Boris Johnson is poised to walk out of Brexit trade talks this week unless the EU finally gives up its bullying demands. The Prime Minister’s European envoy Lord Frost yesterday admitted crunch negotiations for a UK-EU trade treaty “may not succeed” given refusal by Brussels to recognise the country’s sovereignty over fishing waters, business regulation and industrial policy. And Downing Street officials signalled that Mr Johnson is running out of patience. He is said to be bracing for a no-deal relationship with the EU similar to Australia’s. A Government source said: “We do need to urgently make progress on these issues or it will end up an Australia-style deal. “There is momentum and there is a strong desire on both sides to do a deal but is going to be hard work for Lord Frost this week.”
Boris Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator warned yesterday that he was not prepared to compromise on his core principles to get a Brexit deal over the line. In a message before talks this week, Lord Frost said that the UK’s red lines had not changed and that any settlement had to be “compatible with our sovereignty” and take back control of “our laws, our trade and our waters”. “That has been our consistent position from the start and I will not be changing it,” he wrote on Twitter. His comments follow speculation in Brussels that the departure of Dominic Cummings could result in a more emollient British stance.
There has been “some progress” this week in UK-EU post-Brexit trade talks, according to UK chief negotiator David Frost. Frost tweeted today that the two sides “largely have common draft treaty texts, though significant elements are of course not yet agreed” and that talks will restart today in Brussels. This week’s soft deadline to get a deal done will not be met as talks are set to drag on into next week. Time is running short for a deal to be closed before the UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union on 31 December. “We are working to get a deal, but the only one that’s possible is one that is compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, our trade, and our waters,” Frost said.
The UK’s chief negotiator has warned “we may not succeed” in securing a Brexit trade deal as he made a surprise arrival in Brussels for renewed talks. Lord Frost signalled that he would not be deviating from Boris Johnson’s “red lines” amid speculation that the departure of Dominic Cummings from No 10 could herald concessions. He said there had been “some progress in a positive direction” but admitted there were still “significant” differences between the UK and EU on fishing and the level playing field. His tone was echoed by Simon Coveney, the Irish Foreign Minister, who said a deal was “very doable” but also “very difficult” and could be scuppered by deadlock over fishing.
BREXIT trade talks must have a breakthrough this week or risk collapse, ministers have warned. Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said yesterday both sides are entering “move week” — and it is now or never to get a deal. And Cabinet Minister George Eustice said time was very short, adding: “This needs to be a week where things move.” Talks were starting again in Brussels today, with both sides braced for clashes on fish and state aid rules. The PM maintains half the fish in our waters are for the UK. The EU wants more. Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost said Britain will quit the bloc on December 31, whatever happens.
BORIS JOHNSON will not cave in on fisheries at the 11th hour as post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union remain on the brink. Brexit negotiations between the UK and Brussels continue to hang by a thread, with outstanding issues over fishing blocking the pathway to an agreement. The EU is demanding continued access to UK waters beyond the Brexit transition period and has set a mid-November deadline for a deal to be completed. The Prime Minister has vowed to take the UK out of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and hand fishing stocks and quotas back to British fishermen. EU chiefs have warned there will be no wider trade deal if there is not an agreement on fishing and it is understood the bloc only wants the UK to retain between 10 and 20 percent of fish stocks for its vessels beyond December 31.
The Prime Minister’s fiancee Carrie Symonds will not be given any formal role or taxpayer-funded office, Downing Street sources have insisted, as they applied the brakes to her expanding influence. Ms Symonds has been praised across large swathes of the parliamentary party and in Government for her pivotal role in the removal of Dominic Cummings as Boris Johnson’s most influential aide. Lee Cain, Downing Street’s director of communications, was also ousted after Ms Symonds opposed his appointment as chief of staff. The part played by Ms Symonds, a former director of communications in the Conservative Party, in their demise had led to speculation that the 32-year-old would be given an enhanced job at the heart of Government.
Ousted pair Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain could return to Downing Street and work on the Conservative’s 2024 election campaign, insiders claim. The Prime Minister is thought to have left the door open for Mr Cain’s return while speaking to the communication chief’s colleagues following his dramatic departure on Friday. The Tory leader is also believed to have said he and Mr Cain would remain ‘good friends’ before the aide walked out of Downing Street. Though Mr Cummings’s departure was said to be a much more low-key occasion, Mr Johnson is also said to have left the door open for his return in the future.
Boris Johnson gave a leaving speech for his departing communications chief Lee Cain in which he insisted the two would “continue to be friends”, it has emerged. Mr Cain resigned last week after the Prime Minister’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds vetoed his promotion to chief of staff, which also led to the departure of his senior adviser Dominic Cummings. Allies of the Prime Minister fear that the two men could present a danger to the Prime Minister if they bear any grudges over their departures, having spent more time in his presence than anyone else since he entered Number 10. Both were told to leave Downing Street on Friday, having wanted to work in the building until Christmas.
NICOLA STURGEON’S coronavirus restrictions for Scotland have not been successful in curbing the spread of the virus as cases are higher than when the rules were introduced in September, figures have revealed. Nearly two months after the restrictions came into force, the number of Scots with coronavirus has doubled. According to The Daily Mail, Scotland had 574 new infections a day in September on the day the rules were introduced. Last Tuesday 1,234 people tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland – more than double the September figure. The Office for National Statistics said last Thursday that the R rate for Scotland was between 0.8 and 1.1.
CORONAVIRUS restrictions in the form of ‘circuit breaker’ lockdowns could be imposed multiple times as part of the Government’s post-lockdown plans. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said England’s current lockdown measures, which came into force on November 5, will last until December 2. He said the Government would then “seek to ease” the lockdown and return to a tiered system, as before. However, officials in the Department of Health have said on-off circuit breaker lockdowns may be necessary to combat future outbreaks.
PARTS of England could be placed into on-off lockdowns under a new “pump the brakes” Covid strategy, health bosses have warned. Boris Johnson has vowed to lift the national lockdown on December 2 and move back to regional tiers in his battle against the killer bug. But large parts of the country could be placed into rolling ‘circuit breaker’ lockdowns if infection rates bounce back. Department of Health bosses warned the gloomy prospect may be needed as part of a new “pump the brakes” strategy to combat the pandemic.
More than one million Covid-19 tests a day will be possible in the New Year as the Government announced the creation of two new “mega labs”. The two laboratories, in Leamington Spa and in Scotland, will more than double the current capacity of 520,000 tests a day, with each capable of providing 300,000 daily test results. It will potentially deliver on Boris Johnson’s pledge for all tests to be processed in less than 24 hours after the Government’s test and trace system faced major delays with some waiting more than three days. Health department officials said it could also allow for asymptomatic people as well as those with symptoms to have gold standard PCR tests on the NHS. Economies of scale mean it should also reduce the £150 cost to the NHS of the tests.
The UK’s daily coronavirus testing capacity is set to more than double with the opening of two new “megalabs” in early 2021, the Government has announced. The two laboratories, one in Leamington Spa and another in Scotland, will together be able to process up to 600,000 samples a day when operating at full capacity, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The announcement comes amid the news that Boris Johnson is self-isolating after being in contact with an MP who has since tested positive for Covid-19.
The government has announced the opening of two new “mega labs” early next year, which are set to more than double the UK’s daily coronavirus testing capacity. The laboratories will be able to process up to 600,000 samples a day when operating at full capacity, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). One will be based in Leamington Spa and the other in Scotland. The exact location of the latter is yet to be confirmed, said Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman, calling it an “important step in our fight against the virus”.
Two new “mega labs” to turnaround 600,000 coronavirus tests a day are planned for next year, as Boris Johnson tries to draw a line under losing two key advisers. The prime minister will make a “series of critical announcements”, Number 10 said, following the sudden departure of aides Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain. And in a bid to shore up support from “red wall” Tory MPs, he will hold a meeting with the so-called Northern Research Group today to “listen to their ideas” and convey his commitment to “levelling up”. But the government is facing calls from Labour to spell out how a potential COVID-19 vaccine would be distributed.
Two new ‘megalabs’ will double the UK’s coronavirus testing capacity to more than a million a day by the new year, ministers have revealed. The mass-testing sites, based in Leamington Spa and Scotland, will each be capable of processing 300,000 tests a day. They will play a major role in the Government’s mass-testing strategy – dubbed Operation Moonshot – designed to get on top of the virus and open up the economy. The first trial of city-wide testing is under way in Liverpool, where its 500,000 residents are being offered regular tests, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Six thousand British volunteers are to be injected with an experimental Covid vaccine modelled on an Ebola jab. It is the third Covid vaccine to enter large-scale clinical trials in the UK. Pursuing multiple candidates is essential to guarantee UK supply and ensure that most effective vaccine is identified, researchers stressed. Already undergoing large clinical trials in British patients are the Oxford Covid vaccine, and one being developed by the US biotech company Novavax. A phase 3 trial of the latest vaccine, developed by global pharmaceutical company Janssen (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), begins on Monday.
The UK will be the first country to run final-stage trials of a coronavirus vaccine being developed by a company owned by Johnson and Johnson. The phase-three trial of the vaccine from pharmaceutical company Janssen starts on Monday and will be the first of its two-dose study. The jab has already undergone phase one and two trials, and interim analysis of the single-dose study suggests the Covid-19 vaccine candidate induces a robust immune response and is generally well-tolerated. For the two-dose study, researchers are aiming to recruit around 6,000 UK participants – from a total of 30,000 people globally – at 17 sites across the country.
There are growing fears among government ministers that black marketeers will smuggle unlicensed Covid-19 vaccines into Britain to cash in on people seeking immunisation. A senior official within the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has told i that the Government cannot guarantee that unlicensed vaccines will be prevented from entering the country. There are fears that unproven vaccines, which could cost those seeking protection thousands of pounds, could be a risk to health, could further spread the virus and increase pressure on the NHS and the social care sector.
Hundreds of NHS and care home staff have formed a group opposed to vaccinations, wearing masks and testing in hospitals. The group, NHS Workers for Choice, No Restrictions for Declining a Vaccine, has gained more than 250 Facebook members in a month. They include a GP, several accident and emergency nurses, healthcare assistants, lab workers, and private and public care home staff. It says it is not an anti-vaccine group and exists to support healthcare workers, but The Times found posts saying that the Pfizer-BionTech coronavirus vaccine was a new frozen virus, similar to smallpox, to be “unleashed” on the world. They compared it to “poison”.
Cut summer holidays by two weeks to give disadvantaged children time for extra tuition at school, ministers have been told. The additional fortnight of teaching time, which could be spread across the summer and autumn terms, would not only improve pupils’ attainment but would also reduce the childcare burden on parents, according to a new report from the think-tank Onward. The arguments in favour of the current six-week summer holiday as well as long breaks throughout the year are “increasingly difficult to balance with modern working culture” and are out of step with some of the most education systems in the world, the report argues.
GCSE exams should be scrapped next year and replaced by school-based assessments, leading figures in education have said. Jane Prescott, president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), said that disruption from the pandemic meant that exams could not proceed as normal. Mrs Prescott, who is headmistress of Portsmouth High School, said that school-assessed grades should be used for GCSEs and that A-levels should have less content or fewer papers. Ken Baker, the former education secretary, has gone further by calling for both GCSE and A-level exams to be abandoned.
GCSE exams should be replaced by school-based assessments next year amid coronavirus disruption, a leading headteacher has said. Changes could also be made to A-level exams so there is less content or fewer papers so students spend less time being examined, Portsmouth High School GDST headmistress Jane Prescott said. Mrs Prescott, president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), said she thinks centre-assessed grades should not be submitted until June, if GCSE exams do not go ahead, so young people ‘don’t take their foot off the pedal now’.
Rishi Sunak is considering plans to charge motorists for using Britain’s roads amid concerns over a £40 billion tax shortfall created by the switch to electric cars. A Treasury paper on a new national road pricing scheme has been presented to the chancellor. The government will announce this week that a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, which forms part of the prime minister’s ten-point plan on climate change, will be brought forward to 2030.
Rishi Sunak is considering plans to charge motorists for every mile they drive on Britain’s roads to fill a £40billion tax hole left by a push to electric cars, according to reports. The Chancellor is reportedly ‘very interested’ in the idea of a national road pricing scheme – which would steer motorists into a new ‘pay-as-you-drive’ type system. A similar type of scheme was dramatically shelved by Labour in 2007 amid uproar that drivers could be charged up to £1.50 a mile. Road pricing in England is limited to schemes such as the M6 Toll in the Midlands, the Dartford crossing on the M25, London‘s Congestion Zone and a handful of small tunnels and bridges. But a national scheme is now being considered amid fears a switch to electric vehicles will leave a massive tax shortfall from the loss of key revenue raisers such as Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce says flights between Australia and the UK will only resume when a vaccine starts being rolled out, which likely won’t happen until winter 2021. His statement came as one of the scientists behind the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine Professor Ugur Sahin says he’s confident that normal life will return towards the end of next year. Mr Joyce said a Covid-19 vaccine needs to be available for international flights between Australia, Europe and the US to start again – but hopes the Government will develop travel bubbles with other overseas destinations in the meantime. He told the Today show on Monday: ‘Unfortunately with the levels of the virus in the United States and in Europe, we’re not going to see operations to those destinations in any real strength until we see a vaccine being rolled out, which is likely being towards the end of 2021.
Homeowners are having tens of thousands of pounds cut from the value of their properties by lenders. The average asking price of a home soared to £323,530 in October as sellers cashed in on unprecedented demand during the stamp duty holiday. But almost half are now being told their property is worth less than they had asked, according to estimates. Deals are collapsing as a result, and there are fears of a surge in buyers pulling out of purchases next year.