The economy

THE UK economy grew by 1.8 per cent in May as easing of coronavirus lockdown helped its recovery. But GDP has not yet recovered from record falls in March and April and is still down 24.5 per cent compared to pre-coronavirus levels in February. The UK economy fell by 5.8 per cent in March as coronavirus lockdown triggered a crash in activity. GDP then fell by 20.4 per cent in April – the biggest monthly fall on record. The UK economy was boosted in May by record online retail sales and the repair of vehicles, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said of the May economy figures: “Manufacturing and house-building showed signs of recovery as some businesses saw staff return to work. “Despite this, the economy was still a quarter smaller in May than in February, before the full effects of the pandemic struck. “In the important services sector we saw some pick-up in retail, which saw record online sales.

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The UK economy grew by 1.8% in May as activity began to recover with the easing of coronavirus lockdown but remained a quarter below its pre-pandemic levels, according to official data. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the economy eked out growth as manufacturing and housebuilding showed signs of recovery after restrictions began to be lifted in May. Despite the month-on-month increase in gross domestic product (GDP), output is still a long way from recovering from the record falls seen in March and April when Britain was in full lockdown – and was 24.5% lower compared with February before the crisis struck.

Customs centres

Up to a dozen inland customs centres similar to the controversial planned lorry park in Ashford, Kent, are to be built to deal with the expected additional bureaucracy at ports caused by Brexit, it has been revealed. The plans emerged as it was confirmed that the UK government expects businesses to complete hundreds of millions of additional import and export customs declarations – an official estimate of around 400 million was later revised down to 215 million – as a result of Brexit, at a cost previously estimated by HM Revenue and Customs at anything up to £20bn a year. Long-awaited details of the new operating processes for the UK’s borders were finally released by the Cabinet Office less than six months before they are due to come into force at the end of the year, amid warnings from businesses that many firms will not be able to prepare for them in time.

Britain’s government is looking at several sites in southern England for sites to process post-Brexit checks on lorries ferrying goods to the European Union, cabinet office minister Michael Gove said on Monday. The government is expected to need new infrastructure to process trucks ferrying goods across the Channel and those trading in the opposite direction after a transition period finishes at the end of this year. Earlier, ministers called on businesses to get ready for the end of the year, saying that whether a free trade deal with the bloc is reached or not, Britain would be outside the EU’s single market and customs union so new procedures would take force. “It is not the case that any specific site has been absolutely confirmed. We’re in commercial negotiations with a number of sites, and as and when they are confirmed, I will let him know,” Gove told parliament after one lawmaker representing a part of the Kent region asked about reports of a lorry park.

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The UK’s post-Brexit border regime will come into place over three stages next year, with most businesses able to delay filling out any customs declaration forms until July. The border regime will be fully operation in July, with no customs checks at the border until this point, as the government plans to build 10 to 12 inspection sites. The changes will come into place as the UK leaves the EU customs union and single market on 31 December, regardless of whether Britain strikes a trade deal with Brussels. Cabinet Office officials estimate that British businesses will now need to fill in 400m import and export declarations next year due to the necessary changes. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove unveiled the plan today in the House of Commons together along with a £90m advertising blitz to get businesses and tourists ready for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

New carriers

Military chiefs have drawn up plans to base one of Britain’s new aircraft carriers in the Far East to play a part in countering an increasingly assertive China, The Times can reveal. HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of the two carriers to complete training, will set sail on its maiden grand voyage as the centrepiece of a carrier strike group early next year. The £3.1 billion vessel is expected to visit the Far East, conducting military exercises with allies including the United States and Japan.  It is also likely to spend some time as a “floating trade fair”, used as a platform for deals, according to a defence source.

BRITAIN’S biggest warship may be sent to the Far East in a show of strength against the “emerging threat” of China, it’s been reported. The £3billion HMS Queen Elizabeth could be based in the Far East to counter an assertive China following a range of crises, including standoffs and cyber attacks against UK allies, the US and Australia. The Times reports that military bosses are progressing plans to base the new aircraft carrier in the Far East. The vessel could join allies such as the US and Japan on military exercises to fend off growing aggression from China.


THE EUROPEAN UNION is preparing for “inevitable disruptions” as concerns over a hard Brexit deal are raised throughout Brussels. Since UK officially left the EU back in January, trade deal negotiations have been ongoing but both sides have so far failed to come to an agreement. Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to end the transition period by December 31 with or without a trade deal. According to reports, the EU is updating its emergency plans for a hard Brexit outcome due to the lack of progress on both sides. The chairman of the European Parliament’s Trade Committee, Bernd Lange, told Force: “Unfortunately, we still don’t know what exactly the British Government has in mind.

IRELAND’S Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has warned a Brexit with no trade deal between the UK and European Union would be an “enormous act of self-harm” and an “extraordinary failing of politics”. Mr Coveney lamented the slow progress in negotiations, describing them as “frustrating”. He also said negotiators from Brussels are being consistent with the political declaration signed with the EU six months ago. Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister said: “There’s been four rounds of negotiations to date and really very little progress and quite a lot of frustration. “We will attempt to agree a future relationship agreement that had a basic free trade agreement, but with that there needs to be a level playing field provision, there needed to be a governance arrangement that could monitor and deal with disputes, should they happen.


Boris Johnson will bow to the demands of his backbench MPs on Tuesday by banning Huawei from the 5G network next year and targeting 2024 for stripping out all its existing infrastructure. The Prime Minister was facing a major Commons defeat after being given an ultimatum by 60 Tory rebels to set an early date for the removal of the Chinese telecoms firm from the UK network. But after an 11th-hour meeting with Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, on Monday, the rebels were confident that their wishes would be granted. On Tuesday, Mr Johnson will chair a meeting of the National Security Council at which a final decision will be made on Huawei’s future as a supplier to the UK’s 5G network, followed by a statement to Parliament by Mr Dowden.

Boris Johnson will face the disapproval of Tory MPs today over plans to remove Huawei from Britain’s 5G telecoms network that could take another seven years to complete. The prime minister will hold a meeting of the National Security Council, which is expected to agree that telecoms companies will be barred from buying new Huawei equipment from January next year. However, under plans that will be considered by ministers today, the Chinese company’s technology will not be entirely removed from the 5G network until 2027.

The UK government is set to ban Huawei from the 5G network following a rebellion by dozens of Tory MPs and intense pressure from the United States. Media secretary Oliver Dowden is expected to announce the U-turn in the House of Commons following a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by Boris Johnson  on Tuesday morning. It is thought the government will announce no new Huawei equipment can be installed in the network from as early as next year. There will also be a so-called “rip out” date by which all the existing Huawei technology must be removed.

Evening Standard
Boris Johnson is set to bar the Chinese tech giant Huawei from playing any role in Britain’s 5G network, triggering a renewed clash with Beijing. The Prime Minister is chairing a meeting on Tuesday of the National Security Council (NSC) which is expected to end any involvement by the firm in building the 5G system. The decision – following intense pressure from both the US administration of Donald Trump and backbench Tory MPs – marks a major U-turn by the Government. In January, ministers announced Huawei could play a limited role in the 5G network, despite warnings that its equipment could be used by China for espionage or to disrupt the UK’s critical national infrastructure.

Northern Ireland

Northern Irish businesses must be compensated for the millions of pounds in extra costs they are expected to face to trade with firms in Great Britain after Brexit is completed, a group of MPs have said. As part of Boris Johnson’s deal to avoid a border on the island of Ireland, businesses in Northern Ireland face checks and controls on all goods coming from the rest of the UK from January and are threatened with some checks going in the other direction. Business leaders have warned some firms could collapse under the weight of the costs, which will not be incurred by their counterparts in Scotland, Wales or England. A report by the Northern Ireland affairs select committee recommends that the government “reimburses business for any new costs incurred” and clarifies urgently what new administrative requirements traders face.

Modern slavery

BRITAIN has a staggering 100,000 modern day slaves, a damning report has found. The shocking figure is ten times bigger than the official number accepted by the government. William Hague, the former Tory leader, said 200 years after the formal abolition of slavery, “the terrible crime” continues hidden in sweat shops and brothels across the country. The findings come after shocking reports that sweat shops churning out clothes for brands like Boohoo were behind the Leicester coronavirus spike. The report, by the Centre for Social Justice and the charity Justice and Care warned the slavery scandal will only get worse in the wake of the pandemic.

A report by the think tank the Centre for Social Justice and the anti-slavery charity Justice and Care says that nearly 100,000 slaves are working across Britain, around ten times more than 2017 government estimates.  The report, It Still Happens Here published on Sunday, used artificial intelligence to analyse the crime and intelligence reports across six towns and cities in the West Midlands to estimate some 4,197 victims of slavery in one year. Extrapolated for the entire United Kingdom, the think tank came to the figure of 99,469, which does not count the victims who have not appeared in police databases. The government had estimated in 2017 that around 10,000 to 13,000 slaves were operating in the UK.


BRITS will be trained to plug a gap caused by foreign carers being shut out of a fast-track visa scheme. A points-based immigration system, announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel, offers a Health and Care visa route for health professionals to work in the UK. But care workers do not get paid enough to qualify as the rules require a job offer with a minimum salary of £20,480. The Government faced a backlash for excluding them as well as NHS cleaners and porters from the visa scheme, especially as there are 120,000 social care vacancies. Campaigners called the decision a “slap in the face” to those who have been risking their lives in the pandemic. But the PM defended the move, insisting the Government was investing in training and development to encourage more Brits to consider a career in the sector.

Face coverings

Face coverings will become mandatory in shops and supermarkets with fines of up to £100 for anyone who fails to adhere to the new rules, the Government will announce on Tuesday. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, will confirm that Government guidance is being updated to make the wearing of face coverings in shops and supermarkets in England compulsory from July 24. The announcement came after days of confusion with Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, and Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, making apparently contradictory statements about whether face coverings should be mandatory in shops. The rules will mean that the current guidance requiring masks to be worn on public transport in England will be extended to cover shops and supermarkets.

Face masks will become compulsory in all stores from next week. Shoppers who fail to comply risk fines of £100 under the plans to stop a second wave of coronavirus. Only young children or those with certain disabilities will be exempt from the new regulations which come in on Friday, July 24. Retailers will be asked to advise customers to wear masks but their staff will not be expected to enforce the law. Instead, police will be given powers to dish out fines. The law will require people to wear simple cloth face coverings, rather than the medical grade masks used by front-line NHS workers.

Facemasks will become compulsory in shops from a week on Friday, with £100 fines for those who do not cover up. Boris Johnson brought an end to days of confusion last night by announcing that police would get “tools of enforcement” as scientific evidence on the potential benefits of masks increased. Shops will not be expected to enforce the measures themselves. Ministers will make wearing masks compulsory under public health powers already used on public transport. Downing Street had insisted previously that shops did not require the same rules as trains and buses, but a cabinet minister said that encouraging the use of masks would also help to bolster public confidence as the government tried to tempt people back to work.

Second wave

There could be 120,000 Covid-19 deaths in hospitals between September and June if transmission rates rise in combination with cold weather and a bad flu season, the government has been warned. The figure is given as the “reasonable worst-case scenario” in a report on what a “challenging” winter might look like. The summer months must be “a period of intense preparation”, the report, produced by the Academy of Medical Sciences at the request of Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, says. It calls for an information campaign to remind the public of their responsibilities, as well as NHS and government action.

Britain must start “intense preparations” for a second wave of coronavirus that has the potential to kill as many as 120,000 hospital patients in a worst case scenario, experts have warned. Senior doctors and scientists convened by the Academy of Medical Sciences said on Tuesday that, without urgent action, a resurgence of cases this winter could overwhelm the NHS when services are already stretched because of flu and other seasonal pressures. The experts were commissioned by Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, to model a “reasonable worst case scenario” for Covid-19 this winter. Their report, which has been shared with ministers and local health authorities, calls for immediate efforts to prepare for a second wave.

A SECOND wave of coronavirus this winter could be worse than the first and kill 120,000 hospital patients, a report reveals. Scientists advising the government say officials must act now to prevent another explosion of cases overwhelming the NHS. They warn the R rate may rise to 1.7 by September in the reasonable worst case scenario. It means each infected person will be passing the bug on to an average of 1.7 others, with the pandemic growing again. This would lead to a peak in hospital admissions and deaths in January and February, when the NHS is usually at its busiest.


Llama blood could hold the key to saving the lives of patients who are seriously ill with coronavirus, a new study suggests. Researchers led by Oxford University have used repurposed antibodies taken from the South American camelids to fight the virus in laboratory trials. Doctors are already using antibodies derived from humans who have survived coronavirus, but the new findings herald the prospect of a more potent and easily available treatment. Llamas, camels and alpacas naturally produce quantities of small antibodies with a simple structure, meaning they can be turned into nanobodies.

Human trials of a new antibody treatment are set to begin in preparation for a second wave of coronavirus later in the year. British drugmaker AstraZeneca plans to test an ‘infusion of antibodies’ on 30 people next month in hopes it will protect the old and vulnerable from the disease. The treatment, described by Government scientists as ‘very exciting’, is designed for people who conventional vaccines don’t work for with very weak immune systems. It works by recreating the body’s natural disease-fighting substances in a lab and injecting them into people, reports MailOnline. It would be suitable for those on chemotherapy and immunosuppressant drugs, or elderly patients who naturally struggle to fight off infections. If successful the treatment will be trialled on thousands of people later in the year, in preparation for a feared second wave of Covid-19.

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