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Discussions between the UK and the EU over post-Brexit rules in Northern Ireland have ended without an agreement being reached.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost said he and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic had broken up their discussions with “no breakthroughs and no breakdowns” with the EU on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Mr Sefcovic described the EU as having reached “a crossroads” with the EU after Wednesday’s talks and said the bloc’s patience is “wearing very, very thin”.

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GB chilled meats ‘no risk’ to N Ireland

In a statement following the meeting between the pair, the government acknowledged the “urgent need for further discussions in order to make real progress”.

“The UK will continue to put forward detailed proposals, as we have throughout this year, and looks forward to discussing any proposals the EU may put forward,” it said.

The showdown comes as Boris Johnson is battling to avoid a sausage trade war with Brussels which could see chilled meats barred from shops in Northern Ireland from the end of this month.

Ahead of the talks, which took place in London, Lord Frost warned that time was running out for an agreement to be reached and had called for “common sense” to prevail.

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Mr Sefcovic has said there have been “numerous and fundamental gaps in the UK’s implementation” of the two sides’ trade deal and that the EU will act “firmly” if the UK does not agree on deadlines for complying with its obligations.

Speaking after the three-and-a-half hour talks on Wednesday, Lord Frost said the “frank and honest discussions” had not resulted in a resolution, but that the two sides had agreed to carry on communicating.

Britain's Brexit Minister David Frost speaks during the first meeting of the Partnership Council with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic in London, June 9, 2021. Eddie Mulholland/Pool via REUTERS
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The talks between Lord Frost and Maros Sefcovic lasted three-and-a-half hours on Wednesday.

“The problem we’ve got is the protocol is being implemented in a way which is causing disruption in Northern Ireland and we had some pretty frank and honest discussions about that situation today,” he said.

“There weren’t any breakthroughs. There aren’t any breakdowns either and we’re going to carry on talking.

“What we really now need to do is very urgently find some solutions which support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, support the peace process in Northern Ireland and allow things to return to normal.”

Calling for “pragmatic solutions” to be found, Lord Frost maintained that the EU is insisting the protocol is implemented in an “extremely purist way”.

“What the EU is insisting on is we should operate the protocol in an extremely purist way. The reality is that it’s a very balanced document that’s designed to support the peace process and deal with the very sensitive politics in Northern Ireland,” the Brexit minister said.

But Mr Sefcovic said Brussels has engaged “creatively and tirelessly” to find solutions for businesses and those living in Northern Ireland.

“There are still numerous and fundamental gaps in the UKs implementation of our agreement.

European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic speaking to the media at London's St Pancras Station after arriving in the UK ahead of talks with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on the Northern Ireland protocol.
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European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic has said the EU will act ‘firmly’ if the UK does not agree on deadlines for complying with its obligations.

“These gaps need to be filled by a mutually agreed compliant path with concrete deadlines and milestones for the UK to fulfil its existing obligations.

“If the UK were to take further unilateral action in the coming weeks the EU will not be shy in acting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure the UK abides by its international obligations,” he told reporters.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was put in place to avoid the introduction of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

It states that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s customs territory – so if the UK signs a free trade deal with another country, Northern Irish goods would be included.

However, Northern Ireland will have to stick to some EU rules to allow goods to move freely into the Republic.

Under the protocol, a ban will come into force if the UK and EU cannot agree on new regulatory standards to cover the sale of some products after a “grace period” allowed under the agreement.

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Sausage row threatens post-Brexit trade deal

In March, the UK unilaterally extended the grace period for supermarket goods and parcels for another six months, after it was due to finish at the end of that month.

The EU launched legal action against the UK for extending that grace period.

It is understood British ministers are now considering a unilateral extension for chilled meats, including sausages and mince, which is due to end on 30 June.

After the grace period, chilled meats produced in Great Britain will not be allowed to be sold in Northern Ireland as they are not from the EU, which has strict restrictions on food products.

Mr Sefcovic said retaliation by the EU would be so extreme it would ensure the UK “abides by its international law obligations”.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman has said there is “no case whatsoever” for blocking the sale of chilled meats.

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Labour Party raises 15 times more than Tories in donations during second week of campaign

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Labour Party raises 15 times more than Tories in donations during second week of campaign

The Labour Party raised almost £4.4m in the second full week of the general election campaign – close to 15 times the amount brought in by the Tories.

Rishi Sunak’s party took in just under £300,000 between 6 and 12 June.

Reform UK raised more than double this figure, with £742,000 taken. However, £500,000 of this money was handed over by Britain Means Business, a company run by Reform’s deputy leader Richard Tice.

The Liberal Democrats also took in more than the Conservatives, raising £335,000.

The Green Party raised £20,000.

Labour raised £4,383,400 – and its partner the Co-operative Party raised £60,000.

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The Conservatives raised £292,500, according to Electoral Commission figures.

The Tory figure is also roughly half of what they raised in the first full week of the campaign.

Keir Starmer and  Rachel Reeves tour a Morrisons supermarket in Wiltshire.
Pic: Reuters
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Labour has raised almost 15 times what the Tories did. Pic: Reuters

Between 30 May and 5 June, the Conservatives took in £574,918, compared to Labour’s £926,908.

However, looking at the 2019 election, the Conservative Party raised 10 times this figure in the first week of the campaign – raising £5.7m between 6 and 12 November 2019.

Labour took in £218,500 at this time.

Who gave the parties the most money?

Digging into the breakdown from the Electoral Commission, we can see a bit more about who gave the different parties the most money.

As mentioned, Reform’s biggest donor is a company run by their deputy leader.

A man called David Lilley also gave the party £100,000, and another notable contributor was Holly Vukadinovic – the maiden name of model Holly Valance – who gave £50,000.

Read more:
What are the rules around political donations?
Analysis: Sunak misjudged audience on key issue

For Labour, the biggest donor was Lord Sainsbury, who gave £2.5m, followed by Autoglass boss Gary Lubner, who handed over £900,000.

Their largest union donation came from train driver body Aslef, which donated £100,000.

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For the Lib Dems, they received £150,000 from Adam Management Holdings, and another £100,000 from the late John Faulkner, a former party member who has left money to the party.

The Conservatives registered a £50,000 donation from “The Spring Lunch” – which is the name of one of their fundraising events – as well as £50,000 from Bestway Wholesale, a company which has a Tory peer named as a director.

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General Election 2024: What do voters think about the manifestos of the smaller parties?

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General Election 2024: What do voters think about the manifestos of the smaller parties?

The election might seem like a two-horse race, but other parties are jockeying for votes too.

We put their manifestos to the Sky News YouGov Voters Panel.

Representing different political backgrounds and more than 40 different constituencies, they pored over the promises and policies.

Reform UK

Reform UK doesn’t have a traditional manifesto, but its “contract” with voters certainly reads like one.

And it split our panel.

One voter described it as “xenophobia, racism and closed-mindedness”.

Nigel Farage
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Reform UK leader Nigel Farage

But another said: “They make it clear they stand for British citizens… a lot of people feel here in the UK that they are undermined and undervalued.”

Reform are mostly targeting Tory votes, and an interesting picture emerges when you look at the people who voted Conservative last time.

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From our panel, a fifth of former Tory voters felt Reform resonated.

“I pretty much agree with everything that I’ve seen on the Reform Party’s manifesto. I like their views on immigration, the income tax threshold, the cutting of EU laws, the cutting of foreign aid,” one voter said.

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SNP

In Scotland, the SNP want to talk about independence, but the Scottish voters on our panel found other things to focus on in the party’s manifesto.

John Swinney speaking during the party's General Election manifesto launch.
Pic: PA
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SNP leader John Swinney speaking during the party’s manifesto launch. Pic: PA

One voter told us: “I definitely agree with the £15 minimum wage, [and] more assistance for the care sector.

“It’s a shame we don’t have enough seats up here to run Westminster because I think a lot of people in the UK would follow a lot of the policies the SNP put forward.”

But another was not convinced, saying: “Nothing about the SNP is relevant, realistic or anything really – it’s just made-up garbage.”

Plaid Cymru

In Wales, Plaid Cymru want to win the Welsh vote.

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth launches his party's General Election manifesto in Marble Hall, at The Temple of Peace in Cardiff, Wales. Picture date: Thursday June 13, 2024.
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Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth

One voter said: “Whilst I appreciate that Plaid Cymru are looking at the interests of people in Wales in particular, I disagree with the statement around taking full control of the economy.

“I am rather concerned that they are not happy about the defence spending.”

Green Party

The Greens say they are fighting for a fairer world, but do their pledges persuade our panel?

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer
Pic: AP
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Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer. Pic: AP

Read more from Sky News:
Which party would win if election were tomorrow?
Check which party could win in your constituency
A very simple guide to what each party is promising

“The environment policies really stand out to me,” one panel member said.

“Although I plan to vote for the Green Party, I have to admit that I don’t like their manifesto, particularly their policies surrounding defence.

“I’d love to see them get somewhere, but the way voting works, it’s a bit of a wasted vote.”

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‘Tawdry’ Conservative Party’s campaign is marred by election betting scandal, Ruth Davidson says

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'Tawdry' Conservative Party's campaign is marred by election betting scandal, Ruth Davidson says

The Conservative Party is seen as “tawdry”, Ruth Davidson has said, as two of its candidates are being investigated over alleged bets placed on the election date.

The Gambling Commission is looking into two Tory candidates over alleged wagers on the date of the 4 July election.

An industry source has told Sky News that “more names” are being looked into, but police are so far “not involved”.

Speaking on the Electoral Dysfunction podcast with Sky News political editor Beth Rigby, and former broadcaster and presenter Carol Vorderman, the former leader of the Scottish Tories waded into the fallout of the alleged betting scandal.

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“What an absolute shit show. Firstly, I mean, how tawdry is it?” she said.

She described it as akin to “insider trading” and criticised Rishi Sunak’s response, saying he had repeatedly failed to get out in front and take control of events.

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Speaking on the podcast, Ms Vorderman added: “The Tory party as they stand is just sleazy, it’s grubby.

“And it has gone on and on and on.

“From outside the Westminster bubble, whatever Sunak says, people now openly laugh at Tory politicians whenever they’re out of your studio Beth.

“Whenever they’re in front of an audience they don’t command any respect whatsoever.”

The trio also discussed tactical voting and why candidates target some seats more than others.

Tory candidates Craig Williams and Laura Saunders are both under investigation. Ms Saunders is married to the party’s director of campaigns Tony Lee.

Laura Saunders is the party’s candidate in Bristol North West.
Pic: Laura Saunders for Bristol North West
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Laura Saunders is the party’s candidate in Bristol North West.
Pic: Laura Saunders for Bristol North West

Read more:
Sunak ‘incredibly angry’ over betting allegations
Former Tory minister says he’ll vote Labour
Green co-leader rejects Liz Truss comparison

It also emerged this week that one of Mr Sunak’s close protection police officers has been arrested over alleged bets on the timing of the election as well.

During a leader’s event on BBC Question Time, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “incredibly angry” to learn of the allegations and said if anyone had broken the rules “they should face the full force of the law”.

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However, he refused to suspend the candidates while the investigations were ongoing.

It comes as the election campaigns approach the last two weeks before the country heads to the polls.

Email the team electoraldysfunction@sky.uk, post on X to @BethRigby, or send a WhatsApp voice note on 07934 200 444.

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