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Joining Indo-Pacific trade bloc could only boost UK GDP by £1.8bn | Politics News

The government has signed an agreement to join an Indo-Pacific trading bloc, although the estimated benefit could only be £1.8bn in GDP.

In announcing the formal plans to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Rishi Sunak administration highlighted the £12trn value of the combined GDPs of all the member nations if the UK is included.

But the government already has free-trade deals with all the member nations, aside from Brunei and Malaysia.

Politics latest: Chances of free trade deal with US ‘very low’

And analysis provided to the government estimates the new agreement will boost UK exports by £1.7bn, imports to the UK by £1.6bn and GDP by £1.8bn in the long term.

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said these figures needed to be examined in the context of the benefits of being a member of a trading bloc.

She said: “The contents of the free trade deals that we have with these countries is different from what we’re getting with CPTPP.

“That’s why it’s called the comprehensive – as well as progressive agreement – for the trans-Pacific partnership.

“There is one additional country, which is Malaysia, that we have no agreements whatsoever with, but it isn’t just about whether or not we have an agreement.

Who is in the CPTPP?

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Peru
  • Singapore
  • Vietnam

“We’ve got agreements with many different countries – it is about the size, shape and scale and the cumulative impact of things like rules of origin, which are pooled between this trading bloc.”

It is not the first time the government has lauded its own efforts with CPTPP, with Ms Badenoch and Mr Sunak praising the UK being accepted into the bloc in March.

The UK was already set to benefit from its agreements with the CPTPP regardless of the next phase of membership, with exports estimated to rise by 65% by the start of the next decade – valued at £37bn.

Ms Badenoch pointed out that the Indo-Pacific is forecasted to be where half of global growth will come from by around the middle of the 2030s, and will continue growing into the middle of the century.

Outside the UK government, there was more of a muted welcome for the UK’s joining the bloc.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis, the chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates which works with investors across Asia, spoke to the Nikkei overnight.

He said: “The impact appears mainly cosmetic, for the UK to show it made a trade deal after Brexit.”

Labour’s shadow trade secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said progress in the Indo-Pacific was “long overdue”.

He added: “The government’s own assessment says CPTPP is worth just 0.08% to UK GDP.

“So ministers also need to set out how this will help the economy and what support will be given to businesses to access any export opportunities.

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March: ‘Palm oil is a great product’

“The government’s trade record is: OBR predict UK exports to fall by 6.6% in 2023, a hit of over £51bn; No promised US or India trade deals; Their own MPs criticising the Australia deal.

“This costs the UK growth and jobs – making the Tory economic crisis even worse.”

Trevor Phillips will host Sky News’ agenda-setting flagship political talk show when it returns in September

‘A significant milestone for UK trade’: Britain signs deal to join £12trn Indo-Pacific trading block | Politics News

Kemi Badenoch has signed off UK membership to a major Indo-Pacific trade bloc.

The business and trade secretary signed the accession protocol to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in New Zealand on Sunday.

The move brings British businesses a step closer to being able to sell to a market of half a billion people.

Britain is the first new member to join the bloc – comprising Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – since its formation in 2018.

The UK is also the first European nation to gain entry.

It represents Britain’s biggest trade deal since Brexit, cutting tariffs for UK exporters to a group of nations which – with UK accession – will have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of £12trn, accounting for 15% of global GDP, according to officials.

The signing is the formal confirmation of the agreement which was reached in March after two years of negotiations.

Britain and the other 11 CPTPP members now begin work to ratify the deal, which in the UK will involve parliamentary scrutiny and legislation.

Officials believe it will come into force in the second half of 2024, at which point the UK becomes a voting member of the bloc and businesses can benefit from it.

Kemi Badenoch in Auckland
Badenoch in Auckland

Before putting pen to paper in Auckland alongside ministers from CPTPP nations, Ms Badenoch said: “I’m delighted to be here in New Zealand to sign a deal that will be a big boost for British businesses and deliver billions of pounds in additional trade, as well as open up huge opportunities and unparalleled access to a market of over 500 million people.

“We are using our status as an independent trading nation to join an exciting, growing, forward-looking trade bloc, which will help grow the UK economy and build on the hundreds of thousands of jobs CPTPP-owned businesses already support up and down the country.”

Read more:
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Simon Case accuses minsters of ‘self-defeating cowardice’

To coincide with the signing, the government released figures showing that CPTPP-headquartered businesses employed one in every 100 UK workers in 2019, amounting to more than 400,000 jobs across the country.

Kemi Badenoch with Rino Tirikatene and Natalie Black
Kemi Badenoch with New Zealand MP Rino Tirikatene and Natalie Black, His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner Asia Pacific

While Britain already has trade agreements with the CPTPP members apart from Malaysia and Brunei, officials said it will deepen existing arrangements, with 99% of current UK goods exports to the bloc eligible for zero tariffs.

Dairy producers will gain export opportunities to Canada, Chile, Japan and Mexico, while beef, pork and poultry producers will get better access to Mexico’s market, according to officials.

But critics say the impact will be limited, with official estimates suggesting it will add just £1.8bn a year to the economy after 10 years, representing less than 1% of UK GDP.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy last month said the Tories were being “dishonest” by claiming CPTPP membership would make up for lost trade in Europe.

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Badenoch dismisses Brexit criticism

Officials herald the CPTPP as an alternative to the beleaguered World Trade Organisation in an increasingly fragmented international trading system.

HSBC chief executive Ian Stuart said: “The UK’s formal accession to CPTPP marks a significant milestone for UK trade, enabling ambitious British businesses to connect with the world’s most exciting growth markets for start-ups, innovation and technology.”

Some of the everyday items from CPTPP nations that will become cheaper for UK consumers thanks to the deal include Australian Ugg boots, kiwi fruits from New Zealand, blueberries from Chile and Canadian maple syrup, according to the Institute of Export and International Trade.

After the UK’s accession, attention may shift to other potential new members, with applications by China and Taiwan likely to cause tensions.

Kemi Badenoch will be appearing on the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme on Sky News from 8.30am this morning.

PM makes some progress with Biden, but promised free trade deal with US is yet to materialise | Politics News

The prime minister leaves Washington with some progress on two of his goals on this trip: to get his foot in the door on the global response to the risks of artificial intelligence, and deepen economic ties with our biggest trading partner.

The announcement of the first global AI summit to discuss how the world might multilaterally mitigate risk in London is a win.

Mr Sunak wanted to use this visit to directly impress upon President Joe Biden that the UK has the knowhow to take a bigger lead in the regulation of AI, and this summit is a start in the bigger push to locate any global watchdog in London.

And from the language used by Mr Biden at the news conference, it looks like Mr Sunak succeeded.

The US president told his audience in the East Room of the White House: “We’re looking to Great Britain to help me in that effort to figure out a way through [the handling of AI].

“So we’re in full cooperation. Because there’s no one country we have greater faith in being able to negotiate this. We’re in lockstep.”

For a country that has been shut out of negotiations between the EU and US on regulatory frameworks, this would have been very welcome language.

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What did Rishi Sunak get out of his US trip?

Mr Sunak prides himself on his knowledge of AI and thinks it’s an area where he can stake ground for the UK.

He likes to share an essay with AI novices called Why AI Will Save The World by Marc Andreessen, which presents a bullish case of how artificial intelligence can enhance our lives.

But, as Mr Sunak told me in our interview this week, he is also very cognisant of the existential threat to humanity it poses if left unchecked, and needs grasping quickly given that AI is evolving faster than expected.

And this goes beyond just the PM’s personal interests – from a UK perspective, in a post-Brexit world where London no longer acts as the natural transatlantic bridge between Washington and Brussels, Mr Sunak is trying to stake a claim to leadership elsewhere.

The UK’s leadership on Ukraine, kickstarted by Boris Johnson and continued by Mr Sunak, has been noted, both on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

While Washington has size and scale, London, say UK officials, can demonstrate first-mover advantage, unencumbered by the EU.

What Mr Sunak wants to show is that the UK can be a nimble operator – and from his remarks at the news conference, President Biden looks like he could have bought in.

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Sunak warns against AI ‘scaremongering’

For there’s no doubt, after that scratchy period during the Johnson years and Truss days, that relations were strained.

Mr Sunak has remedied that: in the Oval Office on Thursday, the two leaders spent 40 minutes in a one-on-one meeting, and another 30 minutes in a more formal bilateral with advisers.

No 10 insiders tell me they were pleasantly surprised by Mr Biden’s warm language following those discussions in the news conference.

There is a feeling on the plane back to London that Mr Sunak landed his pitch to be a leader in AI regulation with the US.

Time will tell whether the UK’s hosting of a global conference on mitigating AI risks in the autumn will evolve into the UK hosting the first AI global regulator, something the PM is pushing for.

From a No 10 perspective, this is an administration that is getting wins on the international stage, be it the Windsor Framework with Brussels or the Hiroshima accord with Japan.

And from a prime ministerial perspective, the foreign policy progress Mr Sunak’s making is perhaps the most successful aspect of his first six months in No 10.

This is a leader who seems genuinely comfortable on the global stage and seems to build genuine rapport with allies from the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen to Mr Biden.

As for the deepening of economic ties between our two nations, the announcement of the Atlantic Declaration to strengthen the special relationship was a further sign that allies are trying to cut China out of supply chains amid fears of Beijing’s growing aggression.

But the hard reality is that the free trade deal hailed as a big Brexit win for the British people had failed to materialise after Mr Biden, perhaps constrained by congressional constraints, put that trade deal in the deep freeze.

Read more:
PM blames pandemic and war for failure to strike US trade deal
Sunak criticises Starmer over ‘bizarre’ North Sea oil and gas ban

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Mr Sunak has long said that he wants to focus on the quality rather than speed when it comes to trade deals (the US-UK deal will be looked at again in 2025), but the hard facts are that the Conservatives promised a free trade deal with the US by the end of 2022, and that deal has failed it materialise.

It is a broken promise.

When I asked the PM in Washington on Thursday to acknowledge this government had failed on this election pledge on Thursday, Mr Sunak said the “macroeconomic situation had evolved” and insisted that the UK-US economic partnership was still strong and reflected new threats.

“Since [that pledge] then we’ve had a pandemic. We’ve had a war in Ukraine and that has changed the macroeconomic situation,” he said.

“And the right response to that is to ensure that we’re focusing our engagement economically on the things that will make the most difference to the British people.

“The real challenge we face are the threats to our economic security. And actually what I’ll be talking to President Biden about today is how can the UK and the US work together to ensure that security for our citizens? I think that’s the thing that we should be focusing on right now.”

No trade deal, but for this PM, the special relationship looks in good shape.

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US-UK relationship ‘in real good shape’

An Atlantic Declaration that maps out future cooperation on issues such as artificial intelligence, key supply chains and defence manufacturing is a result.

On politics and policy, the special relationship between not just the US, but the UK on a wider global stage is looking in better shape than it’s been for a good few years.

It might not be a vote winner for Mr Sunak come the next general election, but he comes across as the prime minister who believes this is the right thing to do for Britain’s post Brexit relevance and prosperity.

He is a leader who is winning points on the world stage, but still desperately behind in the polls.

Pub trade warns of 2,000 closures without budget aid | Business News

A further 2,000 pubs are at risk of closure, threatening 25,000 jobs, unless the chancellor comes to the sector’s aid in this month’s budget, according to an industry body.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) cited research by Oxford Economics which forecast 288 million fewer pints would be sold in the next financial year as the cost of living crisis facing punters combines with the cost of doing business crisis.

Sales volumes have already slipped as the squeeze on household budgets forces more people to drink and eat at home.

The BBPA told Sky News that 450 sites closed last year alone as energy-driven inflation accelerated, despite government support.

It builds on a significant decline since 2000, with a quarter of pubs – 13,000 – being lost.

The BBPA used a submission to chancellor Jeremy Hunt, in advance of his budget on 15 March, to declare that financial support for publicans, breweries and staff training to retain workers were vital, arguing that the pub is at the core of British society.

It pointed to rising energy, food and employment bills among the reasons why costs are unsustainable.

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Farmers plead for government aid

“With cost pressures and slowing consumer spend, combined with a further duty increase in August, there are significant fears of widespread closures, with a worrying 2,000 pubs estimated to be at risk,” its statement said.

“And with the current Energy Bill Relief Scheme support ending on 31st of March, many pubs and breweries will again be subject to rocketing bills that threaten them to declare last orders once and for all.”

It said that one pound in every three spent in pubs currently made its way to the Treasury.

The BBPA’s wishlist included a freeze to duty rates and a “significant increase” in the discount for draft beer sold in pubs.

Publican Emma Shepherd, who runs the Blue Ball Inn in Worrall near Sheffield with her husband, has campaigned for more financial aid for the hospitality sector.

She described how soaring energy prices had already forced the closure of its kitchen on two days per week despite government support for energy costs.

The Blue Ball Inn belongs to Admiral Taverns and is run by Emma and Carl Shepherd. Pic: Blue Ball Inn
The Blue Ball Inn belongs to Admiral Taverns and is run by Emma and Carl Shepherd. Pic: Blue Ball Inn

She warned that the prospect of any easing from April could mean they have to let staff go and shut the kitchen.

“We’re in a perfect storm… working harder for less,” she explained, describing how beer, food and local regulations had added to their expenses.

“20% VAT on everything is a huge cost to small businesses that are working on small margins and the margins are getting smaller,” she said.

“The government hailed a reduction for beer tax but we don’t see a reduction at our end because the beer producers are facing the same energy costs as we are.”

Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the BBPA, said pubs in rural areas were at particular risk, leaving more communities facing the prospect of being without a local.

“This really is a make or break moment for our pubs and our brewers,” she said.

“With everything that’s hitting them at the moment post pandemic, recovery has been really, really difficult and with cost inflation biting, labour shortages as well as those high energy costs, we’re really struggling to find our feet again as an industry… without that intervention (from the government) we could lose 2,000 pubs and 25,000 jobs.”

The World Reimagined: King to view art project on the slave trade during Yorkshire visit | UK News

The King and Queen Consort will visit Yorkshire today for engagements that explore the UK’s history and relationship with the Commonwealth.

It is of immense significance to me personally and to the wider discussion on racial equity that His Majesty, as part of his visit, will be viewing a number of The World Reimagined globes on display in Leeds City Centre.

The World Reimagined is a national arts and education project that explores the history and impact of the transatlantic trade in the enslavement of Africans.

The aim is to transform how we understand this period and allow us to better understand our combined history.

Artists were commissioned to depict their interpretations of the trade.

Their unique designs have been applied to a large globe sculpture shape devised by our founder, Turner Prize-nominated artist Yinka Shonibare CBE.

The trails are the centre of a broader education and engagement programme, with more than 200 schools, 100 community organisations, 58 corporate partners and various sporting and cultural institutions across the country.

The hope is the project will inspire and instil pride in what it means to be black and British and help us all better understand what it means to be British.

I am one of the trustees and sit on the board that brought this nascent idea, born out of a fleeting conversation, to life.

Imagine what all of us could do to make racial justice a reality if we deeply understood our shared history and truly acknowledged one another.

This ethos is the seed from which The World Reimagined has grown.

As we spoke with more and more people across the UK, we were inspired by the desire and readiness of people from all walks of life to have this conversation about our shared history for our shared future.

Together, we knew it doesn’t diminish who we are as a society, but in its courage enhances our collective identity and what it means to be British.

That’s what we’ve seen in the extraordinary and enormous community that has brought The World Reimagined to life.

centre of a broader education and engagement programme, with more than 200 schools, 100 community organisations, 58 corporate partners
The World Reimagined. Gillian Joseph piece about racial equality in Britain

We’ve seen artists transform their experience, insight and talent into stunning sculptures that have been invitations to learning for the public.

We’ve seen teachers step forward into their roles as racial justice leaders in their school communities, historians share their expertise, and community activists combine compassion and persistence to keep the conversation going.

Shortly after the killing of George Floyd in the US on the 25 May 2020, I hosted a special global debate programme for Sky News called Race and Revolution: Is Change Going to Come? in which I was joined by historians, activists, business and cultural leaders and a virtual studio audience to discuss what should happen next in the fight to eradicate racism and create equality.

A seat at the table is what was demanded, an acknowledgement of equal humanity and most encouragingly a sense that this tragedy had provided a tipping point that would lead to positive change.

The special discussion aired in June.
Sky held a special debate programme following George Floyd’s death in 2020
George Floyd with daughter Gianna. Mr Floyd was killed during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis.
George Floyd with his daughter Gianna

I do believe the killing of one man on a street in Minneapolis led to a global demand for change.

The Black Lives Matter movement has come to the fore, statues have been toppled – rightly or wrongly depending on your viewpoint, institutions have offered to make amends, to learn and to do better.

I feel optimistic it was more than just a moment.

Sky’s commitment

I’m proud to say the then chief executive of Sky, Jeremy Darroch, promised that the company would be a more diverse and inclusive organisation, especially at senior levels

The aim was to listen and take advice from black and minority ethnic colleagues, so the wider organisation could make the changes that really matter. The changes that bring us closer to true equality.

Everyone at Sky was encouraged to take responsibility to educate themselves and understand the issues, so the right conversations happened, however uncomfortable they may be.

A promise was made to work with colleagues and charities to make a difference in communities.

Sky is making a significant financial contribution towards the fight for racial equality, supporting causes affecting black and minority ethnic communities.

It’s hoped the investment will ensure the company plays its part in building a more tolerant and inclusive society, working on issues of racial injustice and with communities affected by it.

Sky has engaged in having a challenging and robust discussion, about race, racism and achieving true equality. The company committed to an additional £10m a year until 2023 to support and embed the various changes.

It was this commitment by Sky and the ground-shifting events of George Floyd’s killing that emboldened me to ask the company to support The World Reimagined. They accepted the invitation and became the Official Presenting Partner.

King’s ‘personal sorrow’ over slave trade

Today we see the King interacting with the project in Leeds.

We have been encouraged by His Majesty’s acknowledgement the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans must be publicly addressed and taught in schools with the same prominence as the Holocaust.

Before becoming King, he spoke of his “personal sorrow” at the UK’s historical links with the trade during his visit to Rwanda earlier this year and vowed to campaign for greater public awareness of slavery, the lack of which dogged the Royal Family’s recent overseas tours.

Prince Charles speaks in Rwanda
The King spoke of his ‘personal sorrow’ at UK links with slavery during a visit to Rwanda earlier this year

The King seems genuinely interested in trying to understand our past and how it informs the present and future.

He described the enslavement of Africans as an “appalling atrocity”, saying “it forever stains our history” when he spoke at an event to mark Barbados becoming a republic.

At The World Reimagined, we believe in a patriotism that says we as a country are strong and courageous enough to own our shared past and present honestly, so that we can create a better future – together.

That is the invitation these incredible works of art have extended to the public in recent months.

We have been so inspired by the students, families, communities and companies that have stepped into this conversation.

It is meaningful to see the King’s determination to join the recognition this is a conversation everybody needs to be a part of and in which everyone has a role to play.

All 103 artist-commissioned globes will be on display for two days in Trafalgar Square in London on 19 and 20 November.

Chinese embassy issues trade threat to UK over Manchester consulate beating | Politics News

The Chinese Embassy in London has warned protecting Hong Kong protesters will “bring disaster to Britain” after a man was beaten up inside China’s Manchester consulate.

In a video released by the embassy on Thursday, a spokesman made the most direct trade threat to the UK since footage showed Hong Kong protester Bob Chan being pulled inside the Manchester consulate grounds and beaten up by its staff on 16 October.

The consul-general was spotted pulling Mr Chan’s hair and told Sky News last week it was his “duty” as he said Mr Chan was “abusing my country, my leader”.

Thursday’s clip was entitled: “Online press conference on the violent harassment of the Chinese consulate general in Manchester.”

There was no media present and no questions were taken.

The video has been met with indignation by MPs and human rights campaigners in the UK.

In it, the spokesman warned: “Providing shelter to the Hong Kong independent elements will only, in the end, bring disaster to Britain.”

He said he wanted to “remind” people of the Aesop’s Fable about the farmer and the snake “where the farmer showed sympathy to the snake but finally got bitten by the snake”.

He spoke at length about how much the UK relies on China as its third-largest trading partner and “number one source of imports”.

“British exports to China also increased sharply so we see this relationship to be win-win and mutually beneficial,” he said.

“China attaches great importance to the relationship with the UK and we are willing to develop further co-operation with the UK on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.

“This is good for both sides and good for the world.”

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Chinese consulate: What happened?

He added that a “few” people with “selfish motivations” are trying to provoke confrontation between China and the UK which “is dangerous and bad for both sides”, he said.

Alicia Kearns, the new chair of the foreign affairs committee, said the threats were sadly to be expected from China.

“The lack of contrition from CCP (the Chinese Communist Party) over what was a shocking assault is concerning, if not wholly surprising,” she said.

“It is, sadly, consistent with Beijing’s aggressive foreign policy under Xi and why we have seen diplomatic relations with China become increasingly strained across the world.”

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Protester on ‘assault’ at China consulate in Manchester

Human rights campaigner Luke de Pulford, executive director of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said the UK government needs to stamp down on China’s trade threats and human rights abuses.

He told Sky News: “What looks more like a snake?

“Hong Kongers who have been forced out of their homes for standing up for democracy, or the Chinese Communist Party which metes out genocide, tears up treaties, whose diplomats beat up protesters, and which operates illegal police stations to persecute dissidents?

“I know which I’d prefer, and the government needs to make plain their displeasure at China’s brazen hubris now.”

The government, under Liz Truss, has said it will wait until a police investigation into the Manchester consulate incident concludes before deciding what to do with those staff involved.

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‘My duty’ to pull protester’s hair

Rishi Sunak, who took over as PM on Tuesday, has not yet made a comment about the incident.

It is understood that the government are awaiting details of the police investigation but that the ambassador has delivered a clear message to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing about the depth of ministers’ concern.

Other MPs, both Tory and Labour, have called for the consul general involved in the attack to be sent straight back to China.

Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who is sanctioned by China, said any Chinese consulate staff involved in the attack should be expelled, made to apologise and made persona non grata.

He said it should be a political decision and the government should not wait for the police investigation to finish as there is video evidence, some which was put out by the Chinese embassy.

Trade unions vow to fight government over strike legislation to ‘keep Britain moving’ during strikes | Politics News

The government is pressing ahead to introduce legislation which will require transport workers to run a minimum service when strikes are taking place.

It comes after commuters have been plagued by months of travel chaos caused by industrial action by railway workers, who are calling for better pay, working conditions and job security.

But trade unions have insisted the proposals will undermine workers’ right to strike and have promised to defend their members.

New chancellor warns of ‘tough decisions’ ahead – Politics latest

The legislation is part of a pledge made by the prime minister to introduce such a bill within the first 30 days of parliament sitting.

Liz Truss is aiming to ensure transport services, including rail, tubes and buses, cannot be completely shutdown when workers go on strike.

“The government stood on a manifesto commitment to introduce minimum service levels. As we have seen only too often in recent months, it is wrong that strikes are preventing hard-working people and families up and down the country from getting to work, doctors’ appointments and school,” a government source said.

“That is why we are introducing this legislation, to keep Britain moving, ensure people can get to work, earn their own living and grow the economy.”

The minimum service levels law is expected to come into force next year.

Similar legislation already exists in some western European countries, such as France and Spain, but unions have criticised the move as being “unworkable”.

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What are rail workers asking for?

‘Unfair, unworkable and incompatible’

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the proposals “undermine the right to strike” and called for the government to “stop blocking negotiations” to allow workers and unions to reach an agreement

“Truss and her ministers want to make it harder for workers to win better pay and conditions. It’s a cynical distraction from their own failings,” he said.

“The changes are unfair, unworkable and incompatible with our international commitments. Trade unions will oppose them every step of the way.”

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‘Time for union bosses to get out of the way’

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Lynch said the restrictions will only make it “more difficult to reach a negotiated settlement” in the current rail dispute.

“We already have the most draconian and restrictive anti-trade union laws in Western Europe,” he said.

“Working people are fed up with the government trying to make them scapegoats for the country’s problems.”

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers union Aslef, described the idea as “stupid”, adding that it shows Ms Truss wants to make industrial action “ineffective”.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss trade blows in fiery head-to-head Tory leadership TV debate | Politics News

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss stepped up the blue-on-blue attacks in a fiery head-to-head showdown which saw them clash over taxes, the schools they went to and their loyalty to Boris Johnson.

The pair were grilled over their economic policy, China and even earrings in their first live TV debate since making it down to the final two in the Tory leadership race.

They came out neck and neck in a snap Opinium poll of who performed best, with Mr Sunak just ahead at 39%, compared to Ms Truss at 38%.

Sunak and Truss clash over economy, tax and Boris Johnson in heated TV debate – live updates

The debate kicked off with a particularly heated discussion about the economy – which has been a key dividing line in the race to succeed Mr Johnson.

Former chancellor Mr Sunak claimed there is “nothing Conservative” about Ms Truss’s approach and it would give the party “absolutely no chance” of winning the next election.

Foreign Secretary Ms Truss in turn suggested her rival would lead the country into a recession and accused him of “doom and gloom” economics.

As well as reversing the National Insurance tax hike, Ms Truss has said she would put an economic growth plan in place “immediately” if she becomes prime minister, along with imposing a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy.

Ms Truss said her plans would see the government start paying down the debt in three years’ time, but Mr Sunak hit back: “You’ve promised over £40bn of unfunded tax cuts – £40bn more borrowing.

“That is the country’s credit card and it’s our children and grandchildren, everyone here’s kids will pick up the tab for that.

“There’s nothing Conservative about it.”

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Poll puts Sunak and Truss level

But Ms Truss said no other country was putting up taxes and accused Mr Sunak of having no plan for growth.

Mr Sunak spoke over Ms Truss a number of times as he warned inflation was a problem in the 1980s and it is a “problem we have now”, adding: “We need to get a grip on inflation.”

The heated debate came after a weekend that saw allies of the two Tory leadership hopefuls trade increasingly personal attacks.

The pair also clashed over China as Ms Truss claimed Mr Sunak’s new tough stance was “driven by the Foreign Office”.

But it wasn’t all bad tempered with the cabinet secretary at one point complimenting Mr Sunak’s dress sense.

Earlier today, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries hit out at Mr Sunak by comparing his expensive suit and shoes to Liz Truss’ £4.50 Claire’s Accessories earrings – and it caused quite a stir.

When asked to address the issue, Mr Sunak said the leadership hopefuls should be judged “by their character and their actions”.

He said he “wasn’t born this way” as his family emigrated to the UK 60 years ago and he had previously worked as a waiter at an Indian restaurant.

‘Great admirer of his dress sense’

Ms Truss would not completely disown Ms Dorries’ comments, but she did appear to distance herself from them as she said she wasn’t sure where the £4.50 claim about her earrings came from.

But she said she does not have “any issue with how expensive anybody else’s clothes are” and is “not going to give Rishi fashion advice”, adding she is a “great admirer of his dress sense”.

On Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak said the outgoing PM is “one of the most remarkable people I’ve met” but said he would not let him serve in his cabinet if he were to become prime minister.

He got a round of applause when he said he resigned “on principle” as “enough was enough” due to issues over conduct and the economy.

Ms Truss would not say what it would have taken for her to resign. She would also not answer directly when asked if she would allow Mr Johnson to serve in her cabinet, instead saying she did not think that would happen.