Brexit negotiators are making a ‘final push’ for a deal today as they close in on a compromise over fishing. Government sources confirmed that Boris Johnson has established a ‘hotline’ to European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen as the two sides try to thrash out a deal before Christmas. The pair are understood to have held regular secret phone calls in the last 48 hours. Mrs von der Leyen is also said to have established back channels to German Chancellor Angela Merkel – the EU’s powerbroker – and French President Emmanuel Macron, who is seen in Downing Street as the main obstacle to a deal. Diplomatic sources said the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier had not even been aware of the content of secret talks between the Prime Minister and Mrs von der Leyen on Monday night – suggesting he is becoming increasingly sidelined in the final days of negotiations.
BORIS JOHNSON is injecting political firepower into the Brexit talks after fresh clashes over fishing left negotiations deadlocked. The Prime Minister is in “close contact” with top Eurocrat Ursula von der Leyen as both sides push for a breakthrough before the looming deadline next week. Downing Street sources said the PM and the European Commission president were speaking “given there isn’t long left” to reach an agreement.
BORIS Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen have taken personal charge of thrashing out a deal on fish as Brexit talks reach their climax. Some officials on both sides are hopeful a deal could be reached as early as tomorrow if talks continue to go smoothly but there are growing fears relations with France may explode chances of a compromise. The PM and the Commission chief are now locked in frequent phone calls trying to find a breakthrough on the last stumbling block – access for EU boats to British waters.
BORIS Johnson will face a massive rebellion among Tories in the House of Commons if he signs the UK up to the sort of compromise deal floated earlier today by sources within Brussels, Westminster insiders have indicated. Sources close to the talks told Express.co.uk the UK was now prepared to accept between 30-35 percent of the £590million worth of fish caught by European boats for the next five years. Downing Street has consistently insisted British fishermen need to retain as much as 60 percent, with the EU only offering 25 percent, meaning the mooted 30-35 percent figure would mark a dramatic climbdown by the UK Government.
Michel Barnier has told EU Ambassadors that progress has been made towards a Brexit deal, according to multiple reports. However, fisheries remains the key stumbling block and as a result there is now doubt that a deal will be ready in time for the December 31 deadline. Barnier is reported to have said that his offer on fisheries – that the EU would hand over 25 per cent of the value of fish caught in water by EU boats – is non-negotiable. The UK is said to have demanded 35 per cent.
Michel Barnier told EU ambassadors on Tuesday night that Britain’s latest offer on fishing rights was unacceptable after declaring that trade negotiations were in the “final push”. Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, were said to be in constant contact on Tuesday as they searched for a Brexit trade deal breakthrough. The two leaders appeared to have taken the lead in negotiations, with Mrs von der Leyen calling other EU leaders such as Emmanuel Macron to try to broker a compromise.
Michel Barnier has said we are in a “crucial moment” and the EU is giving a “final push” to try and get a trade agreement with the UK, just moments before he was due to brief EU ambassadors in Brussels. It comes as MEP Guy Verhofstadt tweeted a video of lorry queues at Manston Airport and said the UK “will now start to understand what leaving the EU really means…” Meanwhile it was revealed that Boris Johnson has been having secret one-on-one talks with EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock.
Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and other European Union leaders have seized the reins of Brexit trade and fishing talks as the entire deal hinges on fish stocks worth less than £60 million. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has taken over the negotiations from Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. A new British offer on fishing was tabled after she held a telephone call with Boris Johnson on Monday that was kept from Mr Barnier. Mr Johnson agreed to lay out a new compromise proposal allowing the EU to keep 65 per cent of the value of fish caught in British waters following a five-year transition period.
GERMANY has defied the European Union and extended its ban on UK citizen’s entering the country until January 6. A multitude of nations around the world have blocked arrivals of UK citizens over fears about the new coronavirus variant. The German foreign office announcement said: “The German government has extended its ban on air passenger flights arriving from the UK to Germany to a ban on all forms of transport until Wednesday 6 January 2021.”
PURGED Labour Party members have set up a campaign opposing the suspensions of local party officials for allowing motions supporting Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour In Exile Network (LIEN) aims to bring “true democracy” to the Labour Party through its Plan for Change campaign. The plan will aim to make the party more democratic, protect the right of members to debate issues of their choice, and radically overhaul the party’s disciplinary procedures, the group says. LIEN member Norman Thomas, who was chairman of South Thanet Labour Party until his recent suspension, said he was targeted because he allowed debate on a motion calling for the restoration of the whip to former party leader Mr Corbyn.
A song attacking Boris Johnson is facing off against Mariah Carey and Ladbaby for this year’s Christmas No 1. Comedy rock group The Kunts have risen up the charts in recent weeks with their track about the prime minister, which is titled: “Boris Johnson is a F***ing C***.” The 82-second-long track hears the band repeat the words: “Boris Johnson is a f***ing c***/ He’s a f***ing c***.” The track peaked at No 2 in the UK iTunes chart and is currently in fourth place. On Amazon Music, the track has so far peaked in second place and is currently in third position.
London Assembly Member David Kurten was questioned by police while giving an interview to Breitbart News, in which he characterised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response to the coronavirus as fascistic. During an anti-lockdown protest on Saturday, London mayoral candidate David Kurten told Breitbart London that “riot” police came in to bust up a group of people surrounding him for supposedly breaching the city’s lockdown rules. Mr Kurten warned that the increasingly draconian lockdown restrictions on assembly and speech are a warning that the United Kingdom is heading towards fascism.
MORE of England will be plunged into the toughest Tier 4 lockdown as soon as Boxing Day, The Sun has learnt. Ministers and medics met last night after the new mutant Covid strain was detected in parts of the South West, Midlands and the North – areas all currently in Tier 2 or 3. An announcement on which areas face the clampdown is expected today – with the measures to kick in immediately after Christmas. The Tier review was due to be reviewed on December 30, but fears the mutant strain is now “everywhere” meant it was brought forward.
More of England could be moved into the toughest coronavirus conditions as soon as Boxing Day, with ministers expected to agree today which areas need further controls. At the Downing Street press conference on Monday Boris Johnson ducked questions on whether the next review date could be brought forward from December 30. Insiders said last night, however, that decisions to move areas from Tier 3 to Tier 4 were likely to be taken at a meeting of the “Covid-O” cabinet sub-committee and could be implemented as soon as the weekend.
England is facing another lockdown as scientists call for tighter measures to be implemented nationwide in line with the other three nations of the UK. The spread of the new variant of Covid-19, which is up to 70% more infectious than the normal strain, has sparked alarm across the world. The government has put London and much of the South East under tough Tier 4 restrictions where the new variant is the most prevalent, but they have conceded it has spread across the country already.
A swathe of areas hit by surging coronavirus rates are likely to be placed into Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, ministers will announce on Wednesday. Ministers are expected to sign off plans for tougher measures for many areas at a meeting of the Covid-O operations committee as concern grows about the virus mutation spreading from the South-East. Government sources have warned that there is a “high chance” of a full national lockdown in the New Year.
More parts of England could be plunged into Tier 4 as early as Boxing Day as the Covid-19 super-strain doubles the number of cases in a week, with another 36,804 new infections recorded today and 691 deaths. Government officials today looked at plans for a third lockdown across the whole of England as the new coronavirus strain – thought to be up to 70 per cent more infectious – spread to the South West, Midlands and the North. An announcement from Boris Johnson could come as soon as today, with Whitehall sources saying there was a ‘high chance’ of a New Year lockdown.
ALARMING pictures from inside the country’s flagship Nightingale Hospital show it stripped bare despite soaring Covid cases. The new strain is rampant in the capital but the coronavirus facility in East London is deserted. Our photos show the largest of the Nightingales without staff, equipment and the 4,000 beds it has room for at the ExCeL centre. Cases have doubled in London in a week and health bosses are being urged to open the site and start treating patients.
There is mounting pressure on hospitals, with growing numbers being admitted each day. The fastest growth is being seen in London and the South East, where the new coronavirus variant is believed to be behind a rise in cases. Normally the UK would expect to see about 1,000 new respiratory-related admissions a day in total at this time of year. It is already close to double that for Covid alone.
Rapid Covid tests have been cleared for use at home – but with strict conditions attached, it has emerged. Regulators have given the go-ahead for lateral flow devices (LFDs), which give results in 30 minutes, to be used at home by members of the public. Boris Johnson‘s hopes of avoiding future lengthy lockdowns rest in part on approval of the tests, of which there are tens of millions already stored in UK warehouses. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) allegedly blocked a plan to post millions of the tests to households last week.
Number 10‘s ambitious Operation Moonshot came under fire from top scientists today amid fears the rapid coronavirus tests being rolled out across the UK aren’t good enough as ministers shelved plans to open up mass testing centres over Christmas. Moonshot has been slated as way to use the rapid kits – which cost a fraction of the price of gold-standard PCR tests – to test millions of people and help them get back onto flights abroad, into stadiums and venues, and to keep children in classrooms. Lateral flow swabs give results in minutes but miss around half of infections, by the Department of Health’s own admission.
Britain struck a deal on Tuesday night for France to lift its travel ban and allow the mass testing of freight drivers in a bid to end the ports chaos. Mobile units, overseen by Army logistics experts, will administer the tests to at least 6,000 freight drivers stranded in the UK, but Government sources admitted it would take several days to clear the truckers. It will be a major logistical task to test drivers at their cabs, organise paperwork, check it at borders and coordinate crossings for the stranded hauliers before they travel to pick up replenishment stocks and return them to Britain.
Britain’s borders reopened last night after France appeared to have been left isolated by the European Commission. After a day of intensive talks President Macron agreed to a new testing regime to ensure that goods can flow across the Channel. Britons and citizens of other nations will be able to travel to the European Union but only after producing a negative PCR test for the coronavirus, which can take up to 72 hours to give a result.
Lorries were set to start moving again this morning at the Port of Dover as a huge operation was launched after testing staff arrived in Dover overnight following 48 hours of chaos on the south coast of England. A deal has finally been struck with France after a ban on arrivals from the UK was imposed by President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, which has since seen thousands of trucks stranded in Kent, unable to cross the Channel. The agreement requires every driver to have been tested for coronavirus, using controversial lateral flow tests, which are able to turn around results in under an hour but have had their effectiveness questioned.
Schools could be closed for all of January amid fears that the mutant coronavirus strain spreads more easily among children. With cases surging in many parts of the country, Downing Street sources admitted yesterday that it was ‘too early’ to guarantee all pupils would be back in their classrooms by January 11. Officials told the Mail that the reopening of schools was now ‘all down to the science’ surrounding the new strain’s behaviour and its infectiousness in young people. They even admitted that plans to test all pupils before they return may not be enough to guarantee a January reopening if scientists’ fears about the strain are proven.
Tesco has told shoppers they can only make three purchases of eggs, rice, soap and toilet roll amid fears that food shortages will run until after Christmas. The supermarket giant said in an email to customers yesterday it was introducing the temporary limits on certain essentials ‘to help all customers have access to these products’. CEO Jason Tarry added that it still had ‘good availability’ on fresh products imported from France such as lettuce, cauliflower and citrus fruit and urged customers to ‘shop as you normally would’, citing strong stock levels.
TESCO has introduced shopping rules for customers to follow over the Christmas period. The retailer has shared an update on delivery slots, opening times and buying restrictions. With Christmas just days away, many supermarkets have changed how they ask customers to shop. Tesco has urged those visiting branches to shop “as normal” when visiting branches. The retailer issued the advice following fears the UK food supply chain will be impacted by travel bans.
British citizens hoping to enter the European Union in the new year may need to provide a negative Covid test result, under plans being negotiated in the EU. Over the past 48 hours, 23 of the 27 EU member states have imposed new travel restrictions on British arrivals, as the world reacted to news of the more infectious strain of coronavirus spreading in the UK. In total, 52 countries have banned UK arrivals, including countries farther afield like India, Canada and Hong Kong. Gibraltar has also banned entry from UK residents – for months, the British Overseas Territory was the only place where British people could travel with zero restrictions.
Germany has extended its ban on travellers arriving from the UK to 6 January, despite the EU telling countries to lift restrictions to allow essential journeys and minimise trade disruption. “The German government has extended its ban on air passenger flights arriving from the UK to Germany to a ban on all forms of transport until Wednesday 6 January 2021,” the Foreign Office travel advice for the country states.
Passengers from the UK disembarked from ferries in the port of Calais early on Wednesday after Britain and France agreed a deal to ease a travel ban imposed over the discovery of a new coronavirus variant. The Cotes des Flandres ferry – the first ship to leave Dover after the restrictions were lifted – arrived at about 3.30am local time, followed shortly afterwards by P&O’s Spirit of France. A handful of passenger vehicles disembarked but port management told AFP traffic was not expected to pick up until late Wednesday morning.
World War 3
CHINA and Russia have tightened their military relationship as both countries sent bombers on a patrol mission over the Pacific together sparking fears of an all-out conflict. Four of China’s H-6K bombers and two Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers flew over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, the Russian military has confirmed. Russia’s defence ministry announced the move was an attempt to improve relations between Moscow and Beijing. It said it was intended to “develop and deepen the comprehensive Russia-China partnership, further increase the level of cooperation between the two militaries, expand their ability for joint action and strengthen strategic stability”.
They weren’t born until years after she had lost power, but the young adults dubbed Generation Z wish Maggie Thatcher was still around to sort out Covid and Brexit. Even in Scotland, where she was reviled by many during her term as PM between 1979 and 1990, voters yearn for her resolute approach. Thatcher nostalgia is also shared by Northerners, who bore the brunt of mass unemployment in her early years.