BREXIT negotiator Michel Barnier has seen his plan to gain access to UK waters unravel after a furious fishing chief rejected a proposal to break the deadlock in trade talks. Brexit talks between the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost and Michel Barnier continue in Brussels today with a trade deal hanging in the balance. Following four fruitless rounds of discussions several outstanding issues remain including trade, governance and fishing. With the UK set to leave the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and take back control of UK waters, a transcript from a meeting with Mr Barnier published last week indicated the EU was willing to compromise in order to gain access to UK waters. The French politician suggested the bloc would be willing to accept a data-driven approach known as zonal attachment, where archaic EU fishing quotas would be replaced a scientific method of managing fishing stocks. Mr Barnier wants fishing stocks then to be renegotiated annually and fishing levels would be determined by where the fish are – meaning EU boats would continue to plunder UK waters.
REMAINERS have been issued a warning over their plot to derail Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans to deliver the UK’s exit from the EU. Within the withdrawal agreement agreed between the UK and EU, a segment named the Northern Ireland Protocol was included to stop the creation of a hard border on the island of Ireland. As well as stopping the creation of the border, the protocol was also created to allow the UK to leave the EU as a whole. Crucially Boris Johnson declared there will be no checks on goods going between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. In order to implement this, the Specialised Committee on the protocol was created and met for the second time today. Commenting on the implementation of the protocol in order to maintain the Good Friday Agreement, public policy editor at the Financial Times, Peter Foster warned Remainers to be wary of celebrating Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal collapsing as checks would now be needed despite his previous claim. He made the comment in reference to Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Louise Haigh who criticsed the alleged lack of detail in protocol.
EU leaders will try to hash out an agreement on a coronavirus economic recovery package and a budget for the continent at a summit in Brussels on Friday – with agreement currently looking a long way off. Five months of videoconferencing diplomacy has done little to close the gaps between the 27 leaders, with the first face-to-face meeting since the pandemic now on the cards as the crisis recedes in Europe. Leaders will try to divide up a potential €1.75 trillion package between themselves and decide how it is paid for over Friday and Saturday. It includes the €1 trillion EU budget and a €750bn draft recovery plan. “It was already clear at Easter when I was calling, the first time, all the different capitals that such a decision can only be taken if the leaders, prime ministers, heads of state, meet in person in Brussels,” EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn said after five relatively fruitless videoconferences. German chancellor Angela Merkel is due to arrive on Friday morning and is set for a central role, as the EU’s longest serving leader and a key powerbroker to unite the continent’s disagreeing factions. French president Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, turned up early on Thursday to hold last-minute meetings.
EUROPEAN UNION leaders must respect the views of domestic voters when they meet for crunch negotiations over the bloc’s €750 billion coronavirus bailout, the Netherlands has warned. Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra said his government had deliberately taken a hardline approach because of their electorate’s disdain over more funds being sent to Brussels. Wrangling over the bloc’s next long-term budget and recovery fund for pandemic-stricken regions and industries will resume in Brussels tomorrow as European leaders meet for the first time in person after the health crisis exploded onto the Continent. The Dutch have pitched themselves as the leading opposition to the spending plans with prime minister Mark Rutte “sombre” about the chances of an agreement this week. Mr Hoekstra said the Hague’s criticism of the package is because a majority of voters in the Netherlands have voiced concerns about taxpayers’ cash being used irresponsibly.
Industry figures have warned that a decision today to ban Privacy Shield, a data-sharing deal between the EU and the US, will compromise the UK’s hopes of securing its own data-sharing agreement at the end of the Brexit transition period. Judges at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) today banned the Privacy Shield data-sharing agreement between the US and the bloc over surveillance concerns, and said that national regulators need to take tougher action to protect the privacy of users’ data. In a statement, the court said the US’ data sharing policies “are not circumscribed in a way that satisfies requirements that are essentially equivalent to those required under EU law.” The ruling comes as a major blow to thousands of tech companies, social media firms, banks and law firms that use the agreement to transfer large swathes of data between the US and Europe.
EU chiefs are pessimistic of the chances of an agreement ahead of crunch talks over the bloc’s next long-term budget and coronavirus bailout. European sources have indicated the differences in position over the €1.75trillion spending spree are too great to bridge. Facing the bloc’s worse recession since the Second World War, leaders will meet in Brussels tomorrow for face-to-face talks for the first time since the pandemic exploded onto the Continent. Under the proposals to be discussed, the European Commission would borrow €750billion on international markets to help fund aid packages for the worst-hit regions and industries. A €500billion share would be distributed in the form of grants while the remaining €250billion would be made available as low-cost loans.
Speaking in the measured, authoritative tones of an expert, Andrew Wakefield delivered his considered judgment on the coronavirus pandemic. It was, said the disgraced British former doctor, one big hoax: a cynical plot by pharmaceutical giants — aided by governments, scientists and the media — to force the world to be unnecessarily and dangerously vaccinated. People must fight it — even, he suggested, to the death. ‘It is a very, very alarming time,’ he told a recent online ‘Health Freedom Summit’. For Wakefield, it’s not just an alarming time but also a heartening one. A poll found nearly a third of British people are either unsure or definitely wouldn’t take a vaccine for coronavirus. The survey was conducted for the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, which also found that almost 60 million people in the UK and U.S. subscribe to anti-vaxxer content on social media.
Russian cyber spies are trying to steal research into coronavirus vaccines and treatments from Britain, the US and Canada, the three countries claimed on Thursday. The attack is ongoing, with British cyber experts working to defend research institutes, laboratories and other targets in the UK, according to a branch of the spy agency GCHQ. Organisations in other countries involved in the fight against COVID-19 are also allegedly being targeted. It came as: The government, in a separate development, revealed it had found Russian groups sought to interfere in last year’s general election through the promotion of leaked documents on a potential US-UK trade deal; Members of parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee agreed to publish a long-awaited report into alleged Russian interference in UK politics within the next week.
Britain has accused the Russian state of trying to hack into its vaccine research and claimed that “Russian actors” attempted to influence the general election last year. The UK, United States and Canada declared in a joint statement yesterday that Russian intelligence agency hackers had mounted a campaign to steal intellectual property from western academic and pharmaceutical institutions researching Covid-19. Cozy Bear, the cybergroup also known as APT29 and The Dukes, was named as the culprit behind the persistent action against organisations in the three countries, which began at the start of the global coronavirus outbreak. Scientists at Oxford University and Imperial College London are understood to have been targeted by the group, which Britain formally linked to the Russian state for the first time.
British spies were able to detect a Russian cyber attack on a university involved in testing for a coronavirus vaccine after installing a security shield around the facility, it emerged last night. Intelligence services feared a possible hacking attempt in March as the pandemic spread throughout the country, as reported by The Times. A cyber-shield was installed by National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a division of GCHQ, who later detected an attack from hacker group Cozy Bear, also known as Advanced Persistent Threat 29 and the Dukes. It is not clear if the group – who are thought to be closely allied to the Russian state – managed to secure any information.
The Kremlin was cock-a-hoop. Vaccine trials for coronavirus, funded by Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, had gone so well at two separate institutions that Vladimir Putin could look forward to announcing the world’s first approved vaccine for the virus by the end of the year. Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of the powerful Russian Direct Investment Fund, a close ally of President Putin, announced at a press conference in Moscow on Thursday that advanced Phase III trials would begin next month, with a plan to produce 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccine by December.
British spies put a protective cyber-shield around research facilities at Oxford University in the early stages of the pandemic, it emerged yesterday. The defences, installed by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a division of GCHQ, detected a hacking attempt by Russian state-linked group Cozy Bear, The Times understands. Security officials began increasing protection in late March as the virus started to spread in the UK and the nationwide lockdown began. A Whitehall source said last night that a hacking attempt by the Russian state had been anticipated from the beginning of the pandemic, adding: “It’s entirely in keeping with how they operate.”
Boris Johnson will promise the NHS a £3 billion winter rescue fund and a 40 per cent increase in coronavirus testing capacity today. Private hospitals commandeered at the height of the pandemic will be kept on to make the NHS “battle ready” for a busy winter amid concerns over a second wave of Covid-19 coinciding with a bad flu season. Nightingale hospitals will be maintained until March. Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said yesterday that Britain still did not have enough testing capacity for winter and it was essential to expand provision.
Boris Johnson is to announce an unprecedented £3bn of extra funding for the NHS this winter as ministers prepare for a potential second wave of Covid-19. The prime minister wants the NHS to be “battle ready”, a No 10 spokesperson said. The money will be available immediately and will be used in part to free up space in the NHS by paying private hospitals and maintaining the hastily built Nightingale hospitals until the end of March. At a press conference in Downing Street, Mr Johnson is also due to publish a new section of the government’s “road map” out of lockdown. He is also expected to set a target to ensure the NHS can carry out half a million tests per day by the end of October, to help the NHS Test and Trace programme.
The NHS will get an extra £3billion in funding to prepare for a possible second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Minister is set to announce. In the wake of a dire warning of the consequences of Covid-19 rebounding, Downing Street said the funding will allow extra hospital capacity while allowing routine treatments and procedures to continue. Boris Johnson will also use a press conference tomorrow to commit to a new target of reaching the capacity for 500,000 coronavirus tests a day by November. The funding for the NHS in England will allow private hospital capacity to be used and for Nightingale hospitals to be maintained until the end of March. It comes after a report commissioned by the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, warned there could be 120,000 hospital deaths in a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’.
The NHS in England will get an extra £3bn of funding to prepare for a possible second wave of coronavirus, Boris Johnson is set to announce. The funding will also help ease winter pressures on the health service, Downing Street said. It follows warnings a second wave this winter could see around 120,000 Covid-19 deaths in UK hospitals. The PM is also expected to use a press conference on Friday to commit to a new target for testing capacity. Under the plans, capacity would be increased to 500,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of October.
Boris Johnson is set to announce £3bn extra winter funding for the NHS to help prepare for a second wave of the virus and to relieve seasonal pressures on A&E. The funding will allow the NHS to continue using additional private hospital capacity and maintain the Nightingale hospitals until the end of March. Mr Johnson is also expected to confirm plans to increase testing capacity to half a million antigen tests a day by the end of October to bolster the test and trace system. In the wake of a dire warning of the consequences of Covid-19 rebounding, Downing Street said the funding will allow extra hospital capacity while allowing routine treatments and procedures to continue. The Prime Minister will also use a Downing Street press conference on Friday to commit to a new target of reaching the capacity for 500,000 coronavirus tests a day by November. The funding for the NHS in England will allow private hospital capacity to be used and for Nightingale hospitals to be maintained until the end of March.
The UK may have already achieved a sufficient level of herd immunity to stop a second wave of coronavirus, an Oxford University study has suggested. Scientists believe the “threshold” of herd immunity may have been lowered because many people may already be immune to the disease without ever having caught it. According to a new model produced by an Oxford University team led by Professor Sunetra Gupta, as little as 20 per cent of the population may need to be resistant to the virus in order to prevent a new epidemic spreading. “It is widely believed that the herd immunity threshold (HIT) required to prevent a resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 is in excess of 50 per cent for any epidemiological setting,” the study says.
HERD immunity levels against coronavirus in the UK may be high enough to prevent a second wave, claim scientists. While super-spreaders infect many, it appears some people are effectively super-blockers and enjoy natural resistance to the killer bug, say Oxford University boffins. The scientists have written about “host resistance” to the new virus and a possibly lower threshold of herd immunity needed to fend off further devastating Covid-19 outbreaks. Their paper, published on Medrxiv, says that it is widely believed the threshold needed to enjoy herd immunity against the new disease is more than 50 per cent. But, its research suggests that if just 20 per cent of the UK’s population has in-built resistance to Covid-19, a second wave is not inevitable.
LIGHTNING lockdowns to halt the virus spread will be unveiled by the PM today. Boris Johnson will set a target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October so flare-ups can be dealt with swiftly. He will give the NHS an extra £3billion so hospitals are “battle ready” for winter. Speaking at No 10, the PM will outline more of the road map to unlock England. Councils are expected to be given powers to shut pubs and cafés without going to Government first. The rules could even allow town hall bosses to ban weddings and other gatherings at short notice. A Government health source said: “Councils will be able to impose lighting lockdowns where they see fit.” A PR blitz will encourage Brits to get a virus test and promote walk-in testing sites. Boris will also detail a path to ease distancing, while ensuring the NHS can still cope with any second peak. A No 10 spokesman said:
Contact tracing cannot sufficiently reduce transmission of coronavirus if a person is not tested within three days of developing symptoms, a new study claims. Researchers said that the R value, which is number of people that a single infected person will go on to infect, can be reduced from 1.2 to 0.8 through contact tracing in the “most optimistic scenario”. But for that to work, at least 80 per cent of eligible people must be tested, there can be no delays in testing after the onset of symptoms, and at least 80 per cent of contacts must be identified on the same day as test results are received. The study – published in The Lancet Public Health journal – found that if testing is delayed by three days or more, even a system that is able to trace 100 per cent of contacts with no delays cannot bring the R value below 1.
Mortgage lenders will change rules which have made thousands of homes effectively worthless because of fears of flammable cladding – even on buildings where no cladding exists. The rules on cladding were tightened in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017, where flammable material on the side of the building contributed to the blaze in which 72 people lost their lives. Many banks now request to see EWS1 forms – which declare that the property is free of potentially dangerous cladding – before they will consider offering a mortgage. However, few of these surveys have been carried out because of high costs and long waits for surveyors. Residents have also faced battles with freeholders about who should pay for these checks to be carried out. In response to a question from Labour MP Shabana Mahmood, housing minister Christopher Pincher has admitted that bank policies have had a “negative impact” on homeowners who have been left unable to sell their properties.