BRUSSELS insiders have lifted the lid on the increasingly bleak mood among its Brexit negotiators with one EU source admitting: “Outsiders don’t realise how pessimistic we’ve become.” The growing sense of despondency within Michel Barnier’s team is fuelled by fears of a bitter no deal Brexit with EU negotiators braced for a vicious “blame game” over who is responsible for the stalemate. Last week’s tense talks which ended in stalemate did nothing to lift flagging spirits in Brussels. An EU insider said: “Outsiders don’t realise how pessimistic we’ve become. “We expect the mood to switch rapidly to contingency planning, in expectation the UK will throw itself into the blame game rather than the end game. “The idea that if we do end up with no deal it’ll be because the EU underestimated the UK’s determination is misplaced.
European Union chief Michel Barnier has told EU states to be ‘cold-blooded’ with Britain as the Brexit trade deal deadline looms. It comes as former Brexit Secretary David Davis has warned that the last three weeks of negotiations ‘will matter more than the first three years’. Top negotiator Mr Barnier is reportedly prepared for a bust-up next month and is concerned there could be a break-down in trade talks. Mr Barnier also believes Downing Street could enter into a vicious ‘blame game’ over who is responsible for the lack of progress in trade deal negotiations, The Sun reported.
EUROPEAN UNION negotiators have rejected a British offer to prevent freight backlogs at busy ports after Brexit, according to Brussels sources. UK officials tabled a new paper with plans to keep “roll on, roll off” ports on both sides of English Channel flowing as part of any future free-trade agreement with the bloc. But Michel Barnier is said to have “snubbed” the proposal because it could keep the EU indefinitely tied to an unwanted system. “The plan was snubbed because it would have tied the EU into a system when flexibility will be needed over time,” a Brussels insider said.
Military chiefs have drawn up plans to mothball all of Britain’s tanks under radical proposals to modernise the armed forces. The move would lead to other military assets being given priority over heavy armour, The Times understands. The government is examining the controversial idea as the cost of upgrading Britain’s ageing fleet of 227 Challenger 2 tanks, and the 388 Warrior armoured fighting vehicles that support them on the battlefield, has soared. Both vehicles were branded “obsolete” last year and the argument has been made in the Ministry of Defence that the changing character of warfare demands more investment in cybercapabilities, space and other cutting-edge technologies.
Britain’s military chiefs have drawn up plans to scrap all the country’s tanks in a bid to modernise the armed forces amid expected budget cuts due to the coronavirus crisis. Ministers are thought to be exploring the idea due to the exorbitant cost of upgrading the fleet of 227 Challenger 2 tanks, the UK’s main battle tank, and the 388 Warrior armoured vehicles, as reported by The Times. The Challenger 2 is sometimes praised for its imposing presence, but some detractors say it is not the right fit for the British Army, and government officials are understood to be keen to modernise given the changing nature of warfare.
The armed forces must not be “eviscerated” as the government attempts to recover from the economic fallout of the coronavirus, a former chief of the defence staff has warned. Air Chief Marshal Lord Stirrup said the armed forces must not be seen as an “easy option” for cuts. Official figures revealed last week that the crisis had taken national debt above £2 trillion for the first time. There are concerns that troop numbers could be heavily cut and airbases could be closed as part of the defence and security review, with money instead being directed into cyberwarfare, space and artificial intelligence.
AN independent Scotland could create Scottish armed forces, if it manages to reach an agreement with Westminster to keep Trident in Scotland, an SNP campaign group has suggested in a policy paper. The group has said allowing the UK to retain nuclear submarines in Scotland after independence could bring in enough revenue to fund a new Scottish Defence Force (SDF), a suggestion quickly dismissed by Westminster. The Scottish National Party Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament published a new paper which claimed “negotiating cards” could be played by both sides.
A new grouping of British Conservative members of parliament has called on the government to radically overhaul the “not fit for purpose” asylum system, saying migrants who travel to the UK from safe countries shouldn’t be granted asylum. The letter to Boris Johnson from the so-called Common Sense parliamentary group comes as the United Kingdom faces an unprecedented influx of illegal migrants being assisted over the channel by people smugglers, and brought ashore by Border Force government boats.
BBC luvvies sparked uproar on Monday by saying they will ditch the words from Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia! for Last Night of the Proms. Boris Johnson had slammed “woke” plans to axe the patriotic sing-along climax from next month’s bash altogether. Beeb bosses instead announced they would feature — but only as orchestral versions amid fears of a backlash from Black Lives Matter campaigners due to lyrical connotations about the British Empire. But Tory MP David Morris said: “We cannot erase our history. We have got to be proud to be British. It does not matter what colour, creed or religion you are.” Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage told The Sun: “The BBC should stop apologising for our history and our heritage. People will be disgusted by this level of political correctness. The only thing that needs cancelling is the BBC itself.”
The BBC has defied the Government by announcing that Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory will not be sung at this year’s Last Night of the Proms. Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, had warned the BBC not to “erase history” by dropping the songs amid a row over colonialism, while Boris Johnson had told the corporation it was a mistake to target the “symbols” rather than the “substance” of such issues. But the BBC ignored them, effectively censoring the traditional anthems by choosing to play orchestral versions only, with no soloist singing the lyrics.
The Last Night of the Proms will feature the traditional flag-waving anthems Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory, the BBC confirmed on Monday night, but they will be performed as orchestral versions with no singing. Following suggestions that the music might be axed because of perceived links to colonialism, the BBC said the songs would be played, but in an adapted form without a singer in line with new coronavirus restrictions. Commenting on the move, the BBC’s media and arts correspondent, David Sillito, said: “The Last Night of the Proms will still have Jerusalem, the national anthem and new orchestral versions of Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory.
Orchestral versions of Land Of Hope And Glory and Rule Britannia! will be performed at the famous Last Night Of The Proms, the BBC has confirmed. The traditional anthems had reportedly been in doubt due to their perceived association with colonialism and slavery. The broadcaster has said the culmination of the annual celebration of classical music will include “familiar, patriotic elements”.
The BBC risked a further backlash in a row over the Last Night of The Proms after announcing that Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory will be played but without lyrics. Downing Street had urged the broadcaster to keep the anthems, which refer to slavery and imperialism. Earlier, prominent figures in the classical music industry branded the lyrics “offensive” and outdated. One BBC source characterised the handling of the Last Night of The Proms line-up as “white guys in a panic” seeking to placate the Black Lives Matter movement.
The French government will this week agree to impose reciprocal quarantine restrictions on travel from the UK as ministers face growing pressure to reduce the 14 day self-isolation period. Britain added France to its ‘red list’ of banned countries on August 15 after a spike in coronavirus cases. All travellers returning from the country to the UK must stay at home for a fortnight and Paris is now poised to impose its own similar restrictions on people heading in the opposite direction. Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune signalled the tit-for-tat action will be set out in the coming days. ‘We will have a measure called reciprocity so that our British friends do not close the border in one single way,’ he told French TV station France 2, according to comments reported by Reuters.
France is set to introduce a mandatory quarantine period for anyone arriving into the country from the UK, ten days after similar arrangements were brought in for those heading in the opposite direction. A French minister has warned ‘reciprocal’ measures will be announced in the ‘next few days’ because the border can’t be closed one-way. It would mean anyone visiting France from the UK could have to quarantine for 14 days on arrival and then again when they came back home. The measure is set to be introduced despite the UK’s infection rate being less than half what it is in France.
More children in England and Wales will be home schooled than ever before as specialist colleges record a huge rise in demand for online courses. Wolsey Hall Oxford, one of the biggest home schooling providers, revealed that it has suspended all GCSE applications because of “overwhelming” demand. Research by the children’s commissioner showed that in 2018 there were nearly 60,000 students being taught at home in England but home-schooling colleges, which offer courses online, predict that figure will rise dramatically.
Boris Johnson is under fresh pressure to introduce face masks in schools after Nicola Sturgeon signalled over-12s will be made to wear them in Scotland. Teaching unions called on the Government to review its guidance on face coverings, which currently says they should not be worn in schools, although ministers said they had no plans to do so. It came after the World Health Organisation and the UN children’s agency Unicef advised that children aged 12 and over should wear face coverings in the same conditions as adults, particularly where they cannot guarantee at least a one metre distance from others.
Nicola Sturgeon today signalled secondary school pupils and staff in Scotland will be asked to wear face masks when they travel between classes – as Number 10 ruled out a similar move in England. The Scottish First Minister said her government is consulting on exactly when and where the coverings will be required as she cited concerns about ventilation issues in corridors and communal areas. However, Downing Street said there are ‘no plans’ for the UK Government to change its approach to the issue in England.
Downing Street has insisted it has “no plans” to follow Scotland by telling pupils to wear facemasks in school. Nicola Sturgeon said that officials were in the final stages of consulting teachers and councils on plans to make secondary schoolchildren wear face coverings in school. “We’re consulting on this specific measure because, firstly, mixing between different groups is more likely in corridors and communal areas — increasing the potential for transmission,” Scotland’s first minister said. “Secondly, crowding and close contact in these areas is more likely and voices could be raised, resulting in greater potential for creating aerosol transmission.
Head teachers have signalled they will defy orders to fine parents who fail to send their children back to school next month, claiming such punishments would be “counterproductive”. Downing Street insisted on Monday that education is “compulsory” and that parents should be aware they will be fined as a “last resort” if they keep their children at home without permission. Boris Johnson acknowledged that parents “are genuinely still a bit worried” about their children contracting coronavirus, but stressed that the danger was tiny. He said: “All I can say is the risks are very, very, very small that they’ll even get it, but then the risk that they’ll suffer from it badly are very, very, very, very small indeed.
Teaching unions and parents have hit back over the threat of fines if children do not return to the classroom next week, warning it could undermine trust between families and schools at a crucial point in the UK’s recovery from coronavirus. And the head of the body representing parent teacher associations (PTAs) told The Independent that Boris Johnson’s assertion of a “moral duty” to get youngsters into school after the enforced break was “very unhelpful” for many mothers and fathers who have legitimate concerns over the health of their children.
Headteachers should fine parents who don’t send their children back to school as a “last resort”, Number 10 has said. Boris Johnson’s deputy spokesman said Heads should seek to discuss absences with parents in the first instance. But he said fines could be used as a “last resort.” Earlier, Schools Minister Nick Gibb warned parents they faced fines if they kept children at home. He said: “Fines for non-attendance have always been a last resort for headteachers in schools. What matters is that young people are attending school. “We live in a country where education is compulsory and I think parents can be reassured that the measures that schools are taking to make sure that we minimise the risk of the transmission of the virus are very effective.”
Headteachers won’t fine parents who decide to keep their children home from school next week, unions have signalled to Downing Street. Number 10 insisted compulsory fines should be used as a ‘last resort’ to force parents into bringing their children into the classroom when schools reopen. But unions, who have opposed the return to the classroom because of the danger coronavirus poses to teachers, told The Telegraph fines were ‘counterproductive’. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘Talking about fines now is unhelpful. Members cannot say don’t use them but they are more motivated by co-operation rather than coercion.’
Schools in England could be forced to close again if stricter local lockdown measures are needed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but teachers must prepare remote learning for pupils, Downing Street has said. Boris Johnson spoke of a “moral duty” to get children back into education after five months of absence and said the risk of picking up the virus in schools was small. On Monday parents were warned they could be fined if they decide to keep children off. In any future lockdown that requires schools to close, teachers would be mandated to keep learning ongoing at home. Asked if there would be mass closures of schools again, even on a localised basis, a Downing Street spokesman said: “We would need to look on a case-by-case basis at the local area … it would depend on the local lockdown in question and the circumstances around increasing cases.
The risks of catching flu or being involved in a road accident are “higher” than contracting coronavirus for schoolchildren, England’s deputy chief medical officer has said. Dr Jenny Harries told Sky News she understands why parents are wary, but said a well-controlled school environment “should be a safe one” considering the information now available about COVID-19. “The long term harms of children not attending school significantly, we think, outweigh those potential risks,” she said. “No environment is completely risk-free. “Every time a parent sends their child off to school pre-COVID they may have been involved in a road traffic accident, there are all sorts of things.
Health chiefs failed to act on requests by government scientists to test all hospital patients for Covid before they were discharged, amid fears they were seeding the disease back into the community, it has emerged. Minutes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) meeting on June 18, show that experts had ‘reiterated concerns’ that infectious patients were being released without testing. The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) and New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), which feed into Sage, also both recommended that pre-discharge testing was vital in the previous weeks. But the recommendation was not enacted by NHS England.
This year’s Poppy Appeal will be unlike the British public has ever known it as the Royal British Legion (RBL) revealed it will scale back street collectors and focus on contactless donations due to coronavirus. While street collectors selling poppies in the run up to November 11 will be a familiar sight for many, it is understood that for this year’s appeal the charity is in discussions as to how it can raise money in a Covid-friendly way. The charity, which raises more than £50million each year for both veterans and serving military personnel, hopes to introduce “point of sale donations” where shoppers pay at supermarket tills or online and will be asked if they would like to round up their total to the nearest pound.
No amount of caffeine is safe in pregnancy or for women trying for a baby, research suggests. Current guidelines suggest that such women can safely drink around two cups of instant coffee a day without affecting their unborn baby’s health. But a review of almost 50 studies, published in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, suggests there is no safe level of caffeine consumption in such circumstances. Researchers called for a “radical revision” of current health guidelines – advising those who are pregnant or trying to conceive to cut out caffeine entirely. Scientists examined 48 observational studies and meta-analyses which examined links between caffeine and up to six negative pregnancy outcomes.
Pregnant women should be told there is no safe amount of caffeine to consume, according to a new study that calls for a significant revision of guidelines. The paper, published in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, argues that those trying to conceive should also avoid the stimulant, found in coffee, tea and chocolate, because it is linked to low birthweight and miscarriages. The NHS advises women that keeping caffeine levels to under 200 milligrams a day, or about two cups of coffee, will not harm a baby.