Brexit

A couple of minor politicians have insisted they speak for the whole country, says the Express.

ARCH-REMAINERS have launched a shock Brexit plot and have urged Michel Barnier to act to wreck Britain’s exit from the EU.
Both the SNP leader at Westminster Ian Blackford and the acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey have signed a letter to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to support a Brexit delay. They told Mr Barnier there is “significant opposition” to the UK Government’s refusal to consider extending the timetable for talks.
They warned such a move to allow Brexit talks to take place when “the efforts of national governments and the European Union will not be engaged solely with dealing with the dreadful COVID-19 epidemic”.
With the UK having formally quit the European Union, talks are taking place between the UK and EU to determine key areas such as future trading relationships.
But with the transition period due to expire at the end of this year, Remainers fear the UK may be forced into a no-deal scenario, if an agreement cannot be reached.

ITV News also has the story.  Anyone here think the government should extend the transition period?

Europe’s chief Brexit negotiator has been told there is “significant opposition” to the UK Government’s refusal to consider extending the timetable for talks.
Both the SNP leader at Westminster Ian Blackford and the acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey have signed a letter to Michel Barnier, supporting an extension to the transition period.
Such a move would allow talks to place when “the efforts of national governments and the European Union will not be engaged solely with dealing with the dreadful Covid-19 epidemic”, they said.

Despite the letter from the Remainers, a poll says they’re wrong, reports the Telegraph.

Almost half of Britons believe extending the transition period would lead to further delays, according to a poll, as Downing Street warned that Michel Barnier’s mandate was “totally unnegotiable” on the issues that stalled post-Brexit trade talks last week.
A survey published by a new pro-Brexit think tank suggests the public believes extending the transition period beyond December 31 would be likely to leave the UK locked into the EU’s orbit for the foreseeable future.  The poll is contained in a report by the Centre for Brexit Policy which claims that opting for an extension within the coming months could cost up to £378 billion.
With talks between the UK and the EU over the future trade agreement now at an impasse, Boris Johnson has faced calls to extend the transition period before the July deadline to do so, in order to focus on the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Downing Street has ruled out an extension, instead suggesting the UK could simply leave the EU’s customs union and single market without a comprehensive trade deal in place.

The government is still preparing for no deal, says the Times.

Britain has increased planning for a no-deal Brexit as senior government figures said the UK was preparing to “walk away” from trade talks with Brussels in the next month unless the EU gives ground.
The government’s XO (exit operations) no-deal planning committee, chaired by Michael Gove, met twice in one week at the start of May and senior officials say it will now sit regularly to prepare for the prospect that no trade deal is struck.
In a clear signal of intent, civil servants who had been moved to deal with the coronavirus crisis have been sent back to work full-time on no-deal preparations.

And an ex-governor of the Bank of England thinks it will all end in tears, says the Express.

NO DEAL Brexit is becoming more likely as the UK and EU have reached an impasse which a former governor for the Bank of England doesn’t believe will be reconciled.
No deal Brexit could be reached in just six weeks in the next phase of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU  after negotiations ended badly this week. The bloc is fighting for the UK to continue following their rules and regulations which doesn’t make sense to Lord Mervyn King. He explained people voted to leave the EU to stop following their regulations as he went on to note that there isn’t an easy wait out of these negotiations.
Speaking to LBC, Lord Mervyn said: “One of the reasons for leaving the EU would be that the UK would then decide it’s own regulations that would apply to our economy.

Vaccine

Production of a vaccine is accelerating, reports the Independent.

The government is to spend almost £100m to accelerate the construction of a vaccine manufacturing centre which could produce doses for the whole UK within six months, once an effective inoculation for coronavirus is found.
The centre is already under construction at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, but the injection of up to £93m additional cash should bring its opening date forward by 12 months to next summer, said business secretary Alok Sharma.
Mr Sharma also announced a £38m investment in a rapid deployment facility to be prepared to begin manufacturing at scale this summer, to support efforts to make any Covid-19 vaccine available to the public as soon as possible. The cash brings the total public and private sector funding for the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre  (VMIC) to £207m.

The government is to set up a centre to produce it, reports ITV News.

The Government is to invest £93 million to bring forward the opening of a new vaccine-manufacturing centre ready to begin production if a coronavirus vaccine is found.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) said the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) will now open in summer 2021 – 12 months earlier than planned.
The not-for-profit facility – located on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxford – will have the capacity to produce enough doses for the entire UK population in as little as six months.

Millions of doses will be made, says the Sun.

A MULTI-MILLION pound investment will help in the race to manufacture millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
Construction of a new dedicated centre is 12 months ahead of schedule and will have the ability to produce enough vaccines for the entire population in just six months.
The new Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre based in Oxfordshire to open next year will also help increase the long-term capacity against any future viruses.
It will also help produce jabs for existing illnesses including the flu virus. A temporary facility will receive £38 million to begin manufacturing from this summer.

But will it be needed?  The Telegraph reports:

Coronavirus could “burn out naturally” so a vaccine is no longer needed, a former World Health Organisation director has claimed, as the Government announces it is dedicating more than £90m to a dedicated inoculation development centre.
Professor Karol Sikora, an oncologist and chief medical officer at Rutherford Health, said it is likely the British public has more immunity than previously thought and Covid-19 could end up “petering out by itself”.
“There is a real chance that the virus will burn out naturally before any vaccine is developed,” he wrote on his social media profile yesterday.

Treatment

Perhaps drugs that we already use could help, says the Telegraph.

Blood-thinning drugs can help save Covid-19 patients’ lives, leading British doctors have found, raising hopes of a major breakthrough in the race to find a treatment for the deadly virus.
London specialists made the breakthrough after discovering coronavirus triggered potentially deadly blood clots in every seriously ill patient they tested using pioneering scanning technology.
The Telegraph understands that NHS England is set to issue hospitals with fresh guidance on blood thinning, which is likely to eventually lead to carefully administered higher doses for the critically ill.

Testing

The Guardian reports a call for a testing strategy.

The government needs a clear strategy on testing to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections, doctors have said.
The Royal College of GPs said it was not confident in the government’s current testing strategy and accusing ministers of an “arbitrary focus on numbers” and targets.
In a letter to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, the RCGP chair, Prof Martin Marshall, also raised concerns about the accuracy and timing of test results.
He acknowledged that improvements have been made, but said a clear and comprehensive plan was needed to stop a second wave of cases.

Lockdown

An exclusive report in the Sun says the PM wants to get back to normal asap.

BORIS Johnson has told his troops he wants a fast-track return to “near- normality” in July.
But he warned hitting the target depends on the public sticking to lockdown rules.
He insisted easing of restrictions will come in “grandmother steps” — and he will not hesitate to slam on the brakes if the infection rate starts to rise.
In a video call with 100 backbench Tory MPs, the PM confirmed full Commons sittings would resume on June 2.
An MP in on the call said: “Boris told us he is determined that the country should be as close to normality again before the end of July.
“But he was clear that is all depends on the country meeting the conditions that have been set for tackling the virus.

The Mail also has a mole listening to the video call.

Boris Johnson has told Tory MPs he wants to return to ‘near-normality’ in July as he hails British ‘good sense’ over the lockdown and announces £93million to bring forward the opening of a research centre to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine.
Speaking to 100 of his colleagues via video link, the Prime Minister said he would take ‘grandmother steps’ to ease the rules, but only if Britons comply with the current lockdown measures. He also confirmed that Commons discussions will resume on June 2.

But was lockdown necessary? The Telegraph queries it.

The Covid-19 modelling that sent Britain into lockdown, shutting the economy and leaving millions unemployed, has been slammed by a series of experts.
Professor Neil Ferguson’s computer coding was derided as “totally unreliable” by leading figures, who warned it was “something you wouldn’t stake your life on”.
The model, credited with forcing the Government to make a U-turn and introduce a nationwide lockdown, is a “buggy mess that looks more like a bowl of angel hair pasta than a finely tuned piece of programming”, says David Richards, co-founder of British data technology company WANdisco.
“In our commercial reality, we would fire anyone for developing code like this and any business that relied on it to produce software for sale would likely go bust.”
The comments are likely to reignite a row over whether the UK was right to send the public into lockdown, with conflicting scientific models having suggested people may have already acquired substantial herd immunity and that Covid-19 may have hit Britain earlier than first thought.

Councils

The Guardian reports that council leaders are revolting.

Boris Johnson was hit by a growing revolt over his strategy for easing the Covid-19 lockdown last night as council leaders across the north of England joined unions in vowing to resist plans to reopen schools on 1 June.
Signs of disunity spread as a new opinion poll for the Observer showed approval ratings for the government over its handling of the crisis had plummeted since the prime minister dropped the “stay at home” message and eased restrictions a week ago.

The Times says some councils could go bankrupt.

Councils are facing an “existential crisis” as many local authorities consider declaring themselves bankrupt because of the toll that coronavirus is taking on their balance sheets, with a black hole estimated at £10bn.
Many authorities are openly discussing the prospect of issuing a 114 notice, effectively signalling their bankruptcy, as they reel from the financial impact of Covid-19. Among the councils thought to be the worst hit are those in the Yorkshire and Humber region. They have discussed making a joint declaration that they have run out of money after running up additional bills of more than £600m.

Schools

The Times queries the government’s decision to reopen schools next month.

Five former education secretaries have piled the pressure on primary schools in England to reopen as a leading teaching union breaks ranks and advises head teachers to allow children to return.
The government’s push to reopen primary schools for children in reception and Years 1 and 6 has met resistance from teaching unions.
However, the head teachers’ union ASCL, said yesterday it would be advising heads to plan to reopen schools from June 1 after meeting the government’s chief medical officer and chief scientific officer on Friday.
The National Association of Head Teachers also suggested it would back reopening primaries if it was given the government’s full scientific advice.

… even if they’re tested, says the Guardian.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson announced schoolchildren and their families would be tested for coronavirus if they develop symptoms, as he struck a conciliatory tone on Saturday in a bid to reassure parents and appease unions.
With some children set to go back to school at on 1 June under proposals announced last week, relations between teaching unions and the government have become fraught in recent days. On Friday the British Medical Association threw its weight behind unions which oppose the government’s push to reopen schools in England, after the infection rate in the UK rose, potentially close to the point at which the virus starts spreading again.

And ITV News says the schools minister won’t budge.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stands firm on schools in England reopening on June 1 as it is based on the “best scientific advice”.
Mr Williamson sought to reassure parents worried about children returning to school that the Government’s proposals are based on the “best scientific advice with children at the very heart of everything we do”.
His comments come as teaching unions and ministers have been told to “stop squabbling” and work together to help reopen schools in England.
Mr Williamson also apologised to students and thanked them for their “sacrifices” during the coronavirus pandemic.

If pupils think they’re going to get a long summer holiday as usual, the Sun reveals the government’s secret plans.

SCHOOLS will open in the summer holidays under secret government plans.
Pupils are to be invited to attend summer camps to help stop them falling behind.
The urgent plans emerged following Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s row with teaching unions holding up a return to the classroom.
The aim is to assist kids who teachers feel have lost out by not attending class since late March due to Covid-19.

China

Several of the media query whether the virus originated where it has been reported.  The Mail says:

China’s claims that the pandemic emerged from a wild animal market in Wuhan last December have been challenged by a landmark scientific study.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that analysis of the coronavirus by specialist biologists suggests that all available data shows it was taken into the market by someone already carrying the disease.
They also say they were ‘surprised’ to find the virus was ‘already pre-adapted to human transmission’, contrasting it to another coronavirus that evolved rapidly as it spread around the planet in a previous epidemic.

HS2

In non-Covid news, the Telegraph reports on the high speed train line.

High Speed 2 is “badly off course” and it is unclear that the firm building the £100 billion rail line has the necessary “skills and capability”, according to a damning report by the Parliament’s most influential committee.
The Public Accounts Committee accuses the Department for Transport (DfT)  of withholding information about HS2’s spiralling costs, as its members said they were “unconvinced” that the budget would not rise further.
In a highly critical report, MPs on the committee suggest that Bernadette Kelly, the department’s most senior official, may have broken the civil service code, after her “failure to explicitly inform the committee of the programme’s delays and overspend”, when questioned about the project in Parliament.

The Mail blames a civil servant.

A damning report on the troubled HS2 high-speed rail programme has accused the government and the company running the project of hiding massive cost and time overruns from parliament and taxpayers.
The report by an influential Commons spending watchdog found the programme has gone “badly off course” and said the Department for Transport  and HS2 Ltd had been “blindsided by contact with reality” as the bill almost doubled to £100bn in today’s prices.
The DfT’s top mandarin, permanent secretary Bernadette Kelly, may have breached the civil service code and the rules of parliamentary privilege by failing to inform MPs on the Public Accounts Committee of the project’s woes, it said.

And BBC News says project leaders have been ‘blindsided’.

Leaders of the HS2 rail project have been “blindsided by contact with reality”, a report by MPs has found.
The Public Accounts Committee accused HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport (DfT) of lacking transparency and undermining public confidence.
The committee’s report said HS2 was “badly off course” and urged the government to regularly update Parliament with “accurate” information.
The DfT said the project has been “comprehensively reset”.
Among its conclusions, the cross-party committee questioned evidence given by DfT permanent secretary Bernadette Kelly and HS2 Ltd executives Mark Thurston and Michael Bradley.

Cricket

Tentative sports negotiations have started, says the Telegraph.

Scotland and Ireland have submitted declarations of interest to the ICC about hosting global events – including World Cups – in the 2023-31 international calendar, Telegraph Sport can reveal.
“We have put our name in the hat for that,” said Gus MacKay, the chief executive of Cricket Scotland. “We have declared an expression of interest to host future ICC events in that cycle.”
Cricket Ireland have also submitted a bid to co-host a global event. “We have submitted an expression of interest to the ICC for co-hosting in the next cycle,” said Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland. If Ireland were to co-host an event, they would be expected to share matches with either Scotland or England.
There are currently planned to be a total of 28 ICC events in the 2023-31 cycle, across the men’s and women’s game and Under-19 level, although the exact number is still being debated. These include one-day international and Twenty20 World Cups at male and female level, and the Under-19 World Cup.

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