BORIS SET TO SNUB EU RESET OFFER
The Express reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reject European Union attempts to trigger a major reset of their relationship after a number of post-Brexit spats. Whitehall officials fear the tensions have arisen out of Brussels’ refusal to recognise the UK as a sovereign equal. It has been reported that EU figures were pondering a moment to attempt to resolve their differences with Britain. It could be in the form of a set piece event to officially unveil the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which was hastily completed on Christmas Eve without any fanfare. But UK sources have dismissed the notion of the Prime Minister engaging in such an event until EU chiefs are willing to recognise Britain as an independent nation.
AMERICAN 5TH FLEET MONITORING EVENTS IN GULF
From The Express: An Israeli owned cargo ship has been hit by a mystery explosion just hours after the US targeted Iranian supported militia in Syria with airstrikes. The Helios Bay was hit as it passed through the Gulf of Oman early on Friday – but the cause of the explosion has not yet been reported. No casualties have been reported and no nation or group has claimed responsibility. The US accused Iran of responsibility after expositions hit a number of ships in the Gulf of Oman during 2019. Dryad Global, a firm specialising in maritime intelligence, said the explosion may have resulted from “asymmetric activity by [the] Iranian military”. Commander Rebecca Rebarich from the American 5th fleet said the US is “aware and monitoring events.
WHAT’S THE POINT OF NEW QUARANTINE RULES
The Daily Mail writes: Questions have been raised about the point of the new rules in Britain, which were brought in 11 days ago, with people able to freely roam the corridors, congregate in the smoking areas and enter one another’s rooms. The Department of Health and Social Care has so far refused to reveal how many positive tests there have been, with shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds saying today that the lack of transparency was worrying. Travel expert Paul Charles told the MailOnline that by not publishing the data, the assumption is that few if any people are testing positive when going into quarantine – and the scheme should be ‘abandoned’ if this is the case. The new regulations introduced last Monday mean people arriving in England must quarantine in a hotel for ten days at their own cost of £1,750 if they have been to a country with a high Covid risk, such as Portugal or Brazil.
THIS IS NO TIME TO RELAX SAYS JVT
From the Daily Mail: Jonathan Van-Tam has urged Britons not to relax as the UK heads into a glorious weekend with the first warm weather for months, warning that ‘this is not a battle that we have won yet. During the Friday Downing Street press conference he told the public: Do not wreck this now. He called for the UK to hold our nerve and added:’I do worry that people think it’s all over. The more they think that when it’s not, the greater the headwind they’re going to give to the vaccine programme and the more at risk will become the milestones set on the road map. His warnings came as data shows that Britain’s Covid outbreak is still firmly in retreat, with a catalogue of official figures today piling even more pressure on Boris Johnson to relax lockdown sooner.
CONCERNS THAT THE NHS IS BEING PRIVATISED
The Guardian reports: one of the UK’s biggest GP practice operators has quietly passed into the hands of the US health insurance group Centene Corporation, prompting calls for an official investigation into what campaigners claim is privatisation of the NHS by stealth. The merger is expected to create the largest private supplier of GP services in the UK, with 58 practices covering half a million patients. Operose Health, a UK subsidiary of Centene, has recently taken over the privately owned AT Medics, which was set up in 2004 by six NHS GPs and runs 37 GP practises across 49 sites in London. Operose already operates 21 GP surgeries elsewhere in England.
MORECAMBE MATTERS TOO SAYS MP
From the Guardian: For several years, plans have been underway to build Eden Project North on Morecambe’s somewhat doleful seafront, a sister to the eco-friendly original in Cornwall, which has brought in more than £2bn to its local economy. Construction could start later this year – if Sunak is feeling generous enough to chip in £70m of the £125m set-up costs. The Eden Project team, along with businesses, schools and politicians of all parties in the local area, sent a letter to the chancellor before the budget arguing that Eden Project North is a once in a generation opportunity to reverse Morecambe’s deprivation, poor health and low educational attainment. Last week local Conservative MP, David Morris, told Ministers: “If Morecambe is not part of the government’s levelling-up agenda, there will be very little faith among the public.”
POLITICAL DOOR KNOCKERS ARE BACK
The Guardian reports Door-to-door political campaigning will be allowed to resume in England from 8 March in the run-up to local elections in May, the government has announced. Activists will be permitted to stand on people’s doorsteps and canvass as long as they abide by the 2-metre social distancing rule. They will not be able to enter people’s homes and should only access shared hallways in blocks of flats where absolutely necessary. The new advice also urges organisers to keep the number of campaigners to a minimum. Campaign literature should be collected or dropped off without people meeting inside, and planning meetings should take place virtually.
NO UK RETURN FOR SHAMINA BEGUM
The Mirror reports that Shamina Begum has been seen for the first time since the Supreme Court ruled she cannot return to the UK to pursue an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship. British-born Ms Begum was wearing sunglasses, a jacket, t-shirt, leggings and white trainers when the video was recorded by an ITV News crew. She was usually seen wearing traditional clothing when tracked down by journalists in the past. Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019. Ms Begum, now 21, is challenging the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship and wants to be allowed to return to the UK to pursue her appeal.
WORKERS WILL FLOCK BACK TO OFFICES IN THE NEW NORMAL
The Times reports that Boris Johnson has dismissed fears that Britain is facing a new age of remote working, saying people will be commuting to city and town centres once more and holding face-to-face meetings within a few short months. The prime minister said in a video message that the British people would be consumed once again by their desire to meet people in person as the economy reopens, and suggested it will have significant benefits for business. The government is planning to launch a mass-testing blitz as people return to work as part of a bid to get the country back to a new normal. People are being advised to work from home where they can until June 21, but ministers hope they can significantly accelerate the timetable.
MILLIONS OF MEALS THROWN AWAY
From the Independent: Supermarkets are throwing away the equivalent of 190 million meals a year that could be given to the hungry. Latest data shows that Britain’s top 10 chains are donating less than 9 percent of their surplus food for human consumption. Just 24,242 tons was passed on to the needy out of 282,338 tons of unsold food approaching its use-by or best-before date. The government-backed charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) says that an additional 80,000 tons of the leftover food would have been suitable to donate. Every 1,000 tons amounts to 2.4 million meals. Labour condemned the waste as a “scandal”, while campaigners have called for more to be done by the government to make sure that the surplus gets to those struggling with food insecurity.
The SUN reports: Rubbish bins painted red like post boxes have baffled users. The metal trash cans have the word Litter in gold Post Office script plus letterbox-style slots. One resident at Scarborough, North Yorks, said: ‘Folk are more likely to chuck letters in than rubbish’. Another said: ‘I was very surprised to find out it was a bin and not a post box. I thought, ‘What’s a letter box doing where the bin used to be?’ Scarborough Council said: ‘The bins are a trial to be more noticeable’.