INDY REF

From the Daily Mail: The SNP today vowed to hold another Scottish independence referendum if it wins a majority at May’s election and says Boris Johnson will have to take legal action to stop it. Nicola Sturgeon’s party says a ‘legal referendum’ will be held after the coronavirus pandemic if there is a pro-independence majority following May’s election.

 

CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS

According to the The Times the UK is facing a constitutional crisis that will strain the Union as new polls reveal a majority of voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland want referendums on the break-up of Britain. A four-country survey commissioned, based on separate polls in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, also found that the sense of British identity that once bound the country together is disintegrating.

 

COVID

The Daily Mail reports: People who have received their first Covid-19 jab must stay at home for three weeks after their injection because it can take that long for immunity to ‘kick in’, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam warned last night. He said that while getting vaccinated was ‘something to celebrate’, recipients of the jab needed to ‘stay patient’.

 

LOCKDOWN ANXIETIES

The Mail on Sunday reports: Life in lockdown is leading to a significant deterioration in the nation’s mental health, according to an exclusive poll. Some 41 per cent have suffered a decline in their state of mind since the start of the pandemic, the Deltapoll survey for The Mail on Sunday found. People are eating more (42 per cent – against 9 per cent eating less) and drinking more alcohol (29 per cent versus 24 per cent). The knock-on effect is that 49 per cent have gained weight, and only 16 per cent have shed the pounds. A total of 28 per cent found the outbreak made them want to spend more time with their partners and 22 per cent were arguing less with their family. Boris Johnson’s approach to the crisis is broadly supported, with 47 per cent saying his Government is doing the right thing against 41 per cent who say it is doing the wrong thing.

 

BREXIT EXPORTS

The Guardian reports today: British businesses that export to the continent are being encouraged by government trade advisers to set up separate companies inside the EU in order to get around extra charges, paperwork and taxes resulting from Brexit. In an extraordinary twist to the Brexit saga, UK small businesses are being told by advisers working for the Department for International Trade (DIT) that the best way to circumvent border issues and VAT problems that have been piling up since 1 January is to register new firms within the EU single market, from where they can distribute their goods far more freely. Rachel Reeves, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “Once again we see this government’s sheer incompetence and lack of planning holding British businesses back and slowing our economic recovery. They’ve got to get a grip on this now and stop leaving our businesses out in the cold.”

 

BREXIT BANANAS

The Independent reports that at least £100,000 of tariffs have been slapped on Fairtrade bananas from Africa because of Brexit, prompting mounting anger that farmers face ruin. Ministers are under pressure to explain why the levies are being charged, despite an announcement that a last-gasp deal was struck between the UK and Ghana on New Year’s Eve. Both banana exporters in the developing country and UK shipping firms are losing money on deliveries – £20,000 a week, says one company – while the crisis continues.

 

GREEN POLICIES

From the Guardian: Householders buying brand new homes in the next four years are likely to find an unpleasant surprise awaiting them in the future. Homes built today will have to be retrofitted with energy efficiency measures and low-carbon technology, at an average cost of more than £20,000. The extra costs will amount to more than £20bn for the whole of the UK, if the government’s targets of building 300,000 new homes a year are met. Critics say the costs could have been avoided if ministers had agreed to bring in low-carbon standards sooner. The government this week set out proposals to change building regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but declined to bring forward its proposed future homes standard from the scheduled 2025 commencement date, disappointing advocates of greener homes.

 

VACCINATION

The Times reports: Up to half of those in some areas with a high ethnic minority population are refusing the coronavirus jab amid fears over the vaccine. Hesitancy about receiving the inoculation is said to be most acute among black people, with doctors and public health chiefs concerned that poor uptake rates will prolong the pandemic, which has already hit minority communities hard. Birmingham’s public health director warned that in some parts of the city with the largest black and Asian populations, 50 per cent of people offered the vaccine said they did not want to take it.

 

PROTESTS HELD IN RUSSIA

The Independent reports: Tens of thousands of protesters took to streets in dozens of cities across Russia on Saturday in protest at the poisoning and imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, laying down the gauntlet to authorities who had threatened the full force of law – and more – in return. In Vladivostok in the far east, where the protests began, officers charged into crowds, and dragged demonstrators away at random. At least one lost consciousness by the time he was delivered to a police van. Journalists and photographers were among the more than 3,068 arrested nationwide, often violently, The use of violence was condemned by both the US and UK. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “We call on the Russian government to respect its international commitments on human rights, and release citizens detained during peaceful demonstrations.”

 

IRISH AWARD FOR MICHEL BARNIER

The Express writes that Michel Barniersparked a brutal Brexiteer backlash after the top EU diplomat took a swipe at the UK during an award speech this week. Mr Barnier received the European of the Year Award from the European Movement of Ireland. This was the first time the award recipient was not an Irish citizen. During his acceptance speech, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator took a dig at the UK’s future. Mr Barnier suggested that a campaign to re-join the European Union is inevitable in the UK. Viewers took to Twitter to voice their outrage at the remarks, claiming “it is really sad you have been rewarded for a negotiation disaster between the EU/UK”. One joked: “If you are the best, I cannot even begin to imagine how absolutely appalling the rest of the nominees must have been.”

 

WINTER WEATHER

The Mirror reports that Britain is set for another blast of heavy snow and rain in the wake of deadly Storm Christoph, which caused chaos up and down the country. The Met Office has issued new snow and ice warnings for swathes of the UK with up to 6ins expected in a -10C Arctic freeze.The latest spell of severe weather threatens further misery for flood-weary residents of England and Wales. A slow-moving band of snow, sleet and rain will sweep in from the west on Sunday morning and it could dump 6ins (15cm) of snow over Dartmoor and Exmoor in South West England, and as much as 4ins (10cm) above 100m in parts of Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire. Rural communities could become cut off if roads become impassable, drivers should expect treacherous conditions and delays, and power cuts may occur, forecasters warned.

 

YOUNGER PEOPLE DON’T WATCH BBC

The SUN reports: new research has found that half of all the people in this country aged between 16 and 34 don’t regularly watch anything on the BBC. And the problem is made worse by the fact that the BBC is desperately trying to woo these younger people by getting more and more ‘right on’. Which alienates the only audience they have left. An article by Jermey Clarkson takes a critical look at programming and says that he is ‘fed-up’ and often watches Netflix and Amazon.

 

BBC HOME SCHOOLING

From the Daily Mail: A BBC programme aimed at nine- to 12-year-olds includes the astonishing claim that there are ‘over 100 gender identities’. The film, ‘Identity – Understanding Sexual and Gender Identities’, is being offered on the corporation’s website as part of its relationships and sex education package. It comes despite Government guidance published last year which advised schools to exercise caution when teaching children about gender issues.

 

UNIVERSAL CREDIT PAYMENT

The SUN reports: RISHI Sunak has offered to give six million people a one-off £1000 payment as part of plans to fight off a rebellion over Universal Credit. The lump sum would be an alternative to continuing boosted payments for UC claimants, which have temporarily been increased by £20 a week but are set to end soon.

 

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