Brexit

Boris is talking up Brexit, says the Express.

BRITAIN will become a “global trailblazer” after we finally leave the European Union on Friday, says Boris Johnson.
Boris Johnson wants the country to become “Great again”, heal its past divisions and “look ahead with confidence” to life as an independent nation after Brexit. It came as the US treasury secretary confirmed that America will “dedicate a lot of resources” to securing a trade deal between the two countries, vowing that, after Brexit, Britain would be “top of the list”. The Prime Minister is now focusing on reaching out to the world beyond Europe with the relaunch of the “Great” ready-to-trade campaign which is designed to “unleash the UK’s potential”.
In a sign that relying on the European Union is firmly in the past, advertising will centre on 13 non-EU countries. Rolling out on February 1, there will be a digital marketing strategy aimed at priority markets in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China (including Hong Kong), India, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UAE and the USA.
It follows revelations that talks on an EU trade deal will not be prioritised and that parallel discussions for lucrative trade deals will happen with the USA, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

But Huffington Post reports that he will be forced to break a promise.

Boris Johnson has been warned he must break his promise not to impose trade checks in the Irish Sea after Brexit or face legal action from the EU.
The prime minister was warned by a senior aide to Brussels chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier that the EU “will not tolerate any backsliding or half measures”.
Johnson has repeatedly claimed there will be no checks on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a result of his Brexit deal, insisting on Wednesday that the province would “emphatically” still have “unfettered” access to the rest of the UK after Brexit.
But Barnier’s adviser, Stefaan De Rynck, stressed that the Brexit deal negotiated by the PM includes a commitment from the UK to impose “checks” on goods, including food and agri-food, heading to Northern Ireland to ensure they comply with EU customs and single market rules.
He made clear that Johnson must implement what he agreed, including checks, by the end of the year or face enforcement action under the terms of the deal.

Trade

Post-Brexit trade with both the EU and the US is covered in the Independent.

The US has warned Boris Johnson that his hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal rest on first making progress in the already-troubled negotiations with the EU.
Speaking in London, Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, insisted he was “optimistic” that the agreement most prized by Brexiteers can be struck by the end of the year.
But he also made clear there were “certain issues” the UK would “need to resolve with the EU”, before Washington could sign up its own deal designed to boost transatlantic trade.
Mr Mnuchin – who clashed with Sajid Javid, the chancellor, in Davos over the UK’s planned digital services tax – also insisted Donald Trump’s administration would not back down in that row.
The two countries are on a collision course after Mr Javid vowed to press ahead with the 2 per cent levy on GoogleFacebook and other tech giants, despite the threat of retaliatory US taxes on UK car exports.

And yet iNews is more positive about a trade deal.

Donald Trump’s treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin has talked up the prospect of inking a post-Brexit trade deal this year, despite a growing row over the UK’s plans to tax tech giants.
Speaking on Saturday after a meeting at 11 Downing Street with Chancellor Sajid Javid, Mr Mnuchin said that the US government would dedicate “a lot of resources” to inking a trade deal with the UK in 2020, before the end of the Brexit transition period.
The US treasury secretary told an audience at Chatham House in London: “I’m quite optimistic.”

Bercow

More allegations have been made against the former speaker, says the Times.

John Bercow’s chances of a peerage have suffered a new setback after a former Black Rod, one of the most senior officials in the Houses of Parliament, submitted a complaint about his bullying behaviour.
Lieutenant General David Leakey, who was Black Rod for seven years during Bercow’s time as Speaker, has sent a dossier to the parliamentary commissioner for standards detailing his “bullying, intimidation and unacceptable behaviour”.
It describes how Bercow allegedly subjected Leakey to abuse about his education, army career and social background — and accused Leakey of being an anti-semite in an angry rage when he banged his fists on the table.

The Guardian also reports the allegations.

John Bercow’s prospects of being elevated to the House of Lords were further undermined last night after a retired senior parliamentary official claimed he would be submitting a formal complaint detailing allegations of bullying against the controversial former Speaker.
David Leakey, a former parliamentary Black Rod, will accuse the former Commons Speaker of “intolerable rudeness and explosive behaviour” in a report to be passed to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, it was reported.
Lt Gen Leakey said he was “reluctantly” filing his own formal complaint “detailing allegations of bullying, intimidation and unacceptable behaviour” by the former Buckingham MP.

The Sun says the allegations will strengthen the case for preventing a peerage.

A DOSSIER outlining alleged bullying by John Bercow is to be lodged to help stop his peerage, we can reveal.
A top Commons clerk is compiling a first-hand account of the ex-Speaker’s supposed behaviour.
It will centre on Mr Bercow’s alleged treatment of Angus Sinclair, his former private secretary, and Kate Emms.
Mr Sinclair, given “compulsory early retirement”, has already broken a non-disclosure agreement to claim he faced outbursts and foul language.
He said Mr Bercow, who stepped down in October, was prone to “over-the-top anger”.
Friends of former aide Kate Emms say she was shouted at and undermined.
A source said: “First-hand knowledge of how these two were treated will be put down in writing and sent to the relevant authority. Three complaints are ready to go in.”

The ex-speaker has been exposed in the Express as a liar.

JOHN Bercow is a “bully” and a “liar” who “brutalised” staff, the former Black Rod in the House of Commons has claimed, adding others were considering lodging complaints against the ex-Speaker.
David Leakey hit out just days after Lord Lisvane, the former clerk of the House of Commons, submitted complaints of bullying against Mr Bercow to the Parliamentary Standards Authority. Speaking yesterday, Mr Leakey said: “I’m aware that two other people are considering putting forward complaints. “I appeal to anybody who has been subject to bullying  to bring forward their complaints.
“In my case, he’s denied bullying me.
“In my own experience, I would call him a liar. It’s simply not true. And I’m sure there are plenty of witnesses to that as well.

Virus

Many of the media are full of the problems surrounding the sickness in China.  The Mail reports a lot more infections than the Chinese will admit.

A nurse wearing a protective suit and face mask treating the sick in Wuhan has claimed that 90,000 people have already been infected by the coronavirus in China – far more than the figure of just 1,975 issued by government officials.
Her warning from the heart of the outbreak emerged as the Chinese government faced accusations of censoring criticism of its handling of the disease in order to play down the crisis.
The outbreak of the new virus originated in China, where it has infected more than 1,970 people and killed 56, and has spread worldwide.
Speaking in video footage seen online, the unnamed woman says: ‘I’m in the area where the coronavirus started. I’m here to tell the truth. At this moment, Hubei province, including Wuhan area, even China, 90,000 people have been infected by coronavirus.’

The country’s president has warned that the situation is ‘grave’ in the Sun.

CHINA’S president has warned of a “grave situation” as he said the killer coronavirus was “accelerating its speed”.
Xi Jinping held a special government meeting today to discuss the spread of virus that has killed 54 people and infected more than 1,600 globally.
Resources and experts will be placed at designated hospitals to tackle the virus and supplies to the Hubei province, where the virus originated, will be guaranteed and cost won’t be a hindrance, according to the TV report.
The government has sent 450 military medical staff, including those who have experience in fighting against SARS or Ebola, according to People’s Daily.

ITV News also reports the words of the Chinese president.

The Chinese president has described the accelerating spread of coronavirus as a “grave situation”, after holding a government meeting on the Lunar New Year holiday.
Xi Jinping’s warning comes as more people have been inflected, more deaths reported and more cases confirmed around the world.
An unprecedented national lockdown has been rolled out to more than 50 million residents across several cities, as authorities try to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 40 people.
All 41 deaths have been in China, including 39 in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, and one each in Hebei and Heilongjiang provinces.

The Telegraph reports the advice of an evacuation.

British citizens were last night advised to leave Hubei Province after the chief medical officer issued new advice recommending vulnerable people should immediately evacuate the area at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Chinese city of Wuhan has effectively been sealed off as authorities struggle to contain the spread of the deadly virus, leaving potentially hundreds of British residents at risk.
The Foreign Office said on Saturday night: “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Hubei Province. If you are in this area and able to leave, you should do so. This is due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.”

Reuters also reports the evacuation advice.

Britain said on Saturday it was advising against all travel to Hubei province in China due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
In new travel advice, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office told people to leave Hubei province. The city of Wuhan in Hubei is at the centre of the outbreak of coronavirus.
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Hubei Province. If you are in this area and able to leave, you should do so. This is due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak,” the UK government said on its website.

And it’s all getting worse, says the Mail.

The deadly coronavirus is ‘accelerating’ and China is facing a ‘grave situation’, the country’s president has said – as at least one doctor has died from the virus and the US prepares to evacuate citizens from crisis-hit Wuhan.
The virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan, already on lockdown and where the virus is thought to have originated, banned most vehicle use downtown and Hong Kong said it would close schools for two weeks as authorities scramble to stop the spread of an illness that has infected just over 2,000 people worldwide and killed 56 in China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke following an emergency government meeting to warn that the spread of the killer virus is worsening, as video emerged showing medics collapsing at hospitals in the capital of central China’s Hubei province as the coronavirus outbreak continues to move across the world.

The Telegraph has a personal story of a potential victim.

The corpse of Chen Min was wrapped in a yellow body bag with tape when it was delivered to the funeral home by workers in hazmat suits. The staff disinfected the van they travelled in and disposed of protective gear.
Despite being pressured into a quick cremation by authorities, the grieving family did not know if the 65-year-old had died from the novel coronavirus sweeping China. And they still don’t.
Official figures estimate that 41 people have died so far and 1,300 have been infected. But experts at Imperial College reckon as many as 9,700 could have come down the disease.
The swift disposal of Ms Chen’s body raises further questions about the scale of the problem.
Ms Chen’s fever and cough had set in only ten days before. Visits to three hospitals in Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak that by then had killed at least one person and spread overseas – all ended the same way, diagnosed with a cold and sent home with basic medicine.

Back home, medical staff are on alert, reports the Times.

NHS staff on high alert over a lethal new virus have been issued with instructions on handling bodies and told that victims may pose a “minor risk” even after they die.
The guidance is in an 11-page dossier that was prepared for hospitals by Public Health England (PHE). It emerged as China warned that the spread of the virus was “accelerating” and the UK was poised to evacuate about 200 citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the centre of the illness.
GPs in the UK have been ordered to avoid examining suspected victims and told to keep them in closed rooms.

EU

The bloc has financial problems, reports the Express.

BRUSSELS chief Charles Michel has penned a desperate letter to a divided EU pleading to end the “most difficult negotiations we’ve ever done” over the long-standing issue of the bloc’s haemorrhaging budget.
On Friday evening the Belgian leader called an emergency meeting between fellow leaders of member states to decide on the bloc’s budget for the next seven years. The extremely divisive issue has split the 27 countries due to ardent bickering over nations’ priorities and if course, Brexit. He said in the letter: “The time has come to reach an agreement at our level on the Multiannual Financial Framework.”
This is a reference to the 2021-2027 joint budget.

Social care

Cash could flow back from the north into the south, says the Times.

A review of how councils are funded could redirect hundreds of millions of pounds from Boris Johnson’s new “red wall” seats to Tory-voting southern shires, according to research.
The proposed reform of the local authority funding formula may see £320m a year in adult social care funding being cut from councils in England’s most deprived areas while Conservative-controlled shire councils, mainly in southeast England, would gain £300m.
Those who stand to lose out under the plans include Workington and Tony Blair’s old seat of Sedgefield, Stoke-on-Trent, Redcar, West Bromwich, Bishop Auckland, Grimsby and Leigh, researchers warn.

HS2

Will it go ahead or will it be scrapped?  The Telegraph reports:

The government-owned firm behind HS2 was last night accused of attempting to “con” Boris Johnson into giving the scheme the green light as former staff members issued a series of explosive allegations about costs being covered up.
The Telegraph can disclose that HS2 Ltd has been “revising” agreements with companies carrying out the main construction works on the line so that future cost increases will be borne by the firm, which is funded by taxpayers’ money, rather than private contractors.
The disclosure comes after damning witness statements by former senior figures at HS2 were passed to the Prime Minister’s advisers in recent days.
The signed statements allege multiple cover-ups of spiralling costs at the firm, which is owned by the Department for Transport.

It’s going to cost, one way or the other, says the Independent.

Scrapping the HS2 rail project will cost at least £12 billion in write-offs and compensation and plunge major construction companies into financial peril, ministers are being warned.
Sources close to the beleaguered scheme told the Observer that extra costs of £3bn-£4bn would be incurred even if it were scrapped immediately. £9bn has been spent already. With the issue causing tension inside the Conservative party, Whitehall insiders said that Boris Johnson could decide on the fate of the project as soon as this week as concerns grow that costs are spiralling out of control. Billions have already been spent on the first leg of the line linking Birmingham and London.

And a meeting this week could make a decision, reports the Express.

A CRUNCH meeting between Boris Johnson and a group of Tory backbenchers this week could decide the fate of High Speed Rail 2.
The meeting is due to take place on Wednesday in Downing Street with Whitehall sources suggesting that the Prime Minister could announce whether he is pulling the plug on the £100 billion project or going ahead with it later this week. A senior Whitehall source said: “A decision is possible this week but it very much depends on the outcome of a meeting the Prime Minister is holding.” There is growing pressure for Mr Johnson to ditch the project which will not have any benefits until 2040 and has already doubled in price to more than £100 billion.

The Times criticises a plan for platforms in Manchester.

The HS2 plan for Manchester has been described as “utterly baffling” after a report revealed how current train platform designs, which cost £570m, are facing the wrong way for passengers travelling to Leeds.
A report commissioned by Manchester city council shows that passengers arriving at Manchester airport who want to travel through the city to get to Leeds will find the platforms face westwards towards Liverpool, says the report.
The original platform designs were created with only HS2 in mind. But plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), the east-west railway line connecting the northern cities, which has been promised by Boris Johnson, were “bolted on” to the existing design.

Locusts

Another plague, this time of locusts, is hitting Africa, says the Telegraph.

The locusts are coming thick and fast as the low-flying aircraft punches through the swarm, leaving khaki-coloured streaks smeared across the plane’s windscreen and obstructing the view outside.
But the pilot – despite travelling at 100 miles per hour – is unfazed. He simply winds down the window of the unpressurised cockpit, reaches his arm outside and wipes away what’s left of the insects with a damp cloth.
This is life on the frontline for locust hunters, as they battle to contain the worst plague to hit the Horn of Africa for some seven decades – on Monday, the United Nations will convene a conference in Rome with the aim of mobilising $70 million (£53 million) to help respond to the crisis.

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