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Boris Johnson news – live: PM to visit Northern Ireland amid protocol row at Stormont

Sinn Fein said DUP’s blocking of the election of a speaker at Stormont was ‘shameful’

Boris Johnson promises ‘compassion’ to get people through cost of living crisis

Boris Johnson is set to visit Northern Ireland next week as the deepening crisis over the protocol could leave the NI Assembly unable to function.

The prime minister’s planned visit for Monday comes after the DUP blocked the election of a speaker at Stormont.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he is sending a clear message to the EU and UK government over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Speaking before the first meeting of the new Assembly, he said: “I am here with my Assembly team today for the first sitting of the Assembly. My members will be signing the roll and taking their seats for the first time.

“As I have made clear this morning we have taken the decision not at this stage to support the election of a speaker.”

The decision has been strongly criticised by the other four main parties at Stormont, including Sinn Fein’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill who called it “shameful”.

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Welcome to The Independent’s live blog on all the latest updates on UK politics for Friday 13 May.

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Johnson to cut 90,000 civil service jobs to help fund tax cuts

More than 90,000 civil servants are likely to lose their jobs as part of a cost-saving exercise touted by Boris Johnson, amid rising pressure to help ease the cost of living crisis.

The prime minister was understood to have told his cabinet on Thursday to cut the staff by a fifth, aiming to free more than £3bn.

Tom Batchelor has more details here:

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Can't rule out leadership contest before 2024 election, says Hunt

Former Conservative foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has refused to rule out a contest for the top job before the 2024 elections, as he warns the Tories have “a big mountain to climb” to win another term.

While he says it was not the “right time” for a leadership change due to the war in Ukraine, he adds: “I would be very open with you that I don’t rule out a return in the future.”

Read more:

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'We in the EU never work with threats,' chief Brexit negotiator warns

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has warned that Brussels will not give in to threats or blackmail, as the furious row over the Northern Irish border escalates a step closer to sparking a trade war.

Insisting that the 27-nation bloc was united in rejecting British demands to rewrite the controversial Northern Ireland protocol, he sent a stark message to London: “We in the EU never work with threats, we never work with blackmail, we try to work with constructive engagement and that is what I am pleading for.”

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has more details here:

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Northern Ireland protocol row threatens united stance against Putin, says EU

Members of the European Union have questioned the timing of the UK's threat over abandoning parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, warning that it risks the unity of the international alliance against Vladimir Putin.

Two unnamed EU insiders told The Guardian that officials in Brussels were “flabbergasted” at the timing of threats from the UK and called it "irresponsible".

One diplomat described Liz Truss’s threat of unilateral action as “very risky, even irresponsible”, the newspaper reported.

“I don’t see how [unilateral action] would solve anything in the short term and it would only worsen the standing of the west as a whole vis-a-vis Putin in these fragile times.”

Another source said: “The EU, all the member states, stand entirely united and a bit flabbergasted that the UK would want to be doing this now.”

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Johnson not included in new round of Partygate fines

Boris Johnson has not been included in the list of 50 new Partygate penalties announced on Thursday over lockdown breaches at No 10, Downing Street has said.

Scotland Yard announced today that the number of fines handed out to government staff for law-breaking parties held during the Covid pandemic had passed 100.

Mr Johnson has already been fined for attending an event at No 10 for his birthday. He apologised to MPs but refused to resign, saying he "believed implicitly that this was a work event".

Read more from Adam Forrest and Andrew Woodcock here:

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Northern Ireland Protocol action is ‘painfully necessary’, says Attorney General

Action over the Northern Ireland protocol is “painfully, apparently necessary”, the Attorney General has said in a major hint the Government will override parts of the post-Brexit agreement.

Suella Braverman, the government’s chief legal adviser, did not deny reports she has approved the scrapping of large parts of the deal with emergency legislation.

European leaders have warned the UK not to make the incendiary move, amid fears it could provoke a trade war with Britain’s largest trading partner.

Read more:

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Johnson has ‘no option’ but to rip up ‘part or all’ of NI protocol, says former Brexit minister

Boris Johnson’s government “has no option” but to tear up “part or all” of the Northern Ireland Protocol, former Brexit minister David Frost has said.

In his Daily Telegraph column, previewed on Thursday night, Lord Frost claimed the DUP’s actions had “forced the government’s hand”.

Andy Gregory has more here:

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Rees-Mogg attempts to justify personal civil service attendants

Jacob Rees-Mogg has attempted to justify attending an interview this morning flanked by “three or four” civil service members, despite reports the government plans to cut its workforce by a fifth.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has allegedly told his Cabinet the government could cut as many as 90,000 civil service jobs in a cost-saving exercise.

Asked by Sky News this morning why “three or four” civil service workers had accompanied him to the interview, and whether his circle could be scaled back as part of the proposed cuts, the minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency argued that his cirumstances were different as he “conducts a wide operation.”

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Analysis: The fall in GDP should be a big warning sign for the government

The latest official figures – for March – were Leonard Cohen album-level grim, writes James Moore, our chief business commentator.

They showed a 0.1 per cent contraction against the flat zero the City had expected. There is probably worse to come. This economic frost is going to bite hard.

Read more:

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