The European Parliament has threatened to block any Brexit trade deal that doesn’t tie Britain into respecting EU standards, as Brussels warned it would not compromise its “fundamental values” for an agreement. The warning by the EU’s legislature throws up a fresh barrier in stalling Brexit trade talks, reducing EU negotiators’ room for compromise as the clock ticks down to the end of the year. Member states are also putting pressure on the European Commission’s officials to be as tough with Britain as possible.
The German government is urging other EU states to prepare for a no deal Brexit, according an internal document that casts doubt on Britain’s optimism over chances of an early agreement on its future ties with the bloc. Britain left the European Union on Jan. 31 and their relationship is governed by a transition arrangement that keeps previous rules in place while new terms are negotiated.
The European Union will be “creative” to reach a trade deal with the UK but will not allow a “downward competition” in standards, Ursula von der Leyen has said. The European Commission chief told MEPs that the UK and EU should “advance together” towards higher standards. The UK is resisting the so-called “level playing field” demands because of concerns it could leave Britain tied to rules set by Brussels on issues including workers’ rights, environmental protections and state subsidies.
Ursula von der Leyen has highlighted the UK’s rejection of an all-encompassing punishment mechanism to keep it true to any Brexit deal with the EU as the emerging threat to an agreement, as a leaked document revealed Germany wants to draw up plans for “no deal 2.0”. Despite the most recent mood music around the negotiations being positive, the European commission president sought to draw attention to one of the less well-known areas where the two sides are at loggerheads. “Governance may sound like an issue for bureaucrats,” Von der Leyen told the European parliament. “It’s not. It is central for our businesses and our private citizens both in the UK and in the European Union.
GERMANY is expecting crunch talks on a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and European Union to enter a “hot phase” in September, despite Britain wanting an agreement rubber-stamped long before then. On Monday, the European Union finally accepted the UK will leave the bloc at the end of the transition period on December 31, 2020 following talks with Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister met European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament President David Sassoli by video conference to assess the progress made on a post-Brexit trade agreement. A statement from the European Commission confirmed both sides had noted the UK’s decision not to request an extension to the transition period beyond the end of this year.
The European Union has accepted that Britain will take back control of its waters after the end of the Brexit transition period, the president of the European Commission said on Wednesday. Ursula von der Leyen said that all Brussels wanted was a long-term agreement over fishing rights that gave guarantees to EU boats that had fished UK waters for years. The latest hint at an EU willingness to compromise over its demand for a status quo fishing deal “under existing conditions” still ruled out the annual negotiations over fishing opportunities demanded by the UK.
A POLISH MEP has urged the EU to prepare for a no deal Brexit, as he claims a “very hard Brexit” is now “inevitable”. Radoslaw Sikorski, who went to Oxford University at the same time as Boris Johnson, made the comments while speaking at a plenary in the European Parliament this afternoon. He urged the bloc to rethink its strategy during the current UK trade talks, and said EU negotiators need to “stop demanding the impossible”.
Britain will try to join countries such as Japan and Canada in a transpacific free-trade bloc after Brexit, ministers have said. As hopes of an early US trade deal fade, Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, said that the UK would seek membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which links the economies of Asia and the Pacific with Canada and South America. The combined economies of the 11 members of the partnership are worth more than £10 trillion and it is the third largest free-trade area in the world by GDP, after the North American Free Trade Agreement and the European single market. Signatories include Australia, Mexico and Vietnam.
THE UK and Australia are aiming to strike a free trade deal in “record” time – sending a message to Brussels after post-Brexit talks once again ground to a halt earlier this month. Australia’s trade minister Simon Birmingham said he hoped negotiations could be completed by the end of 2020. Talks between Mr Birmingham and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will be launched via video link today. Australia’s trade minister told the Financial Times: “I do hope that if we can, we could get something settled before the end of the year.
In a barrage of trade announcements today, the UK has launched FTA negotiations with both Australia and New Zealand. Aussie PM Scot Morrison today said that a deal could be signed and delivered by the end of the year. On top of this, Truss has announced a substantial update to the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership – a free trade area of 11 countries including Canada, Mexico, Chile, Australia, and Japan. DIT has had a lot on its hands… Since July 2018, the UK has now “engaged with all 11 member countries at both ministerial and official level to explore UK accession to CPTPP” with all CPTPP members having “welcomed the UK’s interest in accession.”
The UK has launched post-Brexit trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, with the Australian high commissioner saying that a deal is “top priority” for Canberra, which he expects could be signed “fairly soon”. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced the opening of talks on Wednesday. The UK traded £21 billion worth of goods and services to the two Commonwealth countries last year, and free trade agreements could see the value of exports increased by £1 billion. “Drinks companies, the automotive industry and professional services firms are among those expected to benefit from removing barriers to trade with Australia and New Zealand,” the Department for International Trade said.
More than 1,600 paediatricians have called on Boris Johnson to reopen schools or risk “scarring the life chances” of a generation of children. In an open letter to the prime minister they said that vulnerable children were suffering while schools remained shut during the lockdown. The letter, signed by members of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, asks the government to publish a clear plan for getting all children back to school as a first step in a national recovery programme for young people. Most children have been out of school for more than 12 weeks, a break that the letter describes as “without precedent” and which puts the opportunities of a generation of young people in jeopardy.
Millions of children will be asked to work a longer school day next term under plans to help them catch up on their education. Ministers are finalising plans to help those who have missed out since the closure of schools in March. It comes after 1,500 paediatricians signed an open letter warning the government it needed to get pupils back to school or ‘risk scarring the life chances of a generation of young people,’ according to The Daily Telegraph. The plan, which is set to be published tomorrow, is expected to include funding for ‘bolt-on’ sessions at either end of the school day to help those who have fallen behind.
England’s schools won’t be able to fully reopen in September under current distancing rules, unions warned today. Teachers’ leaders demanded public buildings are taken over for extra classroom space – saying there just isn’t room to bring back whole schools of 15-strong mini-classes. And they warned children may still need to rely on “blended learning” – a mix of homeschooling and attending in person – beyond September. Unions clashed with Tory MPs as they demanded a clear plan from the government – insisting they were simply trying to follow scientific advice. Boris Johnson wants all England’s children back in school from September after six months of coronavirus disruption.
Teachers’ union leaders have scared parents by portraying schools as “death traps”, MPs said yesterday as they questioned why children could go to Primark but not lessons. The heads of the main unions appeared before the Commons education committee where Jonathan Gullis, a Tory MP and former teacher, said the unions were “utterly disgraceful”. Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said that schools would not be able to fully reopen in September if its key tests were met. Instead she supported “education” reopening, using public buildings outside school and bringing back retired teachers.
Teaching unions have been accused of allowing parents to think schools were “death traps” as they warned pupils may be unable to return even in September. Leaders of the major teaching unions held a combative session with MPs, in which they argued the government’s social distancing guidelines would not allow a full return. Primary schools have been permitted to partially reopen for three year groups since the start of this month.
The government is set to announce a year-long national tutoring programme aimed at helping pupils in England to catch up on lost learning as a result of school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Guardian has learned. Under the plans, schools will be funded to hire private tutors from approved agencies to deliver one-to-one and small group lessons to pupils who have fallen behind with their studies after months out of school. Many have not accessed any remote learning throughout lockdown. The multi-million-pound programme, to be funded by government, is expected to involve thousands of tutors and will be delivered in schools, with a mixture of online and face-to-face sessions, designed to support and complement pupils’ regular school work.
Universities should not control admissions because they are biased towards their own interests, a think tank has said. Applicants have to confirm their preferences for autumn today. They may have more chance of getting into a leading university this year as many students choose to defer their places. There will also be fewer foreign students. However, EDSK, a think tank, is calling for an overhaul of the system, with the scrapping of personal statements and predicted grades, which it said were biased against disadvantaged students.
A team of scientists conducting a genetic analysis of coronavirus patients found that having a certain blood type may impact the risk you have of developing the illness, according to a study on Wednesday. The study, which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared the genes of thousands of European patients and found those with Type A blood were more likely to come down with severe illness. Those with Type O blood were less likely. The research comes after a similar study out of China published in March found that those with Type O blood may be more resistant to SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — while those with Type A blood might be more at risk.
Eurostar passengers will be able to check in and board without showing passports after the introduction of facial recognition technology. Contactless boarding will be introduced by the cross-Channel train operator next year and will mark the first time that the particular biometric technology involved has been used. The government-backed system will scan a passenger’s face on arrival at St Pancras, the company’s London terminus, and match it to an image already uploaded from a smartphone. It will allow them to pass through ticket checks and passport control without producing physical documentation.
Britons could yet take foreign holidays this summer as ministers draw up a list of countries who could be exempt from tough quarantine laws, Matt Hancock confirmed today. While the 14-day self-isolation for arrivals from countries where coronavirus is ‘out of control’ like Brazil, countries with far lower numbers of cases could be exempted, the Health Secretary said this morning. He refused to divulge which countries could be included but confirmed he and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps are a working on a list of these countries and it will be published before the quarantine is reviewed on June 29.
A third of hospital trusts have recorded no Covid-19 deaths for a week, according to analysts from the University of Oxford, adding weight to predictions that there will be zero excess deaths by the end of the month. Figures from the Office for National Statistics published yesterday showed that in London the number of deaths from any cause had dropped below the five-year average in the first week of June. Research by Carl Heneghan and Jason Oke from Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, also published yesterday, found there had been no deaths in the past seven days at 49 trusts — 37 per cent of those included in the analysis.
Track and trace
Apple is being blamed by ministers for delays in launching the NHS’s Covid-19 phone-tracking app that could lead to the project being scrapped. Amid anger in Whitehall, officials have accused the company of prioritising its own interests over public health and failing to co-operate over a key aspect of the app’s development. Senior government figures said representations had been made at high levels of the company but they had been “pushing against a brick wall”. They warned that if Apple failed to change its approach the government might have to abandon the existing app and accept a system developed by the company and Google that they believe is inferior and would lead to further delays in its national introduction.
Fresh evidence on how well the NHS coronavirus Test and Trace programme is working is to be revealed following controversy over missed contacts in its first week. Statistics covering the second week of the operation between June 4-10 will be released on Thursday morning, including how many people in England who tested positive have been reached and how many of their contacts were advised to self-isolate. Last week’s figures sparked concern as they showed a third of people who tested positive for coronavirus could not be reached by officials or failed to provide details of their contacts.
The boss of the outsourcing firm Serco has defended its “extraordinary” work in setting up the NHS coronavirus test-and-trace system, amid calls for the £45.8m contract to be cancelled. Critics of Serco’s involvement have pointed to its mixed record on public works, the use of subcontractors and a blunder last month in which it inadvertently revealed the email addresses of contract tracers recruited to assist in the UK government’s “test, track and trace” strategy. Rupert Soames, the company’s chief executive, acknowledged the scheme was not perfect but said criticism was largely motivated by ideological opposition to private companies running state services.
The much-anticipated smartphone app to trace contacts of Covid sufferers may not be ready for national rollout until the winter and “isn’t a priority”, a health minister has told MPs. Lord Bethell, the minister responsible for the NHSX app, claimed the delay was caused in part by a fear of “freaking out” the public by using technological means to tell them they might be ill, but also admitted that the system had faced “technical challenges”. The app, currently being piloted in the Isle of Wight, was slated to play a central role in the government’s test and trace system to track down contacts and ask them to self-isolate, with its UK-launch initially pencilled for the end of May.
Student campaigners celebrated last night after officials at an Oxford University college announced their support for removing a statue of Cecil Rhodes. Leaders of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign hailed a “potentially epoch-defining moment” for the university. The governing body of Oriel College, where the statue stands, voted to set up an independent commission of inquiry into the “key issues surrounding” the figure. It said that college officials “expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque”, which bears his name.
Workers have descended upon Westminster to remove the metal boards covering Sir Winston Churchill’s statue ahead of the French president’s visit to London today. The team of staff, dressed in hard hats and protective clothing, set to work removing the protective box around the former Prime Minister’s monument just in time for President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the capital. Sir Winston’s statue, along with those of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, was boarded up on June 12, after it was daubed with graffiti accusing him of being a ‘racist’ amid Black Lives Matter protests.
Oxford’s Oriel College on Wednesday night recommended the removal of a controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes following an outcry over his links with Britain’s colonial past. Amid an ongoing row over the statue paying tribute to the 19th century industrialist, who donated a huge sum to the College in his will, the governing body expressed their wish to remove the statue, following a five year campaign by students. The move may pave the way for the removal of dozens of monuments at risk of being torn down in the name of anti-racism following the removal of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol.
The governing body of Oxford University’s Oriel College says it wants to remove the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes. Board members met today to discuss the future of the monument, which is one of dozens of targets appearing on a list of statues Black Lives Matter protesters want to see taken down for links to racism and colonialism. Recent Black Lives Matter protests reignited discussion on whether the statue should be removed – particularly in the wake of a monument to Edward Colston being pulled down and dumped in the harbour in Bristol.