Detailed Brexit trade negotiations planned for this week were cancelled on Monday, with Government sources indicating that the UK is preparing the ground to seek a mutually agreed extension to the talks in the coming weeks. As the coronavirus crisis deepened, senior Whitehall sources also confirmed that civil servants who had been working on Brexit “no deal” preparations were being actively redeployed into virus crisis management. EU sources said hopes of conducting a full negotiation round via videolink had been crushed by the Covid-19 outbreak, which has put large swathes of Europe into effective lockdown and limited the ability of EU diplomats and officials to prepare for the talks. Although a final decision has yet to be made by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, The Telegraph understands from highly-placed sources that the Government accepts it will need to seek an extension before the June deadline expires.
The UK and EU have cancelled this week’s Brexit trade deal talks due to the coronavirus. Negotiators were due to start a three-day-long, second round of talks on a future relationship between London and Brussels. But first the talks were axed in a face-to-face format and now they won’t take place at all. There is also a question mark over future rounds of talks which were due from April 6. Downing Street did not say the future talks are cancelled, but it’s believed officials are trying to find a way to work around the previously-agreed structure for talks.
Dominic Raab has been accused of “reckless insanity” after claiming the coronavirus pandemic strengthens the case for completing Brexit at the end of the year. The foreign secretary was urged to “urgently” extend the transition period – during which the UK remains aligned with EU trade and travel rules – to “focus 100 per cent on the emergency in front of us”. “The last thing economy needs, on top of coronavirus, is the further shock of a hard or no-deal Brexit at end of this year,” Labour MP Ben Bradshaw pleaded.
This week’s Brexit negotiations have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, although there will be no delay to the end of year deadline for the UK and EU to agree a trade deal. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser, David Frost, and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier had been due to hold talks on Wednesday. A face-to-face meeting had already been ruled out due to the spread of COVID-19, and now the UK government has said the two sides “will not formally be convening”. The two sides “remain fully committed” to the negotiations and will consider alternative means of resuming negotiations, such as video conferencing, a spokesperson added.
All face-to-face Brexit talks have been cancelled as coronavirus tightens its grip across Europe. Downing Street said ministers will “not formally be convening” negotiations over EU-UK trade, amid the outbreaks of the virus in Britain and on the continent. The statement says “both sides remain committed” to talks and hope to thrash out an agreement, suggesting there will be contact. There has been no change in policy on the transition period due to end in December, a statement from the government on Tuesday said.
The UK’s ports and airports could be closed and police given powers to detain people suspected of having coronavirus under emergency legislation. In new laws to be introduced to the House of Commons this week, the government is seeking widespread powers to tackle the public health crisis caused by COVID-19 – the prevalent strain of coronavirus. The legislation – which follows significant economic measures introduced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak – will be time-limited for two years and will cover areas such as the NHS, social care, schools, police, Border Force, local councils, funerals and courts. As well as enhancing powers for government, the legislation – named the Coronavirus Bill – will also scrap existing regulations in some areas should public services suffer mass staff shortages.
Legislation will pass through the Commons unopposed this week as MPs feel the pressure to tackle coronavirus. Emergency legislation on the outbreak and the government’s Budget will get “nodded through”, rather than opposition MPs calling for a vote. Sources said Labour was attempting to strike a balance between scrutinising government and facing up to the virus. Jeremy Corbyn has written to the PM, saying both parties should work together on coronavirus legislation. The outgoing Labour leader said he would ensure the opposition’s concerns were taken on board as part of its drafting, rather than the party having to push for changes on the floor of the Commons.
The leaders of European Union nations have agreed to implement a travel ban that prevents most foreigners entering any of the 27 nations for 30 days in a bid to quash the spread of coronavirus. EU leaders agreed on Tuesday to shut down the bloc’s external borders immediately for tourism or non-essential business. Long-term EU residents, diplomats, members of European families, health care and transport workers will all be exempt from the ban. Separately, so-called “green lanes” will be set up at the internal borders of the 26 Schengen countries, allowing fast-track access for trucks ferrying essential supplies to defy the traffic jams that have begun forming at some crossing points.
Citizens in France will be forced to present authorities with a form justifying why they have left their houses, during a nationwide lockdown attempting to curb the spread of coronavirus. The entire nation of France entered into lockdown on Tuesday, under emergency measures that will be in place for at least the next 15 days. The measures announced by President Emmanuel Macron require people to refrain from going outside for all but essential purposes. Under the lockdown, citizens will need to fill out a form provided by the government, stating their purpose for leaving their homes. Acceptable reasons to go outside will include: Going from home to work when working from home is not possible;
Frontline hospital staff fear that doctors and nurses will die because of NHS guidance that they do not need to wear full protective equipment when caring for virus patients. Senior doctors told The Times that they believed the advice was driven by equipment shortages rather than best practice. They also said that hygiene levels on wards were slipping below usual standards because people were stealing hand gel from the end of patients’ beds. NHS guidance says that full protective equipment, including specialist masks, surgical gowns, a visor and two pairs of gloves, need only be worn during “aerosol-generating procedures” such as ventilating a patient. In a change of advice, staff have been told that a normal surgical mask, apron and short gloves are sufficient
Moments after the Prime Minister stood down from his lectern having announced the nation’s lockdown, the academic on whose data the decision was based rushed from Downing Street to the Wellcome Trust building in Euston to deliver a jaw-dropping press briefing. In a fifth floor meeting room Professor Neil Fergusson, the country’s foremost epidemiologist and adviser on the outbreak’s trajectory, explained to a small group of science journalists why 20,000 coronavirus deaths in the UK would be a win. The alternative would leave 260,000 dead, he explained. The change in strategy had been necessitated by new data, said Prof Fergusson. The true position of demand on the NHS had only now become evident. Having run the new numbers, he had advised the government to change course. While previously the new social-distancing measures would have been temporary, now they would need to be held in place until such time as a vaccine or treatment was found, perhaps a year or more.
Boris Johnson plunged the UK into a coronavirus lockdown that could last 18 months after experts warned that the ‘worst case’ scenario of 250,000 deaths had become the most likely outcome. The grim advice that drove the dramatic escalation – with people urged to avoid all ‘nonessential’ social contact – was laid bare today as the PM told Cabinet that the country is ‘engaged in a war against the disease which we have to win’. The Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, which has been advising the government, processed new information from Italy and concluded that the limited measures in place before would still result in a ‘very large number or deaths’.
Worried Brits may be able to find out if they have contracted coronavirus within just 15 minutes by pricking their finger at home. Boffins at a UK lab say they have designed a quick and easy to use kit which will allow you to find out if you have the killer bug even if you don’t show any symptoms. And it costs just £125 plus VAT, according to the Echo. Simply prick your finger and add three drops of the blood sample to a small screening device. Within 15 minutes, the results will be shown through the appearance of up to three lines in the detection window of the device.
The NHS is banning the vast majority of visitors to all hospitals in England in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the health service chief executive announced on Tuesday. Simon Stevens said there would be a ban on “all but essential” visitors, but exceptions would be made for some parents and children, and for patients in end-of-life care. All nonurgent surgery will also be suspended from April 15 for at least three months, Stevens said — as the NHS prepared to free up beds for a huge rise in patients suffering from the virus. He was being questioned by the Commons Health and Social Care Committee alongside other NHS chiefs, as it emerged that a further 14 people who tested positive for the coronavirus had died, bringing the total number of deaths in England to 67.
Boris Johnson wants a national effort to build vital ventilators for the NHS to be up and running within two weeks after the government issued a ‘call to arms’ to manufacturers to help respond to coronavirus. The NHS only has 5,000 of the machines and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday it will need ‘many times more than that’ in the weeks and months ahead. Mr Johnson wants non-health care companies to step up and help build the artificial respirators and last night he hosted a call with more than 60 company chiefs to urge them to convert production lines.
The government has placed the economy on a wartime footing to support businesses and people affected by coronavirus, announcing state-backed loans of at least £330bn as the outbreak escalates. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said if more help was needed it would be provided, with a pledge to deliver “whatever it takes” to keep companies and households solvent. Saying the British state would need to intervene in the economy in ways that were unimaginable just weeks ago, the chancellor said he would also provide tax breaks and other measures worth £20bn to protect companies and households suffering amid the economic collapse triggered by the virus.
Rishi Sunak last night unveiled a £330billion bailout for businesses in a move to drastic “wartime” measures to fight the coronavirus crisis. With the number of confirmed deaths from the illness surging by 19 to 67, the Chancellor set out an “unprecedented package” of emergency loans for struggling firms. He also scrapped business rates for a year and promised cash grants for shops, pubs and other high-street outlets hit by the slump in customers following Government advice to stay at home along with three-month mortgage holidays for homeowners in need. Planning regulations are to be ripped up to allow pubs and restaurants to sell takeaway food.
Rishi Sunak has unveiled a £350 billion bailout to help keep businesses and households afloat during the coronavirus crisis. The Chancellor announced £330 billion in Government-backed loans for firms of all sizes so they can keep paying employees’ wages – the equivalent of 15 per cent of UK GDP. There will also be £20 billion in giveaways, including grants of up to £25,000 for small firms, and a full year without business rates for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said he and the Chancellor were acting “like any wartime government” by doing “whatever it takes to support our economy”.
Rishi Sunak has unveiled a £350 billion bailout to keep Britain’s businesses and workers afloat through a coronavirus crisis that could last more than a year. The chancellor announced a three-month mortgage holiday for homeowners, handed out government-backed cheap credit, tax breaks and grants and promised industry bailouts. “We have never in peacetime faced an emergency like this,” the chancellor said last night as he abandoned “orthodoxy” and “ideology” in response. In other developments: Sainsbury’s announced that it was rationing the purchase of all products from today to prevent stockpiling, limiting customers to a maximum of three of any product.
Ministers are set to mount a desperate bid to stop coronavirus effectively sending the UK bust tonight – with hundreds of billions pumped into bailing out businesses and speculation utility bills and council tax could be scrapped. Government economists laid out the extraordinary options as Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to unveil a massive package of aid for those caught up in the chaos. The huge intervention comes after the US put forward its own $850billion plan to weather the storm ravaging the globe, offering to delay tax bills, bolster sick pay and supply emergency food. Every American could also be handed a $1,000 cheque to help keep the economy moving.
Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to turn themselves into hot food takeaways in an emergency move to save them from closure during the coronavirus crisis. Communities secretary Robert Jenrick announced that he was relaxing planning rules on takeaways to enable businesses to stay afloat and save jobs. The measures are the latest in a series of steps the government is taking to support businesses which face huge drops in customers because of the government’s latest advice to end all but essential social contact and travel. The new changes will kick in within days, although insiders stressed that pubs would only be able to deliver food not alcohol to people’s homes. The coronavirus crackdown is expected to prompt a huge surge in home deliveries as millions are effectively told to work from home and reduce contact in their local area.
UEFA have officially decided to postpone the Euros until the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic decimating the football calendar. It has been decided that the European Championships will now take place between June 11 to July 11 next year. During Tuesday’s meeting involving UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, which included a series of video conferences, they decided to cancel this summer’s showpiece football event while the fate of this season’s Champions League and the Europa League are still set to be worked out. It becomes the latest major tournament to fall victim to the deadly pandemic that has tragically taken the lives of 55 people in the UK so far.
The government’s efforts to keep schools open are unravelling swiftly with head teachers declaring full or partial closures. Staff shortages have forced schools to act after the number of teachers self-isolating rose. Up to a fifth of teachers are absent in some areas, unions say, adding that the policy to keep schools open is “untenable”. Westminster, the private school in central London, said it would “cease operation with immediate effect for the remainder of term” yesterday. City of London School for Girls announced it would close “in the face of unsustainable pupil and staff absence”. Harrow, meanwhile, closed after a pupil tested positive for coronavirus.
Many schools across the UK will not be able to remain open past the end of the week, says a head teachers’ leader. ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said experienced head teachers in large schools were saying they would struggle to stay up and running past Friday. It comes after teaching unions spoke of the “intolerable pressure” of staying open as more and more staff get sick. The government’s chief scientific adviser has reiterated that schools will remain open for now. But Sir Patrick Vallance, speaking to MPs at a hearing on Tuesday afternoon, said school closures were still “on the table”, as one of the measures that could be used to fight the virus.
BORIS Johnson dropped a heavy hint tonight that schools WILL close within days after 650k people signed a petition urging him to keep kids at home during the coronavirus outbreak. Parents are already choosing to keep their kids off school, and now the Prime Minister has hinted he is considering closing them. Asked today about kids staying at home, the PM admitted he “completely” understood parents’ concerns. The PM said: “I understand completely where people are at with that, we’re keeping it under continuous review.” Mr Johnson also insisted free school meals would be protected for students no longer going. He said: “As we come to the decision on schools we will have plans ready to go on that, Gavin Williamson education secretary has a plan to make sure that parents with kids who are eligible for free school meals get the compensation or the treatment they need one way or another.”
THE government’s lack of clarity on what schools should do during the coronavirus outbreak “is causing chaos and confusion and placing intolerable pressure on all staff,” teaching unions warned today. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a public announcement underlining the growing gravity of the Covid-19 crisis on Monday but stopped short of ordering schools to shut. NASUWT acting general secretary Chris Keates said that the PM’s statement “failed to give the clear and definitive” directions that would enable individuals, organisations and services to make confident decisions. She said: “All of the announcements continue to be couched as guidance or advice, which is simply serving to increase anxiety and uncertainty. “The lack of clear information with regard to the steps to protect teachers, head teachers and other staff working in schools in the context of commentators constantly referring to the threats posed by children carrying Covid-19 is causing chaos and confusion and placing intolerable pressure on all staff in schools and their families.”