BORIS JOHNSON has urged businesses to accelerate preparations for a no deal Brexit. The Prime Minister insisted the UK will prosper outside the EU with or without a trade deal. Boris Johnson stressed while companies have been “terribly busy with Covid”, they must now get ready for the end of the Brexit transition on December 31. Michael Gove, who appeared alongside Mr Johnson on the 21-minute call, likened Brexit to moving house – initially expensive but with long-term benefits. The Prime Minister and Mr Gove spoke to 250 business leaders in the video call. Mr Johnson added that the departure from the EU should be a “moment of change and dynamism for the UK” that will provide businesses with “fantastic opportunities”. The Prime Minister said: “Our job is to create the platform for dynamic businesses such as yours to compete and to grow. “But it is vital that everybody on this call takes seriously the need to get ready, because whatever happens – whether it’s Canada or Australia – change is going to happen.
EUROPEAN Union chiefs are drawing up plans to keep planes flying and protect their fishing fleets after a no-deal Brexit as trade talks with Britain are on the verge of collapse. The bloc wants to revive previous contingency measures to preserve vital air and road transport links with the UK. And eurocrats are also working out how to spend a special €5 billion Brexit fund to assist the countries most impacted by the lack of a EU-UK trade pact. Brussels sources said France, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands would be set for the largest windfalls. The European Commission has been asked to unveil “unilateral solutions” to cover the most disruptive elements of a no-deal Brexit.
Britain should make the most of the little time left to get a trade deal, Michel Barnier warned as he refused to meet the government’s condition for restarting talks. After a brief call with Lord Frost, the chief British negotiator, Mr Barnier failed to indicate “acceptance that movement needs to come from the EU side as well as the UK”, a requirement set by Downing Street on Monday. “My message: we should be making the most out of the little time left,” Mr Barnier tweeted after the call. “Our door remains open.” France also dismissed Downing Street’s demand as Clément Beaune, the French Europe minister, told MPs that there would be “no new approach” from the EU.
MICHEL BARNIER has come under severe pressure to end the threat of a no deal Brexit amid the possibility of a massive funding hole for Brussels. Analysts have concluded the euro area could see a loss of €33billion (£30billion) if the UK leaves without a deal. Amid the increased concern on the continent, analysts at Allianz have predicted Germany could be the biggest loser of a hard Brexit with a calculated €8.2billion (£7.5billion) loss. Ana Boata, an analyst at Allianz, wrote: “The worst-hit would be Germany (8.2 billion euros), the Netherlands (4.8 billion euros) and France (3.6 billion euros).
BRITAIN turned the screw on the EU yesterday by announcing they are “intensifying” trade talks with the US. In a stark contrast with the current status of EU talks, Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced the start of the fifth round of negotiations with the US. Talks with the EU are on life support after Brussels’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and the UK’s Lord Frost failed to agree a plan for getting the sides back to the negotiating table. Boris Johnson has said he will only reopen talks if there is a “fundamental change of approach” from Brussels ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.
FISHERIES could stand to be wiped out if Boris Johnson fails to agree a Brexit deal, UK fishermen have warned. Fisheries have remained one of the main areas of divergence between the two sides throughout talks. If Mr Johnson fails to agree a deal during the Brexit talks, fishermen in remote communities have claimed they will not recover. Scottish fishermen, in particular, warned if the Prime Minister doesn’t agree a deal with the EU, the smaller fleets could suffer tariffs which could decimate fleets. Skipper in Campbeltown, John Brown told STV: “We need to keep access to our markets in Europe, definitely.
Internal Market Bill
THE government suffered a heavy defeat in the House of Lords today over controversial Brexit legislation that would enable ministers to break international law. Peers backed — by 395 votes to 169, a majority of 226 — a “regret” amendment to the Internal Market Bill. The amendment condemns the contentious provisions of the Bill and warns that they “would undermine the rule of law and damage the reputation of the United Kingdom.” The Lords defeat sets the scene for a showdown between the unelected chamber and the Commons and the likelihood of protracted parliamentary “ping pong” in which legislation is passed between the two houses.
The House of Lords has voted against Boris Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, which seeks to breach the Brexit withdrawal treaty if the UK does not get a trade deal with the EU. The Lords approved a motion to regret the bill on the grounds that it “would undermine the rule of law and damage the reputation of the United Kingdom”. The bill will not be affected by the Lords vote, with a regret motion only giving “members an opportunity to put on record their dissent”, according to parliamentary protocol.
Peers opposing the Brexit bill that the government admitted will break international law have inflicted the heaviest defeat for more than 20 years. A motion warning the legislation “would undermine the rule of law and damage the reputation of the United Kingdom” was passed by 395 votes to 169 – a majority of 226. A total of 39 Conservative peers rebelled against Boris Johnson, including Lord Keen of Elie, the former advocate general for Scotland, who resigned over the Internal Market Bill last month.
There is no sign of a second coronavirus wave, experts have said as new Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed that deaths are just 1.5 per cent above the five-year average and tracking on a normal trajectory for the time of year. Although Covid deaths rose to 438 for the week ending October 9 – an increase of 36 per cent from the previous week, when the figure stood at 321 – overall deaths rose just 143 above the five-year average. There were also 19 fewer overall deaths than in the same week last year. Experts at Oxford University said the number would have to get to 1,200 deaths above the norm before it would usually be considered “excess” above the expected variation in the data. Researchers also found there would usually be around 1,600 weekly deaths from flu and pneumonia for the same week.
Children and young adults were clearly the drivers of the England’s second ripple of Covid-19, according to charts presented by one of the country’s top medics tonight. Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, appeared at a Downing Street conference with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, to set the scene for tougher lockdown rules in Manchester. He explained that the second wave appears to have been ignited by people in their teens and 20s catching and spreading the virus when schools and universities went back, but rates among the young are now declining in almost every region of the country, while rising in the older age groups.
A national circuit-breaker lockdown would be “difficult to justify” for low infection areas, the deputy chief medical officer for England said. Jonathan Van-Tam offered a boost to Boris Johnson’s regional strategy when he became the first government scientific adviser to speak against a fortnight half-term lockdown, which was proposed by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. “A national lockdown at the moment would be inappropriate for communities in Cornwall and East Anglia,” he said at a Downing Street press conference yesterday. “The epidemiology is so varied across England that I think it would be very difficult to justify for some communities.”
A NATIONAL ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown isn’t needed – and it’d be unfair to drag the whole country into a tier three lockdown, one of the UK’s top medics said yesterday. Professor Jonathan Van-Tam publicly announced his opposition to “hard measures” that threaten to trash jobs in parts of the country where Covid numbers are low. The respected medic’s criticism of a national lockdown is a blow to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer who has repeatedly called for one. Meanwhile, medical colleagues proposed an alternative to the tiered lockdowns, saying that shielding just five per cent of Brits could see a massive reduction in the number of coronavirus deaths.
A series of flexible circuit-breaker lockdowns need to be put “in the diary” for every school holiday through to the Spring, Government scientific advisors say. With the test and trace system having become rapidly overwhelmed with cases surging, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) called for a temporary two-week lockdown weeks ago. But with that advice ignored by Downing Street in favour of the three-tier system, it is understood advisers have continued to make the case for multiple school holiday lockdowns.
Labour is stepping up the pressure to impose an England-wide “circuit-breaker”, claiming the economy will be billions of pounds worse off if the government fails to act. Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, last week endorsed calls by the government’s scientific advisers for a two- to three-week shutdown. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has opposed the plan, calling it a “blunt instrument” and warning about the damaging economic impact of shuttering many sectors. But the shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, points to analysis, including by the International Monetary Fund, which suggests much of the economic hit from coronavirus comes from “voluntary distancing” – the changes in people’s behaviour when they believe the disease is rife.
Hospital bed occupancy has become a propaganda tool in the bad-tempered row over Covid restrictions in Manchester. Downing Street has used terrifying statistics in an attempt to gain public support for forcing local leaders into accepting strict tier-three measures. They claim the city’s hospitals will become ‘overwhelmed’ within a few weeks, and even the surge capacity will be used up. But Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and other local leaders have challenged the Government’s use of data, accusing ministers of ‘cherry picking’ figures to exaggerate the scale of the problem in the North West. They claim that, even though cases are increasing, current occupancy in critical-care units is not far above the norm for this time of year.
A furious blame game has erupted after Tier 3 talks between Boris Johnson and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham collapsed, with both sides accusing the other of walking away. Government sources last night pushed back firmly against Mr Burnham’s charge that Downing Street shouldered responsibility for the deadlock. Figures within Whitehall insisted an agreement of £55million was reached, but during a final telephone to rubber-stamp the arrangement Mr Burnham blindsided the Prime Minister and upped his demand to £65million. One source said: ‘Andy Burnham’s pride got in the way of a deal.’
Boris Johnson imposed tougher coronavirus restrictions on Greater Manchester last night and attempted to use a £60 million rescue package to make its mayor fall into line. Mr Johnson pulled the plug on talks with Andy Burnham over the scale of the funding despite the two sides being separated by only £5 million. Mr Burnham had wanted £65 million to support businesses. The prime minister then put the region’s three million people into the highest tier of the Covid-19 alert system and refused at a press conference to guarantee the original £60 million package in an apparent attempt to punish Mr Burnham.
THE government ensured “a winter of hardship” for Greater Manchester today as ministers refused to offer the “bare minimum” of funding for the region’s Tier 3 lockdown. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said that the government walked away from talks at 2pm today without agreeing on a financial package. Prime Minister Boris Johnson later announced that the region would go into the harshest form of local lockdown from midnight on Thursday. Mr Burnham and 10 local-authority leaders tried desperately to compromise over fully costed plans to protect people when their jobs disappear under the new wave of restrictions.
Some of the City’s top restaurants are set to take advantage of a Covid loophole and restart bookings for business lunches despite a ban on household mixing in London. Firms including the Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle, The Wolseley and steakhouse chains Gaucho and M Restaurants have said they will accept business reservations with immediate effect due to an exemption written into the Government’s guidelines. Swathes of other restaurants in London could now follow suit, along with those in other cities under so-called Tier 2 and Tier 3 regulations such as Liverpool and Manchester. People in Tier 2 or Tier 3 areas are banned from socialising with more than one household indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.
Office workers and business people have seized on a loophole in the coronavirus rules that allows working lunches. Ministers appealed for people to follow the spirit of the rules yesterday, saying those in high-alert areas are banned from meeting indoors with people they do not live with. The “work purposes” clause was to allow freelancers to meet for business purposes, the prime minister’s spokesman said. One London restaurant chain said that it was “inundated” with requests after No 10 acknowledged the loophole. Corbin & King, which owns several restaurants popular with business people including The Wolseley sent an email to patrons saying working lunches were “within the rules”, despite Tier 2 rules in London banning people who do not live together from dining inside.
Tory fears over Nicola Sturgeon‘s Scottish independence surge were laid bare today in a leaked memo. An assessment put together by key advisers warns Boris Johnson that he cannot simply keep saying no to the SNP leader’s demands for another referendum. The document from Hanbury strategy bemoans the ‘vacuum of leadership’ within the unionist movement – and suggests that the PM will need to offer Ms Sturgeon more powers to stave off a catastrophic break-up of the UK. The memo, seen by Bloomberg, emerged amid rising alarm over the spike in support for independence north of the border. An Ipsos MORI poll last week found 58 per cent of Scots backed the move once don’t knows were excluded.
FEARS of open conflict in east Asia have surged after Australia agreed joined the US, Japan and India to join naval drills that experts claim are aimed at China. Relations between Beijing and a number of its neighbours have sharply deteriorated in recent months due to disputes over territory and trade. In 2017 the Quad security alliance, made-up of the US, India, Japan and Australia was reformed. On Monday India invited Australia to its upcoming Malabar naval exercises that will also feature forces from the US and Japan. Previously India, which has historically been unaligned, rejected Australian involvement for fear of offending Beijing.
The BBC has been accused of ‘terrifying’ the elderly with ‘threatening’ licence fee letters warning viewers of a £1,000 fine if they do not pay the £157.50-a-year cost. Social media users complained online after receiving the letters, which are emblazoned with red capital letters and informed recipients they could face prosecution. The letter reads: ‘Our records show your property has no TV licence. I visited today, to find out why. ‘You have not replied to our letters. So my visit today was the next stage of the official investigation into why your address doesn’t have a TV licence.’ It then goes on to detail the potential fines and prosecution the recipient could face.
Postmen will soon be picking up parcels from our doorsteps at the same time as they deliver letters. Households will be charged 72p per item on top of postage costs when they use Royal Mail‘s new Parcel Collect service. It means online sellers and shoppers will be able to send or return items by post without leaving their home. Royal Mail describes the service as ‘one of the biggest changes to the daily delivery since the launch of the post box in 1852’. It comes as the company tries to grab a bigger share of the booming parcels market.
For more than 150 years Royal Mail posties have delivered letters to every address in Britain. From today they will collect items as well — for a small fee. In a move hailed as one of the biggest changes to the service since the introduction of the postbox in 1852, Royal Mail will charge 72p to pick up a parcel from anyone’s doorstep. Customers wanting to take advantage of the new service will not, however, be able to simply hand over parcels to their postman with some cash.
UK shipbuilding has been boosted after the Defence Secretary announced that the three new support ships for Royal Navy aircraft carriers will be made by British-led teams. A competition to build the new £1.5 billion Fleet Solid Support vessels to support HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales as part of the Carrier Strike Group, which will undertake its first operational deployment next year, will launch in spring 2021. While it will invite international companies to collaborate with UK firms, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) stressed that the successful manufacturing team must be led by a British company.
A centuries-old pear tree which won England’s tree of the year in 2015 has been felled to make way for the new HS2 high speed rail line. The Woodland Trust said it was “shocked and upset” at the felling of the Cubbington Pear, near South Cubbington Wood, Warwickshire, as part of the rail line works, despite campaigners fighting to save it. The conservation charity also raised concerns that the tree, which is more than 200 years old, was felled after promises the stump and rooting structure would be relocated to provide an opportunity for the parent tree to regrow.