Good morning. It is an important day for Brexit news. The morning the high court in Belfast will rule on a legal challenge to the Northern Ireland protocol, this afternoon the EU is expected to confirm that it has agreed to extend the grace period for chilled meats under that protocol (averting the so-called “sausage ban” for the moment), and in parliament the government is presenting what is being described as its most important piece of post-Brexit legislation to date – the subsidy control bill.
Brexiters argued that one of the big advantages of leaving the EU was that the UK would no longer be bound by the EU’s rules on state aid. Critics were sceptical, partly because most of those Brexiters were Tories who were ideologically sceptical of state aid anyway, partly because even when the UK was in the EU other EU countries used state aid more, and partly because the Brexiters found it hard to give examples of the sort of subsidies they wanted to hand out to industry that were not allowed under Brussels rules. But during the general election campaign Boris Johnson promised to make better use of state aid after Brexit, in a move that helped to make the Conservatives sound more interventionist and high-spending, and that may have increased their appeal in the “Red Wall”.
The subsidy control bill is the result of that pledge, and Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, said it meant in future UK state aid would be “more agile and flexible”. In a news release about the bill he said:
Today we’re seizing the opportunities of being an independent trading nation to back new and emerging British industries, create more jobs and make the UK the best possible place to start and grow a business.
We want to use our new-found freedoms as an independent, sovereign country to empower public authorities across the UK to deliver financial support – without facing burdensome red tape.
While the UK’s new system will be more agile and flexible, I have been clear that we will not return to the failed 1970s approach of the government trying to run the economy, picking winners or bailing out unsustainable companies. Every subsidy must deliver strong benefits for local communities and ensure good value for money for the British taxpayer.
I will post more on the bill shortly.
Here is the agenda for the day.
10am: The high court in Belfast delivers its judgment in a legal challenge to the Northern Ireland protocol.
12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.
12.30pm: Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, responds to an urgent question from Labour about the impact of Covid on school attendance.
1.30pm: Downing Street is expected to holds its daily lobby briefing.
3.30pm: Maroš Šefčovič the European Commission vice-president is holding a press conference where he is expected to announce the grace period for chilled meats under the Northern Ireland protocol will be extended.
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