Brexit

Express
Ministers have a “golden opportunity” to take back control of billions of pounds of investment in the UK economy when Brexit is completed, the Business Secretary says today. Alok Sharma promises that the Government is ready to “take back the purse strings” from Brussels on the country’s departure from EU rules and regulations at the end of the year. He also confirms that Britain will be free of EU rules on subsidies for industry once the post-Brext transition is over. Instead of Brussels law, the UK Government will adopt state aid rules set by the World Trade Organisation. “From next year, the people you elect will be holding the purse strings once more – and can invest our cash in businesses and communities in every corner of the UK,” Mr Sharma says in an exclusive article for the Daily Express.

Guardian
The government has unveiled plans to give ministers sweeping powers to “disapply” part of the Brexit deal that Boris Johnson signed in January, in a move that has shocked Brussels, threatens to provoke a rebellion by Conservative MPs and caused Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, to warn there will be “absolutely no chance” of a US-UK trade deal if it presses ahead with the move. The plans have prompted such concerns that the European commission vice president Maroš Šefcovic will travel to London on Thursday for an “extraordinary” meeting with cabinet minister Michael Gove of the joint committee set up to implement the withdrawal agreement.

iNews
The Government’s threat to break international law to amend the Withdrawal Agreement – albeit in a “specific and limited way”, as if that makes any difference – has caused uproar. Theresa May and a succession of other prominent Conservatives have joined opposition MPs, lawyers and senior figures in the European Union to condemn the moves. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has even lost Sir Jonathan Jones, the Government’s most senior lawyer, over the proposal in the Internal Markets Bill. Mr Johnson is facing multiple warnings that his manoeuvrings threaten to undermine Britain’s standing on the world stage and the pressure on nations such as Russia, China and Iran to respect the rule of law as set down in international treaties.

Independent
Boris Johnson has been warned he risks “huge damage” to Britain’s national interests and its standing on the world stage as Brussels reacted with alarm to his threats to walk out of EU trade talks and tear up key parts of his Brexit withdrawal agreement. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned that implementation in full of the agreement which Mr Johnson signed up to last year was a legal obligation and a condition for any future trade deal with the EU, while anti-Brexit parties in Northern Ireland issued a joint statement warning that departing from the deal would undermine the peace process.

EU

Express
BRUSSELS is planning to punish Britain unless Boris Johnson withdraws plans to break international law to ensure a smooth split from the bloc. European diplomats and officials are drawing up a list of potential sanctions to slap on the country unless the House of Commons blocks the Internal Market Bill. With trade talks on the brink of collapse, British officials are confident they can win round Michel Barnier for their plans to create a “safety net” for a no deal Brexit. Lord Frost made clear to his EU counterpart the Government is fully committed to the Northern Ireland protocol it agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement with the bloc.

BBC News
The UK and EU are to hold emergency talks later as tensions rise over Boris Johnson’s move to override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove will meet EU official Maros Sefcovic in London to discuss how the development could affect the island of Ireland. The EU says it wants “clarifications” on the implementation of the agreement. Meanwhile, trade talks between the UK’s Brexit negotiator Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier continue.

Telegraph
The European Union is considering legal action against the UK after Boris Johnson pressed ahead with plans to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.  The bloc believes it may be able to mount a challenge before the Government manages to pass legislation which changes part of the deal struck last year relating to Northern Ireland, which ministers admit does breach international law in a “very specific and limited way.” According to Bloomberg, a draft working paper prepared by Brussels and circulated to member states warns that the UK Internal Market Bill represents a “clear breach” of the agreement which would “open the way to legal remedies”.

Express
EUROPEAN Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic will meet Michael Gove for emergency Brexit talks in London today. The emergency trip was scheduled after it emerged the UK has proposed legislation to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement. A spokesman for the commission said: “The EU seeks clarifications from the UK on the full and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the move to amend the Withdrawal Agreement signed last year would “break international law and undermine trust” between the two sides.

Times
Boris Johnson was accused by Brussels last night of deliberately sabotaging trade negotiations and moving Britain towards a no-deal Brexit. Senior European figures complained of an “unprecedented breach of trust” over legislation published yesterday to allow the government to renege on key aspects of the deal Mr Johnson struck with the European Union last year. At the same time ministers announced they would revert to World Trade Organisation state aid rules at the end of the year, confirming the government’s hard line on the most important sticking point in the talks.

Covid Christmas

Telegraph
Family Christmases are under threat, Boris Johnson conceded on Wednesday, as his chief medic suggested tough new lockdown measures could last until the spring. The Prime Minister said it was “too early to say” whether it would be possible to have large family gatherings over the festive period, after imposing a blanket ban on social meetings of more than six people. Mr Johnson admitted he was “not comfortable” bringing in rules that could separate families for months to come, and said it “breaks my heart” to do so. He added: “I am sorry and I wish that we did not have to take this step.

Times
Britain faces a Christmas without large family gatherings after Boris Johnson announced tough new coronavirus measures that make it illegal to socialise in groups of more than six. Normal life is unlikely to resume before the spring, the prime minister suggested, as he pinned hopes for an end to restrictions on a “moonshot” mass-testing programme. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, prepared people for up to six months of tougher rules as the weather turned cold, warning: “The period between now and spring is going to be difficult.”

Sun
BORIS Johnson all but cancelled a normal Christmas with sweeping new curbs on social gatherings. The PM said it was necessary to halt corona­virus’s alarming spread — after Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty revealed infections were soaring among the young. He warned that people flouting the clampdown — including bans on social gatherings of more than six — could even be arrested. In his first press conference since July, the PM announced moves to ramp up enforcement of the tough rules to make sure everyone is following them – or they risk being slapped with fines of at least £100.

Independent
Boris Johnson has claimed life can still be “back to normal by Christmas” in some ways, even as he confirmed a new crackdown on socialising amid rising infections. “We are aiming for that, we are driving for that,” the prime minister told a press conference – referring to hopes of a return to theatres, for example. The comment risked further confusion as – just minutes earlier – Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, had warned the “difficult period” would last until the spring. Mr Johnson also floated the idea of rapid and widespread tests, to enable people to enter venues, while admitting to problems of “technology”, “resources” and “logistical challenges”.

Covid marshals

Sun
A “DAD’S ARMY” of busybodies will be hired to ensure the public obey new coronavirus rules announced by Boris Johnson. Covid Secure Marshals will patrol town and city centres in England telling people to observe social distancing and stick to groups of no more than six. The mix of recently retired environmental health officers and newly qualified ones will also crack down on pubs and restaurants breaking test and trace rules. The Government will support local councils to hire the “army”, who will be on the streets in weeks.

Mail
An army of marshals will be sent to towns and cities across the country to enforce new virus laws, the Prime Minister announced. They will break up groups of more than six in town centres and alert police if fines need to be handed out. Recently retired environmental health officers will also be drafted in to enforce legislation at pubs and restaurants. They will help enforce social-distancing rules and ensure contact details of all customers are collected for the test and trace system. The marshals will patrol parks, shopping centres, train stations and other areas where groups of people are likely to gather in larger numbers, Boris Johnson said at Wednesday’s press conference.

Testing ‘moonshot’

Mirror
Boris Johnson’s own scientists tore the Prime Minister’s ‘moonshot’ Covid-19 testing plan to shreds live on television. Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister said mass testing would be piloted in Salford next month, and could eventually allow a return to a ‘normal life.’ But minutes after he announced the plans, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the technology was not yet available, warning he should not put a date on when it would be because “that’s not how science works”.

ITV News
Ambitious mass testing plans that could keep hopes of Christmas parties alive would cost as much as £100 billion, according to reports. Leaked documents seen by the BMJ suggest that the “Operation Moonshot” project – which would see millions of UK-wide tests carried out daily – could have a price tag close to that of the £114 billion budget given to NHS England in 2018/19. Boris Johnson believes the scheme could help sport and entertainment venues reopen fully and allow people to socially mix in large groups again with on-the-day tests.

Sky News
Leaked documents reportedly show the government plans to carry out up to 10 million coronavirus tests a day by early next year, but critics say the proposals represent “waste/corruption on a cosmic scale”. The mass testing programme would cost £100bn – almost as much as the government spends on the NHS each year (£130bn) – according to a briefing memo seen by medical journal The BMJ. A separate document revealed there were plans to grow the UK’s testing capacity from the current 350,000 a day to up to 10 million a day by early 2021.

Independent
The government’s top scientific adviser has poured cold water on ministers’ ambitions to develop mass coronavirus testing programme to reach up to 4 million people within months. Launched by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, last month, the programme – codenamed Operation Moon Shot – was talked up again by Boris Johnson today in his first Downing Street press conference since July. But chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said it would be “completely wrong” to assume that the rapid turn-around tests touted by the prime minister as a panacea for resolving the Covid crisis would even work.

Guardian
Boris Johnson believes a mass testing programme is “our only hope for avoiding a second national lockdown before a vaccine”, according to leaked official documents setting out plans for “Operation Moonshot”. The prime minister is said to be pinning his hopes on a project that would deliver up to 10m tests a day – even though the current testing regime is struggling to deliver a fraction of that number and is beset by problems. The documents say the “Mass Population Testing Plan” could cost £100bn – the equivalent to the UK’s entire education budget.

Mail
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye is urging the Government to fast track a Covid-19 test which gives results in 20 seconds. It comes after the Prime Minister announced plans for mass testing under so-called Operation Moonshot, in which millions of people could be tested every day so they could ‘behave in a way that was exactly as in the world before Covid’. The new Virolens test, which is said to provide results in 20 seconds, launched on Wednesday following a three-week trial at Heathrow Airport.

Times
Boris Johnson has set out plans for everyone in England to take a daily coronavirus test to give people a “passport to mingle” if it proved negative. Even as he urged healthy people not to get tested because they were causing a shortage of tests for the sick, he presented a “moonshot” vision of daily checks allowing normal life to resume. He said that, in the absence of a vaccine, the government was pinning its hopes on a switch in testing strategy designed to reassure people that they were negative, rather than finding out if they were positive.

Mail
Boris Johnson’s ‘moonshot’ mass testing regime to try and get life back to normal will cost £100 billion, a leaked memo says.  The radical government plans could see up to 10 million coronavirus tests carried out every day by early next year in a drastic expansion of the existing programme. It comes after the Prime Minister yesterday effectively put Christmas celebrations on hold, as he warned that draconian new restrictions on gatherings of more than six people could be here for months – while chief medical officer Chris Whitty pointed the finger at ‘Generation Z’ for sparking a surge in cases.

‘Rule of six’

Guardian
Tough new rules that restrict gatherings to just six people could be in place until the spring to stop a winter surge of the virus, the government’s chief medical officer has warned. Prof Chris Whitty said the period “between now and spring is going to be difficult” and said the public should expect the new measures to be in place for a number of months. “Everybody I think in the country will know, and it has been widely reported that the period over autumn and winter, which is the period when all respiratory viruses have an advantage because people crowd together, more things are done indoors amongst other reasons, it is going to be difficult,” he said.

Mirror
Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday as the Government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases. The tough new rules see the size of groups people can meet in slashed from 30 – with fines of up to £3200 for those who break the rules. The announcement came just hours after Health Secretary Matt Hancock denied the Government has “lost control” of the coronavirus pandemic, despite new cases more than doubling. For a second day running, almost 3,000 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded yesterday.

Vaccine

Telegraph
The revelation that AstraZeneca and Oxford University have suspended their phase three vaccine trials after a British female participant fell ill with a rare neurological condition is bad news but may yet prove to be no more than a bump in the road. The pause will delay the progress of the vaccine making the possibility of it receiving an emergency licence this year much less likely. But experts expect the trials, which are being run in the UK, Brazil and the US, will almost certainly be allowed to continue to allow further data to be gathered and assessed. The scientific community has been out in force to stress the positives.

Mirror
A leading coronavirus vaccine developer has been forced to hold a late-stage trial after a UK volunteer candidate suffered a suspected serious adverse reaction. AstraZeneca Plc – which is working alongside the University of Oxford – has confirmed it had had to pause development of the vaccine “to allow review of safety data”. It is unclear whether the vaccine front runner made the decision itself or was ordered by a regulatory agency, reports Stat News.

Times
Trials of Oxford University’s potential coronavirus vaccine could resume within days after being paused for an urgent investigation into possible adverse side-effects. It is understood that Astrazeneca, the British drugmaker working with Oxford, halted new enrolment on trials after a British volunteer showed symptoms of transverse myelitis (TM), a rare inflammatory condition that affects the spinal cord. Stat, the health industry website which first reported the hiatus, said that a woman was suspected to have TM but the diagnosis was not confirmed, and she was on course to be discharged from hospital as early as last night.

TV licence

Times
The licence fee is “morally on the way out” and the BBC should be required to make much of its money through optional subscriptions, the chairman of the culture select committee said. Julian Knight, the Conservative MP, said the corporation’s sprawling size had done lasting damage to the media industry, arguing that commercial publishers could not compete with the “behemoth” BBC website.  Mr Knight suggested that a reduced form of public funding would continue to be required to sustain a “basic BBC”, including its flagship TV and radio stations.

Global warming

Telegraph
A team of British and American scientists have for the first time mapped the area around Antarctica’s ‘doomsday glacier’ in a bid to understand why it is melting so rapidly.  Thwaites glacier, which is roughly the size of Great Britain, accounts for 4 per cent of world sea level rise each year, and is melting at an accelerating rate. Scientists have now mapped the channels surrounding the glacier which they believe are providing access for warm water that is causing it to melt.

Times
A network of deep-sea passages funnelling warm water could be causing the accelerated melting of one of Antarctica’s mightiest bodies of ice. The Thwaites Glacier is shedding billions of tonnes of ice each year and is estimated to account for about 4 per cent of the global rise in sea levels. A team of British and American researchers have now identified deep seafloor channels where the glacier, which is about the size of Britain, meets the Amundsen Sea.

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