Brexit

Independent
Brexit trade talks have broken up early for the week as the EU’s chief negotiator warned that “significant divergences” remain between the two sides. Michel Barnier said talks would continue later this month but issued a formal communication to EU national governments urging them to prepare for disruption at the end of the year, as no-deal looms. Informal discussions were held in London as opposed to Brussels this week for the first time, with Mr Barnier and his officials arriving by train in time for dinner with UK negotiator David Frost on Tuesday. The teams were then expected to hold negotiations on Wednesday and Thursday, but broke up before lunchtime on the second day. Downing Street said the short discussions were “always due to be an informal round of talks”. “This week’s discussions confirm that significant divergences remain between the EU and UK. We will continue working with patience, respect and determination,” Michel Barnier said at the close of talks. He added: “Regardless of the outcome, there will be inevitable changes on 1/1/21.”

Mirror
Brexit trade talks are still deadlocked amid “significant divergences” between the EU and UK, Brussels warned today. The bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier travelled to London for the latest discussions with British counterpart David Frost. But hopes of striking a deal by the end of this month could be fading. Following the break-up of this week’s talks, European Commission spokesman Daniel Farrie said: “The EU is acting constructively and in good faith, as Michel Barnier pointed out earlier this week. “We are working hard to overcome the significant divergences that remain between us. “Meetings will continue in Brussels next week and the next round of negotiations will take place in the week of July 20 in London.”

BBC News
“Significant divergences” remain between the EU and the UK on a post-Brexit trade deal after informal talks in London, Michel Barnier has said. The EU’s chief negotiator said his team would “continue working with patience, respect and determination” following talks with his counterpart David Frost. But he said “regardless of the outcome” there would be “inevitable changes” from 1 January 2021. The UK has ruled out extending the December deadline to reach a deal.  Both sides agreed to “intensify” negotiations last month and held the first face-to-face talks since the coronavirus pandemic at the beginning of July.

Sun
MICHEL Barnier is ready to water down his red lines – but can only take the plunge if the PM shows willingness to compromise. The EU’s chief negotiator is “preparing the ground” to go beyond his hardline mandate, according to insiders. He will offer the PM a major olive branch by accepting euro judges won’t play any role in the trade deal. Mr Barnier is also ready to soften his stance on fishing and the extent to which the UK will have to match European standards. But diplomats in Brussels warned our negotiator David Frost time is running out for him to accept the offer. One said: “The UK can’t wait too long to compromise.

Fisheries

Express
THE FUTURE of the UK distance water fishing fleet is at risk if the UK Government does not secure a deal with its non-EU coastal neighbours after Brexit, it has been warned. As the UK Government scrambles to seal a deal with the EU over fishing after Brexit, UK Fisheries has warned Boris Johnson not to lose sight of the nation’s Nordic non-EU neighbours. They said the “opportunity is there” for Britain to “guarantee its future”. The group said Brexit was an opportunity for Britain to “assert its independence and use the size of its domestic market for fish to strike better fisheries access deals” with places like Norway, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. They argued the UK has “strong cards to play”.

EU

Breitbart
European Finance Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni has warned that the Chinese coronavirus pandemic may be hurting the economies of European Union member-states more than was previously forecast. The European Commission has now revised its economic outlook for the summer, saying that the European Union economy as a whole could decline by around 8.3 per cent in 2020 — around one per cent more than was forecast in May. Those countries who use the euro currency will see an even greater decline of around 8.7 per cent of GDP, down from losses of 7.7 per cent. Previously, the Commission had also predicted that the euro currency economies would grow by 6.3 per cent in 2021. But that number has also been revised to 5.8 per cent in the report.

The economy

Telegraph
The Treasury is set to borrow half a trillion pounds over two years as the cost of battling the coronavirus and lockdown recession mounts. This year’s deficit will come in at about £350bn, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies – a record for any peacetime year. It will fall by more than half to £150bn next year, the analysts estimate, which still almost matches the £158bn borrowed at the peak of the financial crisis. This debt mountain will pose a challenge to Rishi Sunak and his successors as Chancellor for many decades to come as a result.

Sun
BRITAIN could face decades of tax rises to repair its battered public finances in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, economists have warned. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said managing the elevated debt from the pandemic would be a task “for not just the current Chancellor, but also many of his successors”. IFS director Paul Johnson said that a “reckoning, in the form of higher taxes” would have to come eventually. Laying bare the scale of the crisis, he said government borrowing will be more as a share of GDP than it has ever been in the last 300 years outside of the two World Wars.

Mail
Britons have been put on notice that they face swingeing tax rises to balance the books after coronavirus as Rishi Sunak vowed to take ‘difficult decisions’. The respected IFS think-tank warned that getting the UK’s £2trillion debt mountain under control will take ‘decades, and is likely to require the Treasury to raise an extra £35billion a year once the immediate crisis subsides – broadly equivalent to an extra 7p on the basic tax rate. Meanwhile, the Chancellor tried to cool rising Tory anxiety about the government’s eye-watering bailouts – with the latest package announced yesterday expected to drive annual borrowing to £350billion – more than the running costs of all public services combined.

Times
Britain faces a financial coronavirus “reckoning”, economists predicted yesterday, as the chancellor hinted at future tax rises to pay off the government’s record borrowing. In a grim assessment, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), an independent think tank, said the government faced a £350 billion deficit this year that would eventually have to be paid off by tax rises or spending cuts. However, it said that it was too soon to know whether the measures announced by Rishi Sunak would be enough to help the economy bounce back and that even greater stimulus could be necessary. Mr Sunak said that Britain was entering into one of the “most severe recessions ever seen”.

Vaccine

Mail
Ministers will today opt out of an EU virus vaccine scheme over fears Brussels could limit the number of doses available to the UK. The European Commission invited the UK to join the new ‘EU vaccine strategy’, which aims to secure advance agreements with manufacturers to provide tens of millions of doses to member states. Ministers had been interested in the scheme because of the potential economies of scale.  But Brussels ruled that because of Brexit, the UK would be barred from attending the scheme’s ‘steering committee’, meaning Britain would have no say in the strategy or in deciding who should get the vaccine first.

Telegraph
The Government has turned down the opportunity to join a European Union coronavirus vaccine scheme after ministers expressed concern over “costly delays”, The Telegraph understands. Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, is believed to have walked away from the plan after failing to secure “sufficient assurance” that the UK would receive the number of vaccines it needs on time.  The European Commission is expected to be notified on Friday. The UK has been for weeks holding talks with Brussels over the EU scheme, which involves using the bloc’s collective bargaining power to strike deals with international drugs companies.

Express
BRITAIN is today expected to decline an offer to join an EU coronavirus vaccine scheme over fears Brussels will sell Britain short and limit the amounts available because of Brexit. The European Commission invited the UK to join the new ‘EU vaccine strategy’, which aims to secure advance agreements with manufacturers to provide millions of doses to member states and some ministers warmed to the plan believing it offered huge economies of scale. But mandarins in Brussels said the UK would be barred from attending the scheme’s steering committee because of Brexit – and ministers have interpreted this as meaning Britain would have no say in either EU-wide coronavirus strategy or distribution amounts and who gets it first.

Cruising

Times
Ministers have in effect banned cruises amid concern about the industry’s ability to protect passengers and crew in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak. Thousands of Britons had holiday plans scuppered when the Foreign Office advised against travelling on cruises, leaving holiday companies unable to operate trips and passengers’ travel insurance void. Officials said that the move was based on medical advice from Public Health England. It is a huge blow to the industry, which had been gearing up to restart sailings from British ports. In a statement the Foreign Office said: “The government will continue to review its cruise ship travel advice based on the latest medical advice.

Mail
Britons have been urged to avoid travelling on cruise ships due to the risk of coronavirus, just hours before the government is set to allow quarantine-free travel from dozens of countries across the world. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has today changed its advice, urging all holidaymakers against embarking on cruise ships, over fears of the spread of Covid-19. The government had previously urged over-70s to avoid sailings. It comes as the government’s blanket advice against all non-essential foreign travel was lifted for dozens of destinations on Saturday and just hours before travel corridors are opened to 59 countries.

Sun
BRITS can now travel to 74 countries without needing to quarantine – but the Government says all cruise holidays are still banned. Last week, the government announced the full list of air bridge countries which would be exempt from the UK quarantine, due to come into place today, Friday. The travel ban was also lifted for a number of destinations including Spain, Greece and Turkey, since July 4. Holidays are now back on the cards for many Brits who are looking at visiting Europe and further afield, with airlines resuming flights this month as well. Cruise holidays, however, are not going to resume any time soon with the government still advising against them.

Immunity

Telegraph
Areas of New York have recorded a nearly 70 per cent rate of immunity to Covid-19, in what scientists have described as “stunning” findings that suggest they could be protected from any second wave. Some 68 per cent of people who took antibody tests at a clinic in the Corona neighbourhood of Queens received positive results, while at another clinic in Jackson Heights, 56 per cent tested positive.  The results, shared by healthcare company CityMD with the New York Times, appear to show a higher antibody rate than anywhere in the world, based on publicly released data.

Pneumonia

Mail
A fatal ‘unknown pneumonia’ with a death rate far higher than that of COVID-19 has reportedly broken out in Kazakhstan, Chinese officials have warned. According to the Chinese embassy’s website, which is citing local media reports, the Atyrau and Aktobe provinces, as well as the city of Skymkent, have seen spikes in cases of the disease since mid-June. Kazakhstan’s Health Ministry says it has recorded more than 32,000 cases of pneumonia between June 29 and July 5 alone, along with 451 deaths. The embassy states that Kazakhstan saw 1,772 pneumonia deaths in the first half of the year, including 628 in June, some of whom were Chinese nationals.

Obesity

Times
Boris Johnson is expected to take the first steps of a promised anti-obesity drive with a ban this month on supermarket promotions of unhealthy food. The prime minister is likely to hold off on introducing a 9pm watershed on the advertising of unhealthy food, however, disappointing campaigners. Mr Johnson, who had declared himself “very libertarian” on food choices, has said the coronavirus had convinced him that urgent action was needed. In what allies insisted was only an first set of interventions, shops will be prevented from offering buy one, get one free deals on targeted products.

Mail
Obesity campaigners have savaged the government’s plan to offer cut-price meals branding it a ‘green light for junk food’. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced yesterday up to £10 a head will be cut off the bills of people eating out in August. But as names like Burger King confirmed themselves as part of the scheme obesity campaigners questioned the timing of the meal deal bonus.

Education

Telegraph
Too many youngsters are going to university, the Education Secretary has said, as he rips up the 50 per cent target. Gavin Williamson said that there are “limits” to what we can achieve by sending increasing numbers of school leavers into higher education, adding that it is “not always what the individual and nation needs”. In a virtual speech, hosted by the Social Market Foundation, he warned that we should not try to drive half of young people down a path which they are not all suited to. School leavers should instead be encouraged to enroll in technical and further education colleges or apprenticeships.

Independent
Gavin Williamson has abandoned Tony Blair’s pledge to send 50 per cent of young people to university, as he claimed there was an “inbuilt snobbishness” about higher being better than further education. Tearing up the two-decade-old policy, the education secretary said his focus will be on the “forgotten” half of individuals who do not go on to university and claimed there had been a failure to provide them with sufficient investment. While the cabinet minister said universities play an important role in the UK’s culture, economy and society, he added that here are “limits to what can be achieved by sending ever more people to university, which is not always what the individual or our nation needs”.

Express
SCOTTISH taxpayers will stop funding university places for students from the EU after Brexit, it has been announced today. Richard Lochhead MSP, Scotland’s higher education minister said the SNP led administration would save £19million a year. It comes after SNP MSP Alex Neil said the country could no longer afford the subsidy for “rich EU kids” at the “expense of our own kids.” Currently, EU law states the government’s free tuition fee policy for Scots requires EU students to be treated the same. But after the Brexit transition period, the Scottish Government will no longer be obliged to cover the cost for students from EU nations.

Times
A group of British universities is devising courses in line with the censorship rules of the Chinese government. Four institutions are piloting a new online teaching platform for students in China  which will allow them to continue or start degrees at UK institutions even if they stay at home in the autumn term because of the pandemic. However, the students will receive only government-approved materials. The pilot scheme involves King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, and York and Southampton universities.

Licence fee

Telegraph
The Government on Thursday night threatened the BBC with the decriminalisation of non-payment of the television licence fee after the broadcaster decided to force millions of elderly people to pay the £157.50 annual charge in three weeks time. An estimated three million pensioners aged over 75 now face the prospect of having to find a way to pay for the previously free service or risk criminal prosecution. A further 1.5 million over-75s who receive pension credit will continue to receive the licence fee for free. Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, said he felt “let down” by the BBC’s decision and warned that it would “have an impact” on whether failing to pay the licence fee is downgraded from a criminal offence in the courts.

Mirror
Millions of pensioners will be stripped of free TV licences on August 1, it was confirmed today. The BBC announced there would be no extension to a two-month stay-of-execution triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. An estimated 3.7 million over-75s who currently receive the benefit will have to pay £157.50 a year to watch their favourite shows. The Conservatives pledged at the 2017 election to protect free licences for the rest of that Parliament, which was due to run until 2022. But the BBC had already been handed responsibility for funding the lifeline from June 2020, under a deal agreed in 2015. It says keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million by 2021-22.

Morning Star
PENSIONERS and unions hit out at the government today after the BBC confirmed that it will go ahead with plans to abolish free television licences for most over-75s. The corporation had postponed the axing of the universal entitlement because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it announced today that the new means-tested scheme will begin on August 1, when only those over-75s who qualify for pensions credit will get a free licence. The free TV licence was introduced in 2000, and although the BBC agreed to take on responsibility for funding it as part of a deal reached with the government in 2015, the broadcaster has said that it cannot afford to shoulder the financial burden.

Mail
The BBC’s plan to scrap free TV licences for the over-75s has been launched into chaos as the system used by 4.5million pensioners to pay their levy before August 1 is already unable to meet demand due to coronavirus staff cuts. The corporation announced this morning that more than three million households face paying the £157.50 fee next month after controversial plans to end free licences for pensioners over the age threshold were given the green light.

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