Prime Minister Speaks to Ukrainian President

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has spoken today to Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine. They discussed matters of interest to the two nations, including Brexit, Russia and international security.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said in a statement:

“President Zelenskyy thanked the Prime Minister for his unwavering and unflinching support for the people and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Prime Minister reiterated that he would not yield on the issue of Ukrainian sovereignty, and gave his full support to President Zelenskyy in his efforts to end the conflict in the Donbas.

The Prime Minister underlined his message in Berlin yesterday: Russia’s readmission to the G7 and to the wider international community should not be considered until they have stopped their destabilising behaviour. He pointed to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and last year’s chemical attack on the streets of Salisbury as clear examples.”

Prime Minister Restates Nation’s Commitment to Freedom of Religion

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has said that the Government is committed to protecting the freedom of the individual to practice whatever religion they want. Johnson’s comments come on the inaugural ‘International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief’ event.

Johnson said in a statement:

“Freedom of religion or belief is at the heart of what the UK stands for. We will do everything possible to champion these freedoms and protect civilians in armed conflict, including religious, ethnic or other minorities. We are determined to use the tools of British diplomacy in this cause, including our permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

In light of mounting evidence that Christians suffer the most widespread persecution, we asked the Anglican Bishop of Truro to carry out an independent review to ensure that our work in this area matched the scale of the problem. We have accepted, and will implement, all of the Review’s challenging recommendations. We will use the UK’s global reach and programme funding to improve the lives of persecuted people. Today we are opening a call for bids on how to take this forward.”

Jane Lax Suspended from Conservative Party after Mocking Nicola Sturgeon’s Miscarriage

Jane Lax, the treasurer of a Conservative Party association in Scotland, has been suspended from the party after she mocked a miscarriage which Nicola Sturgeon revealed she’d had in 2011. Sturgeon had raised her personal loss when she was talking about giving parents in the same position paid leave from their work.

The Conservative Party issued a statement condemning the behaviour of Lax, saying:

“These comments are unacceptable. Her membership will be suspended pending a disciplinary procedure.”

Government May Scrap HS2 Project

The Government has said that it may scrap HS2 despite over £7 billion having already been spent on the new high-speed rail line. Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, said that the project would be reviewed and a decision made on whether it would continue.

Shapps said in an interview:

“We are launching the review as we genuinely want to know what it would cost to complete this project. Then we will know and we will be in a much better position to make the decision to go or no go by the end of the year.”

Lord Adonis, the former Transport Secretary, who has called for increased spending on the rail infrastructure, posted on Twitter:

“HS2 review is about as stupid as you can get & screws Birmingham & the North. Classic Johnson. It throws project into flux & will cause big delays, loss of confidence & cost increases. But HS2 will almost certainly continue afterwards in modified form. What a shambles.

Membership of the review is about evenly divided between supporters & opponents of HS2, who will now engage in a massive bun fight while the Transport Department runs for cover & HS2 Ltd is paralysed by indecision.

Designing an infrastructure project by committee is always bad, but redesigning by committee of contrarians is reckless & irresponsible. This is Cummings-style Maoist mayhem to appease a handful of Tory backbenchers.

So much for Johnson’s commitment to infrastructure and the North! The first thing he does is to delay and possibly undermine the first strategic investment in the north in decades.”

Surge in Government Borrowing Surprises Markets

Sajid Javid

The Government has confirmed that borrowing has increased sharply this financial year, with £16 billion borrowed since April, an increase of £6 billion on the 2018 figures. The budget surplus in July also slumped to £1.3 billion in 2019, against a surplus of £2.7 billion in 2018. Sajid Javid, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will now face a choice between cutting back on public spending or seeing Government borrowing increase by higher levels than in previous years.

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said:

“With the Conservatives only interested in forcing through a No Deal Brexit, nine years of economic mismanagement have left our public services in a terrible state ahead of the Spending Review.

Instead of borrowing yet more money to fund their failed programme of tax cuts, the priority has to be reversing the damage done to schools and social care, and stopping the rollout of Universal Credit which is causing so much hardship. Labour in government will deliver the radical transformation to our economy that is desperately needed to boost living standards and eliminate in-work poverty.”

Guy Verhofstadt Rejects Johnson’s “Political Games” on Brexit

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, has rejected a plea by Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, to remove the backstop agreement from any Brexit deal. Verhofstadt accused the Prime Minister of playing “political blame games”.

Verhofstadt said on Twitter:

“I don’t see any majority in the  @Europarl_EN to remove the backstop from the Withdrawal Agreement. It is a vital insurance policy, negotiated in good faith & supported by the people of the Island of Ireland. The time for bluster & political blame games is fast running out.”

Government Confirms Ministers and Officials Will No Longer Attend EU Meetings

The Government has confirmed today that Ministers and official will no longer attend European Union meetings, unless there is a matter of international security or significant issue to the UK.

A spokesperson for the Government said:

“UK officials will stop attending most EU meetings from 1 September so that they can focus on our future relationship with the EU and other partners around the world.

The Government has decided this week that from 1 September, UK officials and Ministers will now only attend EU meetings where the UK has a significant national interest in the outcome of discussions, such as on security. This decision reflects the fact that the UK’s exit from the EU on 31 October is now very close and many of the discussions in EU meetings will be about the future of the Union after the UK has left.

As the PM has promised in the House of Commons in July, as a departing Member State it makes sense to ‘unshackle’ officials from these EU meetings to enable them to better focus their talents on our immediate national priorities. This includes, as the top priority, work on preparations for Brexit on 31 October and on our future relationship with the EU, but also on pioneering new trade deals and promoting a truly Global Britain.

This decision is not intended in any way to frustrate the functioning of the EU. The UK’s vote will be delegated in a way that does not obstruct the ongoing business of the remaining 27 EU members. Where matters of ongoing national interest are being discussed, the UK will continue to be present until 31 October.”

Boris Johnson Speaks to Indian Prime Minister

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has today spoken by phone to Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India. The leaders discussed matters of importance to the two nations, including international security, the global economic situation and environmental issues.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said:

“The Prime Minister spoke to Indian Prime Minister Modi this afternoon. Prime Minister Modi began by congratulating the Prime Minister on his appointment. The two leaders agreed on the importance of the UK-India partnership and the need to build on it further, particularly through trade and economic ties and through the living bridge that links our countries. Prime Minister Modi said there are immense possibilities for the UK and India which would increase prosperity in both countries.

The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Modi discussed the current situation in Kashmir. The Prime Minister made clear that the UK views the issue of Kashmir is one for India and Pakistan to resolve bilaterally. He underlined the importance of resolving issues through dialogue.”

Government Announces £25 Million Fund for Hospices

The Government has today announced a £25 million fund for hospices and palliative care services to help those near the end of their lives.

Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health, said in a statement:

“End of life is vitally important, and our NHS is committed to caring for you from cradle to grave. This cash boost will protect our precious hospices and palliative care services so people across the country will have the best, most personalised and dignified choices when they die. We should expect the highest quality support, so we can spend the last days of our life with our loved ones, dying with dignity in the way that we want to.”

Robert Peston, the chair of Hospice UK, said in a statement:

“Many hospices and palliative care providers are facing acute financial pressures and are struggling to meet the growing need for their desperately important services. This injection of new funds by the Government could not have come at a more critical time. It will help many, but it will not completely alleviate the serious funding problems facing a swelling number of charitable hospices.”