Trade talks

Fisheries may not be the only disagreement between the UK and the EU, reports the Telegraph.

When it comes to flashpoints in future EU-UK negotiations, there has been much focus on fish and financial services. But a more immediate concern looms when EU-UK talks open next month: the coming border in the Irish Sea.
For the last few weeks, the two sides have been exchanging verbal warnings ahead of negotiations that will take place in an atmosphere that appears increasingly combustible.
Boris Johnson has said that “emphatically” there will be “no checks” on goods flowing from Great Britain into Northern Ireland – an assertion the EU has, equally emphatically, rejected.
Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator, said checks are an “indispensable” consequence of the UK’s decision to leave the single market and customs union. Only by conducting the checks in the Irish Sea can they be avoided on the Irish mainland.

And there could still be a row over Gibraltar, says the Express.

SPAIN has hailed post-Brexit talks with the UK as an “incredible opportunity” to address the status of Gibraltar after a centuries-long row over the territory.
In a distinct softening of tone Spanish foreign minister Arancha González said that Madrid needs to shift its focus from traditional concepts of sovereignty to practical issues that would strengthen its ties with the British overseas territory. It comes as the UK is in a transition period with the EU as the two sides negotiate a post-Brexit free trade agreement.


Has the bloc not learned anything from Brexit?  They’re still spending our money says the Express.

A TOP Brussels boss was last night accused of splurging taxpayers’ cash on spreading propaganda amid an escalating row over the European Union’s €1trillion war chest. Gert Jan Koopman, the EU’s most senior budget official, was slammed after appearing on a Dutch podcast that had received funding from the Brussels-based executive.
He used the air time on Betrouwbare Bronnen to promote his plans for the EU’s next seven-year budget. The show received a taxpayer-funded grant from the Commission ahead of the podcast’s broadcast on February 13 – part of which comes from UK citizens.

And it’s all falling apart on the Continent, says the Express.

THE EUROZONE has recorded its weakest growth in seven years as the crumbling German economy continues to stagnate amid Brexit and the US-China trade row.
German output continued to disappoint in the fourth and final quarter of the financial year, with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) slowing to 0.1 percent compared to the previous three months. This means overall Berlin’s output has plummeted from 0.3 percent. The poor results mean the eurozone was expanding at its slowest pace since early 2013 – a devastating period when the EU was gripped by the European debt crisis.

The economy

Meanwhile back home, the exit of Sajid Javid has changed the country’s financial plans, says the Telegraph.

Boris Johnson is considering ripping up Sajid Javid’s fiscal rules to allow for more spending and tax cuts to boost the economy after Brexit.
No 10 signalled on Friday that the spending rules set out in the Conservatives’ general election manifesto could be loosened as the Prime Minister attempts to lift the economy.
It came amid speculation that Rishi Sunak, the new Chancellor, will back Mr Johnson on VAT reform and investing in free ports. The Government this week began a consultation on the economic zones, which runs until April.

The Times says there was a problem in No. 10.

Sajid Javid’s friends have blamed No 10 for hostile leaks from internal budget discussions before his resignation.
Proposed cuts to pension tax relief for higher earners and a new property tax on the most expensive homes were briefed to the media days after they were outlined by Mr Javid’s team to Boris Johnson.
Allies of the prime minister cited the stories as evidence of why Mr Javid’s “naive” and “over-promoted” advisers had to be sacked as the price of him keeping his job.

Human rights

The Sun has an exclusive story about the European Convention on Human Rights.

BORIS Johnson’s review of “overpowerful” courts could see Britain quitting the European Convention on Human Rights.
He has vowed to set up a commission to examine the relationship between courts and Government.
It follows recent rulings where judges snubbed the PM on his Brexit strategy and attempts to deport foreign criminals.
Ministers believe the Human Rights Act, introduced by Tony Blair to enshrine the ECHR in law, has gradually increased the power of UK judges.

Labour leadership

And then there were three, reports the Times.

Emily Thornberry was eliminated from the Labour leadership race last night after narrowly failing to secure enough nominations to make it on to the final ballot paper.
The shadow foreign secretary had secured 31 nominations from constituency Labour parties (CLP) at the midnight deadline, two short of the 33 required to go forward to the third round of voting – the ballot among Labour members.

She failed to make to the final ballot, says the Independent.

Emily Thornberry is out of the Labour leadership race after failing to make it on to the final members’ ballot.
The shadow foreign secretary fell two constituency parties short of the 33 required by the deadline on Friday night.
She had been struggling to pick up sufficient support to make it through the final round of the contest, where Labour members vote for their favoured candidate.
Her rivals had all made it onto the ballot paper already, with Sir Keir Starmer gaining an early lead by picking up endorsements from major trade unions such as Unison and Usdaw, as well as more than half of all constituency parties.

And the Guardian says she didn’t get the support she needed.

Emily Thornberry’s hopes of leading the Labour  party are over after she failed to make it on to the final members’ ballot.
Just hours before the deadline closed on Friday night it became apparent that she would fail to get the backing from the required 33 constituency Labour parties to send her through to the last round.
It leaves the leadership contest as a three-way race between Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy.

She didn’t get any support from the party’s affiliates, reports Sky News.

Emily Thornberry has been eliminated from the Labour leadership race after failing to secure enough support, the party says.
By the midnight Friday deadline, the shadow foreign secretary had 31 nominations from local constituency parties – two short of the 33 she needed to progress.
Ms Thornberry did not get any nominations from Labour Party affiliates – the other route onto the ballot paper.


An emerging story in the Times reflects the reduced MMR vaccinations a few years ago.

Cases of mumps have risen to their highest level in a decade, prompting health experts to urge teenagers and young adults to have any missed vaccinations.
Provisional data from Public Health England (PHE) show that there were more than 5,000 cases of the viral infection in England last year, compared with about 1,000 in 2018.
The steep rise was driven largely by outbreaks among students who as children did not receive two doses of the MMR jab — which protects against measles, mumps and rubella — amid unfounded fears that the vaccine was linked to autism.


The illness formerly known as Coronavirus could hit thousands in the UK, reports the Times.

The government is working on the assumption that half of Britons will be infected with coronavirus if China cannot bring it under control soon.
Contingency planning envisions that if Covid-19 spreads unchecked it will reach every part of Britain within a few months. A “reasonable worst case” scenario anticipates hundreds of thousands of deaths and intensive care units forced to make “hard choices” about prioritising people.
However, even in the worst pandemic only 1 per cent to 4 per cent of those infected would need hospital treatment.

And hundreds of thousands could die, says the Sun.

CORONAVIRUS has the “potential” to kill 400,000 Brits if the killer bug sweeps across the nation, an expert has warned.
Professor Neil Ferguson said the figure is “not absurd” and the deadly disease “concerns” him more than any other illness he has worked on.
It came as the worldwide death toll smashed 1,500.
Experts have claimed that up to 60 per cent of the world could contract coronavirus – a figure that could also be applicable to Britain.

He wasn’t kidding, says the Mail.

The British scientist leading the fight against coronavirus admitted last night that predictions of 400,000 UK deaths are ‘not absurd’.
Professor Neil Ferguson, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, revealed that ‘this is the one I’m scared of’ when asked about the killer coronavirus, which is causing increasing alarm all over the country.
However, he insisted he was not predicting 400,000 deaths, but was warning that the figure ‘is possible’.

The bug hit a conference last week, reports BBC News.

Health officials have contacted hundreds of conference attendees in London, after it emerged one of them was later diagnosed with coronavirus.
The person, who has not been identified, was at the UK Bus Summit at the QEII Conference Centre last week.
Two Labour MPs who were also at the conference said they were well but cancelling public engagements until 20 February as a precaution.
So far, nine people in the UK have tested positive for the virus.


Rules over who can come to the UK will be released next week, reports the Telegraph.

People with “global talent,” musicians and actors will be the only groups of migrant workers entitled to come to the UK without a job offer under an Australian-style points-based immigration system signed off by the Cabinet on Friday.
The proposals, to be unveiled next Friday, will pave the way for an increase in skilled migrants with the necessary points coming to the UK but will abolish the route for unskilled migrants from January 1 next year.

The Times reports migrants will need to have a good job.

EU migrants will have to earn at least £23,000 before they are allowed to work in Britain under plans to bring an end to unskilled migration.
Yesterday the cabinet signed off plans for an Australian-style points-based immigration system to be introduced at the end of the year.
Boris Johnson is said to have made clear that there will be no “special pleading” or “carve-outs” for sectors that face shortages, with only skilled migrants allowed to enter the UK.

And low-skilled workers may not be admitted, says the Mail.

In the first meeting with his new cabinet Boris Johnson and his team signed off on a new Australian-style points-based immigration system, which will prohibit any EU migrant earning under £23,000 per year from entering the country in a move to end reliance on unskilled labour.
Home Office analysis estimates the system is expected to slash the number of low skilled workers arriving from the EU by 90,000 a year.

The system will be points-based, reports the Sun.

MEASURES to reduce the number of low-skilled migrants entering Britain were agreed by the new Cabinet.
The points-based system will start next January.
It could mean points for skills, salaries or professions — with visas given to those gaining a certain score.
Home Secretary Priti Patel will unveil full details next week.


The thought police have been told off, says the Telegraph.

Police have recorded nearly 120,000 “non-crime” hate incidents and may have stopped those accused from getting jobs, the Telegraph can disclose.
A High Court judge ruled on Friday the Hate Crime Operational Guidelines, which informs police work nationally, had been unlawfully used to interfere with a man’s freedom of speech.
The guidelines, rolled out six years ago by the College of Policing, state that any action perceived to be motivated by hostility towards religion, race or transgender identity must be recorded “irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify the hate element”.

The Times also reports the judge’s words.

Police have been urged to rewrite the rules on hate crime after a judge likened a force to the Gestapo over its handling of a businessman who tweeted about transgender people.
Mr Justice Knowles warned yesterday that Britain was in danger of slipping into an Orwellian society after Harry Miller, 55, was visited by officers at work and told that his tweets would be recorded as a “non-crime hate incident”.

Breitbart tells of one case.

Harry Miller has won his High Court freedom of speech battle against Humberside Police over his right to make jokes about transgenderism on social media.
Miller, himself an ex-copper, was incensed when Humberside Police sent a police officer round to his home in order to ‘check his thinking’ after some remarks he had made on Twitter were classified as a ‘non-crime hate incident.’

Guido has picked up the story.

The police visited Harry Miller last January after a complaint about his tweets. Whilst Miller has not committed a crime, he was told his free expression would be recorded by the authorities as a “non crime hate incident.” Now a landmark judgement has ruled the police’s actions disproportionate…
In the seismic landmark ruling, the judge quotes Mill’s On Liberty and Orwell’s Animal Farm. He concludes that: “The effect of the police turning up at [the Claimant’s] place of work because of his political opinions must not be underestimated. To do so would be to undervalue a cardinal democratic freedom. In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.”

Sharia law

Sharia marriages have also come under the gaze of the Court of Appeal, reports the Times.

Judges at the Court of Appeal said yesterday that Sharia marriages were not recognised under English law in a ruling that campaigners said left Muslim women in “legal limbo”.
The three justices said that marriage was legally valid only if a “qualifying ceremony” took place, overturning a 2018 High Court decision after it was challenged by the attorney-general.
They rejected a “more flexible view of marriage as a process rather than a single ceremony”, which was the earlier view taken by a High Court judge,

Storm Dennis

Meanwhile, we’re being advised to batten down the hatches again, in the Telegraph.

A “perfect storm” of heavy rain, strong winds and melting snow is set to flood homes and lead to half-term getaway chaos today.
Storm Dennis is forecast to be worse than last weekend’s Storm Ciara, and will batter swathes of the country with 70mph winds and up to 140mm (5.5in) of rain in some areas in just 24 hours.
Network Rail is warning that train tracks will flood, and the RAC told motorists to expect long delays as they contend with “dreadful conditions” on the roads.

And there’s going to be a lot of rain.  Too much?  The Times says maybe.

Britain’s flood defences are at a “tipping point”, the Environment Agency said yesterday as more than 800 homes were likely to flood this weekend with the arrival of Storm Dennis.
The Met Office has said that 140mm of rain will fall in some parts of the country and that wind speeds will reach 80mph. Storm Dennis is expected to bring more prolonged rainfall than Storm Ciara, which arrived in the UK last Sunday and flooded 800 properties in England.

ITV News says Dennis has already hit Scotland.

Widespread disruption has been predicted this weekend as Scotland is hit by a second storm in under a week.
The Scottish Government and Police Scotland have issued weather warnings, with Storm Dennis expected to bring gales and heavy rain.
A Met Office amber warning for heavy rain across central southern Scotland will be in place from noon until 11pm on Saturday.
On Sunday, a yellow warning for wind and rain will remain in place for the rest of southern Scotland, the central belt, the west coast and parts of the north-west from 7am until 8pm on Saturday.

And it’s heading for Yorkshire, says the Mail.

Flood-hit towns in West Yorkshire are loading up on sandbags as Storm Dennis threatens to batter Britain with even more rain and winds of up to 80 miles an hour tomorrow – just six days after Storm Ciara.
The UK is suffering further downpours and snow today, before the storm dubbed Dennis the Menace causes havoc for communities and on the road and rail networks throughout Saturday and Sunday.

It’s going to be worse than Ciara, says the Mirror.

Experts are warning that Storm Dennis will be a “step up” from the Storm Ciara which devastated the UK last week after a “perfect storm” of wet ground, snow and heavy rain.
The Environment Agency is urging people to sign up to its flood warnings service ahead of the arrival of the storm.
Director of Flood Prevention John Curtin said experts are still unsure exactly where the floods could hit but say that broadly Northern England, the Pennines, Wales, South West England remain at risk.


Is there anyone out there?  Maybe, says the Telegraph.

Aliens might have placed a beacon in the centre of the Milky Way, in the hope that another civilisation may spot it, scientists believe.
The Breakthrough Listen project, set up in 2015 with the help of the late Prof Stephen Hawking, is hunting for signs of advanced extraterrestrial races.
Researchers have turned their telescopes to the heart of the galaxy, in the hope that if civilisations were trying to communicate they would pick an obvious focal point.

The Times also has an alien story.

To find extraterrestrial life, you can carefully scour nearby stars, searching for the subtle signatures of gases that might indicate life — all the while knowing they may actually be made by unusual geology. Or, you can see if the aliens have built the Death Star.
We are more likely to find intelligent than non-intelligent life outside our solar system, a leading researcher has claimed, because it’s a lot less ambiguous when you spot it.

And the Star says there’s a new way of searching for aliens.

The search for alien civilisations is about to step up a gear as it gets new tools to detect “technosignatures”.
SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, has been running since 1984 without finding any indications of an alien race.
But now experts at the SETI Institute are developing brand new techniques to detect signatures from space that indicate the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence.

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