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Boris Johnson news – live: EU will sanction UK if it breaks Brexit deal as PM under increasing pressure

Johnson denies saying he would rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than enter another lockdown

Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure today after fresh allegations he told aides he would rather let coronavirus “rip” than impose a second lockdown.

Mr Johnson also argued during a government debate in September that lockdowns were “mad” due to the severe impact on the economy, The Times reported.

It comes amid a growing furore after a number of sources were reported to have told how Mr Johnson said he was prepared to let “bodies pile high” rather than order a third shutdown.

The prime minister yesterday described the allegation as “total rubbish”.

Mr Johnson will attempt to quell the revelations over his alleged conduct at a cabinet meeting later today and is expected to tell colleagues to focus on the issues of the day, such as Covid-19 and the economy.

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SNP minister says referendum on Scots re-joining EU could be ‘desirable’

A senior SNP figure has suggested that Scots could be asked if they want Scotland to re-join the EU in a referendum, if the party is successful in securing independence from the UK.

Michael Russell, Scotland’s constitution secretary and SNP president, suggested it could be “desirable” to hold a referendum on EU membership if Scotland were an independent country.

Our reporter, Adam Forrest, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan27 April 2021 12:14
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Johnson has been ‘living it up like a modern day Louis the Sixteenth’ say SNP

The SNP has said Boris Johnson must “come clean” and publish the full details of his flat refurbishment – claiming there was a risk of “money laundering” in the Tory party if donations were found to be used to pay for the work.

SNP Westminster Deputy Leader Kirsten Oswald MP said: “Political parties do not exist to pay for home decor, and it is highly unlikely that this is a legitimate use of people’s donations.

“There will be concerns over Tory money laundering, unless these questions are answered satisfactorily.”

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 11:45
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Opinion: The EU is inadvertently helping Viktor Orban to tighten his grip on power in Hungary

Zsuzsanna Szelényi writes that Viktor Orban met European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen on Friday to discuss his plans to spend 7 billion euros in grants and a 10 billion euro loan that Hungary will receive from the EU’s Reconstruction and Recovery Fund (RRF).

She says: “The funds are supposed to be used to strengthen the EU’s economic and social cohesion, mitigate the impact of the pandemic, and support the green and digital transition.

“But with such high stakes, these heavenly euros are likely to be used by Orban to further cement his power.

“Tellingly, he recently reorganised government portfolios to pull the agency responsible for planning and distributing EU funds into the prime minister’s office.”

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 11:31
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Rennie hits out at ‘freaky arguments’ over Scottish independence

Scotland could face five more years of “freaky arguments” over independence if the SNP gains a majority in next week’s Holyrood election, Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has insisted.

He raised the issue of the constitution as he campaigned in the Scottish Borders, claiming there had been “confusing arguments” from the various pro-independence parties.

The Lib Dem cited comments made by the SNP’s Emma Harper, who had said a border between Scotland and England could create jobs as one example of division amongst independence supporters.

Mr Rennie said: “Emma Harper said borders were a good thing then Nicola Sturgeon insisted they weren’t. Mike Russell (SNP Constitution Secretary) wanted another EU referendum but Alex Salmond (Alba Party leader) didn’t. And to make matters worse Lorna Slater (Scottish Green co-leader) said using the pound would be catastrophic.”

He added: “This is the box of freaky arguments that the country will be subjected to if the nationalists win a majority of seats in the parliament on May 6.”

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 11:16
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EU warns UK faces tough action if it breaches Brexit trade deal as MEPs prepare to approve it

Ursula von der Leyen said the deal has “real teeth”, with a binding dispute resolution mechanism which allowed for “unilateral remedial measures where necessary”.

The Independent’s deputy political editor Rob Merrick reports

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 10:59
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Campaigner loses fight over HS2 work in ancient wood that inspired Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox

An environmental activist fighting to stop construction of the new HS2 railway line through an ancient woodland that inspired the popular children’s author Roald Dahl has lost his High Court battle opposing the work but says he plans to appeal.

Campaigner Mark Keir argues Natural England was wrong to grant a licence allowing tree felling to proceed at Jones’ Hill Wood near Wendover, Buckinghamshire, in order to accommodate the first phase of the high-speed line, due to run between London and Birmingham.

Joe Sommerlad has the details.

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 10:46
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Salmond’s Alba set to win eight seats at next week’s election, new poll suggests

Alex Salmond’s Alba Party are on course to win eight seats at next week’s Holyrood election, according to a new poll.

The survey also suggests the Scottish Greens will return 11 MSPs, with the SNP, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour all losing seats.

Polling by Panelbase for the Scot Goes Pop website found 6 per cent of voters would support the former first minister’s new party on the regional ballot, delivering a pro-independence majority of 16 seats.

The projected outcome of next Thursday’s election would see the SNP as the largest party with 61 of the 129 seats at Holyrood, two fewer than at the 2016 election.

The Scottish Conservatives would remain the second-largest party despite being forecast to lose seven of the 31 seats they currently have, with Labour down four on 20 seats, followed by the Greens and then Alba.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats would remain on five seats, according to the poll of 1,075 over-16s carried out between April 21 and 26.

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 10:37
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EU will take action if Brexit trade deal breached, warns Von der Leyen

The European Union’s top official warned that the Brexit trade deal has “real teeth” and Brussels will not hesitate to take action if Boris Johnson breaches its terms.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she hoped the EU would not have to use the measures contained within the agreement.

Ms von der Leyen was addressing the European Parliament as MEPs prepared to vote on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement reached with Mr Johnson on Christmas Eve, which governs the way the UK and EU deal with each other.

The deal has been applied provisionally since January 1 but requires the approval of MEPs – who are not expected to oppose it – before it can be ratified.

Ms von der Leyen said: “We know it will not always be easy and there is a lot of vigilance, diligence and hard work ahead.

“But, while today’s vote is obviously an end, it is also the beginning of a new chapter.”

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 10:11
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Joe Middleton27 April 2021 10:00
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Indian doctor says UK donation of ventilators is meaningless at this point

Medical equipment sent by the UK to India to help the country cope with its huge surge in Covid-19 cases is merely a “political gesture” and will have little impact, a leading Indian doctor has claimed.

The UK’s Foreign Office said it was sending 600 pieces of life-saving kit to India – including ventilators and oxygen concentrators – with the first plane-loads arriving on Tuesday, writes The Independent’s Adam Forrest

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 09:47