Brexit

It’s on a knife-edge, says the Telegraph.

Brexit trade talks reached stalemate on Friday night after the EU was accused of making a “ridiculous” demand for 10 years of unfettered access to Britain’s fishing waters as the price of a deal.
Boris Johnson paused talks for a “stock take” of whether an agreement can still be salvaged.
A senior Government source said: “Their new offer was frankly laughable. They know we can’t possibly accept it. It’s ridiculous. If they think we will just cave in, they have made a massive miscalculation.”
Mr Johnson will speak to Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, on Saturday in an attempt to break the deadlock.
He could also make a personal plea to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, blamed for “destabilising” the talks by making unreasonable demands on fishing and state aid. Mr Macron is under pressure from other EU member states to give ground, with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, on Friday urging “compromise” from both sides to get the deal over the line.
Downing Street warned that the time for talking has almost run out, setting a provisional deadline of Monday for a deal to be reached or for the negotiations to be wound up for good.

The Guardian says today is crunch day.

The Brexit talks will enter their final act on Saturday with a shift to direct negotiations between Boris Johnson and the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, following the failure to find agreement in London.
In a joint statement, David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, said they had not been able to come to terms on the final issues and that the historic trade and security negotiation would be paused.
The year-long negotiation had long been expected to end with arbitration between the two political leaders, although there remains no certainty that an acceptable compromise will be found.
“After one week of intense negotiations in London, the two chief negotiators agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries,” Barnier and Frost said in the statement. “On this basis, they agreed to pause the talks in order to brief their principals on the state of play of the negotiations. President Von der Leyen and prime minister Johnson will discuss the state of play tomorrow afternoon.”
It is understood Johnson and Von der Leyen will talk by phone on Saturday afternoon.

It seems that France has made additional demands, says the Times.

Britain has accused France of pushing Brexit talks to the brink of collapse by demanding last-minute concessions as the price of a deal.
Discussions between the two sides were suspended last night after Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator, ambushed Britain at the insistence of President Macron.
The EU is demanding that the government allow European fishing fleets access to UK waters for up to a decade after the transition period. It also wants to be able to subsidise industries across the bloc without being bound by the same strict rules as the British.

The Mail says it’s a ‘stand-off’.

Boris Johnson was locked in a stand-off with Emmanuel Macron last night as Brexit talks teetered on the brink.
British officials claimed the French president had pressured European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier to take a hardline stance.
A close Macron ally yesterday said he would veto any trade deal that went against French interests. But UK sources said the president did not respect Britain’s independence and was trying to shield his nation’s firms from competition.
One insider warned there would be no deal unless Mr Macron backed down.
A week of marathon negotiations fuelled by late-night pizzas broke up inconclusively in London last night.
In a joint statement, Mr Barnier and the PM’s chief negotiator David Frost said: ‘The conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.’

But the UK mustn’t give in, says the Telegraph.

Caving in to Brussels on fish and the “level playing field” in order to secure a post-Brexit trade deal risks turning Britain into a permanent “client state”, senior Conservative MPs have warned Boris Johnson.
With the UK’s chances of agreeing a deal with the European Union hanging in the balance, a group of “die-hard” backbenches have urged the Prime Minister not break the promises he made to Leave voters in last year’s election.
It comes amid fears that he could be forced to grant a flurry of last-minute concessions after intensive lobbying from Emmanual Macron, the French president, to secure more preferable terms on fishing, state subsidies and non-regression clauses.
Under British plans designed to placate France, Mr Johnson has reportedly agreed to defer repatriating up to half of the fishing quotas for several years.

The Mail also has the warning.

Die-hard Tories last night warned an under-fire Boris Johnson that the UK could become a permanent ‘client state’ of the EU if British negotiators cave in to Brussels on fishing rights and the ‘level playing field’.
With the UK’s chances of striking a trade deal with Brussels teetering, pro-Brexit backbenchers fear that the PM will break his promises to Leave voters in last year’s General Election – amid reports that he has agreed to defer repatriating up to half of the fishing quotas for several years.
In turn, British officials hit out French President Emmanuel Macron, who they accused of pushing talks to the brink of collapse by pressuring EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to take a hardline stance.
The French President has also been pushing for French trawlers to maintain their access to UK waters, and is said to have demanded a 10-year transition to any reduction in EU fishing access – which No10 finds unacceptable.

The warning comes from an ex-Environment Secretary, says the Express.

BORIS JOHNSON must not allow the EU to turn Britain into its “client state” during trade talks according to an incendiary warning from Theresa Villiers, a former Environment Secretary.
A number of Conservative MPs have spoken out against compromise as trade negotiations reach a critical point. On Friday talks between the UK and EU were paused with both sides admitting there are still “significant divergences” between the two.
Although Britain technically left the EU at the end of January it remains in a Brexit transition period until the end of the year, during which it retains access to the European single market.
In return for this the UK is continuing to pay into the EU’s budget and still has to follow many rules made in Brussels.

EU

The Express reports that the bloc has always intended to keep us under the auspices of its courts

THE EU has been wanting to keep Britain under its courts ever since the Brexit talks started, draft negotiating documents reveal.
The British and European Union negotiating teams are continuing talks in London this weekend, in what have been described as the most crucial post-Brexit trade discussions.
The bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has offered Britain 15 to 18 percent of the quota European fleets currently take from British waters. Downing Street is said to want at least 80 percent returned to the UK – something Brussels continues to view as “wholly unacceptable”. While the bloc refuses to budge on its red lines, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed to keep Britain tied to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The French says we’re not playing ball, reports Breitbart.

A top figure in the French government accused British negotiators of being duplicitous in talks and suggested the nation could use its veto to kill any deal they didn’t deem in their interest, seriously knocking expectations in London and Brussels that an agreement was on the verge of being signed.
Reports and speculation in European media in recent days suggested a Brexit deal could have been agreed late this week, although without clear indication of who would have surrendered to who and on what issues in order to make such an unlikely breakthrough possible.
Yet claims emerging on Friday now suggest that talks were not actually going so well, and could be torpedoed at the last minute by the French government in a bid to protect their own interests.

In another story, Politico reports that Italians won’t be able to celebrate Christmas as they would like.

Italy has enacted tough new measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus over the Christmas period, including a ban on travel across the country’s internal regional borders between December 21 and January 6.
decree detailing dos and don’ts over the holiday period, adopted by the government late on Thursday, states that all movement around the country is “strongly discouraged.” It prevents people from leaving their town on Christmas Day, December 26 and January 1.
Many other European countries, including the U.K. and Germany, have announced a limited relaxation of rules during the festive period. But Italy is taking the opposite approach to avoid a new resurgence, following high casualties in the second wave of the pandemic. In the past 24 hours, it registered the highest-ever daily toll from COVID-19, with 993 deaths.

Trade deal

The Evening Standard reports on the trade talks.

Post-Brexit trade talks have been paused amid continuing “significant divergences” between UK and EU negotiators on key issues.
In a joint statement, Michel Barnier and Lord Frost said they had suspended discussions while they brief Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on the state of play.
The two leaders will then discuss the situation in a call on Saturday afternoon.
“After one week of intense negotiation in London, the two chief negotiators agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries,” the statement said.

Fisheries

The EU has been accused of being rude, says the Express.

MICHEL BARNIER was “insulting” the British fishing industry when he lowballed the UK with a “rude” offer for continued access to UK waters after Brexit, former MEP June Mummery claimed.
Michel Barnier offered the UK £90million to ensure European Union vessels could continue catching fish in British waters at the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020. Former Brexit Party MEP June Mummery, who has long campaigned for the rights of British fishermen, branded the Frenchman and his offer as “rude” as she accused the EU of lowballing. Speaking to Express.co.uk, Ms Mummery said: “That offer was an absolute insult.
“And if I had been doing the deal, I would have walked out the door and slammed the door in his face. An absolute insult. Once we take back control, and I mean take back full control, the fishing industry will be worth £6.6billion to the economy. That is net to plate.”

ITV News claims France will insist on fishing in our waters.

France has said it “must” have access to fish in waters between 6 and 12 miles of the mainland UK.
This would mean crossing one of the UK’s negotiation “redlines” where fishing inside the 12 mile limit is exclusively given to the UK fleet. If the French persist with their demand it’s thought it could threaten any prospect of a deal.
ITV News sources on both sides of the channel confirmed that France was behind the EU bid for access inside the 12-mile limit.
It is understood that because France have consistently done the majority of non-UK fleet fishing inside the 12 miles, they believe their historical fishing access gives them rights in the future.
One UK senior fishing source told ITV News they can “bu**er off” if they think they are getting that while another industry insider said “if he [Boris] were to roll over and give access he’d be crucified by the inshore fishermen in the UK”.

Vaccine

Back to the virus, and the Telegraph reports that this vaccine will not have a major effect.

The coronavirus vaccine will have only a “marginal impact” over the next three months, the four UK chief medical officers have warned the NHS.
The Pfizer/BioNTech jab, approved on Wednesday, will only begin to make a significant dent in hospital admissions and deaths by the spring, they said, also warning that the five-day easing of Covid restrictions over Christmas would increase pressure on hospitals.
Their letter to NHS staff came amid growing concern that the UK may have to wait weeks before a second batch of vaccine arrives, and that it would go no further than 50 vaccine hub hospitals, despite care home residents having top priority.
However, Pfizer and the Department of Social Care insisted on Friday that a second shipment of “millions” more jabs would arrive before January following the delivery of 800,000 doses in the first.

Sky News says hospitals will be busy even after vaccinations.

COVID-19 will keep hospitals under continued strain in the coming months as new vaccines will only have a “marginal impact” on patient numbers over winter, the UK’s chief medical officers have warned.
In a letter written to healthcare colleagues, the group – which includes England’s Professor Chris Whitty – also said that festive gatherings were likely to put additional pressure on the NHS.
“Winter is always a challenging time for the NHS and wider health and social care service. This year will be especially hard due to COVID-19,” it said.
“Although the very welcome news about vaccines means that we can look forward to 2021 with greater optimism, vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with COVID over the next three months.”

The Guardian has a similar report.

The coronavirus vaccine will have only a marginal impact on hospital admissions over the next three months with the festive season likely to put additional pressure on health services, the UK’s chief medical officers have warned.
In a letter to healthcare staff sent on Friday, the CMOs for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said the effects of vaccination would likely be felt by spring but workers should brace themselves for an “especially hard” winter.
They wrote: “Although the very welcome news about vaccines means that we can look forward to 2021 with greater optimism, vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with Covid over the next three months … The social mixing which occurs around Christmas may well put additional pressure on hospitals and general practice in the New Year and we need to be ready for that.”

The Mirror claims the vaccine will only work for three months.

The coronavirus vaccine may give people immunity from the disease for 90 days, the government’s scientific advisers have said.
paper published by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group said the duration of “natural or vaccine induced immunity is not yet fully understood”.
However, they added that immunity after getting a Covid-19 jab may last 90 days.
Scientists wrote: “Based on the variability in the data and differential responses in the population we conservatively estimate that a protective immune response after SARS-CoV-2 infection or vaccination may last for 90 days.”

Jabs will start being given in two weeks says the Times.

GPs have been told to expect to start giving patients the coronavirus vaccine in less than a fortnight.
NHS England wrote to them yesterday saying the first GP-led sites should expect to start in the week beginning December 14.
The letter adds: “While urgent care will need to continue to be provided across general practice, for the days on which vaccine is being delivered from these sites, this programme will be the top priority.”
Areas with higher proportions of over-80s will have more sites used in the first wave of vaccination, NHS England said. Local health bosses “have been asked to consider inequalities and deprivation when selecting sites”.

And the Evening Standard reports the number of cases of the virus is dropping.

Coronavirus infections are dropping across the UK as the latest R rate fell to between 0.8 and 1.
Last week, the r value, which indicates levels of Covid-19  transmission, was between 0.9 and 1.
The Government’s  Sage advisory group, which publishes the data, suggested the second wave of the pandemic is starting to subside across the country, as it found that the number of new infections is shrinking by between one and three per cent every day.
The positive updates come amid a bleak warning for Londoners, as the capital finds it risk of entering Tier 3 lockdown within weeks. Residents are urged to stick ever-closer to the rules, as new analysis suggests the city’s recent drop in cases appears to be levelling off.

Testing

Testing is not very effective, says the Independent.

Rapid Covid tests deployed to enable students to return home for Christmas, and care home residents to have visitors, are failing to identify up to 50 per cent of positive infections, according to the government’s own analysis.
Plans were this week rolled out across the UK for care homes to use the rapid tests to enable people to see their relatives and even briefly pause social distancing during visits, as students also began to head home at the opening of the travel window.
However, the failure of the devices to pick up enough cases has raised the risk of asymptomatic Covid carriers bringing the virus into care homes, or back to their family.

Deportations

Away from the virus, the Mail has a story about legal eagles’ celebrations.

Champagne corks must have been popping in the offices of a number of law firms this week. The celebratory mood was epitomised perhaps by the first three words of a tweet from one law firm in the small hours of Wednesday. The three words in question were: ‘What a result.’
It was the kind of reaction you would expect from, say, the scientists responsible for the vaccine breakthroughs.
In fact, the lawyer, whose firm is based in the heart of  London’s legal establishment, had just succeeded in obtaining an injunction to prevent ‘our Jamaican client’ being kicked out of the country.
His ‘client’, whose precise offence is not known, was among the band of criminals — including murderers, rapists and drug dealers — removed from a deportation flight to the Caribbean following last-minute legal challenges.

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