Rishi Sunak stresses ‘close partnership’ with Israel amid protests at Benjamin Netanyahu visit – live

Rishi Sunak stresses ‘close partnership’ with Israel amid protests at Benjamin Netanyahu visit – live

Key events

Sunak stresses importance of ‘democratic values’ to Netanyahu as he discusses ‘strengthening close partnership’ with Israel

Downing Street described Israel as a “vital international partner” after Rishi Sunak’s meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu this morning. At the morning lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson said:

Israel is a vital international partner for the United Kingdom and the prime minister was visiting London, and this was an important opportunity to talk about issues that matter to both countries, whether that’s the threat of Iran, Russia, new trade and investment … as well as peace and stability in the Middle East.

The spokesperson would not go into details of what Sunak said to Netanyahu in their talks, but the formal No 10 readout of the talks said that Sunak “expressed his solidarity with Israel in the face of terrorist attacks in recent months” while also suggesting he raised some concerns about Netanyahu’s widely condemned judicial changes. The readout said:

The prime minister expressed his solidarity with Israel in the face of terrorist attacks in recent months. The UK would always stand with Israel and its ability to defend itself. At the same time, the PM outlined international concern at growing tensions in the West Bank and the risk of undermining efforts towards the two state solution. He encouraged all efforts to de-escalate, particularly ahead of the upcoming religious holidays.

The prime minister stressed the importance of upholding the democratic values that underpin our relationship, including in the proposed judicial reforms in Israel.

But most of the readout focused on areas of agreement. It said:

The prime minister welcomed Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Downing Street today for talks on strengthening the close partnership between the United Kingdom and Israel.

The two leaders welcomed the signing of the UK-Israel 2030 Roadmap this week, which will drive our bilateral relationship forward and commit £20m in funding for joint science and technology projects over the next decade.

They expressed their backing for a modern free-trade agreement with cutting-edge service provisions and said their teams would work to progress this at pace.

The leaders discussed shared security and defence challenges, including Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the threat posed by Iran to regional stability. The prime minister set out the UK’s analysis of the situation in Ukraine and the importance of continued international support to defend their sovereignty.

On Iran, they discussed the UK and Israel’s significant concern about Iran’s destabilising activity, and agreed that our governments would continue to work closely together to push back against aggression and manage the risk of nuclear proliferation …

The leaders welcomed the chance to meet in person to progress our important partnership, and the prime minister looked forward to visiting Israel at the earliest opportunity.

Benjamin Netanyahu leaving No 10 after talks with Rishi Sunak. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/AP

The Scottish Green party says its power sharing with the SNP will come to an end if a new SNP leader abandons parts of the Bute House agreement.

The two parties reached the deal after the SNP very narrowly failed to obtain a majority in the Holyrood elections in 2021. They agreed a policy platform, and the two Scottish Green co-leaders took ministerial posts in the government.

The deal is under threat partly because it included support for the gender recognition reform bill, which has now been passed but vetoed by the UK government. Humza Yousaf is the only SNP leadership candidate committed to trying to overturn that veto; Kate Forbes and Ash Regan both opposed the bill anyway.

Patrick Harvie, one of the Scottish Green co-leaders, told Good Morning Scotland:

We would not accept any Scottish government simply vetoing parts of the Bute House agreement.

Those policies are in the Bute House agreement, that’s what we’re intended to deliver.

And if there was a Scottish government, whether it’s the current first minister who hadn’t resigned and changed her mind, whether it’s a new first minister wanting to rip out parts of that agreement, clearly that agreement would come to an end.

The SNP could govern without the Scottish Greens – it has run minority administrations before – but might find it harder to pass some legislation without them.

The new SNP leader will be announced on Monday.

Oxfam and Amnesty condemn government over Netanyahu visit, saying UK should not condone Israeli rights abuses

Oxfam’s senior policy adviser, Richard Stanforth, has said it is “unconscionable” for the UK government to be deepening diplomatic ties with Israel “despite the Israeli government committing horrific human rights violations every day, seemingly with impunity”.

Commenting on Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to No 10 (see 10.08am), Stanforth said:

Millions of Palestinians are routinely denied access to their jobs, land and water and forced into poverty. Many families are being forced from their homes by the expansion of illegal settlements built on occupied land.

It is time for the UK to support a global ban on all trade and investment in Israeli settlements and for the Israeli government to uphold, not ignore, international law.

And Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International UK’s crisis response manager, said:

Netanyahu is more concerned with seeking legitimacy for his government rather than addressing its increasingly extremist policies, his occupation forces in the Palestinian Territories killing civilians, stealing their land and building illegal new settlements.

What’s more egregious is the UK government turning a blind eye to apartheid atrocities.

The UK and Israel’s rejection of this reality will not change the truth or illegality of the current situation. All it does is help entrench Israel’s racist system of apartheid against Palestinian people.

Amnesty International UK protesters outside No 10 yesterday, wearing Benjamin Netanyahu and Rishi Sunak masks. Last year Amnesty published a report saying the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to apartheid.
Amnesty International UK protesters outside No 10 yesterday, wearing Benjamin Netanyahu and Rishi Sunak masks. Last year Amnesty published a report saying the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians amounted to apartheid. Photograph: Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images

Protesters shout ‘shame’ outside Downing Street as Sunak welcomes Netanyahu to No 10

Rishi Sunak welcoming Benjamin Netanyahu (right) to No 10.
Rishi Sunak welcoming Benjamin Netanyahu (right) to No 10. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Rishi Sunak has welcomed the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to Downing Street.

As PM Media reports, Netanyahu faces a wave of protests over his judicial overhauls that critics say will drag the nation towards autocracy. He and Sunak could clearly hear the loud shouts of “shame” in Hebrew from protesters waving Israeli flags and placards stating their aim of “saving Israeli democracy”.

One sign opposite the gates of Downing Street on Friday morning branded Netanyahu a “dictator on the run”.

Anti-Netanyahu protesters outside Downing Street this morning.
Anti-Netanyahu protesters outside Downing Street this morning.
Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images
Anti-Netanyahu protesters outside Downing Street.
Anti-Netanyahu protesters outside Downing Street. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images
Anti-Netanyahu protesters.
Anti-Netanyahu protesters. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
Anti-Netanyahu protesters.
Anti-Netanyahu protesters. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images

Bank of England governor urges firms to resist putting up prices, saying that could lead to higher interest rates

Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, has urged firms to resist raising prices, saying further price hikes could lead to further interest rate increases. In an interview with the Today programme he said:

I would say to people who are setting prices – please understand, if we get inflation embedded, interest rates will have to go up further and higher inflation really benefits nobody.

My colleague Julia Kollewe has more details on the business live blog.

Sunak hosts Netanyahu amid disquiet over Israel’s rightwing coalition

Rishi Sunak is meeting Benjamin Netanyahu in Downing Street on Friday, amid calls for him to do more to distance the UK from the Israeli prime minister and the extremism of his rightwing coalition government, my colleague Patrick Wintour reports.

Cleverly says UK and EU looking forward to ‘effective cooperation’ ahead of formal signing of NI Brexit deal

Good morning. Earlier this week, when it announced that its MPs would be voting against the Windsor framework, the revised version of the Northern Ireland framework negotiated by the UK government and the EU, the DUP said that the deal required “further clarification, re-working and change”.

But it’s too late. They’ve missed the boat. On Tuesday the EU formally accepted the deal, yesterday Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, said there would be “no renegotiating of that deal”, and this morning James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, and Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission vice-president, will sign it off. By lunchtime, it will be a done deal.

Cleverly and Šefčovič will settle the matter at a meeting of the withdrawal agreement joint committee. After that they will hold a meeting of the trade and cooperation agreement (the post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal) partnership council. It is only the second time this body has met, and it will consider other, non-Northern Ireland aspects of the UK-EU relationship. It is a sign of how both sides hope the protocol deal can lead to a more general improvement in relations.

Ahead of the meeting, Cleverly said:

By formally approving the Windsor framework, we are delivering on our commitment to provide stability and certainty for Northern Ireland.

The framework is the best deal for Northern Ireland, safeguarding its place in the Union and protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement.

I look forward to further effective cooperation with the EU on key issues, such as security and energy.

In a press notice the Foreign Office says:

The partnership council will cover wider UK-EU cooperation, including on issues such as the UK’s access to EU science and research programmes, energy, trade and security.

The UK will continue to work with the EU in a range of areas including research collaboration, but also strengthening sanctions against Russia as well as energy security, and illegal migration.

Here is the agenda for the day.

8.45am: James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, meets Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission vice-president, to formally sign off the Windsor framework, the revised version of the Northern Ireland protocol.

9am: Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, meets Rishi Sunak in Downing Street.

9.30am: MPs debate backbench bills, starting with the remaining stages of the protection from sex-based harassment in public bill.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

5pm: Rishi Sunak speaks at the Conservative party’s spring forum in Birmingham.

I’ll try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com.

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