Brexit news – live: Government’s union jack flag policy mocked as like ‘episode of Thick of It’

Today’s daily politics briefing

Ministers are being criticised for their “obsessive” new union jack policy, which will require the flag to be flown every day on all UK government buildings in Britain – and planning permission to fly an EU flag.

SNP MP Mhairi Black wondered if the idea had been “inspired by Tory ministers watching an episode of The Thick of It, rather than a serious government”.

“While the Tories obsess about flags and symbols – because they have nothing positive to say and no credible policies – the SNP Scottish government will continue to focus on bringing the country safely through the pandemic,” she said.

Meanwhile, UK secretary of state for Wales, Simon Hart, added he did not think the union flag should be used for “political purposes”.

“I think that would be a strange thing to do, [to] sort of try and make a political point out of it,” he said.

Currently, union flags are only required to be flown on designated days but new guidance will ask for it to be flown all the time as a “proud reminder of our history and the ties that bind us”.

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‘Liverpool will come back from this,’ says city council boss

Liverpool City Council’s chief admitted on Tuesday that findings in a report – commissioned last December in the city after a series of arrests for fraud, bribery, corruption and witness intimidation – were “shocking”, but stressed the criticism was mostly “historic”.

Tony Reeves, who took up his post in 2018, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Two things I would point out is that much of the criticism is historic and the report acknowledges that things have started to change in a significant way and that is why the commissioners are not coming in to take over the council, they are coming in to oversee a council-led improvement.

“The second point that I think is really important is that this is about the wrong-doing of a small number of individuals – the report acknowledges that the majority of politicians and the vast majority of staff at the council are honest, hard working, decent public servants and that is exactly what you see in the organisation.

“So it isn’t a failing organisation but there are shocking findings in this report that people will be seeing when they are reading it today.”

The authority will now have some of its functions taken from councillors and officers for the next three years, and instead the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will appoint commissioners, as part of an “improvement plan”.

Mr Reeves said the culture of fear mentioned in the report had “largely disappeared”, adding: “Of course this is really shocking but no way is this a return to the 1980s – the city will come back from this very quickly and I will make sure that that happens.”

Tony Reeves believes Liverpool will ‘bounce back quickly'

Tony Reeves believes Liverpool will ‘bounce back quickly’

(Tony Reeves handout)

Sam Hancock25 March 2021 08:19

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In case you missed it: Tory MP berates BBC for not including union jacks in annual report

Earlier this week, a Conservative MP asked BBC‘s director-general why the corporation’s annual report did not feature any images of the union jack.

In a discussion on the BBC’s role as a representative of Britain on the world stage, James Wild MP asked Tim Davie more than once why no flags featured.

Mr Davie said the number of flags was a “strange metric” by which to measure the BBC’s British credentials, adding there was “no problem” with the BBC’s role “championing Britain abroad”.

He said he had not been briefed on the matter before the meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, but added that a union flag flies above the BBC headquarters in London on many days of the year.

The conversation left many bemused, and some concerned, with one Twitter user saying of it: “A few years ago this would have been an April Fool’s story, today it’s a sign that things really could get a lot worse.”

My colleague Liam James has the full report from Monday:

Sam Hancock25 March 2021 08:11

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Ministers urged to set up ‘trusted trader scheme with EU’

A government committee has urged ministers to establish a trusted trader scheme with the EU, to ease the amount of paperwork that businesses have to fill out while also tackling the increased cost of transporting goods and helping firms to understanding the VAT changes when exporting to the European bloc.

A report by the Lords EU Goods Sub-Committee has warned small firms are “feeling the squeeze” since Boris Johnson’s free trade deal with Brussels came into force in January.

There remain “substantial barriers” for UK trade with Europe, with small businesses bearing the brunt of the post-Brexit strain, according to peers.

In the “Beyond Brexit: Trade in Goods” report, published on Thursday, peers said there “remain substantial barriers to trade with the EU” following the implementation of the fresh trading terms.

It also cautioned that, without action, the physical checks currently in place on animal and plant products could become a “permanent barrier to trade”, with meat and live shellfish products particularly badly-hit by the new inspection regime.

Baroness Verma, the committee’s chairwoman, said: “The Brexit trade deal struck with the EU may have prevented the nightmare of a ‘no deal’ exit for the UK, but a lot of unfinished business remains between the two sides.

“Businesses, particularly SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), are feeling the squeeze of the non-tariff barriers resulting from the end of the transition period.

“The government must take an ambitious approach to trade ties with the EU. Swift action and further funding is needed to minimise future disruption.”

She added: “Ongoing dialogue will be crucial to achieving smoother trade. The TCA (Trade and Cooperation Agreement) should be treated as the start, not the end of the UK’s new relationship with the EU.”

Sam Hancock25 March 2021 08:03

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Twitter flooded with criticism of new flag guidance

Sam Hancock25 March 2021 07:58

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Union flag must fly on all UK state buildings, ministers say

Ministers have ordered the union flag to be flown every day on all UK government buildings in Britain under new guidance that also states planning permission will be needed to fly an EU flag.

The government has also “cut red tape” to allow “dual flagging” – where two flags can be flown on one pole. Where organisations have two flag poles, they can fly the union flag alongside another flag.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said “deemed consent” would now exist for NHS flags to be flown alongside the union flag.

My colleague Chiara Giordano reports:

Sam Hancock25 March 2021 07:52

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Sam Hancock25 March 2021 07:51

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