Michel Barnier will on Wednesday hold talks with EU ambassadors, amid growing disquiet from France that he is preparing to give too much away to Britain in the Brexit trade talks. The EU’s chief negotiator will give an online briefing to ambassadors in Brussels from London, where talks continue. It is aimed at reassuring the diplomats that he is not about to cave to British demands on fishing and other issues. The 7.30am meeting was called after France and other member states warned their European Commission negotiators to hold firm to their red lines in the endgame of trade negotiations with Britain. One EU diplomat said the Commission received a “serious warning” from France that it was making dangerous concessions on key negotiating lines “that risked dividing member states”. London’s demands to increase the share of fish caught in UK waters by British fishermen will hit countries such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, and to a lesser extent Germany. But the other member states are much more interested in the level playing field guarantees for their businesses than fishing, which is a relatively small part of the economy in the UK and EU, despite its political significance. It was a rare rebuke for Mr Barnier and a seldom-seen hint at disunity among the remaining 27 member states in the face of Brexit. On Tuesday, Emmanuel Macron said the preservation of “the activities of our fishermen in British waters is an essential condition” for any deal.
EUROPEAN capitals are growing anxious with Michel Barnier amid fears their chief negotiator could capitulate in order to clinch a Brexit trade deal. The Brussels diplomat is set for a grilling on Wednesday morning when he meets with EU27 ambassadors to discuss the state of play in the wrangling over a future relationship pact. Some member states are concerned Mr Barnier’s refusal to reveal exact details from the trade talks mean he could be about to lose his nerve as time runs out to reach an agreement. Brussels sources have revealed President Emmanuel Macron is one of the most nervous that the tussle over post-Brexit fishing rights could spell bad news for France’s fishing industry. An insider told Express.co.uk: “The main question is will what Barnier and Frost negotiate stand up in capitals? “States are becoming more nervy as they receive less information from the talks.”
Michel Barnier will be told on Wednesday that the EU capitals want full sight of any deal with the UK before it is agreed, amid concerns the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator may concede too much ground in the final days of negotiation. The member states have called on Barnier, who is in London, to address their representatives in Brussels in an early morning video conference to provide a full account of the latest developments. A senior EU diplomat said they had confidence in Barnier as a negotiator but added there was some nervousness following his briefing on Friday where he had told the ambassadors of his “flexibility” over aspects of customs and border controls. Barnier counselled that the British negotiators led by David Frost were yet to reciprocate by agreeing a robust system of dispute settlement, which he admitted could give “rise to concerns about cherrypicking”.
NICOLA STURGEON has been dealt a major blow as EU figures poured cold water on her dream of an independent Scotland joining the bloc soon. Ms Sturgeon sent a message of unity to Brussels and pledged “Scotland wants to return” during the final day of SNP conference on Monday. The Scottish First Minister’s message came as the UK edges closer to freeing itself from the last of the EU’s shackles with the Brexit transition period ending on December 31. But doubts have been expressed by Brussels figures over how a future independent Scotland could work within the EU and the prospect of a second Scottish vote.
BRITAIN’S new immigration system, due to come into force when the UK breaks free of the EU’s freedom of movement rules in January, has opened for applications. As of today, “the brightest and the best” from across the globe can apply for the Government’s new skilled worker visa. From January, visas will be approved through a points-based system, with officials taking into account level of pay and language skills when making decisions. Introducing the new system was a key Tory Party manifesto at the last election, with Boris Johnson promising to replace the EU’s freedom of movement is a new, fairer system modelled on Australia’s immigration rules. Under Brussels’ laws, anyone in the EU can move to live in the UK, regardless of whether they have secured employment or can speak English.
A number of Jamaican nationals who were due to be deported have been granted last minute reprieve after the Home Office acknowledged they may be victims of modern slavery. Ministers have been accused of presiding over mass deportations that “lack due process” after at least nine individuals who were due to be forcibly sent to Jamaica on Wednesday were taken off the flight hours before it was due to leave following legal intervention. In one case, a 30-year-old man who came to the UK aged 11 had his deportation cancelled on Tuesday evening after the Home Office was forced to acknowledge that he had indicators of having been trafficked by county lines gangs in his twenties.
The Government is not planning to introduce immunity passports for people who have been vaccinated against coronavirus, Downing Street insisted. Boris Johnson’s spokesman clarified the situation after the new vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, suggested on Monday that hospitality, entertainment and sporting venues would demand proof that customers had been immunised. The suggestion sparked concerns that, while Covid-19 vaccines in the UK will be voluntary, people would be forced to have a jab in order to get on with their everyday lives. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “There are no plans to introduce or require immunity passports to bar people from certain venues who haven’t been vaccinated. It is our plan to introduce the vaccines to all those who need it, obviously prioritising those with the greatest clinical need to ensure the highest take up as possible.”
The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech has been approved in the UK, paving the way for vaccination to start next week. The jab has been shown in studies to be 95 per cent effective and works in all age groups. It has been approved by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). It comes as Londoners prepare for a “Wild Wednesday” as shops, gyms and some pubs reopen in the capital under the new Tier 2 restrictions. The strengthened tiered system of coronavirus restrictions replaced the national lockdown today after a major Tory rebellion failed to stop the Commons from backing the Prime Minister’s new measures.
THE GOVERNMENT has approved the Pfizer and BioNtech coronavirus vaccine and it will be rolled out from Monday, it has been confirmed. Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed this morning that the vaccine will be “ready from early next week.” He added the UK was the first country in the world to have a “clinically authorised vaccine” to roll out. He said this morning: “Yes we will have it ready from early next week. This vaccine is effective, clinically safe and we have a vaccine. It is very good news.” He tweeted: “Help is on its way. “The MHRA has formally authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19. “The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week. “The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply.”
The Armed Forces and NHS have begun urgent preparations for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine by the weekend, The Telegraph understands. Military personnel have been ordered to transform about 10 sites into vaccine hubs within a fortnight, including the Nightingale hospital at the London ExCel centre, Epsom racecourse, in Surrey, and Bristol’s Ashton Gate football stadium and Robertson House conference facility in Stevenage will serve the capital and south of England, according to sources. Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, the Centre for Life science park in Newcastle and Leicester racecourse will be the mass vaccine sites converted for the North and Midlands. The NHS, which is in charge of the vaccine programme, is understood to have formally requested assistance from the Ministry of Defence via the “Military aid to the civil authorities” (Maca) protocol.
The UK medicines regulator is posed to license one of the coronavirus vaccines for emergency use within days as the Armed Forces and the NHS urgently start preparing for its distribution at around 10 ‘vaccine hubs’. Military personnel are turning locations across the country into mass vaccine sites, including the mothballed Nightingale hospital at London ExCel centre, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, and Ashton Gate football stadium in Bristol. Northern locations include the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, the Centre for Life science park in Newcastle, and Leicester racecourse. The Army is expected to play a role in the delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine due to the challenges presented by its low temperature storage requirements, with almost 3,000 personnel assisting with 54 live government requests as of last week. Another 14,000 are on standby to help with the pandemic under the Government’s winter plan.
People in England were quick to seize upon greater freedoms after the national lockdown ended and was replaced by a tiered system of restrictions. Some of the most hardcore fitness fanatics even hit the weights for a midnight workout as one London gym owner threw open his doors at the stroke of midnight. All non-essential shops are allowed to open from today, paving the way for a festive spending spree that will likely drive people back to the nation’s ailing high streets. A fire sale at Debenhams is expected to fuel the shopping bonanza as bargain-hunters are lured by price cuts of up to 70 per cent ahead of the company’s impending liquidation following the collapse of rescue talks. A precursor to today’s likely stampede for generous discounts – as the chain reopens its soon-to-be axed 124 stores – was seen last night when more than a million people swamped the department store’s website.
BORIS JOHNSON is set to get his revenge on Remainers who took him to court last year when he prorogued Parliament in a bid to block MPs extending the Brexit deadline. Last September Boris Johnson announced he was dissolving Parliament for five weeks in the build-up to the then-Brexit deadline of October 31. Prominent Remainers including campaigner Gina Miller challenged the decision in the Supreme Court. In what was described by Jacob Rees-Mogg as a “constitutional coup”, the court ruled in favour of the Remainers’ appeal and said it was unlawful to stop MPs carrying out their duties in the House of Commons. At the time a No10 source accused the Supreme Court of “extending its reach to political matters” and of making a “serious mistake”. Now, the Prime Minister is set to get his revenge by passing legislation to curtail the court’s role in ruling on his power to dissolve Parliament.
Ministers were last night resisting pressure to publish a secret dossier showing lockdown restrictions have pushed a dozen major sectors of the economy to the brink of collapse. Downing Street confirmed that officials have compiled a detailed analysis of the damage the pandemic has done to key sectors. At least a dozen have been rated ‘red’, meaning they are deemed to be at serious risk of major job cuts and hits to revenue. Industries in the firing line include retail, hospitality, aerospace, the car industry, tourism, the arts, sport, and maritime, including ferries and cruises. Ministers are being urged to publish more details after a government ‘analysis’ of the tier system was branded a whitewash. Mel Stride, Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury committee, said the lack of detail in the published data was ‘frustrating’ and urged ministers to release analysis of the way in which restrictions ‘might impact on the specific sectors and regions’.
Boris Johnson suffered his worst Commons rebellion tonight as 55 Conservative MPs opposed the government’s new coronavirus tiers despite the prime minister pleading with them as they cast their votes. Johnson was forced to rely on Labour’s abstention from the vote to avoid defeat on a tightened system of measures that will plunge 99% of England into the strictest tiers from Wednesday. The blow to his authority came despite the prime minister making “exhortions” to MPs to back the government even during the voting. Johnson was standing in the spot in the chamber by the voting lobbies, where MPs would have expected to see the government chief whip, alongside health secretary Matt Hancock. One MP said Tories headed “sheepishly” past him towards the No lobby. “They were literally pleading with MPs,” an observer said. The measures passed by 291 votes to 78. Johnson was opposed by 55 of his own MPs – 53 voting against plus two tellers – while 16 did not vote or abstained.
MPs have agreed to implement new tiered Covid restrictions from tomorrow, however Boris Johnson was rocked by the largest Tory backbench rebellion he has faced. Seventy-eight MPs, including 55 Tory MPs, voted against the government and against the three-tier Covid restrictions. The largest previous rebellion against Johnson was when 44 Conservative MPs voted against bringing in a 10pm hospitality curfew in England. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer instructed his MPs to abstain from the vote. The vote means London will tomorrow be put into Tier 2, meaning the hospitality and retail sectors can open their doors. Chair of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers Graham Brady voted against the new restrictions and argued that the government had not provided enough evidence for its approach.
Boris Johnson got his brutal post-lockdown tiers approved by the Commons last night thanks to Sir Keir Starmer’s tacit support after suffering the biggest Tory revolt of this Parliament as more than 50 Tories defied the whip. The new three-tier system was signed off by a margin of 291 to 78 and came into force at midnight after Labour opted to abstain, despite complaining the regime was not tough enough and there was not enough support for hospitality firms which have been crippled by government shutdowns. While the headline 213 majority was healthy, the rebellion of 55 Tories – including Julian Lewis, who is suspended – made the uprising the biggest of this Parliament yet, after 44 previously went against the pubs curfew. Another 17 appear to have abstained, though it is not clear how many were given permission to stay away. Sir Keir also suffered his own revolt, with 15 defying the whip, alongside Jeremy Corbyn and eight DUP politicians.
Furious Conservative MPs warned Boris Johnson on Tuesday night their older constituents have “nothing left to live for” after months without their families, as they voted in droves against today’s new tiered lockdown rules. The Prime Minister heard speech after speech from Tory backbenchers worried about the effect of continued restrictions on daily life for millions, especially for vulnerable older people who have been “denied the touch of the people that they love”. Although Labour’s decision to abstain gave the Government a victory of 292 votes to 78, an unprecedented 55 Conservatives voted against Mr Johnson – the largest rebellion of this Parliament. When the vote came, Mr Johnson, Matt Hancock and Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip, formed a “gauntlet” that MPs had to pass as they went through the voting lobbies.
Family and friends will be allowed to visit care home residents indoors from today and over Christmas if they get a negative result from a rapid corona- virus test, the government has said. More than a million tests will be sent out to care providers over the next month, along with more PPE supplies, and visitors may be able to hug loved ones if they follow guidance released yesterday. This says that the risk of visits can be mitigated and must be balanced against the benefits they bring to residents and their families.
BRITS can hug and hold hands with elderly relatives in care homes if they test negative for Covid, with visits starting again today. More than a million coronavirus tests and extra PPE supplies are being rolled out to care homes in England to enable the elderly to see their loved ones. Some families have only seen loved ones through screens for eight months after face-to-face visits were banned. Visits should be allowed in all three tiers unless there is an outbreak in the care home, the Department of Health said. It stressed that visitors should minimise contact as much as possible and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to help protect their loved ones. But its guidance says hand holding and hugging may be possible if other infection control measures are followed. The guidance reads: “If a visitor has a negative test, is wearing appropriate PPE, and following other infection control measures then it may be possible for visitors to have physical contact with their loved one, such as providing personal care, holding hands and a hug, although contact should be limited to reduce the risk of transmission which will generally be increased by very close contact.”
Do not resuscitate
Do not resuscitate orders are being placed illegally on the medical files of adults with learning disabilities, a charity warned yesterday. MPs responded by ordering an urgent review into the ‘appalling’ practice, calling for it to be brought to an end by Christmas. It is feared wrongful use of the orders could be denying vulnerable people life-saving treatment during the pandemic. Steve Scown of Dimensions UK, a learning disability charity, told the Commons health and social care committee that those his fund helped were ‘not valued as equal members of society’. He added: ‘We’ve seen that with the number of DNARs (do not attempt resuscitation) that have been placed on people that we support without any consultation with their families or anybody who knows their best interests. ‘There is a fundamental problem with how people with learning disabilities are valued within society and within the system. ‘The fact that they were just placed on files without any meaningful conversation with families or any other professional is just frankly disgraceful.’