Michel Barnier has told EU diplomats that a disagreement over post-Brexit fishing rights is now the only major stumbling block to agreeing a trade deal with the UK, it was claimed today. The EU’s chief negotiator is said to have told a private briefing in Brussels on Wednesday evening that he ‘wasn’t worried about anything else but fish’. A diplomat who took part in the briefing told Reuters that ‘fish is now the thing to tackle’ and the ‘other elements seem doable, more or less’. The comments will increase hopes of a deal being agreed between the two sides by mid-November as formal negotiations resumed in London today, bringing to an end a stand off which lasted for a week.
Time is “very short” to find a Brexit deal while the conduct of trade, security and fisheries negotiations will be hampered by pandemic precautions as infection rates in Brussels soar. Negotiations will open in London today and over the weekend before switching to the Belgian capital, which houses the European Commission headquarters and is one of the worst coronavirus hotspots on the Continent. The infection rate in the Brussels city region is at 1,389 per 100,000 people, four times the British level and up to ten times that of many London boroughs. Progress has been made in the negotiations, after delays caused by the pandemic in spring.
MICHEL BARNIER told a meeting of EU envoys last night his one stumbling block in the current post-Brexit trade talks with the UK. A Brexit trade deal with the EU is on the horizon, as Brussels’ chief negotiator appears to be shifting towards a compromise on a number of areas. Michel Barnier is understood to have told EU diplomats he “wasn’t worried about anything else but fish” – indicating that fisheries is the only stumbling block left. One EU diplomat told Reuters: “Fish is now the thing to tackle. The other elements seem doable more or less.” Both sides have agreed to intensify negotiations and said they will sit down every day, including the weekend, until October 25. David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator confirmed this on Twitter, and wrote: “We have agreed that a basis for negotiations with the EU & @michelbarnier has been re-established.
Michel Barnier said Britain and the EU had a “a huge common responsibility” to avoid a no deal Brexit as he arrived in London for the first day of rebooted trade talks on Thursday. Number 10 warned that “significant gaps” remained between the two sides over fishing, “level playing field guarantees” and enforcement, and said it was “entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed”. EU diplomats in Brussels predicted that fishing would be the easiest of the three outstanding issues to solve in the intensive daily negotiations that will continue through the weekend and in Brussels next week.
Boris Johnson‘s cancelled trade talks with the EU may have restarted but one vital sector has no representative at the negotiations. The City and financial services have been left on the sidelines even though they are one of the economy’s powerhouses. As an economics writer who supported Brexit, recognising the huge opportunity for the UK and the City to broaden horizons, I find the lack of focus on financial services extremely frustrating. The opportunity to cement Britain’s status as an offshore financial centre outside the EU, challenging New York for hegemony, while continuing to provide services for other EU states, has always been there. Indeed, in her much disparaged deal with Brussels, Theresa May made sure that the mutual recognition of UK and EU financial regulations was included in the political protocol.
Furious business leaders tonight accused officials in Brexit talks of complacency over the future of the City, while fiercely protecting Britain’s fishing rights. With the end of the transition period looming, bosses of banks and insurance companies are worried about the failure to close in on a post-Brexit deal for the UK’s powerhouse financial services industry. The sector employs more than one million people and contributes just over seven per cent of the UK’s entire annual economic output. In contrast, Britain’s fishing industry accounts for just 0.1 per cent of GDP and employs around 24,000 people – but it appears to be the key sticking point in the UK’s negotiations with the EU.
Post-Brexit trade deals will turn the North East into “Singapore on Tyne”, the International Trade Secretary has said, as ministers target former Labour heartlands to “turbocharge” the economy. Liz Truss believes a trade deal with Japan, which she will formally sign in Tokyo on Friday, will pave the way for Britain to join a Trans-Pacific trading bloc that will soon be bigger than the EU. It will enable the UK to negotiate tailor-made deals with the Far East that will sweep away regulatory barriers and take advantage of new rules on free ports to cut tariffs and red tape. Ms Truss told The Telegraph she is also confident of a trade deal with the US regardless of who wins next month’s presidential election, as she revealed she has held detailed discussions with supporters of Joe Biden alongside talks with Donald Trump.
Trade talks with the EU remain uncertain, with negotiations focused on issues like fishing that have little bearing for the City. But in the meantime, Japan has given “global Britain” — and particularly the City — something to celebrate. This week’s signing of the UK-Japan free trade agreement secures the UK’s smooth transition from the EU-Japan deal come the end of this year. More importantly, it signals how the UK government is thinking about the City as a global financial centre, doubling down on its long-standing strength as a bridge between east and west. Already the City of London and Tokyo have strong links. The two centres agreed in 2018 to grow this relationship and to share tips on internationalisation.
BRITAIN will sign a historic trade deal with Japan on Friday worth a massive £15 billion. The bumper tie-up with the world’s third largest economy is the first since the UK left the European Union in January. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will sign the agreement in Tokyo with Japan’s Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu. Other deals are being lined up with the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in the coming months that will help create tens of thousands of new jobs. Negotiations are also continuing over a post-Brexit trading relationship with the EU. Hailing the agreement with Japan, Ms Truss said: “Today is a landmark moment for Britain.
Dangerously ill coronavirus patients are making “startling recoveries” in spite of being at “death’s door” after being given drugs that dial down the immune system, experts have said. Trials are taking place of several drugs that prevent a part of the immune system called the complement system from becoming over-activated. The drug furthest along in trials, ravulizumab, is already used to treat rare blood diseases and is being tested at hospitals in Cambridge, London, Birmingham and Leeds. The drugs are known as “anti-C5” drugs because they prevent a molecule called C5 from triggering the complement-system response. Speaking at a coronavirus briefing on Thursday, Professor Paul Morgan, the director of the Systems Immunity Research Institute at Cardiff University, said the drugs were providing a lifeline for patients who were near death.
Patients have made “startling recoveries” after being given Covid-19 therapies that target a part of the immune system known as the “complement cascade”, doctors have said. Anecdotal reports of the successful use of the drugs suggest that trials may show them to be effective, with scientists saying there is growing evidence that damping down this particular immune response could be crucial in treating the most severely ill patients. “We have seen very promising results where people who had reached the stage where there was no further therapy for them, where they were on ventilators, primed and ready at death’s door, have made startling recoveries,” said Paul Morgan, director of the Systems Immunity Research Institute at Cardiff University.
The Covid-19 vaccine developed at Oxford University works perfectly and builds strong immunity to the virus, a study shows. Great hopes rest on the vaccine, which is a global frontrunner and has been shown to safely trigger an immune response in volunteers given it in early trials. But, unlike traditional vaccines which use a weakened virus, or small amounts of it, the innovative Oxford jab causes the body to make part of the virus itself. Now researchers led by the University of Bristol have found this daring technology works for the coronavirus, just as it has for similar viruses in the past. A study using cells in the laboratory found the vaccine effectively delivers the instructions for the Covid protein, which cells copy thousands of times to produce it in large amounts.
A coronavirus vaccine developed at Oxford University is “doing everything expected” and provokes strong immunity to the virus, according to a study. The vaccine, which many hope will defeat the ongoing battle against Covid-19, is understood to safely trigger an immune response in volunteers who took part in the trials. David Matthews, an expert in virology from Bristol University, who led the research, said the vaccine is “doing everything we expected.” He said: “This is an important study as we are able to confirm that the genetic instructions underpinning this vaccine, which is being developed as fast as safely possible, are correctly followed when they get into a human cell.
THE coronavirus vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca “works perfectly” and builds strong immunity, a study has said. The team at the prestigious university are thought to be the frontrunners in the race to produce a safe vaccine. In early trials it has been shown to safely trigger an immune response in volunteers, according to the study. Usually, vaccines use a weakened virus, or small amounts of it, but the innovative Oxford jab causes the body to make part of the virus itself. Researchers led by the University of Bristol have now found this new technique works for the coronavirus. The study used cells in the lab and found the vaccine delivers instructions for the Covid protein, which cells then copy thousands of times to produce it in large amounts.
The NHS Nightingale hospital in Manchester will become the first in the country to reopen next week, the health secretary said yesterday as he announced that more areas in England are facing tighter restrictions. Coventry, Slough and Stoke-on-Trent will go into the high alert level this weekend, banning people who do not live together from meeting indoors. Cases in those areas are doubling every fortnight, Matt Hancock told MPs. The government has also entered formal talks with Warrington over putting the town into the top-level Tier 3 restrictions, Mr Hancock said. This would force pubs and bars to close unless they can serve full meals.
Ordering people to stay at home is a futile move which barely reduces Covid infection rates, researchers said yesterday. The R rate – the key measure of the virus’s spread – drops by only 3 per cent after a month of the restriction being in place. And a ban on gatherings of more than ten also cuts R by only the same amount – raising questions over the value of the Rule of Six. The Edinburgh University study found that the main flaw with the two measures was the inability to ensure compliance. Writing in a Lancet journal, the researchers found that banning public events was the most effective standalone intervention, reducing R by 24 per cent in four weeks. At the start of the crisis big sporting occasions – such as the Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid – went ahead despite widespread warnings.
ORDERING Brits to stay at home in a bid to tackle coronavirus doesn’t work as they won’t obey – but banning big public events does, experts say. The crucial R rate drops by just three per cent after a full month of ordering people to stay indoors. A ban on gatherings of more than 10 cuts the rate by the same amount – despite the UK’s ‘rule of six’. And researchers at Edinburgh University say the problem is making people obey the strict laws. Writing in the Lancet journal, authors of the study say the most significant intervention is banning public events, which reduces the R rate by 24 per cent in just four weeks. Major events including the Cheltenham Festival and the Champions League clash between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid went ahead at the start of the crisis.
It was only on Tuesday afternoon that Boris Johnson refused to meet Andy Burnham’s demands for an extra £5 million to help Manchester through weeks of punishing tier three restrictions. So it was hardly surprising that the Labour mayor was on Thursday struggling to contain his disbelief, as the Chancellor Rishi Sunak rode to the rescue with a multi-billion pound rescue package to help firms through the winter months. Just 48 hours after talks between the Prime Minister and Greater Manchester collapsed, Mr Sunak rose to the dispatch box to unveil a fresh cash injection for those struggling to stay afloat under tier one and tier two restrictions. Worth an estimated £13bn over six months, Mr Sunak’s package included a revamped wage support scheme to help firms cling onto more workers part-time, as well as a new round of funding for the self-employed.
Rishi Sunak yesterday announced an emergency bailout that will cost up to £22billion bailout to keep business afloat and head off a jobs bloodbath this winter. The Chancellor’s fresh financial package has been hailed a lifeline for firms under Tier 2 lockdowns such as London which were previously ineligible for Government support. In a statement to the House of Commons, he unveiled the three-pronged funding blizzard to shore up the health of UK Plc as more regions face tighter restrictions. Mr Sunak said grants of up to £2,100 a month will be offered to Tier 2 companies that are not forced to close but are struggling to be commercially viable. Some 150,000 businesses are estimated to qualify for the payments, which could cost the Treasury £1.2billion.
Rishi Sunak was forced into unveiling a last-minute multibillion-pound package for business and workers amid fears of mass unemployment and anger over lack of government support. Moving to appease worried hospitality sector leaders and northern Tory MPs as more parts of the country are put under stringent coronavirus measures, the chancellor said he would expand the new furlough scheme to protect jobs through a difficult winter. Shortly after he announced the plans, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, revealed that Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent and Slough would be moved into tier 2 restrictions at the weekend.
Test & trace
The NHS Test and Trace system ‘needs improvement’ after its performance slumped to the worst on record, Boris Johnson admitted yesterday. Fewer than six in ten close contacts of those who test positive for Covid-19 are being reached by tracers, well below the 80 per cent target. And figures released yesterday show that only one in seven people receive virus test results within 24 hours, the lowest on record. The Prime Minister said: ‘I share people’s frustrations and I understand totally why we do need to see faster turnaround times and we do need to improve it.’ Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, added: ‘It’s undoubtedly the case that test, trace and isolation becomes much more difficult to have an impact once numbers are high.
Boris Johnson has demanded improvement from his struggling Test and Trace system as estimates suggested the daily infection rate could now be as high as 90,000. Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said the system could not control the virus in areas where cases were high, forcing ministers to close pubs and other businesses instead to stop people mixing. The prime minister issued his first rebuke to the system after performance hit a new low with under 60 per cent of contacts being traced for the first time and waiting times for results up 60 per cent in a week.
Monitoring sewage to detect Covid-19 outbreaks is effective, the Government has revealed as it plans to expand the programme across the country. Scientists have been trialing the method since June, and have found that they can see spikes early on in areas which have low testing. The programme to analyse sewage for traces of coronavirus will now be used to provide an early warning for local outbreaks. It can also give a clearer picture of asymptomatic spread, and show a surge before people develop symptoms. Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the method is successfully detecting fragments of genetic material from the virus in waste water.
Ninety wastewater treatment sites in England, Wales and Scotland will start testing sewage for coronavirus. The aim is to create an early warning system to detect local outbreaks before they spread. Scientists established earlier this year that fragments of the virus’s genetic material could be identified in human waste. And crucially they can be detected even when there are only asymptomatic Covid-19 cases in the community. The project is a collaboration between central and local government, along with academic institutions and water companies. Prof Davey Jones, an expert in soil and environmental science at Bangor University, was one of the researchers to get involved. He said: “We have been monitoring viruses like norovirus and hepatitis in human sewage for the last decade.
Scientists conducting tests for coronavirus in sewage to spot early warnings of where outbreaks are occurring say the approach is working and has helped reveal areas with high infection rates. The programme has been piloted in the south-west of England since June. The sewage sampling data showed a spike in coronavirus content even though a relatively low number of people in the area had taken tests. According to the government, the information was passed on to NHS test and trace and the local council, who were able to alert local health professionals to the increased risk and warn people in the area of the increase in cases.