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Union 1) ‘Grossly irresponsible’ to blame Brexit for Northern Ireland unrest, says Caine

“The Government’s former top adviser on Northern Ireland has hit out at “grossly irresponsible” attempts to blame Brexit for rioting among loyalists, as Brandon Lewis held emergency talks to try to quell the unrest. Lord Caine, who served as special adviser to six Northern Ireland secretaries, spoke out amid a growing political blame game over the violence which has descended across the province. More than 50 police officers have been injured during the riots, some of which PSNI assistant chief constable Jonathan Roberts said appeared to be pre-planned and on “a scale that we have not seen in recent years in Belfast or further afield.” It comes as violence flared in Belfast on Thursday for the seventh consecutive night, as police fired water cannon to dispel rioters in the west of the city.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Lewis travels to Belfast for talks as crisis grows – The Guardian
  • Youths hurl petrol bombs at police who hit back with water cannon – Daily Mail
  • Brussels ‘weaponised’ Northern Ireland to ‘punish’ UK for Brexit, says expert – Daily Express
  • London and Dublin call for calm – FT

Comment:

  • Old wounds and new fears inflame the anarchy in Belfast – John Walsh, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: If Johnson wants to save the Belfast Agreement, he must act to restore unionist confidence in it

Union 2) Johnson brings in ‘sleaze-buster’ to tackle threat to the UK

“Boris Johnson has brought back Whitehall’s former “sleaze-buster” to lead a government team tackling the threat to the Union. Sue Gray, whose investigations effectively ended the careers of at least two cabinet ministers, left her job as the Cabinet Office’s ethics tsar in 2018 to take up a role for the Northern Ireland executive. She will now return to London as the second permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office, in charge of policy on the Union and the constitution. In her new role Gray, 63, will report to Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, who was given responsibility for all Union policy after the resignation of the former Brexit negotiator Oliver Lewis in February. Lewis had been in post for only a few weeks after himself replacing the Tory MP Luke Graham, who had been in charge of a Union unit in Downing Street.” – The Times

  • Nobody would be talking about independence if it wasn’t for me, Salmond claims – Daily Telegraph
  • Westminster would not block IndyRef2 if Holyrood in favour, says Sturgeon – The Guardian

Ministers announce Covid testing plan to reopen travel from England…

“Travellers from England could take overseas holidays from May 17 to a small number of countries but will have to pay about £100 on their return for a Covid-19 test. Transport secretary Grant Shapps will on Friday confirm plans in England for a “traffic light system” for foreign travel, but each option will involve PCR tests upon return to try to track new variants of the virus entering the country. Unlike the quicker lateral flow tests which detect a protein antigen on the virus’s surface, the more accurate and expensive PCR tests look for Covid-19’s genetic material. Under the government’s plans May 17 remains the earliest possible date for foreign holidays to resume. Officials hope that a small number of destinations will be opened up to tourists from England from that date.” – FT

  • Backlash as holidaymakers face paying hundreds of pounds per trip for tests – Daily Telegraph

…as EU leaders, including Ireland, move to ‘rein in’ von der Leyen…

“European leaders have moved to rein in EU boss Ursula von der Leyen over fears she’ll go rogue and try to ban vaccine exports to Britain. In a joint offensive Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden ordered the Brussels chief not to stop jabs bound for the UK unless they agree. And they are urging her to do a deal with Boris Johnson to head off the threat of a devastating tit-for-tat vaccines war. The trio, along with Ireland, are openly opposed to the top eurocrat’s move to toughen up the bloc’s existing export ban. They say the threat has already had the desired effect of “pressuring” No 10 to come to the table about sharing supplies. Belgium and the Netherlands are two of Europe’s biggest vaccine producers, and host Pfizer and AstraZeneca factories.” – The Sun

  • EU orders AstraZeneca to ‘hand over all vaccines made at Dutch plant funded by UK taxpayer’ – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Stephen Booth’s column: Merkel’s departure is Macron’s opportunity – an opening for his dreams of an even closer Union

…and Hancock says lockdown roadmap will not be sped up or delayed

“Boris  Johnson will stick firmly to his roadmap out of lockdown despite claims Britain is on course to achieve herd immunity next week, Matt Hancock said today. The health secretary vowed the roll back of restrictions won’t be sped up – nor will it be slowed down by issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine. He dismissed modelling that shows the proportion of the population with protection against the virus is set to hit almost three quarters on Monday. And he said other scientists have previously told him herd immunity might not be reached until after June. Academics at UCL predicted the number of people with protection from the virus via either a vaccine or previous infection will hit 73.4% next week.” – The Sun

  • Britons still back AstraZeneca jab as 75 per cent tell pollsters they consider vaccine to be safe – Daily Mail
  • Moderna boss ‘optimistic’ vaccine doses on track for all of Europe – Daily Express
  • SNP Health Secretary: “We didn’t take right precautions” shifting untested patients into care homes – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Herd immunity is within reach. So why won’t ministers talk about it? – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: We interrupt our usual morning editorial to make a public service announcement

Sunak ‘pushed’ Treasury team to help Cameron and Greensill

“Rishi Sunak told David Cameron he had “pushed” Treasury officials to help the finance firm Greensill participate in a multimillion-pound Covid-19 support scheme, text messages reveal. The messages, released following a freedom of information request, show the chancellor personally intervened to try to help after being contacted by the former prime minister who was a paid adviser to the company. It led to nearly two months of negotiations between the second most senior official in the Treasury and Greensill as they attempted to find a way to accommodate them. When the decision was finally taken not to proceed with the scheme Greensill was lobbying to be part of, Sunak personally phoned Cameron to break the news to him.” – The Times

  • Banker cited ex-Prime Minister in bungled Australian lobbying – FT

>Today: Francis Ingham: It simply won’t do that Cameron wasn’t covered by lobbying rules that he himself introduced

Raab backs sacked Myanmar envoy

“UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab came to the defence of Myanmar’s ambassador to the UK on Thursday after he was sacked by Min Aung Hlaing’s military junta and locked out of his embassy building in London. Kyaw Zwar Minn, who has criticised the new regime and called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor, was forced to spend the night in his car after he was shut out of the building on Wednesday and recalled by the junta. But the UK stopped short of continuing to recognise Kyaw Zwar Minn as Myanmar’s ambassador. A government official confirmed that having received official notification from the Myanmar government that he had been removed from his post in London, Britain had no choice but to accept the decision.” – FT

  • Russian forces build up on Ukrainian border – Daily Mail

Tory MP who pestered intern is ordered to undergo training for ‘unacceptable’ conduct

“A Tory MP who invited a 21-year-old female intern to ‘fool around’ with him will not be kicked out of the party. But Rob Roberts will have to undergo training for his ‘unacceptable’ conduct, his party said. The 41-year-old MP for Delyn in North Wales made the comments in a series of messages in April last year. He told the intern working in Parliament that she had ‘lovely legs’ and asked her not to ignore him ‘when I’m making you feel better’. And he said that in future she might want to ‘fool around with no strings, you might come and visit me in London’. The messages prompted the Tories to start an inquiry.” – Daily Mail

Labour cries foul over union poll showing Tories on track to take Hartlepool

“Anger is mounting at the top of the Labour party over a trade union-commissioned poll on the party’s fortunes in the 6 May Hartlepool byelection that has sparked accusations of “betrayal”. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) asked Survation to poll residents in the north-eastern town, with the result showing the Conservatives on course to take the seat from Labour next month by 49% to 42%. The union’s general secretary, Dave Ward, referred to it when criticising Keir Starmer’s leadership of Labour and accused him of being “far too timid”. Released to the Times just after the anniversary of Starmer becoming Labour leader, the intervention has prompted figures in the party to leap to his defence.” – The Guardian

  • Union leadership contender who backs wealth tax is property millionaire – Daily Mail

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Starmer’s grip on Labour is already loosening. Defeat in Hartlepool would be a disaster for him.

The Times: Runnymede Trust eschews free thought in favour of politicised left-wing campaigning

“The report is a nuanced and practical document that identified some of these sources of disadvantage, such as family structure, within ethnic communities and not only in wider society. It was met by the trust not with the constructive critique that it merited but with immediate denunciation. The suspicion must be that the trust’s response was prepared in advance rather than on the evidence, and with a political subtext. The trust itself produced a report on multi-ethnic Britain, under the chairmanship of Lord Parekh, the political theorist, some 20 years ago, that likewise concluded encouragingly that race relations in Britain were the best in Europe. Dr Begum has made no secret of her animosity towards the government that commissioned the Sewell report.” – The Times

  • Charity boss accused of using it to play politics – The Times

News in Brief:

  • If Johnson doesn’t have a plan for Northern Ireland, he must back people who do – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Ulster’s sink estates are fertile ground for fundamentalists – Ian Acheson, The Spectator
  • Duncan’s diaries epitomise the emptiness of his generation – Douglas Murray, UnHerd
  • Momentum: workers should get one-third pay rise for one-fifth less work – Patrick Timms, Wolves of Westminster