BRITISH negotiators have secured a victory in the post-Brexit trade and security talks after Brussels agreed to limit areas within the deal that are subject to dispute measures. Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator, has agreed to ring-fence police and judicial cooperation from potential sanctions in the event of any future trade rows with Britain. According to EU sources, the Brussels diplomat said he would reluctantly withdraw a demand that would allow the bloc to suspend future security collaborations after any dispute over economic sections of a future relationship pact. Allies of Mr Barnier have described the move as a significant concession in a bid to unlock the wrangling over a post-Brexit deal.
BORIS Johnson believes the chances of a Brexit deal are fading away unless the European Union accepts the “reality” that Britain will reclaim control of its coastal waters. Downing Street is concerned the trade and security talks will collapse as there has been zero movement from Brussels on its hardline fishing demands. British officials are set to warn their European counterparts there won’t be a deal unless the bloc accepts the UK’s status as an independent coastal state after the end of the year. Lord Frost is warning the EU’s fleet faces being blocked from British waters if there is a no-deal Brexit.
GERMAN fishing chiefs have warned a no deal Brexit could spell disaster for the industry – and see herring taken off the menu. Claus Ubl, head of the German Fisheries Association, said his members would face an uncertain future if their access to British waters was blocked. He urged Brexit negotiators to strike a deal to protect the industry but also the supply of herring – Germany’s fourth favourite fish. Mr Ubl said: “It’s not looking good. Because if the British implement an unregulated Brexit, then the German ships will no longer be allowed in the British territorial waters.”
Internal Market Bill
The Government has delayed a vote over legislation that threatens to tear up the Brexit divorce deal and poison relations with US President-elect Joe Biden. Boris Johnson pushed back a Commons vote on the Internal Market Bill, which overrides parts of the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland, until the end of the month at the earliest. The Prime Minister has bought time to see if a UK-EU trade deal can be struck, which would allow for a face-saving climbdown over the offending clauses, which peers stripped out of the Bill on Monday. The clauses in the Bill are only relevant if there is a no deal exit at the end of the year.
BORIS JOHNSON has dropped a major hint over the chances of a Brexit deal with the EU, after admitting the controversial UK Internal Market Bill will not return to Parliament until at least the end of the month. The controversial bill sparked outrage on the continent after violating elements of the withdrawal agreement relating to state aid and custom-exit declarations. After being defeated in the House of Lords on Monday night, No10 has confirmed the legislation will not return to the Commons until the end of this month. However, the controversial elements of the Bill which were struck out by the Lords will become redundant if there is a trade deal signed with the EU.
The tier system of Covid-19 restrictions will be changed before it is reintroduced because of concerns over compliance, it has emerged. Ministers are considering carving England up into large regions, that will then be placed into the tiers in order to simplify the system brought in last month. A fourth tier also remains under consideration if the current lockdown fails to bring down the infection rate far enough, Government sources said. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary (seen below, speaking in late October), said that regions would not necessarily emerge from the current lockdown into the same tier they were in last month.
The government is considering changing the tier system again once the current lockdown in England ends after December 2, it has emerged. Previously, it was confirmed a system of tiers would be used to manage coronavirus infection rates after the nation comes out of the current lockdown. However, ministers are now considering carving England up into different large regions before re-introducing tiered restrictions. This means that the entire North East, North West, South West or South East could be treated as just one area. Sources have also warned that a fourth tier may be considered if infection rates don’t come down under Tier 3 restrictions.
People living in areas where Covid infections are falling could face looser restrictions ahead of Christmas when the English lockdown ends than before it was imposed. Boris Johnson has repeatedly stressed that the lockdown will not be renewed after 2 December, when the country will revert to the previous system of regionalised measures where areas are put into one of three tiers depending on the local prevalence of the virus. However, the Government has concluded that areas will not automatically return to the same category they were in when the lockdown came into force last Thursday.
The NHS says it is ready to deliver millions of anti-Covid jabs before Christmas. Despite the colossal task of protecting the nation, NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis assured the public the health service is up to the job. He said: “The NHS will be ready and able to make a start on vaccinating people from day one, despite the huge complexities. While most Covid vaccination is currently expected to take place in the New Year, hardworking NHS staff are already gearing up to get going this side of Christmas if the manufacturers can supply us.”
A million people a week could be vaccinated against coronavirus under NHS plans to ensure a jab can be administered as quickly as it is manufactured. All over-65s may be able to get the Pfizer jab before Easter if it is approved, with officials hopeful that the Oxford vaccine could allow a wider programme during the winter if it is also successful. The government hopes to cover all over-50s and the most vulnerable younger adults, who account for 99 per cent of Covid-19 deaths, early next year in the first stage of a “three wave” strategy, if supplies allow.
BRITS are set to be first in the world to get vaccinated against Covid — with three jabs now expected before Christmas. Officials estimate the drugs will slash coronavirus deaths by up to 90 per cent. Government adviser Prof Sir John Bell told MPs he was confident we can “hit the New Year with two or three vaccines”. Meanwhile, dozens of areas across the UK will be targeted with mass Covid tests giving results in just 15 minutes — paving the way for an end to lockdown.
Volunteers on the Pfizer vaccine trial have compared the jab’s side effects to a ‘severe hangover’ and said it left them with headaches, fever and muscle aches similar to the flu vaccine. One 45-year-old volunteer said the first dose left her suffering side effects similar to the flu jab but that her symptoms were ‘more severe’ after her second jab. Another volunteer, 44-year-old Glenn Deshields, said Pfizer’s vaccine made him feel like he had a ‘severe hangover’ but that symptoms quickly cleared up. More than 43,500 people in six countries have taken part in the phase three trials by the pharmaceutical giant in the hunt for an effective Covid-19 vaccine.
OXFORD University and Astrazeneca’s vaccine is ten times cheaper than the US and German’s Pfizer vaccine, according to analysis. Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently hailed the news that Pfizer’s vaccine was 90 percent effective in developing an immune response to coronavirus. Both Oxford and Pfizer’s candidates are in phase three clinical trials, and are expected to be released to the most vulnerable groups by the end of the year. It comes as the UK has reported a total of 1,237,198 cases and 49,861 deaths as of Tuesday. The cost of rolling out the Pfizer vaccine is likely to be at least ten times higher than Oxford’s according to a Telegraph report.
There is a 70 to 80% chance that the UK’s most vulnerable will be vaccinated against coronavirus by Easter next year, and by spring “things will start to look much more normal”, a member of the government’s vaccine taskforce has said. Sir John Bell, who is also regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said he “wouldn’t be surprised if we hit the new year with two or three vaccines”, following news of a successful vaccine trial by US drug firm Pfizer and German partner BioNTech. The professor, speaking at a Commons committee on Covid-19, said he is “quite optimistic” that enough people will be vaccinated in the first quarter of 2021 that “by spring things will start to look much more normal than they do now.”
The NHS has been instructed to prepare for mass Covid-19 vaccination of the public from December 1, in one of the biggest immunisation drives in British history. The plans will see up to 1,500 GP practices and drive-through centres ordered to open every day from 8am to 8pm, each dispensing at least 1,000 jabs a week – meaning there will be capacity for at least one million doses to be administered weekly. Health officials said on Tuesday that the NHS would be ready to deliver the jabs as quickly as they can be supplied, with medical and nursing students, and retired medics, being drafted in to help.
Three in four Britons would take the Covid vaccine, including nearly nine in ten elderly, according to a Daily Mail poll. Only 7 per cent said they would not have it under any circumstances. The poll also showed that Pfizer’s breakthrough jab was the best news of the year for many – and as significant as the fall of the Iron Curtain. However there was a note of caution, with seven in ten feeling lockdown restrictions should stay in place for now. Four in ten said the Prime Minister and fellow politicians should take the vaccination first to show it was safe.
GP surgeries could have their services cut back until the middle of 2021 so that doctors can immunise millions of people against Covid-19 in new clinics, NHS England has warned. More than 1,200 GP surgeries are being geared up to dish out 1.2million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine every week as soon as health chiefs approve a jab, in a major army-backed operation to get life back to normal. Matt Hancock has promised the health service will work around the clock to get the UK vaccinated, with practices open between 8am and 8pm every day of the week and on Bank Holidays. He admitted deploying the vaccine was going to be a ‘colossal challenge’ and revealed the military were on standby to help.
GPs in England will have to scale back care for months to deliver coronavirus vaccines, NHS England has warned. Patients will not be afforded full care at doctors surgeries from December, with medical staff deployed to help administer jabs at least 1,260 seven-day-a-week vaccination centres. The NHS has already been stretched to breaking point as the country fends off a second wave, but the Department of Health wants the delivery of vaccinations to begin from December 1. The pressures of the first wave of the virus in the spring meant much non-Covid care had to be halted leaving many patients in limbo.
A POSITIVE Covid test could soon mean a three-month “freedom pass” for patients after quarantining for two weeks. Government advisor Prof Sir John Bell said they would be protected for at least 90 days so should be able to do what they want. He told the Commons Science Committee the policy would lead to people queuing for tests, rather than avoiding them. The University of Oxford expert said it would “reopen society” and get people back on trains, in cinemas and to football matches. The rapid pregnancy-style tests could also spare contacts of infected patients from isolating.
The 14-day quarantine introduced by the Government is the least effective of all strategies to prevent the spread of Covid into the community, a groundbreaking study has found. The research showed the longer the quarantine, the higher the rates of people not complying and so the greater the risk of an infected person spreading the virus into the community, according to the research by Oxera and Edge Health, scientists who have worked for the NHS and Government. The study is the first to take into account the impact of likely non-compliance depending on when people in quarantine take a Covid test to escape self-isolation.
Students in England will be given a six-day window next month in which to travel home before Christmas, with mass testing carried out on campus before they are allowed to leave. A mass exodus will take place on staggered departure dates set by universities from 3 December to 9 December after England’s four-week lockdown, under plans announced by the Department for Education (DfE)on Tuesday night. Students testing positive would need to remain in self-isolation for 10 days. In a major shift, the government said it would also instruct universities to then move learning online by 9 December so that students can have the option of returning home to study from there.
An evacuation-style operation will take place to get students home safely for Christmas after England’s lockdown. Working with their local public health bodies, universities will allocate their students travel slots during the week of 3 to 9 December. As many students as possible will be offered rapid result Covid tests. The timing of the government’s “student travel window” means that those required to self-isolate will still be able to get home for Christmas. The fact that it occurs after four weeks of national lockdown in England – ending on 2 December – means it could also reduce the risk of students taking the virus home with them.
The pandemic has caused a ‘hidden backlog’ of almost 5million people needing NHS treatment, a report has revealed. Referrals for routine hospital care plummeted by a third between January and August. There were 4.7million fewer people referred for treatment – such as hip, knee and cataract surgery – compared to the same period the year before, the Health Foundation revealed. The think-tank warned that long waits could now ‘become the norm for millions of people’ unless action was taken to protect non-Covid care.
Referrals for routine NHS hospital care have dropped by a third due to the pandemic, say experts who warn of the hidden backlog of untreated patients. The Health Foundation said that during the first eight months of the year almost five million fewer people were referred for routine hospital care in England. The think tank called for a sustainable way forward to treat non-Covid patients. Without action, “long waits could become the norm for millions of people”, it warned.
Child sexual abuse
A watchdog investigation centred on the child sexual abuse scandal in Rotherham has found police failures left violent sex offender Arshid Hussain free to abuse young children, according to reports. South Yorkshire Police knew the child sex abuse gang leader had ‘a number of relationships with young girls in foster care’ as early as 2000, according to a new report, which has been seen by the Times. The investigation found officers – none of whom face disciplinary charges – also made a deal with Hussain, in which he would deliver one of his missing 14-year-old victims to police.
The most senior Roman Catholic clergyman in England and Wales faced calls for his resignation yesterday after a report accused him of failing to show leadership or compassion in his handling of child abuse scandals. Cardinal Vincent Nichols showed no personal commitment to reform, lacked compassion for abuse survivors and prioritised the protection of the Church’s reputation, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said. “As a senior leader and the figurehead for the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Catholics look to Cardinal Nichols to lead by example,” the inquiry’s report said.
The most senior Roman Catholic in this country was today accused of caring more about his church’s reputation than the fate of paedophile victims in a damning rebuke from the official inquiry into child sex abuse. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said that Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, had also failed to show compassion for victims or to acknowledge any personal responsibility for what had gone on. It added at times he had “shown he cares more about the impact of child sexual abuse on the Catholic Church’s reputation than on victims and survivors” in a conclusion which will severely dent the Archbishop’s standing.
The president of the Canary Islands has pleaded with Spain and the EU for help to deal with a massive influx of migrants over recent weeks, which has led to more than 2,000 people crowded inside a temporary camp on a quayside. “It’s simple to evaluate the problem: the flow of arrivals greatly exceeds our capacity to receive them,” Ángel Víctor Torres said after close to 2,200 migrants arrived in the Canary Islands by sea over the weekend. Many of the new arrivals are being housed in a holding camp at the dock in Arguineguín on Gran Canaria, a facility designed as a temporary shelter for 420 people and currently home to five times that number.
Councils and police are acting as unregulated spies, a Government watchdog has warned, as he revealed monitoring by surveillance cameras is so widespread it is equivalent to being tracked by MI5. Tony Porter, the surveillance camera commissioner, said the “overt” technology used by police and councils to track people via car number plates, facial recognition, and sensors is now so sophisticated it is on a par with techniques used by intelligence agencies to spy on suspects. Yet, unlike the security services whose powers to tap phones or put surveillance units on terrorists, spies or criminals were closely regulated, there was no effective statutory oversight of police, councils or other bodies turning surveillance cameras on ordinary citizens.