Ed.: Dear friends and readers – this is the last issue of the News review from our News Correspondent. From tomorrow onwards, Debbie will be doing the Review -only the review – and it will come out later than we’ve become used to.
I want to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks to the News Correspondent who wanted to remain anonymous. without their selfless help, without their stepping into the breach I shudder to think how the site would have fared in Debbie’s absence.
We can only send virtual bunches of flowers and bottle of champagne to this intrepid reviewer, in recognition of his selfless work. I’m sure you’ll join me though in giving the traditional accolade and singing ‘For ‘It’ is a jolly good fellow’ …!
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FROST TO STRIKE BACK OVER BREXIT TRADE DEAL
The Express reports that Lord Frost has been “biding his time” before launching Britain’s fightback against the European Union, it has been claimed. The Brexit Minister was reportedly waiting for the post-Brexit trade deal to finally be ratified before retaliating to a series of provocative moves by Brussels following the UK’s departure from the bloc. It comes after threats by the EU over coronavirus vaccine supplies and attacks on the AstraZeneca jab. The Government was privately desperate to see the Trade and Cooperation Agreement ratified and didn’t want to trigger a major row until then; the deal had been operating provisionally since January and the EU was taking its time.
BREXIT TRADE BILL NOW LAW
From the Express: Britain’s Trade Bill has officially become law, implementing the agreements stuck by Liz Truss across the globe. The Queen has given Royal Assent to the Trade Bill which gives Britain the freedom to implement deals struck around the world now the UK is freed from the EU. Deals covering 67 counties have already been negotiated by Ms Truss’s department. Following Royal Assent, Ms Truss said: “The passing of this Act into law is a landmark moment for the UK. For the first time in nearly half a century, we are free to pursue an independent trade policy and put the interests of the British people first. We will use that newfound sovereignty to push new frontiers in industries of the future like digital trade and services, champion free and fair trade across the globe, and lead reform of the global trading system.”
WORKERS COMING OFF FURLOUGH
The Guardian reports that workers are beginning to come off furlough as a surge in spending by UK consumers allows businesses to start reopening after their long winter shutdown, according to the latest official snapshot of the economy. In its weekly digest of the latest indicators of activity, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the proportion of the workforce on furlough of all businesses dropped from 17% to 13% during April. The ONS said 83% of businesses were now trading, a rise of six percentage points since late March, when tighter lockdown restrictions were in force. The ONS said that while some businesses were reopening, others were going to the wall. It reported 5,676 voluntary dissolution applications in the week to 23 April 2021, a 7% increase on the previous week (5,325) and a 14% higher rise on the equivalent week of 2019 (4,977). With the weather cold, the ONS figures also suggested that the novelty of returning to the pub had worn off for some people. Latest figures show seated reservations last Saturday running at 62% of the equivalent Saturday two years ago, down from 79% on Monday 12 April, when there was an initial rush of returning customers.
SCOTS WANT TO STAY WITH THE UK SAYS POLL
The SUN reports that support in Scotland for independence has plummeted and Scots would vote to stay in. Polling for Scotland breaking free of the UK has slipped to its lowest level in18 months, slumping two points to 42 per cent, according to a fresh poll from ComRes. Just four in ten want to leave the UK if there were a fresh poll tomorrow – showing the results would be similar to the 2014 referendum. Bolstering PrimeMinister Boris Johnson’s chances of holding the UK together just days before Scotland goes to polls next week, support for staying in the union is up. The poll showed that 49 per cent want Scotland to stay and also revealed that the SNP could lose two seats in Holyrood – and be four short of an overall majority.
SIR ROBBIE GOES BACK TO THE BBC
The Independent reports that Sir Robbie Gibb, who has been vocal about his concerns over bias at the organisation, joined the former prime minister’s turbulent administration after the ill-fated election gamble in 2017 until her resignation in 2019. Prior to his role in Downing Street — a political appointment — he worked at the BBC for over two decades, including as deputy editor of Newsnight and head of its political team at Westminster. Since leaving No 10, he has criticised journalists’ use of social media at the BBC and wrote last year it had been culturally captured by the woke-dominated group think of some of its own staff. On Thursday, the BBC’s media editor said Sir Robbie, who was knighted in Ms May’s resignation honours list, had re-joined as a member of the board “which is responsible for ensuring we deliver our mission and public purposes.”
AXED BBC RADIO SHOW ATTRACTED WRONG TYPE OF LISTENER
The Express reports that a veteran BBC radio presenter has hit out after his show was cancelled as the corporation wants “to go in a different direction”. David Allen who has hosted the BBC Radio Solent programme since 2002 has revealed the corporation has decided to pull the plug on his show. Mr Allen claimed his listeners – many of which are over 75 – are the “wrong type of listeners. The show has nearly three times that of Radio 2, and over four times that of any commercial radio station, in our transmission area.” Chris Burns, the BBC’s head of audio and digital for England, said they are moving towards recent hits on local radio playlists.
PEERAGE FOR RETIRING NHS CHIEF
The Times reports that Sir Simon Stevens will stand down as chief executive of NHS England in July and become a life peer. Stevens, 54, who has been in the role for seven years, said in a statement: ‘Joining the health service in my early twenties was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, followed three decades later by the privilege of leading the NHS through some of the toughest challenges in its history. The people of this country have rightly recognised the extraordinary service of NHS staff during this terrible pandemic, as well as the success of our Covid vaccination deployment. As the pandemic recedes in this country, the NHS’s track record in advancing medical progress in a way that works for everyone rightly continues to inspire.’
HUGS PLEASE WE’RE BRITISH
The Times reports that Britons should be “careful” before starting to hug each other and meet indoors again, the vaccines minister has said, as he also warned about the risks of making plans for the summer. Coronavirus cases in the UK are declining rapidly, with more than 38 million people in England living in areas recording virtually no new infections. However, when asked why people could not yet hug their friends and relatives or meet indoors, Nadhim Zahawi said: “We just have to be careful.”
BORIS FOCUSSED ON COVID RECOVERY
The Express reports that Boris Johnson last night insisted he is “laser-focused” on delivering Britain’s Covid recovery as he dismissed the Downing Street flat row as a “farrago of nonsense”. Polling showed the Tories are still way ahead in the polls at 44 points to 33 despite Labour attempts to use the costly revamp to dent the Prime Minister’s popularity. Mr Johnson said he has used the 18 months since the general election to pass 44 bills to make the country stronger, fairer, safer and greener. But the Prime Minister said there is more to do as Parliament broke up ahead of next month’s Queen’s Speech.
JUST WHO WILL BIDEN NOMINATE AS US AMBASSADOR TO BRITAIN
The Telegraph reports that President Joe Biden is struggling to decide on who to nominate as US ambassador to the UK amid “intense competition” for the role. The US president has decided on nominees for the European Union, Nato, France, Belgium, Japan and Canada and will announce them over the next few weeks. But there is still no clear frontrunner for the job in London, according to officials. A US source told The Telegraph: “It’s the most important post and there is intense competition for it.” The process has reportedly taken time because of the sheer number of friends and donors he has accumulated over the years.
BILLIONS OWNED FOR PROPERTY RENT ARREARS
The London Evening Standard reports that property giants have proposed there is six months breathing space for landlords and retail and hospitality tenants to settle billions of pounds worth of pandemic-related rent arrears. Landlords British Land, Landsec and the British Property Federation set out their suggestions in response to the government’s call for evidence on the best way to withdraw or replace measures that have helped high street firms ride out the virus crisis.A ban on business evictions came in last year and was most recently extended to June 30. While some tenants have agreed rent holidays or deferrals with landlords during the pandemic, a number have not and had been worried they will not be able to pay the outstanding rent, after suffering months of closures in lockdowns. In some cases landlords say some occupiers refusing to pay rent are big, profitable companies.
The SUN reports: Killer Asian hornets are set to invade British homes this Bank Holiday weekend having been blown over from France. The number of queens found on the Channel Islands, seen as the insects’ British Isles’ base, has tripled during the past week. Experts on Jersey – seen as the frontline in the fight against the deadly insects – say the large increase was caused by them blowing in from mainland Europe by strong easterly winds. This has led to fears of a summer-long battle to stop the spread of the insects that could decimate the UK’s native bee population.