Boris Johnson seemed to have ended the Conservative party’s agonies over Brexit last year by negotiating a new withdrawal agreement with the EU, and winning the backing of every single Tory MP – at least once a rump of rebellious Remainers had been purged. The hardline Brexiteers who brought down Theresa May over fears her Brexit deal would leave the UK in Brussels’ orbit indefinitely, could have been expected to kick up a fuss over her successor’s replacement agreement. While it ditched the “backstop” arrangement they so hated, it was full of other provisions previously opposed by Eurosceptics, such as a hefty divorce payment. What’s more, the new withdrawal agreement creates a border in the Irish Sea with customs and regulatory checks on goods crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, a provision loathed by the Democratic Unionist Party which was closely allied to the Tory Brexiteers throughout the May era.
A MOVEMENT inspired by Dominic Cummings and Nigel Farage has been launched to drag France out of the European Union. Generation Frexit, taking inspiration from both the Vote Leave chief Mr Cummings and Brexit Party leader Mr Farage, has been launched in France in a bid to replicate Britain’s departure from the “toxic” political bloc. Charles-Henri Gallois has mixed with the Continent’s most inspirational eurosceptics to replicate the success of Britain’s EU referendum in 2016. Having met with Brexit Party chiefs, he decided to form a new movement with the motto “reprenons le controle”, which loosely translates into “take back control”.
FREE-spending eurocrats are set to splash out €750,000 of taxpayers’ cash on lavish cocktail, lunch and dinner parties, Express.co.uk can reveal. According to documents, officials at the European Maritime Safety Agency insisted on having high-quality Champagne, red and white wines served at their “VIP” soirees. The institution, based in Lisbon, Portugal, also demanded only the “finest and freshest products” be used to create dishes served at the gatherings. It is currently inviting firms to bid for the contract to cater to “provide coffee-breaks, lunches, dinners, and cocktails for events organised at the EMSA headquarters or other venues” for the next four years.
FRENCH fishermen have a “long track record” of blocking ports in the English Channel and it would be “naive” to think they will just sit back if they are not happy with the post-Brexit agreement, a fishing chief has warned. French fishermen have a history of blockades in the English Channel over minor disagreements, according to Barrie Deas, the CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations. He has warned they are likely to continue their actions after the UK becomes an independent coastal state and noted it would be “naive” to think they would not act if they are not happy.
Businesses grew at their fastest pace in five years last month as lockdown restrictions eased and customers surged back to spend money. Car sales jumped as delayed purchases of new vehicles were able to go ahead, more bricks were bought as construction sites ramped up work, and visits to shops picked up, while restaurants report soaring bookings into August. It boosts hopes of a rapid, V-shaped recovery for the economy. However companies also warned more redundancies are ahead, indicating the rebound may stutter as jobs are lost.
Pupils are facing the “life sentence” of receiving incorrect GCSE and A-level grades with “no effective right of appeal” under the results system imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, a former headmaster has warned. Most teenagers in England will be given grades calculated using a statistical model next week after the examination season was interrupted by the lockdown. Ofqual, the exam regulator for England, has said that appeals will be allowed only on technical grounds and not if a student simply believes that they have been given an unfair grade.
Pupils face being handed a “life sentence” if they are not allowed to appeal incorrect grades in their GCSE or A-level exams, it has been claimed. Next week, the majority of teenagers in England will receive grades that have been calculated using a statistical model after the coronavirus crisis interrupted the exam season. However, the exam regulator has said appeals will only be allowed on technical grounds and not simply if a student believes they have been awarded an unfair grade.
Face masks may be made compulsory in all schools, the Children’s Commissioner said yesterday. Anne Longfield said she ‘would not rule out’ pupils wearing face masks in the future if it gives people confidence. Harry Styles’s old school has become the first in the country to depart from government guidance and make face masks mandatory when classes resume. Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School in Cheshire unilaterally decided that ‘on the balance of probability’ students and staff would be safer wearing coverings.
Ministers have been urged to consider making secondary pupils wear face coverings to ensure schools can return next month without further restrictions on the nation’s freedom. Labour and the children’s commissioner for England have both said the government should drop its opposition to pupils in masks, as scientific advisers warned that the full reopening of secondary schools was likely to require fresh restrictions elsewhere.
Gavin Williamson vowed to get schools fully open in September yesterday after a poll found most mothers are confident their children will be safe. The Education Secretary insisted the Government will ‘succeed’ in its pledge to return all pupils to classes thanks to the determination of parents. He said the return was ‘our national priority’ and warned that not doing so would ‘fail our children’. Just 3 per cent of mothers are worried that classrooms will be risky, while only 7 per cent are concerned that coronavirus measures will be upsetting for children, a survey for Mumsnet found.
The Government has admitted it cannot order schools to stay open during local lockdowns. Schools minister, Nick Gibb, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that the government will not be ensuring schools rather than pubs are kept open during future local lockdowns – as the decisions will be made by regional directors of public health based on local situations. Mr Gibb, who insisted that all schools will reopen in September despite localised restrictions in northern regions seeing spikes in cases, told Today: “It’s a more nuanced response. It does have to depend on the facts of the case and that’s why the local director of public health will be responsible for the response to that spike.”
THOUSANDS of Covid deaths are set to be wiped off official records following an urgent review into counting “flaws”. Scientists raised the alarm after discovering anyone who tests positive and later dies is currently included in the Public Health England numbers – even if they are hit by a bus months later. It means no-one can ever recover from the virus and all of England’s 265,000 confirmed cases would eventually be added to the toll. Matt Hancock will now step in and bring the figures in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland, who only count a death as Covid-related if it occurs 28 days after a person tests positive.
Thousands of England’s coronavirus deaths will reportedly be wiped from official records. New measures could see the country’s death toll reduced by 10% after scientists raised the alarm about serious “flaws” in how it was being calculated. Up until now, Public Health England (PHE) had been including anyone who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and later died as a Covid-19 death — even if they had recovered and died of something unrelated. This means that according to the official numbers, no one would ever recover from the virus, and all 265,000 confirmed cases in England would eventually be added to the toll, even though most will recover.
Test and trace
The NHS Test and Trace service is failing because people do not want to answer the phone to 0300 numbers owing to bad experiences with cold callers, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned. Call centre staff enlisted by the Government to track down people who have come into contact with positive Covid-19 cases use the “unrecognisable” 0300 number which is deterring some people from answering the phone. The LGA called for “boots on the ground” in local areas to reach those who may feel they are being “pestered” by cold callers or debt collectors.
More areas hit hard by Covid-19 are developing their own track and trace systems amid growing claims the Government’s one is flawed. Three councils in West Yorkshire plan to introduce their own way of tracking down infected residents and their contacts. Traders say it may be the only chance of saving their business. The Government’s system is “not fit for purpose”, according to Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham. The councils in Calderdale, Kirklees and Bradford are now planning to implement their own track and trace systems.
Councils with the highest Covid infection rates in England have launched their own contact-tracing operations to plug holes in the “world-beating” £10bn government system, with some reaching 98-100% of people who fell through the gaps. Blackburn with Darwen council in Lancashire established its own model on Tuesday when its public health chief said national test and trace was “simply not tracing enough cases and contacts fast enough”.
The city of Aberdeen was today put back into lockdown as pubs, cafes and restaurants were shut and its population of more than 200,000 people were banned from travelling more than five miles from their homes. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said 54 infections have now been reported in the local Covid-19 outbreak – double yesterday’s figure – and all indoor and outdoor hospitality venues were ordered to close by 5pm today (Wednesday). Speaking in Edinburgh this afternoon, Ms Sturgeon said the rise in cases heightens fears the Scottish Government is ‘dealing with a significant outbreak in Aberdeen that may include some community transmission’.
Lockdown restrictions have been reimposed in the Scottish city of Aberdeen after a coronavirus “cluster” was reported. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says all hospitality venues in the city need to be closed by end of business Wednesday. Those living in the area should not travel more than five miles unless for work or essential trips. People are asked not to go into other houses. Sturgeon says the cluster of 54 cases have been traced to a bar but more than 20 other pubs and restaurants are involved.
Lockdown restrictions are to be reimposed in Aberdeen following a spike in coronavirus cases, Scotland’s first minister has announced. Nicola Sturgeon, speaking at the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, said a cluster of 54 coronavirus cases had been identified in Aberdeen, with more than 20 other pubs and restaurants thought to be involved. As such, Ms Sturgeon said all indoor and outdoor hospitality must close by 5pm on Wednesday.
Nicola Sturgeon has warned that an emergency lockdown in Aberdeen could extend to other towns in the region after health officials linked 32 pubs and golf courses to the outbreak in the city. The first minister said all pubs and restaurants in the city had to close from 5pm on Wednesday, as she barred people from visiting other households indoors and urged residents to avoid non-essential journeys greater than five miles. Health officials in NHS Grampian named 32 pubs, restaurants and golf clubs visited by some of the 54 people infected in the outbreak, as the scope of their test-and-trace investigation widened to include several businesses in Aberdeenshire.
FRANCE have raised the alarm about an impending second Covid-19 wave as a new spike plagues Germany, Greece and Spain. In the past 24 hours alone, the country has reported 1,695 new coronavirus infections — the highest daily increase for two months. As France — the world’s most popular tourist destination — contends with more than 1,000 new cases each day for the past week, its health ministry said: “The situation is precarious. “We could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control, like in Spain. “It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter.”
Travellers from Belgium will have to quarantine for 14 days following a dramatic rise in coronavirus infections there. Officials are finalising plans to add the country to the list of places from where people will be ordered to isolate on arrival into Britain. At a meeting this evening, ministers are expected to sign off on the change, which will come into force at either midnight tonight or tomorrow. Belgium follows Spain – which was put on the quarantine list a fortnight ago, wrecking the holiday plans of millions – and Luxembourg, which was added last week.
A second wave of Covid-19 appears to be striking Europe, forcing Spain to reimpose lockdowns and cases spiking to a three-month high in Greece. The head of Germany’s doctors’ union has declared that the country is already in the midst of its second wave because people have flouted social distancing rules. And France’s top scientific committee has warned the virus ‘could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control’. Greece’s prime minister has urged the country to maintain social distancing after it recorded 121 new cases yesterday, the highest daily tally since April 22.
Boris Johnson is to limit the power of local politicians to block building developments in the biggest reform of the planning system for 70 years. The proposals, to be published today, aim to trigger a construction boom that would swiftly provide homes, hospitals and schools. The prime minister has promised to rejuvenate the economy with a “build, build, build” strategy. Councils are to be given up to three and half years to designate areas for growth, renewal or protection. Once agreed, however, local politicians will have little or no say over specific applications that fit the rules.
Every new housing development in England will be required by law to have tree-lined streets as part of the biggest shake-up of planning laws for more than 70 years. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will today pledge to cut red tape and streamline the planning process, with an insistence that developments are ‘beautiful’. The changes will however strip local councillors of power to decide on individual developments in an attempt to get the country building. The plans have also attracted criticism from housing charities, planning officers and architects who warned the changes could lead to a ‘generation of slums’ and kill off affordable housing projects.
Britain will set out proposals on Thursday to speed up homebuilding by cutting red tape and opening up the sector to smaller firms, in a bid to address a long-term housing shortage. Successive Conservative-led governments have sought to reform the housing market by increasing supply, conscious of a generation of younger renters who have been priced out of owning their own homes in many parts of the country. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has set its sights on reforming the planning system to try to get more homes built.
The government’s proposed reforms of the planning system will cost Britain decades in the fight against climate change and resign nature to “isolated fragments of land”, environmentalists have warned. Countryside charities said plans to make new homes carbon neutral by as late as 2050 – beyond what scientists say will be a tipping point for climate change – as “pitiful” and dramatically less ambitious than previous ambitions scrapped by ministers.
Moves to slash red tape and hand automatic planning permission to some homes – and projects like schools and hospitals – are being unveiled by Boris Johnson. A radical blueprint hailed as a “once-in-a-generation reform” is being published by the government with the aim of sweeping away “slow and complex” planning laws. The shake-up, a key part of the prime minister’s “build, build, build” agenda, also includes automatic planning approval for new homes on land earmarked for growth. The housing revolution comes in a government consultation paper, Planning For The Future, published by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick just weeks after he became embroiled in a planning row.
The biggest shake-up of planning for decades has caused fury that moves to fast-track the construction of “beautiful” homes across England will “dilute” democratic oversight, choke off affordable housing and lead to the creation of “slum” dwellings. Under the proposals, unveiled on Thursday, planning applications based on pre-approved “design codes” would get an automatic green light – eliminating a whole stage of local oversight within designated zones. Land across England would be divided into three categories – for growth, renewal or protection – under what Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, described as “once in a generation” reforms to sweep away an outdated planning system and boost building.
Tory ministers have been warned against prioritising homes for the “fortunate few” as part of an overhaul of planning rules to boost house building in the UK. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has claimed that a major overhaul of England’s planning system will speed up the housebuilding process and “cut red tape but not standards”. But campaigners sounded the alarm at plans to scrap a requirement for developers to build a certain number of affordable homes – despite more than a million families languishing on waiting lists.
The BBC is spending £38 million on chasing over-75s for the TV licence fee, warning that it will “enforce the law” if pensioners refuse to pay but continue to watch television. Letters have begun going out to 4.5 million pensioners across the country, an administrative task that is expected to take at least two months. The BBC has set up new call centres and hired 800 staff to take payment and deal with queries. The implementation cost of the scheme will be £38 million, the corporation said, and £13 million per year thereafter – a total of £90 million over the next five years.
Bailiffs could be sent into the homes of over-75s to seize and sell their possessions if ministers push ahead with proposals to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee. The government has acknowledged that its plans to replace the criminal sanction for licence-fee evasion with a civil penalty could cause additional anxiety to vulnerable people, as private bailiffs would have a greater role in collecting the money. Age campaigners said the prospect of debt collectors turning up at pensioners’ doors was “distressing and frightening”.