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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ‘has already begun’, warns Health Secretary

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has begun meaning Britain will impose sanctions on Moscow, Sajid Javid has said this morning. Russian tanks and troops entered Ukraine’s breakaway eastern regions last night under the guise of a peacekeeping force after signing decrees recognising their independence. The order sending “peacekeeping missions” into Donetsk and Luhansk amounts to a de facto military invasion of the eastern corner of Ukraine. “You can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun,” the health secretary told Sky News. “We are waking up to a very dark day in Europe and it’s clear from what we have already seen and found out today that the Russians, President Putin, has decided to attack the sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity.”” – The Times

  • UK joins Biden and the EU in ordering sanctions – Daily Mail
  • Has Putin invaded? The White House isn’t sure – Daily Telegraph
  • Why Putin has Ukraine’s separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in his sights – FT
  • Russian rebel states recognised in ‘Bond Villain’ meeting – The Sun

>Yesterday: Ranj Alaadin in Comment: The Ukraine crisis. Brexit Britain is proving itself an international force. Here’s what we should do next.

William Hague: Ukraine crisis is a wake-up call for the West

“Russia and the West have had much to gain from expanding trade and trusting each other on defence and security. Therefore, we’ve always tried to move on from aggravating problems, to find a way forward, to make it to the third whisky. Those efforts are continuing as I write, and rightly so. Yet the indications are that Russia is about to embark on the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, with all the catastrophic human consequences that will entail. If it does so, our instinct to mend fences once the immediate outrage has passed must be abandoned. The entire question of how we deal with Russia will need a comprehensively different answer. For Putin’s Moscow will have assaulted not only tens of millions of people who want to live in peace, but also any notion of law, truth and civilisation in international relations.” – The Times

  • Putin used identical tactics and trickery in Georgia – Ian Birrell, Daily Mail
  • The long, bloody history of proxy wars should be a warning to Johnson in Ukraine – Simon Tisdall, The Guardian

>Today: Tony Lodge in Comment: Heath, Thatcher, Major, Blair – and the litany of errors that left us dependent on gas imports

No split between politicians and ‘anxious’ scientists, insists Johnson as he lifts Covid restrictions

“The Prime Minister has said that there is not as much division between scientists and politicians as some may believe, as he ended all Covid restrictions in England today. Boris Johnson addressed the nation at a Downing Street press conference alongside chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer. Mr Johnson said: “I don’t want you to think that there’s some division between the gung ho politicians and the cautious, anxious scientists, much as it may suit everybody to say so. “We have a very clear view of this. This has not gone away. We’re able to make these changes now because of the vaccines and the high level of immunity and all the other considerations about omicron that you’ve seen.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister says it’s time to live with coronavirus without restricting our freedoms – The Times
  • Millions of over 50s are set to be offered Covid boosters this autumn – Daily Mail
  • Johnson overrules Javid on Living with Covid plan – The Times
  • Brits face paying £3 a test when free ones end on April 1st – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: If not now, when? The Government is right to wind down coronavirus restrictions.

>Yesterday:

£1.5bn to go from World Bank aid budget as priorities begin to shift

“Ministers are to cut about £1.5 billion from the World Bank’s programme to help poor countries to recover from Covid-19, as the government seeks to reprior-itise its reduced aid budget (Oliver Wright writes). Britain will reduce its contribution to the latest round of the bank’s development funding programme from just under £3 billion to £1.4 billion. It was previously the biggest international donor to the initiative, which provides zero-interest or low-interest loans to boost economic growth and reduce inequalities in developing countries. Details of the latest funding commitment, to be published today, will show that Britain has reduced its share of support by 54 per cent and has fallen behind the United States and Japan as the biggest donors to the scheme.” – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: New ConservativeHome and ONE Event. Ending the pandemic: the role for Global Britain

Cook steps down as senior adviser to Johnson as ‘reset’ of No 10 team continues

“One of Carrie Johnson’s closest allies is leaving Whitehall as the shuffling of the Prime Minister’s top team continues. Henry Cook is leaving his position as a senior adviser to Boris Johnson, according to the Telegraph, after more than a decade for the Government. Formerly part of the team working with the levelling-up secretary, Michael Gove, Mr Cook has spent the past two years working on the Covid response, the newspaper reports. But as the Prime Minister unveiled his ‘Living with Covid’ plan, it is understood Mr Cook feels the timing is right to move on from his role… It comes just weeks after his colleague – and second half of ‘the two Henries’ – Henry Newman was moved out of Downing Street to work with Mr Gove in the Levelling Up department.” – Daily Mail

Brexit 1) Ministers talk up opportunities of post-Brexit insurance rules rewrite

“Britain’s City minister has said tens of billions of pounds of investment would be unleashed from insurance companies as he released further details of a post-Brexit rewrite of rules governing the sector. John Glen said the overhaul of the Solvency II rules represented a “genuine opportunity” to encourage the sector’s growth, protect policyholders and make it easier for insurance companies to invest for the long term. Glen told the Association of British Insurers’ annual dinner that EU regulation “doesn’t work for us any more”. He said the government would adjust “prudential regulation of insurers to our unique circumstances.” Details released included a reduction in the risk margin, an extra capital buffer that insurers must hold against shocks, of around 60 to 70 per cent for long term life insurers, close to the 75 per cent that insurers had sought.” – FT

  • Treasury plans overhaul of industry – The Guardian
  • Change delayed by wrangling between ministers and regulators – FT
  • Sunak plots slashing of EU Red tape – Daily Express

Brexit 2) Downing Street distances itself from idea UK might scrap new goods testing regime

“Downing Street on Monday distanced itself from suggestions by the new Brexit opportunities minister that the UK might cut red tape by unilaterally accepting testing on industrial goods by the EU and other countries. Jacob Rees-Mogg this month endorsed a report by the rightwing Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank which said the UK could “unilaterally recognise EU regulations and conformity assessments”. He added to confusion in the British business community, which is gearing up for a new domestic testing regime, when he told The Times there was “no point” in the UK repeating tests that other countries did to an acceptable standard. But on Monday, Number 10 said Rees-Mogg was not setting out a new government stance: “Our position has not changed.”” – FT

>Today: Audio: The Moggcast: Civil servants shouldn’t use Black Lives Matter hashtags. They must be “completely apolitical”.

Gove says foreign firms duck cost of cladding crisis

“Michael Gove has admitted that “egregious” cladding companies have found it easier to avoid paying for the costs of fixing the post-Grenfell building safety crisis because many of them are based abroad. The housing secretary said that it was easier to pursue developers and construction material manufacturers that are based in Britain. Gove told MPs that there was a chain of responsibility for the building safety crisis that included insurers, housebuilders and product manufacturers, as he vowed to protect leaseholders from the costs of fireproofing their buildings. “There’s no single locus of responsibility for resolving this situation,” he said. “It’s a chain. It’s just a matter of working out which link in the chain can bear the most weight.”” – The Times

  • Taxpayer may have to contribute more to fix building safety crisis, Housing Secretary tells MPs – The Guardian

>Yesterday: John Redwood’s column: Ministers must not let Treasury orthodoxy make a cost-of-living crisis worse

Tory MPs plan revolt over U-turn on fur and foie gras import ban

“Conservative MPs are organising a revolt against the prime minister over the scrapping of a ban on the imports and sale of fur and foie gras. Government sources have confirmed to the Guardian that reports of a U-turn were “broadly correct”, despite the fact the bans were mentioned in the government’s action plan for animal welfare and aimed at bringing swing voters on side. The 2019 manifesto, which referred to the action plan, also committed to not compromising on animal welfare standards in international trade. The production of both fur and foie gras are banned in the UK. A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesperson said the government was still “fully committed to animal welfare”. MPs in favour of a ban said they were shocked by the news and were demanding an explanation from Boris Johnson.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: William Sunnucks in Comment: We need a better Conservative climate change policy

Police not fit for present, let alone future, says review

“Policing in England and Wales is out of date and only “fundamental reform” can rescue it from a “crisis of confidence”, the head of an independent review will warn today. Sir Michael Barber, a former government adviser, will say that Britain’s tradition of policing by consent is “at serious risk” in a speech at an event hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies. He will add that this is “far more fundamental” than recent scandals such as Wayne Couzens’s murder of Sarah Everard or widespread revelations of misogyny, homophobia and racism in the Metropolitan Police. Instead, it is the shift in attitudes in society, technology and environmental factors that are “happening at warp speed, yet too often policing seems stuck in the past, hardly fit for the present yet alone the future”.” – The Times

  • Cops should stop behaving like social workers and start locking up criminals, warns policing czar – The Sun

Elections watchdog warns bill threatens its independence

“The elections watchdog has urged the government not to give ministers a greater say in its work, saying plans to do so would seriously undermine its independence and could affect confidence in the wider electoral system. In a strongly worded and highly unusual public letter, the Electoral Commission said provisions in the elections bill for ministers to draw up a new “strategy and policy statement” – which the watchdog must take account of – had no precedent in comparable democracies… he letter was signed by the full board of the commission, representing all four UK nations, with the exception of Conservative peer Stephen Gilbert, the party’s representative on the board. The House of Lords is now considering the bill. Ministers have insisted that the provisions will not amount to interference. However, critics and opposition parties have labelled the idea an attempt to neuter the organisation and stop it looking too closely at areas such as party funding.” – The Guardian

  • Plans to restrain elections body ‘threaten democracy’ – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Will Putin now roll on to Kiev? – Paul Wood, The Spectator
  • Goodbye and good riddance to golden visas – Robert Tyler, CapX
  • How to lose a leadership election – Dominic Sandbrook, UnHerd
  • Whilst truckers are treated like criminals, green activists are running riot – Gawain Towler, The Critic