Post-Brexit talks with the EU have turned sour, after the UK escalated tensions by accusing Brussels of only offering a “low-quality” trade deal. Downing Street’s chief negotiator, David Frost, said the agreement on offer amounts to “unprecedented oversight” of laws and institutions from 1 January 2021. A litany of problems with the EU’s demands were fleshed out in a strongly worded letter to his opposite number Michel Barnier and published by Number 10 on Tuesday. The intervention, which comes days after Mr Frost said “very little progress” had been made in talks since March, will rattle those fearful of a no-deal end to the transition period.
Britain’s chief negotiator, David Frost, has accused Brussels of treating the UK as an “unworthy” partner by offering a low-quality trade agreement that he says would force the country to “bend to EU norms”. In an extraordinary letter to the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, the prime minister’s envoy says Brussels’ proposal that EU state aid rules be part of British law is “egregious” and “simply not a provision any democratic country could sign”. He further accuses Barnier of demanding unprecedented oversight over British laws and institutions through “novel and unbalanced proposals”, in an intervention that will heighten fears that the talks are now destined to fail.
Dishwashers, freezers, paint and Christmas trees will be cheaper to buy next year, ministers pledged yesterday, as they launched an attack on Brussels over the future of a post-Brexit free trade deal. The Department for International Trade said that Britain would scrap all tariffs on £30 billion of goods arriving from abroad, reducing the cost of “thousands of everyday products” when the transition period ends in December. However, the cost of thousands of other products could rise if a new free trade deal with the European Union is not struck before then.
Household goods and foods are set to be cheaper under a post-Brexit tariff regime unveiled by the Government today. The Department for International Trade said the new system, called the UK Global Tariff, will see duties axed on around £62billion worth of imports. It came as the UK Government tried to pile pressure on the EU over the future relationship between Britain and Brussels by publishing 12 draft agreements covering areas such as trade, aviation and criminal justice. As Britain prepares to leave the Brexit transition on December 31, ministers unveiled the list of tariffs which will be axed or maintained when EU rules cease to apply. Duties will remain to protected industries such as agriculture, car-making and fishing.
British consumers will face substantial price hikes for European goods like wine, cheese and cars at the end of the year under plans unveiled by the UK government, unless a trade agreement can be signed with the EU in time. Liz Truss, the trade secretary, announced on Tuesday the levels of tariffs the UK would apply to imported goods from countries without a free trade agreement when it leaves the single market. Stalled Brexit talks mean Britain could end up trading with Europe on the so-called “WTO” terms – replacing the zero tariff deal it currently enjoys and wants to preserve.
The government’s newly announced tariff regime has helped lay the path for a UK-EU free trade deal, according to trade experts. The Department of International Trade announced its new “global tariff” today for when the UK leaves the post-Brexit transition period with the EU on 31 December. It includes scrapping £30bn of taxes on imports, while maintaining the same tariffs on the agricultural and automotive sectors as under EU rules. UK director of the European Centre For International Political Economy, a trade think tank, David Henig said the announcement was in line with expectations and that it showed the UK was looking to complete deals with the EU and US by the end of the year.
The United Kingdom announced a new post-Brexit tariff regime on Tuesday to give it leverage in trade talks, maintaining the European Union’s 10% duty on cars but cutting levies on tens of billions of dollars of supply chain imports. The new tariff regime, which would come into effect from January 2021, aims to simplify what some UK officials call an overly complex EU system and help Britain negotiate trade deals with the United States, the Brussels-based bloc and others. But it will mean that if Britain and the EU fail to reach a free trade deal by the end of the year, the price of some food, cars and some chemical inputs imported from the bloc would rise sharply.
France and Germany are facing a rebellion over their plans for a €500 billion EU coronavirus relief package that opponents say will saddle poorer eastern states with debt. Poland said yesterday that it had “serious doubts” over the proposal and looked set to join opposition by the so-called “frugal four” of the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden, while the Visegrad bloc, which includes the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia as well as Poland, is also expected to join.
Voice of Europe
The leaders of Germany and France agreed Monday on a one-off 500 billion-euro ($543 billion) fund to help the European Union recover from the coronavirus pandemic, a proposal that would add further cash to an arsenal of financial measures the bloc is readying to cope with the outbreak’s economic fallout. Following a video call, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said the plan would involve the European Union borrowing money in financial markets to help sectors and regions that are particularly affected by the pandemic. Crucially, the money would be disbursed in the form of grants rather than loans, with repayments made from the EU budget, an unprecedented proposal that overcomes long-standing objections in Berlin to the notion of collective borrowing.
The easing of the UK lockdown will change the way in which we go about our daily lives, with new restrictions placed on travelling, visiting shops and touching objects. But are these restrictions justified, and where did they come from? The two-metre social distancing rule dates back to experiments by Harvard scientist Willi8am Wells, who was looking at the contagiousness of tuberculosis in the 1930s. Wells found that viruses causing respiratory infections are spread by different-sized droplets expelled by coughs and sneezes.
A senior minister has told Sky News that “wrong” advice at the start of the coronavirus outbreak could have led to mistakes in the government’s response. Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey made the comments during an interview with Kay Burley in which she was challenged about ministers’ handling of COVID-19 in adult social care. Asked if the government had, in hindsight, got the approach to care homes wrong, Ms Coffey told Kay Burley@Breakfast that “you can only make judgements and decisions based on the information and advice that you have at the time”.
A Cabinet minister suggested government failings over the coronavirus response were made because “the science was wrong” as tensions between politicians and specialists broke into the open on Tuesday. Thérèse Coffey, Work and Pensions Secretary, said she was “not surprised” if ministers had “made a wrong decision” based on poor scientific advice. But government advisers said it was not their job to make policy and that blame rested on the shoulders of elected members of the executive.
A former Conservative Party leader has called on the Prime Minister to reconsider the two-metre social distancing rule to ‘get the economy moving’. Iain Duncan Smith said the UK is the ‘only country in Europe’ using the two metre distance, with Germany, Poland and the Netherlands using 1.5 metres. Relaxing the strict social distancing rules, as suggested by Sir Iain, would allow businesses in hard-hit industries such as hospitality to start making money and aid the country’s economic recovery. If the guidelines were relaxed, it would allow pubs, restaurants and hotels to welcome more people into their venues than what would be permitted under current social distancing guidance.
The former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has called on Boris Johnson to reconsider the two-metre social-distancing rule to help kick-start getting the economy. Current government guidance — based on advice from No 10’s scientific advisers — requires people to stay two metres apart when outdoors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Tory MP said “we’re the only country certainly in Europe that I know of” that uses the two-metre directive — pointing out that the World Health Organisation recommends people remain only one metre apart.
Deaths from coronavirus in Britain could stop by the end of June if current trends continue, scientists have said. The number of deaths on Monday was 545, down from 627 a week ago, and the seven-day average is now 378. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that, on average, deaths are now falling at a rate of around 30 each day. Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, said that there would be a sporadic rise and fall in deaths over the next four to six weeks but he would not expect to find coronavirus listed in the ONS death data by the end of June.
Coronavirus fatalities are falling at such a pace it may be “difficult to find” people with the virus on their death certificate by the end of June, an expert said yesterday. The number of registered coronavirus deaths in England and Wales dropped for the third week running, according to figures released yesterday from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). There were 3,930 deaths recorded as involving the virus in the week ending May 8, a 35 per cent drop from the week before.
The daily number of deaths from coronavirus could be approaching zero by the end of next month, an expert suggested yesterday. It came as the number of deaths officially linked to Covid-19 in England and Wales fell for a third week in a row in the week ending on VE Day, providing fresh hope the worst of the pandemic may be over. Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, said: ‘I think by the end of June we’ll be looking at the data and finding it difficult to find people with this illness, if current trends continue.’
One third of all hospital deaths from coronavirus in England have been among diabetics, new research shows, amid warnings that the condition more than doubles mortality risk. Experts said the major study, which included all patients hospitalised with Covid-19 over 10 weeks, showed that diabetes – which is often fuelled by obesity – is driving Britain’s death toll. Charities said people with diabetes must be allowed to work from home or be put on furlough if their jobs put them at risk.
ONE in three people killed by Covid-19 also had diabetes, the latest NHS data shows. Patients with the condition accounted for 32 per cent of hospital deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. It is up from 26 per cent reported from earlier data. The study reveals Brits with type 1 diabetes are three and a half times more likely to die if they catch coronavirus, while those with type 2 face double the risk. Researchers from NHS England analysed data on 24,739 Covid deaths in hospitals. In total, 7,831 of the fatalities had diabetes.
Almost a third of people who have died after testing positive for coronavirus in English hospitals had diabetes, new NHS England research suggests. This is higher than previously thought, as health service data released last week suggested 26% of Covid-19 victims in English hospitals had the condition. The new figures show that overall, 7,466 of coronavirus patients who have died in hospitals in England had type 2 diabetes. A further 365 who died had type 1 diabetes.
Families’ hopes of a summer getaway were dealt a blow last night as Downing Street played down the idea of opening ‘air bridges’ to some foreign resorts. The prospect of quarantine-free travel between the UK and countries with low coronavirus rates had been raised by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. But with ministers expected to unveil plans tomorrow for a tough new quarantine regime requiring travellers to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in the UK, No 10 said the ‘air bridges’ idea would not form part of the proposals.
The British Medical Association has said schools can reopen on June 1, or earlier, as long as it is “safe to do so”. In an apparent softening of its stance regarding pupils returning to the classroom, the doctors’ union admitted there was “growing evidence that the risk to individual children from Covid-19 is extremely small”. However, it cautioned that there was still no consensus on how easily children could spread the disease to vulnerable adults.
Up to 1,500 primary schools in England are expected to remain closed on 1 June after a rebellion by at least 18 councils forced the government to say it had no plans to sanction them. As the backlash escalated over the government’s policy of lifting the coronavirus lockdown on schools in a fortnight, a number of new local authorities said on Tuesday they would not force primary schools in their area to follow the plan. Councils joining those already in opposition included Birmingham, Calderdale council in Yorkshire, and Conservative-controlled Solihull.
Boris Johnson’s ambition to reopen primary schools on June 1 could be scrapped amid mass dissension from teachers, unions and growing numbers of Labour councils, it was revealed today. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the Government would ‘listen to their concerns’ about safety and insisted opening schools in 12 days was not a ‘hard deadline’ only part of a ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown. A poll from teachers’ union NASUWT suggested that only 5% of teachers think it will be safe for more pupils to return to school next month.
The reopening of schools in ten days’ time was thrown into doubt last night after one of the government’s most senior scientific advisers suggested that it would depend on an effective test, trace and isolate system. Ministers have refused to say when the new system, a key condition of teachers’ unions who are resisting the phased return of primary schools, would be in place. Allies of Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said that he expected all English primary schools to reopen on June 1 if the government’s five tests had been met.
Union chiefs have told teachers to demand detailed answers to at least 169 questions from their bosses on issues such as bin lids, coronavirus counselling and employing extra staff to clean paint brushes, scissors and glue sticks before agreeing to return to school, it was revealed today. The National Education Union has also told its 450,000 members to stop marking work and keep online tuition ‘to a minimum’ for any children still at home and not to try remote teaching if ‘they feel uncomfortable’ after going back to the classroom from next month.
The government is considering introducing an extra bank holiday, possibly in October around the time of half-term. The idea was put forward by the UK’s tourism agency Visit Britain. Its acting head, Patricia Yates, told MPs on Tuesday the industry had lost the benefit of two bank holidays in May because of the coronavirus lockdown. The government did, however, warn that having an extra break could have an economic downside.
Tourism chiefs are appealing for an emergency October bank holiday to be announced amid fears that the industry could lose expected bookings worth £37bn because of the coronavirus epidemic. They have asked ministers to approve a long weekend break around the Autumn half-term in a move to generate some much-needed revenue for Britain’s holiday areas. Many seasonal businesses which depend on summer takings to tide them are expected to fold amid fears that the public will be less willing to travel even when social distancing restrictions are eased.
A special October bank holiday this year is being considered by the government. Visit Britain’s has been lobbying for the extra break to boost British tourism – which it warns will suffer a £37billion drop due to coronavirus this year. Acting chief executive Patricia Yates told MPs the idea is “being considered” by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Downing Street confirmed the idea would be looked at, but also warned bank holidays come at a cost to the wider economy.
Delays to cancer surgery will lead to almost 5,000 deaths, a study has warned, amid growing fears about the broader impact of the coronavirus crisis. Analysis of Public Health England data by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) found that patients could have to wait months for operations to remove tumours, while those who might otherwise have been cured by surgery could now be at risk of their cancer returning.
Sir Tom Moore
Second World War veteran and NHS fundraiser Captain Tom Moore is to be knighted, Downing Street has announced. The 100-year-old raised almost £33 million for health service charities by walking laps of his Bedfordshire garden. Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Sir Tom as a “true national treasure” and praised his “fantastic fundraising” which he said “provided us all with a beacon of light through the fog of coronavirus”. Mr Johnson recommend Sir Tom be exceptionally honoured by the Queen, who has approved the honour, Number 10 said.
Captain Tom Moore, the Second World War veteran who raised almost £33 million for the NHS by walking round his garden, has been knighted, Downing Street announced last night. Downing Street rushed through his nomination before the Queen’s birthday honours following a public campaign for his fundraising efforts to receive official recognition. Boris Johnson, who described Sir Tom as a “true national treasure”, recommended that he be exceptionally honoured by the Queen, who has given her approval, No 10 said.
He has lifted the spirits of the nation with his £39million fundraising effort to celebrate turning 100. Now Colonel Tom Moore – who has already been promoted from captain – is to be recognised further with a knighthood, it was revealed last night. The Second World War veteran received a special nomination from the Prime Minister, which is to become the first of dozens of coronavirus crisis gongs.