Brexit news live: Latest updates as foreign aid cuts deemed ‘unlawful’


Today’s daily politics briefing

A former Conservative Party leader has warned MPs they should “send a signal” to China, and “give hope” to victims of human rights abuses, by supporting a House of Lords amendment to the Trade Bill on Monday which would limit ministers’ ability to strike trade deals with countries committing acts such as genocide.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith joined the voices of senior Tories who have called for relations with China to be cooled, despite Boris Johnson’s integrated review of security, defence, development and post-Brexit foreign policy published last week calling for a “positive trade and investment relationship” with Beijing in the run-up to 2030.

“Genocide is the crime of all crimes and the UK must offer a beacon of hope to those who suffer,” he wrote in The Times on Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the government’s decision to cut the international aid budget below its legal target was unlawful, a former director of public prosecutions has said.

Lord Macdonald of River Glaven said new legislation would have been required to ditch the target of spending 0.7 per cent of international income on aid.

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Recap: Why PM faces opposition over Trade Bill amendment

Earlier in March, Boris Johnson faced a major internal rebellion over the Trade Bill’s apparent sanctioning of the UK’s continued trading with countries committing “atrocities” against human rights.

Here’s our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn explaining all that as it happened:

Since then, audio of foreign secretary Dominic Raab was leaked in which he appeared to say the UK should strike trade deals with nations that do not meet European standards on human rights.

The clip was published by the website HuffPost UK, prompting Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to accuse the journalist responsible, Arj Singh, of “low-quality” reporting.

Mr Rees-Mogg was later slapped down by Mr Johnson who condemned his colleague for using parliamentary privilege to smear a journalist.

You can read our full report on that here:

Sam Hancock22 March 2021 08:07

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Government’s move to cut international aid budget ‘was unlawful’

The government’s decision to cut the international aid budget below its legal target was unlawful, a former director of public prosecutions has said.

Lord Macdonald of River Glaven said new legislation would have been required to ditch the target of spending 0.7 per cent of international income on aid. He made the claim in a formal legal opinion commissioned by Conservative MPs campaigning to reverse the cut.

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, one of the MPs in question, said the finding was “not unexpected”.

Our policy correspondent Jone Stone has the full report:

Sam Hancock22 March 2021 07:49

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‘Teach China a lesson and cut all trade,’ senior Tory MP warns

The government will seek to overturn an amendment to the Trade Bill on Monday, which would limit its ability to strike agreements with countries involved in the most serious human rights abuse.

But former Tory leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, said MPs can “send a signal” to China and “give hope” to victims of human rights abuses by supporting the amendment instead.

Sir Iain joined the voices of senior Tories who have called for relations with China to be cooled, despite Boris Johnson’s integrated review of security, defence, development and post-Brexit foreign policy published last week calling for a “positive trade and investment relationship” with Beijing in the run-up to 2030.

“The report refers to China as a competitor, when I believe it is, in reality, a growing threat, not just to the UK but to the free world itself,” he wrote in The Times.

“A good place to start would be in passing the Lords amendment today, to send a signal not just to the Chinese government but to those who labour under this terrible oppression that the free world recognises their struggle.

“Genocide is the crime of all crimes and the UK must offer a beacon of hope to those who suffer.”

It comes after Labour appealed to Tory MPs to defy the whips and back the amendment and following a rebellion last month by 31 Conservative MPs.

The rebellion slashed the government’s majority of 80 to just 15 amid accusations of “dirty tricks” by ministers to scupper an earlier amendment by the upper chamber to give the courts a role in deciding whether trade deals can go ahead.

Human rights concerns were largely sparked by China’s treatment of its Uighur minority in the Xinjiang province.

Sam Hancock22 March 2021 07:47

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Hello, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of Brexit and UK politics. Get ready for a busy day at Westminster!

Sam Hancock22 March 2021 07:40



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