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Johnson Plans Brexit Bill, Putin Talks in Pivot From Sc...

Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Johnson Plans Brexit Bill, Putin Talks in Pivot From Scandal

Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister, departs number 10 Downing Street to attend a weekly questions and answers session at Parliament in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. Boris Johnson's supporters say the launch of a police inquiry into alleged breaches of pandemic rules in Downing Street has led prospective Conservative rebels to hold off any bid to oust the prime minister for now.
By Bloomberg
31 Jan 2022 2

Boris Johnson this week will introduce a “Brexit freedom bill” and hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an attempt to divert attention from the “partygate” scandal engulfing the U.K. prime minister. 

With Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warning that it’s “highly likely” that Putin is looking to invade Ukraine, Johnson is planning to travel to the region in the coming days and to speak with the Russian leader this week. He’s also introducing legislation to make it easier to remove European Union laws from British statute books.

Johnson’s government is seeking to reassert control over the political narrative that’s been consumed by calls for his resignation following his admission that he attended parties with staff during coronavirus lockdowns. Ministers also are struggling to grasp a cost-of-living crisis exacerbated by a surge in taxes and energy bills set to bite in April.

With Johnson waiting for the results of a police investigation and a probe by senior civil servant Sue Gray into wrongdoing, ministers set out this weekend to reset the political narrative, focusing attention on things the government is accomplishing.

Legislation building on Britain’s exit from the EU would make it easier to amend or remove statutes that remain on U.K. books, a measure that will help the government strip away regulations costing businesses 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion), Johnson’s office said in a statement released Monday.

“Getting Brexit done two years ago today was a truly historic moment,” Johnson said in a statement. “The plans we have set out today will further unleash the benefits of Brexit and ensure that businesses can spend more of their money investing.”

The government also ramped up preparations for military action in Ukraine, offering to send troops to Estonia and planning sanctions that would hit Russian oligarchs in the U.K.

“We’re looking at any company or individual of direct interest to the Russian state,” Truss said on Times Radio on Sunday. “There will be nowhere to hide for those who are supporting the Russian regime.”

Truss told the BBC she plans to travel to Moscow for talks within the next two weeks. The U.K. on Jan. 29 said it’s weighing the “biggest possible offer” of support to NATO allies, including deploying fast jets, warships and military specialists to the region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has criticized the U.S. over its warnings of a possible Russian invasion, saying the rhetoric was unduly stoking panic and damaging the country’s economy.

Separately on Monday, a British minister will attack law firms milking the National Health Service for legal fees. The government is proposing a new cap on the funds lawyers can earn in clinical negligence cases.

“We are seeing some law firms profiting at the NHS’ expense thorough legal costs that far outweigh the actual compensation awarded to patients,” Maria Caulfield, minister for patient safety, said in a statement on Monday.

Together, the steps deliver a messages that step away from the scandal and the squeeze on the finances of consumers that’s coming into sharper focus.

Later this week, the Bank of England is expected deliver the first back-to-back interest rate increases since 2004 in an attempt to rein in the strongest inflation in 30 years.

A surge in the cost of natural gas and electricity is driving much of the inflation, but the government itself is contributing to the problem.

Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak this weekend confirmed they’d go ahead with a planned increase in National Insurance Contributions, a tax that will drain consumer paychecks starting in April — the same time as higher utility bills hit.

Some Conservative members of Parliament have joined the Labour opposition and poverty campaigners against the tax increase.

“This is a dreadfully bad decision,” John Redwood, a Conservative MP, said on BBC’s Westminster Hour. “It’s bad economics. It’s worse politics. It is dangerous for him, for the country, for all of us.”

Former Brexit Minister David Davis wrote in the Financial Times that, “This seems to arise from a lack of understanding over the impact on individual families of a cost-of-living crisis growing more severe by the day” and that the Treasury must cut taxes.

Johnson and Sunak this week will finalize a package of measures to help consumers with energy bills, the Financial Times reported, citing unnamed government insiders. Possible initiatives include adding to a warm homes benefit or winter fuel payments.

A survey by Lloyds Banking Group Plc released Monday shows a record portion of companies planning price increases and business confidence sagging as a result of cost pressures.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan will draw attention to the issue on Monday as he launches a skills-training program for those on low wages.

“Many Londoners are facing an unprecedented squeeze on their budgets due to an increase in inflation, energy bills and National Insurance contributions,” Khan said in a statement. “I won’t sit by while people in our city struggle with the soaring cost of living.”

–With assistance from Andrew Atkinson.

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  • Troops to Ukraine!! It is fascinating how many presidents and prime ministers when found to be guilty of some serious misdemeanour, have looked for a war to totally capture the nation’s emotions so the misdemeanour slides quietly into obscurity. For top politicians personal reputation and fortunes win over national good every time, no matter the cost.

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