A BREXIT no deal is edging closer with just seven days to go before the EU’s new negotiation deadline. A no deal seems increasingly likely with the EU failing to budge over the UK’s fishing ultimatum as torturous talks come down to the wire. Talks between the UK and EU have been taking place in London this week, but they are not expected to bear fruit despite progress needing to be made if a new deal is to be in place when the current arrangements expire. The Brussels bloc wanted a deal in place by the EU Summit on November 19 in order for it to be ratified by the time the transition arrangements expire at the end of the year and the UK leaves the customs union and single market. But stumbling blocks remain over issues including “level playing field” measures aimed at preventing unfair competition on issues including state subsidies, the ongoing row over fishing rights and how any UK-EU deal will be governed.
Yet another Brexit deadline has been floated, this time by European negotiators who have called November 19th the absolute deadline for a draft Brexit deal. Michel Barnier and his team of negotiators returned to London this week for yet another round of Brexit talks, parts of the final approach to Britain finally decoupling from the European Union. Although the UK officially departed the bloc in January 2020, it has remained a non-voting member of the Union in all but name since as part of the so-called transition period which expires at the end of the year. While several Brexit deadlines have come and gone — the idea becoming less and less meaningful with many involved increasingly assuming that talks will run to the very moment Britain leaves the transition period, and probably beyond — the EU has named another.
Brexit talks could “fall apart”, Ireland’s foreign minister warned on Wednesday, as UK and EU trade negotiators’ battle over the “level playing field” goes to the wire. Speaking in Dublin, Simon Coveney said the “level playing field” deadlock could cause a no deal exit on January 1 and was forcing a mid-November deal deadline to slip. The UK and EU are struggling to reconcile their competing visions for the future trading relationship in intensified trade talks. Both sides now have until Thursday next week to strike the free trade deal before a video summit of EU leaders on November 19, at which they could give their blessing to the deal. Failure to hit that deadline will heap pressure on the European Parliament’s ratification schedule for the putative agreement.
There will be no breakthrough in Brexit negotiations this week, senior government figures have admitted, as the talks go down to the wire. European leaders are due to meet remotely next Thursday, a date seen by some in Brussels as a deadline to resolve areas of dispute including fishing, how to ensure fair competition rules including state aid and mechanisms for resolving future disputes. Yesterday Downing Street declined to set a deadline for the talks, saying previous deadlines had been raised by the EU and not the government. However, it said any deal would have to be reached in time to be ratified by both the UK and European parliaments before the end of the transition period.
BREXIT negotiators will not agree to a deal this week, government officials have said, as the deadline fast approaches. Leaders are due to meet remotely next Thursday to iron out the remaining stumbling blocks. These include disagreements over workers’ rights and environmental protection, as well as state aid rules. The latter point – referred to as ‘level playing field’ regulations – has remained an area of dispute for months. A UK government source has told The Times: “We have a different view from the EU on what is appropriate on level playing field issues. “What we can’t agree to are arrangements which would require us to operate systems of laws equivalent to the EU’s and make us pay a penalty if we moved away from them.”
EU CHIEFS have found themselves at the centre of an internal fishing dispute amid the ongoing battle to gain access to UK waters beyond Brexit. The European Commission has suffered a major backlash from EU fishermen over proposals to slash fishing levels in the Western Mediterranean. The Spanish Fisheries Confederation (Cepesca) and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Guilds (FNCP) have condemned plans by the bloc to reduce trawling numbers in the region in 2021. The EU proposal would result in a 15 percent reduction in the fishing days already allocated to Spain, France and Italy. Spanish, French and Italian groups have issued a warning over the financial impactions on the industry in a letter to Virginijus Sinkevicius, the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.
EMMANUEL MACRON has been warned of the potential consequences of MEPs voting to block the disbursement of EU funds to countries that do not respect the rule of law. Charles-Henri Gallois, the President of Generation Frexit, labelled the European Union as a totally useless institution. He added that France would benefit if the EU’s recovery plan failed and that there should be a referendum on the €40 million expenditure linked to the plan. Mr Gallois said: “I have the impression that MEPs want to show that they are useful when everyone knows that the European Parliament is a totally useless institution. “As you said, this is only an announcement because it has to be validated by the national parliaments and the national governments.
The deportation of 28 migrants was blocked after their lawyers lodged 11th-hour human rights claims, it emerged yesterday. The migrants were supposed to join eight others who were forced to leave on a chartered flight on Tuesday morning. Of the 28, 18 lodged first-time human rights claims, seven said they were victims of modern slavery and lawyers for the remaining three launched judicial reviews of their deportations. It comes after the forced departure of 37 migrants was blocked by lawyers last week. The number of refugees and migrants arriving on boats across the Channel this year has surged past 8,000 after more than 550 arrived since last Thursday.
Detaining refugees offshore does not work, MPs were told yesterday by Australian legal experts as the number of migrants crossing the Channel this year passed 8,000. Madeline Gleeson, an Australian academic and lawyer, told the home affairs committee that Australian detention centres on the islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea had filled up within three months of the policy being introduced. She added that this was expensive, costing about £550 million a year for Australia to detain 300 people offshore. “It did not work in Australia. It was introduced with the goal of trying to deter people from seeking asylum from Australia by boat.
A rebel group of Tory MPs determined to oppose any extension to Covid lockdown restrictions has swelled to 70, with dozens more considering joining. The backbench Tory MPs have formed The Covid Recovery Group to oppose a third national lockdown after the current one ends in December. The anti-lockdown alliance, which will have Mark Harper, a former government chief whip, as chairman and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker as deputy last night grew to 70 Conservative MPs – having originally started with 50. Another 25 Tory politicians are said to be considering signing up to the group, which already has its own Whatsapp chat. They plan to oppose any return to a national shutdown of the economy, which they claim does more damage to people’s lives than the virus itself.
BORIS JOHNSON has been told to end the current national lockdown and replace it with plans for a proposed four-tier system as Britons become increasingly frustrated at being under “house arrest” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The current four-week national lockdown is set to end on December 2 as the government desperately tries to curb a rapidly growing second wave of COVID-19 infections. Prior to the beginning of the introduction of these tough new restrictions last Thursday, the Government had been pursuing a three-tier system across England – a move that sparked fury in Westminster and throughout the country. Ministers are now drawing up plans to introduce a new four-tier system that would see England split into four regions: North-East, North-West, South-West and South-East, reports suggest.
When the Government first plunged Britain into lockdown, it assured us that protecting the elderly was its priority and it would do ‘everything possible’ to keep them safe. And rightly so. But as someone who spent the past months working in care homes, looking after people with dementia, those words now couldn’t ring more hollow. For I’ve come to the conclusion that far from protecting the vulnerable, this country’s increasingly strict restrictions could actually be harming them. And with it now looking increasingly possible that care homes could remain locked down beyond Christmas, I fear that 2020 could forever be remembered as the year Britain’s elderly were hung out to dry. Of course, from the outset of this pandemic, it was clear to us on the front line that, despite all the promises, the most vulnerable members of society were going to be left to fend for themselves.
Just 71 ‘Covid-secure’ care homes in England have been approved so far by inspectors leading to backlogs of elderly coronavirus patients in NHS hospitals waiting to be discharged into them. The Government told local authorities last month to identify at least one “designated setting” – typically a care home – which hospitals could discharge Covid-positive patients to when they no longer need to stay for treatment. The setting, which must first be inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and meet the latest infection prevention control standards, would also take discharged patients who had not received a negative Covid test. However, less than half the 151 upper tier councils met the October 31 deadline with many citing high mortality rates and huge insurance costs – one NHS source told i that it would cost £90,000 to insure a 5-bed unit within a Covid-secure home – as reasons for not putting forward homes for consideration.
A mother whose disabled son died following a “vortex” of decline when visits to his care facility were stopped has demanded greater access for other families to prevent similar deaths during the pandemic. Melanie Macfarlane, whose son Jamie died on 30 October, said she believed he would probably be alive if she had been allowed face-to-face visits during the spring lockdown when his mental and physical health began to rapidly deteriorate. The 21-year-old had Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare disorder that causes learning disabilities and a deterioration of physical and mental skills. He had a shortened life expectancy, but being prevented from seeing his loved ones triggered a catastrophic premature decline, Macfarlane said. He had an attachment disorder that focused on his mother, who did not see him for more than three months while he was in lockdown at St Elizabeth’s, a residential learning centre in Hertfordshire.
More than 5,000 dementia patients died needlessly during lockdown – most of them in care homes, official figures show. Between March 7 and May 1, when blanket visiting bans were in place, the toll was 52 per cent higher than normal. Over the past five years an average of 10,345 Britons died from dementia in the same eight-week period, according to the Office for National Statistics. But this year the figure hit 15,749 – meaning there were 5,404 excess and potentially avoidable deaths. The fatalities were not related to Covid – and another 13,840 dementia sufferers died from the virus from March to June. Up to 80 per cent of these 5,000 excess dementia deaths were in care homes.
Antibody tests ordered by the Government may wrongly reveal that one in five people have had coronavirus when they did not, a new study suggests. Last month, Lord Bethell, the health minister, announced that the Government had ordered one million at-home finger-prick tests which can spot a previous disease in just 20 minutes. Speaking at the time, he said “home testing is a powerful tool in understanding the disease and fighting its spread”, with the tests to be used to “support nationwide surveillance studies”. However, a new study commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), conducted by scientists from Public Health England (PHE) and the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Warwick, found that the test accuracy is likely to be lower than hoped.
A rapid Covid test which costs just £5 could finally allow Britons back into concerts and sports events. The Government is reportedly set to buy 200million of the tests which give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ result in 15 minutes. A negative result would allow millions of people the freedom to socialise and experts say this could be key to moving away from strict coronavirus restrictions. People who test negative could also receive a ‘day pass’ to go to the theatre, cinema or a sports event. Scientists have found the test can detect around three in four positive cases of Covid. This accuracy goes up to 95 per cent when dealing with people who have a high viral load – which makes people most infectious.
Quick-turnaround Covid-19 tests being trialled in Liverpool have been found to avoid false positive results, according to a scientific evaluation which suggests they may be able to be rolled out more widely. The lateral flow tests generate results within half an hour and do not need to be processed in a laboratory, meaning they could potentially be used at home as part of the £43bn “moonshot” programme designed to help the UK return to normality. A test manufactured by healthcare firm Innova, currently being used in Liverpool as part of efforts to test the city’s entire population, has been studied by researchers from Public Health England and the University of Oxford. They found that its “specificity” is 99.7 per cent, meaning that if you get a positive result there is only a 0.3 per cent chance that you are not in fact infected with coronavirus.
NEW £5 Covid tests could mean crowds returning to footie matches and live gigs by early next year. The pregnancy-style tests which produce results in minutes would allow millions of Brits with a negative result to socialise. Trials show they picked up more than three in four positive cases — the majority of which are currently being missed. And accuracy reached 95 per cent in the most infectious individuals. Experts also reckon widespread use of the DIY tests could slash Covid transmission by 90 per cent. Government scientists say the findings pave the way for daily “freedom passes”. Those testing negative in the morning would be allowed to safely return to football matches, concerts, cinemas and busy pubs.
Middle-class savers and entrepreneurs face being hammered by a multi-billion-pound tax raid under plans being considered by the Chancellor to repair the public finances. The Treasury’s independent tax watchdog has recommended a major overhaul of the capital gains tax (CGT) regime on the sale of assets, which could triple the number of people hit by the duty. In a report published on Wednesday, the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) recommended increasing CGT rates by aligning them more closely with income tax bands, as well as cutting annual tax-free allowances. The controversial recommendations will be examined by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who is under pressure to repair the battered public finances. Tonight experts warned investors and entrepreneurs to be on ‘high alert for a tax raid’ on their finances.
British television news channels should no longer be required to meet strict impartiality standards, according to one of the government’s own broadcasting advisers. Lord Grade, the former BBC chairman who was this week appointed to a panel advising ministers on the future of public service broadcasting, said it was an “anomaly” that the UK still required news broadcasters to meet impartiality rules given the variety of opinion in other parts of the media. “I don’t see why the Daily Mail shouldn’t have its own news channel with its point of view, or the Financial Times, or the Mirror, or the Sun, or anyone with a point of view,” he said. “It seems like an anomaly to me: do we still need licensed news providers? It’s a bit odd. That seems like a relic of a bygone patrician age.”
The Metropolitan Police was criticised on Wednesday for allowing Extinction Rebellion members to “hijack” the Cenotaph in what the Prime Minister described as a “profoundly disrespectful” Armistice Day protest. Donald Bell, a 64-year-old Army veteran, and an unidentified protester dressed as a nurse gathered at the Cenotaph at 8am to unfurl a banner declaring “climate change means war” and a poppy wreath bearing the slogan “Act Now”. The banner and wreath were allowed to remain on the memorial for 20 minutes before being removed by Met Police officers. A spokesman for the Prime Minister called the protest “profoundly disrespectful” while Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Defence Select Committee, said the incident ran the risk of “copycat” attempts to hijack war memorials for other political demonstrations.
The eco-warriors behind a ‘shameful’ Extinction Rebellion protest at the Cenotaph this morning have been unmasked as a former private in the British Army and a Buddhist NHS nurse. Widower Donald Bell, 64, and mother-of-two Anne White, 53, were blasted by furious veterans, MPs and the families of fallen soldiers for the climate change stunt that went unchallenged by police. The demonstrators, who were joined by two others, trampled over wreaths and unveiled a banner reading ‘Honour Their Sacrifice, Climate Change Means War’ on the 100th anniversary of the memorial in central London. Mr Bell led the protest at 8am and held a two-minute silence before hanging his own wreath above ones laid by senior military figures, Royals and politicians at the weekend. But it took the Metropolitan Police at least half an hour to take his down, despite one of their cars being parked within sight of the monument. This was in stark contrast to Sunday when officers pushed Scots Guard veteran bagpiper Ben Buckland to the ground when he marched at the police barricade guarding the memorial.