Boris Johnson says he will still be prime minister in October as Partygate overshadows India trip – politics live | Politics

Boris Johnson says he will still be prime minister in October

Johnson is taking questions now. He’s asked if he will even still be prime minister by Diwali. “Yes,” he replies. The question, in its substance is repeated, And Johnson tells reporters he believes he has covered the questions on his moral probity already.

We reported just now on Burns’ comments this morning on the Northern Ireland protocol. Here’s what the prime minister had to say about it during his press conference in India:

The protocol really does not command the confidence of a large, large component of the population in Northern Ireland. We have to address that, we have to fix that.

We think we can do it with some very simple and reasonable steps. We have talked repeatedly to our friends and partners in the EU. We will continue to talk to them. But, as I have said many times now, we don’t rule out taking steps now if those are necessary.”

Defending Johnson against such attacks, Burns has said there are some Conservative MPs who never truly accepted the prime minister as their party leader.

There are a number of colleagues across parliament who have never really supported the prime minister. If the prime minister stepped off Westminster Bridge and walked on top of the water they would say he couldn’t swim. That is a fact.

The reality is that it is is only two years ago since we won a majority of 80 seats – the biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987.

What the prime minister is saying is, ‘I led you to that victory, I have got business I want to do.’ What he has also said is that the events in Downing Street and the fine has actually redoubled his determination to rebuild the bonds of trust with the British people.

The Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood is among those calling on his party leader to stand down, saying “we must stop drinking the Kool-Aid” by continuing to support Johnson. The former defence minister has told Sky News:

All MPs are deeply troubled by what the party is now going through and what to do next, given the huge credit you must give to Boris Johnson in bringing the party so far. But we must stop drinking the Kool-Aid that’s encouraging us to think this is all going to disappear and that we can all move on.

We can’t use Ukraine as a fig leaf to dodge those difficult questions – the issue of Partygate continues to distract from both domestic and international issues and is just not going away.

We’re going to see, I’m afraid, a steady trickle of letters, resignations … I predicted that. You listen carefully to the silence of support, and it’s clear that more and more MPs are privately believing that it’s the time that the leadership baton is actually passed on.

Ellwood has said the onus is on Tory MPs to force a change in leadership.

There’s a recognition that every MP now realises it’s up to us to take ownership of this. Because, I’m afraid, the absence of discipline, of focus and leadership in No 10 during that lockdown period has led to a huge breach of trust with the British people.

It’s causing such long-term damage to the party’s brand and that’s proving difficult to repair. Can it be repaired in time for the next general election?

So it’s beholden upon all Conservative MPs, then, to take matters into their own hands. And I think this is where things will go; particularly as we have more bad news to follow.”

Tobias Ellwood, pictured outside the houses of parliament in February
Tobias Ellwood, pictured outside the houses of parliament in February. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

A government minister has issued a fresh warning the UK could unilaterally suspend elements of the deal with the EU governing post-Brexit trading arrangements with Northern Ireland unless Brussels accepts the need for change.

The Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns refused to be drawn on a report by the Financial Times that ministers were preparing legislation giving them sweeping powers to tear up the Northern Ireland protocol in the withdrawal agreement.

However, he claimed the protocol was not working in the way it was intended and the protocol’s articles already granted the government powers to suspend elements of it.

He told LBC radio:

As far back as last July, the prime minister said that we believed that the threshold for triggering article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol had been reached. There is significant societal disruption in Northern Ireland due to the way that the protocol is being implemented.

I hope Brussels are listening to this conversation and other conversations. I hope they will come back to the table constructively to allow us to change the protocol to make it work in the way it was intended.

If they don’t hear that, then the government reserves the right – as we have always said, as laid down in the protocol – to take remedial action.

Addressing the reports, Kyle has told Sky News:

This is absolutely astonishing and incredibly damaging. Boris Johnson negotiated, his team drafted the Northern Ireland protocol; they presented it to the EU, they negotiated it into the deal.

It doesn’t work as well as it can do, that’s why the Labour policy is, you build on it – we can improve the protocol, we can smooth it, and we can do so without breaking the law and breaking our international treaty we signed with the EU.

If we just recklessly pull out of it unilaterally, how will any other country in the world sign a deal with us and think that we will honour it?

How will Prime Minister Modi react today when Boris Johnson asks for a trade deal if he is pulling out unilaterally of the last trade deal he signed?”

We reported earlier that Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle had said the prime minister’s authority is “draining away”. Here’s a little more detail. Kyle has added that the Johnson’s “character flaws” are damaging the way the country is being run. He told Sky News:

[Partygate] fundamentally speaks to his character flaws as a leader: he lies, he is untrustworthy and he is incompetent.

Those same character flaws are the same reason why we have a low-growth economy and a high-tax economy, we have crime at the record levels it is now, and we have seven million people waiting for NHS treatment.

It’s all down to his character flaws, exposed by partygate.

In an intelligence update on the war in Ukraine, the Ministry of Defence has said:

Putin’s decision to blockade the Azovstal steel plant likely indicates a desire to contain Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol and free up Russian forces to be deployed elsewhere in eastern Ukraine.

A full ground assault by Russia on the plant would likely incur significant Russian casualties, further decreasing their overall combat effectiveness.

In the eastern Donbas, heavy shelling and fighting continues as Russia seeks to advance further towards settlements including Krasnyy Lyman, Buhayikva, Barvinkove, Lyman and Popasna as part of their plans for the region.

Despite Russia’s renewed focus they are still suffering from losses sustained earlier in the conflict. In order to try and reconstitute their depleted forces, they have resorted to transiting inoperable equipment back to Russia for repair.”

Ben Quinn

Ben Quinn

Here’s a little more detail on the announcement that the UK is to reopen its embassy in Kyiv.

Since the embassy’s closure in February, the UK has retained a diplomatic presence in Ukraine, but has not been providing in-person consular assistance. The Foreign Office (FCDO) said at that time that the embassy was relocating temporarily and staff were operating from an embassy office in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

However, the embassy is expected to reopen next week after Russian forces were pushed back or withdrawn from the region around Kyiv in the face of Ukrainian resistance. A team of diplomats returning will include Melinda Simmons, the UK ambassador. Johnson said earlier:

The extraordinary fortitude and success of President Zelenskiy in resisting Russian forces in Kyiv means I can announce that very shortly, next week, we will reopen our embassy in Ukraine’s capital city. I want to pay tribute to those British diplomats who remained in the region throughout this period.

Libby Brooks

Libby Brooks

Nicola Sturgeon has called on Scottish voters to “tell the Tories exactly what we think of their antics and their inaction” while promising a “pandemic-level” response to the cost of living crisis.

Launching the SNP’s local council election manifesto in Greenock this morning, Sturgeon promised that “the immediate priority of every SNP councillor elected will be supporting families through the current cost of living crisis – not just in words, but in action”.

Describing decision-making in Westminster as “ideological, deliberate, and harmful” she urged voters to “send the strongest possible message to this corrupt, out-of-touch Tory government”.

The manifesto includes commitments to prioritise expansion of free early years education to all one and two-year-olds – starting with children from low-income households, protecting council tax reduction schemes and starting a new “parental transition fund” to tackle the financial barriers facing parents entering the labour market, as well as a renewed commitment to holding a second independence referendum by the end of 2023.

Here’s a little more background to that question about ensuring no British-made arms end up in Russian hands via India. My colleagues Dan Sabbagh and Heather Stewart write:

Labour has said Boris Johnson should call for ‘urgent action’ from his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, after an influential defence thinktank warned this lunchtime that India was one of a number of major routes for arms-smuggling to Russia.

The warning comes only a few hours after Johnson announced the UK would ease its arms exporting licensing arrangements with New Delhi by issuing an open general export licence to India, meaning separate licences are no longer needed for most arms sales.

Labour’s John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, accused Johnson of going on a ‘vanity trip’ – but said he could use his visit to try and stop the illegal supply of western components highlighted by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) in a report out on Friday.

‘In discussions with Prime Minister Modi today he must press for urgent action to clamp down on weapons parts passing through India and into Russian hands,’ Healey said on the day that Johnson met with Modi in New Delhi. ‘He can use this report to help halt the Russian war in Ukraine.’

The Rusi report, a 26-page overview of Russia’s overall military situation, says western economic sanctions mean Moscow will become increasingly reliant on component-smuggling to ensure its jets, missiles and other high-tech munitions can function. Some components have a dual civilian and military use.

Its authors – Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds – warn that ‘Russia has established mechanisms for laundering these items through third countries’. And they argue India should be subject to specific restrictions.

‘Restricting access, therefore, likely means preventing export to countries such as India of goods that are in some instances used for civilian purposes,’ they write. ‘Moreover, there are myriad companies based around the world, including in the Czech Republic, Serbia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, India and China who will take considerable risks to meet Russia supply requirements.’

That concludes the press conference. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that it was not, in fact a joint statement from the leaders of both the UK and India, as we erroneously reported earlier. Johnson was appearing alone at his own press conference.

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