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Rishi signals help on way to slash 'one of the biggest bills'

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Challenge… Rishi says he understands the pain drivers face when filling up (Image: PA)

The Chancellor said he knows record pump prices are “one of the biggest bills people face” and pledged to make a difference where he can. But Conservative MPs sounded a “red alert” on soaring petrol and diesel charges. They claim drivers face a “de facto lockdown” since filling up their vehicle’s tank will be unaffordable.

They urged Mr Sunak to go much further to ease a massive spike in living costs, by ditching April’s National Insurance rise and removing VAT from domestic energy bills.

The Chancellor is believed to be wrestling with how to make a fuel duty cut work in practice, in the face of pump prices that are rising almost daily.

Treasury insiders have insisted repeatedly that his spring statement will not contain any major announcements and Mr Sunak said yesterday he could give no details of Wednesday’s mini-Budget spring statement in advance.

But he made it clear that, because he represents a rural constituency, he understands the pressure on motorists.

The MP for Richmond, North Yorks left the door open to other measures to soften the blows for households which struggling with rocketing costs.

Mr Sunak said: “Obviously I can’t comment on specific things.

“But what I would say, I understand that…I have a rural constituency, people are incredibly reliant on their cars and this is one of the biggest bills that people face, watching it go up.

“We’re all seeing that, when we’re filling up our cars. I get that, that’s why we’ve frozen fuel duty already.”

The Treasury has already announced plans to offer financial support to consumers through a £150 council tax rebate to some households and a repayable £200 saving on energy bills this year.

The Chancellor continued: “Without question, this is people’s number one priority – I get that, and I know how difficult it is when you are working hard and seeing the price of everything go up every day, every week.

“The steps we have taken to sanction Russia are not cost-free for us here at home, and I want to be honest with people that it is not going to be easy.”

“I wish Government could solve absolutely every problem and that I could fully protect people against the challenges that lie ahead, but I can’t.

“But what I would say is that I will stand by them in the same way that I have done in the past couple of years.

“Where we can make a difference, of course we will.”

Forecourt fuel prices have risen sharply since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, with global oil prices soaring.

Filling stations now charge on average a record 165.9p per litre for petrol and 177.3p per litre for diesel.

More than 50 Tory MPs last week wrote an open letter calling for fuel duty to be cut and warning that running a car is fast becoming “unaffordable for millions”.

Robert Halfon MP, the leading campaigner on keeping fuel costs down, said last night: “We are in red alert.

“If we are not careful we will face a de facto lockdown because millions of people will not be able to afford to drive their cars and businesses will not be able to afford the things that they do because of the cost of transportation. There is real fear. The public are terrified about petrol costs and energy costs at home.

“It is absolutely vital that the Chancellor acts in the spring statement and I welcome what he said.”

rishi sunak fuel duty cost of living

The Chancellor is believed to be wrestling with how to make a fuel duty cut work in practice (Image: getty)

Tory ex-Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood declared that “not enough” was being done to tackle the cost of living crisis. He said: “I’m happy to have a fuel duty reduction but we need to get rid of the National Insurance charge, we need to get VAT off domestic fuel, we need to get VAT off green products for improving fuel efficiency.”

He added: “This is a major threat to our standards of living. The tax burden is increasing far too quickly. The Chancellor has to reverse his ill-advised tax rises.”

Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, the chairman of the Fair Fuel all-party parliamentary group for motorists and hauliers, said: “With the highest fuel prices ever recorded and other cost of living pressures coming into view, it is little wonder that the public are having to make tough decisions on personal finances with car use being minimised.

“The car offers flexibility, independence and freedom. These are core Conservative values. The Chancellor needs to offer relief and it is in his hands to do so, else communities will suffer.” Howard Cox, founder of campaign body FairFuelUK, urged Mr Sunak to “incentivise consumer spending and stimulate growth. That’s the way to increase Treasury income.

“Cancel the NI rise and get back to traditional Tory values. Drop the ineffective green levies, cut fuel taxes and stop the greedy, rich fuel supply chain fleecing the UK’s 37 million drivers. All of these proven stimuli to the economy are in your power.”

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Labour said that it would not “stand in the way” if Mr Sunak wants to cut fuel duty. But the Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves warned: “Even a 5p reduction in fuel duty will only reduce filling up the car with petrol by £2.”

Martin Lewis, founder of consumer website MoneySavingExpert, said the “vast likelihood” was that energy bills would go up by around £600 when the autumn price cap is announced. He called for Government intervention to ease the cost of living crisis.

Modelling by the TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group predicts the 1.25 percent National Insurance rise will lead to the UK economy being £24billion smaller over ten years. John O’Connell, chief executive, said: “Hiking National Insurance will not only hit people’s pockets, but stifle the wider economy too.”

Mr O’Connell continued: “Bumper growth is what we need to tackle the colossal cost of Covid, not tax hikes which will see jobs and investment stall.

“The Chancellor should instead go for growth, and give taxpayers and businesses a respite from tax rises by scrapping the health and social care levy.”

John Longworth, chairman of the Independent Business Network, said: “With the country’s finances in disarray, families facing a cost of living crisis and our energy security uncertain, it’s essential the Government takes bold decisive actions now.

“We need a solid agenda of tax cuts and radical regulatory reform. This budget will test the Chancellor’s mettle”.



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'Have to kick the pedal to the metal' Ex-Ukrainian leader slams Macron tank aide hesitancy

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Ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk sat down on LBC Radio to discuss NATO leaders. NATO has been allying themselves with Ukraine, sending help and weaponry and taking fleeing Ukrainian refugees. NATO members held a conference on the Russian invasion earlier this week to discuss more ways to help Ukraine.

Mr Yatsenyuk pushed for Macron to send over military tanks as promised, slamming him for dragging his feet, and claiming that the war in Ukraine affects the security of every European country.

Mr Yatsenyuk said: “That’s what Putin is closely watching, as for now, Putin didn’t expect this kind of unity and consolidated and concerted actions against the Russian federation.

“But you know, the time is running and we don’t have enough time to wait until some EU member states decide to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

“Or to impose tougher and stronger sanctions on the Russian Federation, so the EU has to be decisive and they have to speed up the process of new sanctions.

“And the shipment and delivery of weapons to Ukraine, because it’s not just about Ukraina and they realise it clearly, this is about the free world.

“And this is about the security of every single nation in the European Union, so the French have to kick the pedal to the metal.”

JUST IN: Putin’s ‘biggest’ Achilles’ heel exposed as ‘derided’ Russian despot facing furious REVOLT

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained this week that he expected “serious steps” from Western-allied countries.

Mr Zelensky repeated the calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to be imposed by NATO forces and complained that the Western allies had not yet provided Ukraine with sufficient planes, up to date modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons.

Mr Zelensky added: “At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us.”

President Zelensky also expressed that he was grateful for the support Ukraine was continuing to receive from individual NATO member countries from around the world.

Mr Zelensky added: “But NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people,” he said. “It feels like we’re in the grey zone between the West and Russia, but we’re protecting all our and your shared values.

READ MORE:Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

Mr Johnson added: “We’ve got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves, and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been playing an active role in trying to de-escalate the war with Russia by imposing tight sanctions on Russia to try and stop Putin’s warpath of destruction.

Ms Truss has warned that infighting between NATO countries at the moment could be highly detrimental for progress in ending the war.

Mr Truss said: “Russia’s targeting of critical national infrastructure is calculated and dangerous.

“It shows Putin is prepared to risk lives to sow division and confusion among allies.”



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Brexit news: What happens when Article 16 is triggered?

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After Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) was confirmed, the two parties have been attempting to renegotiate terms for a special Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland. Coined the Northern Ireland protocol it’s been a point of contention that’s led to threats from each side of triggering a mechanism called Article 16. But what is it?

What is Article 16?

The UK and EU agreed to the creation of the Northern Ireland protocol, in October 2019.

By allowing goods to flow freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland the deal removed the threat of a hard border.

But the arrangement has also resulted in what’s been labelled as an ‘Irish Sea border’.

READ MORE: ‘Totally undeniable’ MPs colluded with Remainers to try stop Brexit

Goods that now arrive into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are subjected to more stringent checks and controls.

In the scenario that either the UK or EU feel that the protocol is leading to significant issues or hampering their capacity to trade, then they have the option of activating Article 16.

The component sets out the process for taking unilateral “safeguard” measures, which in reality would amount to suspending parts of the deal.

Specifically, Article 16 says safeguard measures can be taken if the protocol is leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” that are liable to persist.

He said: “Triggering Article 16 now would severely disrupt the unity of the UK and EU response to the war in Ukraine.

“It is thus perhaps not surprising that key US figures chose this week to restate that any uncertainty around the stability of the Good Friday Agreement would hinder a future UK-US trade deal.”

In recent months talks between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic have stalled, leading to calls from Brexiteers for the UK to act.

However, Professor Menon cautioned that triggering Article 16 won’t “rid” Britain of the protocol.

He added: “I think the British Government if it triggers Article 16 will do something relatively small and contained.

“And then there’s not a massive bust-up. You don’t end up getting rid of the protocol. You end up with months if not years of negotiations, mediation and arbitration.

“So, it’s a way of doing something but it’s not a way of solving anything. In a sense you’re still stuck with the protocol and you’re still negotiating about the future of the protocol.”

In essence, were Article 16 to be triggered it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the ground.

Many of the checks on goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland have already been unilaterally suspended.

Triggering the mechanism itself would only start a formal dispute process that requires both sides to go into talks to resolve.



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NATO slammed as former US Army chief exposes ‘two big issues’ in united Russia response

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US Army vice chief of staff general Jack Keane, sat down on LBC radio to talk about the NATO conference which took place earlier this week. Mr Keane discussed the possibility that Putin could deploy chemical biological weapons on the battlefield. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already used the highly condemned thermobaric weapons since the war started just over a month ago.

The US Army chief acknowledged there had been no public policy declaration on the consequences Putin would face if he was to take such a barbaric action.

Mr Keane said: “Listen I was very disappointed by the NATO summit.

“I totally applaud the fact that they’re going to increase by 40k troops in Eastern Europe.

“And they’re increasing sanctions and it seems like a sense of unity.

“But on two big issues, it’s got to be disappointing, there’s no NATO public policy declaration.

JUST IN: Putin’s ‘biggest’ Achilles’ heel exposed as ‘derided’ Russian despot facing furious REVOLT

Mr Keane added: “At the end of that summit to deal with this particular issue, chemical biological weapons and nuclear weapons which the Russians have been waving in front of our face now for almost 30 days.

“What we need is… Think policy statement, not something that’s left to a reporter to ask a question on.

“And then you get a statement that you just repeated, which leads to more confirmation than anything else.

“A much better statement, using my words… I don’t want to put words into other people’s mouths.

READ MORE: Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

“But with me, the use of any form of WMB would be unacceptable.

“We will not let it stand, it will result in decisive consequential actions and all options are on the table.

“Words to that effect, in a public policy statement, and we didn’t get it and it’s really unfortunate.

“And what it does it leaves in the minds of Putin and his  leaders just what would the reaction be, ambiguous like that and I think it’s very unfortunate.”

DON’T MISS: Russia scaling back invasion as troops retreat to eastern Ukraine after weeks of stalemate

Fear of the Russian military deploying chemical biological weapons has been heightened.

Ukrainian outlet InformNapalm has warned that: “Our conclusions may sound premature or too apocalyptic, but after the missile attacks and bombing of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, which the Russian army resorted to, we believe that it is necessary to make these data public and try to thwart any such intentions of Russia.”

And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Thursday: “We’ve tried to be very clear about the gravity of the use of any such chemical weapons.

“These are agents that should never be employed and certainly not on the battlefield, as we are concerned Russia might.”



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