Brexit

Express
BREXITEER MP Sir John Redwood has hit out at Boris Johnson’s deal with the EU after five key issues were revealed by a think tank director. In a scathing attack on the Brexit  agreement, the MP for Wokingham called on the Prime Minister to take action over the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and Britain. Traders have experienced issues moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland due to the new checks introduced post-Brexit. He said in a tweet: “We voted to take control of our own laws, taxes, borders and trade rules for the whole UK. Let’s get on with it.” Sir John’s concern for the state of trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain also comes as five key issues concerning the Trade and Co-operation Agreement have been highlighted.  Commenting on the Brexit deal, Charles Grant, director of think tank the Centre for European Reform, warned there were still uncertainties surrounding the UK-EU relationship going forward. Like Sir John, he also pointed to the sustainability of checks of goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland.  Due to Northern Ireland remaining partly under EU single market and customs union, he warned some may be “tempted to tear up the NI protocol”.  Secondly, he pointed to the lack of commitments made on foreign policy and defence strategy between the EU and UK. Mr Grant also questioned how aligned the UK will be to the EU in terms of standards, or will the Government look to achieve a ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ model where regulations are greatly reduced.  The think-tank director also questioned whether the dispute mechanism will be in place, or will it replaced by high-level summits.  Lastly, he highlighted the future of the Tory party, and whether a future leader will take a more moderate approach to the EU to pursue a pro-business policy.

Fisheries

Mail
French fishmongers have complained that supply chains which used to put British fish on European tables in just over a day have been shattered by local bureaucrats enforcing post-Brexit red tape. Importers say French agents have adopted a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach that has seen deliveries delayed because Latin names of fish species were incorrectly entered on papers and because sanitary certificates were missing stamps.  Both fishmongers and seafood factories are now suspending orders from Britain as deliveries of salmon and lobster that used to take just 24 hours to end up on French shelves are now being held up for two or three days – meaning they spoil in transit. ‘We’ve never known such delays,’ said Arnaud Mille, head of sourcing at Demarne Freres in Boulogne-sur-Mer, and who counts Britain as his top supplier. ‘It’s been apocalyptic.’ The news comes after ‘nit-picking’ Dutch border police were filmed laughing at a British truck driver while confiscating his ham sandwiches in line with post-Brexit import rules. Today it was revealed Dutch customs officers paraded a pile of confiscated items including muesli and Waitrose chicken fillets seized from from Britons crossing the EU border as they warned ‘you can’t just bring in food from the UK’. For French fishmongers, the result of the delays in delivering fish is a chaotic breakdown in supply chains from the outer reaches of the British Isles to the northern French port of Boulogne, which used to see Scottish langoustine and scallops in French shops just over a day after they were harvested.

Express
A BRITISH super trawler responsible for around 10 percent of fish sold in UK chip shops has been left abandoned as a post-Brexit agreement is yet to be finalised for catches in Arctic waters.  The Kirkella freezer trawler is currently docked in Hull and has been unable to set sail since the Brexit-era began on January 1. The UK signed a landmark trade deal with the EU on December 24 – covering fishing rights in UK and EU waters. But, the Government is yet to finalise a concrete agreement on quotas with non-EU countries in distant Arctic waters – including Norway, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.  Karl Turner, Labour MP for Hull East, hit out at the Government and said the fleet has been left with “no ability to fish” and accused Number 10 of being “hell-bent on putting the last nail in the coffin of distant waters fishing”.  A Government spokesman said the UK has secured Fisheries Framework Agreements with Norway and the Faroe Islands, which provides the basis for detailed negotiations about quotas. He said “new arrangements” had been put in place on distant fish stocks to “best serve the interests of the British fishing industry”, and negotiations were ongoing. UK Fisheries, which owns the £52million vessel, says it can freeze up to 780 tonnes of cod and haddock on each of its trips to waters off Norway, Svalbard and Greenland. They add the 266ft-long trawler supplies between eight and 12 percent of all fish sold in fish and chip shops in the UK.

Lockdown

Mail
Lockdown
 measures could be tightened within days if people keep flouting the rules, the Mail can reveal today.  Downing Street insisted today the focus was on better compliance with existing Covid regulations. But sources warned ministers were ready to tighten the lockdown further unless the situation improved by the weekend. ‘The compliance data is mixed,’ an insider said. ‘We should have better data by the weekend and at that point we will have to decide whether we need to go further.’ Extra measures being considered include removing the exemption that allows two people to meet outdoors to exercise. Another source said some ministers were pushing for more businesses to be closed, including estate agents, outdoor markets and click-and-collect retail.  Scientists are also arguing for the two-metre social distancing rule to be increased to three metres. A Downing Street source said Boris Johnson would need clear data showing problems before he ordered further damaging closures.  The Prime Minister told the Cabinet yesterday it was ‘more important than ever that the public stay at home’.

Express
BORIS JOHNSON could introduce tougher lockdown measures by next week if people continue to break the rules. Government insiders said there is potential for tighter restrictions after more data is gathered this week. It could include the closure of more businesses, such as outdoor markets. Government sources told The Daily Mail a decision will be made by the weekend. On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock reiterated Downing Street’s message that the public should act as though they have the virus to reduce transmissions. Mr Hancock also said he is “confident” of meeting the target of vaccinating around 14 million people in the top four priority groups by the middle of February. He has described the NHS as under “very serious pressure”. The number of UK deaths following a positive Covid-19 test passed 80,000.

Sun
CORONAVIRUS lockdown measures could be tightened in days, ministers have warned.It comes amid fears that compliance has waned during the third national lockdown as Downing Street mulls whether to clamp down further.  Government sources told the Daily Mail that ministers were prepared to tighten the lockdown further unless the situation improved by the weekend.  An insider said: “The compliance data is mixed. “We should have better data by the weekend and at that point we will have to decide whether we need to go further.” Extra measures could include scrapping the current rule allowing two people to meet for exercise outdoors.  It is understood other possible curbs could include an end to click-and-collect shopping and the closure of businesses such as food markets or estate agents. The Sun previously looked at five ways lockdown in England could get tougher – including the compulsory wearing of masks and the closure of nurseries.

Scotland

Express
NICOLA STURGEON has confirmed she was told to keep the details of the number of coronavirus vaccines given to the UK and its countries secret over fears of supply. Speaking at her daily COVID-19 briefing, Ms Sturgeon said she had been briefed by Chancellor Michael Gove to keep jab supplies secret during a call last week. It came after the Health Service Journal reported that NHS England’s chief executive Sir Simon Stevens told NHS leaders that “politicians were keeping away from the rooftops on numbers” of vaccines. Scotland’s First Minister said the need to keep data secret had been discussed with all leaders of the four nations. During the briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: “The issue about being a little bit circumspect, if I can use that language, about overall supplies of the vaccine in the UK to try to avoid pressures on the supply chain that might come from other parts of the world was mentioned in a four nations call last week which Michael Gove chaired as an issue that we had to be aware of. “I think it is important that we are as transparent as possible but equally of course it’s just a statement of the fact that we are in a global supply chain for vaccines and therefore those who are doing the procurement will perhaps want to bear that in mind.” She then went on to claim that Scotland had been “transparent” about supplies.

Express
THE SNP led Scottish Government has begged for almost £2billion of UK Government funding just days after it was revealed their key Covid funds have not yet been spent.  Forbes has already written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and urged the UK Government to release £21.3billion of reserves to help tackle the impact of coronavirus. The COVID-19 reserve was announced as part of the UK Spending Review in November and was expected to be allocated in 2021-2022.  But now Nicola Sturgeon’s Finance Secretary has begged the Chancellor and asked that the Scottish Government be given its share of the funds now. This would total around £1.7billion if the whole amount was allocated to devolved spending areas. It comes after Economy Minister Fiona Hyslop was unable to say how an extra £8.6billion from the UK Government to fight the pandemic was being spent. She was asked on BBC Good Morning Scotland’s programme: “So we do not know as of yet how much has been spent to support business?” with Ms Hyslop responding “Yes.” We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights. Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “SNP minister Fiona Hyslop hopelessly struggled to answer where they’ve spent UK Government funding and how much of it has gone to businesses. “We’ve seen this before from the SNP. “They hide how much is actually going to businesses in a fog of different funds.”

Express
NICOLA STURGEON has been pestering President of the European Commission (EC) Ursula von der Leyen and other Brussels officials with letters and emails in a desperate attempt to get Scotland to rejoin the EU, leaked correspondence seen by Express.co.uk shows. About 25 letters and emails released under Freedom of Information laws between January and November last year reveal SNP ministers have been holding discussions with EU officials making the case for Scotland to rejoin the EU. But Ms von Der Leyen refused Ms Sturgeon’s apparent request for a role in the negotiations. In a letter obtained by Express.co.uk, the EC chief said: “As you are aware, the European Commission will only negotiate with the Government of the United Kingdom. “I understand that you are in contact with Michel Barnier… he will be happy to meet you again.” Ms Sturgeon has had at least two sets of talks with Mr Barnier this year, most recently in August.

Vaccine

Telegraph
GPs leading the Covid vaccine rollout have been forced to “pause” jabs to allow other parts of the country to catch up, The Telegraph can disclose. Surgeries vaccinating hundreds of elderly people every day have had their promised deliveries cancelled amid questions over the speed of the national programme. Drug companies manufacturing the vaccines said on Tuesday night that they could provide enough doses to be administered 24/7 after MPs called for more urgency.  Ministers insisted vaccine supply was the “limiting factor” behind the delays, although on Tuesday night Whitehall sources confirmed plans for the pilot of a 24-hour vaccine centre to test demand. A senior government source said: “As well as more daytime appointments we are considering a pilot where vaccinations are offered for longer hours.” GPs in some areas are ready to begin offering jabs to the over-70s but have been denied the supplies to do so by local NHS leaders, it is understood. One senior family doctor suggested the Government was “robbing Peter to pay Paul” by diverting jabs to the giant vaccination centres launched this week.

Vaccine passports

Telegraph
Thousands of Britons who have received their coronavirus vaccine are set to be offered a health passport as part of a government-funded trial taking place this month.  The passport, created by biometrics firm iProov and cybersecurity firm Mvine, will be issued in the form of a free app allowing users to digitally prove if they have received the vaccine.  The trial will be overseen by two directors of public health in local authorities and will be complete in March. However, the locations have yet to be agreed. Innovate UK, the government’s science and research funding agency, has pumped £75,000 into the project.  The aim of the trial is to show how the passports can be used to help the NHS keep track of the number of people that have received the first or second dose of the vaccine. Frank Joshi, director and founder of Mvine, said the company first began working on the passes to demonstrate test results but had since acquired more funding to pivot into vaccination passports. “The idea is that we are there ready and waiting in the event that we find ourselves interested in a situation where we need to prove something about ourselves,” he said. “Originally we started off with this need to prove whether you’ve had an antibody test, but it can be equally used to demonstrate whether you’ve been vaccinated.”

Mail
Thousands of Britons who have already received their coronavirus jab will be offered a vaccine passport in a trial taking place this month after ministers flip-flopped over the controversial policy. The passport, created by biometrics firm iProov and cybersecurity firm Mvine, will be issued as a free app and will allow users to prove digitally if they have had their first or second jab – or no jab at all.  Though the Department of Health said there were ‘no plans’ to introduce vaccine passports, the Government’s own science and research funding agency Innovate UK has already pumped £75,000 into the project.   Mvine director Frank Joshi said the company, which had started working on the passports to demonstrate test results, later acquired more funding to switch into vaccination passporting.  The Government-backed trial will be overseen by two directors of public health in local authorities and is expected to last until March – right through the third national lockdown.   However, the locations have yet to be agreed, according to the Telegraph. The trial is expected to show how the passports can be used to help the NHS keep track of the number of people that have received their first or second jab.

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