Trade

The Express reports that duty-free ports are to be created.

Boris Johnson will create ten duty-free ports as part of sweeping new trade and transport reforms to revitalise struggling industrial towns. The Prime Minister, who has vowed to repay the trust of the blue-collar voters who backed him at the election, will introduce the special trading zones to create thousands of new jobs and generate billions.
Mr Johnson is also expected to back the HS2 link between London and the north and has told MPs to expect a decision “within days”. Around £40 million will be pumped into pilots for new 5G mobile phone networks in rural areas as part of the investment to overhaul the country’s infrastructure. Mr Johnson held talks with Tory MPs who took seats in Labour’s heartlands.

But tough talking should not mar trade talks, reports the Times.

An escalating propaganda war between London and Brussels should not serve as a marker for negotiations that begin next month, the EU’s first ambassador to Britain has said.
In his first interview since taking up the newly created post on February 1, João Vale de Almeida also questioned whether the deal on a new relationship could be agreed by the end of the year, indicating that Brussels was already preparing for a British request for an extension.
“Theoretically we can do it in a year, we can do it in more than a year, we will have to decide in July,” he said.

Fisheries

The French are still demanding access to our fish, reports the Express.

FRENCH regional officials have written an open letter to the Government calling for a “firm and constructive” post-Brexit dialogue with the UK on fisheries.
The presidents of the regional councils of Hauts-de-France, Normandy and Brittany have asked for further discussions to take place with the UK after its exit from the European bloc on January 31. Xavier Bertrand, Herve Morin and Long Chesnais-Girad wrote: “We must, at all costs, avoid a fishermen’s battle.” The main fear expressed within the letter is that British officials will decide to “regain control over their territorial waters” in a future trade deal after Brexit.
But the officials have described this as a “death sentence”.
They wrote: “A number of local communities depend on fishing.
“The vast majority of their catches are made in British waters.
“Denying them access would mean signing their near-death sentence.”

Brexit

Some EU standards could be scrapped, says the Express.

BORIS JOHNSON is ready to defy the EU by breaking away from the bloc’s food safety standards, it has been claimed – with the decision set to be confirmed at a meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
And an economist has told Express.co.uk it is vital for the Prime Minister and his team to “push the envelope” as far as possible when it comes to the existing Brexit withdrawal agreement – because being too closely aligned with EU regulations will hamper the UK in future trade negotiations with other countries. The Prime Minister’s tough stance would undoubtedly enrage Brussels, who would regard such a move as a breach of transition rules within the withdrawal agreement.

EU

There’s a big black hole in the EU’s budget that could cause the downfall of the whole bloc, says the Express.

BREXIT could bring about the collapse of the European Union as leaders grapple over how to fill the €75 billion (£63 bn) hole left by the UK’s departure, according to respondents to an exclusive Express.co.uk poll.
Heads of state were ferried out of Brussels on Friday evening after failing to reach a breakthrough on the seven-year budget at a two-day summit, with one slamming the Brussels chief for the “unacceptable” proposal. European Council leader Charles Michel had hoped to win over the 27 leaders with his package – but it backfired with a standoff between “frugal” member states and poorer countries.

And talks over the last few days have not come up with a solution to the lack of our money, says the Evening Standard.

The European Union‘s latest budget summit ended without a deal after 28 hours of talks.
Leaders in attendance could not could not find a compromise after a half dozen wealthy member states insisted they would not stump up more funds for the bloc’s next long-term spending package.
The package being touted was worth around one trillion euros.
EU Council President Charles Michel said: “Unfortunately today, we have observed it was not not possible to reach an agreement.”
He added that “we need more time”.

Civil service

The Home Secretary has also come under fire in the Mail.

A top civil servant who Priti Patel tried to get rid of is facing a furious backlash amid claims he ‘obstructed’ successive home secretaries.
Ms Patel is said to have tried to move permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam out of the department after they clashed.
Sir Philip previously faced calls for him to resign in 2018 over the Home Office’s handling of the Windrush scandal.
Now former Home Office insiders have accused the mandarin of being ‘nowhere to be seen’ during the crisis despite being ‘paid more than the prime minister’.

And the Guardian reports an ex-mandarin’s views on the department boss.

A former chief civil servant at the Home Office has warned that the department is in the grip of a number of “tropical storms” amid reports of clashes between Priti Patel and her chief mandarin.
Sir David Normington, a former permanent secretary who served under five ministers at the Home Office, also warned that the government’s timetable for a new immigration system would be “tight”.
He urged Patel, the home secretary, to work closely with the department’s permanent secretary amid suggestions that she is trying to oust him.
Normington’s intervention came as it was reported that a review into the Windrush scandal had been toned down, with the removal of a portion branding the department as “institutionally racist”.

Passport

The new blue passport has been unveiled in the Mail.

Boris Johnson has unveiled the long-awaited blue passport which will finally roll out next month after a 30-year hiatus.
The Prime Minister was pictured holding the new travel document on a flight to Newcastle Airport on the day Britain left the EU, in an image released by Downing Street.
The blue passports will be sent out at the end of March – but leftover burgundy stock will be used as a priority to get rid of them.
British passports were dark blue from the inception of the old design in 1920, until 1988 when they were changed to burgundy in line with most EU passports.
A return to dark blue was announced two years ago by then Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis, who said people wanted to ‘see that things are different’ following the vote to leave the European Union.

The Mirror also has the story.

Britain’s Brexit blue passports will be launched next month, the Home Office announced today.
British citizens have been issued with burgundy-covered documents for 30 years because of the UK’s membership of the EU.
But campaigners demanded a switch back to the original 1921 dark blue as a symbolic mark of Britain’s departure.
And Boris Johnson’s government was more than happy to swing into action – after handing the contract to a Dutch firm that’s printing the documents in Poland.
The first batches of blue passports will be delivered in “early March” in a phased way, with all new issues being blue from mid-2020.

The Star calls the cover ‘distinctive’.

Britons will be able to travel with a blue passport when the traditional colour returns for the first time in almost 30 years.
The distinctive blue cover will be re-introduced now the UK has left the EU and will replace burgundy passports which were gradually rolled out from 1988.
The first new passports will be issued and delivered early next month. Full introduction will be phased in and from mid-2020 all new passports will be blue.
The colour is not the only change: in a first for the British passport, the back cover will also carry its own symbolic design – the floral emblems of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales embossed.

Scotland

Council tax north of the border is likely to rise, reports the Express.

SNP LEADER Nicola Sturgeon’s budget plans will force local authorities to increase council taxes by almost five percent to cover a shortfall in funds from the Scottish government, an analysis has indicated.
SNP’s newly installed Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes  outlined the Scottish budget for 2020-21 at the beginning of the month. Speaking earlier this week, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell  claimed the proposals provided a “fair settlement” for local government, giving councils an increase of revenue spending of up to 4.3 percent in real terms. However, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), which represents Scotland’s 32 councils, branded the claims misleading, saying the rosy assessment fails to take into account growing demand on services.

And a former Prime Minister is calling for a revolution in Scotland, says iNews.

Gordon Brown has called for a “Northern insurgency” to reform the UK, with Scotland teaming up with the North of England to reject London-centric attitudes.
The former Prime Minister claimed Scotland is “at risk of becoming one of the West’s most divided countries” and dismissed the independence movement as “increasingly out of date” in a speech which angered SNP activists.
Mr Brown was a key figure in the unionist movement before the 2014 independence referendum, and is likely to play a leading role if there is a second vote in the coming years.
Speaking at a conference on the future of the Union in Newcastle, he insisted that regions of the UK should join together to shift power away from wealthy areas such as London.

Covid-19

The latest news on the Corona virus indicates the deadly disease has spread to Europe, reports Yahoo News.

An elderly man in the northern city of Padua has died after being infected with the coronavirus, becoming the first Italian victim of the disease, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Friday.
Health authorities announced earlier in the day 15 cases of the virus in the wealthy northern region of Lombardy and two in neighbouring Veneto where Padua is located — the first known cases of local transmission in the country.
None of those infected were believed to have travelled to China, the epicentre of the new illness, and local authorities in Italy scrambled to contain the outbreak.

And more cases outside China are reported in the Telegraph.

Fears mounted on Saturday over the rise of new cases and fatalities outside China from the coronavirus outbreak, as the World Health Organization warned of a shrinking window to stem the spread of the deadly disease.
The warning came as the first European died from the new COVID-19 strain, which first emerged in December in central China but has now spread to over 25 countries and caused more than a dozen deaths outside the country.

But the figures coming out of China can’t be relied upon, says ITV News.

There’s one figure not being included in the daily coronavirus updates in China, the number of disappeared; the activists, professors, lawyers and regular citizens who have been detained by police.
Some under the pretence of quarantine.
One of the most prominent disappearances has been that of Chen Qiushi.
The lawyer and citizen journalist travelled to Wuhan to report from the epicentre of the virus outbreak. For two weeks from the end of January he posted videos online and live streamed interviews with those affected by what he called a tragedy unfolding before his eyes.
On February 6, he disappeared.

The World Health Organisation has issued guidance, says the Times.

A surge in coronavirus outbreaks in South Korea means governments must start treating it as “Public Enemy No 1”, the World Health Organisation has warned.
Fears are growing that a new infection base is appearing outside China, thanks in part to a 200,000-strong Christian cult whose members frequently hug.
The number of confirmed cases of the virus in the country has doubled to 204. South Korea reported four more cases today, 144 of which are connected to Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, whose Korean name means “New Heaven and New Earth”.

And Yahoo News says its spreading fast.

The window of opportunity to contain the wider spread of the deadly Coronavirus COVID-19 is closing, the chief of the World Health Organisation  (WHO) has warned after cases were reported in Iran and Lebanon.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, said he still believed the virus could be contained – but added “The window of opportunity is narrowing, so we need to act quickly before it closes completely.”
Reiterating previous assertions on the ongoing risk of the virus which has claimed the lives of more than 2,200, he added: “This outbreak could go in any direction.
“If we do well, we can avert any serious crisis, but if we squander the opportunity then we will have a serious problem on our hands.”

Climate change

The Telegraph reports a study saying many of the climate change tweets are bogus.

A quarter of all tweets about climate change are written by automated Twitter bots instead of real people, a new study has claimed.
The draft study carried out by researchers at Brown University in the US analysed 6.5m tweets posted around the time of the announcement by Donald Trump that the US intended to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
A sample of 10pc of the tweets was analysed by software which found that 9pc of all the users posting about climate change were suspected of being bots.

Pollution

A diesel clampdown is working in London, says the Times.

Air quality at some of London’s worst pollution hotspots has greatly improved because of a clampdown on dirty diesel vehicles.
The number of breaches of the hourly legal limit for nitrogen dioxide has fallen by 97 per cent in the capital, from over 4,000 hours in 2016 to just over 100 last year.
Most diesel vehicles emit high levels of NO2, which is a toxic gas that aggravates respiratory diseases such as asthma and stunts the development of children’s lungs.

Flooding

More rain, more problems, reports the Mail.

The havoc wreaked by ‘scary’ floods in the wake of Storm Dennis could spread to northern England this weekend as further heavy rain could lead to more ‘significant river flooding’.
England has already had 141 per cent of its average February rainfall in the first three weeks of the month, with a third weekend of damaging downpours and powerful winds now on the way for parts of the UK.
Now there are fears the flooding could spread to areas such as the Pennines and parts of Yorkshire, having already left parts of Herefordshire and Worcestershire underwater in recent days.

And the Sun says there’s more to come.

BRITAIN is to be battered by storms for a third weekend in a row with 75mph gales and up to four inches of snow.
The Met Office has issued weather warnings for wind, snow, rain and ice across the UK until Monday.
It comes after torrential rain and gales sparked devastating floods earlier this month with Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis.
Now, as freezing temperatures and powerful winds barrel towards Britain, it is feared this weekend’s wild weather will bring with it the FIFTH storm serious enough to be named this season – Storm Ellen.
A deep low pressure is then expected to sweep in on Monday, opening the floodgates to freezing winds from the Arctic.

Universities

Universities are taking action against students who support striking staff, reports the Morning Star.

UNIVERSITY students have been suspended and some rendered homeless after taking part in an occupation in solidarity with striking staff.
Members of the University of Stirling Solidarity Network (USSN) have been banned from campus for eight weeks after taking over the Cottrell Building late last year.
The group of 13 occupied the site for two weeks in support of the University and College Union (UCU) members taking action in a dispute over pay, working conditions and pensions.

Radicalisation

In an exclusive report, the Guardian claims the government’s anti-radicalisation programme is being forced on environmental and animal rights activists.

Environmental and animal rights activists have been referred to the government’s controversial anti-radicalisation programme, the Home Office has admitted.
Responding to a freedom of information request, the Home Office provided a breakdown of reasons behind referrals of individuals to its Channel programme, an arm of Prevent, for “other types of radicalisation.’’
Environmental and animal rights were among types of “concerns” identified among individuals referred, as well far-left extremism, Northern Ireland-related extremism, “anti-Isil” and Sikh-related extremism.
Commenting on the inclusion of environmental and animal rights activism, Rosalind Comyn, Liberty policy and campaigns officer, said: “This reinforces long-held concerns that the government’s staggeringly broad definition of extremism enables the police to characterise non-violent political activity as a threat, and monitor and control any community they wish.

And just asking for advice about potential terrorism could land professionals in trouble, says the Independent.

Teachers, doctors and other public-sector workers could unwittingly spark counter-terrorism inquiries when they seek advice about the government’s controversial Prevent strategy, sensitive documents seen by the Guardian reveal.
A heavily redacted copy of the official policy framework for Prevent, the strategy designed to catch those at risk of committing terrorist violence, was released to the human rights group Liberty under the Freedom of Information Act and shared with the Guardian.
The guidance, marked “Official, sensitive”, states that when public sector workers, who are legally bound to report concerns, contact Prevent staff for advice, “this may result in a referral” to the anti-radicalisation programme.

Royal Mail

The cost of posting a letter is about to go up, says the Mail.

The Royal Mail has said it will increase the price of first class and second class stamps by up to six pence.
The postal firm said the price of a first class stamp will jump 6p to 76p and the price of a second class stamp will rise 4p to 65p from March 23.
The company said the price increases are ‘necessary’ to ensure the sustainability of its universal service.
Stamp prices in the UK rate among the best value in Europe, the company added.
Royal Mail said it is ‘operating in a challenging business environment’ and is likely to be loss-making in the current financial year.

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