EU

Today’s big news is that a top European has warned that our membership of the bloc may have to be extended.  The Telegraph says:

A new trading relationship with the European Union may not be “feasible” by the end of next year, Ursula von der Leyen has warned.
The European Commission President said she had “serious concern” over Boris Johnson’s 11-month time frame in which to reach a new trade deal with the EU.
“It’s not only about negotiating a free trade deal but many other subjects,” Ms Von der Leyen said in an interview with the French newspaper les Echos.
“It seems to me that on both sides we must ask ourselves seriously if all these negotiations are feasible in such a short time.”

The Independent says a row is in the offing.

Boris Johnson is on course for a fresh row with Brussels after a top EU official warned the deadline to complete trade talks may need to be delayed.
Downing Street dismissed a warning from Ursula von der Leyen, the new European Commission president, that the transition period may need to be extended beyond December 2020 to resolve the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
Ms von der Leyen, who took on the role from Jean-Claude Juncker, said she was “very concerned” about the limited timeframe for talks, reviving fears of a no-deal Brexit by the end of next year.
“I am very concerned about how little time we have,” she told the French newspaper Les Echos.
“It seems to me that, on both sides, we should seriously consider whether the negotiations are feasible in such a short time.”

And Ursula has told Boris to have a rethink, says the Guardian.

Boris Johnson should reconsider his refusal to extend the 11-month timeframe available for agreeing a deal on the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit, Ursula von der Leyen has suggested.
The European commission president said she had “serious concern” about the limited time available for the negotiations and emphasised the need to keep all options open.

Ursula is worried reports BBC News.

The deadline for negotiating the UK’s future relationship with the EU may need to be extended, the European Commission president has said.
Boris Johnson has said the post-Brexit transition period will not be extended beyond 31 December 2020.
But Ursula von der Leyen told French newspaper Les Echos both sides needed to think seriously about whether this was enough time to reach an agreement.
She said she was “very worried” about how little time was available.
“It would be reasonable to evaluate the situation mid-year and then, if necessary, agree on extending the transition period,” she told the paper.

The bloc is desperate to keep us shackled, says the Sun

THE EU may need to ask Boris Johnson to extend the Brexit transition period, the new boss of the European Commission has said.
The Withdrawal Agreement struck with the EU allows the so-called ‘implementation period’ to be extended by up to two years.
During that period EU rules will still apply here but the UK will have no role in making decisions.
But a fortnight ago the PM vowed to make any extension illegal – meaning Britain will be free of the orbit of EU rules by December 2020.
Today European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen set Brussels for an immediate collision course with the UK in the New Year.
She told a French newspaper that both sides would have to re-evaluate how trade negotiations are going in the middle of 2020, before deciding whether to extend the transition period beyond December 2020.

She also issued a threat, reports the Times.

Brussels could struggle to negotiate a trade deal with Britain within the 11-month deadline set down by Boris Johnson, the new head of the European Commission has warned.
Ursula von der Leyen, who replaced Jean-Claude Juncker at the start of the month, said she had “serious concern” over the limited time available for the negotiations.
She also warned again that there would be “barriers” to UK/EU trade at the end of the transition period unless Mr Johnson walked away from his pledge not to follow European regulations after Brexit.

The Mirror reports that Boris has made the leave date legal.

Britain has been hurled into a row with the new President of the European Commission after she warned the UK’s Brexit deadline may have to be delayed.
Ursula von der Leyen – who took over this month from Jean-Claude Juncker – said the transition period should be delayed in mid-2020 “if necessary” to stop Britain plunging into a no-deal Brexit.
But Boris Johnson has insisted the transition will end on 31 December 2020 no matter what – and even made that pledge a legal requirement.
A UK government spokesman hit back at her today, saying: “The Prime Minister has been clear that we will not be extending the Implementation Period.
“Both the EU and the UK committed to agreeing a future partnership by the end of 2020 in the Political Declaration and have agreed to work with great energy to achieve this.”

And the Express claims he slapped her down.

BORIS JOHNSON has slapped down EU Chief Ursula Von der Leyen after she warned Brussels may need to extend the deadline for talks about a new trade relationship the UK.
Britain has set a hard deadline of December 2020 for reaching a new trade deal with the EU. But the European Commission President said both sides needed to seriously think about whether this is enough time to negotiate a new trade deal and work out agreements about a series of other issues. Ms Von der Leyen told French daily newspaper Les Echos: “It would be reasonable to evaluate the situation mid-year and then, if necessary, agree on extending the transition period.”

The financial services sector is uncertain, says the Telegraph.

Boris Johnson has promised 2020 will be the year when the UK gets Brexit done – but the City seems less certain.
The majority of financial services firms think the prime minister will be forced to seek an extended transition period to iron out issues over equivalence and market access, according to research by accountancy firm EY.
Out of 120 financial services firms with a UK presence surveyed, 59pc believed an extension would be agreed, with most of those expecting an extra year of talks.

And the Express reports threats to the UK’s financial sector.

EUROCRATS will threaten to cut off the City of London’s access to European markets in a resounding warning next month before post-Brexit trade talks kick off.
Negotiators in Brussels will tell Boris Johnson’s team they will impose restrictions unless the UK agrees to align itself with European regulations and abide by the bloc’s timetable for trade discussions. They will also warn of possible disruptions to data flow to British commerce if the UK does not meet their demands. A document seen by The Times lays out the EU’s plan to take “possible decisions on adequacy [personal data] and equivalence [financial services]”.
The paper relates to the upcoming internal talks involving European governments which will take place in two weeks’ time.

The Mail also reports the threat to the City.

Brussels is planning to target the UK’s strength as a financial centre after Brexit as it prepares for fiery trade deals with Britain, it emerged today.
The EU will threaten City firms with a lack of access to continental markets unless it agrees to maintain ‘equivalence’ – a level playing field for rules and regulations.
British commerce could also lose access to important data flows under plans being prepared by the bloc.
With Brexit expected to happen smoothly on January 31, the following 11 month are expected to see frenetic activity to establish at least an outline trade deal by December 2020.
But Boris Johnson has already signalled that he intends for the UK to diverge in many areas from EU standards and systems as it seeks a business advantage over the continent.

Breitbart reports that ‘despite Brexit’, the UK is going to thrive.

The United Kingdom is now projected to have a significantly larger economy than France over the coming years, by the same think tank which previously forecast that leaving the European Union would see Brexit Britain “leapfrogged” by its competitor across the English Channel.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) now acknowledged that “despite Brexit, the French economy failed to overtake the UK” — “despite Brexit” being the go-to phrase for almost all Remain-leaning commentators and organisations when forced to confront the reality of Britain not having fallen into ruin as a result of the vote Leave the EU, as most of them predicted/threatened during the 2016 referendum.

The Cabinet

When Parliament resumes there could be a Cabinet reshuffle, reports the Mail.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is in line for the sack when Boris Johnson conducts his post-Brexit  reshuffle, it is understood.
The Prime Minister is expected to fire around a third of the Cabinet after Britain leaves the UK on January 31.
Mr Cox was the Government’s chief law officer under  Theresa May and stayed in the post when Mr Johnson took over.
But sources have said he is at the top of the list of senior ministers expected to be axed.

Labour Party

Meanwhile, former deputy leader Tom Watson lifts the lid on the behind-the-scenes shenanigans in the Telegraph.

Tom Watson, Labour’s former deputy leader, has revealed for the first time that he was driven out of Parliament due to the “brutality and hostility” he was subjected to by the hard-Left.
Speaking in the wake of Labour’s crushing election defeat, Mr Watson admitted that the “day to day” abuse he was subjected to had contributed to his decision to quit as an MP.
Highlighting the extent of the abuse faced by MPs, he claimed that at one point police had informed him that a Labour supporter had been arrested for making a death threat against him, but that party officials had failed to inform him.

‘Brutal’ and ‘hostile’ are mentioned in the Express.

LABOUR former deputy leader Tom Watson has said he stood down as an MP partly because of the “brutality and hostility” within his party.
The ex-minister, who represented the West Bromwich East constituency until the general election earlier this month, said he thought it was “time to take a leap” and “do something different”. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Mr Watson said conditions within the party were partly responsible for making his political career unsustainable. He said: “The point is that the brutality and hostility is real and it’s day to day.
“So I just thought, now’s the time to take a leap, do something different. You’ve had a good innings. You’ve done good stuff. Go now.”

Sky News also has the story.

Former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has said he quit frontline politics because of the “brutality and hostility” within his party.
In excerpts released from an interview with the Guardian newspaper due to be published on Saturday, the former Midlands MP said: “The point is that the brutality and hostility is real and it’s day to day…
“So I just thought: now’s the time to take a leap, do something different. You’ve had a good innings. You’ve done good stuff. Go now.”

TBP

Nigel’s party could be in trouble, reports Yahoo News.

Brexit Party staff including senior officials have reportedly been made redundant following Nigel Farage’s general election failure.
The i has quoted a party source as saying: “Straight after the election we were all told we had to look for other jobs.”
The Brexit Party didn’t comment when approached by Yahoo News UK. But it raises questions about the party’s future in whatever guise it takes.
Mr Farage had previously pledged to rename it the Reform Party once the Brexit Party’s single issue purpose of leaving the EU has been dealt with. This is all but certain to happen following Boris Johnson’s huge Tory win in the election.

Illegal migration

Hundreds of people are still trying to cross the Channel to the UK, reports the Times.

Home Office security measures intended to deter migrants from crossing the Channel are acting as a “magnet” with five times more people arriving this year than in the previous twelve months, it was claimed last night.
More than 1,700 people are thought to have reached the UK via the Channel this year.
This compares with 297 last year, when Sajid Javid, then home secretary, declared the rising number a “national incident”. Mr Javid responded by announcing the deployment of two Border Force cutters to patrol the Channel.

Reuters reports on the latest boatload.

British border and coastguards picked up 49 suspected migrants on Thursday as they were trying to cross the Channel from France in small boats, according to media reports.
The group of men, women and one child said they were from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, the BBC reported.
A further two boats carrying 14 migrants were dealt with by French authorities, the broadcaster said.
Sky News showed people, some wearing life jackets and others wrapped in blankets, being escorted by border force officials to the shore in the port of Dover in southeastern England.

Scotland

The Morning Star has a couple of stories about the NHS north of the border.

NHS SCOTLAND must improve workplace environments, the doctors’ union warned today in response to a survey revealing that the health of medics is being harmed by their workloads.
The British Medical Association (BMA) called for doctors to receive better support from the government after 77 per cent of respondents said their work had harmed their health and well-being in the past year.
BMA Scotland chairman Dr Lewis Morrison said: “Worryingly, our survey also found that two-thirds of doctors do not believe their employer provides sufficient support for staff well-being. This simply has to change.
“It is clear that caring for those who care for the people of Scotland must now be a priority – now, next year and always.”

Another in the Morning Star is about foreign cyber attacks.

SCOTTISH NHS boards have faced 117 cyber attacks, with one facing an offensive from North Korea, in the past five years, health boards say.
Kim Jong Un’s regime is accused of hacking NHS Borders in 2017, though it is unclear what the reason for an attack may have been.
In response to a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Conservatives, six health boards said their cyber defences had been successfully breached.
NHS Lanarkshire topped the table with 62 attacks sustained since 2014, with NHS Fife coming second with 47.
The Western Isles health board received five attacks, while NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Grampian and Borders were each the victim of one attack.

NHS

Further south, the Times reports on mental health.

Children with mental health problems, asthma, diabetes and other chronic conditions will no longer be forced to transfer to adult services after their 18th birthday in plans to eliminate the “cliff-edge” faced by teenagers.
The NHS will stop automatically treating children as adults after they turn 18, to help them to make a “smooth transition” to adult care by as late as 25. It will see more services aimed at those from birth to 25 years old, with some describing patients as “young adults”.
Charities and campaigners have warned that children face the so-called cliff-edge of care overnight after their 18th birthday, particularly in mental health services.

And the Times reports on help for gambling addicts.

A record number of gambling addicts were admitted to psychiatric hospitals for treatment last year, including dozens who turned to crime to fund their habit.
There were 321 hospital admissions in England linked to gambling addiction last year, meaning that the figure has doubled in six years.
The cases are believed to be the tip of the iceberg. The NHS estimates that more than 400,000 people in England have a gambling addiction, which means that their urge to bet is so intense that it interferes with their daily life and the lives of people close to them. It also estimates that two million people are at risk of developing a gambling problem.

Hospital parking, which could become free for some, will have to be paid for by someone, says the Times.

Hospitals have warned ministers that money for frontline care may have to be diverted to pay for their promise to abolish parking fees for some patients.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said that free hospital parking would be extended to those with regular outpatient appointment, staff on night shifts, the parents of sick children and blue badge holders.
The plan was in the Conservatives’ election manifesto and Mr Hancock said hospitals would be expected to start making the changes from April.
NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said yesterday that it was unclear who would pay for the new system, which will cost money to implement and reduce revenue for hospitals.

Research

Northern parts of the country could benefit from research and development plans, says the Times.

Ministers are preparing to develop two cutting-edge scientific research bodies in the Midlands and north of England after Boris Johnson’s promise to “level up” investment outside the southeast.
Downing Street is said to be determined that an £800 million “advanced research projects agency” will be based outside the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge. It also wants to set up a centre of scientific excellence, modelled on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the north.
Mr Johnson has promised to double research and development spending to £18 billion within five years in a “new wave of economic growth” after Brexit. A government source said: “The will is there to ensure that we think beyond Oxford, Cambridge and London when we site these new bodies.”

The sales

Traditional Boxing Day sales fell a little flat, reports the Times.

High street retailers are desperately pinning their hopes on a bumper weekend after many shoppers chose to stay at home yesterday.
There were hopes that a fresh round of hefty discounts would tempt bargain-hunters after a wet and miserable Boxing Day. However, by 3pm yesterday, turnout was 3 per cent down on the same day last year, according to Springboard, a retail expert. That followed an 8.6 per cent year-on-year fall in the number of shoppers on Boxing Day.

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