Britain will regain “full control” over its money and laws from January first 2021, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised, as discussion intensifies over whether a “landing zone” for Brexit deal talks is yet possible. Discussion in Britain’s mostly abandoned and strictly socially distanced Parliamentary chamber took an unusual turn away from Coronavirus Wednesday afternoon, as Boris Johnson was asked to confirm “categorically” that Britain would be completing Brexit at the end of the year, as ordered by the British people in 2016. The Prime Minister said he wanted to reassure his parliamentary colleague, veteran Tory David Amess that: “…this country has not only left the European Union but on January 1 we will take back full control of our money, our borders and our laws.” Yet the government continues to negotiate with the European Union in the hope of achieving a post-Brexit trade deal, an outcome strongly desired by the EU leadership itself and by the British political establishment as a second-best outcome to preventing the UK leaving the bloc at all.
British negotiators are close to clinching a deal that commits the UK to remaining subject to rulings by the European Court of Human Rights after Brexit. The UK would sacrifice a new extradition treaty and access to EU criminal databases if it quit the international agreement, under the terms of the potential deal, Brussels sources said. The EU insists that respect for the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and its Strasbourg court, is a condition for cooperation in law enforcement after the end of the transition period on December 31. Either party can trigger a “guillotine clause” suspending or terminating the judicial cooperation agreement if they had serious concerns about the protection of human rights and the rule of law, under a British proposal put to the EU.
A BREXIT trade deal has a 66 per cent chance of success, Michael Gove said last night. The Cabinet bigwig even said people can blame him if there is chaos at borders after the end of the year. UK chief negotiator David Frost revealed the two sides have now identified most of the “landing zones” for an “eminently achievable” deal. He raised hopes that the PM’s deadline of having an outline agreement ready by the end of next week will be met. He told MPs and peers that talks have made “quite good progress” and are moving well in areas such as state aid, dispute settlement and security. But there is still a big gap on fishing.
HOPES of a Brexit deal are growing with Boris Johnson’s officials on the verge of another breakthrough in the trade and security talks with Brussels. European Union negotiators are understood to be considering a compromise offer in the wrangling over future police and judicial co-operation. They are said to be working in a “constructive space” as the negotiations fast approach Downing Street’s deadline to establish whether a deal is doable. Brussels sources have signalled progress was made in last week’s formal negotiations after Lord Frost reassured the bloc Britain would maintain its membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The EU has lashed out at Boris Johnson for failing to engage in the Brexit talks, telling him: “Time for the UK to put its cards on the table”. Charles Michel, the European Council president revealed his frustration with the prime minister after talks intended to unlocks the stalled negotiations. “The EU prefers a deal, but not at any cost,” Mr Michel warned – after the UK’s chief negotiator admitted no “extensive text” on state aid rules would be submitted. Downing Street said after the talks that the two sides would aim to “bridge gaps” before a milestone European Council summit schedule next week, but said “significant differences” remain.
Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator has signalled that Boris Johnson is ready to make key concessions and that a trade deal is “eminently achievable”. Lord Frost told peers and MPs that No 10 was prepared to discuss commitments on subsidy policy that go beyond conventional trade agreements. The government had insisted the UK’s future subsidy policy should not form part of any agreement with the EU, which has been a sticking point. Lord Frost said the seven days before next Thursday’s EU summit would be critical in determining whether a deal was possible, but he was optimistic.
Talks on the key obstacle to a Brexit agreement are “only just beginning”, the UK’s chief negotiator says – warning the two sides are “some way from a deal”. David Frost revealed a new UK offer to limit future state aid, put forward last week, is “not an extensive text” and that “details” will not be produced until next year. “We are some way from a deal at the moment, if I’m honest,” he told a Lords inquiry – with the date for the UK to crash out of the transition period less than three months’ away.
Brexit talks are nearing a deal with Britain and the EU moving closer on the key issues of state aid and fisheries, according to the UK’s chief negotiator. European fishermen are likely to be assigned multi-year quotas for how much they can take out of British waters in a compromise which would avoid the spectre of annual renegotiations. And the UK Government is preparing to sign up to an agreement that it can only subsidise failing industries if there is a compelling argument that it is necessary to do so.
Two-thirds of voters believe that EU nationals should have to apply to come to Britain rather than enjoy free movement, a new survey has shown. The latest in annual surveys of British attitudes to politics by the National Centre for Social Research found widespread support for ending freedom of movement once the transition period is over. However, the figure has been dropping since the 2016 referendum when almost three-quarters supported the ending of freedom of movement.
TWO disused ferries are set to be bought by the Home Office to house migrants. Plans leaked last week showed officials were considering using old ships, islands or even oil rigs to cope with the surge in desperate people crossing the Channel. And sources say officials have now been instructed to start talks over snapping up the ferries, which could be used as migrant-processing centres off Portsmouth. Details of the deal — which could still take months to be formally sealed — are being kept under wraps.
EUROPEAN Council chief Charles Michel was humiliated by Brexiteers after hitting out at the UK, following a last-ditch phone call with Boris Johnson today. After Mr Michel held a conversation with Mr Johnson, he took to Twitter to demand the UK put its “cards on the table” ahead of the EU summit, next week. He also warned UK officials Brussels will not accept a free trade agreement “at any costs” as time runs out to secure a deal.
The Spanish government outlined an ambitious €72 billion recovery plan aimed at hauling the economy out of recession by investing in green energy and the digital sector. Pedro Sánchez, the Socialist prime minister, said the proposal, which relies on grants and loans from the €750 billion rescue plan agreed by the EU in July, would boost public investment and create 800,000 jobs within three years. It came as Spain struggled with Europe’s highest incidence of coronavirus infection, with Madrid in partial lockdown and the tourist-dependent economy in its deepest recession since the civil war in 1936-39.
Hard-left union baron Len McCluskey squeezed Labour’s funding after splits with the leadership. Unite cut its affiliation money by 10 per cent in a row over the direction the party is moving in. Mr McCluskey warned Sir Keir Starmer he will hold back more cash if Labour shifts too far to the political centre-ground. The union’s general secretary, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, said: “I have no doubt if things start to move in different directions and ordinary working people start saying, ‘well, I’m not sure what Labour stand for’, then my activists will ask me, ‘why are we giving so much money’?”
Downing Street has rejected the call of the Great Barrington group of scientists for an end to lockdown measures, saying their argument rests on an “unproven assumption” that it would be possible to protect the most vulnerable. The controversial Great Barrington Declaration, which has been signed by more than 7,000 scientists and medics worldwide, calls for a new strategy of allowing younger people to go about their lives as normal while offering “focused protection” to the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions who are most at risk from coronavirus. It has won the support of UK scientists including Professor Karol Sikora, and Tory backbencher Steve Baker has urged MPs to offer it their backing, in a direct challenge to the government’s strategy.
Senior ministers are signalling a rethink of the hugely unpopular 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants after Sir Keir Starmer gave a hint that Labour might join Tory MPs in inflicting a Commons defeat on the measure. The chances of the Government losing a key vote rose significantly after the Labour leader challenged Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions to explain the “scientific basis” for a 10pm cutoff.
Two former Tory Cabinet ministers have launched an inquiry to scrutinise the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Health and Social Care Committee will jointly conduct evidence sessions with the Science and Technology Committee to examine the effectiveness of the action taken by the Government and the advice it has received from experts. The decision is being led by the former Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the former Business Secretary, Greg Clark, both of whom have been vocal critics of the Government’s response to the outbreak.
Boris Johnson is considering plans to close pubs and restaurants within days amid mounting opposition from Sir Keir Starmer to the Government’s lockdown strategy. Mr Johnson is expected to announce that hospitality venues in the worst-hit areas of the country will face closure as infection rates continue to spiral out of control. Until now he has been able to rely on the support of Labour for measures to control coronavirus, but that support began to crumble after Sir Keir demanded to see the “scientific basis” for the current 10pm curfew.
Local curbs are not stopping Covid-19 cases from soaring in those areas, Labour has warned. Analysis found infections rising in 19 out of 20 spots affected. Keir Starmer told Boris Johnson: “This is getting ridiculous.” The Prime Minister is now facing desperate pleas to “level with” the North of England as another 14,162 cases were reported across the UK. The Government was poised to shut pubs and restaurants in coronavirus hotspots – although schools and workplaces would stay open.
Boris Johnson is facing fresh pressure to consider a tighter national lockdown as new data suggests local measures to contain the spread of coronavirus are not working. An analysis by Labour found infection rates have risen in 19 of the 20 areas where restrictions have been in place for two months. A stark example includes Burnley in Lancashire, where there’s been a 20-fold increase in cases from 21 per 100,000 people to 434 per 100,000. In Bolton, Greater Manchester, the rate of infection was 20 per 100,000 when restrictions, such as the ban on households mixing, were fist imposed, compared to 255 now.
NINETEEN out of 20 areas under local lockdown in England have suffered huge increases in known Covid-19 infections since the restrictions were imposed, Labour analysis revealed today. At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on PM Boris Johnson to tell locked-down communities what he thinks the “central problem” behind the rise in reported cases might be. Restrictions first came into force in Wigan, now in its second local lockdown, on July 30.
Boris Johnson is to close pubs and restaurants in northern England on Monday as hospitals face being overwhelmed by a rising number of coronavirus cases. The prime minister signed off on the lockdown last night alongside new financial support and a simplified system of restrictions in England. The measures will include wage support for employees of businesses that were forced back into lockdown three months after opening. The new system of restrictions divides England into three tiers of escalating severity.
BORIS Johnson faces an all-out Tory war as he is poised to follow Scotland’s lead and shut pubs and restaurants in the North. Ten million Brits are staring down the barrel of local lockdown measures from next week as virus cases continue to rocket across the region. The PM is all set to implement the draconian move after Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today ordered a 16-day ban on drinking indoors in pubs. Jake Berry, ex- Northern Powerhouse minister and a long-time Boris ally, launched an astonishing Commons tirade accusing his friend of falling into the “fatal trap of making national decisions on a London-centric view with London-centric data”.
Nicola Sturgeon has announced a strict new crackdown in Scotland as she warned the country is just weeks away from a catastrophic death toll. The virus appears to be spreading faster in Scotland than any other part of the UK, with experts claiming it will be on the road to peak infection levels and casualties by the end of the month. Ms Sturgeon announced a two-week closure of licensed premises across the central belt and ban on indoor drinking in other parts of Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon has announced a nationwide ban on drinking indoors in pubs, bars and restaurants across Scotland for more than two weeks, and a full shutdown of all licensed premises across the central belt where infection rates are accelerating most rapidly. The first minister told the Scottish parliament on Wednesday that the targeted measures were intended to be a “short, sharp action to arrest a worrying increase in infection”. She said a further 1,054 people had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 24 hours. For 16 days from Friday at 6pm, all pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes must operate on a daytime-only basis, from 6am to 6pm, and for the service of food and non-alcoholic drinks only.
Scots are facing the prospect of even tougher restrictions on pubs and restaurants amid fears coronavirus is spiralling out of control. Nicola Sturgeon is set to unveil a dramatic new squeeze this afternoon, expected to include swingeing curbs on the hospitality sector and local travel. The move – which she has stressed will not amount to a full lockdown as happened in March – comes after the First Minister received ‘very strong’ advice about the need to respond to a surge in infections. The action could be an indication of looming curbs in England, with Boris Johnson under huge pressure to tighten the rules despite a growing Tory revolt over civil liberties infringements and damage to the economy.
National 5 exams are to be cancelled in Scotland in 2021 and replaced with teacher assessments and coursework. Education Secretary John Swinney said going ahead with all exams during the continuing Covid pandemic was “too big a risk”. Higher and Advanced Higher exams will go ahead as usual – but will start on 13 May, two weeks later than planned. The move came as new restrictions were imposed across Scotland in response to a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases.
THE NHS is gearing up for a major roll out of a Covid jab from next month – with five mass vaccination centres ready before Christmas. The giant sites – manned by trainee nurses, physios and paramedics – will be able to treat tens of thousands of people daily. Leaked documents reveal officials are hopeful that two jabs will prove successful before the end of the year. Plans are already well under way to ensure they can be delivered to those who need them most. The first mass vaccination centres are planned for sites in major cities including Leeds, Hull and London.
Italy, Greece and Sweden could be added to the UK’s quarantine list this week amid the continued surge in coronavirus cases across Europe. The countries would be added to the ‘red’ list of high-risk destinations, but it comes as the Government is considering slashing quarantine from 14 days to eight days. A negative test on the eighth day after returning from a high-risk country would allow the period of self-isolation to end. But the shortened isolation will be of little solace to families looking to take half-term holidays as the number of ‘red’ countries grows.
BRUSSELS is to close all bars and cafes for a month following a 50 percent rise in new coronavirus cases. The move comes after the Belgian government announced an 11pm curfew for bars nationwide and a four-person limit on social gatherings. The capital recorded 3,751 positive tests in the week to October 4, up from 2,391 the previous week. Restaurants serving food at tables will be allowed to stay open, but bars are cafes will be told to close their doors until November 8, when the move will be reviewed.
Blanket social distancing and the closure of schools may have cost more lives than if herd immunity had been allowed to build slowly in the community, a study suggests. A reanalysis of the Imperial University modelling that led to lockdown in March shows that shutting schools and preventing youngsters from mingling may have had the counterintuitive effect of actually killing more people. In a study published in the BMJ, Edinburgh University predicted that over the entire course of the pandemic, keeping children out of classrooms would increase deaths by between 80,000 and 95,000.
Reducing air pollution in and around schools could improve children’s ability to learn, and bestow the same benefits as almost a month of extra lessons, research has found. Scientists studied the potential benefits of maintaining the reduced levels of air pollution recorded in cities during lockdown, when traffic levels dropped. They found that cutting nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels by 20 per cent below the legal limit could improve the development of a child’s working memory by 6 per cent — the equivalent of three to four weeks of extra learning.