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UK to set out new Northern Ireland protocol plan after Cummings admits Brexit could be mistake – live

Good morning. In his interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg broadcast last night, Dominic Cummings, the key strategist behind the Vote Leave campaign and Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, admitted that he could not be sure Brexit was a good idea. He said:

Questions like is Brexit a good idea? No-one on earth knows … what the answer to that is.

And when Kuenssberg asked him to confirm that he was not sure Brexit was a good idea, he replied:

I think anyone who says they’re sure about questions like that has got a screw loose, whether you’re on the remain side or our side … I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say Brexit was a mistake.

Cummings did, though, stress that he still thought Brexit was a good thing.

Today Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, and Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, will be making statements in the Lords and in the Commons respectively about the government’s latest proposals to change the Northern Ireland protocol. We can be fairly sure that neither of them will be admitting that Brexit might be a mistake (still a hanging offence in Johnson’s Downing Street), but the content of what they are saying will illustrate why Cummings has a point. That is because they will be proposing changes to an international treaty that Johnson signed only last year. And it is demanding changes because the UK still has not found a solution to the Irish trilemma; the Brexiters wanted to take Britain out of the single market and the customs union, to avoid a GB/NI border down the Irish Sea and to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

They were told this was impossible. When Johnson signed the protocol, he agreed to new GB/NI border controls, but these are now deeply unpopular with unionists in Northern Ireland and he is effectively seeking to rewrite the protocol to minimise or eliminate them.

Here is my colleague Lisa O’Carroll’s preview story.

And here is an extract from the Financial Times’ preview story (paywall), which has details of what Frost and Lewis are expected to propose.

In a move that officials called a “wholesale change of approach”, Lord David Frost, Cabinet Office minister, will outline a strategy that seeks to eliminate most of the checks on the Irish Sea trade border that came into force in January.

And in a warning that Britain could suspend the Northern Ireland protocol in its Brexit deal with the EU if the bloc does not give way, Frost will claim the UK is already within its rights to activate the article 16 override clause in the agreement …

Frost’s proposals are expected to include an “honesty box” approach, where companies that said their goods were destined only for sale and use in Northern Ireland should be exempted from checks on the Irish Sea border.

Britain also wants Brussels to agree to a dual-standards regime that would allow goods that conform to UK rules to circulate freely in Northern Ireland alongside EU-compliant products, so long as they were labelled as only for use in the region, according to people with knowledge of the proposals.

Another strand of the proposals is expected to seek to remove any role for the European Commission or the European Court of Justice in the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol.

The EU is likely to view these proposals as unacceptable, although Johnson seems to be hoping that eventually Brussels will decide to back down rather than escalate the dispute in a way that would put the Northern Ireland peace process at risk.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: The ONS publishes figures on Covid antibody levels, and on the impact of long Covid on people’s lives.

10.30am: Priti Patel, the home secretary, gives evidence to the Commons home affairs committee. The session will cover Covid border policy, Channel crossings and violence against women and girls.

12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at the last PMQs before the summer recess.

12.30pm: Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, gives a statement to MPs about the Northern Ireland protocol. At around the same time Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, will deliver the same statement in the Lords.

Around 1.30pm: Helen Whately, the social care minister, makes a statement to MPs on the NHS. She is likely to confirm that NHS staff are being offered a 3% pay rise.

2pm: Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, holds a press conference.

3pm: Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, gives a speech on plans to reform judicial review.

Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently but today I will be focusing largely on Priti Patel at the home affairs committe, PMQs and the Northern Ireland protocol statements. For more coronavirus developments, do follow our global Covid live blog.

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