EU

Yahoo News reports on what’s happening in the bloc.

In the words of one official in Brussels involved in the Brexit negotiations, the last year “accelerated the grieving process” over the UK’s departure from the EU.
This is not to say the bloc’s institutions will be celebrating the country’s passing from the single market and customs union, 48 years to the day after its accession to the then European Communities on 1 January 1973. It remains a devastating loss to the EU, from which the full repercussions are yet to be seen even four and a half years after the referendum.
The success or otherwise of the British experiment will play into European domestic debates for many years to come, not least the French presidential election in 2022. Yet, among even the most anglophile of officials and diplomats, of which there remain many in the EU quarter of Belgium’s capital, there is not only acceptance of the country’s exit but some unashamed relief.

The Brexit co-ordinator’s claim that the UK might rejoin the EU has been trashed in the Express.

GUY VERHOFSTADT has been brutally shut down over his claims that Britain may one day return to the European Union despite the UK finally severing ties with the bloc on New Year’s Eve.
The UK’s transition period with Brussels came to an end on New Year’s Eve after both sides managed to hammer out a deal the week before following months of negotiations. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said leaving the EU’s trading arrangements offers the chance to “transform our country” as the UK has “taken back control of our money, our laws and our waters”. However, it seems some members of the EU may not have accepted the UK’s newfound freedom just yet.
The European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator and Chair of the Brexit Steering Group said he believes the younger generation in the UK could one day “find their way back” and rejoin the bloc, while pleading for the EU to keep its “arms and mind open” for Britain’s potential return.
He said: “Whatever happens next, these younger generations will decide on their future for themselves. At some point, one way or another, they will find their way back to the European family.

Mini-Manny claims Brexit promises are lies, says the Telegraph.

Emmanuel Macron used his new year’s message to accuse Brexit of having been born of a European malaise and “many lies and false promises”.
In the French president’s annual address to the people of France, Mr Macron questioned the strength of Britain’s sovereignty following its departure from the European Union, which was officially completed at 11pm on New Year’s Eve.
Giving the speech from the Elysee Palace, Paris, he said: “The United Kingdom remains our neighbour but also our friend and ally. This choice of leaving Europe, this Brexit, was the child of European malaise and lots of lies and false promises.”
It comes after Downing Street recently accused Mr Macron of standing in the way of a deal because he was playing to his domestic audience ahead of elections in 18 months’ time.

The Mail also has the story.

Emmanuel Macron sparked fury today by claiming Brexit was the product of ‘lies and false promises’ in a bitter broadside at Britain’s departure from the EU.
The French president lashed out at the UK’s decision to quit the block on the night it finally took place, more than four years after the Brexit referendum.
He used his New Year address to his nation to castigate the UK’s decision to go it alone after agreeing a trade deal which could damage the French fishing fleet – and his grip on power.
In the address delivered from the Elysee Palace, Paris, Mr Macron questioned the strength of Britain’s sovereignty following its departure from the European Union.
‘A few days ago, we reached an agreement to organise our future relations, defending our interests, our industries, our fishermen and our unity, he said in a video address,’ he said.

Fisheries

Scooping up all the fish after giving them an electric shock has been banned, says the Telegraph.

EU fishermen have been banned from electric ‘pulse trawling’ as the UK takes its first step in taking back control of its waters after Brexit.
The new law came in at 11pm on New Years’ Eve as the country officially left the union, and government sources said this is just the start of a new swathe of marine environmental measures.
Pulse trawling involves sending electric shocks into the seabed, scaring fish up into waiting nets. It is a controversial practice because
The method is aimed at getting flat fish, such as sole, to rise up from their burrows in the sand, making them easy to catch.
Research has found that it can be damaging to the surrounding marine organisms, especially larger fish such as cod, haddock and whiting, and the shock from the electric current can cause their spines to break.

The practice could harm the environment, says the Mail.

Fishermen from the EU have been banned from ‘pulse trawling’ in British waters following the end of the Brexit transition period on New Year’s Eve.
The controversial technique uses electrical signals to drive flat fish, such as sole, from the seabed into nets.
There are concerns it harms the marine environment and larger species such as cod, haddock and whiting by causing their spines to break.
Using an electric current to fish was banned by the EU in 1998 but since 2006 exemptions were allowed for some pulse trawling.
These included for around 80 Dutch vessels which had been using the method in the southern North Sea.

And our navy will ensure the rules are adhered to, says the Sun.

FOUR Navy warships have steamed into the Channel in a show of strength to French trawlers over new Brexit fishing rights.
A convoy of gunboats left Portsmouth hours before the Brexit deal came into force on New Year’s Eve.
The offshore patrol vessels, armed with cannon and machine guns, are under orders to protect the UK’s sovereign fishing grounds. HMS Trent, a new £100million warship, led the flotilla followed by HMS Tyne, HMS Tamar and HMS Mersey.
All four River class vessels are assigned to fishery protection duties, historically known as the Cod Squad.
A fifth patrol ship, HMS Severn, is also in the Channel on exercises.
Former Navy head Admiral Lord West of Spithead said: “It’s an act of deterrence.

Northern Ireland

The new rules in the province will be policed by the Garda, says City AM.

Ireland will intensify its police presence at the Northern Ireland border from today in a bid to stop organised crime taking advantage of post-Brexit changes.
Ireland’s national police force, Garda, had already increased officers posted at the border by 20 per cent since 2016 and are set to add more as the Brexit transition period ended at 11pm last night.
From today, Irish firms will have to fill out customs declarations when exporting goods to Great Britain, but not to Northern Ireland as it will remain in the EU’s single market and abide by EU customs rules.
This arrangement has prevented a hard border on the island of Ireland, which is a key term of the Good Friday peace agreement.

Vaccine

Vaccine approval and more restrictions both together for Boris, says the Telegraph.

In two of the most momentous hours of any recent premiership, Boris Johnson saw his Brexit deal approved by MPs before giving the nation grim news of yet more Covid restrictions.
Yet Mr Johnson still he had no time to draw breath. No sooner had he walked away from the TV cameras in Downing Street than he was involved in yet another weighty meeting, this time about vaccines.
Waiting for him on Zoom on a screen set up in the Cabinet room on Wednesday evening were Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, and professors Louise Richardson and Sir John Bell, of Oxford University.
Their vaccine had been approved by regulators that morning, and Mr Johnson wanted an up to the minute report. How many vaccines were ready to go? How quickly could they get through safety checks? How was the supply chain process holding up?

Millions of jabs are in the offing says the Times.

Two million doses of the Oxford vaccine are due to be supplied each week by the middle of this month as pressure builds on the government to speed up immunisations.
Concerns are growing over the rate achieved so far and the NHS is having to cope with record numbers of hospital admissions driven by a new, more transmissible strain of the coronavirus.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said on Wednesday that only 530,000 doses of the Oxford vaccine would be ready on Monday, despite original plans to have a stockpile of 30 million by the autumn.

There will be enough for everybody, says the Mail.

Pfizer and AstraZeneca have rejected Government warnings of months-long vaccine supply gaps, claiming there will be enough doses to hit the country’s ambitious targets.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty this week warned that vaccine availability issues will ‘remain the case for several months’ as firms struggle to keep up with global demand.
In a bid to ration supplies, the Government has pledged to give single doses of the Pfizer vaccine to as many people as they can – rather than give a second dose to those already vaccinated.
But manufactures of both the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs have rubbished concerns, saying there is no problem with supply.

And the Express highlights the chaos in the EU.

FURY at Brussels has erupted with frustration centred around the EU’s handling of coronavirus pandemic, amid growing pressure to speed up the bloc’s mass vaccination campaign.
European Union leaders have come under fire for appearing to botch its mass vaccination programme across the bloc. Earlier today, the founder of BioNTech, which developed a landmark Covid vaccine with Pfizer, called out the EU for being “too slow” to secure a supply of the jab. There is also frustration among European countries at the slow pace of the immunisation, which is trailing behind the majority of its Western allies, including the UK.

Immigration

Most people want immigrants from the EU to face additional restrictions as well, says City AM.

Voters from across the political spectrum are broadly in favour of immigration but want EU citizens to face tougher restrictions on moving to Britain, according to new research led by Britain’s best-known polling guru.
Most people also think the UK should keep European regulations in areas such as mobile roaming charges, food labelling and compensation for cancelled flights.
Sir John Curtice of the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has conducted a series of “deliberative polls” which resemble a cross between standard opinion polls and focus groups. 385 participants gave their opinion at the start of the sessions, then discussed the issues with each other and invited experts, before being asked again what they thought.
Asked for their views on migration, a majority said that immigrants from elsewhere benefited Britain’s culture and economy. 63 per cent thought migration was a boost to the economy with just 6 per cent saying it was damaging.

Education

Will schools open next week?  The unions are demanding they don’t, says the Telegraph.

Teaching unions on Friday night demanded the closure of every school in the country after Gavin Williamson caved in to pressure to shut all primaries in London.
The Education Secretary was forced into a U-turn after councils threatened legal action over his decision to keep some schools in the capital open.
The move raises the prospect that pupils in other areas could also be kept at home, as a leading union insisted that “what is right for London is right for the rest of the country”.
Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the Government had corrected “an obviously nonsensical position”, adding that ministers must “do their duty” by closing all primary and secondary schools to contain the virus.

Sky News claims it could be an embarrassing U-turn.

Boris Johnson is facing calls to close every school in England after an embarrassing government U-turn which means all primary schools in London will remain shut next week.
A union leader claimed what was right for London was right for the rest of the country and called on ministers to “do their duty” and close all primary and secondary schools to contain the coronavirus.
The demand, from the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, Mary Bousted, came after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson bowed to pressure to close all primary schools in the capital.
In an abrupt policy reversal following protests and threats of legal action by local authorities, Mr Williamson also signalled more schools outside London could close by warning that the list of closures is being kept under review.

The Independent says the minister was humiliated.

Gavin Williamson has been forced into another humiliating policy reversal after the government bowed to pressure and agreed to keep all London primary schools closed for the start of the new term.
The education secretary has confirmed a blanket approach to schools after announcing just days ago that only a select number would remain closed after the Christmas holidays.
Labour said the education secretary’s “incompetent” handling of the return of schools had caused “huge stress” to pupils, parents and staff, amid calls for more clarity about the criteria for reopening.
An emergency Cabinet Office meeting was convened on New Year’s Day to take the latest decision, which overrules a previous government announcement this week.
The government had initially said 50 education authorities in southern England would have their primary schools closed until at least 18 January, other than to teach vulnerable children and those of key workers.

All schools should close, the unions demand.  The Mail reports:

A teaching union has called for all schools across the country to be closed for the start of the new term after the government U-turned on its decision to keep some primaries in London open despite rising Covid cases.
The government bowed to protests, legal pressure and scientific advice on New Year’s Day after it initially omitted a number of the capital’s boroughs from the forced closures.
But Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, questioned why the same restrictions are not being rolled out across the rest of the country.
Gavin Williamson had this week released a list of London primary schools in coronavirus ‘hotspots’ that would stay shut for two weeks after the start of term next week.

More accusations of educational chaos are reported by BBC News.

The government has been accused of causing “chaos” after a last-minute decision to keep all London primary schools closed when term begins.
The U-turn comes as high coronavirus infection levels in the capital have put rising pressure on hospitals.
Ministers said closures were a “last resort” and education was a priority.
But Labour said the move had created “huge stress” for pupils, teachers and parents – while a union called for all schools to be shut nationwide.
The daily number of new Covid cases in the UK has topped 50,000 for the past four days, as the country struggles to control a new variant of the virus.
The president of the Royal College of Physicians, Prof Andrew Goddard, told the BBC the variant was spreading across the country, and added: “All hospitals that haven’t had the big pressures that they’ve had in the South East, London and south Wales should expect that it’s going to come their way.”

Dover

It’s going to be chaos, say the Remainers, but the truth is reported by the Telegraph.

There were no queues stretching back from the docks and no piles of perishable goods rotting on the back of lorries.
It may be tempting fate to say so but, when it came to the first day of post-Brexit cross-border trading, the much-predicted chaos failed to materialise.
The approach roads to Dover and the harbour itself, usually a hive of activity in and out of the country, were eerily quiet on the opening day of Britain’s new trading arrangements with the rest of Europe.
In a layby near Dover harbour, two Turkish lorry drivers, Oktay Yildiz and Ekrem Ozkul, were enjoying a roadside breakfast of bread, butter and warming tea before heading back across the Channel for the long drive home.

It’s all going well, says the Mail.

Britain’s ambassador to France has said UK and EU trade is ‘running smoothly’ as trucks cross the Channel for 15 hours without a hitch despite Remainer predictions of border chaos.
Lord Llewellyn visited the port at Calais and the Eurotunnel terminal ‘to see the situation on the ground’ and said: ‘Happy New Year to all the teams on both sides of the Channel working on New Year’s Day.’
Drivers with the correct paperwork – and a negative Covid test – were waved on to Eurotunnel trains with little delay after 11pm GMT as freight travelled seamlessly between the UK and France after four years of preparations.
The first freight checks between Britain and Northern Ireland, required under the terms of Brexit’s economic sea border, also took place without issue.
The smooth transitions at each border came despite Remainers claiming there would be carnage when the clock struck 12am.

Even the Guardian reports ‘no problem’.

It was all quiet on the Dover front in the hours after the UK left the EU, as lorries continued to avoid the port.
But just minutes away, beyond the famous white cliffs, the sense of fury over Brexit was palpable as local residents came to terms with a government letter they received on New Year’s Eve telling them that from summer, their rural idyll of farmland and ancient Roman ways would be transformed into a customs clearance lorry park for 1,200 trucks.
The site is in addition to the Ashford lorry park 22 miles away that barricades fields behind 4-metre fences.

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