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Boris Johnson news – live: PM rambles about Anthony Gormley to school children, after contradicting own government in false Brexit claims to supporters

Follow all the latest developments 

Adam Forrest,Lizzy Buchan,Andy Gregory
Friday 08 November 2019 18:00 GMT
General Election 2019: What you need to know

Boris Johnson has insisted Northern Ireland businesses can put customs forms “in the bin” as he doubled down on his claims there would be no checks on goods coming into Great Britain under his Brexit deal.

He faced questions on the campaign trail after footage emerged of the prime minister contradicting his own cabinet ministers by saying there would be no checks at the border.

The Tory leader inspired bemusement as he told party members that he had secured a “great” Brexit deal for Northern Ireland – by retaining access to the single market and freedom of movement.

Elsewhere, Mr Johnson told a group of school children the sculptor Sir Antony Gormley was “an interesting chap” but his work had been too expensive to commission for the 2012 Olympics.

It comes as veteran Labour candidate Dame Margaret Hodge declined to say whether she would prefer Jeremy Corbyn or Mr Johnson as PM, while Nicola Sturgeon claimed a hung parliament would give the SNP the “power” to demand an independence referendum in 2020 and try to stop Brexit.


Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the 2019 general election campaign.

Adam Forrest8 November 2019 08:25

Margaret Hodge refuses to back Corbyn as PM

Veteran Labour candidate Dame Margaret Hodge has declined to say whether she would prefer Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson as prime minister.

Dame Margaret - an outspoken critic of Corbyn - said she wants a Labour government, adding that a government is “more than any individual”.

It came after ex-Labour MP Ian Austin advocated for the electorate to vote for Mr Johnson over Mr Corbyn on December 12. Dame Margaret, asked if she would prefer Boris Johnson or Corbyn as prime minister, said: “I want a Labour government.”

Pressed on the issue, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think any government is more than any individual. And I want a Labour government. “And I think that was as true of the past as it is of the present.”

She told the programme there are parts of the current Labour project with which she disagrees. “I will not give up fighting for what I believe to be right and moral and important. I will never do that.”

Dame Margaret said there was “some hostility” to the work she had done around fighting antisemitism. “I do think it’s a terrible reflection that actually there is myself and Ruth Smeeth and we're the only two women Jewish MPs left on the Labour side,” she said.

Asked about Dame Margaret not being able to bring herself to endorse Corbyn, shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti told the Today programme: “I’m sorry to hear that from Margaret, who I’ve worked with and debated with, with great mutual respect for many years.

“I’m very glad that she’s been endorsed (as a candidate) in her seat in Barking. And I believe that there is still the possibility of greater healing in this movement of ours.”

Labour had been accused of antisemitism when Dame Margaret was told she would face a re-selection battle in her east London constituency.

On one occasion she told Corbyn to his face that he is an “antisemite and racist”.

She was forced into the re-selection fight after activists in her constituency voted for the chance to pick a new candidate.

Adam Forrest8 November 2019 08:42

Tory candidate quits over rape case remarks

The Conservative candidate for Broadland has announced he is standing down over “ill-judged comments” during a radio discussion about a rape case.

Nick Conrad, who resigned from his role at BBC Radio Norfolk last week, was selected on Wednesday to contest Broadland for the Conservatives in the upcoming poll, the local association confirmed.

Speaking about a sexual assault case in 2014, two years before the case was overturned at a retrial, Mr Conrad suggested women should “keep their knickers on” to avoid being raped, and said: “I think women need to be more aware of a man’s sexual desire.

Conrad said the remarks had become a distraction and he had decided to step down.

Adam Forrest8 November 2019 08:45

Labour candidate quits after comparing Israeli state to child abuser

A Labour election candidate has quit after it emerged she likened the actions of the Israeli government to those of a child abuser.

Kate Ramsden stood down in the Scottish constituency of Gordon over a blog post in which she also reportedly alleged that antisemitism claims against Jeremy Corbyn were “orchestrated by the wealthy establishment”.

All the details here:

Adam Forrest8 November 2019 08:47

PM claims no checks on goods from NI to GB in rambling speech

Frictionless trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would be maintained under the proposed Brexit agreement, Boris Johnson has claimed – contradicting previous claims his government made about the deal.

In a rambling speech in Northern Ireland – shared by the Manufacturing NI group on Twitter – the prime minister said his deal would be “great” for the region – and insisted there would no checks on goods coming into the British mainland.

“Actually Northern Ireland has got a great deal – you keep free movement, you keep access to the single market … and unfettered access to GB [Great Britain],” he said.

Johnson also claimed: “There will not be checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.”

Johnson was previously criticised for claiming: “There will be no checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and there will be no tariffs between NI and GB.”

The PM was accused of misleading parliament after that claim was directly contradicted by the Brexit secretary Steve Barclay – who admitted last month that that Northern Ireland businesses will be forced to fill out export declaration forms when sending goods to Britain under the terms of the deal.

Adam Forrest8 November 2019 09:18

PM sparks anger by praising single market access for NI

Our correspondent Lizzy Buchan has more on that speech by Boris Johnson in Northern Ireland.

The PM was caught on camera extolling the virtues of key elements of EU membership to a group of Conservatives in Northern Ireland – irritating many who are frustrated the rest of the UK will be missing out on

Johnson said Northern Ireland had a “great” Brexit deal – as it retains access to the single market and freedom of movement – which Britain will lose under the terms of Johnson’s blueprint.

All the details here:

Adam Forrest8 November 2019 09:24

Baroness Chakrabarti finds antisemitism poll ‘alarming’

Labour’s Baroness Chakrabarti was asked about an opinion poll in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper which found the vast majority of British Jews consider Jeremy Corbyn to be an anti-Semite.

“That obviously is incredibly alarming and disappointing,” she said.

Baroness Chakrabarti told the Today programme: “Because we dragged our feet on implementation for so long there is a trust gap.

“And so even though I believe that our procedures are way better now than they were a few years ago, it’s going to take time to rebuild trust, and it’s going to take more than procedures.”

Asked about Dame Margaret Hodge not being able to bring herself to endorse Jeremy Corbyn, Baroness Chakrabarti said: “I’m sorry to hear that from Margaret who I’ve worked with and debated with, with great mutual respect for many years.

“I’m very glad that she’s been endorsed (as a candidate) in her seat in Barking. And I believe that there is still the possibility of greater healing in this movement of ours.”

Adam Forrest8 November 2019 09:28

Tories want ‘brightest and best’ as party promises NHS visa

Boris Johnson will try to shift the focus onto the NHS and immigration today – and is promising a fast track “NHS visa” to make it easier for overseas doctors and nurses to work in the UK. 

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the Tory party “wants to get the brightest and best coming to our country”.

Asked if the Tories want immigration to be higher or lower than it is now, she said: “We want to have immigration that suits the needs of the country.

Pressed on whether she thinks constituents want immigration to be higher or lower and if she will promise them one or the other, Atkins said: “Given that we will now have control of immigration, we want to have a points-based system that focuses on bringing the brightest and the best into the UK, precisely so that we can attract doctors, nurses and so on into the NHS.”

It was put to Victoria Atkins that the Conservative Party had promised in three elections to bring down the number of people coming in to the UK and that it had a target.

Asked if she knew how many months in a row the target was missed, the Home Office minister told the Today programme: “I don’t have that figure to hand.”

Adam Forrest8 November 2019 09:31

Sir Keir Starmer: PM either confused or lying about Brexit deal

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer isn’t too impressed by Boris Johnson’s speech in Northern Ireland – claiming the prime minister “either doesn’t understand the deal he has negotiated or he isn’t telling the truth. Probably both”.

Johnson claimed there would no checks on goods coming into the British mainland, and Northern Ireland would retain freedom of movement and single market access.

Adam Forrest8 November 2019 09:45

Labour candidate quits following ‘Shylock’ remark

The Labour candidate for Clacton Gideon Bull has announced he is standing down after comments he made referring to “Shylock” came to light.

Bull allegedly referred to Shylock – the well-known Jewish moneylender in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice – in relation to a controversial housing scheme involving a Jewish cabinet member of Haringey Council.

Bull has insisted he was not referring directly to the cabinet member Zena Brabazon – and is also claiming he “did not know Shylock was Jewish … this was a genuine accident.”

But he has decided that “right now is not the best time for me to stand”.

Adam Forrest8 November 2019 09:59

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