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Boris Johnson news – live: Ex-ethics adviser quit over PM’s ‘readiness to break law’

Lord Geidt said he was not prepared to endorse the government’s openness to breaking international law

Boris Johnson considering not replacing ethics adviser after Lord Geidt quits

Boris Johnson‘s former ethics adviser Christopher Geidt has said his resignation was prompted by the PM’s willingness to breach international law.

In a second letter to explain his shock decision to quit on Wednesday, Lord Geidt said that the details of the row over steel tariffs which finally provoked his departure were a “distraction” from his real motivation to leave his position.

He said that he walked out because he was unready to endorse the government’s openness to breaking its international obligations.

His comments suggest he may be concerned over Mr Johnson’s attempt to override the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way which will breach the Brexit treaty that he signed less than three years ago.

Meanwhile, the government has faced a backlash over reports it will not appoint a new ethics adviser after Lord Geidt’s resignation.

John Penrose, who quit as the anti-corruption tsar earlier this month over the Partygate scandal, said: “You can’t just pretend it doesn’t matter, and that there’s no job to be done.”

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Welcome to The Independent’s live blog on everything related to politics in the UK.

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Outrage over PM’s plan to abolish Downing Street ethics monitor

Boris Johnson has triggered outrage in Westminster with plans to abolish the post of Downing Street ethics adviser, after Christopher Geidt quit in protest at being asked to endorse deliberate rule-breaking by the prime minister.

Lord Geidt – the second adviser to resign in less than two years during Mr Johnson’s premiership – said he was put in an “impossible and odious” position when asked to advise on a plan to maintain tariffs on Chinese steel in a way which would breach UK obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The PM’s official spokesperson confirmed that Mr Johnson plans to “take time” to consider whether to appoint a replacement for the former private secretary to the Queen, or to find a different way of fulfilling the function of scrutinising ministerial behaviour.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) issued a stern warning to the PM not to go ahead with plans to replace the high-profile adviser with an anonymous committee of officials to oversee the ministerial code of conduct.

Scrapping the adviser’s post would be “a backwards step” which would “risk further damage to public perceptions of standards”, said CSPL chair Lord Evans.

Tory MP Richard Graham – who is not usually among Mr Johnson’s public critics – said that any notion of axing the adviser’s post should be “dropped fairly fast”. Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson had “debased standards and rigged the rules for far too long”.

Andrew Woodcock reports.

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PM risked deliberate breach of ministerial code, says Lord Geidt

Lord Geidt in his resignation letter to the prime minister Boris Johnson said that he had been only credibly clinging onto the role of ministerial interests adviser “by a very small margin” over partygate.

He added he was forced to quit when he was tasked with offering a view on the Government’s “intention to consider measures which risk a deliberate and purposeful breach of the ministerial code”.

In the letter published on Thursday, Lord Geidt wrote: “This request has placed me in an impossible and odious position.”

Sam Blewett has more.

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PM considering withdrawal from human rights treaty, Downing Street confirms

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson has confirmed the government is considering withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, saying “all options are on the table” in the wake of Wednesday’s cancellation of a deportation flight to Rwanda.

The prime minister is facing fury from Tory backbenchers over the last-minute ruling from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg which blocked Wednesday night’s flight, with many calling for the UK to pull out of the convention which it helped draw up in the aftermath of the Second World War.

He said it “may very well” be necessary to change some rules to allow future deportations to go ahead unhindered.

Asked whether withdrawal from the convention was being considered, the spokesperson told reporters: “We keep all options on the table as part of our work to address the issues raised by the repeated and sometimes meritless claims that we see consistently with removal flights, while obviously making sure that we continue to protect the vulnerable.”

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Johnson’s plan to overhaul NI protocol is ‘politically driven’, says Sefcovic

British prime minister Boris Johnson’s plan to unilaterally overhaul parts of the Northern Ireland protocol is “politically driven” and a reflection of domestic difficulties, vice president of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic has suggested.

“I cannot resist the impression that the tabling of the bill is politically driven, but it’s not our role to comment on internal politics in the UK,” Mr Sefcovic told Sky News.

“Our doors for negotiations will always be open I’m ready to talk to all political leaders in Northern Ireland and to all stakeholders,” he added.

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NI protocol has undermined the Good Friday Agreement, says Truss

Foreign secretary Liz Truss has said that the Northern Ireland protocol and the impact of it has undermined the Good Friday Agreement.

“So we are seeing people in Northern Ireland are unable to access the same goods as people in Great Britain. We are seeing custom costs of trading goods across the Irish sea. We are seeing people unable to benefit from the same tax breaks as people in Great Britain,” she told Sky News.

“People in the Northern Ireland... are feeling they are less connected to Great Britain and they are not benefitting from being part of the United Kingdom. That is a problem we need to deal with, it has been going on now for 18 months.

“We have had 18 months of negotiations and we haven’t got anywhere. The European Union has said that they are willing to change the protocol, therefore we have to act to make sure we restore the primacy of the Good Friday Agreement,” she added.

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UK judges could block plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, Dominic Raab admits

UK judges could rule that deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful, Dominic Raab has admitted.

Ministers have attacked the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for preventing the first flight on Tuesday night, insisting they have the domestic legal powers they need to act.

But Mr Raab acknowledged a full high court judicial review in late July could thwart the policy after the government declined to pass fresh legislation to authorise it.

“Well, I don’t quite know what the courts are going to decide on the main hearing,” the deputy prime minister told LBC Radio.

Rob Merrick reports.

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Tories say Harriet Harman should step down from No 10 parties inquiry

Tory MPs have urged Harriet Harman to step back from an inquiry into whether prime minister Boris Johnson misled parliament, after unearthing historic comments by her on the matter.

The veteran Labour MP was accused of prejudging the outcome of the investigation after it emerged in April she had posted that Mr Johnson appeared to have “misled the House of Commons”.

Ms Harman was put onto the parliamentary privileges committee earlier this week to replace Chris Bryant, who was recused after having called Mr Johnson a “proven liar” who “repeatedly lied to parliament”.

Jon Stone has more.

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Farmers and food producers to lose almost £300m from Australia trade deal, MPs warn

Farmers and food producers need government help as they could lose up to £300m from Britain’s trade deal with Australia, MPs has said.

Trade experts believe the UK will only see a rise of 0.08 per cent of GDP by 2035 as a result of the agreement, while Australia stands to see an export boost six times as large.

Robert Goodwill, the committee’s Conservative chair, said the government must ensure the agricultural and food sectors are “no worse off” from the Australia agreement.

The government must commit to helping the food and farming sector win back the £278m worth of lost growth it will experience because of this deal,” he said.

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No tax cuts before inflation tamed, says Gove

The government cannot do everything it wants to support the public with the cost-of-living crisis because of rising inflation, the communities secretary Michael Gove has said.

Inflation will have to be brought under control before tax cuts go ahead, he said.

The comments come after the Bank of England warned that inflation could exceed 11 per cent this year.

Speaking to The Times CEO Summit on Thursday, Mr Gove said: “When you are squeezing inflation out of the system, you will rely on the Bank of England and the government having the fiscal and the monetary policies which will inevitably mean we cannot do all the things that we would, in ideal circumstances, like to do in order to support people through a difficult period.”

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