THE UK could eventually blink first in the bitter trade talks with the European Union because the Brussels bloc will be able to absorb the devastating impact of a no-deal Brexit much better than Britain. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier met UK counterpart David Frost in London on Tuesday for emergency talks outside the official round of negotiations in a desperate attempt to break the deadlock in post-Brexit trade talks. But he launched another scathing attack against Britain just 24 hours later, demanding the UK give some ground on several crucial red lines – predominantly fishing access and state aid – while also sarcastically wishing London “good luck” with surviving a no-deal Brexit. Speaking at the Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs, Mr Barnier, who has set a deadline of October 31 for a deal to be agreed, accused the UK of not compromising over fishing rights and warned unless negotiators shift their position, there would be no deal with the European Union.
A BREXIT deal between the UK and European Union could be on the brink of collapse, with some of Boris Johnson’s most senior officials only seeing a 30-40 percent chance there will be a trade agreement struck due to the deadlocked negotiations over state aid rules. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned British counterpart David Frost a deal must be agreed by the end of October to be ratified by the European Parliament in time for the end of the transition period on December 31. If no deal is agreed, London and Brussels will fall back to trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms – adding potentially huge tariffs to a range of exports, including fish.
A DOWNING Street official has accused Brussels envoy Michel Barnier of making “misleading” remarks in the bitter wrangle over a UK-EU trade deal. Ahead of a fresh round of talks next week, Boris Johnson spokesman said the EU chief negotiator had misrepresented British proposals to try to divert attention from the bloc’s “unrealistic and unprecedented” demands. His outburst came in response to a speech by Mr Barnier earlier this week claiming the UK had to surrender sovereignty over the fish in British coastal waters to Brussels to have any hope of securing a trade agreement.
Tory MPs today lashed out at Michel Barnier and warned the EU’s top negotiator he must understand ‘our fishing waters are ours’ after Brexit trade talks descended into insults. Mr Barnier sparked Brexiteer fury overnight after he said that Britain is regaining control of its waters as part of its split from Brussels but not necessarily the fish within them. He said the UK ‘will recover the full sovereignty’ of its waters but he insisted ‘speaking about the fish which are inside those waters’ is ‘another story’. The EU wants to secure continued access to UK waters for the bloc’s fishing boats but Number 10 is adamant that British trawlers will be given priority.
Boris Johnson has demanded that British fishermen double the size of their catch from Britain’s coastal waters, leading to deadlock in post-Brexit trade and fisheries talks. European Union negotiators said the British position would lead to the loss of one in three fishing boats in Europe, and rejected the proposal out of hand. The impasse has added to growing pessimism on both sides about a “critical” negotiating round next week. Senior Downing Street figures put the chances of a deal at 30 to 40 per cent.
GERMANY has called on the European Union to prepare for its fishermen being shut out of Britain’s coastal grounds as the row over a Brexit deal intensifies. Agriculture minister Julia Klockner insisted the bloc would continue to demand continued access to UK waters as part of the trade and security talks. “We need to defend the interest of our fisheries industry and our processing industry in the EU,” she told the European Parliament’s fisheries committee. The German minister added: “Our fishermen and woman need access rights to the UK’s territorial waters and need fishing opportunities.
The European Union’s medicines regulator is enduring “major difficulties” in handling the extra work caused by the coronavirus pandemic due to the number of staff who quit the agency when it moved from London to Amsterdam because of Brexit. The Telegraph has obtained documents that reveal the European Medicines Agency’s loss of 72 specialised workers after its “forced relocation” in March 2019 to the Dutch capital, and back onto EU territory after 24 years before Brexit on January 31 this year.
French politicians have been accused of “putting around misconceptions” about life in the UK for undocumented migrants. Answering questions from MPs, the Home Office’s new clandestine Channel threat commander acknowledged that migrants were being given false ideas of what it is to live in Britain undetected. Dan O’Mahoney and other senior officials were appearing before the Home Affairs Committee to give evidence about the recent rise in small boat crossings. Questions were also raised over whether the Home Office will have any legal authority to return migrants to countries like France after December 31.
Attempts to get the UK’s borders ready for trade after Brexit is completed on 1 January are “unmanageable”, according to a leaked government document. The memo warns of “critical gaps” in new IT systems – and asks hauliers and other industry groups for help to avoid chaos when the Brexit transition period expires in just four months’ time. Circulated by the Cabinet Office, it lists 13 key risks to be flagged to ministers, according to Bloomberg which obtained it, including a lack of back-up planning and inadequate time to prepare.
Members of the logistics industry are warning of “significant gaps” in UK border plans for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December. Eight groups warned ministers that if issues were not addressed, the supply chain “will be severely disrupted”. The government said it had plans to ensure “we are ready for the changes”. Meanwhile, the government has given itself powers to build temporary lorry parks in parts of England, without the need for local approval. In a letter to the Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, obtained by the Financial Times, the eight logistics organisations – including the Road Haulage Association – raised concerns over IT systems, the funding to train up customs agents and the pace of physical infrastructure being built.
Conservative backbench MPs are plotting to vote against parts of this autumn’s Budget if Rishi Sunak goes ahead with threatened tax rises, it has emerged. The news came as senior Tories Sir Graham Brady, Sir John Redwood and Ian Liddell-Grainger warned the Chancellor that increasing taxes will threaten the recovery after the coronavirus pandemic has passed. Mr Sunak and Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, met with new Tory MPs who were elected at last December’s general election for the first time this week to soothe nerves about the prospect of tax rises in the Budget, expected in November. The Chancellor, who has won praise for supporting pubs and restaurants through the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and a time limited cut in stamp duty, warned the MPs to expect tax rises as he said it was time to be “honest” with the public about how the cost of the coronavirus response will be met.
Rishi Sunak has hinted that temporary tax rises are on the cards as the Government tries to tackle the economic fall-out caused by the coronavirus crisis. The Chancellor was snapped leaving Downing Street with briefing notes for anxious Tory MPs in ‘Red Wall’ seats who fear they’ll struggle to hang onto them at the next election. Mr Sunak appeared to be trying to placate Conservative MPs, who have become increasingly critical of the Government’s record following a series of chaotic u-turns on issues such as face masks and exam results. In a meeting with the 2019 intake, the Chancellor admitted the Government would have to do “difficult things” to get the economy back on track.
The BBC’s new director-general has declared an end to its expansionism and warned of a crackdown on stars who carry out “partisan campaigns” on social media. Tim Davie raised the prospect of a 20 per cent cut in BBC output and warned that he would not hesitate to close channels as he outlined his priorities in his first speech to staff after taking over this week. Mr Davie, 53, said that there was still too much bureaucracy at the organisation, which had increased its number of employees when it was under pressure from the government to reduce its ambitions and costs.
Working from home
Boris Johnson‘s push to get Britons back to the office suffered another blow today with a poll showing that three-quarters want to keep working from home. Research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies for MailOnline found 74 per cent who had been doing their job at home during lockdown would prefer to continue to do so, at least some of the time. There is also widespread distrust of the government’s claim that it is safe to return to offices, with 37 per cent saying they believe that is the case but 40 per cent saying it is not. The resistance to the drive comes despite the public overwhelmingly agreeing that remote working will damage the economy, by a margin of 42 per cent to 27 per cent.
Britain may be closer to herd immunity against Covid-19 than previously thought because surveillance studies are inherently flawed, top scientists said today. According to research looking at antibody test results, just seven per cent of Britons and 17 per cent of Londoners have been infected and recovered from the disease. Experts made these estimates by testing random swathes of people for coronavirus antibodies in their blood, produced by the body in response to the illness.
A charity is mounting a legal challenge over Government guidance on care home visiting rules, claiming stopping relatives from seeing loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic violates their humans rights. John’s Campaign is seeking a judicial review of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)’s care home visiting guidance issued on July 22. The long-awaited document said visits could resume in specific care homes in England once local directors of public health and local authorities decide it is safe to do so.
More than 400 deaths involving Covid-19 occurred each day in UK care homes at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, new analysis shows. At the height of the pandemic in care homes, almost 500 residents died in one day. There were more than 3,000 care home deaths involving coronavirus in one week in mid-April, according to the first UK-wide review of daily deaths by the PA news agency. Deaths rose five-fold between the start of the month and the care home peak on April 17, when nearly 500 residents died. At this time, testing for all staff and residents – regardless of symptoms – was not available in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while providers had not yet been advised to restrict staff movements between homes.
How many people outside of your family have you had a sustained face-to-face conversation with – at close quarters – over the last six months? If you are anything like me, it’s not many. I’ve had several meals sitting opposite friends but all were outside or in well-ventilated restaurants. I can recall just two prolonged conversations with strangers in the street which started within handshaking distance but, in both instances, we took a step back within a few seconds. And the last time I was indoors shouting over music, hugging strangers and sharing drinks was in Alpine bar in early February, just a few weeks before the world closed down.
Pressure was mounting on the government last night to introduce coronavirus tests at airports amid further warnings that the existing quarantine system was crippling the travel industry. Ministers have been urged to give the green light to comprehensive border tests to allow arrivals with a negative result to avoid two weeks of isolation. The system descended into chaos yesterday with England opting not to quarantine arrivals from Portugal, even though a two-week isolation period has been imposed by Scotland and Wales.
Airport testing is not a “silver bullet” that will end the need for quarantining, the transport secretary has told Sky News. Grant Shapps suggested the government was looking at cutting the amount of time travellers returning from higher-risk countries need to self-isolate for from 14 days to seven. Ministers are facing pressure from airports and other aviation firms to “get a grip” on the quarantine policy due to the severe economic effects still faced by the industry. Mr Shapps said “I hear the calls”, but admitted: “I’m afraid this coronavirus is just not simple to navigate around and we have to do our best.”
The Department of Health today revealed it is investing £500million in getting rapid on-the-spot coronavirus tests into public use in its battle against Covid-19. ‘Lab in a van’ mobile testing will allow anyone, even those who don’t feel ill, to get tested quickly at any time and receive their results within minutes, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock. But first the tests must be proven to work. Although officials say they appear to be on par with the current swab tests, they have not yet been used en masse.
Britain is investing £500 million in the trials of a 20-minute coronavirus test in the hope it can be scaled up to test everyone weekly to get the country “back to normal”. The funding package will explore the benefits of repeatedly testing people for the virus, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced. Money will go towards launching a new community-wide repeat population testing trial in Salford, Greater Manchester. Existing trials in Southampton and Hampshire, using a no-swab saliva test and a rapid 20-minute test, will also be expanded through the new funding.
BBC stars who want to voice opinions or carry out “partisan campaigns” on social media should not be working for the corporation, its new director-general said on Thursday. Tim Davie used a speech on just his third day in the job to crack down on “political bias” and warn staff who broke impartiality rules that they were not wanted at the corporation. He then went on: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.” New rules on the use of Twitter and other social media will be introduced within days and will have a direct impact on BBC journalists, although well-placed sources said they would “have ripples beyond journalism”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg played a snippet of Rule, Britannia! in the House of Commons to celebrate the BBC reversing its decision about it being sung at the Last Night of the Proms. The Commons leader held his mobile phone close to the microphone near the dispatch box and pressed play, ensuring MPs heard the words: “When Britain first, at heaven’s command.” The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, intervened to say Rees-Mogg had broken the values of the house, and teased: “How dare he.” Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory will now be sung at the concert, after weeks of debate. The BBC previously said the pieces would feature without lyrics, after controversy over their perceived historical links with colonialism and slavery, but they will now be performed by a select group of vocalists.
A snippet of Rule, Britannia! has been played by Jacob Rees-Mogg in parliament as he urged the BBC to “recognise the virtues” of the song. The opening lyrics rang through speakers in the Commons chamber as the leader of the house held his phone up to the microphone at the despatch box. “When Britain first, at heaven’s command,” was played shortly before Mr Rees-Mogg turned off the song and sat down with a smile.
HS2 will create 20,000 new jobs, Boris Johnson has announced, as construction formally begins on the controversial rail project. The Prime Minister said the train line would help the country to “build back better” and become “the spine of our country’s transport network”. The four main contractors for Phase One of the railway between London and the West Midlands will now switch from design and preparatory work to full construction. Work will begin with the biggest engineering challenges, such as stations and tunnels, before moving onto viaducts and bridges.
HS2 was passing the “point of no return” today with Boris Johnson signalling the formal start of construction work, ending a decade of debate over the multibillion-pound line. Contractors will begin work on tunnels for the route’s first phase between London and Birmingham in a pivotal moment for Europe’s biggest infrastructure project. The prime minister, who was due to attend a ceremony to mark the occasion today, said that the project would create 22,000 jobs.
The property market has been gripped by a buying frenzy with the number of homes selling within a week of being listed hitting a 10-year high. Since the stamp duty holiday was announced, one in seven home sales were agreed within a week of listing, according to property website Rightmove. This is up 125pc on the same period in 2019 and is 28pc above the previous high recorded in February 2016. Scotland is the fastest market, while London is the slowest. In the capital only one in nine homes sold within the first week of marketing, though the number is up from one in 20 in the same period last year.
The property market has enjoyed a record-smashing summer. House prices jumped to a new high in August after the biggest monthly rise in 16 years, according to new Nationwide figures. And demand is off the scale, with buyers flooding back since the market re-opened in mid-May after being frozen during lockdown. But is now really a good time to buy a new home? And will this so-called ‘mini boom’ last? What’s the truth about the impact of Covid on property prices? Did they collapse — and have they suddenly rebounded?