Trade talks

Times
Boris Johnson has threatened to walk away from Brexit talks in June if significant progress has not been made. The prime minister has also rejected European demands to submit to independent oversight of Britain’s laws. In a hardening of the government’s position, senior officials said that he would not allow disputes over the UK’s future employment, environmental and state aid rules to go to binding arbitration in a free trade deal.

Independent
Boris Johnson is ready to walk away from trade talks with the EU ​in June if progress cannot be made – then prepare the UK for a no-deal scenario at the end of 2020, according to a government document published today. The prime minister is also set to rip up a key part of the Brexit deal already agreed with Brussels. Mr Johnson is said to believe the Tory election win means he is no longer bound by the political declaration attached to the withdrawal agreement.

Sun
BORIS Johnson today threatened to walk away from EU trade talks in just three months’ time if a deal isn’t close. The PM’s tough talk came as he published the British government’s 36-page blueprint for the all-important negotiation with Brussels. Setting the breakneck timetable, Boris demanded that “the broad outline of a deal” must be in place by the time he meets the EU’s 27 leaders for a summit in June. If it is, then the negotiations could be “rapidly finalised” by September, to allow three months for national parliaments to rubber stamp it.

BBC News
The UK has warned the EU it will walk away from trade talks in June unless there is a “broad outline” of a deal. Michael Gove told MPs the UK wanted to strike a “comprehensive free trade agreement” in 10 months. But the government would not accept any alignment with EU laws as the EU is demanding, with Mr Gove adding: “We will not trade away our sovereignty.” The EU has already set out its priorities ahead of the formal start of the talks on Monday.

Mail
Boris Johnson put Britain on a collision course with the EU today, warning Brussels that the Government would pull the plug on trade talks in just four months’ time if it did not get its way.  The Prime Minister’s administration wants to see the ‘broad outlines’ of a ‘Canada-style’ deal with Brussels before a planned June summit, according to its confrontational official negotiating mandate, released this morning. If the two sides remain at loggerheads Britain is ready to withdraw and concentrate on preparing the country for a bare-bones situation using World Trade Organisation terms under an arrangement with the EU similar to Australia’s.

Express
BORIS JOHNSON should “show the EU some of the old British backbone” by ripping up the political declaration and walking away from the negotiating table with the EU, a new poll has found. With just four days to go until the Prime Minister’s team will sit down with Brussels’ negotiators, thousands of Express.co.uk readers have warned Mr Johnson against buckling on key issue. The UK and EU, who have published their mandates ahead of Monday’s meeting, are miles apart on a number of matters including fishing and trading standards.

Guardian
The UK is to abandon a crucial tool used to speed up the transfer of criminals across borders with other European countries. Acting against the warnings of senior law enforcement officials, the government said it would not be seeking to participate in the European arrest warrant (EAW) as part of the future relationship with the European Union. In a document setting out the UK’s approach to negotiations with the EU, the government said: “The agreement should instead provide for fast-track extradition arrangements, based on the EU’s surrender agreement with Norway and Iceland which came into force in 2019, but with appropriate further safeguards for individuals beyond those in the European arrest warrant.”

Sky News
The UK and the EU have both set out their red lines ahead of trade talks that start on Monday. The UK has said it is prepared to walk away from the talks in June if not enough progress has been made, while Brussels has warned Britain faces a “tough road ahead”. There are several areas where the two sides are already at loggerheads. Brussels has demanded the UK continues to allow EU fishing fleets access to British waters ahead of a free trade agreement. EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said fishing rights must be included in the deal or there “won’t be any agreement at all”.

iNews
Boris Johnson is poised to abandon part of the Brexit deal he signed with Brussels setting up a furious row with the EU when the trade talks get underway next month. The Government will publish its negotiating mandate later on Thursday after No 10 cast serious doubts over whether it will stick to promises it made in the political declaration it signed alongside the Withdrawal Agreement. Downing Street sources suggested the declaration setting out the framework for a future trade deal had been usurped by the Tories’ manifesto, which helped the party secure a thumping general election victory.

Huffington Post
Brexiteer Andrea Jenkyns clearly didn’t get the memo, or didn’t read it. Tory whips’ had today drafted hilariously clunky ‘lines to take’ for backbenchers (a leak of which ended up in HuffPost’s hands) when discussing Boris Johnson’s hardball negotiating mandate for trade talks with Brussels. “Do not use phrases such as ‘deal /no deal’,” MPs were told.  But Jenkyns couldn’t help herself. Like many Leavers, ‘no deal’ holds no fear for her. “It’s great to have a government who plays hardball with the EU,” she tweeted. “No deal back on the table in June if the EU doesn’t agree a trade deal. Great, bring it on!”

Covid-19

Mail
Emergency plans are being drawn up by health officials to contain the coronavirus which could see schools closed for at least two months. Football matches, concerts and other mass gatherings may also need to be suspended, the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said. Professor Whitty has refused to rule out anything, but is understood to be cautious about school closures unless absolutely necessary because of the huge impact on society and the economy.

Sun
BRITS can still head off a coronavirus pandemic simply by washing their hands, experts said last night — as the outbreak reached a “decisive moment”. Three more British cases were confirmed yesterday, taking the total to 16. Some people have taken to wearing face masks to prevent infection. But health bosses stressed that we can all help to limit the spread by just washing hands regularly and thoroughly. Diseases expert Professor Hugh Pennington, from Aberdeen University, said: “Healthy people should wash their hands when they arrive at home or work, and before handling food.

Times
The European outbreak of coronavirus spread to Britain when travellers returned home after becoming infected in Tenerife and Italy. The number of UK citizens to have had the infection diagnosed rose by three to 16 last night, including the first case in Northern Ireland. One of the patients is being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London after returning from Milan, where several towns have been subjected to severe quarantine measures in an attempt to contain the outbreak.

Mail
The holiday plans of millions of Britons could be at risk after the number of coronavirus cases around the world overtook China  for the first time and the virus crisis tightened its grip on the UK today.  Brazil has reported its first patient with the illness, which means the virus has now spread to every continent except Antarctica, with cases also diagnosed for the first time in Norway, Greece, North Macedonia, Georgia and Pakistan. British Airways has cancelled dozens of flights to Milan due to a drop in demand and fresh cases in Spain, France, Croatia, Austria and Switzerland sparked industry fears that people may choose not to go on holiday at all over Easter in April or avoid booking foreign breaks in 2020 altogether.

Telegraph
Major concerts, sports events and festivals could be cancelled and schools closed for at least two months, in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the country’s top doctor has warned. The Government is considering the measures amid warnings from the country’s chief medical officer that it is now ‘just a matter of time’ before the virus spreads within the UK. Speaking after two new cases of the virus in England were confirmed – with links to Italy and Tenerife – Prof Chris Whitty said such moves would be part of efforts to delay the peak of any outbreak for as long as possible.

Times
Britain must consider restricting mass gatherings and closing schools for more than two months to slow the spread of coronavirus if an outbreak hits, the chief medical officer has said. As the World Health Organisation warned that the planet had reached a “decisive point” in the fight to halt the virus, Chris Whitty said yesterday that if a global pandemic took hold Britain would not be able to stop it arriving here. Health chiefs believe it is now more likely than not that an outbreak will occur in Britain.

Sun
A CORONAVIRUS epidemic in the UK might mean hospital bosses deny older and weaker patients treatment in favour of those with best chance of recovering. Doomsday planning could see an overwhelmed NHS call on a “Three Wise Men” protocol — where three senior doctors choose who gets precious beds and treatment. The “wise men” protocol was developed by the NHS Committee on Ethical Aspects of Pandemic Influenza “to minimise the harm the pandemic causes”.

EU

Express
THE row between European Union nations over the bloc’s next long-term budget has hit a sensational new low, with a European Commission boss warning crunch talks to solve the issue are making no progress whatsoever. Last week, an EU summit aimed at attempting to agree terms on the seven-year EU budget from 2021 and fill the huge £63billion hole left by Brexit ended in stalemate following a stand-off between “frugal” member states (Denmark, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands) and other countries. The “frugal four” and 17 other net beneficiary countries including Spain, Portugal, Greece, Poland and Hungary, rejected the compromise proposal put forward by European Council chairman Charles Michel, who wants to cap joint spending at 1.069 percent of GDP.

Independent
Michel Barnier has told the City of London that its financial services companies must accept being “rule-takers” observing EU regulations if they want continued access to continental markets after Brexit. In a hardline message just days before the opening of UK/EU trade negotiations on Monday, Mr Barnier said that the granting of “equivalence” status allowing firms to operate with the 27-nation bloc will remain a “unilateral decision” for the EU taken in the interests of its own economies.

BBC News
The government will not seek to stay part of the European Arrest Warrant in its trade deal with the EU. The warrant is an agreement between EU states enabling European criminals to be arrested anywhere in the bloc and extradited home. But the UK wants a new set of “fast-track extradition arrangements” that it says will provide “greater safeguards”. The Liberal Democrats said the decision was “robbing our police of a vital crime-fighting tool”.

Express
FRANCE’S European Affairs Minister, Amélie de Montchalin, said on Wednesday that France would continue opposing cuts to agricultural subsidies in the bloc’s 2021-27 budget, adding its farmers should not have to “pay” for Brexit. Britain’s departure from the bloc has left the EU short of some 75 billion euros, and the 27 remaining states failed to agree on the size of the 2021-27 budget or how to spend it. “Farmers: we will fight for them on the European front and make sure France’s CAP (common agricultural policy) payments are not reduced.

Markets

Telegraph
Asian markets spiralled downwards on Friday, tracking a collapse in New York and Europe as the coronavirus spread rapidly around the world with the WHO warning the deadly epidemic was now at a “decisive point”. Tokyo and Jakarta were hammered more than four percent, while Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul and Bangkok tanked more than three percent each. The casualties have put equities around the world on course to record their worst week since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago as investors run to the hills on fears the virus will smash the global economy.

Mail
Traders are warning that the ‘worst is yet to come today’ after the New York stock exchange suffered its biggest ever drop and £152billion was wiped off FTSE shares. European and US stock markets slumped painfully again Thursday as new coronavirus infections spread outside China, exacerbating fears of a global slowdown. While the markets in Shanghai and Hong Kong closed higher, Europe and New York saw a sea of red. London, Frankfurt and Paris all posted losses of more than three percent on the day.

Immigration

Telegraph
Immigration to the UK from outside the EU has risen to its highest since 1975 in the wake of the Government decision to lift the cap on student numbers, official figures show. The number of non-EU immigrants rose to 379,000 in the year to September 2019, overtaking the previous peak of 370,000 in 2004, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). At the same, the number of migrants coming to the UK to study overtook those coming to work for the first time since 2012.

Flooding

Times
Communities that are already struggling to deal with the disruption caused by severe flooding over the past few weeks are bracing themselves for more heavy rainfall as Storm Jorge makes its way across the UK. Northern England and parts of Wales could receive as much 80mm of rain today when the storm makes landfall, the Met Office warned. Strong winds are also predicted for much of England, Wales and Northern Ireland tomorrow, reaching highs of 70mph in coastal areas and up to 60mph inland.

BBC News
Residents in flood-hit communities are facing more wet weather as Storm Jorge is expected to sweep across the UK this weekend. Before the latest storm hits the UK, yellow weather warnings of snow and ice have been issued for much of the Midlands including the River Severn in Shropshire, where flood defences buckled under the pressure of water. Heavy snow blanketed parts of Northumberland on Thursday, while residents in Ironbridge were told to evacuate with further heavy rain forecasted.

Mail
These dramatic aerial photographs show how a picture postcard village in the Malvern Hills of Worcestershire has been overwhelmed by severe flooding from the River Severn with residents left homeless. The isolated area of Severn Stoke, which has a population of about 600 people, has been deluged after the river broke its banks following heavy rainfall in the aftermath of Storm Dennis nearly a fortnight ago. Dozens of homes, the Grade II-listed church and playing fields have been left underwater in the village which is still under an Environment Agency flood warning amid fears more rainfall could see river levels rise further.

Heathrow

Times
Ministers appeared to kill off plans for a third runway at Heathrow yesterday by confirming that they would accept a critical Court of Appeal ruling. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, announced that the government would not appeal against a judgment which found its existing policy on Heathrow expansion was unlawful. He indicated that the government would pursue proposals to expand airports elsewhere without extra runways. The government was committed to “making best use” of existing infrastructure, he said, suggesting that backing could be given to plans to raise capacity at airports such as Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Birmingham and Manchester.

Mail
British ambitions of becoming a global economic power after Brexit suffered a major blow yesterday after a court ruling suggested future airports, motorway and energy projects could all be blocked to prevent global warming. The Court of Appeal ruled that the £14 billion expansion of Heathrow airport was illegal – because the Government failed to take into account its legal duty to curb climate change.

Breitbart
Activist judges have vetoed plans for a third runway at London’s busiest airport because, they claim, it clashes with Britain’s obligations under the Paris climate agreement. Naturally, the left-wing media can scarcely disguise its glee. According to the Guardian: Plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport have been ruled illegal by the court of appeal because ministers did not adequately take into account the government’s climate change commitments. The ruling is a major blow to the project at a time when public concern about the climate emergency is rising fast and the government has set a target in law of net zero emissions by 2050.

Health

Mail
Thousands of UK babies are at risk of disability or death because they are not being screened for rare diseases, experts said yesterday. Britain has fallen behind countries such as Poland, Hungary and Slovakia in testing for severe conditions at birth. MPs warned this could mean British babies becoming the ‘sick children of Europe’ and called for changes to NHS screening. Every baby in the UK is offered a heel prick test for conditions such as sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis when they are a few days old.

Mail
Britons are now twice as likely to die from drugs than a road accident, a police chief revealed yesterday. The shocking fact lays bare the scale of the drug menace gripping the country. It was revealed by top police officer Andy Cooke. He also told how drug dealers are peddling ‘woke coke’, attracting middle-class users with the claim that drugs are ‘ethically-sourced’ and ‘no-one had been harmed in the production of this cocaine’. The figures emerged on the day a major report warned of the unprecedented number of children and teenagers being drawn into the drug trade through county lines gangs.

Times
Thousands of cases of bowel cancer in Britain each year are linked to a common bacteria found in the gut, a pioneering study has shown. Scientists found that a toxin released by a strain of E. coli caused unique patterns of DNA damage to the cells lining the digestive tract. These fingerprints were also seen in bowel cancer tumours from British and Dutch patients, revealing for the first time a direct link between a bacterial toxin and the genetic errors that drive cancer development.

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