BRITONS have reacted furiously after it emerged Remainers attempted to sneak through a Bill to derail Brexit amid calls from Michel Barnier to extend the negotiating period. Michel Barnier, the European Commission Head of Taskforce, gave Remainers a reason for hope on Wednesday after he outlined the bloc would be willing to extend post-Brexit talks for up to 24 months. In a letter to Westminster leaders of the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green Party and Alliance Party, Mr Barnier said the EU “remain open” to an extension until 2022 but warned this would come at a financial cost to the UK – the offer was swiftly rejected by Downing Street. However it has since emerged a summary of a Bill has been posted on the UK Parliament website in an attempt to push through an extension.
The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator has ruled out accepting a request from the European Union for an extension. David Frost said the Government would reject such a request as the legally binding June 30 deadline for extending negotiations beyond 2020 looms. It comes after EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc was “open” to a two-year extension on Wednesday. He was responding to a letter from the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Greens and Alliance Party calling for a 24 delay amid deadlock in talks.
The UK’s chief negotiator has pledged that any request for an extension to the Brexit transition period from the EU will be rejected. David Frost said that the Government’s position on the issue is “pretty clear”, and that negotiators are working towards an end of year deadline. Mr Frost was answering questions from Peers on the House of Lords EU Committee on the progress of UK-EU future relationship negotiations alongside Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.
FRANCE has issued a warning over the UK’s Brexit talks with the EU which have reached an impasse, saying “deep differences remain”. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said talks between Britain and Brussels, which have resumed following an interruption caused by the coronavirus crisis, were not going well. Mr Le Drian said: “The resumption of the talks is going badly, deep differences remain.”
EUROPEAN UNION negotiators are ready to offer concessions to Britain in an attempt to prevent post-Brexit talks from collapsing, the bloc’s trade chief has indicated. Phil Hogan, the EU’s trade commissioner, said member states could be asked to tweak Michel Barnier’s mandate in order to break the impasse. He said the bloc was “ready to move” away from some of its hardline stances but only if Downing Street considers meeting them in the middle.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday outlined her vision for a global European Union, backing it to deliver guidance on handling the Chinese coronavirus pandemic based on what she claimed was the manifest evidence of the organization’s achievements. In a speech outlining Germany’s priorities when it takes over the E.U.’s rotating presidency in July, Merkel acknowledged the pandemic had destroyed a host of previous certainties but backed the E.U. to help bring the world to order, AFP reports. Her simple solution is: more E.U. in more places more often.
The EU is bracing for a brutal budgetary battle over the coming months, as Covid-19-hit nations tussle for their share of a giant €1.85 trillion (£1.66 trillion) grants package designed to save the bloc from a pandemic-induced depression. “This is Europe’s moment,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said as she announced the plan. “What started as a virus so small your eyes could not see it has become an economic crisis so big that you simply cannot miss it.” The package includes a €750 billion stimulus package of grants and loans designed to help the EU countries and sectors worst hit from the fallout of the coronavirus, as well as adjustments to the EU’s proposed €1.1 trillion seven-year budget for 2021-2027.
Boris Johnson has again tried to draw a line under the controversy surrounding Dominic Cummings after Durham Police said it would not be taking any further action over a “minor breach” of the lockdown rules. Speaking at his daily coronavirus briefing, the Prime Minister said it was a “fundamentally political argument” and he intervened to prevent his scientific advisers, Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance being drawn into the row.
Boris Johnson has gagged his medical experts to prevent them revealing whether they believe Dominic Cummings’ lockdown breach damaged the fight against coronavirus. Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance – in their first appearance since the controversy broke – were expected to give their opinions on the likely damage to public health guidelines. But the prime minister stopped them answering questions, claiming: “It is very important that our advisers are protected from being dragged into political controversy.”
“Maitlis broke BBC rules with Cummings rant,” says the front page picture story of the Daily Telegraph and, quite possibly, various other newspapers. Emily Maitlis, in case you don’t know, is the interviewer on a BBC current affairs show called Newsnight. On the Tuesday night edition this week, Maitlis launched straight into a diatribe about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s special advisor (and chief Brexit architect) Dominic Cummings.
Groups of up to six people will be able to meet outside for picnics and barbecues Boris Johnson has revealed in the latest lifting of lockdown measures. Describing it as “long awaited and joyful moment”, the Prime Minister confirmed that from Monday groups will be able to meet in outdoor spaces including private gardens in England. He said: “These changes mean friends and family can start to meet their loved ones, perhaps, seeing both parents or grandparents at once.”
Britons will finally be able to see family and friends in groups of six from Monday, after Boris Johnson unlocked lockdown last night – though he warned social distancing measures would still have to be followed. After two months of stringent restrictions, the long-awaited change will mean many grandparents can see their children and grandchildren – while groups of friends or family members can gather for a summer barbecue.
Boris Johnson has announced that friends and family will be able to meet outdoors in groups of six for socially distanced picnics and barbecues from Monday. People from different households will be able to gather outside as long as they stay two metres apart, wash their hands and avoid going inside. The prime minister said it meant that grandparents aged above 70 would be able to have “joyful” reunions with their children and grandchildren.
Britons should not to get carried away with news that lockdown is loosening because the virus’ R-rate is still dangerously close to 1, the Government’s top scientific adviser has warned as health chiefs announced another 377 people have died of the coronavirus in Britain – pushing the total number of fatalities to 37,837. Sir Patrick Vallance revealed the current R-rate is between 0.7 and 0.9, and while coronavirus case numbers were declining, they are ‘not coming down fast’ in a downbeat update at tonight’s Downing Street press conference.
More than two thirds of those who tested positive for coronavirus had no symptoms, in the first nationally representative sample. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the figure underlined the importance of social distancing to avoid catching the virus from those who felt well, amid warnings that the scale of infection without symptoms could make the NHS contact tracing system much less effective. However, other experts cautioned that many of the test results could be false positives, caused by the inherent difficulties of checking people at random for a disease that fewer than one in 400 people has at present.
AROUND 4.5 million Brits are thought to have already had coronavirus, new figures suggest. It comes as tests show 7 per cent of people in England have antibodies to Covid-19 – suggesting they have already had the bug. The ONS Infection Survey offers a snapshot of infections over the period of May 11 to May 24. The findings show that 6.78 per cent of 885 people who gave blood samples developed antibodies to the virus – that’s around one in 15 people – or 3,7 million in England or 4.5million across the UK. As well as antibody tests, swab tests – that detect who currently has the virus – were carried out.
Track & trace
An ex-shop worker now paid £10-an-hour as an NHS coronavirus ‘track and tracer’ claimed she had nothing to do today, in a chaotic start to the first day of the government’s much-trumpeted scheme designed to help officials quickly stop the spread of the disease and tackle local outbreaks. Staff employed to warn Britons they may have been infected have also struggled to log-on to the system, with one calling it a ‘complete shambles’ after revealing they had not even received their password to access the website and start their shift while another questioned why the Covid-19 system wasn’t perfect before it went live.
THE CORONAVIRUS test and trace system was branded a “complete shambles” on the first day of its launch as trained contact tracers claimed they couldn’t log in – and didn’t know they would be starting today. Tracers have said it is a case of “the blind leading the blind” and they don’t have anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus to call so they can get to work.
The launch of the government’s new coronavirus tracing programme has been hit by problems as NHS workers struggled to log into the computer system. Several contact tracers told The Independent that they could not access the website when it launched on Thursday morning, with staff left unable to work. The new NHS test and trace system is being rolled out across England with the help of 25,000 contact tracers, with people who come into close contact with a coronavirus sufferer told to self-isolate for 14 days.
BORIS Johnson has confirmed schools will reopen from next week but only for a small number of kids in reception, year one and year six from Monday. Schools will have to follow strict social distancing measures – including limiting class sizes to 15 students. The Prime Minister said this evening: “Closing schools has deprived children of their education. “On Monday we will start to put this right in a safe way by starting to opening up nurseries and years one, and six in primary schools.” Mr Johnson announced the crucial five tests for lifting lockdown had been met – meaning the UK is now moving to alert level 3 – after being at level 4 for two months.
SCHOOL reopenings on Monday will not be safe, a group of Britain’s top scientists warned today as the government refused to backtrack from its decision. A report by the Independent Sage committee, finalised over the last week, has found that the government’s own modelling of reopening schools shows that the R value — the infection’s ability to spread — rising above critical level of one. The most recent estimates for Britain place the R value between 0.7 and one, and all the scenarios modelled by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) risk pushing R beyond that threshold, the report says.
Schools and certain shops will be reopened from June 1, Boris Johnson announced at today’s Downing Street briefing. From Monday nurseries and other early settings, including reception, year one, and year six in primary schools will reopen. On June 15 secondary schools will begin to provide some “face-to-face contact time”. Mr Johnson says some shops, such as car sales and outdoor retail, will also open on Monday and more non-essential retail may follow on June 15, depending on the infection rate.
ITV News has uncovered plans to discharge at least 1,800 patients from hospital into care homes during the coronavirus pandemic. The government has denied there was pressure to move people from hospital into care, after Care England recently blamed discharges for spreading the virus into nursing and residential homes. But data obtained by ITV News shows how, at the outset of the pandemic, the NHS and councils block booked beds in care homes to ensure they were ready to deal with a surge in patients coming from hospital.
Public health officials proposed a radical lockdown of care homes last month to stem surging coronavirus deaths, including staff moving in for four weeks and deploying NHS Nightingale hospitals – but it was rejected by the government, the Guardian has learned. An 11-point plan proposing “a further lockdown of care homes” was submitted to Downing Street on 28 April by officials at Public Health England (PHE), as fatalities peaked in care homes and the virus spread to half of homes in the worst-affected areas. They urged ministers to “use NHS facilities and other temporary accommodation to quarantine and isolate residents”, and to “consider whether staff can move into the care home for the next four weeks”.
Scientists may directly infect people with the coronavirus in vaccine trials because falling infection rates in the community mean that they could soon struggle to get enough data. Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of Astrazeneca, the pharmaceutical company working on the Oxford University vaccine, said that it was still too early for so-called human challenge trials, in which people volunteer to be infected. He said that as the virus came under control in Europe, companies were “running against time” to hold standard clinical trials that rely on subjects being exposed naturally to the infection.
SEVERAL coronavirus vaccines will be available by the end of this year, the world’s leading drugs companies suggested today. The upbeat message came as the pharmaceutical giants said they had set aside commercial rivalries to develop jabs together. Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, said: “The hope of many people is that we will have a vaccine — hopefully several — before the end of this year.”
Pressure is mounting on the RNLI to send its lifeguards back to beaches after three people died and a surfer had to be rescued by a part-time lifeguard. As the warm weather draws thousands to the seaside, the RNLI has restricted its lifesaving cover due to concerns about coronavirus transmission. The charity claims it was given no warning of government plans to relax coronavirus restrictions by allowing people to swim in the sea, and said that it had not been able to give lifeguards adequate training or personal protective equipment to patrol beaches.
Cash and drugs worth £3 million have been seized by police in the biggest operation against county lines gangs backed by a dedicated Government fund. The campaign – by four forces – saw police make more than 650 arrests, close nearly 140 “deal” lines supplying drugs from cities to suburban and rural towns and seize more than 100 weapons including guns and knives. Some 140 children being exploited by the gangs were also safeguarded in the raids conducted over five months from November to March this year.
Britain will give greater visa rights to the people of Hong Kong unless China suspends new security laws in the territory, the foreign secretary has said. The National People’s Congress of China yesterday formally announced its decision to impose the legislation, which makes it a crime to undermine Chinese authority in Hong Kong. Britain reiterated its “deep concern” over the plan in a joint statement with Australia, Canada and the US. The allies said the contentious law would erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and undermine the “one country, two systems” principle that has protected the territory’s status since the handover in 1997.
The UK will allow thousands of Hong Kong residents to move to Britain if China presses ahead with plans to reduce the territory’s level of autonomy. The Chinese rubber-stamp parliament has signed off on a new “national security” law for Hong Kong, which will be imposed without the approval of its democratically elected assembly. The governments of the UK, USA, Australia and Canada have issued a joint statement warning that “the rights of Hong Kong people” are under threat from the law, which targets “sedition” and “subversion”.
The government has appeared to invite hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents to make UK citizenship bids amid concerns over China’s planned national security law, which critics warn would eviscerate the notion of “one country, two systems”. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would allow the roughly 300,000 people in Hong Kong who hold British national overseas (BNO) passports to stay in the country for 12 months, instead of the current six, unless China scraps the proposed law.
Britain offered stronger rights to its passport holders in Hong Kong yesterday after China rubber-stamped controversial new security laws. More than 300,000 British National (Overseas) passport holders will be able to travel to Britain without a visa for up to 12 months. They could then apply for UK citizenship – amid fears the new legislation will undermine human rights in the former British colony. Britain joined a wave of condemnation after the National People’s Congress approved the legislation.
The future of Britain’s largest car factory looks secure after the Japanese carmaker Nissan said that it would close its Spanish factories and indicated that it planned to retrench in Europe in Sunderland. However, unions representing 6,500 workers at the Sunderland factory fear they could yet suffer job cuts as Nissan swung to huge losses. The news was received badly in Spain where riots erupted. Nissan’s Barcelona factory, which like Sunderland has been closed during the lockdown, employs 2,800. Nissan yesterday announced losses for 2019-20 of 671 billion yen (£5 billion), a fall of £9 billion against profits in the previous year.
Premier League clubs have agreed to restart the season in just three weeks’ time in what is a huge breakthrough for their Project Restart plans. The Premier League have desperately been trying to finalise plans to get the season back underway again following its suspension at the beginning of March amid the coronavirus crisis. The weekend of June 20 has been lined up as the first full round of fixtures following the Premier League’s resumption although Manchester City vs Arsenal and Aston Villa vs Sheffield United are set to go ahead on Wednesday, June 17.