Ministers do not expect to reach an agreement with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol, Sky’s Beth Rigby reports. She is quoting “senior government figures” close to the talks between Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, and Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission vice-president in charge of Brexit. Truss and Šefčovič have been talking this morning.
Victoria Atkins, the prisons minister, was the government’s representative on the airwaves this morning. She told Sky News that she thought her Tory MP colleague Lee Anderson was wrong when he told the Commons yesterday that there was no great need for food banks in Britain and that the real problem was people not being able to cook properly. She said:
This is not the view of me or anyone else in government. We want to give not just immediate help but longer-term support as well.
She also claimed that Anderson’s comments may have been misinterpreted, because he was specifically referring to the situation with his local food bank.
(Anderson’s comments were not misinterpreted. He was referring to his local food bank, but he was making a general point. “There’s not this massive use for food banks in this country,” he said.)
Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, said this morning that the UK’s government’s threat to abandon parts of the Northern Ireland protocol would be counterproductive. The UK and the EU could still agree a solution to some of the problems caused by the protocol, he said. But, in an interview with RTE radio, he went on:
We’re not going to do it under the threat of British government’s language and briefing of the media which says if the EU doesn’t give us everything we want, well, then we’re going to legislate ourselves to override international law.
Asked about the possibility of a trade war if the UK did unilaterally abandon the protocol, Coveney said he did not want to “ratchet up language”. But he added:
Clearly, if the UK breaches international law, if it undermines a protocol that is about protecting the integrity of the EU single market, then the EU can’t ignore that.
Britain’s economy contracted in March as consumers cut back on spending in the face of the rising cost of living, the latest official figures show. My colleague Larry Elliott has the story here.
And Graeme Wearden has reaction and analysis on his business live blog.
Good morning. Boris Johnson is chairing an awayday meeting of cabinet in Stoke-on-Trent later and the cost of living crisis is likely to be high on the agenda. Ministers have always been clear that further significant financial measures to help people are planned for later this year but, with all wings of the Conservative party demanding action sooner, some sort of ‘big bazooka’ intervention may be more immediate.
This morning the Daily Mail reports that the Treasury has started looking at options for a windfall tax on energy companies – something Labour and other opposition parties have been demanding for months. In their story Jason Groves and Mark Shapland write:
Multiple sources said the idea of a tax grab was ‘back on the table’ to help families with the cost of living crisis without pushing public borrowing even higher.
One insider said that a one-off levy was a ‘no-brainer if the chief executives themselves are saying they have no problem with it’.
Both Mr Sunak and Boris Johnson are understood to be anxious to give the oil and gas firms the opportunity to set out more ambitious plans, with further talks expected soon.
But a Treasury source said that if they failed to bring forward significant extra investment then ‘nothing is off the table’.
For the government to impose a windfall tax would be quite a U-turn. But this morning LBC broadcast an interview with Boris Johnson, recorded yesterday, in which he repeatedly refused to rule out the proposal. He said that he did not like windfall taxes, and did not think they were “the right way forward”. He explained:
The disadvantage with those sorts of taxes is that they deter investment in the very things that we [need] … they need to be investing in new technology, in new energy supply.
But when it was put to him that energy companies say a windfall tax would not deter investment, he replied: “Well, you know, then we’ll have to look it.”
In a separate report, Sam Coates from Sky News says he understands it is now possible that tax cuts could be announced before the summer recess.
Here is the agenda for the day.
Early morning: Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, speaks to Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission vice-president in charge of Brexit, about the Northern Ireland protocol.
9.30am: Mark Spencer, the leader of the Commons, makes a statement to MPs about next week’s business. After that the Queen’s speech debate resumes, covering fairness at work and communities.
12pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, takes questions from MSPs.
12.45pm: Boris Johnson chairs a meeting of the cabinet in Stoke-on-Trent.
Afternoon: Johnson is due to do a post-cabinet visit.
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