Ministers now believe that Britain and the EU will fail to sign a post-Brexit trade deal, with just days to go until Boris Johnson’s July deadline for an outline agreement passes. The Telegraph has learnt that the Government’s central working assumption is that Britain will trade with Europe on World Trade Organisation terms when the transition period ends on December 31. UK and EU negotiators began the latest round of negotiations in London on Monday, but remain deadlocked on the stumbling blocks of fishing rights, so-called level playing field guarantees, governance of the deal, and the role of the European Court of Justice. Senior sources said there was now an assumption that “there won’t be a deal”, though it remains possible that a “basic” agreement could be reached if the EU gives ground in the autumn.
BRITAIN is close to abandoning all hope of striking a free trade deal with the European Union, according to reports. Senior sources in the Government have told The Daily Telegraph it is now the working assumption the UK will trade with the bloc on WTO terms after December 31. Sources said they assume “there won’t be a deal” but added that it remains possible that a “basic” agreement could be thrashed out over the coming weeks or months.
Britain is close to giving up hope of striking a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU as Boris Johnson runs down the clock to his July deadline. The Government is assuming there will not be a deal and expects it will trade with the bloc on WTO terms when the transition period ends on December 31. Senior sources told The Daily Telegraph that a ‘basic’ agreement remains possible if the European gives ground in the autumn. Britain is currently bound to EU rules during an 11-month period known as the transition which cannot be extended beyond this year. Talks between Britain and Europe, led by the UK’s David Frost and the EU’s Michael Barnier, began on Monday and are due to finish tomorrow.
NIGEL FARAGE is making his mark yet again in his battle against the EU after it emerged he has helped inspire the man behind Italy’s Italexit campaign. Prominent Brexiteer and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has been hailed a “true British patriot” who “sent away the technocrats from Brussels” by anti-EU campaigner Gianluigi Paragone, a former senator for the anti-establishment 5Star Movement in Italy. Mr Paragone revealed he had met with Mr Farage just before launching his Italexit campaign ‘No Europe for Italy’, which will take place on Thursday, July 23.
Nearly three times as many people are now dying from the flu and pneumonia than coronavirus in England and Wales, official statistics revealed today. Covid-19 fatalities have dropped to the lowest levels since well before lockdown, with 283 people succumbing to the life-threatening infection in the week ending July 10. By contrast, 418 coronavirus deaths were recorded in England and Wales in the seven-day spell before and more than 8,000 were registered during the peak of the crisis in April. It is the lowest figure since the week ending March 13, 10 days before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the draconian measures to curb the spread of the virus. For comparison, 917 influenza and pneumonia deaths were registered in the same week.
A coronavirus vaccine may be licensed for older people first and become available “this side of Christmas”, the deputy chief medical officer for England has said. Jonathan Van-Tam said that given that the elderly were much more likely to die of the virus, regulators were likely to need less assurance about the safety of a vaccine before giving it to them. Vaccinating the 20 per cent of adults most at risk could eliminate up to 90 per cent of deaths, his calculations suggest. A leading expert said that the virus was “here for ever” and that regulators deciding whether to approve a vaccine had “the toughest job of anybody”, given the billions of people affected.
UK scientists announced two breakthroughs in the war on Covid-19 — raising hopes of a vaccine before Christmas. Early trials of an Oxford University vaccine called ChAdOx1 show it is safe and triggers a strong immune response. And a new anti-viral drug may cut the risk of death or serious illness in coronavirus patients by 79 per cent. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said our scientists “played a blinder.” The data from research involving more than 1,000 healthy volunteers shows a vaccine developed at Oxford University is safe and triggers a strong immune response.
Rollout of a potential coronavirus vaccine will likely be limited to the most at-risk members of the public, the deputy chief medical officer said today, as the UK braces for a second wave of coronavirus in the winter. Speaking to a virtual meeting of the Health and Social Care Committee, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam today said: “We may end up in the first instance with a vaccine that is most appropriately targeted and which has a label that restricts its use to a certain population.” Van-Tam added that regulatory bodies may roll out a potential vaccine to more vulnerable groups such as over-50s or “the elderly”.
The NHS avoided testing its staff for coronavirus en masse because it was afraid thousands would have to go off sick and leave swamped hospitals without workers, scientists claim. And almost half of healthcare workers in the NHS — up to a staggering 45 per cent — were reportedly infected with coronavirus during the peak of the crisis in April, MPs and Peers were told today. In damning meetings with politicians, some of the country’s leading experts this morning slammed Britain’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and claimed a refusal to prepare had led to a ‘major catastrophe’. Officials and members Government have for years ignored the threat of a global disease outbreak, experts said, despite it being ‘obvious’ that a pandemic would eventually happen.
NEARLY half of NHS workers were infected with Covid during the peak of the epidemic, leading scientists claim. Sir Paul Nurse, Francis Crick Institute director, told MPs today that “up to 45 per cent” of healthcare workers were infected in April. But a lack of testing meant most cases went undetected as the majority were asymptomatic. He told the Health and Social Care Committee today: “At the height of the pandemic, our own research, and of course that only backs up what’s been done elsewhere, is that up to 45 per cent of healthcare workers were infected. “And they were infecting their colleagues, they were infecting patients, yet they weren’t been tested systematically.”
AROUND 400,000 Brits are left without passports because unions are blocking the return of civil servants. It is claimed the Commercial Services Union is opposing Home Office plans for the Passport Office to stay open until 10pm. More than a million passports expired in lockdown but some people are waiting up to 143 days for a simple renewal to be processed. There are fears the backlog in other government departments could get even worse as civil servants in some areas have even been told not to expect to come back until January.
Government borrowing hit its highest level on record in the first quarter of the financial year. In a sign of the scale of the fiscal response to the coronavirus lockdown, the government borrowed more in April to June this year than in any full financial year on record, except 2009-10 and 2010-11. Borrowing in the first quarter of this financial year reached £127.9 billion, £103.9 billion more than in the same period last year and twice the total borrowed in the whole of last year. Public sector borrowing climbed fivefold to £35.5 billion last month alone, significantly higher than the £7.16 billion borrowed in June last year but below economists’ forecasts of £41.5 billion.
Government borrowing rocketed to a record high of almost £36 billion in June this year as ministers scrambled to find the cash to pay for the coronavirus crisis. The Office for National Statistics said the pandemic has had an ‘unprecedented impact on borrowing’ with the amount taken out last month five times higher than in the same period last year. The amount borrowed in June represents the third highest amount for any month on record, according to the ONS, with the preceding May and April the other two record-setters. It means borrowing in the first quarter of the current financial year was more than double that seen in the whole of the previous year.
BORIS Johnson has slapped down claims the Brexit referendum was rigged by Russia after an explosive report on Moscow’s meddling in British politics. Downing Street said the PM is “absolutely” confident the result of the decisive 2016 poll was “fair” and there is “no evidence” of interference. Brexiteers said the findings of a long-awaited report on how much power the Kremlin wields showed claims Russia influenced the vote to Leave was a “hoax”. But the bombshell probe warned that Britain has “underestimated” the threat posed by Moscow for too long and is “’clearly a target for Russian disinformation”. The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) found wealthy Russians linked to Vladimir Putin have weaved their way into all corners of the British establishment. Oligarchs flocked to the UK after successive governments welcomed them and their money with “open arms”.
Russia’s influence in British politics and society is the “new normal”, and the UK Government has “badly underestimated” the response needed, a long-awaited report by Parliament’s intelligence watchdog has found. The intelligence and security committee found there were many Russians with “very close links” to President Vladimir Putin who are “well integrated into the UK business and social scene”. It said there was “credible open source commentary”, suggesting Russia tried to influence the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. Assessing allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 EU referendum would be “difficult, if not impossible”, it said, and called for an inquiry, with the results published.
Boris Johnson is preparing to give the security services more powers to stop foreign interference in Britain after a cross-party report said that the government “took its eye off the ball” over Russia. The intelligence and security committee published yesterday the long-awaited Russia report, which accused ministers of failing to protect the EU referendum in 2016 against outside influences. It criticised the intelligence agencies for adopting an approach of “extreme caution” and said that the government had “directly avoided” an investigation into allegations that agents of President Putin meddled in the Brexit vote.
Security services are set to be given extra powers to try to prevent foreign interference in British democracy following a damning report from MPs on the potential threat posed by Russia. It is understood Prime Minister Boris Johnson will strengthen counter-espionage laws in the wake of the bombshell study by the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). The move comes with Labour poised to go on the offensive on the issue on Wednesday at Prime Minister’s Questions – Parliament’s final sitting day before the summer recess.
MI5 are to be granted tough new powers to make the UK a harsher environment for Kremlin spies to operate in after a damning report by MPs said the Government ‘took its eye off the ball.’ In a devastating and long-awaited report, intelligence and security committee said the UK ‘badly underestimated’ the Russian threat as a campaign of hacking, disinformation and political meddling was waged. London – nicknamed ‘Londongrad’ – has become a ‘laundromat’ for dirty Russian money, with Putin-linked elites able to act with ‘impunity’, the review concluded.
An influential committee of MPs today warned the UK’s legal system and security services have been ill-equipped to combat the threat of potential Russian interference in British democracy. A bombshell report into allegations of Russian meddling said there is ‘credible’ evidence that Moscow did try to influence the result of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. But on Brexit, the Intelligence and Security Committee said it had not been provided with any evidence that the Kremlin had sought to influence the 2016 vote. However, it accused the Government of failing to conduct any formal investigation into the matter as it demanded that ministers now launch an official probe into the EU referendum campaign.
UK spy agencies took their “eye off the ball” over Russian interference and the government “badly underestimated” the threat, a watchdog has said. A long-awaited report from parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) found Vladimir Putin’s administration has been engaged in “hostile foreign interference”. It criticised the “illogical” approach by MI5 not to fully investigate how much Moscow tried to influence the Brexit referendum because of an “extreme caution” of being seen to interfere in “democratic processes”. Ministers “did not want to know” and “actively avoided looking for evidence”, one of the committee members, MP Stewart Hosie, added in a news conference.
The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has judged it “credible” that Russia tried to interfere in the Scottish independence referendum as part of an effort to influence political life in the UK. MPs setting out the Russia report have told Boris Johnson to order an assessment of “potential” Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum. The government “did not want to know” if there been interference in the 2016 vote – and had “actively avoided looking for evidence”, they said. However the government quickly rejected the call for further enquiries, with foreign secretary Dominic Raab describing a retrospective investigation as “unnecessary”.
The British government and intelligence agencies failed to conduct any proper assessment of Kremlin attempts to interfere with the 2016 Brexit referendum, according to the long-delayed Russia report. The damning conclusion is contained within the 50-page document from parliament’s intelligence and security committee, which said ministers in effect turned a blind eye to allegations of Russian disruption. It said the government “had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes” at the time, and it made clear that no serious effort was made to do so.
MI5 and security services are set to be given extra powers to try to prevent foreign interference in British democracy following a damning report from MPs on the potential threat posed by Russia. It is understood Prime Minister Boris Johnson will strengthen counter-espionage laws in the wake of the bombshell study by the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). It has been suggested the UK could introduce a “register of foreign agents” like the ones in place in the US and Australia as part of a stronger move against foreign interference in internal affairs.
MPs have called for greater scrutiny of peers with Russian business links amid fears that the Kremlin could exploit such financial ties. The intelligence and security committee’s report on Russia said that some peers were involved with Russian companies but were subject to weaker transparency rules than MPs. “It is notable that a number of members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or work directly for major Russian companies linked to the Russian state — these relationships should be carefully scrutinised, given the potential for the Russian state to exploit them,” the report said.
The government today failed to act over warnings about links between the House of Lords and Russia. Today’s long-awaited Russia report said “a number of” peers have business interests in the county – or work directly for firms “linked to the Russian state”. And it called for reforms to how peers’ financial interests are declared – suggesting they declare every financial payment they receive over £100. But Number 10 failed to commit to tightening up donation rules for the House of Lords.
A Chinese surveillance company accused of helping Beijing to spy on persecuted Uighur Muslims has struck a string of new camera deals with British councils, helping it rake in millions of pounds of revenue last year. Pyronix, the Sheffield-based division of Hangzhou-headquartered CCTV firm Hikvision, increased its British sales by £4.6m to £38m in 2019 according to filings at Companies House. Hikvision bought Pyronix in 2016 for £16m and the two companies have since worked together on video surveillance technology. Hikvision is 42pc owned by the Communist regime in China.
BORIS Johnson is at odds with Dominic Raab over fears more sanctions against China will spark an “economic war,” it was claimed. The PM is said to be “panic-stricken” that following America’s firmer stance against Beijing will deepen Britain’s post-coronavirus recession – as the US Secretary of State piled further pressure on the UK to ban more Chinese companies such as TikTok. Mike Pompeo called for the world to form a coalition aimed at changing Beijing’s hard line stance towards the West as he praised Britain’s banning of Huawei and reaction to the new security laws in Hong Kong. Sources revealed that Downing Street and the Foreign Office are at loggerheads on how to deal with China.
The US has accused two Chinese men linked to Beijing’s intelligence service of mounting a six-year campaign of cyber-theft that included targeting a British artificial intelligence company. American prosecutors allege that Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, stole data worth hundreds of millions of dollars in trade secrets from technology companies around the world. An unnamed “UK artificial intelligence and cancer research firm” was on the list of 25 victims released by the US Department of Justice yesterday. The hackers, who met as students at an engineering college in Chengdu, southwest China, sometimes worked “for their own profit”, the indictment claimed.
Living alone in your fifties and sixties increases the risk of getting dementia by a third, says a study. Loneliness and social isolation have a much greater impact on the condition than previously thought, according to research at University College London. Data from 21,666 over-55s showed that those living alone were 30 per cent more likely to get Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, potentially a bigger factor than physical inactivity, diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure. The authors warned that as growing numbers of older people live alone dementia levels may rise. There are already 850,000 UK sufferers, and it is the country’s biggest cause of death.