BORIS Johnson is to set up a new Downing Street unit to support his effort to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU by the end of the coming year, Whitehall sources revealed yesterday. In the first step towards taking personal control of the Brussels talks, the Prime Minister will relaunch his Brexit team as “Taskforce Europe” next month. His European policy adviser David Frost is to take charge of the unit responsible for implementing the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU and supporting the negotiation effort. A Government source said: “In 2020, we will move forward to establish a future relationship and free trade agreement with the EU. “Following the election, the Government has a clear and renewed mandate to achieve this. “We want our new relationship to be based on an ambitious free-trade agreement and a close friendship between sovereign equals.”
Boris Johnson will reportedly set up a new negotiating team in Downing Street to spearhead talks about the UK’s future relationship and trading agreement with the EU after Brexit. The team – called “Taskforce Europe” – is expected to be operational by 31 January and coincides with the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) ceasing to exist as a Whitehall department. The new taskforce will be responsible for overseeing the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit, including difficult negotiations about a free trade agreement.
The chancellor Sajid Javid has said farmers can enter the new year with confidence they will be able to “thrive” after Brexit as he confirmed just under £3bn of funding for 2020. The money – to be spread over two years – will be used to support farmers when the UK leaves the European Union and the Common Agricultural Policy direct payments scheme next year. The cash will allow funding for direct payments for 2020 to continue at the same level as this year, and supplement the remaining EU funding that farmers will receive for development projects until 2023. Mr Javid said: “When we leave the EU and are freed from the Common Agricultural Policy, we will be able to support our vital rural communities – who are a cornerstone of life in the UK – with a fairer and less bureaucratic system. “Farmers can enter the new year with confidence that they have our backing and will be able to thrive after Brexit.”
SAJID Javid last night pledged £3billion from the Treasury to help farmers prepare for their future outside of the EU’s agricultural regulations and subsidy regime. The Chancellor said the cash will allow rural businesses and communities to plan for the future, sow their crops and care for their livestock with confidence after the departure from the bloc scheduled at the end of next month. Britain is due to formally leave the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) when the country’s Brexit transition concludes next December, ending direct subsidy payment to UK farms from Brussels. Mr Javid confirmed that the Treasury was stepping in to hand over cash for agricultural development projects instead. It will guarantee payments until 2023. Mr Javid said: “When we leave the EU and are freed from the Common Agricultural Policy, we will be able to support our vital rural communities – who are a cornerstone of life in the UK – with a fairer and less bureaucratic system.
NEW signs at Calais directing lorry drivers crossing between the bloc and the UK into a special lane have suggested the French believe Britain is on course to leave the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules at the end of 2020, it was claimed on Sunday. Nigel Farage’s former adviser Trixy Sanderson who spotted the signs on a cross-Channel trip said: “They’re finally starting to get it”.The signs – marked Sanitary-Phyto Controls – are for lorry drivers arriving from Britain to follow, a fact underlined by a picture of a Union Jack with an arrow pointing to the EU flag. The confusingly-named Sanitary-Phyto Controls are aimed at preventing spread of disease or contamination from country to country.
Tough new emissions controls could see car manufacturers hit with mega-fines next year amid disappointing sales of electric vehicles. Fines relating to the sales of new cars begin on Jan 1 in accordance with EU emissions standards and are set to deliver another blow to the beleaguered sector. In 2020 manufacturers will have to meet controls on CO2 emissions averaging 95g per km on all new cars they sell. According to the EU, this works out at fuel consumption of about 4.1 litres per 100km of petrol and 3.6 litres per 100km of diesel. Missing the target will mean a penalty of €95 (£81) per car for each gram per km by which firms miss the target.
Labour’s next leader must drive out Jeremy Corbyn‘s supporters to end its anti-Semitism crisis, a leading member of the Jewish community has urged. Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, said the ‘problem is not only Corbyn but also Corbynism and Corbynites, and these remain strong in the party’. His warning yesterday came as defeated Labour MPs blamed the party leadership’s ‘repeated unwillingness to stand up to the stain of anti-Semitism’. Rebecca Long Bailey and Sir Keir Starmer, two of the frontrunners to replace Mr Corbyn, condemned anti-Semitism yesterday after graffiti was sprayed in north London.
Labour must pull together and avoid engaging in “self-pity and recriminations” as it deals with the fallout from the disastrous election result, one of the UK’s most prominent union leaders has warned. In her new year message Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, stressed the importance of holding Boris Johnson’s “feet to the fire” on workers’ rights in the coming months. “We will fight to make sure that the UK’s Brexit trade deals protect labour standards and good jobs – and stop Donald Trump getting his hands on our NHS,” she said on Monday.
BORIS Johnson’s election victory is paving the way for a retirement boost for millions with Britain set for a 2020 stock market boom, it was claimed yesterday. Around £3.8billion has been ploughed into stocks funds after the Prime Minister’s landslide win – the biggest influx of cash for more than four years. Experts welcomed the surge in confidence as a huge help for savers and small investors and raised the prospect of “large increases in the value of pension savings across the board in the coming months and years”. Former pensions minister Baroness Altmann said: “This is great news for pensions. The result of the election has been a breath of fresh air for the market, encouraging people to invest in UK stocks. “Most popular schemes are invested, at least in part, in UK stocks and shares.
Tens of thousands of workers have lost up to £10billion of savings in Government-sanctioned pension scams. Army veterans, police officers, firemen, paramedics, care workers and teachers were among those fleeced under an almost decade-long loophole. Most agreed to transfer their nest eggs to the rogue schemes because they were enrolled with HMRC and the Pensions Regulator – making it appear above board. Employers – including the Ministry of Defence, the NHS and the Royal Mail – approved the transfers for the same reason – that the schemes were officially registered. Yet under rules introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 2006, HMRC enrolment could be secured online in minutes – and with virtually no checks.
Mark Carney has claimed the pension fund investments held by millions of people could become “worthless” unless the financial sector reacts quicker to the climate change crisis. Financial firms are starting to curb investment in fossil fuels but are “not moving fast enough,” the Bank of England governor will say in an interview for an edition of the BBC Today programme edited by Greta Thunberg, the teenage environmental campaigner. The Bank of England claims up to £16 trillion of assets could be wiped out if the climate emergency is not addressed effectively including by banks and pension funds over-exposed to “sunset” fossil fuel industries.
TENS of thousands of workers have lost up to £10billion in savings in Government-sanctioned pension scams. Teachers, Army veterans, police, paramedics and firefighters were among those fleeced under a loophole which lasted for nearly a decade. Most transferred their nest-eggs because the schemes were enrolled with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Pensions Regulator, making them seem legitimate. The Ministry of Defence and NHS were among employers that approved the transfers. Yet under rules brought in by the Labour government in 2006, HMRC enrolment could be secured online in minutes and with virtually no checks.
Britain’s first police unit for tackling online hate crime has brought charges against less than one per cent of internet trolls it has probed. Scotland Yard’s ‘online hate crime hub’ has logged 1,851 incidents since its launch in April 2017 – but just 17 cases, or 0.92 per cent, resulted in charges. Only seven have led to prosecutions, Freedom of Information figures show, with three more cases pending a charging decision from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Those prosecuted include trolls found guilty of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic abuse online.
Two leading private schools have rejected scholarships of more than £1 million for poor white boys from a philanthropist for fear of breaching anti-discrimination laws. Dulwich College and Winchester College turned down an offer from Professor Sir Bryan Thwaites, 96, to leave the funds in his will. Sir Bryan, who attended both schools on scholarships, wanted white British boys from disadvantaged homes to benefit because they did worse at school than almost every other ethnic group. Studies have shown that they perform relatively poorly in exams and are less likely than their peers to attend university.
Two leading public schools have turned down gifts worth more than £1million for scholarships for poor white boys. Sir Bryan Thwaites, 96, wanted to leave the money to Winchester School and Dulwich College because he had attended both on scholarships. He planned to help poor, white students because research has shown that they are among the lowest achievers in education. The offer was apparently refused for fear it would break equality laws.
A philanthropist is looking for state schools to accept his offer of scholarships for poor white boys after two leading private institutions said that taking the money would be against their values. Professor Sir Bryan Thwaites said he was “surveying the field” of first-class state academies that would be “only too glad to accept money” on his terms. He had approached Winchester and Dulwich colleges, which dismissed his offer. The schools are among the most expensive in England, charging maximum fees of about £40,000 a year. Both are trying to broaden their intake by offering financial support to those unable to afford the fees. Dulwich has an ambition for half its pupils to be on scholarships or bursaries.
An advocate of the HS2 railway has said that it risked becoming a bottomless pit for taxpayers’ money and that the team in charge of it should be replaced. Roderick Smith, a former chief scientific adviser at the Department for Transport, called on the prime minister to overhaul the planned multibillion-pound 250mph line. Boris Johnson is expected to announce within weeks whether the project for a Y-shaped network connecting London, Birmingham and the north of England will go ahead or be scrapped or scaled back. He is examining a review of the line, the biggest infrastructure project in Europe, which would cut journey times and increase capacity on the rail network but which has faced heavy criticism over spiralling costs.
The HS2 project risks becoming a ‘bottomless pit’ for taxpayers’ money and the bosses running it should be sacked, according to a key architect of the scheme. Professor Roderick Smith, a former Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Transport (DfT), urged Boris Johnson to dramatically overhaul the project. The Prime Minister is currently examining an official review into HS2 and will announce within weeks if it will be given the go-ahead or axed. The proposed 250mph railway line linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds has been beset by spiralling costs and controversy.
NHS officials are working as private consultants and charging frail pensioners’ relatives for help securing funding from the state, a Telegraph investigation has found. The senior managers, who are paid by the health service to oversee applications for the funding, are charging the vulnerable up to £400 a day for help trying to obtain such grants. One health official said that after using her private services a family had been awarded an NHS grant worth “thousands and thousands and thousands, like two years’ worth of nursing home fees”. Another was running the risk of an apparent conflict of interest, offering to secure funding for services in the area where he worked.