Trade deal

Telegraph
Boris Johnson is preparing to tear up part of the Brexit deal as he sets out his “red lines” for a trade agreement with the European Union on Thursday. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he will not be bound by the political declaration attached to the EU Withdrawal Agreement, which sets out the ground rules for a trade deal. Downing Street sources said the rules of engagement agreed by Mr Johnson last year had been superseded by promises made in the Tory manifesto on which he was elected in December.

Mail
Boris Johnson last night warned he would rip up a post-Brexit trade deal which bound the UK to ‘onerous commitments’ insisted by Brussels. Downing Street accused the EU of trying to keep the UK shackled to its rule book, despite maintaining agreements with other countries that imposed no such conditions.  The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson also said the bloc was backtracking on the agreed Political Declaration setting out the vision for a deep UK-EU relationship. He said: ‘The Political Declaration was agreed alongside the Withdrawal Agreement and sets out aspirations and parameters for the upcoming negotiations on the future relationship.

iNews
Boris Johnson is poised to abandon part of the Brexit deal he signed with Brussels setting up a furious row with the EU when the trade talks get underway next month. The Government will publish its negotiating mandate later on Thursday after No 10 cast serious doubts over whether it will stick to promises it made in the political declaration it signed alongside the Withdrawal Agreement. Downing Street sources suggested the declaration setting out the framework for a future trade deal had been usurped by the Tories’ manifesto, which helped the party secure a thumping general election victory.

BBC News
The government will publish its strategy for post-Brexit trade talks later, as it prepares for formal negotiations with the EU to begin. Brussels has already set out what it wants from the talks – tariff-free trade but keeping EU rules on state aid, workers’ rights and other issues. The plan received a cool reception from No 10, with the PM saying he is prepared to walk away without a deal. The government’s strategy will be put online and presented in Parliament. The UK officially left the EU at the end of January, but is continuing to abide by many EU rules while talks on a permanent trading relationship take place.

Breitbart
Former Brexit secretary David Davis has signalled that good news for Brexiteers lays ahead in the coming trade deal negotiations with the European Union, noting the British side now holds all the cards, as the European Union cannot afford to let Britain go without a deal. Speaking Wednesday morning, following the publication of the European Union’s own negotiating positions document on Tuesday and before the British equivalent is due to be published on Thursday, veteran Brexiteer David Davis said he expected the government to cleave to its own red lines in the coming negotiations.

EU

Times
All British goods entering the European Union will be checked to ensure that Britain does not become an “assembly hub” for China or America next year, Michel Barnier warned yesterday. The EU’s chief negotiator said that even with a positive outcome to post-Brexit trade talks, full customs checks would be needed to determine the origin of British goods. “All goods coming from the UK as they do from China or the US will have to be checked at the border of the single market. Those checks will be put into place,” he said.

Independent
Michel Barnier has told the City of London that its financial services companies must accept being “rule-takers” observing EU regulations if they want continued access to continental markets after Brexit. In a hardline message just days before the opening of UK/EU trade negotiations on Monday, Mr Barnier said that the granting of “equivalence” status allowing firms to operate with the 27-nation bloc will remain a “unilateral decision” for the EU taken in the interests of its own economies. And he said that the EU was not willing to take on risks from banks operating under UK rules, when the profits for their activities remain in Britain.

Express
EUROCRAT Michel Barnier inflamed tensions over trade talks by doubling down on demands for Britain to sign up to a string of EU rules. The UK will be given “super preferential access” only if it agrees to common standards, the chief negotiator said. But No 10 insisted ministers are ready to walk away with a loose trading arrangement if Brussels refuses to budge. Britain’s negotiating mandate, which stretches over around 40 pages, will be published. A Government source: “We’re not going to be signing up to a level playing field or something which means we won’t be in control of our own borders and laws in the future.

Breitbart
The United Kingdom will not be able to leave the European Union in any meaningful sense if it wants a trade deal post-Brexit, and the EU will seek to punish the UK if it wishes to diverge from that, Brussels will say in negotiations in the coming months. The European Union published its negotiating mandate  Tuesday, paving the way for talks to begin the following Monday, but Boris Johnson’s government immediately hit back at the positions Brussels intends to take, pointing out the bloc intends to offer Britain worse terms than other trading partners across the globe.

Fisheries

Express
THE European Union’s attempts to force the UK into sacrificing its fishing industry in a free trade deal has been condemned as “egregious” by furious Brexiteers. The UK and EU are set to begin talks on Monday and face a race against time to get an agreement signed before the end of the transition period in December 2020, which Boris Johnson is refusing to extend. The European Union has demanded the UK continues to allow fleets from inside the bloc access to British waters in order to strike a post-Brexit free trade deal.

Covid-19

Times
More cases of coronavirus are being recorded outside China than inside for the first time as the World Health Organisation says that every country must prepare for a pandemic. On Tuesday 411 new cases were recorded inside the country, an 80 per cent reduction from the peak at the start of the month. Across the rest of the world there were 427 new cases as outbreaks flared in Italy, South Korea and Iran. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said the figures were “deeply concerning”.

Telegraph
Employers are being told not to close offices and schools asked to stay open as the Government attempts to stem rising panic over the ongoing spread of coronavirus. On Wednesday night, ministers warned “over-reaction” could cost Britain dear, with more than 35 schools closing or sending pupils home and office closures affecting hundreds of workers. The warning came as increasing numbers of Britons scrambled to cancel holidays abroad, with major events postponed as outbreaks spread across Europe and more new cases were declared outside China than in it.

Sun
WORKERS forced to self-isolate over coronavirus fears WILL get sick pay, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed today. The MP told the Commons medical advice over the killer bug should be considered “sickness for employment purposes”. Public Health England has advised anyone who has travelled to coronavirus-riddled areas or come into contact with anyone who has the disease to quarantine themselves for two weeks. Staff are already being sent home across the country with travel bans put in place and workplace policies drafted to help stop the spread of the virus.

Star
Brits may be denied life-saving care if a severe coronavirus  outbreak is unleashed on England and heaps pressure on hospitals struggling to cope. In the protocol dubbed “three wise men”, senior consultants in every hospital in the country would take the decision on rationing care and beds, should staff be overwhelmed with patients. They also blasted the Government’s claim that the NHS was well prepared for a major pandemic as “dishonest spin”. Doctors said the NHS’s critical care capacity is overstretched and “would crumble” under the demands of a major surge in patients struck down by a pandemic.

Times
Everyone in Britain will be told that they have a duty to wash their hands and use tissues when they sneeze to prevent the spread of coronavirus, in a new public information campaign. Nurses and paramedics will also be sent to people’s homes to test them and prevent outbreaks in hospitals and GP surgeries as the government steps up its contingency planning. However, ministers are also trying to quell panic over the virus, which caused 12 schools to close yesterday. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, urged schools to remain open, warning against “overreaction” that would harm the economy and society more widely.

City AM
The Ireland v Italy men’s and women’s Six Nations games scheduled for Dublin next weekend have been postponed because of the coronavirus. Irish health minister Simon Harris said last night that the men’s Six Nations game scheduled for 7 March should not go ahead. The women’s game scheduled for the following day and the under-20 game on 6 March have also been postponed. “At the outset we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the government’s need to protect public health in relation to the coronavirus”, the Irish Rugby Football Union said in a statement.

Scotland

Breitbart
The British and Scottish governments will meet in Glasgow this week to hold summits on the public health emergency in Scotland, where a record 1,187 people died in drug-related deaths in 2018, up 27 per cent on the year before. Scotland has the highest number of drug deaths out of any European nation, largely due to the use of opioids paired with other street drugs, particularly benzos. The country has a similar number of overdoses to Germany, despite the massive difference in population size, 5.5 million compared to 83 million.

iNews
Scottish pupils no longer have the best level of reading comprehension in the UK and Ireland, according to a major literacy study published on Thursday. Children in Scotland have slipped behind their peers in Northern Ireland and are now level with England when it comes to reading standards, the research found. The latest edition of the annual What Kids Are Reading report analysed the reading habits of 46,239 Scottish pupils as well as a further 1.1m young people across the UK and Ireland.

Labour leadership

Mail
Sir Keir Starmer is on course for a crushing victory in the Labour leadership contest, according to a new YouGov poll of party members. The shadow Brexit secretary is predicted to get 53 per cent of votes in the first round of counting which would be enough for him to surpass the 50 per cent threshold needed to win the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn. His rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy are on 31 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. The leadership battle will use an alternative vote system with activists asked to rank the candidates in order of preference, which can lead to multiple rounds of voting.

Independent
Sir Keir Starmer is on course to be Labour’s next leader, according to a new poll putting him comfortably ahead of his rivals in the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.  It comes as the party started sending ballots to its half a million members, registered supporters and affiliates on Monday before the next leader is unveiled at a special conference on 4 April. According to the survey by YouGov, the shadow Brexit secretary has a convincing lead over his rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy and could win the support of 53 per cent of members’ first preference votes.

Express
SIR KEIR STARMER is on course for an overwhelming victory in the Labour Party leadership race according to a new poll of party members, in a huge blow to Rebecca Long-Bailey, dubbed the Jeremy Corbyn continuity candidate. The YouGov poll showed the shadow Brexit secretary is set to slide to victory with a sizeable 53 percent of the vote. This is compared to the 31 percent of Rebecca Long-Bailey, dubbed the ‘Corbyn continuity candidate’, and the 16 percent of Lisa Nandy. It is, therefore, believed Sir Keir could even end up winning the contest for the leadership in the first round – with Ms Long-Bailey not even forcing a second ballot to members.

Flooding

Telegraph
Residents in riverside properties in Ironbridge, Shropshire, have been told to evacuate immediately after emergency defences at the Severn were breached. The Environment Agency forecasts the river level in  the Worcestershire town of Bewdley, which has risen more than two metres in the past 72 hours, from 3.36m to 5.45m, will peak at 5.48m on Wednesday and remain at a near-record high into Thursday. It reached its highest level of 5.56m on November 2, 2000. And in East Yorkshire last night, residents were being evacuated from the village of East Cowick after the River Aire broke its banks.

Mail
Flood-hit residents have evacuated their homes in a historic Shropshire town over fears that flood barriers will buckle overnight – after defences failed 22 miles along the River Severn in Bewdley.   A yellow weather warning of snow and ice has been issued for much of the Midlands including the River Severn in Shropshire, where flood defences buckled under the pressure of water. Police told people in Ironbridge to leave their properties and businesses as soon as possible as the force of the swollen River Severn forced flood defences backwards.

Star
Rats are invading homes following the heavy rains and flooding. Millions of vermin are swarming out of saturated drains and burrows. The shocking rise in rat infestation comes after perfect breeding conditions in hotter summers and mild winters. Panic-stricken calls from householders to pest-control firms have increased by over a third compared to the previous three years. Wales in particular is seeing an invasion of the rodents, some said to be as big as cats. Horrified residents in Cardigan town centre are living in fear of the health hazards after the influx.

Education

Times
Pupils will receive university offers only after their A-level results in radical reforms to the admissions system that are supported by a growing number of vice-chancellors. University chiefs are getting behind plans to stop pupils relying on either the often inaccurate predictions by their teachers or unconditional offers that require no A levels at all. A revised system, based on exam results, has been included as one of three options in the Office for Students’ official consultation on admissions reform, which is being sent to universities today.

Mail
University hopefuls could be forced to wait until they receive their A-level grades before applying for a course under radical plans from a watchdog. The Office for Students has suggested scrapping predicted grades and pre-qualification unconditional offers. A post-qualification scheme would also tackle the rise of ‘attainment offers’ whereby pupils only need to gain low A-level grades such as two Es to secure places. The OfS said the current system did ‘not always work in the interests of students’ who may not select the universities and courses best suited to them.

Times
A quarter of high-performing schools take in substantially fewer poor children than the make-up of their neighbourhood, a report says. Head teachers and parents say social segregation is rife in state schools, partly because middle-class families are gaming the system. Hundreds of thousands of families are due to find out next week which secondary school their child will attend in September. The report from the Sutton Trust found that more than two fifths of head teachers did not consider the socioeconomic background of their community when designing their own admissions policies.

Heathrow

Telegraph
The boss of Heathrow says Boris Johnson risks “walking naked” into post-Brexit trade talks if he refuses to back the building of a third runway following a crucial court ruling on Thursday. With the expansion decision on a knife edge, John Holland-Kaye warned that Britain will lose out to Continental rivals if the controversial plan is shelved – leaving the Prime Minister unable to fulfill his pledge to make the country a champion of free trade. Judges will on Thursday rule whether a 2018 Government decision to approve Heathrow’s third runway was lawful. Last night there was growing speculation that the Court of Appeal could overturn a previous legal ruling backing the plan.

Mail
Downing Street refused to say yesterday whether it would back Heathrow’s bid to build a third runway if protesters win a key court case today. Boris Johnson is personally against the scheme and when he was London mayor he promised to ‘lie down… in front of those bulldozers’ to stop the runway being built.  Today the Court of Appeal will give its ruling on a legal challenge to the Government’s support for Heathrow expansion. But Downing Street refused to say whether the Government would support an appeal if the protesters win their case.

Times
The expansion of Heathrow airport is hanging in the balance after Boris Johnson threatened to withdraw government support for a third runway in the face of a pivotal court ruling. The prime minister’s official spokesman said that Heathrow still had to demonstrate that the project met environmental standards and had a “realistic” business case. The comments were made as the Court of Appeal prepared to publish a judgment today on the expansion, which critics claim is unlawful. There was mounting speculation that judges could uphold four separate legal challenges against the government’s existing airports national policy statement — passed by MPs almost two years ago — which in effect gives approval for a third runway.

Hygiene

Telegraph
A third of French people don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet and less than half before eating, while a fifth of Frenchmen change their underwear twice a week at best. These are some of the unsavoury findings of a new study into personal hygiene in France, which researchers and Gallic doctors say leaves a lot to be desired. The findings stand to reinforce stereotypes that the French take a laissez-faire approach to cleanliness. The survey by pollster Ifop found the French continued to display “ignorance of basic sanitary rules, despite public health messages and the current [coronavirus] context.”

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