EU

Independent
Any British trade deal with the EU after Brexit should include powers to fine the UK if it breaks European rules, Brussels has said. Commission officials told member state diplomats that breaches of the agreement would be punishable with a “lump sum” or “penalty payment”, payable to Brussels within one month. The plan is the latest to come out of a series of meetings in the EU capital aimed at getting member states and the Commission on the same page before talks start next month. The EU is planning to officially draw up its negotiating terms over the next few weeks. In a further stipulation likely to enrage Brexiteers, the EU also wants its own European Court of Justice (ECJ) to have a starring role in arbitrating the deal. Brexiteers view the ECJ as a “foreign court” and many hard-liners believe Britain should not be under its jurisdiction after it leaves. The ECJ would be joined by arbitration panels and a so-called joint committee to help judge whether either side had broken the rules.

Telegraph
The European Union is preparing to offer the UK a trade deal on tougher terms than its deals with Canada, Japan and a host of other leading trade partners, the Telegraph has learned. In what will be seen by industry as an unusually harsh move, the European Commission has warned EU member states that it would be a mistake to allow some UK industry bodies to be allowed to certify that goods conform to EU standards.  The so-called Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) are granted to other key EU trade partners to facilitate the smooth movement of goods in key sectors, but could be withheld from the UK if it only seeks a basic trade deal

Brexit

Express
BORIS JOHNSON’s Brexit deal is expected to pass its final parliamentary hurdle today, paving the way for Britain to finally leave the EU. The Withdrawal Agreement Bill – the legislation needed to make Brexit happen on January 31 – is set to be passed by MPs in the House of Commons. They are expected to vote to remove changes made by peers as the draft law enters the “ping pong” process which will see it go back and forth between the Commons and the House of Lords until both houses can agree to what is in it. The final parliamentary showdown comes after the Government suffered a fourth defeat in the Lords yesterday as peers backed a move to protect help for refugee children after Brexit.

Evening Standard
Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will today return to the Commons as MPs consider amendments after the Government suffered five defeats in the Lords. Peers backed two more amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – or WAB – in the latest mauling for ministers on Tuesday. The Prime Minister looks certain to overturn all the defeats using his 80-strong majority that was gained after the landslide general election. Tuesday’s votes followed another three defeats on Monday on the rights of EU workers legally residing in the UK to have physical proof of their right to remain and the power of courts to depart from European Court of Justice rulings.

BBC News
The Welsh Assembly has joined the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly in rejecting the Brexit bill. It means all of the UK’s devolved law-making bodies have voted against the withdrawal agreement legislation. A total of 35 assembly members, from Labour and Plaid Cymru, opposed the law, while 15 backed it. First Minister Mark Drakeford said the law unilaterally rewrites the way devolution works in Wales. His counterpart in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said the three votes were “unprecedented and momentous”.

Evening Standard
The UK Government said it respects “the spirit and the letter of the devolution settlement” as it presses ahead with Brexit without consent from the devolved administrations. In letters sent to Scottish and Welsh ministers addressing their refusal to give legislative consent to Boris Johnson’s deal, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said he recognised the “significant role” played by the legislative consent process. He said the circumstances of the UK’s departure from the EU are “specific, singular and exceptional”  despite the Sewel Convention which says the UK Government should “not normally” press ahead without consent from devolved administrations.

Express
LEAVE MEANS LEAVE, the cross-party campaign group in support of Brexit, has been overwhelmed by the number of people expected to turn up for their Brexit day celebrations in Parliament Square on January 31. The organisation, headed up by founder Richard Tice, who is also the chairman of the Brexit Party and an MEP, is set to commemorate Brexit Day with a celebration rally outside the Houses of Parliament. The event is due to take place from 9.30pm to 11.10pm, with a number of speakers appearing on the night. Entertainment, alongside music, light shows and mementos are all part of the Brexit celebration plans. Leave Means Leave have indicated more people than expected have expressed interest in attending, and the organisation will be “looking into getting more screens” to cope with the crowds. It was initially believed that the hosts would charge for the celebration, but are now covering the costs and asking for support through donations. Leave Means Leave has suggested a minimum donation of £10, asking supporters to donate more if they can.

Immigration

Times
Boris Johnson will scrap a £30,000 minimum salary threshold for immigrants arriving after Brexit under his plans for an Australian-style points system. The prime minister’s approach is in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, Theresa May, who prompted a cabinet revolt after insisting on the income rule despite concerns that it would deter skilled workers. Under Mr Johnson’s plan migrants’ earnings will be taken into account as part of their application to enter the UK. Other criteria could include English proficiency, educational qualifications, occupation and willingness to work in particular areas of Britain.

Sun
UNSKILLED immigrants will be restricted from coming to Britain within 12 months, Downing Street has signalled. Former PM Theresa May had planned to allow a long transition period before a new system is enforced after Brexit. Under her blueprint, the current level of new arrivals would last until 2022 in a concession to worried businesses in sectors like hospitality who feared a collapse in their workforce. But Boris Johnson unveiled a rethink to the Cabinet yesterday as a new plan for Britain’s borders was discussed by his top table of ministers.

Times
Migrants have attempted to sail to the UK from Belgian beaches for the first time as people smugglers seek to avoid increased patrols on the French coast. A group of 14 swam back to the shore when their small vessel sank off the coast near De Panne yesterday. Bram Degrieck, the town’s mayor, said that eight of the migrants were unaccounted for but it was believed that they had made it back to land. “It is the first time to my knowledge this has happened on a beach in Belgium,” he said. Frank Demeester, the local prosecutor, said that British authorities would be consulted as part of the investigation as it was rare for smugglers to try to reach the UK from the Belgian coast.

Scotland

Express
NICOLA STURGEON and the SNP will look to pile the pressure on Boris Johnson by issuing an update on their next move for Scottish independence – just days after the Prime Minister brutally slapped down her repeated requests for a second referendum. A spokesman for Scotland’s First Minister and the  SNP leader confirmed she will set out her Government’s plans next week. He said: “The First Minister will seek to update before the end of the month, as she indicated.” Nicola Sturgeon’s spokesman insisted ministers are still committed to holding a referendum this year, despite the latest refusal from Boris Johnson last week. He said the SNP’s position was “endorsed” by voters in last month’s general election, when Scotland’s ruling party won 47 of the 59 seats available in the country.

NHS

Mail
The NHS faces paying £4.3billion in legal fees to settle clinical negligence claims. The figure, which includes unsettled claims and estimates of future claims, was secured via Freedom of Information requests by the BBC. The NHS receives more than 10,000 compensation claims each year.  Legal bodies said the cost is driven by failures in safety and a culture in which patients’ concerns are not listened to. The Department of Health has pledged to tackle the ‘unsustainable rise’ in the cost of clinical negligence.  Health bosses have been trying for years to tackle what they describe as a ‘compensation culture’ in the NHS. But solicitors said patients sue because medical authorities do not listen.

Social care

Mail
Record numbers of dementia sufferers are being ‘dumped in hospital’ because of the collapsing social care system. The number of emergency hospital admissions for those with the condition has reached 379,004 a year, or more than 1,000 a day. The annual number has soared by 100,000 in just five years, an astonishing rise of 35 per cent. Of those admitted to hospital, more than 40,000 ended up stranded there for more than a month, NHS data showed. Last night, the Alzheimer’s Society said elderly dementia sufferers were ‘falling through the cracks’ of the system. They are often admitted for falls, dehydration or infections that could have been avoided if they received adequate social care.

Education

Times
Schools are “gaming” the exam system and chasing “success without substance” to move up the league tables, Ofsted has warned. It cited schools requiring all pupils to take a sports science GCSE, or concentrating teaching on particular GCSE subjects at the cost of others, to maximise the number of top grades, as examples of the practice. Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector, said exam results obtained in this way were “hollow if they don’t reflect a proper education underneath” and accused the heads employing these tactics of putting the schools’ interests before those of the pupils.

Mail
A minority of schools are still gaming the system and putting their own interests above that of students, Ofsted has warned. The watchdog has raised concerns about schools putting grades at the expense of a well-rounded education. It warned that some are failing to act with integrity, with England’s most disadvantaged pupils most likely to lose out as a result. In its latest annual report, Ofsted paints a picture of improvement in the nation’s education system – with 86 per cent of schools rated good or outstanding, along with 96 per cent of nurseries and childminders and 81 per cent of further education and skills colleges.

BBC News
Parents will no longer have the right to withdraw children from lessons about relationships, sexuality and religion, the Welsh Government has confirmed. Education Minister Kirsty Williams said the move would be tested next year before becoming statutory when the new curriculum is launched in 2022. Parents are currently able to request their children do not take part in sex and religious education. Parents have greeted the announcement with mixed opinions. Sally Stephenson, a mother of a 13-year-old and 15-year-old from Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast with Claire Summers: “I just think it’s a really good idea to teach children about different religions and different relationships.

Social media

Telegraph
Social media firms will be legally required to protect children from harmful content under the first-ever code to police the internet. In a victory for The Telegraph’s duty of care campaign, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham today publishes groundbreaking rules that will bar Facebook, Google and other tech giants from serving children any content that is “detrimental to their physical or mental health or wellbeing.” The Government-backed code will be enforced by fines potentially worth billions of pounds and is designed to prevent a repeat of the case of Molly Russell, the 14-year-old who killed herself after viewing self-harm images on Instagram and other sites.

Times
Social networks such as Instagram are to be banned from exposing children to content that encourages self-harm or suicide under tough new rules. Technology companies could face billions of pounds in fines if they fail to comply with guidelines being introduced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The NSPCC, the children’s charity, said the rules would force firms to “take online harm seriously”. The reforms should bring an end to tech giants feeding children a stream of unsuitable content based on their browsing history and personal data.

Prison

Guardian
Serious violent and sexual offenders will no longer automatically be released halfway through their sentences under government plans introduced on Wednesday. A greater focus has been placed on automatic release since last November’s London Bridge attack, which was carried out by a convicted terrorist out on licence. Justice secretary Robert Buckland was forced on Tuesday to deny the government was politicising the atrocity by proposing measures that place a greater focus on lengthy jail terms than on other approaches. Under the previously announced plans being formally introduced into parliament on Wednesday, those convicted of crimes such as rape, manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm will instead have to spend two-thirds of their sentence in prison before they can be freed on licence.

Climate change

Times
President Trump attacked “prophets of doom” on climate change yesterday as he exchanged thinly veiled insults with the teenage activist Greta Thunberg. In a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Trump urged executives and ministers to dismiss “predictions of the apocalypse”. The speech was watched by Ms Thunberg, 17. “To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse,” he said. “They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers. And I have them, and you have them, and we all have them. And they want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen.”

Sun
GRETA Thunberg fired another death stare at Donald Trump today as he urged world leaders to “reject prophets of doom” on the environment. The US president flew into Switzerland this morning to declare that America is “winning again like never before” in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. But he again fell victim to one of the teen activist’s icy glares as he boasted of the “powerful machinery of American enterprise”. Mr Trump said he has never been more confident about the country’s future, declaring: “America’s new found prosperity is unprecedented.”

Morning Star
SPAIN’S new government declared a national climate emergency today, taking a formal first step towards enacting ambitious measures to fight climate change. The declaration approved by the Cabinet states that the socialist government will send its proposed climate legislation to parliament within 100 days. The targets coincide with those of the EU, including a reduction of net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Spain’s coalition government wants up to 95 per cent of the Mediterranean country’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2040.

Times
Emissions of an extremely potent greenhouse gas have hit record levels, raising concerns that China and India are misleading the world about their efforts to stamp out production. One tonne of HFC-23, an unwanted industrial by-product, has the global warming effect of nearly 13,000 tonnes of CO2. Created during the production of refrigeration systems, it is relatively easy to stop it reaching the atmosphere by incinerating it where it is made. China and India claim to have sharply reduced emissions in recent years, with each informing the Multilateral Fund, an offshoot of the UN charged with policing ozone-depleting and global warming gasses, that it has made dramatic cuts.

Virus

Telegraph
China has confirmed 440 people are infected nationwide with a  new coronavirus, with the number of deaths rising to nine, as the US reported its first confirmed case of the mystery disease. The latest count was current as of midnight on Tuesday, with all deaths in Hubei province, where the first illnesses were reported in December, said Li Bin, deputy director of China’s national health commission.  The outbreak is believed to have originated in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, and causes fever and breathing difficulties. Health officials have confirmed human-to-human transmission, and cases have spread to other Chinese cities and abroad. China’s National Health Commission admitted that the country was now at the “most critical stage” of control and warned that the virus could mutate and spread further.

Sun
THE number of coronavirus cases in China has risen by more than 100 in a day to a total of 440. These latest figures – as well as nine reported deaths – were announced by China’s health authorities on Wednesday and were current as of midnight Tuesday. The virus could be declared a global health crisis after cases of the mystery bug previously quadrupled in just four days. Deputy Director of the National Health Commission Li Bin said that all deaths had been in the Hubei province, home to Wuhan city where the first illnesses from coronavirus were reported in late December. The climbing death toll comes amid reports the ‘2019-nCoV’ strain has spread to other countries and major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and southern Guangdong province.

ITV News
The US has reported its first case of a new and potentially deadly virus circulating in China. The man in his 30s had returned last week from the outbreak’s epicentre in Wuhan City, China. US Health officials say the man, a Washington State resident, was not considered a threat to medical staff or the public and has been taken to hospital in a good condition. Coronavirus has so far infected about 300 people, all of whom had been in China, and killed six. The newly discovered virus can cause coughing, fever, breathing difficulty and pneumonia.

Sun
A DEADLY new virus which has killed six people in China is one of the “newest and biggest global health threats”, an expert has warned. Scientists are frantically working on a vaccine to stop the spread of Wuhan coronavirus – but say it could be more than a year before it’s available. More than 200 people have been infected with the virus since it emerged a few weeks ago – and it’s been confirmed it can spread from person to person. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has taken the first steps towards developing a shot, according to CNN.

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