Brexit

Express
MICHEL BARNIER has written to opposition parties informing them that the EU is open to delaying the Brexit transition period by two years. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has penned a letter to opposition parties explaining the bloc is open to delaying the transition period by two years. The UK has until the start of July to request an extension to the Brexit transition period which currently comes to an end on December 31 2020. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly ruled out extending the transition period – as Brexit trade talks continue via video next week. Mr Barnier wrote to the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green Party and Alliance Party, and said the option of an extension to the transition period is available if the UK wants it.

Telegraph
Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator said it was unlikely that Britain and the EU would finalise a fisheries agreement by a July deadline on Wednesday, as Michel Barnier offered UK opposition parties an extension of up to two years on the transition period.  “I am beginning to think we might not make it by the 30th of June,” David Frost told MPs on parliament’s Brexit scrutiny committee the week before the next round of negotiations with the EU. “We don’t regard fisheries as something that can be traded for any other bits of the negotiation.

Times
Boris Johnson is to fly to Brussels next month for his first personal talks with European leaders in more than four months as Downing Street tries to revive Brexit negotiations. David Frost, the prime minister’s chief negotiator, suggested that Mr Johnson would meet the presidents of the European Commission and Council to formally assess the state of the negotiations. Mr Frost again ruled out any extension to the Brexit transition period beyond this year, which would have to be agreed at the summit.

Independent
Boris Johnson will get personally involved in top-level Brexit talks next month as both sides try to avert a no-deal, the UK’s chief negotiator has said. David Frost confirmed to a parliamentary committee that “leader-level” discussions would be part of a planned EU-UK “stock-take” in June on how to unblock talks. But he said the UK would stand “firm” on its position of refusing to extend the transition period to strike a deal, despite lack of progress in discussions and the coronavirus outbreak putting negotiators well behind schedule.

Mail
The UK today dismissed the EU’s offer of a two-year extension to the Brexit transition – as it emerged Boris Johnson will take personal charge of negotiations next month. Michel Barnier has repeated that the bloc is ‘open’ to prolonging the standstill period, as governments focus on the coronavirus crisis.  But his British counterpart David Frost told MPs that there is no prospect of the proposal being accepted – saying the UK is determined to secure ‘economic and political freedom’ from January and stop paying into Brussels coffers.

iNews
Boris Johnson will hold talks with EU leaders next month to decide whether the UK should walk away from the trade negotiations, MPs have been told. Britain’s chief negotiator, Sir David Frost, told a select committee hearing a decision will be made at “leader level” next month, as he admitted there remained major obstacles between both sides agreeing a trade deal.

Independent
The UK is refusing to sign up to human rights safeguards demanded by the EU in exchange for a trade deal so that the government has the option of changing the Human Rights Act,  Michael Gove has said. The cabinet office minister told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that the government might want to “enhance” legislation on human rights “in all sorts of ways”. Britain, along with every country in Europe other than Belarus, is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights.

EU

Times
European Union countries have been urged to put aside their “prejudices” and back a controversial €750 billion pandemic recovery plan funded by borrowing and new taxes on multinationals, air travel and imports. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, asked Europe’s leaders to work for a common goal without allowing historical national divisions to stand in the way.

Telegraph
Brussels will seek to borrow €750bn (£672bn) on international markets to finance a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission president said on Wednesday.  Ursula von der Layen is also seeking a far larger European Union budget of €1.1 trillion over the next seven years for a revival of the bloc’s shattered economy – a demand which will be the subject of tough negotiations between divided governments in coming months.

Sun
A CONTROVERSIAL €750bn bailout of European Union countries worst hit by the coronavirus is set to spark a furious clash. The “unprecedented” measures will help economies hammered by the pandemic but giving a large chunk away in no strings attached grants has angered some member states. The package was announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who said “this is Europe’s moment” but a final deal still needs to be hammered out.

Express
THE European Union’s popularity has fallen dramatically after German, Italian and French people believe the coronavirus pandemic weakened the bloc’s position. The EU has been accused of not helping member states enough during the coronavirus pandemic which has resulted in a spike in Euroscepticism, particularly in Italy. A poll by Euronews found 71 percent of Italians think Brussels has lost power, compared to 40 percent in Germany and 47 percent in France.

Breitbart
The European Commission has proposed a massive €750 billion (£673bn/$825bn) Wuhan coronavirus bailout package as many across Europe have begun to question the European Union itself. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the coronavirus bailout package in the European Parliament on Wednesday. It will consist of €500 billion in non-repayable grants and another €250 billion in loans backed by bonds.

iNews
The European Commission is set to unveil a gigantic recovery package worth up to €2 trillion (£1.78 trillion) to help salvage the European Union’s pandemic-ravaged economies, despite fierce resistance from the bloc’s richer countries. The EU recovery package will blend grants, loans and guarantees over the next few years, including heavy leveraging of private financing, although battlelines are already being drawn up over the exact size, shape, scope and terms of the aid. It will include a two-year €500 billion recovery fund alongside a seven-year EU budget of around €1 trillion and is aimed at ensuring the most vulnerable economies in the bloc bounce back from what is likely to be the deepest recession in living memory.

Times
As coronavirus arrived in France this winter, staff at an army base in the east of the country were dutifully burning hundreds of thousands of facemasks. The incinerations were part of a money-saving programme to run down the state’s stock of 1.7 billion protective masks that had reached a peak in 2011. Neither ministers nor MPs had questioned the initiative, which would almost certainly have escaped attention altogether if the pandemic had never struck.

Immigration

Telegraph by Nigel Farage
My recent excursion into the Channel and exposure of the scandalous ‘handover’ process, in which the French Navy escorts illegal immigrant boats into UK waters for collection by our Border Force, has had a huge reaction. Millions of people have viewed the footage and photographs I obtained. Thousands of members of the public have let their feelings about this vexed issue be known in online comments.

Breitbart
A French ship escorting a boat of illegal migrants into British waters was potentially breaking international maritime law by travelling without its transponders turned on, according to claims in a film by Nigel Farage. Brexit leader Nigel Farage — once a British member of the European Parliament now engaged in a journalistic role to expose the scandal of illegal migrant boats and collusion between the French and British governments — filmed another handover in the English Channel on Tuesday, the second in a week.

Times
Priti Patel is considering the introduction of new powers to turn back migrants off the coast as the number of Channel crossings continues to rise. Sixty migrants were brought ashore yesterday after being intercepted in the Channel in four incidents. Eighty arrived on Tuesday. The arrivals bring to about 1,730 the number arriving this year, compared with 1,890 in the whole of last year.

Test & trace

Telegraph
The British public will be asked to do its “civic duty” to get the country out of lockdown as the government confirms its new “test and trace” scheme will rely on individuals to “do the right thing”. From Thursday, anyone with symptoms of coronavirus tested and, if they are found to be positive, told to hand over details of anyone with whom they have had close contact.

Times
Hundreds of thousands of people face a tighter lockdown from today after being told it is their “civic duty” not to leave home for two weeks under a national contact-tracing system. People who have come near someone with coronavirus will have the “personal responsibility” to self-isolate for 14 days even if they test negative themselves. It is estimated that every person who tests positive at the moment will have five contacts, but officials estimate this could increase to 15 to 30, potentially meaning up to two million isolated at any one time as restrictions are eased.

Mail
The Government’s contact tracing programme will only bring down infections by a mere 5 per cent, according to Royal Society scientists. World-leading experts from the prestigious scientific academy warned the scheme was ‘not a silver bullet’ and will only have a ‘modest’ effect on the UK’s crisis. The scientists said that testing times were still too slow and there was a good chance many Britons do not adhere to self-isolation rules.

Lockdown breaches

Mail
Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell apologised today after breaking social distancing rules to pose with a man in swimming trunks after a swim. Mr Campbell posted a picture on Twitter of himself with Speedo Mick early this morning after taking a dip in the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park. The image, since deleted, will fuel claims of hypocrisy as he has spent days vocally criticising Dominic Cummings after Boris Johnson‘s chief aide broke the lockdown rules to drive from London to Durham.

Guido
Bad Al Campbell is one of Dominic Cummings’ fiercest critics in the media, popping up on all channels to argue that even small breaches of the rules were unacceptable and merit sackings. Guido would therefore have thought Campbell would be extra careful to stick to those rules given his censoriousness. Not so. Blair’s former spin doctor and remainiac campaigner tweeted out a a selfie this morning at 07:25 with Speedo Mick, an Everton fan who attends matches wearing only speedos, whom he swam into in the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

Sun
ALASTAIR Campbell has been pictured breaking coronavirus social distancing rules – after slamming Dominic Cummings over his trip to Durham. The former Labour spin doctor tweeted a picture of himself next to a man in swimming trunks while taking an early morning swim in North London. But he was forced to apologise after sharing the picture of himself with Mick Cullen, an Everton fan known for travelling to football grounds wearing only swimming trunks to raise money for charity.

Independent
Police have broken up an illegal party at the home of a Conservative MP being held in breach of the coronavirus  lockdown. Officers attended the house of Rob Roberts, MP for Delyn in North Wales, after neighbours reported visitors arriving at the property. Balloons and banners had been placed outside the home in the town of Mold to mark what is understood to have been his wife Alexandra’s 40th birthday.

Mirror
Lockdown breakers are using Dominic Cummings as an excuse to flout the rules, making it ‘almost impossible’ for officers to do their job, a Police commissioner has said. West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson says officers are reporting people breaking lockdown rules and using special adviser Dominic Cummings’ actions as an excuse.

Times
Police are “retreating” from lockdown enforcement and will now only break up large gatherings. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) have told ministers that most lockdown issues are now a “personal and moral responsibility” rather than a policing issue, The Times has learnt. Kathryn Holloway, the Conservative Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner and APCC spokeswoman for civil contingencies, wrote to fellow commissioners on Tuesday and said the government had accepted that police had “retreated” to engaging, explaining and encouraging rather than enforcing the lockdown.

Quarantine

Mail
Seven former ministers are among dozens of Tory MPs urging the Government to abandon its travel quarantine plan as soon as possible. The new border regime which will, from June 8, require all arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days, has already been savaged by the aviation and tourism sectors. Now, in a significant revolt, a cross-party group of 40 MPs – including former transport secretary Chris Grayling and six other ex-Tory ministers – have joined a taskforce calling for urgent action to rethink the plan.

Sun
TORY MPs including seven former ministers have joined tourism chiefs calling on the government to abandon its 14-day travel quarantine plan in time the summer holidays. From June 8,  anyone arriving in the UK faces a £1,000 fine if they do not self-isolate for two weeks — including holidaymaking Brits coming back to the country. But there is now growing pressure to ditch the plan with 22 Tory MPs, including the former ministers, calling for an urgent rethink.

Hospitality

Times
Pubs, hotels and restaurants may reopen earlier than planned after Boris Johnson asked scientists to review the two-metre rule. In his road map out of the lockdown Mr Johnson said that they would remain closed until at least July 4. Officials suggested that outdoor cafés were the most likely to reopen before pubs. Yesterday Mr Johnson told the Commons liaison committee that the government was “trying to go as fast as we can” to reopen the hospitality industry.

Mail
Pubs could be allowed to reopen as early as next month, after the Prime Minister ordered a review of the six-foot social distancing rule. Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday that he hopes to allow watering holes and restaurants to re-open earlier than July 4 – the date which has been set down in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. Pubs and restaurants have been closed across Britain since the government imposed the coronavirus lockdown at the end of March.

Sun
THIRSTY Brits could be back boozing in pubs next month, Boris Johnson has revealed. The PM suggested experts are close to a solution to halting the virus’s spread in bars. New moves to ease the two-metre social distancing rule could bring more cheer. Boris said: “We may be able to do things faster than I thought.”  The PM said pubs, restaurants and hotels may all reopen next month. He is also expected to announce new rules allowing two households to meet for barbecues at tomorrow afternoon’s three-week review of the coronavirus lockdown.

Cummings

Telegraph
Boris Johnson has insisted it was “time to move on” from the Dominic Cummings affair as he refused to bow to demands for a Cabinet Office inquiry into the matter. The Prime Minister told a committee of MPs he had “seen evidence” that proved Mr Cummings was telling the truth about his two-week stay in Durham during lockdown. He refused to apologise for the actions of Mr Cummings, despite 43 Tory MPs calling for him to be sacked – the equivalent of more than half his parliamentary majority.

Times
Boris Johnson attempted to “move on” from allegations yesterday that Dominic Cummings broke lockdown rules as 60 Conservative MPs, including a minister, criticised his adviser. Appearing before senior MPs, the prime minister described the matter as a “distraction” and a “political ding-dong” as he rejected calls for a public inquiry. However, Penny Mordaunt, a Cabinet Office minister and former defence secretary, told her constituents that the prime minister’s aide “took risks” when he travelled 260 miles to Durham with his wife and four-year-old son.

Guardian
More than 60 Conservative MPs have continued to defy Boris Johnson’s calls to “move on” from the Dominic Cummings crisis as a senior minister broke ranks to accuse the aide of inconsistencies in his account of his behaviour during lockdown. The intervention of Penny Mordaunt deepened the turmoil within government following revelations by the Guardian and Daily Mirror that Cummings had travelled 260 miles to his family estate in Durham with his wife suffering coronavirus symptoms.

Hong Kong

Times
Chinese students at the University of Warwick have helped to vote down a motion supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. More than 2,000 students voted against a resolution that condemned “abhorrent” rights abuses committed by the police and regional government. The motion, at a university with one of the highest proportions of Chinese students, also called on the student union to “protect freedom of expression on campus” after some students from Hong Kong and mainland China claimed that they had received death threats on social media.

ITV News
Three pro-democracy politicians were ejected from Hong Kong’s legislative chamber on Thursday morning, disrupting the start of a second day of debate on a contentious bill that would criminalise insulting or abusing the Chinese national anthem. The legislature’s president, Andrew Leung, suspended the meeting minutes after it began and ejected politician Eddie Chu for holding up a sarcastic placard that read “Best Chairperson, Starry Lee”.

Sport

Telegraph
Andy Murray’s management agency say that he is planning to make his first competitive appearance for over six months in the upcoming event organised by his brother Jamie in late June. The event – which is expected to be announced on Thursday, or at worst before the end of the week – will probably follow a similar group-based model to the ATP Finals, and take place at a London venue that is yet to be confirmed.

Times
The County Championship could return in August in a significant boost for domestic cricket. There had been fears there would be no county cricket this season because of Covid-19 with only the international game returning. But proposals to be discussed by the ECB and counties today would involve a regionalised County Championship starting in August followed by a similarly regionalised T20 Blast running through September and into October.

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