BREXIT BRITAIN DOES NOT NEED THE EU
From the Sunday Express: International trade secretary Liz Truss said that the opportunity for British businesses to join the massive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a £9 trillion free trade area, is only possible because “we are no longer held back by the EU.” The 11 country bloc is one of the fastest growing free trade areas in the world set to overtake the EU in the next few years. The announcement comes as the UK celebrates one year since leaving the EU and becoming an independent trading nation.It comes after the UK international trade secretary Liz Truss has already signed 63 trade deals with £885 billion over the last year. Brexiteer Tory MPs hailed the move as proving the future success of Global Britain is outside Europe. North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: “We don’t need EU any more. This just confirms the massive opportunities Brexit is already bringing to this country.”
GOVE CALLS FOR RELATIONS WITH EU TO BE RESET
The Express reports that Michael Gove has called for relations between Britain and the EU to be “reset” in the wake of the bitter Covid-19 vaccines row. The Cabinet Office Minister said that Brussels recognised it had made a mistake by trying to block some vaccine exports by invoking an emergency Brexit clause. The EU reversed the plan to use the Article 16 clause to restrict exports from crossing the Irish border into Britain after the move sent shockwaves through Northern Ireland, and in London and Dublin. Mr Gove said he had spoken to European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic and that both agreed on the need to reset relations.
GET MORE EXERCISE
From the Daily Mail: Busy Britons took to the nation’s high streets on Saturday as Boris Johnson considered relaxing exercise rules to ease the pressure on our physical and mental health. Even though non-essential shops, as well as gyms, bars, and hairdressers are still shut, high streets in parts of the country looked busy, with photos showing packed pavements in Newcastle. The Prime Minister has asked officials to draw up options for a slight lifting of the rules, which currently limit people to meeting one other person for outdoor exercise once a day. Possible options include allowing people to meet a friend from another household for outdoor exercise more than once a day. Alternatively, socially distanced exercise could be permitted in groups of three or four – although this is thought to be harder to police.
NO PUPILS TO BE LEFT BEHIND
The Daily Mail reports: Boris Johnson has written to all Britain’s parents thanking them for doing ‘a great job’ during the coronavirus pandemic as schools remain closed to most children. The Prime Minister penned an open letter to parents, carers and guardians to say they have responded ‘magnificently’, with the Government having faced sustained criticism for its handling of education during the pandemic. Mr Johnson also promised in his letter a multi-million pound catch-up programme for pupils to ensure ‘nobody gets left behind’. This week he said classrooms in England would remain closed to all but the vulnerable and children of key workers until March 8 at the earliest, having been closed since the Christmas break.
DOWNING STREET IN LOCKSTEP
The Mail on Sunday reports thatThe Prime Minister and the Chancellor are to head up a new taskforce to rebuild the battered economy in the wake of the pandemic, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. The Chancellor has watched with growing alarm as the cost to the public finances has exceeded £340 billion – and with normal economic life not expected to return until summer at the earliest, the bill will keep on rising. Now a new Cabinet sub-committee, the National Economy Recovery Taskforce, has been set up with the pair as joint chairmen – an attempt to signal that No 10 and the Treasury are in lockstep on policy. Public debt now stands at more than 100 per cent of GDP for the first time since the 1960s.
NEW VEHICLE NUMBER PLATES
The SUN reports that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has struck a deal with the 27 EU states to avoid the need to obtain a £5.50 international driving permit. Holidaymakers will also be able to drive their cars in Europe if it has the new reg plate with the Union Jack and GB on it. While existing licences and reg plates will still be valid, the new versions — which mark a year since Brexit — will be issued to everyone renewing a licence or getting their first one. Mr Shapps told The Sun on Sunday: “Changing the designs of our driving licences and number plates is a historic moment for British motorists and a reassertion of our independence from the EU one year on from our departure. Looking to the future, whether it’s for work, or for holidays abroad, these changes mean that those who want to drive in the EU can continue to do so with ease.”
SQUEEZE ON PUBLIC SECTOR SPENDING COMING
From the Telegraph: Britain cannot spend its way to prosperity, the Business Secretary has warned amid a growing Tory debate over state spending in the run-up to the Budget in March. Kwasi Kwarteng, promoted to the Cabinet earlier this month, signalled that a squeeze on public spending is coming with the Government deficit, fuelled by Covid handouts, forecast to exceed £400 billion this month. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is keen to rein in public spending and start setting out future tax rises in the Budget. But Tory backbenchers and several senior Government ministers are pushing for more spending and believe this is the way to boost the economy in the wake of the pandemic. Mr Kwarteng insisted that a booming private sector was the way in which Britain will recover after the virus crisis. He said: “Let me be very clear – without a thriving private sector, we will not be able to afford good public services. Great public services rely on a thriving, dynamic open economy. The Chancellor is of the same opinion. We as a Government are not going to be able to spend our way to prosperity.”
WHERE’S THE MONEY GONE
From the Independent: hundreds of millions of pounds of promised government cash for devastated youth services have gone missing, prompting warnings that many more will disappear. Anger is growing over the failure to open up the flagship £500m Youth Investment Fund – amid fears the money will be redirected to other crisis services as part of a “review” of priorities. Meanwhile, organisations helping vulnerable young people are facing closure on an unprecedented scale, even as the Covid-19 pandemic fuels a surge in the numbers in critical need of help And a requirement on local councils to reveal spending on youth services has been suspended – triggering fears of a fresh round of cuts, piled on top of the closure of at least 763 youth centres since 2012.
The Guardian writes: It is not a problem to be sniffed at – but a year into the coronavirus crisis, local media, council newsletters, social network users and disgruntled environmental health experts across the UK are warning that the country is in the grip of a dog mess emergency – and that new puppy owners are shirking their responsibilities to clean up after their lockdown pets. Of course, the poo problem is nothing new, and the subject has long engendered a passionate response from those who have found themselves stepping in it. But even by those standards, Facebook, Next Door and Twitter have been aflame with anecdotal evidence of an escalating issue since the pandemic began – and in the third lockdown, many suggest, matters have got out of control. You might, if you had a tolerance for bad puns, call it a poodemic – and the issue is growing excrementally. The problem is attributed to the lockdown boom in dog ownership and a large number of people walking their dogs as part of their daily exercise.
From The Times: The pandemic has helped Silas Rayner turn his dream into a reality. He wanted to build an amphitheatre inside a Second World War bomb crater in Suffolk three years ago but his job as an events producer meant he was too busy. The finishing touches are being applied to Thorington Theatre, near Southwold, and it should be ready by April. The theatre is bankrolled to the tune of £30,000 by Lindy and Mark O’Hare, who own the 300-acre hazelnut and walnut farm on which it sits.