Coronavirus

Sky News
Boris Johnson is fighting back against criticism that he has been slow to respond to coronavirus by unveiling a government action plan to tackle the spread of the disease. After chairing a COBRA meeting of senior ministers, he will announce a six-point plan at a Downing Street news conference alongside the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser. Following the COBRA meeting, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is also pledging more funds to fight the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and has promised a big injection of cash in next week’s budget. Emergency measures in the PM’s battle plan include a Cabinet Office war room, more home working and curbs on travel, bringing NHS staff out of retirement and bigger class sizes in schools.

Times
Boris Johnson is to give himself sweeping powers to ban public gatherings and create no-go zones in areas affected by coronavirus when he publishes the government’s “battle plan” today. The Treasury is also preparing to step in to bolster markets and offer relief to businesses hit by economic turmoil after warnings that the virus is the biggest threat to the global economy since the financial crisis of 2008. Ministers believe that they have 30 days to prepare for a serious outbreak in the spring, which Mr Johnson warned was now “highly likely”.

Telegraph
A campaign calling for volunteers to help the NHS in the event of a major coronavirus outbreak will be launched as part of a “battle plan” against the virus led by Boris Johnson. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister will set out the steps that could be taken if the virus continues to spread after warning on Monday that a “significant” rise in cases in Britain was “clearly on the cards”. Cancellation of mass gatherings, efforts to dissuade the public from needless travel and the use of retired medics are among emergency measures that could be brought in if the outbreak continues to worsen.

Sun
BORIS Johnson will today throw the country on to a war footing to battle the coronavirus outbreak. Downing Street’s battle plan will put the nation on red alert for a string of restrictions in the event of mass infection. The PM will also tell nervous Brits the deadly coronavirus could change everybody’s lives. His stark warning comes as four more UK cases were confirmed last night, including the first child, taking the total to 39.

Telegraph
Handshaking could be formally discouraged in the UK as part of a “social distancing” strategy intended to limit the spread of coronavirus, health officials have suggested. The warning against unnecessary physical contact may come alongside advice to work from home if the outbreak gets much worse, emeritus medical director of Public Health England Professor Paul Cosford said on Monday. His comments came as an anti-handshaking campaign took shape around the world, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly rebuffed by her own interior minister, whose hand she had tried to clasp.

Mirror
A major ‘UK-wide action plan’ to tackle coronavirus has been agreed following a COBRA meeting chaired by Boris Johnson . Ministers from every government department met in the cabinet office this morning to agree the plan as the number of UK cases hit 40. It’s understood the action plan will include primary legislation, which will have to be passed by MPs and peers in an act of Parliament. The first elements are expected to appear next week, but it could take until the end of March to be fully in place. A government source said: “You are talking about months rather than weeks before we reach the peak of this.”

Independent
It will be “months” before the coronavirus hits its peak in the UK, experts have told the government, as an action plan was agreed. Ministers are working on the assumption that the outbreak will continue to worsen into the summer, despite hopes that warmer temperatures would curb its spread. Emergency legislation will not be put in place until the end of March, because the government does not believe it will be “required” until then. “You are talking about months rather than weeks before you reach the peak of this,” a government source told The Independent.

Sun
EXTREME measures have been taken around the world to slow the spread of coronavirus which has so far infected almost 90,000 people in 68 countries. From travel bans and axing public events to forced quarantine and placing whole cities on lockdown, almost no aspect of modern life is untouched. Experts and politicians in Britain have warned the outbreak will only get worse and are drawing up a raft of plans to combat the Covid-19 disease.

Telegraph
Banknotes may be spreading the new coronavirus so people should try to use contactless payments instead, the World Health Organisation has said. Customers should wash their hands after touching banknotes because infectious Covid-19 may cling to the surface for a number of days, the UN agency warned on Monday night. To prevent the spread of the disease, people should use contactless technology where possible, a spokesman added. Last night the Bank of England acknowledged that banknotes “can carry bacteria or viruses” and urged people to regularly wash their hands.

Trade talks

Sky News
Talks between Britain and the EU on a post-Brexit trade deal have got under way in Brussels, with officials on both sides agreeing not to shake hands because of the coronavirus outbreak.  The two teams agreed to the step amid the continuing global spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Hand sanitisers and NHS advice have also been placed throughout the UK’s mission in the Belgian capital. The number of cases in the UK has risen to 39, while the EU has raised its risk level.

Breitbart
The European Union now expects the British team to walk out of talks preemptively as a negotiating tactic, as the bloc’s chief negotiator insists he is too smart for Boris Johnson’s tricks. Negotiators in Brussels, who today met with their British counterparts for the next round of Brexit talks, are anticipating a show of bravado from Boris Johnson later this year, when it is claimed he would walk away from discussions to show how serious he is about getting the best deal for the United Kingdom. The playbook for this power move would be to walk away from the negotiating table — perhaps in early summer — soon enough to still leave plenty of the year for a second set of negotiations to take place before the end of the transition period in December.

Express
BRITAIN has vowed to uphold its Conservative election manifesto as the UK and EU officially began the first day of post-Brexit trade talks. An army of 100 negotiators on each side prepared for battle over issues such as tariffs, regulations and fishing rights. Ahead of the first round of talks, French minister Amelie de Montchalin warned the negotiations could turn into a “nasty battle” as the EU puts a premium on adequate access to fishing waters for European boats. However, European advisor David Frost has vowed to deliver on the conservative election manifesto.

Times
British negotiators have been told to think of themselves as “equals” in what will be difficult trade talks with the economically larger and more powerful European Union after formal negotiations opened yesterday. David Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, gave a rousing pep talk to teams of more than 100 British officials who will begin bruising talks with teams of EU negotiators today. “The UK will engage constructively to reach a free trade agreement which fully respects the UK’s political and regulatory autonomy,” said a British spokesman.

Guardian
The EU is urging Britain to drop the “political rhetoric” around Brexit as historic talks on the future trading relationship open in Brussels. As an army of 100 officials led by Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, descend on the Belgian capital on Monday, senior EU diplomats are warning that if the political temperature continues to rise over Brexit in the UK it will risk smothering talks. They are concerned about the political relationship between the UK and the EU, characterised by furious language including warnings that each side will “rip” each other apart, and the second relationship – that among officials tasked with examining the deeper, drier technical complexities of disentangling and reimaging 47 years of joint laws and regulations.

Express
BORIS JOHNSON’s post-Brexit free trade offer to the US and Donald Trump has made a promise that will infuriate the European Union and Michel Barnier, igniting already fiery tensions between the two sides ahead of crunch talks. The UK Government has published its mandate for trade negotiations with the US, which are due to begin later this month. This follows the publication of its mandate for trade talks with the EU, which have kicked off in Brussels this afternoon. In that mandate last week, the UK said they did not want to adopt the EU proposal for the European Courts of Justice to settle disputes on the environment and labour.

ITV News
The government has published its objectives for a post-Brexit trade agreement with the United States. The government insisted the NHS would “never” be on the table in negotiations, as it said there was a commitment to “ensure high standards” and protections were maintained for consumers and workers. The US welcomed the 184-page document, with its UK ambassador Woody Johnson tweeting: “Lots of work to do – let’s get started!” Trade Secretary Liz Truss maintained a tough stance ahead of the negotiations, warning the UK will “strike a hard bargain” and is prepared to “walk away” if the US tries to force a breach of the government’s “red lines”.

Fisheries

Mail
Fears have been raised that French fishermen could launch a ‘nightmare’ blockade of Channel ports if they do not get what they want.  According to The Times, Whitehall officials told ministers last year that there was a ‘very realistic chance’ cross-Channel ports would be blockaded by EU fishing fleets if no deal on access to waters is reached. The threat was first raised with ministers last year at the government’s No Deal planning meetings and reportedly a serious concern.

Reuters
Britain will not sell out its fishermen as part of a trade deal with the European Union, nor will it lower its food standards for a trade agreement with the United States, British International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said on Monday. French President Emmanuel Macron said last month that he will not let down French fishermen in post-Brexit trade negotiations and that France will seek compensation if it does not get the same access to British waters as before. “We are not going to trade away our fishing in a deal with the EU or any other negotiating partner for that matter,” Truss said. “We are going to get a deal with the EU that does not involve selling out our fishing.”

Priti Patel

Telegraph
A civil servant allegedly attempted to kill herself after being bullied by Priti Patel and later received a £25,000 payout, it has been claimed. The BBC said it had seen legal correspondence claiming the woman had taken an overdose following the alleged incident in October 2015, when Ms Patel was employment minister. The woman claimed that Ms Patel had shouted at the woman in her private office and told her to “get lost” and “get out of her face”. Ms Patel denies the claims. The staff member also alleges she was told the decision to dismiss was not made on performance grounds but because Ms Patel did not “like her face”, according to comments attributed to her line manager and a colleague.

Mail
Boris Johnson has ordered an inquiry into a bullying row involving Home Secretary Priti Patel following the shock resignation of her top civil servant, it was announced today. The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office to ‘establish the facts’  around Sir Philip Rutnam’s shock decision to quit and sue the Government, Michael Gove told MPs this afternoon. Ms Patel, 47, is facing mounting political pressure to explain what is happening at the Home Office, after she was branded a liar and a bully by Sir Philip as he resigned on Saturday.

Times
A civil servant took an overdose after being bullied and dismissed from her job by Priti Patel, the home secretary, it is claimed in legal documents. The former Department for Work and Pensions official has alleged that she was told to leave her job in the private office of Ms Patel, who was employment minister at the time. The demand came after Ms Patel was said to have shouted at her “get lost” in an episode of “unprovoked aggression”. Legal papers, seen by the BBC, state that the woman later took an overdose.

Parliament

Mail
Fears are mounting that the £5.6billion costs for restoring Parliament could spiral as details emerged of peers’ ideas for their temporary accommodation. The House of Lords was due to be relocated from the Palace of Westminster to the nearby QEII conference centre with ‘minimal’ refitting when the huge scheme finally gets under way. But there is alarm over the scale of the overhaul being proposed to the stopgap building, with peers suggesting a grand new central staircase to bring in more ‘natural light’, and turning the sixth floor into a catering suite with bars and restaurants.

Express
COSTS for restoration works to the Houses of Parliament are feared to far exceed the £5.6billion estimate after it emerged peers have suggested completely overhauling their temporary accommodation, including plans for turning one of the floors into a catering suite with bars and restaurants. The Palace of Westminster is due to undergo a £5.6billion modernisation, with works due to start in 2025. While the refurbishment takes place, both chambers of the Commons will temporarily relocate, with peers moving to the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre located round the corner from Parliament.

Environment

Times
Air pollution shortens the life of the average person worldwide by almost three years and causes more deaths than the total from wars, malaria, Aids and smoking, a study has found. Scientists said the world faced an air pollution “pandemic”, with the death toll far greater than previously thought. They calculated that air pollution caused 8.8 million premature deaths in 2015, almost 2 million more than the number previously calculated by the World Health Organisation.

ITV News
Air pollution is causing about 8.8 million premature deaths around the world each year, a new study suggests. It is reducing life expectancy by an average of 2.9 years for people across the globe, experts have calculated. Long-term exposure to air pollutants has been found to increase people’s risk of heart and breathing problems. The international team of authors from the latest study set out to examine the relationship between air pollution exposure and people’s “loss of life expectancy”.

Rail travel

Mail
Rail passengers could face travel chaos over the Easter weekend as hundreds of engineering projects take place across the country. Services on major routes will be disrupted as Network Rail carries out 420 projects costing £113 million over the holiday weekend, from April 10 to April 13.  The West Coast Main Line will be closed north of Crewe, meaning trains between London Euston and Glasgow Central/Edinburgh will begin and terminate at the Cheshire town.  Preparatory work for HS2 and track renewal will lead to a reduced timetable between London Euston and Watford Junction, Tring, Milton Keynes and Northampton.

Wind power

Telegraph
Dozens of new wind farms could be built after the Government on Monday reversed its effective four-year ban on subsidies for onshore wind, to help reach its climate change targets. David Cameron’s government fulfilled an election promise to end subsidies for “unsightly” wind farms in 2016, after calls from more than 100 mostly Conservative MPs. Polling since then has shown 78 per cent of the British public support onshore wind, with support among Conservative voters at 74 per cent. The Government is under pressure to deliver on its legally binding promise to reach net zero by 2050, particularly as it hosts the COP26 international climate summit in November this year.

BBC News
The cheapest form of new power in the UK – onshore wind – is set to make a comeback, according to a government decision today. Ministers previously blocked projects after complaints from local campaigners that they were a blot on the landscape. The government responded by denying onshore wind the chance to bid for a price guarantee for the electricity they produce. They also gave local protestors a definitive say in the planning process. This meant it was virtually impossible for wind farms to gain permission.

Independent
A ban on subsidies for new onshore wind farms is to be lifted by the government, reversing a four-year ban introduced by David Cameron. Environmental groups welcomed the policy change, which followed a 2015 Tory manifesto pledge to “halt the spread of subsidised onshore wind farms”. The ban resulted in a significant drop in onshore wind development, just as advancing technology meant the price of onshore wind energy dropped sharply. An official announcement of the policy change is expected to be made by Alok Sharma, the business and energy secretary.

Mail
Ministers have performed a dramatic U-turn on the future of onshore wind farms and announced that they will free up public cash to help Britain cut greenhouse gases. Onshore wind turbines were blocked from receiving public funds in 2016 – after then Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to get rid of the ‘unsightly structures’. The measure was criticised as it made it much harder for turbines, the cheapest form of clean energy, to compete with other types of power. But now the Government is under pressure to meet a target to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050 – so more turbines will be needed.

Times
Dozens of onshore wind and solar farms could be built around Britain after ministers backed their construction to help to tackle climate change. Boris Johnson’s government said it would offer financial support to new projects from next year, ending a block on subsidies imposed by David Cameron from 2016. The move follows sharp reductions in the cost of wind and solar power that experts say mean the projects should not add to energy bills. The government legislated last year for Britain to cut its carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050.

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