Brexit

Progress!  Reuters suggests a deal is in the offing.

Britain’s top minister overseeing Brexit talks said on Friday he was confident a free trade deal would be clinched with the European Union as there had been a distinct change of tone from the bloc in recent weeks allowing progress to be made.
The United Kingdom left the EU on Jan. 31 but the main terms of its membership remain in place – including being in the EU customs union and single market – during a transition period until the end of this year, during which time both sides hope to negotiate a new free trade accord.
“I’m confident that there will be a deal, I think there has been a welcome change in tone over the last few weeks,” Michael Gove told reporters in Portadown in the British province of Northern Ireland.

And we’re looking at a post-Brexit deal with Japan, says iNews.

The UK and Japan have reached “substantial agreement” on a proposed post-Brexit free trade deal following talks between ministers.
Japan’s foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi said both governments were “working hard” to reach a deal, while Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, said it was hoped it could be sealed by the end of August.
While the specific details have not yet been revealed, the draft is thought to offer the UK tariff-free exports on products like bacon and luxury leather goods in return for cheaper car parts and electronics imports, as well as agreements on data and financial services.

BBC News also reports the Japanese deal.

The UK and Japan hope to agree the details of a post-Brexit trade agreement by the end of the month.
The two sides said they had made progress during two days of face-to-face talks in London.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said there was “substantial” agreement in most areas.
And the UK’s Liz Truss said there was a “consensus” on extending Japan’s current trade standards with the EU in financial and digital services.

The Guardian reports proposed help for Northern Ireland.

The UK government has announced a £355m package to cushion Northern Ireland businesses from the costs of trading with the rest of the UK because of Brexit.
Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, said on Friday £200m would be spent on a trader support service (TSS) to help firms handle new bureaucracy to move goods across the Irish Sea, turning the government into a de facto customs agent for traders.
A further £155m will be spent on digital technology to streamline processes required by the new internal border created by the Northern Irish protocol, part of the Brexit deal that aligns the region to the UK customs territory and the EU customs code.

EU

Meanwhile, across the Channel, additional rights will be given to ex-pats says the Telegraph.

British people living in the EU when the Brexit transition period ends will be given additional freedom of movement rights under plans being considered by Brussels.
European Commission officials are mulling plans that will allow British citizens living in an EU country at the end of 2020 deadline to move to and work in another country in the bloc in a similar fashion to EU citizens.
The unilateral offer is expected to come with strings such as a requirement to show five years continuous residence in the EU.

But the bloc is still being profligate with our cash, reports the Express.

EUROCRATS are offering an army of interior designers £541 a day each to help redesign the European Parliament using taxpayers’ cash, Express.co.uk can reveal.
According to documents, the workers will be drafted in to provide “innovative” solutions for future changes to MEPs’ offices in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg. The role involves rearranging furniture for pampered Euro MPs and making the institution’s bland buildings look easy on the eye.

Illegal migrants

Today’s main story is the number of boats full of immigrants crossing to the UK.  ITV News says:

Britain is to call on France to crack down harder on migrants attempting to cross the Channel by boat, including taking them back to French ports rather than shepherding them to the UK.
Immigration Minister Chris Philp will meet French counterparts next week in a push to eventually shut down the Calais-to-Britain route, and will call for migrants caught trying to cross the Channel to be fingerprinted and face “real consequences”.

The Telegraph reports that the French will be told to sort out the problem.

Britain is to demand that the French crackdown on migrants making repeat attempts to cross the Channel intensifies, by forcing migrants to face “real consequences” when caught.
In a meeting next week with his French counterparts, immigration minister Chris Philp will tell the French authorities that every migrant caught trying to cross the Channel should be fingerprinted so they can be deported to the country they first arrived in, or be held in custody for breaking the law.
In an exclusive article for the Telegraph, Mr Philp said: “The French must ensure that migrants who are caught attempting to reach the UK by boat cannot do so again.

The Times claims our own ministers are considering how they can stem the tide of boats.

Ministers are considering blocking migrant boats in the Channel before they can enter British waters in an increasingly desperate effort to stem the rising number of crossings.
The approach, modelled on Australian tactics used against migrants from Indonesia, could involve the Royal Navy and Border Force intercepting vessels as they leave French waters.
“Australia does an operation they call ‘push back’ and it has been successful. It is one option we are looking at,” a Whitehall source said.

Sky News reports that we’ll use ‘maritime assets’ – that’s the Royal Navy to you and me.

A government threat to deploy “maritime assets” to the Channel to deter migrants has been dismissed as “completely potty”.
Sources have told Sky News the government’s response may be scaled up after a record 235 people in 17 boats were intercepted trying to land on the Kent coast on Thursday.
130 people in 13 boats were also intercepted on Friday.
The ‘assets’ involved would reportedly include Royal Navy ships.

Education

Some students are not happy with their allocated exam results, says the Times.

Private schools are taking legal advice ahead of A-level results day as they prepare for a “flood” of appeals from parents.
Education lawyers say they are working with schools which could face demands for blanket appeals over results which have not been decided in the exam room this year because of the pandemic.
Ofqual, the exams regulator, made a key concession  yesterday that will give schools greater scope to challenge results.

And the Mail reports a severe downgrade by the qualifications office.

Nearly 40% of A-level grades given by teachers in England will be downgraded when exam regulator Ofqual publishes students’ results next week.
Up to 300,000 students stand to receive lower grades after exams were cancelled amid the coronavirus  lockdown.
Grades will instead be issued according to Ofqual’s statistical model, which draws on each pupil’s previous exam results and their school’s recent exam history.
Private schools have reportedly hired lawyers, with a ‘flood’ of appeals from angry parents expected.

Gangs

The Times has a worrying story about gang culture in schools.

Staff at a third of secondary schools in England believe that their pupils are involved with gangs, an investigation by The Times has found.
A survey of teachers at nearly 1,300 schools reveals that children as young as eight are being groomed by gangs and exploited by drug dealers, with pupils bringing zombie knives, hammers and knuckle dusters into classrooms.
The analysis, covering schools with about half a million pupils, is believed to be the largest of its kind. It reveals gangs, violence and county lines drug dealing is affecting schools throughout England, not only inner-city areas.

Lockdown

Non-Covid deaths during lockdown have soared, says the Mail.

Lockdown killed two people for every three that died of the coronavirus, shocking new government figures have revealed.
It is thought that as many as 16,000 people died because they didn’t get medical care between March 23 and May 1.
In the same period, 25,000 Britons died of the virus.
The new figures were presented to the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) in the middle of July.

The Telegraph also reports the government’s figures.

The UK lockdown killed two people for every three whose deaths had been caused by coronavirus by the beginning of May, new Government figures suggest.
The estimates show that 16,000 people had died through missed medical care by May 1, while coronavirus killed 25,000 in the same period.
The figures include 6,000 people who did not attend A&E at the height of lockdown because of fears they might catch the virus and the feeling they should remain at home because of the “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” message.

Just how many excess deaths have there been?  The Sun reports:

ALMOST as many have been killed by lockdown as by the virus itself, an official report suggests.
According to figures, for every three Covid-19 dead another two have died because they missed vital medical treatment.
Between March and May there were 25,000 coronavirus deaths.
At the same time 16,000 others also died, including 6,000 too scared to go to A&E.

Quarantine

The rules and regulations over quarantine are confusing, says the Telegraph.

Holidaymakers are being “left in the dark” by a “grossly unfair” lack of transparency on quarantine restrictions, MPs have warned as fears France will be placed on the Government’s red list led some to cancel their trips.
In the latest blow to summer breaks, rising cases in the country have sparked concerns it will be added to the list of destinations requiring holidaymakers to quarantine for 14 days on their return to Britain, following the addition of Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas from Saturday and Spain at the end of last month.

And France is proving a bit of a worry, says Sky News.

The number of people with coronavirus in France has risen at the fastest rate since lockdown ended in the country.
New COVID-19 infections rose by 2,288 on Friday, the third day that the number has gone up significantly – putting the nation at levels not seen since late May.
It comes after Britons preparing to visit France were warned there is “always the risk of disruption to travel plans” amid speculation the country could be next on the UK’s quarantine list due to the spike in  coronavirus cases.
On Thursday, the UK added Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas to its quarantine list, meaning arrivals from those countries after 4am on Saturday will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

The Sun reports the nerves of those planning to travel to France.

NERVOUS holidaymakers with trips booked to France were hit with further bad news as the country saw its biggest increase of Covid-19 cases since lockdown ended.
New infections of the virus rose by 2,288 today, the third day in a row the number has increased significantly – and the worst rise the country has seen since May.
Coronavirus cases increased by 1,604 on Thursday and by 1,695 on Wednesday.

Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas have joined those places from which quarantine is needed says ITV News.

New quarantine measures come into force for those arriving from Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas from today.
Arrivals back in the UK must now self-isolate for two weeks, after the government took the foreign destinations off the safe travel list following a rise in Covid-19 cases in the three countries.
Britons are now advised to avoid all but essential travel to these destinations.

But if you fancy going to Portugal you could be lucky, says the Sun.

BRITS could grab a quarantine free break to Portugal by the end of the summer.
Ministers are happy that cases in the holiday hotspot are now at a safe level.
But a spike in cases in Europe will delay the green-light being given for another two weeks.
Whitehall officials do not want to signal the go-ahead to holidays on the Algarve only to have to swipe them if cases start to rise again.

MPs are unhappy about the confusing advice, says the Mail.

Senior Conservative MPs have slammed the government for their ‘unfair’ lack of clarity over quarantine plans, amid fears that France could be added to the list after a spike in infections.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, and former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith have called for a ‘proper testing regime for air travellers’ to be implemented as quickly as possible, and for regional air corridors to be considered.

Masks

And there are new rules on wearing face coverings says the Mirror.

Face coverings will become compulsory in a range of new settings as new government regulations come into force tomorrow (Saturday).
Masks have been mandatory in shops since July 24 and are required to travel on public transport.
Public Health England do not recommend face coverings for children under the age of three for health and safety reasons.
People in England are required to don a covering on their face in shops, shopping centres, banks, takeaway outlets, post offices, sandwich shops and supermarket.
But that has now been expanded to include cinemas, museums and places of worship.

BBC News lists the places where they are compulsory.

Face coverings have become mandatory in more indoor settings in England and Scotland following a recent spike in coronavirus cases.
Places where coverings must now be worn in both countries include museums, places of worship and aquariums.
Other new settings in England include cinemas and funeral homes, and in Scotland banks and beauty salons.
Coverings will also become compulsory in all public enclosed spaces in Northern Ireland from Monday.

Infection rates

But are more people catching the virus?  The Times wonders.

New coronavirus infections appear to be increasing only slightly in England and may even be levelling off, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics suggests.
The findings imply that despite local spikes, England and Wales are managing to keep a lid on the virus at a national scale as other countries in Europe struggle to prevent a second wave.
The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies released an analysis yesterday estimating that the indirect effects of the lockdown and pandemic would be responsible for more than 80,000 deaths, more than those from Covid-19 itself.

And Guido says numbers are falling.

New ONS data out today has found that last week an estimated 28,300 people in England had COVID-19. This represents 0.05% of the community population. Far from a second wave, it marks a fall from the previous week’s estimate of 0.07%.
Whereas testing data shows a mild uptick, the number of tests being carried out in the UK has also zoomed up, meaning this data could simply be showing a reduction. It’s worth reading this explanation of why cases are not in fact rising, by the director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine Carl Heneghan. The new ONS number seem to support his research…

According to the tests, just five people in 10,000 are testing positive, says City AM.

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus in the community has levelled off in England in the past week, according to new figures.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show an estimated 28,300 people in England had the virus between 27 July to 2 August.
It equates to approximately 0.05 per cent of the population, but does not include the number of cases in hospitals or care homes.
The new figures represent an increase since the end of June, the lowest recorded number of cases, but the ONS said there is evidence to suggest the trend had levelled off.

Deaths

And Breitbart queries whether as many people have died of the virus as have been previously reported.

The official coronavirus death toll in England could be reduced by 10 per cent due to the flawed counting system whereby anyone who has tested positive would have their death attributed to the Chinese virus, even if they died months later of a heart attack.
Coronavirus fatalities for other countries in the nation are counted differently than in England. For example, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, a death is only ruled by cause as coronavirus if it occurs within 28 days of a positive diagnosis. The Public Health England (PHE) bureaucracy, however, has no such period of limitations. That means that, in bureaucratic terms, every one of the 265,000 people who have contracted coronavirus could have their death in the future attributed to the pandemic.

Stamp duty

Away from the virus, there has been a boom in house prices, says the Telegraph.

The stamp duty holiday has caused a “mini-boom” in house prices, estate agents claimed as they urged the Government to consider making the changes permanent.
Since the changes came into force on July 8, the number of offers accepted on properties has jumped.
Knight Frank found that, for properties valued under £1.5 million, the number of deals closed were 146 per cent above the five-year average. Meanwhile, the number of new prospective buyers registering to purchase properties under £1.5 million was 100 per cent higher.

Gatwick

One of the terminals at a major British airport could stay shut for some time, reports the Telegraph.

Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal could remain shut until next summer, bosses warned, as British Airways launched a wave of job cuts.
The country’s second-largest airport this week told staff that one of its two terminals may not reopen for a year and redundancies are likely after hopes of a recovery were crushed by new travel restrictions.
In a live-streamed “town hall” meeting with staff on Monday, chief executive Stewart Wingate said the South Terminal cannot return to full operations until carriers’ schedules are restored, employees said.

TV licences

And it seems ‘Auntie’ is not backing down over the question of licences for the elderly, says the Times.

The BBC stepped up prosecutions for TV licence evasion of people aged over 60 last year, dampening hopes that over-75s will be treated with leniency.
From this month the universal free licence for over-75s has been scrapped, meaning that anyone over 75 who is not entitled to pension credit is required to pay the £157.50 annual levy.

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