Brexit

Barnier is unhappy that the UK is not giving the EU exactly what it wants, says Reuters.

Britain and the European Union showed little sign of progress towards a deal on their post-Brexit relationship this week, failing to bridge differences over future competition and EU fishing access to British waters.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told a news conference on Friday that Britain had set a tight deadline by ruling out an extension to the Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020.
“The United Kingdom cannot impose this very short calendar for negotiations and at the same time not move, not progress on certain subjects that are important for the European Union,” he said.

The Sun claims Barnier’s demands are over the top.

DOWNING Street fired a warning shot at Michel Barnier last night by declaring his over-the-top demands are making a Brexit trade deal not worth the trouble.
But the EU’s chief negotiator blasted Britain for ruling out a longer transition while dragging its feet on fishing rights.
Both sides blamed the other for refusing to compromise on key points as a second round of talks ended in stalemate.
Mr Barnier said the UK was “failing to engage” and a deal was no closer than before.
The EU’s chief negotiator fumed: “The UK cannot impose this short timeline, and at the same time not budge on the same topics that are of importance to the EU.
“There will be no trade agreement without an agreement on fisheries. That should be crystal clear to the UK.”

RemainCentral (the Times) reports that it’s Britain’s fault, of course.

The European Union has accused Britain of stalling post-Brexit trade talks and of creating a no-deal cliff edge by ruling out an extension to the transition period.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, showed his anger at what Brussels views as a deliberate policy to slow down talks that have already been delayed by his sickness from coronavirus.
“The UK did not wish to commit seriously on a number of fundamental points,” he said. “The UK cannot refuse to extend the transition and at the same time slow down the progress of the negotiations in important areas.”

And Sky News also reports the ‘disappointing’ progress in the talks.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has lambasted the UK for imposing a “short” deadline for trade talks and then refusing to “budge” on key issues – but the UK has accused the EU of not treating it as an “independent state”.
Speaking at a Brussels news conference following the conclusion of the second round of negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship, Mr Barnier listed areas where there had been “disappointing” progress.

In Order-Order Guido quotes a government statement.

A statement put out by the Government says that round two of the ongoing EU-UK Future Relationship negotiations were “full and constructive … conducted remotely by video conference, and with a full range of discussions across all the issues”, however “limited progress was made in bridging the gaps between us and the EU.” The Government is demanding the EU drops its insistence on imposing conditions on the UK which it doesn’t impose on other countries if progress is to be made on the so-called level playing field…

The Guardian quotes the Frenchman.

Michel Barnier has suggested the UK is running down the clock in talks over the future trade and security relationship with the EU.
The claim by the bloc’s chief negotiator during a virtual press conference at the end of a difficult week of videoconference talks was swiftly denied by the government.
A UK spokesman instead openly questioned the value of the deal being offered by Brussels when compared with a no-deal outcome.

And BBC News reports on the gulf between the two sides.

The progress made in post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and EU has been disappointing, Michel Barnier has said.
The EU’s chief negotiator said “genuine progress” and a decision on whether to extend the transition period were both needed by June.
The UK said “limited progress” had been made and talks needed to “move forward in a constructive fashion”.
The two sides will hold two further rounds of talks before the end of the transition period in December.

Yahoo News says the EU’s attack on us is ‘blistering’.

Michel Barnier has launched a blistering attack on the UK over major “problems” in the Brexit negotiations.
The EU’s chief negotiator said the UK is refusing to extend its “transition period” and accused the government of “slowing down” discussions.
It comes after a week of talks, led by Barnier and the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost, discussing the two sides’ post-Brexit relationship.

And Huffington Post says we might not get a deal.

The EU has said there are “serious difficulties” in the Brexit negotiations and warned that a trade deal may not be possible this year.
Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier accused the UK of “slowing down” the talks by failing to engage “seriously” on a number of key points.
He criticised Boris Johnson for “imposing” an “exceptional” timetable on the negotiations by refusing to extend the standstill transition period beyond December 31, and said the coronavirus crisis imposes additional responsibilities on the UK and EU to reach a deal.

The Express points out that the UK has refused to extend the transition period.

MICHEL BARNIER has been condemned by leading Brexiteers after the EU chief blasted the UK’s negotiating team for the lack of progress in Brexit talks.
Following the latest round of trade talks led by Boris Johnson’s negotiator David Frost, the European Commission’s Head of Task Force hit out at Britain for sticking to its negotiating red lines and refusing to extend the transition period beyond December 31. In the discussions Mr Barnier also reiterated the EU’s intention to seek a “level playing field” with the UK on a number of core areas including justice, fisheries and regulations.

The Mirror reports Barnier has said we’re not serious.

Michel Barnier has hit out at the lack of progress in the Brexit negotiations and said the “clock was ticking”.
The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator said the EU “respects” the UK’s timetable but Britain cannot both slow down trade talks on key areas while refusing to agree to extend the transition period.
Mr Barnier accused the UK of not committing “seriously” on numerous points from the political declaration and said only “very” partial progress had been made in the negotiations.

Who is at fault?  The Independent has its view.

The UK “failed to engage substantially” on key sticking points in Brexit talks held this week, the EU’s chief negotiator has said.
Michel Barnier also accused Boris Johnson’s government of rowing back on commitments made in writing by Britain at the point before exit.
The two sides restarted stalled negotiations on Monday via video talks after disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic prevented them from meeting in person.

Lockdown

Back to coronavirus, and an exclusive report in the Mail claims the rules could be eased soon.

An easing of lockdown rules could allow people to socialise with up to ten of their closest family and friends, it can be revealed today.
Ministers are looking at whether to relax the strict ‘stay at home’ advice to let small groups of households ‘cluster’ together.
It would allow close family members to meet for meals, or enable friends to share childcare. It could also allow couples who do not live together to see each other.

Boris is due to return to work on Monday and he’ll be under pressure, says the Guardian.

Boris Johnson is facing pressure to make a speedy return to work, as fresh data suggests the onset of lockdown fatigue, and as senior police officers argue over rules on movement.
Warnings for the public to continue respecting lockdown rules were sounded at Friday’s Downing Street briefing, where data showed that there had been an increase of between 2% and 3% in transport use over the past week.

The Mirror reports Scotland’s plans.

People could meet small “bubbles” of their friends and family under one idea to ease the coronavirus lockdown.
Nicola Sturgeon today said the Scottish government is looking at the proposal as one possible way to relax restrictions on people’s movement in the future.
But she warned if the idea does happen, “it’s got to be the same people day-to-day, week-to-week” to prevent Covid-19 being passed on more widely.

And businesses are being spoken to, says the Telegraph.

Businesses are being discreetly advised by ministers on how to get people back to work in the coming days and weeks amid growing concerns over the economic impact of the lockdown.
The Government believes there is plenty of room within the existing restrictions for more people to be working, and is now actively encouraging firms to reopen.

The Times also reports on business plans.

A Treasury proposal to “get Britain back to work” includes plans to ensure that offices and workplaces are free from coronavirus. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is drawing up measures to allow non-essential businesses to reopen in a “safe and practical way”.
Businesses will have to put up signs telling workers to remain two metres apart from one another and instruct staff to go home if they have symptoms of Covid-19.

Infection rates

The pandemic is easing, reports the Mail.

Professor Chris Whitty has offered a chink of light out of the lockdown after revealing coronavirus infection rates have been wrestled down.
England’s chief medical officer said the reproduction number – or R0 – has been brought below 1, marking a critical achievement in the UK’s war on Covid-19.
It means coronavirus sufferers are on average infecting less than one person, meaning the disease will wind up as it can no longer spread.

Mental health

iNews has an exclusive report on citizens’ mental health.

The coronavirus pandemic will have an “acute” impact on mental health as people cope with the loss of loved ones, loneliness during the lockdown and uncertainty about the future, MPs of all parties are warning.
They are calling on ministers to draw up detailed plans to support people struggling during the emergency, including frontline staff and bereaved families, as well as for extra funding for mental health charities and services.
The MPs’ plea comes after government statistics showed that 53 per cent of people said their wellbeing had been affected by coronavirus and 47 per cent reported feeling high levels of anxiety. 

Care homes

Meanwhile, the number of deaths in care homes is highlighted in the Telegraph.

A Government diktat that NHS hospitals should move hundreds of elderly patients to care homes has been branded “reckless” and blamed for the homes’ soaring coronavirus death rates.
In two damning policy documents published on 19 March and 2 April, officials told NHS hospitals to transfer any patients who no longer required hospital level treatment, and set out a blueprint for care homes to accept patients with Covid-19 or who had not even been tested.

Testing

The target of 100,000 tests a day could be met, says the Times.

Matt Hancock’s hopes of hitting his 100,000-a-day testing pledge received a boost yesterday as thousands of people tried to book coronavirus tests online.
Ministers insisted it was a sign of success that the website stopped accepting bookings within hours of opening because testing centres had run out of slots. Hospitals complained, however, that the benchmark distorted priorities by putting a dash for numbers above sensible allocation of tests.
Although slots are meant to be reserved for key workers, officials admit that this is being taken on trust to ensure that laboratory capacity is not wasted.

But a dedicated website couldn’t cope, says the Mail.

A new website where key workers can book coronavirus tests buckled under an unprecedented demand from those with symptoms yesterday.
A total of 5,000 home testing kits ran out by 6.02am – two minutes after they were made available – leading to an apology from the Department of Health.
All 15,000 drive-through slots for Friday were taken by 10am.
Queues were spotted at drive-through sites across the country, with some arriving from neighbouring counties.

And home testing kits are difficult to come by, says the Mirror.

England’s new coronavirus home testing kits ran out in just two minutes today as the government struggled to cope with demand.
Downing Street claimed 5,000 of the kits were ordered within two minutes of an online portal opening for 10million key workers and their families.
A further 15,000 testing slots at drive-through testing sites were taken this morning – forcing the government to close the entire self-testing website for the day.

Sport

Are you suffering from withdrawal symptoms because of the lack of sport?  In an exclusive report, the Sun has some good news.

PREMIER League football could be back on TV within weeks — in a major boost for bored Brits.
Boris Johnson has been briefed on plans for matches to be played behind closed doors and sees the resumption of live sport as key to boosting the moral of the nation after weeks of being shut inside.
Other football leagues, tennis, cricket and horse racing could also resume under detailed proposals to be thrashed out between ministers, Public Health England officials and sporting bodies.

Air travel

People are still flying into the UK without being tested.  The Times reports a call for more tests.

The government should consider mandatory tests for coronavirus before passengers board aircraft as part of measures to lift the travel lockdown, the head of Gatwick has said.
Stewart Wingate, the chief executive of Britain’s second busiest airport, said that the government should consider health checks 48 hours before departure. Similar measures are already being discussed elsewhere in Europe, while the airline Emirates has been offering passengers pre-flight testing for coronavirus that can give results in ten minutes. Mr Wingate also said that face coverings for passengers should be considered.

And the Heathrow boss has written to Mr Hancock, says the Mail.

The boss of Heathrow is urging ministers to introduce mass screening at airports, the Daily Mail can reveal.
In a major intervention, chief executive John Holland-Kaye is writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to demand stringent regulations to combat coronavirus.
The airport’s bosses want an internationally agreed standard of measures, which could include temperature checks, antibody tests and a requirement that all passengers carry health passports proving they are medically fit.

The transport secretary is thinking about it, says Sky News.

The idea of screening arrivals at UK airports for coronavirus will be kept “under review”, the transport secretary has said.
Grant Shapps was responding to concerns raised that, despite strict rules on the movement of people within the UK, there are no limitations on passengers arriving from outside.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Grant Shapps said: “As we come out of any of this and into the next phase at a future point, we will continue to keep the excellent medical and scientific advice we receive under review to say whether those procedures at airports should change.”

EU

The bloc is suffering financially, says the Telegraph.

European leaders have dodged their “moment of truth”. The Covid-19 emergency package averts an immediate crisis but fails to draw the political poison now threatening monetary union.
It has not cut Italy’s borrowing costs to bearable levels and is too little either to ensure the economic viability of southern Europe’s debt bloc or prevent the North-South divergence from spiraling out of control.
It leaves the European Central Bank holding the fort, compelled to cover to the exploding debt issuance of eurozone treasuries and to work overtime to stave off a run on Club Med bond markets.

And Italians want out, says Breitbart.

Italian anger at the European Union continues to remain high as a poll released this week shows four in ten would like their country to leave both the euro currency and the political bloc.
The Bidimedia poll showed that while 6.1 per cent said they wanted only to leave the EU and 7.1 per cent said they only wanted to leave the euro, 40 per cent said they back pulling out of both institutions. Meanwhile, 41.7 per cent of Italians prefer to remain in both, Il Giornale reports.

Education

There’s a new website to help parents educate their children, reports the Mail.

Frazzled parents struggling to homeschool their children during the coronarvirus pandemic are to be offered support through a new national helpline.
Named ‘StarLine’, the service will offer advice to families on how to educate their children at homes while schools are closed due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
The service, launched by a coalition of academy trusts and parenting groups, will also provide advice to parents on how to deal with difficult behaviour.

High Streets

Shops are not faring well, says the Times.

Retail sales dropped in March at their fastest rate since records began 30 years ago, according to official statistics.
Clothing shop sales were hit hardest, falling by 35 per cent as businesses closed and staff worked from home after the lockdown began on March 23. Across all categories, retail sales fell by 5.1 per cent, worse than the 4 per cent drop that had been forecast by analysts.
Retail sales dropped in March at their fastest rate since records began 30 years ago, according to official statistics.

Captain Tom

The veteran fundraiser has reached the top of the charts, says the Mail.

Captain Tom Moore has become the oldest person to have a No.1 single after his duet with Michael Ball reached the top of the UK charts.
The record was previously held by Tom Jones, who reached No.1 with [Barry] Islands In The Stream aged 68 in 2006, 32 years younger than Tom is now, aged 99.
Captain Tom, who won the hearts of the nation with his National Health Service fundraising bid, will still hold the top spot when he celebrates his 100th birthday on April 30 next week.

ITV News also has the story.

Captain Tom Moore has become the oldest artist to reach number one on the UK singles chart as his rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone landed in the top spot in time for his 100th birthday.
The war veteran has already raised more than £28 million for the NHS by walking laps of his garden and his song, with Michael Ball and The NHS Voices Of Care Choir, is part of his continued fundraising during the coronavirus crisis.

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