Brexit

Talks continue, says ITV News.

The EU and UK will resume face-to-face Brexit negotiations on Saturday, as the deadline to reach a deal looms closer.
Time is running out for Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, and his UK counterpart Lord Frost to reach an agreement, with just over a month until the transition period ends.
Mr Barnier told reporters on Friday he would continue to work with “patience and determination” upon his arrival in the capital.
Face-to-face talks were paused last week after one of the EU team tested positive for coronavirus.
Sources close to the negotiations have said 95% of the deal is done, but fishing remains a major sticking point between the two sides.
Mr Barnier tweeted earlier on Friday that the “same significant divergences persist” between the UK and EU.

Fisheries

Our fish are still causing a problem, reports the Express.

BREXIT trade talks could be derailed by debate over fishing rights as one French figure warned the UK needed the EU more because “we have the market”.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has demanded that the UK keep waters open to European vessels so that fishermen in Europe can still benefit from British fishing grounds. This has caused a deadlock however, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to take more control of UK waters post-Brexit. One man who has also become a prominent player in the negotiations is French President Emmanuel Macron, who has warned he will protect his fishermen and ensure they are not heavily impacted by Brexit.
If the French are cut off from UK waters, it could have devastating impacts on the country’s coastal communities.
France caught 120,000 tonnes of fish worth £171million (€192million) between 2012 and 2016, according to Marine Management Organisation figures.

The Telegraph is more positive about the problem.

A Brexit breakthrough on fishing could be close, with the EU set to formally recognise British sovereignty over UK waters, The Telegraph can reveal.
Brussels has also accepted a British proposal for a transition period on fishing rights after January 1, but there is no agreement on how long it should last or how it should work.
A fishing transition period would give Britain time to build up its fleet to catch its increased quota and EU fishermen more time to adapt to a smaller share of the fish in UK waters.
Senior Government figures believe that tentative compromise is a prelude for the EU to cave to other British demands on fishing in the coming week of intensified negotiations in London.

But the bloc’s offer to give us some of our fish has been slammed, says the Times.

Michel Barnier was accused last night of making a “derisory” offer on post-Brexit fishing rights as tensions flared before a critical round of negotiations beginning in London today.
The EU’s chief negotiator was reported to have told European ambassadors that as part of a free-trade deal he was preparing to offer the government between 15 per cent and 18 per cent of the fish quota caught at present in British waters.
The proposal, which was confirmed by British officials, has been dismissed by London amid concerns on both sides that compromise may be impossible to reach.

The Express outlines the offer.

BREXITEERS have expressed outrage following Michel Barnier’s incredible plot to hand the UK just a percentage of fish quotas which European fleets catch in British waters.
With Brexit talks failing to come to a deal, Mr Barnier  put forward a proposal whereby EU fleets would return 15 to 18 percent of all fish from British waters. This would mean the EU would still maintain close to 80 percent of fishing quotas as to what it has currently under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The incredible demand has led Brexiteers to demand Boris Johnson quit trade talks immediately.

EU

Meanwhile, inside the bloc there’s further tension, says the Express.

URSULA von der Leyen has been warned any attempt by the European Commission to rush through a trade deal between the UK and the EU by the end of the year runs the risk of alienating members of the EU27 – and even triggering a bloc-wide rebellion.
Nicolas Bay, general secretary of the right-wing National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen, also claimed the amount of power residing in the Commission – which is effectively the EU’s governing body – was “absolutely absurd”, and highlighted the need for dramatic reforms.
Mr Bay was speaking in the wake of widespread reports – including on Sky News – suggesting the Commission was ready to cut corners in the event of a deal being struck between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and UK counterpart Lord David Frost to implement it by the end of the year – bypassing the Parliament and member states.

Scotland

More money for less work?  Sounds a great idea!  The Express reports:

SNP PLANS for a four-day week predicted to cost £2.5billion a year have been branded “ludicrous”.
On Monday, Scottish finance minister Kate Forbes is expected to call on the Scottish Government to undertake a review of working practices, “including the possibility of a four-day working week”. The Scottish Conservatives claim delivering the plan without cutting staff salaries or services would cost £2.5 billion, including £1.5 billion for the NHS.
Additionally, schools would require an extra £430 million, Police Scotland an extra £431 million, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service an additional £108 million and Scottish Prison Service a further £43 million, the Tories said.

Deportations

So is Priti a bully or just an assertive Home Secretary?  The Telegraph reports:

Priti Patel on Friday night hit back at attempts by 82 black public figures to halt the deportation of up to 50 Jamaican criminals next week, saying she was “unapologetic” about removing people who posed a risk to the public.
The 82, including Naomi Campbell, the historian David Olusoga and actors Naomie Harris and Thandie Newton, have written to airlines urging them not to carry the Jamaicans the Home Office wants to deport. They claimed that if next week’s and other similar flights went ahead there was a risk of the unlawful removal of people who have the right to remain in the UK.
However, Ms Patel’s department issued a breakdown of the 50 Jamaicans’ criminal records, which comprised a combined total prison sentence length of 294 years including two life sentences counted as 20 years each.

Christmas

Will we be able to see our loved ones during the festive season?  The Telegraph claims plans are afoot.

Urgent plans to prevent Christmas getaway chaos are being prepared by ministers amid fears that huge numbers of people will be unable to join their families during the five-day festive relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.
Britain’s first Christmas transport tsar has been appointed to prevent meltdown on the rail network and has been given the power to force train firms to lay on extra carriages following warnings that social distancing will prove impossible.
Advance rail tickets for the holiday period went on sale on Friday – far later than usual – giving ministers less than a month to plan for the rush once they have an indication of how many people plan to travel. Demand is likely to outstrip supply.

Easter

Or will we have to wait until next spring?  The Express explains:

MOST of England could be banned from socialising indoors until Easter, according to reports.
Indoor gatherings are not allowed under tiers two and three which 99 percent of the English population is facing from next week. The measures will affect 55 million people but the Prime Minister said this is not the time for “taking our foot off the throat of the beast”.
MPs will vote on Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus tiers plan on Tuesday.
More than 32 million people will be living under tier two restrictions, while a further 23 million people will be placed under tier three.

The Sun says the PM hopes the virus could be in retreat by April.

EASTER Monday has been pencilled in for the lifting of strict Covid tiers, The Sun can reveal.
Boris Johnson hopes coronavirus cases will have tailed off by April 5.
The news dashes hopes that new vaccines will lead to a swifter end to the crisis — and it will further enrage Tory MPs already threatening mutiny when tough measures are voted on next week.
It will also reignite calls for more financial support for crippled pubs and restaurants.
But the PM is determined to put the NHS first — and believes he will have to wait until after Covid’s winter peak in February and March to ease his grip.

Lockdown

But the plans could be challenged in Parliament, says the Mail.

Almost the entire nation is set to be banned from socialising indoors until Easter, officials admitted last night.
The senior sources said it was ‘unrealistic’ to expect areas under the toughest curbs – Tiers Two and Three – to move down to Tier One before spring.
Under a ‘virtual lockdown‘ revealed on Thursday, 99 per cent of the population was put in the top two tiers, which ban household gatherings and cripple the hospitality trade.
Tory backbenchers accused the Government of risking catastrophic damage to the economy. One predicted that more than 50 Conservative MPs would rebel in a Commons showdown next week.

iNews also highlights a possible revolution.

Boris Johnson is struggling to quell a growing Conservative revolt over plans to enforce tough coronavirus restrictions across almost all of England after the lockdown ends on Wednesday.
Although ministers promised that some areas could move down a tier before Christmas, the rebellion against the scheme was intensifying after more than 50 Tory MPs publicly registered their alarm over the move.
The scale of the backlash against his proposals could leave the Prime Minister in the politically embarrassing position of depending on Labour votes  to win a majority for the new system in a Commons vote on Tuesday.

It could all be about money, says the Telegraph.

Labour is set to demand more money for councils in Tier 3 as its price for backing Boris Johnson’s route out of lockdown in the Commons.
Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor,  will warn on Saturday that communities in the highest restrictions will be “stretched to breaking point” and miss out on millions of pounds in financial support.
It is understood that Labour’s support for the Prime Minister’s proposed measures would be dependent on whether the Government decided to
extend the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG).
Sir Keir Starmer, the party’s leader, is expected to make a decision on whether to back the winter plan next week and his support could be crucial with up to 80 Tory MPs expected to rebel.

The promise not to extend ‘lockdown’ will be kept – but it will simply be renamed, says the Mail.

The end of Lockdown 2.0 next week should have been a cause for celebration. But any sense of relief will have evaporated at the advent of the new localised system of tiers.
In practice, the new regime is just as heavy-handed as lockdown, leaving 99 per cent of the population under arbitrary state control.
Riddled with contradictions and unsupported by compelling scientific evidence, these restrictions will cause immense further damage to the economy, cripple our civil liberties and worsen the nation’s health.
In short, they threaten to destroy the social fabric that makes up Great Britain.

Who is the government and who is the opposition?  It’s all getting a bit complicated, says the Telegraph.

Not since the ink dried on Theresa May’s Chequers deal has a Government policy managed to unite Tories in quite such anguished opposition.
As England’s new Covid tier system teetered on the brink of plunging 23 million people into Tier 3, the highest level of restrictions, MPs from the Tory shires to the “Red Wall” appeared dangerously close to the edge on Friday.
Angrier than the newly-drawn, red-splattered map of England from December 2, their bitter disappointment rang out from all corners of the party as they questioned why such a “blanket” approach had been taken, with 35 million people being moved into a tougher tier than before the second lockdown.

Vitamin D

The ‘sunshine vitamin’ will do us all good, says the Mail.

Nearly three million people in England will be offered free Vitamin D supplements this winter.
The Government will deliver doses of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ to all care home residents as well as people classified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’.
Deliveries will be free of charge, starting in January, providing four months’ worth of supplements to last 2.7million people through the winter months.
The supplements support general health, in particular bone and muscle health, but around one in five Britons have Vitamin D deficincies. There is some evidence suggesting that it may help people fight  coronavirus, and the link between the two is still being researched with larger-scale trials needed.

The Express has an explainer.

VITAMIN D is essential for regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Now a new Government initiative will see at-risk groups given a winter supply of Vitamin D. But are you eligible?
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles, particularly during the cold winter season. As daylight grows shorter and Britons spend less time outdoors, people are being encouraged to top up on Vitamin D supplements to make sure they are the healthiest they can be.
Now a new Government initiative will see 2.7 million vulnerable individuals in England offered a free winter supply of Vitamin D.
With more of us spending time indoors due to lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic – many may be lacking in the essential vitamin.

Vaccine

Some of us could start getting jabbed very soon, says the Guardian.

Hospitals have been told to prepare for the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine in as little as 10 days’ time, with NHS workers expected to be at the front of the queue, the Guardian has learned.
NHS bosses said hospitals in England could expect to receive their first deliveries of a vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech as soon as Monday 7 December, with regulatory approval anticipated within days.
According to sources at several hospitals across the country, NHS England said they should expect to get stocks of vaccine on 7, 8 or 9 December.
Initially only NHS staff are set to be given the jab, with care home residents and the over-80s having to wait. This is despite those two groups being classed by the government as top priorities for Covid immunisation, as they have the greatest risk of death from the disease. Care sector chiefs reacted angrily, warning that the move would be seen as a “betrayal”.

There’s a ‘pecking order’ as to who is offered it first, reports the Telegraph.

NHS workers are set to be given the Covid vaccine before it is offered to elderly people under health service plans.
The Pfizer jab, which needs to be stored at -70C, is the only vaccine so far being formally assessed by watchdogs and could get the green light as soon as next week. But its storage requirements mean that it is at first likely to be sent to 52 NHS vaccine hubs, which are set to begin by offering the jabs to health service workers.
More than 1,000 GP sites to administer jabs more widely are being set up across the country and have been told they will be given at least 10 days’ notice before their programmes begin.

Diabetics and large people will get it first, says the Times.

At least four million people with diabetes or morbid obesity are set to get the coronavirus jab at the start of next year, after being included in an official priority list.
Those who have been shielding, such as blood cancer patients and organ transplant recipients, are also likely to be vaccinated before healthy over-65s, marking a shift away from plans that used age as the main deciding factor on when people could expect vaccination.
The list for prioritisation is detailed in a chapter of the “green book”, which sets out information on vaccination procedures in the UK. Formal recommendations are expected imminently, but the new provisional chapter is designed to help those responsible for delivering the vaccine to plan ahead.

The risk is greater for such people, says the Mirror.

Severely obese people will be given a coronavirus vaccine before healthy over 60s because they are considered more at risk, official guidance has confirmed.
People with Body Mass Indexes (BMI) of more than 60 and aged between 18 and 65 will be prioritised for the vaccine, according to official instructions.
Experts say obesity is a top risk factor for a severe illness with deadly Covid-19, with the severely overweight twice as likely to die.
The Public Health England (PHE) guidance rolled out this week placed the morbidly obese above older adults in the queue.
The booklet outlines which groups are considered ‘at-risk’ adults who should be prioritised ahead of healthy over-60s.

And those at risk will benefit, says the Mail.

The fattest people in the UK will be prioritised over millions of Britons aged 50 to 65 for a coronavirus  vaccine, Government guidance has confirmed.
Official advice says morbidly obese people should be included in the ‘at-risk’ adult group and get access ahead of everyone under 65.
One in eight adults in the UK are classed as morbidly obese – the fattest category – or about 2million people.
Morbidly obese people, defined by having a BMI of over 40, are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than healthy people, hospital data shows. For comparison, a healthy BMI is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range.

Testing

Tests are to be sent to care homes to ensure their residents can see loved ones at Christmas, says the Mail.

Care home managers have been promised rapid Covid testing kits within weeks so residents can be reunited with loved ones in time for Christmas, the Mail can reveal.
Officials have written to all care home bosses announcing the rollout of a scheme to ensure proper visits by family members can resume.
The Department of Health letter, seen by the Daily Mail, was sent to all care homes in England this week.
It says they will receive supplies of rapid lateral flow tests within weeks – and urges care homes to start preparing for family members to visit their loved ones indoors, where they will finally be allowed to hug and hold hands.

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