Trade talks

BREXIT trade talks will continue this week after the EU appeared to buckle over Boris Johnson’s demands that British sovereignty must be respected.  Express understands that UK officials believe they have a better chance of a breakthrough with Brussels now showing a “greater appreciation” for our position. The dramatic turnaround came as Mr Johnson and European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen agreed that negotiations will continue this week having previously suggested that Sunday was a hard deadline for progress to be made. This leaves both sides a fortnight to find a way to break the deadlock before the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.  If no trade deal is agreed by then, Britain will walk away from the European Union and begin trading on World Trade Organisation terms from January 1.

The Brexit talks are poised to carry on until Christmas or beyond after the UK and EU stepped back from the brink of settling for a no-deal outcome – but with no breakthrough that takes it off the table. A deadline of Sunday for an agreement to be in sight – or the negotiations would be over – was ripped up after a 30-minute phone call between Boris Johnson and the European Commission president, amid cautious hints of progress in Brussels. But the optimism was quickly punctured by the prime minister, who warned a no-deal was still “most likely”, saying: “Let’s get ready for the WTO [World Trade Organisation] option, that’s what I told the Cabinet.”

Trade talks with the European Union could continue into Christmas week amid cautious optimism in London and Brussels that a last-minute deal can be struck. Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, agreed to “go the extra mile” in search of agreement amid reports that the EU had given ground on a key issue in an attempt to avert a no-deal Brexit.  Both sides said progress had been made in an intensive bout of negotiations over the last four days. But Mr Johnson stressed that Britain and the EU remained “very far apart” with less than three weeks until the UK leaves the transition period.

Negotiations on a Brexit deal will continue, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said after speaking Sunday. In a joint statement, von der Leyen and Johnson said they had a “useful” phone call in which they discussed the “major unresolved topics” of the talks about the future relationship. “Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days,” the statement reads. “And despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over, we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.”

Huffington Post
Boris Johnson has dampened hopes that a Brexit deal could be close by insisting the UK and EU are “still very far apart” on key issues. The prime minister agreed with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday to extend negotiations, raising hopes a free trade agreement could be close. But Johnson’s tone was markedly more downbeat that von der Leyen, as he warned of “serious and very, very difficult issues” remaining in the talks. The PM also said that “the most likely thing” was that “we have to get ready” to default to World Trade Organisation terms from January 1, widely predicted to be the most damaging outcome.

ITV News
The UK should prepare for a no deal Brexit as the UK and EU are still “very far apart” on key issues in negotiations, Boris Johnson has said. The prime minister was speaking after he agreed with European Union chiefs that talks should continue. A deadline of Sunday had been set earlier in the week by Mr Johnson and the president of the European Commission, but speaking in Brussels, Ursula von der Leyen said she and the prime minister had agreed to “go the extra mile” and continue negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal. Talks between the UK and the EU began again at 8am but have been deadlocked for days over disagreements on fishing rights and the so-called level playing field “ratchet” that would effectively tie the UK to future EU standards.

Britain and the EU pledged to “go the extra mile” yesterday to try to secure a post-Brexit trade deal, extending talks after progress on the contentious issue of tariffs. The Times has been told that after a week of hostility between the two sides there have been positive discussions on how to ensure an economic “level playing field” after Brexit.  However, Boris Johnson told his cabinet to prepare for no-deal in three weeks as he played down any suggestion of a breakthrough, insisting that Britain and the EU remained “very far apart”. Speaking to broadcasters, after a call with Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the prime minister refused to comment on progress but said that Britain would not walk away.

BBC News
Negotiators from the UK and EU are to begin a new push to reach agreement on post-Brexit trade after both sides agreed “to go the extra mile”. A UK source said the “process still has some legs” but Boris Johnson has warned a no-deal is the “most likely” outcome. A deadline to finish talks had been set for Sunday, but the prime minister and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen agreed to an extension. The pair discussed “major unresolved topics” during a “constructive” call.

Brexit talks are set to continue until New Year’s Eve with MPs potentially having to work over Christmas to approve an agreement after the EU backed down in the row over tariffs – but Boris Johnson has warned a No Deal is still ‘very likely’.  In a dramatic move, the Prime Minister abandoned his threat to pull the plug on negotiations amid signs of a possible breakthrough. EU sources claim there has been ‘genuine progress,’ in attempts to finalise a free trade agreement.  And there were suggestions Brussels had backed down on its previous insistence to be able to impose ‘lightning tariffs’ on the UK if it thought Britain breached the terms of a deal.

Britain and the EU enter the final stretch of the Brexit negotiations with renewed hope of a deal being struck within days after Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen agreed to “go the extra mile” and ordered the resumption of talks in Brussels. As the prime minister played down expectations following a telephone conversation with the European commission president, EU embassies in Brussels were briefed that “progress has been made” and that “the next days will be important”. UK negotiators are expected to stay in Brussels until at least Tuesday.

Brexit trade talks could go on until the end of the year after the EU abandoned Sunday’s negotiating deadline, amid rising expectations that a deal could now be done. Sunday had been billed as a deadline for a decision on deal or no deal, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to continue talks. Neither the UK nor the EU has set a new deadline, meaning a deal could be ratified as late as December 31, the day the current Brexit transition period ends.


EMMANUEL MACRON has urged fellow European Union leaders to “keep pushing” until the UK caves into its demands, according to Brussels insiders. The French President has been among the more vocal supporters of the EU’s hardline approach and has vowed to veto any Brexit deal if the terms fail to meet the demands of his country’s fishing industry. His demands come despite Boris Johnson insisting the UK will thrive with or without a deal from January after the transition period ends on December 31. Mr Macron is also understood to have rejected Mr Johnson’s calls for face-to-face talks in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock.

BREXIT negotiations could see a breakthrough as EU contacts close to the talks hint the trading bloc is close to caving to UK demands. The contact hinted the bloc is willing to make concessions to stop a no-deal exit for the UK. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced yesterday they will be extended negotiations between the UK and EU with the aim being to “go the extra mile” in talks. European officials close to the talks have hinted the talks have been “constructive” with tentative progress made in red line issues such as fishing and governance.

What happened yesterday regarding the Brexit talks was reminiscent of the Battle of Waterloo – at least the version taught in my German school. The French had Britain on the brink of defeat, when Prussian troops stormed in and reprieved them. Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier – a former foreign minister of France, don’t forget – and his francophone troops were ready to declare all further negotiations futile and walk away when Germany’s EU ambassador relayed a message from Berlin. Our foreign minister Heiko Maas insisted it was time to end the doctrinaire approach and ‘start looking for a political solution’.

SPAIN’S Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya erupted at claims that the trade deal between the UK and the EU was about British sovereignty, as she scolded Sky News’ Niall Paterson “it’s not about sovereignty, it’s about interdependence”. Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya dismissed Britain’s claims its Brexit trade deal with the EU was about “asserting independence and sovereignty”. Ms González Laya rejected this, claiming that trade deals are about “managing our interdependence”. The furious Spanish minister went on to rip into claims the UK could be “bound to EU rules” after the end of the transition period.

Germany will be plunged into a new national lockdown for the Christmas period as Angela Merkel makes a desperate bid to drive down soaring Covid infection rates. The country will be closing non-essential shops, hair salons and schools, and further limiting social contact.  Chancellor Merkel said she and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed to step up the country’s lockdown measures from December 16 to January 10 to stop the exponential rise of COVID-19 cases. Existing restrictions imposed in November failed to significantly reduce the number of new infections, she said.  Germany recorded 20,200 newly confirmed cases and 321 additional deaths on Saturday, a high number for the weekend when many local authorities don’t report figures.

Germany will be placed under a hard lockdown from Wednesday, with schools, nurseries and all but the most essential shops to be closed through Christmas and the new year, Angela Merkel has announced. Infection rates are rising across the country and overstretched hospitals worry that they may have to begin turning away seriously ill patients as the death toll mounts. Yesterday the German infectious diseases agency reported 20,200 new cases, the highest number recorded for a Sunday. The chancellor said that the pandemic had returned to exponential growth after weeks of stagnation.

Panic buying

SHOPPERS have been urged to avoid panic-buying and stockpiling food in the run-up to the end of the year, amid concerns about a no-deal Brexit. The British Retail Consortium said retailers are increasing stocks to ensure that food does not run out even if there are delays to supply chains.  But it admitted that imported fresh produce, including fruit and vegetables, may be affected. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson seized personal control of Britain’s no-deal preparations. The Prime Minister’s intervention is aimed at protecting vital supplies of food and medicines from January 1, the first day Britain will be fully free.

PANIC buyers have hit the supermarkets to stockpile food amid fears of a No Deal Brexit. The UK and the EU today vowed to continue negotiations – but some nervous shoppers were seen leaving Costco with huge hauls of loo roll, beer and baguettes. The British Retail Consortium today urged shoppers not to panic – and said retailers are increasing stocks to ensure a “sufficient supply of essential products”. Any impact to the food chain is likely to affect fresh produce like fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long, officials say.


Priti Patel has been urged to help ‘powerless’ Westminster council shut down a Park Lane homeless encampment where a brothel was run from a tent near a primary school.  In a letter to the Home Secretary, the leader of the city council Rachael Robathan requested the Home Office do more to combat the smuggling of people to Britain and ramp up immigration laws. The homeless encampment located on a central reservation of the highly sought-after road in Mayfair has been in place for seven years and the council leader claims it has led to several examples of anti-social behaviour, The Sunday Telegraph reports. One such instance includes a brothel run out of a tent by two British sisters which, after being served seven notices to leave, finally moved on in 2019 to avoid prosecution.

Evening Standard
London has been hit with nearly 24,000 Covid-19 cases in a week, with rises in every borough and a new second wave infection peak, official figures reveal today. They show the coronavirus crisis in the capital worsening just days before the Government decides whether to put it into Tier 3 to try to stop the disease spreading even faster in the run-up to Christmas. The grim figures include: The number of confirmed cases reaching 23,913 in the week to December 10, with the real number of cases several times higher, partly because so many people have the disease asymptomatically; Enfield seeing the number of confirmed cases jumping by 74 per cent in the week to December 8;

Dozens of schools are defying the government and closing early for Christmas, while the London mayor has called for pupils to be sent home to stop the spread of the virus and for masks to be compulsory in high streets. Schools are thought to be a significant driver of infections, but officials at the Department for Education have threatened legal action against those that move teaching online. Despite this, dozens have told parents that they are closing and many parents are also taking their children out of class to avoid the risk of being asked to self-isolate over Christmas.

Sky News
Sadiq Khan is urging the government to consider asking London’s schools and colleges to close early and reopen later in January because of “significant” coronavirus outbreaks among 10 to 19-year-olds. In a letter to the prime minister, the mayor of London said “urgent consideration must… be given to closing secondary schools, sixth form and FE colleges a few days early and keeping them closed for longer after Christmas”. It comes as schools across Greenwich in southeast London are being forced to close and move classes online amid “exponential growth” of the pandemic.

SADIQ Khan has called for all schools in London to shut from today following a surge in Covid cases in the city. It comes hours after Labour-run Greenwich council announced it is to close its classrooms for Christmas from tonight. The Mayor of London is now calling for all schools across 32 boroughs to shut as the city teeters on the brink of moving into Tier 3 this week. It would force hundreds of thousands of pupils to study online and comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s vowed to keep kids in school. Mr Khan will brief London MPs on the latest figures, which show that the infection is now doubling every four days in the city.

Sadiq Khan has called for all London to be closed from Monday in defiance of the government’s vow to keep them open, and despite warnings that shutting down the capital will deliver another economic hammer blow to Britain.  Mr Khan’s demand follows a unilateral announcement by the Labour leader of Greenwich council that he would close all schools in his borough tomorrow – leaving parents dashing to find four days of child care before the term ends on Thursday. The move puts Greenwich on a collision course with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson who warned that schools who do not stay open face legal action by the government – and it will also fuel teaching unions who arguing that schools should be shut across the country.


The chances of the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine being rolled out by the end of this year are ‘pretty high’, the lead researcher of the jab revealed. The vaccine from Oxford and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is yet to be approved for use in the UK – with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) still reviewing trial data. The Government has secured 100 million doses of the vaccine, with four million ready for key workers once approval is given. Oxford University vaccinology professor Sarah Gilbert said the chances of getting the jab – which is 90 per cent effective and costs just £2 per dose – before the end of 2020 ‘are pretty high’.

Vaccination teams are braced to go into care homes to give the most vulnerable the Covid jab by the end of the week. GPs are also due to start administering the Pfizer vaccine from today at 280 local centres across the UK. It means those at greatest risk will finally get the protection they need after regulators approved the plans. NHS bosses said practices in more than 100 parts of the country will take delivery of the vaccine today, with some starting clinics this afternoon. The majority will begin tomorrow. However, there are concerns that some designated sites will struggle to meet the requirement to deliver 975 doses in three and a half days, given the requirement for staff to observe patients for 15 minutes afterwards.

Long Covid

Extreme levels of ‘friendly fire’ antibodies in the immune system could trigger severe coronavirus symptoms and cause ‘long Covid’, scientists say. Coronavirus patients have high numbers of ‘autoantibodies’ in their blood which block the body’s Covid-tackling antibodies and attack several areas, including the brain, blood vessels and liver. This could account for why some Covid sufferers experience long-lasting symptoms – such as fatigue, breathlessness and brain problems, a study found.  Researchers at Yale University counted the number of ‘autoantibodies’ in the blood of 194 hospital workers and patients with Covid – compared to 30 healthy staff members.

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