MAJOR TRADE DEAL  BREAKTHROUGH WITH AUSTRALIA

The Express reports that Liz  Truss the Trade Secretary has hailed a “major breakthrough” in trade talks with Australia, with a deal set to be finalised in June. The International Trade Secretary has held meetings with her Australian counterpart in London to get a deal over the line after months of talks. Ms Truss had been eager to strike an agreement by Easter but talks faltered in recent weeks with disagreements on a few key areas holding up a deal. This week Australian trade minister Dan Tehan flew to London to help rebuild momentum in negotiations with both sides eager to get the trade deal over the line. While some differences still remain after the 48 hours of talks, officials say a consensus has been reached between the UK and Australia on the vast majority of elements of the comprehensive free trade agreement.

DOWNING STREET PLAYS WHACK A MOLE

The Express reports that Dominic Cummings has launched an explosive attack on Boris Johnson, accusing his former boss of falling “far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves”. The former special adviser to the Prime Minister has let rip at Downing Street in a statement posted on his blog. In sensational comments, he accuses Mr Johnson of “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal” behaviour as Prime Minister and of maliciously authorising anonymous briefings against him to the media.  Last night a No10 source accused the Brexit mastermind of leaking damaging information about Mr Johnson in an attempt to jeopardise his premiership.

SCHOOLS CARRY ON TESTING TO DECIDE GRADES

The Daily Mail reports that school pupils will have to revise after all this year, as most schools say they will set tests to decide grades. Three in five schools plan to rely heavily on tests when deciding pupils’ GCSE and A-level grades this summer even though the official exams have been cancelled. The news will come as a blow to pupils who had hoped for an easy ride, as they still have to study extensively. And it has also provoked concern about inconsistency, as schools will be assessing pupils differently. A survey, carried out by the school leaders’ union ASCL, found seven per cent of schools will base assessments entirely on exam-style papers. A further 53 per cent said they would give greater weight to exam-style papers than to other forms of assessment.

UK INFLATION RISING

The Evening Standard reports that inflation is rising again in the UK, writes Ian Crowther, a senior lecturer in business at Sheffield Hallam University. Prices in March rose 0.7% compared to a year earlier, against a 0.4% rise in February. One of the main drivers was that fuel prices have seen their biggest increase since January 2020. This rise in inflation is roughly in line with what analysts were expecting.The Bank of England has been expecting inflation to rise this spring as well, but thinks it will then settle down. The twin policies of creating new money, known as quantitative easing (QE), and extra government borrowing to pay for COVID support measures could lead to prices surging in the months ahead – with unsettling implications for the UK economy’s recovery from the pandemic.

NO MASKING NORMALITY THIS SUMMER

The SUN reports that Brits  should be able ditch facemasks over the summer months as vaccines continue to reduce infection rates, government scientists have said. The next step in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown is set for May 17 – with further restrictions easing on hospitality and mixing indoors. Relative normality is set to resume by June 21, when all legal limits on social contact will be removed with events such as weddings and gigs able to resume once more. They did however add that masks and possibly other measures may be needed next autumn and winter if cases surge, they said. Earlier this week Mr Johnson said that it was likely that there would be a third wave of Covid in the autumn months.

CALL FOR FORMER POST OFFICE EXECUTIVES TO FACE CHARGES

The Times reports that hundreds of subpostmasters could now appeal to overturn criminal records and claim compensation after senior judges quashed 39 fraud convictions in Britain’s biggest miscarriage of justice. Lawyers for the victims called for senior former Post Office executives to face criminal proceedings over their involvement in bringing the flawed cases. Today the executives were accused of ruining hundreds of lives — with some of the convicted subpostmasters having served jail sentences — after they introduced a computing system called Horizon into branches 22 years ago and then brought fraud prosecutions based on its faulty evidence. The vindicated group began their legal battle six years ago with a plea to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the body that investigates claims of miscarriages of justice.

HOPEFUL IN HARTLEPOOL

The Times reports that in the December 2019 general election a tide of Tory votes swept away traditional Labour seats in the Tees Valley from Redcar to Darlington and handed the Conservatives an 80-seat majority. Hartlepool, a coastal town of 100,000 people, clung on. But now Boris Johnson has a second shot at triumph in a by-election next month and Labour is fighting to retain a seat that has not switched loyalties since it was created in 1974.  Despite its political infrastructure on the ground and a lacklustre Tory candidate, the party is having to throw everything at keeping hold of the constituency that was represented for two decades by Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour.

SPY CHIEF SAYS RUSSIA IS A RISK TO UK SECURITY

The Telegraph reports that British spy chief Jeremy Fleming has warned that Russia poses the biggest risk to Britain’s national security, but said China’s size and technological weight meant the country has the potential to control the global operating system.  Fleming, the director of GCHQ, was speaking at the annual Imperial College Vincent Briscoe Annual Security Lecture.  He said: Russia’s pattern of malign behaviour around the world – whether in cyberspace, in election interference or in the aggressive operations of their intelligence services – demonstrates that it remains the most acute threat to the UK’s national and collective security.

GERMAN GREEN CHANCELLOR CANDIDATE SURPRISE BACKING OF BUSINESS

The Telegraph reports that the Greens candidate for German chancellor is the surprise winner of a poll of business leaders, signalling potential upheaval for the country’s long-standing political and economic consensus. Annalena Baerbock received 26.5pc support in a survey of 1,500 German managers – nearly double the 14.3pc support for Armin Laschet, the candidate from Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives.  Ms Baerbock, a 40-year-old with no government experience, has called for an overhaul of Europe’s biggest economy to focus on investment in sustainable technology.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT YESTERDAY

The Telegraph reported  that yesterday was St George’s Day and across the country people have honoured the patron saint of England by flying English flags and celebrating our heritage. In light of current Covid restrictions, events involving gatherings have unfortunately been cancelled. But many towns and cities across the country are still marking the occasion by lighting up buildings in white and red, the colours of the English flag. While St Patrick’s Day, St David’s Day and St Andrew’s Day are all celebrated with patriotic community events, St George’s Day has become less significant over time and has left the nation somewhat confused about how to recognise the day.

ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH ON SHAKESPERE’S BIRTHDAY

The Stratford Herald reports that yesterday marked the 457th Shakespeare’s  Birthday celebrations. This year celebrations were muted due to covid restrictions but normally  special pageants are held at Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, where Shakespeare was born and where thousands of theatre lovers go each year to see his plays performed. The bells of Holy Trinity Church ring out and the Mayor of Stratford leads a procession  of  civic dignitaries, costumed actors and actresses, Morris dancers, bands and the staff and pupils of some local schools to lay flowers on Shakespeare’s’ grave. In some schools, regular lessons are set aside for students to learn about the great playwright and poet, and his sonnets, narrative poems and plays. Enthusiasts and fans, including the British Shakespeare Association, have campaigned for Parliament in the United Kingdom to officially recognize Shakespeare’s   Birthday.

AND FINALLY

From the Daily Mail: Housing bosses have banned residents from hanging their washing outside in the private back gardens of their homes for ‘aesthetic purposes’. The rule affects people living at several new private developments across Edinburgh, including residents at Shandon Garden and Greenbank Village, near Corstorphine. Bemused Leith Green Party councillor Chas Booth says he has been contacted on the issue by residents from all over the city. He said: ‘There are 100 bigger issues facing Edinburgh but it’s bizarre there are so many newly built private developments which try to ban people from drying and washing outside, even in their own private gardens. In some of our most cherished conservation areas, clothes drying is part of the character of the area, so why it should be deemed by some to be so offensive… is beyond me.’

 

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