Trade talks

Yahoo News
Brexit trade talks are facing total collapse over Boris Johnson’s new plans to tear up commitments he made to the EU at the beginning of the year. Michel Barnier, Brussels’ chief negotiator, told EU ambassadors on Wednesday that the UK government was triggering a new “crisis” with just four weeks to go until a no deal hits Channel ports. It comes as Downing Street pledged to overrule the House of Lords and reinsert controversial causes into its Internal Market Bill that ministers have admitted break international law. The legislation, which would overwrite the Brexit agreement, could also be backed by similar clauses in the government’s upcoming Finance Bill – a move the EU has made clear it would see as the ultimate provocation. In a regular briefing with ambassadors from the EU27, Mr Barnier warned that the UK’s approach was causing a breakdown in trust, according to Irish public broadcaster RTE.

Independent
Brexit trade talks are facing total collapse over Boris Johnson’s new plans to tear up commitments he made to the EU at the beginning of the year. Michel Barnier, Brussels’ chief negotiator, told EU ambassadors on Wednesday that the UK government was triggering a new “crisis” with just four weeks to go until a no deal hits Channel ports.   It comes as Downing Street pledged to overrule the House of Lords and reinsert controversial causes into its Internal Market Bill that ministers have admitted break international law. The legislation, which would overwrite the Brexit agreement, could also be backed by similar clauses in the government’s upcoming Finance Bill – a move the EU has made clear it would see as the ultimate provocation. In a regular briefing with ambassadors from the EU27, Mr Barnier warned that the UK’s approach was causing a breakdown in trust, according to Irish public broadcaster RTE.

Mail
Brexit trade deal could be struck as soon as today after the two sides began serious haggling over fish quotas. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said yesterday that talks were reaching a ‘make-or-break moment’, with the possibility an agreement could be finalised this evening or tomorrow. In an attempt to break the deadlock, Mr Barnier said Boris Johnson had lowered his demands by asking to get back only 60 per cent of the fish that EU boats currently catch in British waters, down from 80 per cent. At the same time, the EU has signalled it will give in to the Prime Minister’s request to negotiate fishing quotas annually in the same way Brussels does with Norway. During video conference calls with European diplomats and MEPs yesterday, Mr Barnier said there was still no guarantee a trade deal will be agreed. ‘I do not sincerely know if we can reach a deal,’ the senior European Commission official told them.

Express
BRITISH exporters are already severing ties with the EU in favour of alternative markets elsewhere in the world in line with Boris Johnson’s Global Britain vision, new research has indicated. With less than a month to go before the end of the Brexit transition period, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and UK counterpart Lord David Frost are working feverishly to try and thrash out a trade deal. However, with such an agreement hanging in the balance, the study – undertaken by Lloyds Bank and Aston Business School – indicates nearly one in five companies which export goods overseas has diverted business away from the EU since the 2016 referendum result.  The research also indicates that firms are actively looking for new export markets as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

Telegraph
Almost a fifth of UK exporters have shifted trade away from the EU since the Brexit referendum as they “forge new opportunities around the world”, research shows. The growth in value of exports to EU countries fell by an average of 8.7pc annually over five years, according to analysis of 340,000 quarterly export transactions of 26,000 British exporters by Aston Business School. Gwynne Master, global head of trade for Lloyds Bank, said: “While the clock is counting down to the end of the UK’s post-EU transition period, British businesses are building toward the future and forging new opportunities around the world. These findings are the start of a new chapter in the story of global British business and trade.”

Fisheries

Yahoo News
Boris Johnson has lowered his Brexit demands by asking EU fishing fleets to hand over up to 60% of the value of stocks it takes from British waters, but the gap with Brussels remains wide, Michel Barnier has said ahead of what he described as a crucial 36 hours. In briefings to EU ambassadors and MEPs in Brussels, the bloc’s chief negotiator said Downing Street had revised its demand down from 80%, but that it was unclear whether the divide could be bridged in the time remaining, prompting member states to caution against rushing into a deal. The EU has so far offered the repatriation of 15%-18% of the value of stocks caught in the Channel, Irish Sea and north-east Atlantic, a proposal dismissed as “derisory” by Downing Street.

State aid

Express
BORIS JOHNSON has suffered a humiliating Brexit defeat as the House of Lords backed a Labour motion urging a delay to the dumping of EU state aid rules.  Peers backed the regret motion by 278 votes to 258 in a ballot in the upper chamber on Wednesday evening. The vote marks an embarrassing defeat for the Government over a move to ditch EU state aid rules in the absence of an agreed new post-Brexit subsidy regime for the UK. The vote comes just four weeks from the end of the Brexit transition period. Ministers had argued with the ending of the period, Brussels would no longer have any jurisdiction in the UK and so “makes no sense to leave these rules on our statute book”.

EU

Express
A FRENCH nationalist MEP has lashed out at the European Union for “destroying” cooperation between governments across the continent. Jordan Bardella, vice-president of the far-right National Rally, accused Brussels of “betraying” citizens by breaking promises to ensure fair competition between the 27 member states. He urged fellow Europeans to wake up to evidence which he claimed pointed to an imbalance on how the bloc treats different countries.   In a speech to French student forum Les Mardis de l’ESSEC, Mr Bardella said: “We have been told for 40 years that the EU is great, that the EU is peace, that the EU is love between each other, that competition is equal between countries.

City AM
France is reportedly pushing the EU to go for a no-deal Brexit, before restarting trade talks next year, if the UK does not make significant concessions in the coming days. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is in London today for in-person negotiations with UK Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost and his team. Barnier also held a virtual meeting with ambassadors this morning before talks commenced for the day.  France, and a group of other hardline EU nations, told Barnier that he should not make any more concessions in trade talks, according to the Times.

Labour Party

Guardian
The shadow cabinet is split over whether to back a Brexit deal, as backbench Labour MPs warn that up to 60 could rebel if Keir Starmer insists they back the government rather than allowing a free vote. Two backbench MPs said the potential for a frontbench reshuffle – and new shadow ministerial posts – had been raised when the issue had come up in conversations with Starmer’s office, as a way of containing potential rebels. Those in the shadow cabinet who have made vocal arguments in favour of abstaining at the vote including the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Bridget Phillipson, the shadow equalities secretary, Marsha de Cordova, and the shadow international trade secretary, Emily Thornberry, according to multiple sources.

General election

Breitbart
A David Cameron-era law that left Britain’s government paralysed and Brexit at the mercy of what transpired to be an unrepresentative Parliament is being repealed, returning a small part of the UK constitution to the long-term historical norm. The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act is set to be repealed by Boris Johnson’s Conservative government just nine years after it was voted into power by another Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron. The law, which changed the way general elections were called from being events that could either be voluntary by the government or forced on them by events, to being fixed on a permanent five-year cycle, was passed during the 2010 coalition government to appease the junior governing partner, Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.

Vaccine

Telegraph
Britain’s lightning-fast vaccination slashes the tail-risk of a Covid third wave and averts a calamitous slide into even deeper economic crisis. Europe is not so lucky.  The EU lacks anything like the UK’s Regulation 174 enabling fast-track action to fight pandemics, or chemical and nuclear attacks. Bureaucracy and legalistic inertia will give the virus one last chance to cause maximum devastation on the Continent, and this slippage of several weeks will have serious consequences for a clutch of eurozone economies already in trouble. The pandemic is not an international beauty contest. But it is indisputable that the UK has stolen a march by freeing itself from the EU’s policy orbit and going its own way under the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the teeth-arm of the EU system in its day.

iNews
Care home staff and the over-80s will be among the first people to receive the coronavirus jab as early as Tuesday following the arrival of almost one million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the UK this weekend. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, confirmed that an initial order of 800,000 doses was on its way from Pfizer’s plant in Belgium – with about five million more expected by the end of the year – after the UK became the first country in the world to give regulatory approval to a coronavirus vaccine.  GP surgeries and health authorities have already started contacting care homes to find out how many residents and staff are at each one and how many would give their consent to get the jab, which studies have shown to be 95 per cent effective across all age groups.

Sun
COVID will be with us FOREVER but Brits must take the vaccine if they want social distancing to end, Jonathan Van-Tam warned tonight. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer said “we will never eradicate coronavirus” but urged Brits to take the jab if they want their dreams of a return to normal life to come true. Asked by The Sun when Covid measures could end, he said the bug is likely to “be with human kind forever” and will become a “seasonal problem.” His remarks came after Britain became the first country in the world to give a Covid jab the green light. Experts deem the Belgium-made Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine safe, meaning a rollout to millions of people can now begin. About 800,000 older people, care home workers and vulnerable people will be able to get access to the vaccine from next week, and millions across December.

Telegraph
Brexit may have helped Britain win the race for a Covid vaccine, the leader of a major pharmaceutical firm has said amid international sniping at the speed of the jab’s approval. Hugo Fry, the UK managing director of Sanofi, a Paris-based multi-national and the world’s fifth biggest drug maker, said decoupling from the EU’s regulatory and purchasing mechanisms had enabled the “nimble buying” of hundreds of millions of doses and a rapid green light for the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. Mr Fry said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) decision to appraise the vaccine on an emergency basis – condensing the work of many months into a few weeks – had set a precedent that could put Britain at the “front of the queue” for future drugs.

Mail
The UK military has carried out a dry-run of its biggest ever vaccine distribution operation after the UK become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer jab – but the government’s priority list is already mired in confusion after care homes were told they will have to wait. Fifty hospitals are poised to roll out the coronavirus inoculation when the first of 40million doses are administered from next week, with 13 in the Midlands, eight are in the North West, South East and South West, seven are in the East of England and London, and only one in each of Yorkshire and the North East regions.   The Army held a trial run at one of the first mass vaccination sites where tens of thousands of patients will be immunised after NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens warned the logistics will be ‘complicated’. However, despite the official priority list stating that care home residents will get the jabs first, and No10 batting away doubts, it has emerged that they will have to wait weeks to learn whether that can happen.

Breitbart
Chinese coronavirus vaccine passport cards will be issued by the government in Wales, the country’s left-wing health minister confirmed on Wednesday. Following the announcement that the United Kingdom would be the first Western nation to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething declared that the government of Wales will be handing out credit card-sized vaccine passports to those who have received the jab. In a statement, Mr Gething said: “Those receiving a COVID-19 vaccination will be given a credit card-sized NHS Wales immunisation card which will have the vaccine name, date of immunisation and batch number of each of the doses given handwritten on them.” “These will act as a reminder for a second dose and for the type of vaccine, and it will also give information about how to report side effects,” he added

Another lockdown

Mail
Britain may still face a circuit breaker lockdown in January or February despite the mass roll-out of Pfizer‘s Covid-19 vaccine, a top scientist has warned. Professor Liam Smeeth, an epidemiology and public health expert at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, issued his caution as Britain today made one of 2020’s biggest breakthroughs and announced vaccination will start next week. Casting a shadow over re-ignited hopes of a return to normality, he added that the virus would be with us ‘for the forseeable future – and maybe forever’.  ‘We are very unlikely to reach the situation we are in with smallpox (gone), polio (almost gone), or measles (controlled in populations with high enough vaccine coverage),’ he said.  Politicians and scientists heralded it a ‘historic day’ after regulators gave the green light to Pfizer’s vaccine, which clinical trials suggest is up to 95 per cent protective against Covid-19.

Scotland

Express
NICOLA STURGEON has had her independence dreams torn apart by an expert who warned leaving the UK would harm Scotland more than Brexit.  Kevin Hague, chairman of the political think-tank These Islands, has dismantled the SNP’s arguments for breaking-up the Union by pointing out the people of Scotland would be economically worse off and less safe. Britain is yet to agree a free trade deal with the EU ahead of the transition deadline of December 31 – much to the anger of parliamentarians north of the border.   But, Mr Hague explained the Scottish nationalists should be much more concerned about losing internal trade within the UK if the SNP presses ahead with its grand plan to re-join the EU. He said: “If you believe that leaving the EU will be economically damaging, leaving the far older, deeper and closer union that is the UK would be so much worse: two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Deportations

Mail
A Jamaican murderer and two rapists avoided deportation today following legal challenges backed by Labour MPs and a host of celebrities. Michael Antonio White, convicted of murder in 2003, was taken off the flight after lawyers lodged a last-minute appeal. Now in his 50s, he was sentenced to life in prison after shooting his victim six times in a drug deal gone wrong. In all, 23 serious criminals submitted last-minute appeals – including human rights claims – which led to them avoiding deportation to Jamaica. They had been sentenced to a combined 156 years in jail. Model Naomi Campbell, Line of Duty star Thandie Newton, James Bond actress Naomie Harris and historian David Olusoga were among celebrities who signed an open letter demanding none of the offenders be removed, at least for the time being.

Sun
LEFTY lawyers kept 23 dangerous criminals including rapists and killers in the UK yesterday.  They filed last-minute legal challenges to block the foreign offenders boarding a deportation flight. It landed in Jamaica yesterday with 13 criminals on board, including three killers, a paedophile and four drug dealers. The 23 who were dragged off had been jailed for a total of 156 years, including one life term. They include multiple rapists, a murderer, two convicted of attempted murder, as well as class A drug dealers. Among the campaign groups that helped keep them here was Detention Action. One of their lawyers, Bella Sankey, stood to be a Labour MP last year and was endorsed by leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Education

Guardian
Pupils in England sitting GCSEs and A-levels next summer will be given advance notice of topics and allowed to take in exam aids including formula sheets, as part of a package of measures to mitigate for learning disruption caused by the pandemic. After months of uncertainty for pupils and their teachers, the government’s long-awaited announcement on the 2021 exam series promises that students will be awarded more generous grades, in line with last summer’s significantly improved results. And in case of ongoing disruption during the exam period, contingency papers in each subject will be available for pupils who have to miss exams for Covid-related reasons, to sit in July. Teacher-informed assessment will be relied upon only in the most extreme cases.

Evening Standard
GCSEs and A-Levels will “absolutely” go ahead next year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said on Thursday. Mr Williamson said he had “every confidence” the Government will be able to run a whole set of exams in the summer of 2021. It comes after GCSE and A-Level tests were cancelled this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic and millions of students lost months of education when schools closed down. Instead, students were given grades based on teacher assessments moderated by an algorithm.

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