unlikely that the UK would sign up to Mr Macron’s European political community, which is designed to encourage diplomatic co-operation between states and could involve increased freedom of movement ...
An Elysee Palace spokesman on Sunday reported that Mr Johnson had expressed “beacoup d’enthousiasme” about the group despite concerns it would undermine the UK’s political freedom from Europe after Brexit ...
But a member of the UK delegation told The Telegraph that the prime minister’s reaction was “not a meaningful endorsement” of the idea and “more like a deflection”, and that the pair had only chatted briefly about it at the end of their meeting.
No 10 rejects claim online harms bill will make some speech that is legal offline impossible online
Here are the main lines from the Downing Street lobby briefing.
- Downing Street rejected a claim from Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, that the online harms bill makes speech that is legal offline effectively illegal online. Frost, who regularly criticises the government for doing things he considers unConservative, issued the comment alongside a thinktank report criticising the bill.
Asked if Frost was right to say the bill effectively makes speech that is legal offline illegal online, the No 10 spokesperson said:
We would not agree with that. There is no requirement in the bill for internt companies to remove or moderate legal content accessed by adults. All it does is put requirements on the largest social media sites to be clear in their terms and conditions about how they deal with specific types of content that legal but harmful to adults, and then consistently apply those terms and conditions.
- No 10 urged criminal barristers who are taking strike action to accept the proposed increase in legal aid fees. The spokesperson said:
The justice secretary himself has said we encourage them to agree the proposed 15% pay rise which would see a typical barrister earn around £7,000 a year more, so our message would be similar. We urge those barristers to take that pay offer and ensure that victims don’t have to wait any longer for justice than they already have.
- The spokesperson said the government was setting aside three days for the Northern Ireland protocol bill to be debated line by line by MPs. The bill will get its second reading this afternoon. Normally, after second readings, bills then get considered by a small group of MPs in committee, but bills with constitutional implications are considered by a committee of the whole house, and that will happen with this bill. The dates for these debates have not yet been announced. Asked if the government was committed to passing the bill by the end of the year, the spokeperson said:
We have never put a hard target date on it, but we want to pass it as quickly as possible to address the many issues we know the protocol is causing to people on the ground.
- The spokesperson said Johnson continued to believe that now was not the time for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
- The spokesperson played down suggestions that people should be concerned about the rise in the number of Covid infections. Cases were rising because of two Omicron sub-variants, the spokesperson said. But he went on: “So far vaccination means that those rising cases have not translated into a rise in severe illness or death, with no increase in ICU admission.”
There will be a Commons statement at 3.30pm from Sajid Javid, the health secretary, on the draft mental health bill. That means the debate on the Northern Ireland protocol bill will not start until about 4.30pm.
More rail strikes will be held this week in worsening disputes over issues including pay, jobs and conditions, PA Media reports. PA says:
Members of the drivers’ union Aslef on the Croydon Tramlink will strike on Tuesday and Wednesday over pay.
The walkout follows three days of strike action last week on the railways and a 24-hour stoppage on London Underground which crippled services.
Aslef said FirstGroup, the company which operates Tramlink on behalf of Transport for London, has offered tram drivers a 3% pay rise.
Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser on Croydon Tramlink and London Underground, said: “This would mean a real terms wage cut for people already struggling to deal with rising fuel, energy and food bills.
“Our members do a difficult and demanding job, working round the clock shifts over 364 days of the year. They deserve a fair pay settlement.”
Sinn Féin has restated its opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol bill being debated by MPs this afternoon. The Sinn Féin MP John Finucane told Radio Ulster:
It’s very interesting that we are watching a sovereign parliament debating whether to continue a breach of international law or not.
As I’ve said, and I think as many others have said, on numerous occasions, the introduction of this bill is shameful. It provides nothing but more instability, especially for people here, especially for our industries and sectors here.
So the British government seem to be tone deaf to the majority of the wishes of people here in continuing to push ahead with this legislation.
Boris Johnson restated his commitment to levelling up this morning. (See 12.03pm.) But a new report from the Resolution Foundation underlines quite what a challenge this will be. Using data showing how average incomes at local authority level have changed since 1997, it says inequalities have been persistent and that over the last 25 years overall change has been limited. It says:
We begin by showing that income differences at the local authority level are substantial. In 2019, before housing costs income per person in the richest local authority – Kensington and Chelsea (£52,451) – was 4.5 times that of the poorest – Nottingham (£11,708). These outliers clearly paint an extreme picture, but even when we compare incomes at the 75th and the 25th percentiles the differences remain significant. In 2019, for example, Oxford had an average per person income that was more than 20 per cent higher than Torbay (£18,700, compared with £15,372). More critically, the income gaps between places are enduring: the differences we observe in 1997 explain 80 per cent of the variation in average local authority income per person 22 years on. This means, for example, that the average income per person in Hammersmith and Fulham has stubbornly been two-to-three times higher than in Burnley for more than two decades.
But the paper also says the factors driving income inequality between places have changed. For example, it says there is more variation now than in the past between the amount people receive in investment income in rich areas and the amount people receive from investment income in poor areas.
Commenting on the findings, Lindsay Judge, research director at the thinktank, said:
Britain is beset by huge economic gaps between different parts of the country, and has been for many decades. While progress has been made in reducing employment gaps, this been offset by a surge in investment income among better-off families in London and the south-east.
People care about these gaps and want them closed, as does the government via its ‘levelling up’ strategy. The key to closing these gaps is to boost the productivity of our major cities outside London, which will also lead to stronger growth overall.
Johnson says Tory confidence vote in his leadership gave him 'new mandate' for his reform agenda
Boris Johnson has again rejected the idea of standing down despite intense political pressure from some Conservative MPs, arguing that this month’s confidence vote had given him “a new mandate”, which he intended to use.
Interviewed by the BBC’s Chris Mason, Johnson dismissed the idea that he might simply be tempted to walk away from the job, saying:
Driving a massive, massive agenda for change is a huge, huge privilege to do. And nobody abandons a privilege like that.
The mandate that the electorate gave us in 2019, there hasn’t been a mandate like it for the Conservative party for 40 years, it’s a mandate to change the country, to unite and to level up, and that’s what we’re going to do.
The PM did, however, dodge a follow-up question about whether, as he claimed over the weekend, he was hoping to win two more elections and govern into the 2030s, saying only that he aimed to continue with his “massive agenda”.
Asked if he even had the authority to deliver any change, Johnson referred to the confidence vote, in which 41% of his MPs wanted him to go:
I’ve got a new mandate from my party which I’m absolutely delighted with … it’s done.
Continuing his pattern of recent days, Johnson made vague pledges to listen more on areas like the cost of living, and to “humbly accept those criticisms”, but also resisted attempts to discuss if, or how, he planned to change as a prime minister. He said:
I think the job of government is to get on with governing, and to resist the blandishments of the media, no matter how brilliant, to talk about politics, to talk about ourselves.
Johnson again mixed the minor contrition with a bullish defence of his record, saying he was “very proud of the great things that we’ve done”, and that others should agree. He said:
I think most fair minded people, looking at how the UK came through Covid, around the world most people would say, actually fair play to them. They got the first vaccine into people’s arms, and they had the fastest vaccine rollout. Actually, they’ve got pretty low unemployment. They’ve got investment flooding into their country, they have got a lot of things going for them.
Yesterday Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, told the BBC that, if the Stormont executive was not revived soon, he would consider legislating to cut the pay of MLAs (members of the legislative assembly). This is something the government did when the power-sharing executive was last suspended between 2017 and 2020.
The executive is not sitting because the DUP won’t participate until the Northern Ireland protocol is changed. The DUP won’t even allow the assembly to elect a Speaker, which is necessary for it to sit.
This morning Edwin Poots, the DUP agriculture minister, said that the threat of a pay cut would not make his party lift its boycott of the executive. He said:
I’m working six days a week most weeks, so personally I have no issue about taking pay, but if Brandon Lewis wants to cut pay, bring it on - that’s entirely up to him.
That will have no bearing whatsoever on the position that we’re adopting. None whatsoever. We are standing on a principle. Therefore, pay will not be an issue that will detract us from achieving what we’ve set out to achieve.
Westminster taking 'wrecking ball' to idea of UK as voluntary partnership of nations, Sturgeon says
Westminster is “taking a wrecking ball” to the idea of the United Kingdom as a voluntary partnership of nations, Nicola Sturgeon has said. As PA Media reports, Scotland’s first minister said the Conservative government is trying to deny the “democratic right” of people in Scotland to choose their future. Sturgeon made the comment ahead of a statement she will make to the Scottish parliament tomorrow setting out her plans for a second referendum on Scotland’s future in the UK.
Westminster is taking a wrecking ball to the idea of the United Kingdom as a voluntary partnership of nations.
A Tory government with just six MPs from Scotland, supported on this issue by Labour, is seeking to deny the democratic right of the people of Scotland to choose their own future.
In doing so, they are demonstrating beyond doubt that, in place of a voluntary partnership, they believe the UK is instead defined by Westminster control.
The case for a referendum is therefore now as much a Scottish democracy movement as a Scottish independence movement.
Johnson claims Northern Ireland protocol bill could become law by end of year
This afternoon MPs will debate the second reading of the Northern Ireland protocol bill. In his BBC News interview, Boris Johnson claimed the legislation - that will allow the UK government to abandon large parts of the protocol, in what critics argue is a clear breach of international law - could become law by the end of the year.
Asked if the measures could be in place this year, he replied: “Yes, I think we could do it very fast, parliament willing.”
Johnson claimed it would be “even better” if the European Union agreed to the changes to the protocol requested by the UK, which would make the legislation unnecessary.
Many parliamentarians believe it will take much longer to pass the Northern Ireland protocol bill because it could be blocked by the House of Lords, where the government does not have a majority and where peers (who see themselves as guardians of the constitution) are particularly alarmed about the way the legislation contravenes an international treaty the UK signed. (The government claims an emergency opt-out in international law makes this justified, but most independent lawyers believe this argument is bogus.)
Normally the House of Lords accepts legislation passed by the Commons, and there is a convention saying it should never vote down a measure included in the governing party’s election manifesto. But in this case peers would feel justified in rejecting the bill because the Northern Ireland protocol (which the bill rips up) was part of the “oven-ready” Brexit deal at the heart of Johnson’s election offer in 2019.
If the Lords were to vote down the bill, the government would have to pass it using the Parliament Act, which would hold it up for another year.
In his interview Johnson also said the bill was not generating a row at the G7 summit.
EU leaders all believe the bill is against international law, and is a breach of faith by the UK, and Washington has serious concerns about it too. But Johnson said: “The interesting thing is how little this conversation [about the NI protocol] is being had, certainly here.”
Johnson welcomes 'amazing consistency' of G7's resolve to support Ukraine
Boris Johnson has reiterated his warnings at the G7 summit about “Ukraine fatigue”, while insisting that he believes the gathering of world leaders will remain united on the issue.
In an interview with BBC News, Johnson said there had been concern about “the anxieties of other countries around the world about the continuing war, the effect on food prices, on energy prices”. He continued:
And what’s really struck me in the last couple of days has been the amazing consistency of our resolve, the continuing unity of the G7 – that has really shone through in the conversations.
I think there’s a reason for that. The logic of the position is still so clear – there is no deal that President Zelenskiy can really do. In those circumstances, the G7 supporters of Ukraine around the world have to continue to help the Ukrainians to rebuild their economy, to get their grain out. And of course, we have to help them to protect themselves. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
Zelenskiy is to address the G7 virtually later on Monday while Johnson, for whom the summit is something of a respite from political woes at home, will push the same message again at the Nato summit in Madrid, which begins on Wednesday.
Eustice claims PM's third term comment was his way of saying 'he's got a lot he wants to do'
George Eustice, the environment secretary, has been giving interviews this morning, and he has defended Boris Johnson’s comment at the weekend about planning for his third term in office. Using a formula often wheeled out by politicians expected to perform gaffe repair on behalf of a colleague, Eustice claimed that what Johnson actually meant to say was something a bit different. He told Times Radio:
I think what the prime minister was really saying is he’s got a lot that he wants to do. There’s a lot going on in the world that he’s focused on, and he doesn’t want to get distracted by these sorts of discussions.
Yes, he’d like to go on and on. But to be honest, we also understand that we’ve got a lot of hurdles to clear before we get to that point.
Johnson claims he is not worried about Tory MPs plotting against him because leadership issue now 'settled'
Boris Johnson has said that he considers the Conservative party leadership issue now “settled”. Speaking to reporters at the G7 summit in Germany this morning, he was asked if he was worried about Tory MPs plotting to remove him. He replied:
No. We settled that a couple of weeks ago.
What I’m focused on, and what we’re doing is getting on with, number one, all the stuff we’re doing to help people with the cost of living in the short term, using the fiscal firepower we have, with £1,200 for eight million of the most vulnerable households, £400 to help everybody, £300 for pensioners, cutting council tax – all the things that we’re doing in cash terms to help people through the current inflationary spike in the cost of, particularly, energy.
But also getting on with the agenda for our plan for a stronger economy, reforming our supply side in energy, transport, housing, all the things that matter to people. And then the general government agenda, levelling up the country and delivering on our programme.
David Davis urges fellow anti-Johnson Tories to let PM stay for a year to avoid paralysing government
Good morning. Boris Johnson has been out of the country now for most of the last week but, as is often the case when a PM goes abroad to focus on international affairs, a domestic crisis remains a distraction. The two byelection defeats last week turbocharged (as they would say in No 10) Conservative party opposition to Johnson and his critics have been working on plans to get a slate of MPs elected to the executive of the 1922 Committee before the summer recess so they can change the rules, and allow a second no confidence vote to go ahead before next year.
But there was good news this morning for Johnson when David Davis, the former Brexit secretary who has already publicly called for Johnson to quit, declared that he was opposed to the rules being changed. Having won the confidence vote, Johnson should be allowed to remain in office unchallenged for another year, Davis said.
Davis stressed that he had not changed his mind about Johnson’s performance as PM. But a rule changing would set a bad precedent, because it would paralyse government decision making, he said.
Whether it’s Boris or anybody else, dealing with stagflation is going [to require] some really difficult decisions. Do you want a leader, whoever it is, looking over his shoulder every month at this tax increase or whatever?
So no, I don’t want the rules changed. I don’t think they will change either.
Davis said that meant Johnson had a year to show that he could deliver on the promises he had made, and he said the key requirement was for the government to start cutting taxes.
I campaigned in 16 rebel seats and in Wakefield. I got the same thing coming at me every time. ‘We expect you to be a low tax party. We are not seeing that any more.’ We got to the highest tax take in history last year.
When it was put to Davis that the government did not have an agreed post-Brexit economic plan, he replied.
We don’t really have an agreed economic plan full stop.
I have people, working-class voters in council estates, saying you’re not behaving like a Conservative government. You’re not Conservative. That is a terrible thing to have to face down if you are running the country.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9am: The G7 summit in Germany, which Boris Johnson is attending, starts with an address from Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president. During the day, as well as attending sessions on climate, energy and health policy, and on food security and gender equality, Johnson is recording an interview with the BBC’s Chris Mason, and holding a meeting with the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, holds a summit on setting up abortion buffer zones outside abortion clinics.
1.30pm: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.
2.30pm: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, takes questions in the Commons.
3pm: Kate Forbes, the Scottish government’s finance minister, gives evidence to the Commons Scottish affairs committee.
After 3.30pm: Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, opens the second reading debate on the Northern Ireland protocol bill.
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