Boris Johnson is preparing to make a significant intervention in the Brexit trade talks this week as negotiators begin the “final push” before a deadline in eight days’ time. The Prime Minister is expected to speak to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in an attempt to clear away the final barriers to a deal which both sides now believe is well within reach. Agreements on fishing and state aid remain the two stumbling blocks, and EU leaders have set a deadline of Tuesday next week for all remaining disagreements to be resolved. Ministers had hoped an agreement in principle would already be in place by now, but the timetable was set back after Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier was forced into Covid self-isolation, meaning face-to-face talks had to be paused. One source close to the negotiations suggested the enforced break had been a blessing in disguise, as it gave the exhausted teams time to “pause and reflect” on how they could overcome the knotty problems standing in their path. Face-to-face talks are expected to restart on Thursday, giving the teams a maximum of six days to thrash out a deal before the deadline expires.
BORIS JOHNSON is gearing up to make a “significant intervention” in the Brexit trade deal talks as the UK prepares to head into another round of negotiations, according to reports. The Prime Minister is expected to speak to the European Commission President Ursula von de Leyen to edge closer to a deal which both sides have now said is possible. However, Mr Johnson will not “water down” any of his demands to secure a deal. It comes after confidential documents were leaked over the weekend which reportedly revealed that EU officials believe a Brexit deal is “95 percent agreed”. According to Sky News, the notes were from a meeting of top diplomats in Brussels on Friday. However, the documents are said to show that anxiety still remains in the three level playing field areas – fisheries, governance and competition rules.
THE EU has a sinister masterplan to “build an empire” and Britain should not be a part of it, the late Labour veteran Tony Benn claimed in a throwback speech. Mr Benn spent much of his political life campaigning against Britain’s membership of the EU and its precursor, the EEC. It is a tragic irony that his life’s calling was not achieved until after his death in 2014 ‒ but that is not to say his views are irrelevant today. As the Brexit debate rumbles on, Leavers and Remainers alike would be wise to take note of Mr Benn’s claim that unelected Brussels bureaucrats are on an “empire-building” mission. Speaking to the Oxford Union just one year before his death, he said: “Well my view on Europe is very simple. “We had this bloody war which cost millions of lives and then we had to decide how we reacted to Europe.
BILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers’ cash may have been misspent, squandered or lost to corruption during Britain’s final year of European Union membership, a scathing audit of the bloc’s budget has found. In a damning annual report, the European Court of Auditors refused to give the 2019 EU budget a clean bill of health, warning it was plagued by widespread problems. The Luxembourg-based watchdog issued an “adverse opinion” on the EU’s spending and branded more than half of last year’s EU £142billion expenditure as “high-risk”. The report’s authors conceded that EU funding is impossible to track once paid out to governments, because “these funds then merge with that country’s own budget resources”. In 2019, Britain sent £15.8billion to Brussels, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.
BREXIT negotiators are secretly haggling over a fishing fudge that could see the EU and UK Brexit trade deal reviewed in 10 years time, The Sun can reveal. In a bid to unlock deadlocked talks, Britain offered up a “review clause” on any fishing agreement after three to five years – but Brussels wants it in 10 to 15 years. And crucially they are demanding the appraisal must be of the whole trade deal, not just fishing – opening the door to a decade more of negotiations. The UK team are insisting fishing and wider trade agreement must be kept separate as talks go to the wire – but EU sources think they could climb down. Brits fear reviewing the terms of the deal in the future would give Brussels long-term leverage over them if UK fishing waters are back up for grabs in 2030. The EU could once more use access to their markets to put the squeeze on No 10 for a greater share of the spoils of Britain’s waters.
Britain will resist a European Union demand for a review of a future trade, security and fishing deal in 2030 if countries such as France are unhappy with the loss of fish catch quotas The expected demand, a further potential sticking point as talks go to the wire over the next two weeks, would give the EU the chance to call the whole agreement into question over fisheries, throwing trade between Britain and Europe into question in ten years. The demand posed by Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, would allow the EU to trigger a renegotiation of quotas in 2030 and link any complaints over the impact of a fishing treaty to the whole agreement.
While millions of Britons are struggling on shared dining tables or working from bedrooms, Whitehall staff have used taxpayers’ cash to buy top of the range kit for their home offices. More than £10million has been spent across Government departments on working from home since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to a joint investigation by the Daily Mail and the TaxPayers’ Alliance. HMRC alone used almost £4million of public taxes on working from home, with its staff spending £500,000 on transporting office furniture to employees’ homes. HMRC staff were also given an allowance of £80 for an office chair and £120 for a desk. The Cabinet Office spent £11,554 on moving its staff home – including the purchase of a tailor-made designer Herman Miller Sayl chair for a cool £449.
Whitehall officials banked at least £42 million in bonuses last year – and the true figure is likely to be much higher, the Daily Mail can reveal. Civil servants at the Ministry of Defence pocketed the lion’s share of salary top-ups, with the department spending more than £12.2 million on bonus packages. Bureaucrats on salaries of almost £200,000 were handed cheques for up to £20,000, while up to £25,000 was pocketed by a department boss earning more than £130,000. News of hefty bonuses to senior staff – many already on six-figure salaries – will anger taxpayers, most of whom earn a fraction of public sector staff’s lucrative pay packets. The £42.4 million in bonus packages is thought to be only the tip of the iceberg.
JEREMY Corbyn is leading a mass departure from the Labour Party with membership plummeting under Kier Starmer’s rule, analysts say. According to the party’s internal elections figures, membership has fallen by nearly 57,000 people between April and November. Sir Keir was elected leader of the party in April this year, succeeding Mr Corbyn. In contrast, the former Labour head oversaw a surge in new members. The current figures mark the first time the party has had less than 500,000 members since 2016. It follows Mr Corbyn’s recent suspension from the party over comments he made regarding a report in anti-Semitism within Labour.
SIR KEIR STARMER’s office has been accused of “direct” political interference in a purge of Labour members in April. It comes after his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn was hit by the same charge in the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report on allegations of anti-semitism in the party. The current Labour leader has promised to enact the report’s recommendations in full, among which are an end to political interference by the leader’s office in disciplinary cases. However, data accessed by former Labour member Rebecca Massey, including an email chain from officials in the complaints department, suggests that the leader’s office played a role in her expulsion.
A NEW groundbreaking Scottish financial institution will launch today in a bid to restore Scotland’s economy after COVID-19 and rival the City of London. Nicola Sturgeon will launch Scotland’s National Investment Bank which will use £2billion of Scottish Government funding over its first decade to invest in businesses and projects. The concept will allow the Government to make longer-term investments in Scottish firms, over a period of 10 to 15 years. Ms Sturgeon said it would help Scotland meet its 2045 net-zero target, tackle place-based inequality and foster innovation in the country’s businesses. The First Minister of Scotland said: “The Scottish National Investment Bank will help to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face now and in the years to come, delivering economic, social and environmental returns.
Unions have warned ministers that freezing pay for four million workers risks a public sector strike, in a further sign of the backlash against plans to repair the damage that the pandemic has done to the nation’s finances. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said that proposals for a public sector pay freeze were “morally obscene” and refused to rule out industrial action. “There’s still time for the government to step back and I would encourage them to think again,” she said. “I’m really conscious of the feeling out there that governments only seem to recognise the true value of labour when it’s withdrawn.”
Boris Johnson is to announce the return of Christmas shopping, gyms and outdoor sport across England as the government prepares to lift lockdown. The prime minister will set out details today of a three-tier system of restrictions to come into force on December 3. He is expected to say that non-essential retail sales can resume across England, enabling people to do their Christmas shopping even if they live in high-infection areas. Mr Johnson’s cabinet met last night to sign off the plans. In a victory for exercise enthusiasts, gyms are expected to reopen and outdoor sport will be allowed in all tiers. The 10pm curfew on restaurants and pubs is likely to change to 11pm.
Christmas shopping is set to return to high streets after the English lockdown ends but pubs and restaurants will face tougher new restrictions, reports say. The hospitality industry is set to bear the brunt while shops and gyms can reopen from December 2 when the national lockdown in England is replaced by a revamped three-tier system. Most of the country is likely to be placed in Tiers 2 and 3, and the rules for the top tiers are set to be tightened, as Boris Johnson unveils his Winter Covid Plan later today. Pubs and restaurants, previously allowed to be fully open in Tier 2, will now only be able to sell alcohol with food, the Telegraph reports. And in Tier 3, hospitality venues are likely to become takeaway-only. Boris Johnson is to detail his winter strategy on Monday afternoon, with a proposal to deploy a major mass testing scheme to end the need for coronavirus contacts to self-isolate an attempt to winner over rebels on the Conservative backbenches.
Boris Johnson will today unveil plans for a £7billion mass testing revolution – cutting the time for those who have to self-isolate to one week if their results are negative, as he tried to head off a revolt by 70 of his own MPs. The move will allow thousands to get back to normal life even if they have come into contact with an infected person. Tens of millions of fast-turnaround tests will also be made available to areas put in the highest level of the new tiered system of Covid restrictions. The announcement comes as Mr Johnson faces a major backbench rebellion, with 70 Tory MPs refusing to support new measures unless he proves they will work. MPs in the Covid Recovery Group wrote to the Prime Minister on Sunday night, demanding he give Parliament a full ‘cost-benefit analysis’ of the new system amid concerns over the ongoing effect on the economy and also people with existing long-term health problems.
SELF-isolation for contacts of coronavirus cases could be scrapped and replaced with daily testing under government plans to get us back to normal life. The government is planning to introduce the plan should a pilot scheme prove to be successful which would also permit care home visits. Under the new plans contacts of those who have a positive test will be asked to undergo daily tests for seven days, and allowed to go about normally in the meantime. The new pilot system will start in Liverpool on Monday with hopes it could then be rolled out across the country. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to say the new scheme will help the country “get the virus back under control”. The current scheme where people have to isolate for 14 days, which has been blasted by the government’s own advisors as “massively ineffective and hated,” could come to an end in January.
Self-isolation will no longer be required for contacts of positive Covid cases under plans announced by the Government on Monday. Instead, contacts of those who test positive will be asked to undergo daily tests for seven days, and allowed to go about their business in the meantime. Ministers will say that the current system – which was criticised by the Government’s own advisers as “massively ineffective and hated” – will be dismantled nationwide in January, if pilot schemes succeed. As well as ending the self-isolation system, it could form part of an exit strategy from tiered restrictions.
A coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University can prevent 70.4 per cent of people from getting Covid-19, data shows. The vaccine was tested in two separate ways during its phase three trial, one of which involved administering a half dose and then at a full dose, which produced up to 90 per cent effectiveness. Administering the vaccine in two full doses produced 62 per cent effectiveness. When combined, the preliminary data therefore indicates that the vaccine is 70.4 per cent effective. The study involving 20,000 volunteers showed there were no serious cases among those who received the vaccine, developed in conjunction with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
A coronavirus vaccine developed in the UK can prevent 70.4% of people from getting Covid-19 and up to 90% if a lower dose is used, according to data. Oxford University and AstraZeneca have announced their jab is effective in preventing many people getting ill and it has been shown to work in different age groups, including the elderly. There are early indications it might also help stop the spread of the disease. Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said: “The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by [Covid-19]. “We will continue to work to provide the detailed information to regulators. It has been a privilege to be part of this multi-national effort, which will reap benefits for the whole world.”
THE coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford has showed an average efficiency of 70 percent in protecting against COVID-19 in two study segments. The announcement was made by AstraZeneca, the drugs firm behind the UK vaccine. This is the latest major boost in the fight against coronavirus, with Britain on course to roll out a vaccine to people over the coming weeks. The UK has placed orders for 100 million doses of the vaccine from the University of Oxford, which would be enough to vaccinate most of the country’s population. It is expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks if the jab is approved. The UK has also ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, which has been shown to be 95 percent effective.
Britons could get the Pfizer vaccine before Americans as the regulator prepares to make a rapid decision and the NHS readies its staff for a roll-out on December 1. The UK watchdog will soon open its formal appraisal into the Covid-19 jab produced by the US drugs giant Pfizer Inc. and German biotech firm BionNTech SE. A government source told The Telegraph last night that in ‘a best case scenario’ the regulator will green light the vaccine in less than a week and the NHS has already been told to prepare to administer the vaccine by the start of next month. Meanwhile the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is not scheduled to meet until December 10 – but it could make its ruling in less than 24 hours.
MPs are calling for a review of “Do Not Resuscitate” orders on care home residents, amid fears that blanket decisions which end lives are being taken on behalf of the elderly. Charities are concerned that care homes are routinely applying such orders – along with those which say residents should not be taken to hospital – despite warnings that the practice is unacceptable. Concerns emerged during the first wave of the pandemic, when it was found that some care homes had placed such orders on every single resident. Last month the Care Quality Commission (CQC) opened an investigation into the matter. But it is still ongoing, and MPs and campaigners are concerned that “blanket” orders which were imposed months ago could send thousands to their death this winter.
Britain “will suffer” if it continues to stand up against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and lose billions in Chinese investment, warned a China lobbying group in the United Kingdom. Wenjian Fang, the chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce in the United Kingdom — which represents hundreds of Chinese businesses including Huawei, ZTE, and Air China — threatened that China will throw its economic muscle around should Britain continue to ban Chinese companies. “If you continue to bar Chinese companies, the UK itself will suffer from lack of support or co-operation from China. Chinese investor confidence will be heavily impacted … when the UK needs investment so much at this time,” said Mr Fang, according to the Sunday Times.