France has threatened a no-deal Brexit unless Britain backs down on fishing rights for French boats, fuelling fears that President Macron will threaten to block negotiations at a European Union summit this week. France, and other coastal states, face massive cuts to fishing quotas at the end of the Brexit transition period this year unless the government compromises. Annick Girardin, the French fishing minister, described British proposals to regain sovereignty over coastal waters and fisheries, under international law, as “unacceptable”. “Fishermen would rather have no agreement than a bad agreement,” she told Le Journal du Dimanche. “We are preparing for all eventualities, and therefore also for a no-deal.”
INFIGHTING has erupted inside the EU ahead of this week’s Brexit talks deadline, with Michel Barnier and Angela Merkel understood to be “fed-up” with Emmanuel Macron. There are growing fears within Brussels that Emmanuel Macron and France’s stubborn fisheries demands could torpedo the entire UK-EU trade deal. The EU’s own chief negotiator has insisted that member-states in the EU that Brexit will necessarily mean a reduced level of catches for them in British waters However, these eight countries, led by French President Macron, have refused to back down on their demands. RTE’s Europe Editor Tony Connelly told the podcast Brexit Republic: “The eight coastal countries are prepared to play a level of hardball where they will try to bog the UK down in details and drive the hardest bargain possible.
France is gearing up to compromise on EU access to British fishing waters, a French minister hinted yesterday. In a boost to the UK’s Brexit deal hopes, French minister for European affairs Clement Beaune warned his country’s fishermen they could not expect to enjoy the same rights after the transition period. The close ally of President Emmanuel Macron told radio station France Info: ‘If we told our fishermen that we had drastically reduced their access to the British waters – on which they depend for their economic survival – they would say that is indecent and they would be right. ‘However, after Brexit, it will not be as it was before. ‘But we will defend, tooth and nail, the interests of our fishermen, our farmers, our businesses and our citizens in general and we will not accept a bad deal.’
Campaigners are staging a last-ditch attempt to enshrine food safety and animal welfare standards in UK law after Brexit, as the agriculture bill returns this week for debate and a series of votes in both houses of parliament. The government is said to be adamantly opposed to legislating for a continuation of the high standards required under EU law, with farmers asked instead to rely on ministerial assurances that standards will be upheld after Brexit.
EU member states are wargaming strategies for no-deal Brexit, including the possible resumption of negotiations with the UK after the deadline passed. One senior diplomatic source at an influential member state said that there was a risk that the two sides were too entrenched in their positions to get a deal before the deadline. While admitting that the schism would be painful, the senior diplomat said it could concentrate minds on both sides. “We will have a period of chaos, but if we need to see how things evolve and how much it hurts before politicians come to their senses, then so be it,” the diplomat said.
BORIS JOHNSON’s Brexit deadline is just three days away, but the EU is poised to ignore the time limit as the stalemate between the two sides continues. The EU is set to stand defiant over fisheries and the level playing field demands this week, as Boris Johnson’s deadline for reaching a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU fast approaches. Trade talks will take place in Brussels this week, ahead of a key EU summit on Thursday. But European leaders, particularly French President Emmanuel Macron, have put significant pressure on the bloc’s negotiator to not give concessions to Britain. Michel Barnier, who is leading the talks for the EU, has been told he must insist the same fishing rights continue after the EU transition period ends at the end of the year.
French populist National Rally (RN) leader Marine Le Pen has launched a campaign against the new European Union migration and asylum pact, stating it will lead to the “suicide” of Europe. The new proposal by the European Commission to radically reform the bloc’s asylum policies away from the previous Dublin agreement was put forward at the end of last month and, according to Le Pen, could see as many as 60 to 70 million migrants settling in the EU in the coming years. “It is an organized plan for the submersion of Europe and the nations that make it up,” Le Pen said Friday at the RN headquarters in the city of Nanterre, broadcaster TV5Monde reports.
A Labour peer has apologised for suggesting that asylum seekers should be “concentrated” in camps as a solution to the refugee issue. Admiral Lord West, who was a Home Office minister under the last Labour government, made the “inhumane” suggestion in an interview with the BBC. Speaking on Sunday morning he said people arriving across the Channel in small boats should be put in “a concentrated place, whether it’s a camp or whatever”. The comments prompted outrage, with Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael telling The Independent that the peer should instead be joining “calls for safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees”.
LABOUR peer Lord Alan West was forced to apologise today after backing the detention of asylum-seekers in “concentrated places” such as camps. Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme this morning, the retired Royal Navy admiral said of refugees crossing the Channel in small boats: “We need to actually deal with them in a concentrated place, whether it’s a camp or whatever.” The former security minister, who served in Gordon Brown’s Cabinet, was discussing government plans to deploy nets to prevent refugee boats from crossing the Channel. Lord West said that this wouldn’t “solve the problem” because “until we resolve the way we deal with them in this country and get agreement from France and other European nations to take them back, then we’re stuck with them.”
Project fear – again
It was perhaps the most notorious graph of the pandemic so far – a stark warning of 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October unless ministers placed new restrictions on daily life. Presented by Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, at a Downing Street press conference on September 22, the graph showed that case numbers could double every week, with deaths growing past 200 a day. “If – and that’s quite a big if – but if that [rising cases] continues unabated, and this grows, doubling every seven days, you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day,” he said. However the latest figures show that the true acceleration of Covid has fallen far short of his doomsday scenario. The Government said that, as of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 12,872 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, although the figure is likely to be skewed downwards by a weekend lag in reporting.
CORONAVIRUS cases are less than half of the Government’s ‘doomsday graph’ which warned of 50,000 infections a day by mid-October. The terrifying model, presented by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, showed case numbers doubling every week and deaths growing past 200 a day. Addressing a rise in cases at a government press conference on September 22, Vallance said: “If – and that’s quite a big if – but if that [rising cases] continues unabated, and this grows, doubling every seven days, you would end up with something like 50,000 cases in the middle of October per day.” But the latest Public Health England figures show that the pandemic has not accelerated in the catastrophic way predicted by the graph – despite a significant rise in cases across the country.
A second national lockdown is a possibility but “we have to do what we can to avoid that at all costs”, a leading scientist has said. Peter Horby, who chairs a government advisory group, said that the country was in a precarious position as coronavirus cases and hospital admissions continued to rise. “The numbers are not looking good at all. We’ve got increasing cases, increasing hospitalisations, both in younger adults but also in the elderly — those most at risk — and we are starting to see the number of deaths increase as well,” he said.
A second Covid lockdown is a possibility and tough restrictions will be needed to avoid it at all costs, a leading expert has warned. Also on Sunday, one of England’s deputy chief medical officers warned the country is at a tipping point similar to the first wave of coronavirus, but it can prevent history repeating itself. The University of Oxford’s Professor Peter Horby has warned the UK is in a “precarious position” with rising coronavirus case numbers, hospital admissions and deaths.
Boris Johnson will today reveal tough new three-tier lockdown rules for England which will close pubs, bars and gyms for millions living in coronavirus hot spots for up to six months. The Prime Minister will hold an emergency Cobra briefing on Monday morning to hammer out the final details before setting out the new nationwide system in the Commons. Local leaders in Liverpool and Manchester last night railed against the Government’s decision, accusing Mr Johnson of not providing enough consultation before introducing the business-battering restrictions. From 5pm on Wednesday, hundreds of pubs in the northwest will be closed for four weeks, The Telegraph reports, while The Sun says that overnight stays are to be banned for the same period. Locals will only be allowed out of their areas for essential travel such as for work, education or health, but they must return before the end of the day, with the country divided into ‘medium’, ‘high’ and ‘very high’ risk sectors.
Boris Johnson will on Monday unveil tough new regional lockdowns that are expected to see hundreds of pubs in the north-west of England closed for four weeks from 5pm on Wednesday. The Prime Minister is expected to signal that six boroughs in Liverpool, covering 1.6 million people, could be the first to be placed in the highest tier of new restrictions. Pubs, gyms, casinos, bookmakers and social clubs will be shut for at least a month and up to six months. The regions deemed at highest risk could also face bans on households mixing indoors and outdoors, on overnight stays outside their area and on all but essential travel for work or education in or beyond the region.
Boris Johnson is expected to place Liverpool under tough coronavirus rules today as he announces a new tiered local lockdown system amid fraying relations with leaders in the north. The prime minister will chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to finalise new interventions to curb the virus, having briefed cabinet ministers last night. He will then make a statement in the Commons before hosting a televised press conference at about 6pm with Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England. MPs will be asked to debate and vote on the measures this week. The strictest of the three new alert levels, labelled “very high”, is expected to entail the closure of pubs, bars, casinos and gyms.
OVERNIGHT stays will be forbidden in northern virus hotspots for four weeks, PM Boris Johnson, will announce today. As well as the bed ban, residents can only leave the highest risk regions for essential travel such as work, education or health reasons, and must return that day. And anyone visiting the danger zones will be banned from staying overnight. Mr Johnson will announce his “tiers for fears” system today — with Tier Three the highest risk. Last night he told the Cabinet the nation stands at a “critical juncture” and more must be done to avoid triggering full lockdowns. Tier Three households will not be allowed to mix either indoors or outdoors.
The government has ruled out giving more support to workers and businesses hit by new lockdowns in the north of England because of concerns it would cost too much. Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said on Sunday that “the national debt is rising” and that “we can’t do everything” to protect all jobs. He was responding to a warning by northern leaders on Saturday that the support package unveiled by the government was “insufficient” and would see “communities plunged into hardship”. The mayors of Greater Manchester, Sheffield, Merseyside and Tyneside said the scheme – which covers just two-thirds of wages and only applies to some workers in specific sectors – would “level down the north of England and widen the north-south divide”.
The prime minister is under pressure not to close hospitality venues in the north’s coronavirus hotspots. Although lockdown measures are expected to be announced for Liverpool today, conversations are continuing about restrictions in areas including Greater Manchester and Lancashire, which also have high infection rates. Politicians in both regions are strongly opposed to any closures in the hospitality sector, which are expected should they be placed in the third tier of virus restrictions. In a joint letter published yesterday, five Manchester Labour MPs wrote that transmission in hospitality settings “constitutes a very small proportion of infection rates”.
Northern leaders have threatened legal action against new Covid-19 wage support measures and called on MPs to reject the plan in a Commons vote. Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham urged MPs to back the leaders’ opposition to the local furlough scheme, which would pay significantly less than the national furlough programme. Mr Burnham said thousands wouldn’t be able to cover their bills on just two-thirds’ pay, businesses would be forced to shut for good, and the North-South divide would “widen” despite Chancellor Rishi Sunak wage support package. An open letter written by northern leaders calls for cross-party support from MPs across the North for a vote in Parliament on the support proposals announced by the Chancellor on Friday.
The United Kingdom’s hospitality industry is mounting a legal challenge to the government’s lockdown restrictions, aiming to stop its plans to close pubs and other venues to tackle the rise in coronavirus cases. The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), a UK trade body, told Reuters late Sunday that the industry has taken legal action to prevent lockdown measures from being imposed. The judicial review, reported earlier by the Financial Times, will argue that no evidence supports hospitality venues having contributed to the spread of COVID-19.
Test & trace
NHS Test and Trace has slashed 2,000 contact tracer roles despite renewed pressure on the system from rising infections. The army of call centre contact tracers was quietly cut from 12,000 to 10,000 within the last few weeks, Whitehall sources confirmed. It comes amid fresh strain on the programme, seen as vital to the Government’s pandemic response, as the number of people it processes soars. Critics said the move proved the system has been a shambles since being launched in May. The 2,000 axed roles come on top of 6,000 lost in August. When ministers launched the system, which Boris Johnson promised would be ‘world beating’, they said that 25,000 dedicated contract tracing staff had been recruited.
Mayors across England are set to gain more control over the NHS Test and Trace system as the government prepares to implement tougher Covid restrictions. The government will give local authorities access to the Test and Trace data and urge them to deploy volunteers to knock on people’s homes and tell them to self-isolate if necessary. The Sunday Times reports that the changes are intended to get more people to self-isolate after testing positive by generating “community spirit”. Housing secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News today: “We are going to be making sure that the national testing infrastructure…works in harmony with what’s happening locally because local councils and local communities are very good at contact tracing, understandably because they know their communities, they can mobilise council officers particularly for harder to reach communities.
A jab usually given to protect children from tuberculosis could win more time to find an effective coronavirus vaccine, according to researchers. The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine will be trialled globally on 10,000 people after it was found to stimulate the immune system. It could help fight off Covid-19 until more effective vaccines are discovered. The University of Exeter is leading the UK arm of the trial and will recruit healthcare staff and care home workers. The study, co-ordinated by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, has received more than $10 million (£7.6 million) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to allow its global expansion.
A VACCINE usually given to children to protect them from tuberculosis could help adults battle against coronavirus, according to British researchers. The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine will now be given to 10,000 people globally as part of a trial after it was found to stimulate the immune system. It would not be the ultimate solution but would instead help people fight off coronavirus until more effective vaccines are discovered. The University of Exeter is leading the UK arm of the trial and will soon recruit healthcare staff and care home workers in the UK. The study is co-ordinated by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and has received more than £7.6m from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to allow its global expansion.
Professors are demanding that university bosses consult them over deals with repressive regimes as they attempt to tackle threats to academic freedom on campuses. Academics across the country have drawn up a series of demands in response to concerns that university administrations have been ignoring foreign interference for years. Scholars at Edinburgh, Exeter, Goldsmiths, King’s College London, Lincoln, LSE, Oxford and the School of Advanced Study have formed the Academic Freedom and Internationalisation Working Group to address the issue. It will present a code of conduct today “designed to embed more transparency and accountability” in all British universities after scores of students and staff reported that threats of surveillance, persecution and the coercion of family members was having an impact on research.