British negotiators last night accused the European Union of failing to make progress in trade talks – as Michel Barnier cracked jokes on Twitter. Officials are working to a new deadline of next Thursday to achieve a breakthrough before a virtual summit of EU leaders. But figures involved in the talks were increasingly pessimistic as they warned little had been achieved this week, including no movement on the key sticking point of fishing. Ireland’s leader Micheal Martin warned failure to reach a deal could be ‘very damaging’ to his country and Britain.
A BREXIT no deal is edging closer with just seven days to go before the EU’s new negotiation deadline. A no deal seems increasingly likely with the EU failing to budge over the UK’s fishing ultimatum as torturous talks come down to the wire. Talks between the UK and EU have been taking place in London this week, but they are not expected to bear fruit despite progress needing to be made if a new deal is to be in place when the current arrangements expire. The Brussels bloc wanted a deal in place by the EU Summit on November 19 in order for it to be ratified by the time the transition arrangements expire at the end of the year.
THE European Union has warned Brexit trade and security talks could collapse in a no deal unless there is a significant breakthrough next week. Brussels sources say progress in the wrangling over the future relationship pact has been “slow” as both sides fail to bridge the gaps in the discussions over post-Brexit fishing rights and common standards. Downing Street has ruled out setting a deadline but EU diplomats are pushing hard for progress ahead of a summit of European leaders next Thursday. Lord Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, and EU counterpart Michel Barnier are expected to announce a short hiatus tomorrow before returning to Brussels after the weekend.
This was corruption on an industrial scale. Here were European Union freeloaders claiming vast expenses for conferences they had not attended and for flights they had never taken. Others were submitting false documents to secure fat contracts for friends. And all of this would be paid for by the European taxpayer without a murmur — until, that is, a brave British official reported it all to his superiors. Yet 20 years after bravely exposing this racket, Robert McCoy is still going round in circles as he fights for justice and for his good name — as he told a shocked European Parliament this week.
Britain’s Chief Inspector of Borders has issued a report slamming the government’s failure to get a grip on the Channel migrant crisis, determining that the Home Office failed to take “decisive action” to nip the problem in the bud in 2018 and still have “neither the capacity nor the capabilities” to tackle the problem. “Had more decisive action been taken earlier to demonstrate that these attempts would not succeed, the small boats route may not have become established in the minds of many migrants and facilitators as an effective method of illegal entry,” wrote David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, in his official report.
Dominic Cummings is at “the beginning of the end” of his time in Downing Street after he and a close ally lost a bitter power struggle within No 10, sources said on Thursday night. The Prime Minister’s chief adviser signalled that he could be gone by Christmas, having said his plan had always been to make himself “largely redundant” by the end of the year. Mr Cummings was left hugely weakened after Boris Johnson effectively called his bluff over the resignation of Lee Cain as director of communications.
BREXIT guru Dominic Cummings will quit by Christmas after having his “wings clipped” by Boris Johnson. The former Vote Leave boss confirmed his departure late last night – after losing a key ally in spin doctor Lee Cain. It came after a day of intense speculation over his future in Downing Street. A senior source had earlier said: “If he’s not gone by the end of the week, I doubt he will still be here next year. Meanwhile the PM’s team were accused of fighting “like rats in a sack” on the day it should have been responding to the highest number of Covid cases ever recorded.
DOMINIC CUMMINGS, the Prime Minister’s chief Downing Street advisor, is to resign at the beginning of next year according to an incendiary report. Mr Cummings is said to be furious that Lee Cain, the Number 10 communications director, was ousted after an internal power struggle. According to a Downing Street source, speaking to the Daily Mail, Mr Cummings will quit at start of next year when the Brexit transition process is complete. At this point the UK will no longer be required to pay into the EU budget or follow European rules in many areas.
Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, is to leave his Downing Street position by the end of this year in a signal of a major change of direction for the government. Whitehall sources confirmed that he will follow Johnson’s communications director, Lee Cain, in leaving No 10. It follows reports that Cummings told the BBC that “rumours of me threatening to resign are invented”, However, he said his “position hasn’t changed since my January blog”, when he wrote that he hoped to make himself “largely redundant” by the end of 2020.
Dominic Cummings is set to quit Downing Street by Christmas after his closest ally was ousted in a power struggle with Boris Johnson‘s fiancée Carrie Symonds. The chief aide had been on the brink of quitting since the departure of No 10 communications director Lee Cain on Wednesday. Last night he was understood to have handed the Prime Minister his resignation and will leave his role before the New Year. Government sources revealed he announced his intention to step down in a meeting with Mr Johnson yesterday afternoon. Mr Cummings pointed the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg to a January blog post in which he expressed a wish for his job to be ‘redundant’ by the end of the year.
Coronavirus vaccines could be flown into the UK to avoid any potential disruption that Brexit may cause, the Health Secretary has said. Matt Hancock said he was “confident” that a no-deal split from the bloc would not delay supplies, amid concern that access to the Pfizer vaccine could be affected by Britain’s departure from the EU. The Cabinet minister told BBC Question Time on Thursday: “We have a plan for the vaccine which is being manufactured in Belgium, and if necessary we can fly in order to avoid those problems. “We’ve got a plan for all eventualities,” he added. The head of British firm Croda International, which supplies a crucial ingredient in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate, warned that avoiding border disruption will be “a crucial step” in ensuring it is available to millions of people.
The percentage of coronavirus tests that come back positive has dropped for the first time in England in almost three months, according to official data. It raises further hopes that the country is getting a better grip on its second wave and may already be through the thick of it. Experts say one of the most accurate and fair ways to track the virus’ trajectory is to look at test positivity rates – the proportion of swabs that come back positive. If a country has a high positivity rate it means the centralised system is struggling to keep up with the outbreak.
The government’s struggling test and trace system for England was hit by “huge” IT issues that delayed calls to some of the most vulnerable coronavirus patients last month, NHS emails show. Sources said the previously undisclosed problems led to delays of up to 48 hours in reaching potentially infected people linked to care homes and hospitals. The government’s scientific advisers have said 80% of an infected person’s close contacts should be reached within 24 hours to stem the spread of the disease.
Covid cases have risen by almost 50 per cent in just one day, with experts saying the spike appears to have been fuelled by a rush to pubs and restaurants ahead of the second lockdown. More than 33,000 cases were recorded in the UK on Thursday – the highest figure on record and a jump of more than 10,000 in one day. Scientists said the sudden spike was likely to reflect increased socialising before lockdown as people took their last chance for a night on the town. One said “scenes like Christmas Eve” ahead of the new restrictions, which began last Thursday, were the result of an “ill-thought through” lockdown which may have increased transmissions.
Nearly 250 areas in England have seen a week-on-week rise in Covid-19 cases – despite many having been under strict lockdown conditions for months. Oldham in Greater Manchester is the country’s top coronavirus hotspot, latest Public Health England figures reveal, overtaking Hull. Oldham – which was unceremoniously placed in Tier 3 before the whole of England was put into lockdown last week – saw 1,757 people test positive in the week to Sunday. Hull, Blackburn with Darwen and North East Lincolnshire – which make up the five worst affected areas – have all seen a rise in cases.
A RECORD number of UK coronavirus cases was down to Brits enjoying one “last hurrah” before lockdown, experts say. Infections leapt yesterday by half to 33,470 in the biggest 24-hour rise – bringing to total number of UK cases to 1.2million. The grim number is far higher than the previous record total of 26,688 coronavirus cases reported on October 21. While deaths recorded this week are almost 30 per cent higher than the preceding seven days after a further 563 lost their lives. Experts said an 11,000 spike in confirmed cases was almost certainly due to a “last hurrah” as Brits partied before lockdown hit on November 5.
A rush to the pub before England’s second national lockdown may have fuelled a record rise in Covid cases, experts have claimed. It comes as Britain announced another 33,470 positive coronavirus cases yesterday – 39 per cent more than last Thursday – despite indicators showing the outbreak is slowing down. The case count is the highest since the Covid-19 outbreak began and comes a week after England’s second national lockdown started. It is an increase from 22,950 Wednesday. Scientists believe said the sudden spike may have come from people rushing to socialise ahead of the lockdown, which began last Thursday.
A drug used for multiple sclerosis nearly halves the chance of developing severe coronavirus symptoms in hospitalised patients and may prevent deaths, a new trial has shown. Covid patients at nine hospitals including Southampton General were given an inhaled version of the treatment interferon beta-1a and were twice as likely to recover within 14 days as those in the placebo arm of the trial, even though they were sicker to begin with. In a trial of 101 patients, three died in the control group but nobody given the drug died, even though far more needed oxygen therapy at the beginning of the trial. In the placebo group, 11 patients (22 per cent) developed severe disease – defined in the study as requiring mechanical ventilation – or died between the first dose and day 15 or 16, compared with six of 48 patients in the treatment arm (13 per cent).
A new inhaled protein treatment has been found to accelerate recovery and lower the odds of developing severe COVID-19 in patients, researchers have said. Small-scale trial results for the drug, known as SNG001, suggest that users were more than twice as likely to recover from COVID-19, compared to those who had the placebo drug. The drug, which was developed by Southampton-based biotech Synairgen, contains interferon beta-1a – a protein naturally produced by the body to fight viral infections. SNG001 is inhaled using a nebuliser, in an attempt to trigger an immune response.
Coronavirus is ‘promiscuous’ and could jump into rats, mice, voles and ferrets and mutate before re-infecting humans, a prominent government advisor has warned. The alert came after more than 200 people were diagnosed with mink-related coronavirus, a mutated form of the disease. Millions of farmed mink have been culled in Denmark and Britain has now banned travel into the UK from the country for non-citizens. Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, and a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the mink mutation was worrying because it showed the virus was ‘promiscuous’.
Sixth-formers will be offered university places only after getting their A-level results under radical new plans. Higher education leaders want to overhaul the current system of offers being made based on teachers’ predicted exam grades, which are often inaccurate. Teenagers presently apply for university courses in January, sit A-levels in late spring before accepting offers in June. But exam results are not until August – meaning they face a scramble to find another course through clearing if they do not get the required grades. Under the ‘fairer’ post-qualifications admissions (PQA) proposal, teenagers would select three initial universities between September the previous year and June.
Vice-chancellors have given their backing to a radical overhaul of higher education admissions, which would mean UK students will only be offered places at university once they have their A-level results. The long-awaited policy change is intended to make the system fairer by eliminating the use of predicted grades, which are often unreliable, and will bring the UK into line with other countries. Universities said it could be introduced as early as 2023/4. The vice-chancellors’ endorsement of a post-qualifications admissions (PQA) model came after an 18-month review by their representative body, Universities UK (UUK), but debate has raged in the sector for many years. Under the current system, sixth formers apply to university in January using grades predicted by their teachers, before sitting A-levels in late spring and accepting university offers in June.
Students could be routinely issued university offers based on actual exam results rather than predicted grades in future, under a proposed shake-up. A post-qualifications admissions (PQA) system could be introduced across the UK by 2023-24, says Universities UK. The plan is one of a series of recommendations from an 18-month review by university leaders across Britain. It comes after a chaotic summer exam results process meant many students lost places on their chosen courses. Some reports over the years have suggested a switch to exam results, arguing it would be fairer to candidates from less-affluent backgrounds. But universities previously cited the timescale between results day and courses starting as a reason not to proceed.
The NHS has become addicted to management consultants although hospitals that use them become less efficient, researchers have discovered. The more that a health trust employs outside experts, the more it will turn to them in the future, analysis shows. Hiring them is also followed by a rise in contracting out to the private sector. Downing Street is under pressure to justify recruiting an army of private sector experts to deliver the ailing NHS Test and Trace programme. Sir Keir Starmer challenged the prime minister this week, complaining of “the way the government sprays money at companies that do not deliver”.
Almost 140,000 NHS patients in England had been waiting longer than a year for hospital treatment as of September – the highest number since 2008. According to the latest NHS data, which was published today, 139,545 patients had waited more than 52 weeks to start their treatment. In September last year, the figure was just 1,305. In total across England, 1.72 million people had been waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment, down from 1.9 million in August but up sharply from September 2019 when 672,112 patients had been waiting over 18 weeks.
National Health Service patients in England waiting more than one year for non-coronavirus treatment is at its highest since 2008, with an NHS report admitting it was likely a result of the UK’s response to the pandemic. Figures released on Thursday revealed that in September the number of people waiting more than 52 weeks for the start of treatment was 139,545 — compared to 1,305 the same month last year. The data, seen by Sky News, also showed that hospitals in England missed several cancer targets. The number of people admitted to English NHS hospitals for routine treatment — unrelated to COVID-19 — was also down by more than one-quarter (27 per cent) on September 2019.
A controversial plan to dig a road tunnel near Stonehenge has been given the go-ahead by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. The decision, announced by Transport Minister Andrew Stephenson, goes against the recommendations of planning officials, who warned it would cause “permanent, irreversible harm” to the World Heritage Site. The A303, which is a popular route for motorists travelling to and from the South West, is often severely congested on the single carriageway stretch near the stones in Wiltshire. Highways England says its plan for a two-mile tunnel will remove the sight and sound of traffic passing the site and cut journey times.
Plans for a two-mile road tunnel near Stonehenge have finally been approved despite warnings that it will cause “permanent irreversible harm” to the ancient site. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, overruled a recommendation from planning officials yesterday, giving the scheme the green light and ending more than three decades of debate. The £1.7 billion project will result in the A303 being widened to a dual carriageway and placed beneath the Unesco World Heritage Site. The coalition government gave fresh backing to the scheme in 2014 and work was originally due to start in March this year.
A £1.7billion plan to build a tunnel diverting traffic away from Stonehenge has today been given the green light. The new two-mile tunnel is planned to be built south of the current A303, which runs within a few hundred metres of the famous UNESCO world heritage site in Wiltshire. The controversial plan involves diverting the road into the new dual-carriageway tunnel while the current A303 – a main route for motorists travelling to and from the south west – will be turned into a public walkway.