Brexit trade talks enter a crucial week today as negotiators race to get the outline of an agreement in place. British and EU teams last night agreed to extend ‘intensive discussions’, which have been taking place in London, until Wednesday. The talks were due to end yesterday. The two sides will then decide whether to continue negotiations in Brussels in the second half of the week or walk away. Sources on the British team last night said the extension of talks showed discussions are progressing. But they cautioned that there was still a ‘long way to go’ and they remain ‘very far apart’ on the issue of fisheries so a deal may not be reached.
BREXIT trade talks between the EU and UK could be “on a knife edge” amid concerns exports could be brought to a screeching halt if furious French and Spanish fishermen don’t get what they want out of Brexit. French President Emmanuel Macron threatened to scupper any Brexit deal that “sacrifices” French fishermen, as he continues to stand in the way of Brexit talks reaching a breakthrough. He is said to be concerned that 20 percent of French fishermen risk losing their jobs if quotas are drastically reduced if the EU does not have the same access to UK waters after the transition period.
FRANCE has finally admitted it is playing “bad cop” on Brexit as trade talks enter a vital week. Europe minister Clément Beaune said Paris is ensuring the EU is “really tough” with Britain. France President Emmanuel Macron has been accused of delaying progress with hardline demands, especially on access to fish British waters. And Mr Beaune crowed: “We’ve always been accused of being the bad cops — we take full responsibility for that.” But EU negotiator Michel Barnier has extended his stay in London to Wednesday amid optimism of a breakthrough.
Brexit talks face a roadblock this week after France refused to compromise on fishing, with Government sources hoping Angela Merkel will intervene to break the impasse. Sources close to the negotiations said that Emmanuel Macron was refusing to soften his stance and had adopted an “egregious” position on the issue. The UK has proposed adopting a similar arrangement to Norway, whereby fishing quotas would be agreed annually in shared fishing zones. However, sources said that Brussels negotiators, under pressure from France, have “not moved at all” leading to fresh deadlock.
ANGELA MERKEL has been urged by Government sources to step into Brexit talks after Emmanuel Macron has refused to budge on European Union demands on fishing. The German Chancellor has been touted by Government sources to break the deadlock in talks on UK fishing after the French President has been accused of adopting an “egregious” position on the dead-end talks. Fishing has been a major point of contention in negotiations between the UK and the EU, with the UK wanting more control over its own waters against the EU’s concerns for its trawling industry.
The ‘rule of six’ and 10pm curfew are likely to have had “zero effect” in reducing contacts, the first scientific study of the policies suggests. Researchers at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) surveyed thousands of people to find out if they had met fewer people since the new rules were implemented. For the ‘rule of six’, nearly one third said they had fewer contacts, while 26 per cent said they had seen more people. However, the majority of participants saw the same number of people, and there was no change in the overall mean number of contacts for the whole group between the two time periods.
MILLIONS of workers face the prospect of poverty and deprivation after being forced into draconian Tier-3 lockdown restrictions from this weekend – with utterly inadequate financial support. Protesters will take to the streets of Manchester on Saturday, demonstrating against the government’s “disgraceful” treatment of the city region and its workers. A swathe of the North is now subject to the government’s Tier-3 lockdown, which shuts businesses and lays off hundreds of thousands of workers. More than seven million people are affected in areas including Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and South Yorkshire.
The cost of lives saved by a circuit-breaker lockdown may not be worth the hit to the economy, according to a former member of the government’s advisory group. An assessment of the policy’s impact, calculated using figures reported by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), suggests it would fail to pass a standard civil service cost/benefit analysis. Minutes published this month showed that Sage had recommended a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown in September, to run over the October half-term holiday, to halt a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Boots is launching a coronavirus testing service with results in just 12 minutes. The high-speed test has proved 97 per cent accurate in trials and should be available within a fortnight. But the chain is also offering a 48-hour service from today and hopes 200 branches will offer tests by Christmas. Chief executive Sebastian James said it was the first step toward mass testing on high streets and a way to allow Britons to get on with their lives again. Boots will initially charge £120 but this is likely to fall if demand grows. The tests are aimed at those who have no symptoms but are seeking peace of mind.
Reducing the coronavirus isolation period will depend in part on the ability of NHS Test and Trace to provide extra diagnostics, it has emerged. As pressure grows on Boris Johnson to replace Baroness Harding of Winscombe, the programme’s chief, the prime minister has ordered a review of the two-week period during which contacts of people tested positive for coronavirus must self-isolate. Ministers cited evidence suggesting that many people fail to complete the full period. The main options are reducing the period to ten days — as required of those with a positive test — or seven days, dependent on a negative test.
A ‘safe and effective,’ Covid-19 vaccine could be ready by the end of November according to senior Trump adviser Dr Anthony Fauci as the UK Government accelerates its own timetable for a mass roll-out of the jab for NHS workers to ensure they’re treated before Christmas. An email sent by an NHS Trust chief revealed the Health Service has been told to have a staff vaccine scheme ready to go by early December. Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Dr Anthony Fauci confirmed a claim from US President Donald Trump that a vaccine could be ready to go.
Coronavirus vaccine stocks are set to start being sent out in Britain from next week, it has been claimed. A London hospital trust has been given the heads up that batches of the potential Covid-19 antidote Oxford Astra-Zenica could be available from the week beginning November 2, according to health sources. Trials are still ongoing but huge efforts are being made to ensure hospitals in the capital are ahead of the game if and when the potential vaccine is greenlit. Other clinical trials have reportedly been halted at the trust to ensure thousands of frontline staff can be vaccinated as soon as there’s an official thumbs up – and extra security measures are being readied.
LONDON health chiefs are on standby to start taking deliveries of Covid vaccine stocks from next week, The Sun can reveal. Health sources say staff at a major London hospital trust have been told to be ready to receive the first batches of the Oxford Astra-Zenica jab from “week commencing the 2 November.” The vaccine is still in testing, but a major effort has been ordered to have the world-leading hospital ready to go as soon as it is given the green light. The Sun has learnt other clinical trials at the famous hospital have been paused as all resources go toward preparing to vaccinate thousands of doctors, nurses and other frontline staff.
Only six in ten pupils are getting a full education despite schools going back, a London School of Economics study has found as researchers warn of “permanent scarring” to the Covid generation. During late September and early October, just 59 per cent of pupils benefitted from “full schooling”, a new report by the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance has found. This compared to around four in ten (38 per cent) who had full schooling – defined as spending at least five hours on work or receiving at least four lessons per day – during lockdown. The research comes amid growing concern that despite schools being open in theory, large swathes of children are being sent home to self-isolate with variable quality of remote education in place for them.
Free school meals
Former ministers are leading a growing Tory revolt on free school meals as they told Boris Johnson to come up with “something better” or they would vote against the Government. Up to 100 Tory MPs were said to be sharing furious texts over the Government’s handling of England footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals in the holidays, and the way it handed a political coup to Labour. MPs described it as “shockingly inept”, a “political disaster”, and “hopeless communication” as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer took advantage of the Tory disarray to pledge a second vote on Rashford’s appeal for free meals for children in need to be funded over the school holidays until Easter 2021.
Boris Johnson will increase funding for the poorest families during the Christmas holidays as he seeks to close down the damaging row over free school meals, allies have said. Downing Street figures said that work was under way on additional support for eligible pupils outside term time. It is a partial climbdown for the government in the fight with Marcus Rashford, the England footballer who is leading calls for free school meals to continue during holidays. The prime minister was urged to act by cabinet ministers before the dispute came to a head this weekend.
Boris Johnson is facing a growing rebellion over a refusal to extend free school meals to all holidays – as protesters left dozens of empty plates outside the office of one MP. A number of senior Tories have gone public however, with one suggesting Number 10 has “misunderstood” the mood of the nation. Manchester United star Marcus Rashford has been highly praised for leading the campaign and his petition has quickly gathered nearly 900,000 signatures. Councils including Birmingham and Liverpool are among those who have responded by providing tens of thousands of children with food parcels and vouchers this half term.
Allies of the Prime Minister say he will u-turn and provide more funding to feed poor children amid a backlash of Tory MPs threatening to join forces with Labour. Boris Johnson has been battling with the prospect of a major revolt over the refusal to extend free school meals over the holidays – as a petition by Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford nears 900,000 signatures. Pressure was heaped on Mr Johnson this morning as Labour leader Keir Starmer announced that he will force another Commons vote on the issue soon.
The pandemic has created a middle-class unemployment crisis that will get ‘much worse’ as Christmas approaches, experts warn. Analysis reveals the extent of the jobs bloodbath in commuter towns, resorts and manufacturing hubs. The number on the dole has already tripled in the hardest-hit towns and cities. In the ten worst-affected areas there are 138,000 on out-of-work benefits – 75,000 more than before the pandemic. The analysis by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) raises fears that even well-off communities will become job wastelands as they are hammered by the coronavirus recession. It reveals the hardest hit areas include Slough, Luton and Peterborough as well as affluent seaside resorts such as Brighton.
CHINA has been tipped as close to “world domination” by the former head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, who also warned Europe they need to tackle Beijing’s influence. Gerhard Schindler, former head of the Federal Intelligence Service between 2011 and 2016, urged Germany to curb its “strategic dependence” on Beijing. He also urged the country to ban Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from its 5G network, in the same vein as the UK and other Beijing-skeptic nations. It comes world leaders have ramped up sanctions and surveillance against China over human rights violations and military actions in the South China Sea.
SBS commandos retook an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight coast in just seven minutes after reports of ‘Nigerian stowaways’ on board becoming violent and ‘threatening the crew’ sparked fears of a hijacking. Crew members reportedly sought shelter in a safe room on the Liberian-registered oil tanker, named the Nave Andromeda, which was due to arrive at Southampton at 10.30am. The Special Boat Service landed 16 personnel aboard the vessel via air and sea following a ten-hour standoff, with two Royal Navy Merlin helicopters and two Wildcats also used in the operation, Sky News reported. A frigate, believed to be HMS Richmond, was also on standby but not needed during the operation, which was completed in around seven minutes.
Special forces troops stormed an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight last night and apprehended seven stowaways after they were discovered by the crew and became violent. Four military helicopters, thought to have included two Merlin Mk 4s, a Wildcat and a Chinook, took 40 personnel to the scene of the suspected hijack. About 16 members of the Special Boat Service (SBS) boarded the vessel backed by airborne snipers and secured the ship in nine minutes, a defence source said. The Ministry of Defence confirmed in a statement at 8.16pm that the armed forces “have gained control of the ship and seven individuals have been detained.
Seven stowaways have been detained after the Special Boat Service stormed a Liberian registered tanker off the Isle of Wight which they are suspected of attempting to hiijack. The special forces responded to a request for help from Hampshire police in the early evening on Sunday, gaining control of the Nave Andromeda vessel in nine minutes after it was feared that the crew was no longer fully in charge. “Armed forces have gained control of the ship and seven individuals have been detained. Police investigations will now continue. Initial reports confirm the crew are safe and well,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a statement. The 228-metre tanker had been expected to dock in Southampton on Sunday to pick up a cargo of petrol, but its course in the Channel became erratic, prompting calls for an intervention as it passed the south-east edge of the Isle of Wight.
SEVEN violent stowaways were seized in just nine minutes by Special Boat Service commandos in a dramatic raid on an oil tanker last night. Heavily-armed anti-terror troops stormed the vessel off the Isle of Wight after the fugitives had allegedly threatened to kill the captain and his crew. Police boats and helicopters helped provide distractions as at least 16 SBS commandos took part in the swoop on the 42,000-tonne Nave Andromeda — due to dock in Southampton. Under the cover of darkness, they descended from blacked-out helicopters and approached the vessel in fast attack boats. The troops were lowered on ropes from two Merlin choppers, while a pair of Wildcat helicopters circled above the tanker, providing close surveillance of the target.
Special forces on Sunday night ended a ten-hour standoff in the Channel after a group of violent Nigerian “hijackers” threatened to kill the crew of an oil tanker bound for the UK. Troops from the Special Boat Service stormed the Nave Andromeda under cover of darkness and in a nine minute raid detained seven suspected migrants after they forced the giant vessel to drop anchor five miles off the Isle of Wight. On Sunday night Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel praised the police and armed forces for bringing the situation under control. Mr Wallace said: “I commend the hard work of the Armed Forces and police to protect lives and secure the ship.
The Post Office is to axe 600 free to use cash machines from its branches in a fresh blow to Britons who rely on cash to make everyday purchases. There are currently 2,000 ATMs at Post Office branches but this will fall to 1,400 as the business prioritises cash points that it believes are commercially viable. The cuts come against a backdrop of bank branch and cash point closures, making it more difficult for people who rely on cash to access it. The rise of card, contactless and mobile payments, which has been accelerated by the pandemic, has made running many cash machines unprofitable. However, cuts in the number of cash machines and bank branches are making it more difficult for people who rely on cash to access it, particularly elderly consumers or those without access to the banking system.
The Post Office is scrapping nearly a third of its 2,000 free-to-use ATMs in another blow for community access to cash. The taxpayer-owned operation is retaining 1,400 machines and has promised to invest £16million to equip them with the latest technology. Customers will still be able to withdraw cash over the counter at 11,500 post offices thanks to a deal with major banks. But many do not know the service exists or are put off by long queues. Around 8,500 free-to-use ATMs have been lost around the country over the past three years and many more are expected to be removed in the wake of the pandemic.
A CAMPAIGN group calling for non-payment of the BBC licence fee to be decriminalised is sending leaflets to tens of thousands of people claiming they can still watch ‘on demand’ programming, other than BBC iPlayer, without a TV licence. Defund the BBC is sending the leaflets, titled “You do not have to pay”, which explain how people can “legally cancel” their TV licences. The document argues the BBC’s mode of operation is outdated and has been left redundant by new technology like online streaming services. It adds: “Over recent years the BBC has cared less and less about its duty to provide impartial content that unifies and reflects the British people outside the M25.”