BORIS Johnson’s one “red line” for EU trade talks will be Britain having full control of its laws, aides said last night. No 10 said being out of the European Court of Justice and Brussels rules is more important than a free trade deal. The PM’s negotiating team hardened their language before today’s key meeting of the Brexit Cabinet committee to sign off Britain’s mandate for trade talks with the EU, which will start next week. But France accused Mr Johnson of using “blackmail” tactics against the EU, as tensions hit boiling point before official talks have even begun.
Battle lines have been drawn as ministers on both sides of the Channel prepare to sign-off on their Brexit negotiation red lines. The EU General Affairs Council is set to meet on Tuesday morning in Brussels to approve the bloc’s mandate for trade talks with the UK, which are gearing up to start next month. The announcement on Brussels’ agreed terms, which could be controversial after earlier drafts contained what Downing Street read as a veiled reference to the Elgin Marbles, is expected in the afternoon. In Westminster, the Brexit inner cabinet will also meet at Number 10 to discuss the UK’s negotiation stance.
BORIS JOHNSON will make setting Britain free from Brussels rules and regulations his top aim in the forthcoming EU trade negotiations, Downing Street said. In a significant toughening of the Government stance ahead the talks on a future trade deal, officials said the Prime Minister is to make “taking back control” from the bloc and ending the meddling of EU courts his non-negotiable “red line”. He will refuse to accept any deal that compromises the country’s “political and economic independence”, according to Whitehall insiders.
The UK and EU have hardened their stances ahead of the upcoming trade talks, as France warned they would not be ‘blackmailed’ into accepting a bad deal. Boris Johnson has insisted that the transition period will not be extended beyond 31 December, raising the renewed prospect of a no-deal Brexit. Meanwhile civil servants have been told to stop leaking, following reports that Priti Patel is demanding a formal leak inquiry into hostile briefings and allegations of bullying.
Now who is cherry picking? For three years, EU negotiators refused to countenance British proposals for a bespoke deal, however much such a deal was in their own interest. Their rules were paramount (yes, they kept saying that with straight faces) and Britain must choose an off-the-peg model. Michel Barnier was forever brandishing a chart with a staircase on it to show that, if Britain didn’t want to keep free movement or stay in the customs union, its only option was a free-trade agreement like that signed with Canada. “Fine then,” said Boris Johnson when he took over from Theresa May. “Canada it is.” At which point, suddenly and shamelessly, Eurocrats began to backtrack. Actually, no, not Canada.
Boris Johnson has said that he is prepared to sacrifice the interests of British business and walk away from trade talks with the EU if Brussels insists on a deal that compromises the UK’s “political independence”. Yesterday Amélie de Montchalin, France’s European affairs minister, said Paris would not be “blackmailed” into accepting a poor post-Brexit trade deal because of the threat of no deal. EU ambassadors yesterday toughened up their draft negotiating mandate, suggesting Brussels wants the UK to agree not just to maintain present EU rules in areas such as state aid but also to align with future developments.
Ministers from the EU will meet later to approve their mandate for post-Brexit trade talks with the UK. The document approved by the EU General Affairs Council on Tuesday morning will be the basis for future negotiations, to be carried out by Michel Barnier. It will say that a trade deal should be based on EU rules in some areas as “a reference point”. Meanwhile, UK ministers will also meet at No 10 to discuss the government’s opening stance for negotiations.
BREXIT lobby group Fishing for Leave has pointed out the EU’s hypocrisy over the EU’s claims to Britain’s fishing waters. Fishing for Leave has branded the EU’s demands as “egregious” as they highlight the bloc’s hypocrisy over its insistence to continue to fish in UK waters post-Brexit. They wrote on Twitter: “EU demands perpetual pillaging of 60% of Britain’s fish for a deal & folk shrug. “If we demanded EU oil & gas to allow BMW sales there’d be outrage.” It comes after France’s European Affairs Minister Amélie de Montchalin warned Boris Johnson Paris is “ready to fight” for fishing rights. The French minister warned the Prime Minister the EU will not be pushed into a “bad deal” just to ensure Mr Johnson is able to keep true to his pledge.
THE UK will be forced to adhere to an “insane” EU law despite Great Britain leaving the trade bloc at the end of this year. Coming into effect after Brexit, ride-on lawnmowers, golf carts and tractors will be required to have motor insurance. Described as “insane” by Boris Johnson, the law comes from an EU directive interpreted by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Although the UK is leaving the EU, the withdrawal agreement stated pre-Brexit judgements carried out by the ECJ will continue to apply.
The EU will demand the right to punish Britain if the government fails to shadow the Brussels rulebook in the future, member states have agreed, as Boris Johnson was warned that the bloc would not be hurried into a deal on the future relationship. A final draft of the EU’s negotiating position agreed by ambassadors on Monday, ready for ministerial sign off on Tuesday, establishes the bloc’s developing environmental, social and workers’ standards as the baseline for a trade deal.
A GERMAN politician has accused EU member states of acting selfishly after leaders failed to agree on a long-term budget for the bloc at a special summit. Manfred Weber, the head of the European People’s Party, slammed individual countries for their “selfishness” at the table. His condemnation comes after leaders departed Brussels on Friday evening following two days of meetings. The EU27 failed to reach a breakthrough at the meetings chaired by Charles Michel as the bloc grapples with the no-small task of filling the €75 billion gap left by the UK’s departure.
France will not be “blackmailed” into a rushed trade deal between the UK and EU, an Elysee minister has warned, as Brussels prepares to publish its negotiating mandate for the next stage of Brexit talks. Amélie de Montchalin, France’s secretary of state for European affairs, told France24 this morning she would be bringing a “clear Brexit message” to London this week. “Just because Boris Johnson wants a deal at all costs on December 31 does not mean that we will sign under the pressure of blackmail or the calendar a bad deal for the French,” she told the broadcaster.
BREXIT will make it “difficult for the EU to survive”, predicts one economist who claims the bloc could face intense pressure to reform if a post-Brexit trade deal cannot be reached by the end of the year. British economist Roger Bootle has claimed the EU is already feeling the effects of Brexit, as the EU27 failed to reach an agreement on the terms of the bloc’s next long-term budget last week. The chairman of Capital Economics also warned if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal in place, Brussels may come under intense pressure to reform.
Downing Street has ramped up expectations of a no-deal Brexit by saying that Boris Johnson will prioritise a clean break from EU regulations and courts over smooth trade in upcoming talks with Brussels. Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson said there was “absolutely” no question of the prime minister extending talks on the future relationship with the EU beyond 31 December – after which the UK will crash out on World Trade Organisation terms if no deal has been agreed, with the potential for massive disruption to trade and travel. The comments – which represent a significant hardening in Downing Street’s position – came as France accused the UK of using the self-imposed deadline as a way of “blackmailing” the EU into accepting a bad Brexit deal.
A second senior civil servant has been forced out of the home office after falling foul of Priti Patel. The official, who was in charge of the department’s oversight of the police, is understood to have left in recent weeks. He is to take up a role in the Department for Transport while another official outside the Home Office has been drafted in to replace him The official’s departure follows that of a senior member of the home secretary’s private office after clashes with Ms Patel. She also demanded the removal of the department’s permanent secretary, Sir Philip Rutnam.
Britain’s top civil servant yesterday tried to end the toxic briefing war engulfing Priti Patel at the Home Office. In a highly unusual intervention, Sir Mark Sedwill wrote to civil servants to warn that ‘unattributable briefings and leaks to the media’ were ‘besmirching this country’s hard-won reputation for good governance’. The Cabinet Secretary’s comments follow days of extraordinary briefings about relations between Miss Patel and Sir Philip Rutnam, who is permanent secretary at the Home Office. The Home Secretary is said to be ‘livid’ over claims that she bullied staff and was cut out of security briefings by MI5 – allegations that emerged after she allegedly tried to have Sir Philip removed.
The cabinet secretary has rebuked civil servants and ministers for “unattributable briefings and leaks”, in a bid to settle the feuding surrounding Priti Patel. In a highly unusual email to all staff, Sir Mark Sedwill said “good government” depended on politicians, their aides and officials being able to operate with “candour, confidentiality and courtesy”. He wrote: “Civil servants should at all times be confident that they can give the honest, impartial and objective advice on which ministers can rely.
Britain’s top civil servant has fired a warning shot at Home Secretary Priti Patel over claims of poor treatment of staff. Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill said that officials must be confident that ministers would abide by their code of conduct. And in a stinging rebuke he highlighted the “enduring” work of the civil service beyond the government of the day. But Sir Mark also had tough words for staff – ordering an end to the media leaks which have rocked the Tory administration.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, has been warned by No 10 to cool down the row with her permanent secretary, Philip Rutnam, after a bitter briefing war between allies of the pair about their deteriorating relationship. The prime minister’s official spokesman said Boris Johnson had “full confidence” in the home secretary and in the civil service, though the same guarantee was not given to Rutnam specifically. Behind the scenes, moves have been made to defuse the public spat, with both Patel and Rutnam told to stop the sniping and restore calm in the Home Office.
The UK is “well prepared” to deal with coronavirus cases and the risk to individuals “remains low”, the government has said. Downing Street said 99% of those tested in the UK had come back negative. The total number of cases in the UK has risen to 13 after four cruise ship passengers flown back to Britain on Saturday tested positive for the virus. It comes amid growing fears the outbreak could reach pandemic scale as more cases emerge around the world. A total of 6,536 coronavirus tests have been conducted in the UK as of 14:00 GMT on Monday, with 6,527 returning as negative, the Department of Health said.
A surge in cases across Europe suggests that the Covid-19 virus is spreading without symptoms becoming apparent, scientists warned, as a study found that screening at airports would miss most infected travellers. Dr Simon Clarke, of the University of Reading, said that a rise in cases in Europe and Asia suggested “that the virus can pass from person to person without symptoms, making it extremely difficult to track, regardless of what health authorities do”. Travellers worldwide are being screened for Covid-19. Researchers from Chicago University suggested, however, that this was unlikely to stop its spread.
World stock markets slumped yesterday amid growing alarm over the global spread of coronavirus as Britain prepared to tell travellers arriving from Italy to self-isolate if they felt ill. With the World Health Organisation warning that the Covid-19 outbreak had “pandemic potential”, £62 billion was wiped off the value of Britain’s largest companies after the FTSE 100 suffered its worst day in four and a half years, falling 3.3 per cent. European markets endured their worst session since 2016 while on Wall Street this year’s gains on the Dow Jones industrial average were wiped out.
The owner of Primark is the latest business to sound the alarm on coronavirus, as the logistical impact spreads across huge swathes of the global economy. Primark relies heavily on factories in China to make its wares. Finance chief John Bason, however, insisted that “we’ve got several months of stock” in warehouses in the UK already because it ordered extra stock ahead of the Chinese New Year. “We’re monitoring the developments. Local and central authorities are enabling employees to come back to work. If this goes on longer, we must work out contingency plans.”
THE deadly new coronavirus fits the so-called Disease X category, a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert has warned. Scientists previously warned that an outbreak of an as-yet unknown infectious disease could wipe out 80 million and cause a deadly pandemic. And now experts fear that the new Covid-19 virus, which has already killed 2,620 people, is shaping up to fit that profile. The virus has spread well beyond China’s tightly-restricted borders, infecting hundreds in South Korea and Japan, more than 150 in Italy, and several more across the globe.
Analysis by the Global Warming Policy Foundation has found the cost of reaching the Government’s “Net Zero” carbon emissions target will be astronomical for the UK economy. The cost of decarbonising the electricity system and domestic housing alone in the next three decades will cost over £2.5 trillion pounds. This soars to over £3 trillion when manufacturing, transport and agriculture are included – equivalent to £100,000 per household or £100 billion every single year. The reports set out the “stark” conclusions that there are relatively few avenues to strip out carbon from the economy, leading to inevitably drastic measures in a short amount of time, such as stripping out all gas central heating systems in the country.
The government is expected to miss its targetof England being smoke-free by 2030 because so many poorer people are still using cigarettes, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has warned. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, set that ambition in last year’s green paper on health prevention which spelled out his determination to “finish the job” of eradicating smoking, including an ultimatum for industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete by 2030. However, persistently high rates of smoking in more deprived areas means that on current trends England will not be smoke-free until 2037, seven years later than hoped, CRUK said in a report on Tuesday.
Heathrow expansion will wreck government promises to “level up” the UK, economists have warned – ahead of a crucial court ruling that could derail the controversial project. The third runway will trigger a £43bn shift in the nation’s income to London and the southeast from other regions, with 27,000 jobs also relocating to those richer areas, their report estimates. The worst-hit region would be the northwest – which could lose up to 15,000 jobs by 2050 – at a time when Boris Johnson has vowed to narrow the north-south divide, it says. The study, by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), also concludes the third runway, approved by MPs in 2018, would see the UK pumping out an extra 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Most grammar schools are favouring the poorest pupils in admissions, sparking complaints from better-off parents. Schools are giving a higher priority to children from disadvantaged backgrounds who pass the 11-plus test in a bid to boost social mobility. The trend has resulted in numerous complaints to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA), the schools admissions watchdog. Primaries and secondaries can give priority to children who are eligible for the pupil premium – extra cash given to schools to encourage them to educate disadvantaged youngsters.
The college set up to train engineers for the HS2 rail network has failed to teach students the basics of the job and left them vulnerable to harassment in the classroom, Ofsted found. Its report into the HS2 College found that “managers and staff do not act quickly enough to protect apprentices from harassment” nor provide them with the “help, protection and support that they need”. Separately, the college has been judged to be financially unsustainable by the further education funding watchdog and placed under “special supervision”.
£39,584,172 of taxpayers’ money was funnelled to left-wing lobby groups, new research from the Taxpayers’ Alliance has revealed. Between the years 2017 and 2019, groups arguing for higher taxes, spending, and in favour of a greater regulatory burden were flush with money – handed to them by the Government they campaign against… Taxpayer funding went to the socialist Fabian Society, anti-growth New Economics Foundation, and anti-trade deal ‘War on Want’. Other cash that was splurged on left wing campaigners included: £215,000 given to the IPPR, a left wing “progressive policy” think tank, which lobbies for higher taxes and government spending; £978,000 handed over to Rosa, an organisation that claimed last year “The Conservative government is actively selling off our NHS to the US.”
Doctors need to stop moaning and take responsibility for improving the NHS, the leader of Britain’s medics has said. Ministers have given the NHS a “substantial sum” of money and doctors must now stop blaming the government for all its problems, Carrie MacEwen, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, told The Times. Britain’s 220,000 doctors have a professional duty to make the health service’s ten-year plan work and can no longer “sit on their hands”, Professor MacEwen said.