HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL
Britain finally broke free from EU rules at 11pm on Thursday, just a day after members of parliament voted through the last-minute deal Boris Johnson secured with the bloc to avoid a No Deal Brexit. The seismic breakaway finally came nearly four-and-a-half years after Britons voted by a margin of 52 to 48 per cent in the historic June 2016 referendum which was called by the then Prime Minister David Cameron. The chimes of Big Ben rang out at 11pm – midnight on the Continent – marking the UK’s departure from the EU’s single market and customs union. In his New Year message, Mr Johnson – who played a decisive role in the Leave campaign’s victory in the referendum – hailed Britain’s departure, calling it ‘an amazing moment’.
BORIS Johnson has described the UK’s first full day of freedom from Brussels as an “amazing moment for this country.” In a New Year message, the Prime Minister issued a rallying cry to Britons to “make the most of” independence from the EU and “come together” as one United Kingdom. He set his ambition on the country becoming a “science superpower” to create jobs and prosperity in the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. “This is an amazing moment for this country. “We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it. “And I think it will be the overwhelming instinct of the people of this country to come together as one United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland working together to express our values around the world,” the Prime Minister said.
Big Ben has bonged to mark the UK officially leaving its transition period from the EU. The UK is now free to pursue independent trade policies for the first time in more than four decades. Membership of the single market and customs expired at 11pm – four and a half years after the in-out referendum which sought to settle the issue but sparked political turmoil. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the EU had provided the UK with a “safe European home” during the 1970s, but the country has now “changed out of all recognition” with global perspectives. His Christmas Eve deal with Brussels, which comes into effect immediately, allows for the continuation of tariff-free trade with the EU single market – though businesses and individuals will have to follow new rules.
A few stragglers did defy the advice to stay indoors but otherwise, the noise from Britain’s most recognisable clock soon gave way to what was a subdued night. There were no large crowds and few fireworks scorching the night sky ushering in the start of 2021. Instead the skyline of London – bathed in an electric glow – looked as familiar as it always does on any other winter night. The capital, like most of the country, was hunkered down and mostly inside – shielded from the catastrophe that was 2020. The emptiness of squares and pubs fitted the mood of existential crisis; the end of an awful year for a weary nation battered and lashed by the cruel winds of the pandemic.
Big Ben has marked the moment the UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union. The famous bell sounded at 11pm UK time – 12 midnight in Europe – to signal the end of Britain’s near 50-year ties to Brussels. The political squabble over Brexit cost two prime ministers their job before Boris Johnson delivered on his 2019 election pledge to “get Brexit done”. In his new year message, the Prime Minister reflected on the past 12 months during which “we lost too many loved ones before their time” because of the pandemic. He also hailed his Brexit deal, saying: “This is an amazing moment for this country. We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it.”
THE UK has officially left the Brexit transition period and will once again act on the world stage as an independent trading nation. At 23:00 on Thursday night Brexit was completed as Britain began trading with the EU on the basis of the deal negotiated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The moment was celebrated by the ringing of Big Ben and “Happy Brexit” began trending on Twitter. The new agreement replaced the Brexit transition deal which left the UK an EU member in all but name in many policy areas after Britain formally broke from the bloc at the end of January.
The United Kingdom is no longer a meaningful member of the European Union, the culmination of decades of campaigning by Eurosceptics, and years of negotiations and political intrigue following the EU membership referendum. Boris Johnson’s new European treaty, a trade deal agreed on Christmas Eve between the two parties and ratified by the British Parliament late last night took effect at 2300 GMT — until the very last moment the EU had proceedings running to their time, with Britain’s departure taking place at midnight Brussels’ time — signalling a major shift in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
THE EUROPEAN UNION is facing an “avalanche” of Euroscepticism as an expert warns the bloc it must change direction if the EU is to survive. The EU is failing to address problems in the bloc in order to thwart the rising tide of anti-Brussels sentiment, a philosopher and political expert warned. Ulrike Guerot, an advocate for a ‘European Republic’, has emerged as a prominent critic of the EU despite believing in many of its principles. She spoke of how the EU could be left divided as countries become increasingly frustrated with the eurozone.
THE European Union’s insistence on the exclusion of the Falkland Islands from the post-Brexit trade deal ratified by Parliament yesterday is likely motivated by a “bloody minded” determination to “punish” Britain for quitting the bloc, an insider has suggested. And the source – who has an in-depth understanding of the Falklands situation – also suggested recent comments by Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez are indicative of his country’s increasingly aggressive mindset in relation to the remote archipelago. The Falklands, along with other British overseas territories including Gibraltar is not covered by the deal unveiled on Christmas Eve. Given the importance to the Falklands economy of exports of fish to the European market, the decision has serious implications, with estimates suggesting Falklanders will begin paying tariffs of between six percent and 18 percent from Friday.
A last minute Brexit agreement with Spain over Gibraltar on Thursday came too late to prevent a no-trade-deal exit for The Rock on Friday. The UK left the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union at midnight on New Year’s Eve but, thanks to the Christmas Eve trade deal with Brussels, major disruption at borders to cargo, flights and transport should be avoided. But Gibraltar will leave the Brexit transition period without a replacement trade agreement in place, even though a deal in principle was agreed to make the Rock part of the EU’s passport-free Schengen Zone on Thursday.
Britain today struck a last-gasp deal with Spain to keep Gibraltar’s vital border open after Brexit takes place tonight. The Rock’s status was not covered in the trade agreement reached by Boris Johnson on Christmas Eve, prompting concerns about what would happen when the transition period ends at 11pm. The British Overseas Territory, whose sovereignty is disputed by Madrid, will remain subject to the rules of the free-travel Schengen area, Spain’s foreign minister said. Arancha Gonzalez Laya announced that the ‘agreement in principle’ means people in Gibraltar ‘can breathe a sigh of relief’.
Nicola Sturgeon urged the European Union to ‘keep the light on’ and said Scotland would be ‘back soon’ as the Brexit transition period came to an end on Thursday. Membership of the single market and customs union expired at 11pm – four and a half years after the in-out referendum which sought to settle the issue but sparked political turmoil. The bells of Big Ben were rung as the UK left both the EU’s single market and the customs union. The chimes of Big Ben rang out at 11pm – midnight on the Continent – marking the UK’s departure from the EU’s single market and customs union.
BORIS Johnson and the Tories have highlighted the strength of the Union but warned its future is at risk in next May’s election as Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP seeks another “divisive” independence referendum. In New Year’s Messages, UK Tory bigwigs issued stern warnings as Scots are set to return to polling stations in May. Speaking today, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross urged voters to turn to Unionism in a bid to force the SNP out of 13 years of power. He added: “The people of Scotland are due to return to the polling stations.
An image of Covid hero Captain Sir Tom Moore and a Black Lives Matter fist lit up the London sky as Britain ushered in 2021. The dazzling fireworks and light show also included tributes to the NHS and other notable figures who represented the bravery and turmoil of a torrid last 12 months. As fireworks blasted in impressive fashion from Tower Bridge in a stripped back but still impressive extravaganza, several projections filled the sky over the O2 Arena as the TV cameras watched on. One of which showed the NHS logo in a heart while a child’s voice said “Thank you NHS heroes”. The 100-year-old former British Army officer Sir Tom, from Yorkshire, made himself a national treasure after he raised £33 million for the NHS by walking around his back garden.
Viewers have slammed the BBC for ‘forcing politics’ into London’s controversial New Year’s Eve light show after 300 drones made the shape of a Black Lives Matter fist and shone in EU colours over London’s skies. Millions of locked-down Britons, forced to celebrate New Year at home and eager to bid farewell to a miserable 2020, tuned into BBC One to watch the highly-anticipated pre-recorded display. But many outraged Britons said the show was ‘ruined by politics’ after the drones made the shape of a BLM fist and a turtle with Africa on its shell during a climate change lecture by Sir David Attenborough. The fist – which became synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement this year – first appeared as spoken-word artist George the Poet read an extract of his poem Coronavirus: The Power of Collaboration.
THE BBC has been attacked for refusing to highlight Britain’s post-Brexit opportunities as the UK officially left the EU last night. The Corporation was accused of indulging in a day of “broadcast mourning” when the Brexit transition period ended on Thursday. Conservative MP John Redwood said it would be “too radical” for the BBC to cover such topics. Taking to Twitter, he wrote: “BBC’s Today programme is inviting guest editors to explore themes they normally ignore. “So why no guest editor to explore all the opportunities the U.K. has once out of the EU? Too radical for them.”
People who spent Christmas in lockdown could be first in line for Tier 5 rules if the Government devises a new, stronger level for the local restrictions in the new year. Scientists warned that millions of people in London and the South East, who had their Christmas celebrations wrecked by a Government U-turn on allowing household bubbles, would likely be first in line for tougher restrictions. Infection rates remain astonishingly high in parts of Kent, London and Essex, with some areas seeing three per cent of their populations testing positive in the most recent week. And towns in some Tier 3 areas in Yorkshire, Worcestershire and Somerset are at risk of moving into Tier 4.
AREAS of England that spent Christmas in Tier 4 are most at risk of being put under even tighter restrictions in the new year, experts have warned. The government is reported to have considered a fifth tier of rules amid fears that current measures won’t be enough to stop a steady rise in coronavirus cases. Lockdown measures throughout November brought England’s daily cases down to around 15,000, but the government was forced to cancel a planned relaxation of restrictions over Christmas amid a steady rise. Tier 4 measures were introduced across London and the southeast just days before Christmas, and expanded to Oxfordshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk on Boxing Day.
Brexit and the British-made Covid vaccine will create a “trampoline for the national bounce back” in 2021, Boris Johnson said on Friday. In a New Year message to Telegraph readers, the Prime Minister says “a year of change and hope” lies ahead, with a clear route laid out for beating coronavirus. Mr Johnson acknowledges that the “devilish” virus still means the world remains “in the same wretched state” as it was last year in many respects. However, once the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out is up to speed, and the virus is in retreat, “we can this year seize opportunities to transform our country” thanks to the success of the Brexit trade deal.
One of London’s biggest hospitals has warned it is on track to become virtually Covid-only amid a surge in cases in the capital that has left it scrambling to convert operating theatres, surgical recovery areas and stroke wards into intensive care units for the very sick. As the daily coronavirus case numbers in the UK continued an apparently inexorable rise, hitting a record 55,892, with 23,813 people in hospital and 964 reported deaths, the chief executive of University College London hospitals trust (UCLH), Prof Marcel Levi, said admissions were already spiralling beyond the first wave in the spring. Every hospital in London was facing the same demands on beds and staff, and University College hospital was taking admissions from other hospitals that were less well able to cope, he told the Guardian.
The new coronavirus variant is “spreading like wildfire” in the northwest of England as cases continue to rise across the country, piling further pressure on the struggling NHS. The more infectious strain was responsible for the dramatic increase in positive cases across the southeast in the weeks before Christmas. Now it has been identified in a spike in Cumbria, according to Public Health England. The region’s director of public health, Colin Cox, said infections were “rocketing” as the variant “spread like wildfire” through Cumbria, making up 75 per cent of newly identified cases and putting “huge pressure” on local hospitals.
Two of Britain’s busiest hospitals were in crisis on Thursday – with one warning it is on the brink of being able to treat Covid patients only and the other saying it was in ‘disaster medicine mode’. As the UK declared a record-high 55,892 coronavirus cases and almost 1,000 more deaths, the chief executive of University College London hospitals trust (UCLH) said admissions were ‘much more’ than during the first wave in the spring. Professor Marcel Levi revealed the 550-bed hospital now has 220 Covid patients, with numbers increasing by 5 per cent a day.
Police in England have arrested a woman in connection with a video of an allegedly “empty” hospital in Gloucestershire that was posted on social media. Gloucestershire Constabulary police officers arrested the woman on Tuesday, on suspicion of a supposed “public order offence”. The 46-year-old woman has been bailed until January on the condition that she does not enter any NHS facility except for a health emergency or appointment, according to the local news outlet Gloucestershire Live. In the video posted on social media, the woman is heard saying: “Where’s the second wave? Where’re all the people dying from the second wave?” as she wanders through the largely deserted corridors of the hospital.
Schools may be closed until the February half-term holiday as the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) advisers warned a lockdown may be insufficient to curb the variant strain of coronavirus. Senior Government sources admitted schools could stay shut when ministers reviewed the closures on January 18 if the extension of Tier 4 restrictions to most of England failed to contain the virus. Minutes from a pre-Christmas meeting of Sage released on Thursday revealed members did not believe a lockdown similar to November’s would keep the R rate below 1 because of the highly-infectious new coronavirus strain.
School leaders and local authorities have demanded the government explain its decisions over which primary schools should stay open in England, as the opposition accused the education secretary of “serial incompetence” over the patchwork of school closures. Haringey council in north London said on Thursday night that it was advising its primaries to close to all but vulnerable children and those of key workers despite it not being in the government’s “contingency framework” areas where primaries had been told to shut. A day earlier the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, revealed that secondary schools and colleges would be closed to most pupils for the first two weeks of January.
Gavin Williamson said yesterday that he is ‘absolutely confident’ there will not be further delays to schools reopening, amid anger and confusion over his chaotic plans. Parents have been left scratching their heads at the postcode lottery announced by the Education Secretary, with some primaries set to stay closed while others only yards away open as usual. Heads also vented their anger after the Government’s mass testing scheme in secondary school pupils – billed as being optional when announced just two days before Christmas – was made mandatory. They will now have until January 22 to test all pupils for Covid-19 and staff, not January 9 as originally planned.
Gavin Williamson was under fire on Thursday night as the system for deciding school closures in the New Year threatened to descend into chaos. Council leaders vowed to ignore new rules as figures showed that schools would close despite being in areas of lower Covid case rates than their immediate neighbours. Ministers insisted the decisions had been in part informed by the capacity in local hospitals to stop them being overwhelmed by surging numbers of Covid-19 patients. Mr Williamson, the Education Secretary, faced criticism over his handling of the latest raft of school closures, which Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the biggest classroom union, the NEU, described as “a mess”.