Could we be heading towards another extension to the (second) transition period?  The Express reports:

THE EU is plotting to humiliate Boris Johnson in a dramatic Brexit punishment by forcing the Prime Minister into another extension, according to a former Brexit Party MEP.
The EU is plotting to publicly shame Boris Johnson in a brutal Brussels-led punishment for the UK’s decision to leave the bloc, it has been claimed. Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib told talkRADIO that the EU was no longer negotiating for a deal, but instead “toying with the UK”. He said that the EU will punish the UK and “force the Prime Minister into the ignominious position of having to extend the transition period”.

The Independent claims the deadline could pass without agreement.

The European Union is considering allowing any trade agreement with the UK to be ratified after the event, to prevent an accidental no-deal Brexit on 31 December.
European Commission secretary general Ilze Juhansone told diplomats from the 27 member states today that the deal on post-Brexit relations with the UK was 95 per cent complete, but said wide gaps remain on the key issues of fisheries, governance and a level playing field for standards.
And with just 41 days left before Boris Johnson’s deadline for a deal, officials have floated proposals for an agreement to be provisionally implemented at the end of 2020 before being given formal approval later by the European Parliament.

Our Houses of Parliament are preparing to bring an agreement into law, says the Times.

Civil servants have begun drawing up legislation for a Brexit deal that will need to pass through the Commons and Lords at “breakneck pace”.
The Cabinet Office has a team of officials working on the future relationship bill, which will enshrine any Brexit agreement in domestic law.
“There’s increasing expectation of a deal,” one Whitehall source said. “We need to be ready to get it through parliament.”
Ministers discussed holding weekend sittings in the Lords to help get the deal passed by the end of the month.


But mini Manny is getting stroppy, says Yahoo News.

Emmanuel Macron is insisting that the UK-EU trade deal must be translated into French before he will support it, even if it means risking a no deal Brexit.
Trade negotiations were halted on Thursday after a member of Michel Barnier’s team tested positive for coronavirus.
Time is running out for the two sides to agree a deal and hand it to the European Parliament so it can be ratified before the end of year no deal deadline.
Mr Macron’s ambassador told the European Commission this morning at a meeting of senior diplomats in Brussels that the deal had to be translated into French before it got to MEPs for scrutiny.

And the Express claims several EU countries are putting up barriers to a deal.

EUROPEAN Union chiefs have blocked any hope of “mini deals” being drawn up with Britain amid fears the trade talks could collapse.
Brussels sources said a number of influential EU states have called on the European Commission to significantly ramp up the preparations for a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year. But in a private meeting after the latest round of talks, senior diplomats insisted any measures must be unilateral and not help Britain avert potential disruptions in the New Year. A source said: “We need to revive our contingency planning from last year.

Breitbart claims there’s progress on deals with other countries.

France, Belgium, and the Netherlands are reportedly demanding the EU’s executive arm publish the bloc’s no-deal planning as the deadline for agreeing on a deal in the European Parliament looms. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom may be seeing progress on other trade deals with Australia and Canada.
The EU has been playing hardball with the British in negotiations, particularly in terms of fishing, regulations, and whether disputes over a deal would be arbitrated by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has held off releasing no-deal plans to member-states should it give the British leverage in ongoing talks.

Meanwhile, the bloc is still being profligate with our money says the Express.

EUROPEAN UNION chiefs were accused of abusing the coronavirus pandemic to secure more than £400,000 in taxpayer-funded cash.
And £45,000 was spent on EU-branded flags, sashes, USB memory sticks and packaging as part of an “outreach” programme by the Committee of the Regions. British taxpayers coughed up £52,000 for the EU’s spending spree because of the Government’s commitment to continue funding the bloc until the end of the year. German MEP Joachim Kuhs fumed: “The Committee of the Regions is nothing more than a glorified talking shop, so to see them spend money in this way is a slap in the face for taxpayers.
“To give extra screens to already pampered eurocrats, and use propaganda as patronage to bribe local politicians into shamelessly promoting EU identity at a time of crisis is beyond belief.
“No wonder the British voted for Brexit when EU institutions waste money like this with little accountability.”


The EU negotiator has been given instructions over our fish, says the Express.

BREXIT negotiator Michel Barnier has been ordered to realise the UK will take back control of its waters by a furious fishing chief who has hit back at calls for Britain to compromise over fish stocks.
Post-Brexit talks between the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart continue to stall over fishing rights with time rapidly running out. Britain will leave the controversial Common Fisheries Policy at the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1.


Plans for getting together over the festive season are being formulated, says the Telegraph.

Families will be allowed to meet for up to a week at Christmas – but tough restrictions could remain in place until then under Government plans to be announced early next week.
Boris Johnson is preparing to announce a UK-wide relaxation of rules from December 22 to 28, allowing several families to join in one “bubble”,  The Telegraph can reveal.
But the Prime Minister will say that the strength of the restrictions for the rest of next month will depend on how well the public complies with the current lockdown, which expires on December 2.

The Sun says we could have seven days of celebrations.

COVID lockdown rules could be relaxed for a WEEK over Christmas but Brits would be hit by tough restrictions until late December, reports claim.
Families will be granted up to seven days of festive freedom from December 22-28 under new Government plans.
Boris Johnson is set to announce a nationwide relaxation in measures allowing several families to join in one “bubble”, The Telegraph reports.
But this will only take place if the public adheres to the current strict lockdown – which is due to end by December 2.

The Guardian claims if we meet to many people over the festive period, we’ll pay for it next year.

The health secretary has said the government hopes to implement “UK-wide” measures to allow people to see some family members from different households over Christmas, as scientists stressed allowing households to mix could lead to more infections and deaths come January.
Describing Christmas as “the most important holiday for people in this country”, Matt Hancock said the government was in talks with leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to agree a united front that would allow festive cross-border travel within the UK.

And the health secretary has issued a warning, says the Mail.

Families could be allowed to meet for up to a week over Christmas as part of a nationwide relaxation of coronavirus rules, reports claimed last night.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday told a  Downing Street briefing it was still too early to say what contact people will be able to have with their loved ones over the festive period.
However, it has been suggested that Boris Johnson is preparing to announce a plan for an easing of rules next week.
Ministers are said to be thrashing out plans to free the country from lockdown shackles for a few days.

The statistics

The Mail has an interesting piece on what is actually happening in the country.

With the nation’s health at stake, it was revealed this week that GCHQ has embedded a team in Downing Street to provide Boris Johnson with real-time updates to combat the ‘emerging and changing threat’ posed by Covid-19.
The intelligence analysts will sift through vast amounts of data to ensure the Prime Minister has the most up-to-date information on the spread of the virus.
But what exactly should Mr Johnson be looking for? Here, ROSS CLARK reveals what he should be asking…
How accurate were the Government’s grim predictions?
The short answer is: not very. In a July report commissioned by Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, scientists estimated that there could be 119,000 deaths if a second spike coincided with a peak of winter flu. Yesterday, that figure stood at 54,286 – less than half that.
In fact, the second peak seems to have passed – over the past week there has been an average of 22,287 new infections a day, down from 24,430 the week before.

And the Sun reports the famous ‘R’ rate is falling.

BRITAIN’S coronavirus R rate has fallen for the second week in a row- with only the South East above 1, the latest official data shows.
The current R value – the number of people an infected person will pass Covid-19 on to – is estimated to be between 1.0 and 1.1.
It’s another drop from last week when the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) estimated the R to be between a range of 1.0 and 1.2.
When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but below that number would suggest the epidemic is shrinking.
Every region in England has seen a slight drop in the crucial value this week – with the North West now estimated to be as low as 0.8.

iNews claims these stats will be very closely watched.

Ministers are to watch closely the trend in hospital admissions and deaths from Covid-19 at the start of next week before reaching a final decision on how strictly to impose regulations after the lockdown in England is lifted.
While there are encouraging signs that the number of new coronavirus cases across the UK is falling, particularly in former hotspots in the North West of England, officials are worried the death rate remains high and that prevalence of the disease is steady, i understands.
Higher hospital admissions and fatalities during November were always going to be “baked into” the figures, as the deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said last month, owing to increased social activity before the lockdown in England on 5 November.


When will you qualify for the vaccine – and will you take it?  The Mail reports:

Coronavirus vaccines will start to roll out next month if one is approved by the British drug regulator, Matt Hancock confirmed today.
The Health Secretary said in a TV briefing that the Government has officially asked the regulator, the MHRA, to consider licensing the vaccine made by pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and BioNTech.
A late-stage study this week confirmed that the jab was 95 per cent effective in clinical trials and appears to protect people of all ages from coronavirus.
The £15-a-dose jab is currently the odds-on favourite to be approved first by the MHRA, although candidates from Moderna and Oxford University are close behind.

And the roll-out will continue until next spring, reports the Sun.

EVERY adult will be vaccinated against Covid by April under radical NHS plans to bring an end to the pandemic, leaked documents reveal.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tonight said the first Brit patients could get a vaccine in December, subject to approval.
He confirmed that the Government has formally asked the regulator – the MHRA – to assess the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for use in the UK.
Mr Hancock told a No 10 press conference the company had already begun submitting data to the regulator and would submit its full data in the coming days.

And for those who can’t have a vaccine, BBC News says there’s an alternative.

A possible alternative to a vaccine, for people without functioning immune systems, is entering its final stage of trials.
The injection was developed using antibodies – made by the immune system to fight infection – produced by a single Covid patient in the US.
It is hoped it could provide at least six months’ protection for patients who cannot receive vaccines.
Trials involving 1,000 UK participants begin in Manchester on Saturday.
A further 4,000 people are involved in the trial globally, which is being organised by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.


Thinking of a foreign holiday next year?  The Mail says you might just get it.

Travel quarantine will be cut to just five days next week to get Britain flying again.
Ministers have approved a plan to change the 14-day isolation rule that has crippled the aviation and travel sectors.
Under a ‘test and release’ scheme, which will be introduced next month, travellers will have to quarantine for five days before being tested.
If the result is negative they will be released from isolation immediately. Fast-turnaround tests, which produce results inside an hour, will be used. The cruise industry is also to make a phased restart by February.

And new testing could cut quarantine even further, reports the Times.

Quarantine for contacts of Covid-19 cases will be halved or eliminated altogether in a pilot scheme that could ultimately free hundreds of thousands of people from needless isolation.
Emergency service workers will be given daily tests with new pregnancy-style kits in the next stage of mass testing in Liverpool due to begin next week. They will be allowed to carry on working if they test negative.

The economy

The chancellor has big plans, reports the Telegraph.

Rishi Sunak will spend billions of pounds levelling up post-Brexit Britain, including more than £1 billion to strengthen the UK border.
The Chancellor will next week announce a major funding bonanza to insulate the UK from the double economic shock of coronavirus and the Brexit transition period coming to an end on December 31.
Despite the spiralling cost of the pandemic, the self-styled “Northern Chancellor” will commit tens of billions of pounds to major infrastructure projects to finally remedy the North-South divide.

We’ll know all about it next week, reports the Express.

RISHI SUNAK will spend tens of billions of pounds on boosting jobs and infrastructure in spending plans to help revive the economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
The Chancellor will use a financial statement next week to pledge his commitment to “levelling up” the country with a massive cash injection. A northern headquarters for the Treasury will open next year as part of the government’s plans to move 22,000 civil service roles out of London and the south east by 2030. Rishi Sunak warned on Friday night the UK’s finances will need to be put on a “sustainable path” after public sector debt passed the £2 trillion mark for the first time in history.

There’s still going to be a pay cap, says ITV News.

Rishi Sunak is finally set to unveil his much-delayed National Infrastructure Strategy for £100 billion of long-term investment next week.
The Chancellor will, on Wednesday, publish the strategy aimed at helping to tackle the climate crisis and investing in transport. He will also outline his spending review.
But it comes as Mr Sunak and the government face  the threat of industrial action after reports emerged the Chancellor plans to impose a pay cap on 5 million public sector workers.
Initially set for publication in March, the infrastructure strategy looks at boosting transport connectivity and working towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

And the Morning Star says the pay freeze could result in strikes.

THE government is facing the threat of industrial action if it attempts to freeze the wages of millions of public sector workers, unions warned today.
Their stark message came as Chancellor Rishi Sunak was reportedly preparing to announce a new freeze on public-sector pay in next week’s spending review, in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
A freeze would be a kick in the teeth for key workers clapped by ministers for keeping the country running during the pandemic and a provocation to unions representing NHS workers such as Unison, GMB and the Royal College of Nursing, which have called for pay increases to reflect years of real-terms decline.


The big girls’ blouses in the Home Office are cross that they now have to do as they’re told, says the Mirror.

When Priti Patel arrived at the Home Office staff knew what to expect.
The Conservative MP already had a reputation for wearing sharply-cut suits and wielding even more sharply-cut elbows.
Some ministers inspire loyalty, others are a cause for despair.
In Whitehall, Ms Patel was known for inciting another kind of reaction – fear.
In her apology yesterday, she said: “I am direct and have at times got frustrated.”

In a showdown, the PM flexed his muscles, says the Guardian.

Boris Johnson drove his own ethics adviser to quit on Friday as he ripped up the rulebook by refusing to sack Priti Patel despite a formal investigation finding evidence that she bullied civil servants.
After a Cabinet Office inquiry, Sir Alex Allan said the home secretary’s conduct “amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying” – noting instances of shouting and swearing, and finding that she had breached the ministerial code, even if unintentionally.
Johnson seized on that caveat, seemingly dismissing the report, by insisting he judged the code had not been breached – and he had full confidence in Patel.
He then urged Tory colleagues in a WhatsApp message to “form a square around the Prittster”.


Is she a plant in Number 10?  No, surely not!  The Mail reports:

Boris Johnson has clashed with Britain’s most senior mandarin after insisting on making top secret policy decisions on WhatsApp.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case intervened after concern that some texts from the Prime Minister’s official account on the messaging service appeared to have been sent by someone other than him.
In a separate development, Mr Johnson’s partner  Carrie Symonds is understood to have been overheard ‘prompting’ him in the background during confidential phone calls to ministers and officials.

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