UK has been ‘too slow’ and ‘too weak’ on Russia sanctions, Lib Dems claim
The UK Government has been “way too slow” and “much too weak” on sanctions against the Kremlin, the leader of the Liberal Democrats will argue.
Sir Ed Davey is also expected to accuse the Home Secretary of “turning away the innocent victims of a tyrant’s bombs”, and call for a coordinated humanitarian response to all refugees fleeing war and terror.
Meanwhile, he will claim the Tories have been “soft on a criminal in No 10”, referring to accusations that Boris Johnson broke coronavirus laws.
It comes after the Lib Dem leader told the PA news agency Mr Johnson has a poor reputation on the international stage and should resign over lockdown party claims despite dealing with the Ukraine crisis.
Sir Ed said he did not share the same view as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who in the wake of the Russian invasion has tempered his demand for the Prime Minister to step down over the so-called partygate saga.
In a speech at the Lib Dem spring conference in York on Sunday, he will urge stronger international cooperation to counter the threat posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
“If we are to stop Putin, we must remember the simple truth demonstrated so clearly these past few weeks. We are stronger when we act together,” he will say.
“We must fight now for that safer, more Liberal world. To reverse this Government’s cuts to our armed forces and work with our allies, so Putin understands that free nations will stand united against him.
“For far tougher sanctions, where Boris Johnson’s Government has been way too slow, and much too weak.
“For a coordinated humanitarian response to all refugees fleeing war and terror, whether from Ukraine, Syria or Afghanistan. Where we never again have a Home Secretary turning away the innocent victims of a tyrant’s bombs.”
Boris Johnson’s Government has been way too slow, and much too weak
The current visa route for people fleeing the war in Ukraine is restricted to family members of people settled in the UK.
Another promised route, allowing individuals and companies to sponsor Ukrainians with no ties to the UK to come to the country, is expected to be launched on Monday.
Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford told peers 1,305 visas for Ukrainian refugees had been issued as of Thursday morning, adding: “Those figures are going up rapidly and that is a good thing.”
Downing Street said the Prime Minister had “galvanised the international response to Ukraine”, and had been “personally thanked for his leadership by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky”.
It pointed to existing punitive measures on those linked to Mr Putin’s regime, and added that the Economic Crime Bill – which is soon expected to receive royal assent – will allow the Government “to accelerate further sanctions in the coming days”.
Sir Ed will also claim Tory MPs “ducked their responsibility to kick Boris Johnson out of Downing Street” over partygate, accusing them of “cowardice and complicity”.
“The Conservatives love to claim others are soft on crime, the truth is they’re soft on a criminal in No 10.
“The Tory party of the past is turning in its grave. Decent lifelong Conservatives are repulsed by this Government,” he will claim.
“And what angers everyone, whatever their views, is that these Tory MPs think they can get away with it. The Conservatives think they can take you for fools, just as they take your votes for granted.
“But they won’t get away with it.”
Mr Johnson has submitted a police questionnaire in relation to his possible attendance at alleged coronavirus lockdown-busting parties held in Downing Street, with a handful of Tory MPs calling for a no confidence vote in his leadership.
Separately, Sir Ed will call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to drop the planned national insurance hike and unfreeze income tax thresholds in his spring statement.
The Lib Dem leader will then urge the Chancellor to “go further still to help hard-pressed families and businesses” by cutting VAT to 17.5% “right now”.
He said the move would be worth £600 per household, adding: “That’s the help people across our country need. Not Sunak’s damaging tax hikes.”
The Government has decided to push ahead with the health and social care levy in April, which will add pressure on people’s bank balances as the cost of living spirals.
The 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance is predicted by the Treasury to raise £12 billion per year to help tackle the Covid-induced NHS backlog and reform social care in the long term.
A Treasury spokesperson said those calling to cancel the levy are “are also calling for NHS not to receive the funding it needs this year”.
“The NHS and social care levy is being implemented to secure £12.5 billion for the NHS this year to deal with the backlogs from the pandemic and fix our broken social care system – something which the Lib Dem leader himself called a crisis less than a year ago,” they said.
Downing Street said the Government is providing more than £20 billion this financial year and next to help families with the cost of living, adding that it keeps “all taxes under review”.
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