Brexit

So, we’ve got a deal.  But how good is it?  And will it endure?  The Express says it might not.

BORIS JOHNSON has warned the EU he will rip up the Brexit trade agreement if Brussels attempts to “regularly” launch retaliatory action against Britain over trade disputes.
On Christmas Eve the UK and EU announced they had reached a new trade deal to replace the Brexit transition period, which comes to an end at the close of this year. Parliament will be recalled to vote on the agreement on December 30.
Mr Johnson said the arrangement, projected to be worth £668bn a year, will “enable UK goods to be sold without tariffs, without quotas in the EU market.”
However the Prime Minister also warned Brussels not to overplay its hand by “regularly” targeting British goods with tariffs should trade disputes emerge.

Boris is upbeat, says the Telegraph.

Boris Johnson has vowed to break free from EU rules and regulations in the new year as he declares it is “up to us now to seize the opportunities” of Brexit.
The Prime Minister told The Telegraph that “big” changes are coming as he seeks to use the country’s new “legislative and regulatory freedoms to deliver for people who felt left behind”.

But it’s not over yet, claims the Independent.

Many key aspects of the UK’s future relationship with the EU are still up in the air, experts have warned, despite Downing Street hailing its Brexit deal as a “moment of national renewal”.
The 1,255-page document – published on Saturday – left numerous questions unanswered about professional qualifications, asylum rights, financial services and other issues, they said.
The text also contains no fewer than 244 references to “arbitration tribunals” and a further 170 to a “partnership council” – the bodies that will decide the details and settle future disputes, hinting at further negotiations.

And City AM quotes the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Michael Gove has said that free ports, business-friendly regulation and ‘smart’ interventions to support entrepreneurs are the benefits of leaving the European Union.
Writing today, the Cabinet Office minister also says that businesses have the “certainty and the ability to plan for growth and investment.”
The UK’s post-Brexit trade deal was struck on Christmas Eve, a week before the UK leaves the single market and the customs union.
It will be ratified in a vote in Westminster on December 30.

‘Star Chamber’

But the trade agreement will be scrutinised very carefully, says the Express.

WITH the European Research Group (ERG) going through Boris Johnson’s trade deal with a fine-toothed comb, the Prime Minister could still face resistance from within his own party if eurosceptics do not like what they find, a think tank boss has warned.
And Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute for Economic Affairs, said it was absolutely essential to be sure the mechanism for resolving disputes related to the level playing field was not tilted in Brussels’ favour.
The ERG has reconvened its Star Chamber, which includes ERG deputy chairman David Jones MP, Sir Bill Cash MP, and Martin Howe QC, to consider the agreement line by line.

Will MPs back Boris?  The Telegraph says maybe.

Senior Tory Brexiteers have signalled they could back Boris Johnson’s trade deal as they hailed the removal of the European Court of Justice from the UK’s affairs as a significant victory.
In a boost for the Prime Minister, several of his party’s most hardline Eurosceptics told The Telegraph on Saturday night that they were encouraged on first glance of the deal.
One said the removal of the ECJ and EU law appeared to deliver on the promises of Vote Leave in 2016 to take back control of the UK’s laws, describing it as “huge”.

The Times also says he’ll get the deal through Parliament.

Brexit hardliners are preparing to support Boris Johnson’s Christmas Eve trade deal with Brussels in large numbers — but accused the prime minister of showing “contempt” for parliament by confining discussion of it to one day.
MPs will vote on the deal on Wednesday. But members of the European Research Group of Brexiteers demanded that a binding vote be delayed for three weeks to allow full scrutiny of a treaty that will define relations for decades.
The ERG’s “star chamber” of experts will declare by Tuesday whether it backs the deal. One leading light said members had not yet found any “absolute horrors”.

It’s a ‘pretty good deal’, reports the Express.

BREXITEER Tory MPs were last night edging towards giving Boris Johnson backing for “a pretty good deal” which has defied the claims of the European Union and their Remainer allies.
After the Government published the 1,246 page document yesterday morning, the so-called Star Chamber of lawyers advising the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs started pouring over details to advise whether it could be backed or not. Among the lawyers were eminent QC Martin Howe, the chairman of Lawyers for Britain; veteran Tory Brexiteer MP Sir Bill Cash and former Brexit minister David Jones.

A decision on the deal from the ERG is expected tomorrow, reports the Mail.

They are the Tories’ Praetorian Guard on Brexit and even at this late hour, they are not relaxing their relentless watch.
The powerful European Research Group of backbench Tory MPs is expected to deliver its verdict on Boris Johnson‘s deal on Tuesday – just 24 hours before the crucial Commons debate.
ERG chairman Mark Francois is keeping the PM waiting by insisting that first the MPs must carry out a forensic, line-by-line study of the deal – led by arch-Brexiteer and veteran MP Bill Cash.

The Bill is expected to go through Parliament on Wednesday, says the Guardian.

Senior Conservative MPs late on Saturday expressed alarm at plans to rush the historic UK-EU trade deal through parliament in just one day, as fishermen’s leaders accused Boris Johnson of “caving in” at the 11th hour to clinch agreement on Christmas Eve.
And there were growing fears among senior Tories, who will spend the next three days poring over the 2,000-page agreement published on Saturday, that details in the fine print could still allow the EU to impose punitive tariffs on British exports if businesses fail to follow European rules.

Remainer campaign

They haven’t given up yet, says the Express.

A CAMPAIGN to vote down the UK’s hard-fought Brexit trade deal with the European Union has erupted.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have secured an historic trade agreement with the EU just days before the end of the transition period, but Remainers have already threatened to vote down the agreement.
Labour peer Andrew Adonis revealed he will be voting against the deal as it is the “worst Trade Reduction Treaty in British history”.
He tweeted: “Having read the deal in its entirety, I’m voting against it as the worst Trade Reduction Treaty in British history.
“It will have the most chilling effect on trade with Europe – half our trade – outside of wartime.
“The right Brexit was to stay in the Customs Union and Single Market.”

Fisheries

We haven’t got 100 percent of our fish back – yet – and that has peeved the country’s fishermen, says the Express.

FISHING chiefs have claimed the Brexit trade deal breaks the promises made to them by Boris Johnson and other Leave MPs, as pressure mounts on MPs to pass the deal before the transition period ends on December 31.
The Prime Minister announced on Christmas Eve a trade deal had been agreed between the UK and EU, with the draft text featuring more than 2,000 pages. But fishing industry leaders have voiced anger over the proposed trade agreement, accusing Mr Johnson of “caving in” at the last minute to secure a deal.

Scotland

The First Minister is planning to rejoin the EU reports the Express.

THE SNP’s plans to have Scotland apply for European Union membership after gaining independence have been thrashed as Nicola Sturgeon was accusing of planning to let EU vessels “pillage” Scottish waters.
The SNP has already pledged to run on an independence-oriented manifesto at the Scottish Election scheduled to take place next year. Nicola Sturgeon has long maintained Scotland would suffer huge economic consequences in the aftermath of Brexit and the best plan would be to rejoin the European Union after breaking up with the UK. But Conservative commentator Patrick Christys claimed the SNP’s argument for independence was “the biggest hypocrisy” when it came to the future of the local fishing communities.

And she’s ‘furious’ with Boris reports the Sun.

FURIOUS Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at Boris Johnson for “forcing” Scotland in the “wrong direction”.
The Scottish First Minister claimed it was “extraordinary” the PM had decided to “inflict a hard Brexit” on the UK during the COVID pandemic.
She says that the agreement struck by Mr Johnson with Brussels could cost the country £9 billion by 2030.
Scotland voted to stay in the EU when the referendum was held in 2016.
She said the departure was “against the wishes of most people in Scotland” adding it would “hit jobs and living standards at the worst possible time”.
Ms Sturgeon claimed if Scotland were to re-join the bloc it could act as a “bridge-builder between the UK and the EU”.

Covid

It hasn’t gone away yet, says the Evening Standard.

The UK  recorded 210 more Covid-19 deaths on Saturday.
This is down from 570 the day before while cases rose 1,968 to 34,693, the government said, citing partial data.
The latest R number is estimated at 1.1 to 1.3, the government said.
The UK has recorded a death toll of 70,405, defined as those dying within 28 days of a positive test.
Under that measure, it has the world’s sixth largest toll, after the United States, Brazil, India, Mexico and India.
A broader measure of those dying with Covid-19 on their death certificates puts the United Kingdom’s death toll at 79,349.

Lockdown

But there is light at the end of the tunnel, reports the Sun.

THE UK could be free of lockdowns by February – after Government officials drew up a list of 15million vulnerable Brits who need the vaccine first.
It comes amid news that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab could get the green light for use as early as Monday – with roll-out beginning in just a week.
It comes as:
Scientists say all of England must go into a Tier 4 lockdown immediately
Education chiefs face an ‘enormous battle’ to keep secondary schools open in the face of a new strain of Covid.

The Mail agrees.

Britain could be free of tight Covid restrictions by the end of February, after Ministers pinpointed the 15 million people who would need vaccinations to end the cycles of crippling lockdowns.
With the ‘game-changing’ Oxford jab expected to be approved within days, the Government hopes that enough doses will soon be available to inoculate those most vulnerable to coronavirus within weeks.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told The Sun that approval would likely be granted on Monday, with plans to roll out jabs to the entire country starting January 4, according to The Telegraph.

But there might be even more lockdowns, claims the Express.

TIER FOUR restrictions have been recommended for the whole of Britain to stop the spread of the new strain of coronavirus, as the UK recorded its highest ever cases during Christmas.
Dr Zubaida Haque, part of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for England (ISAGE), has said the whole of England “must be put into Tier Four immediately” as the mutated strain of COVID-19 spreads across the country. The medical professional took to Twitter to urge the Government to implement the toughest restrictions “now to save lives”, as the UK passes 70,000 total deaths from coronavirus.

The Mail also has the story.

Scientists have warned that the whole of England should be put into Tier 4 immediately to stop the spread of the new mutant coronavirus strain that was first detected in Kent.
SAGE have said thousands more people will now be infected in the new year, with one of their experts Dr Zubaida Haque today questioning why the government haven’t placed the whole country under the toughest restrictions to save lives.
She tweeted: ‘Given that we surpassed 70,000 #COVID19 deaths in UK on Christmas Day, and there are now more patients with coronavirus in hospital than at any point in the pandemic, why hasn’t the government implemented #tier4 restrictions everywhere in the UK? @IndependentSage are very worried.

The independent group has called for the stringent lockdown, reports the Sun.

TOP scientists are warning that the whole of England “must be put into Tier 4 immediately” to stop the spread of the mutant coronavirus strain gripping the country.
Independent Sage, who provide independent advice to the UK government, have said thousands more people will now be infected in the new year.
One of the group’s members, Dr Zubaida Haque, today questioned why the government haven’t placed the whole country in the harshest tier of restrictions to save lives.

Vaccine

A second vaccine will be with us soon, says the Mail.

The groundbreaking Oxford vaccine is expected to be approved for use within days – giving Britain a massive New Year boost in the fight against coronavirus.
There is growing optimism within the Government that the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will give the green light to roll out the vaccine before the end of this week.
Britain has pre-ordered 100 million doses of the drug, which has been developed by Oxford University with the help of the pharma giant AstraZeneca.

And it’ll even fight the new variant, says the Guardian.

The head of the firm behind the Oxford Covid vaccine has said researchers believe the jab will be effective against the variant strain of the virus that was first found in the UK.
AstraZeneca chief executive, Pascal Soriot, told the Sunday Times more tests were needed to be sure, but hailed the discovery of what he called a “winning formula” to improve the vaccine’s efficacy.

Government officials will sign off the new vaccine this week says the Times.

The coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca is expected to win approval this week as the head of the drugs giant said it “should be” effective against the highly transmissible new strain of the virus.
Senior government officials expect the drugs watchdog to give the green light before Thursday, speeding up the provision of the jab to the 15m people who could end up in hospital if they caught the virus.
Astra Zeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, today reveals that new data will show the vaccine is as effective as the Pfizer and Moderna jabs that have already been approved, protecting 95% of patients, and is “100% effective” in preventing severe illness requiring hospital treatment.

It will be rolled out in the new year, says the Telegraph.

The Oxford vaccine will be rolled out from January 4 across the country under plans being drawn up by ministers, The Telegraph can reveal.
The Government is aiming for two million people to receive their first dose of either the Oxford vaccine or the Pfizer jab within a fortnight as part of a major ramping up of the inoculation programme.
The Telegraph can also disclose that mass vaccination centres at sports stadiums and conference venues are primed to launch in the second week of January, provided the regulator approves the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine within days.

Education

The education secretary has a fight on his hands says the Telegraph.

Gavin Williamson has warned allies he faces an “enormous battle” to keep secondary schools open in January, The Telegraph can reveal.
Officials from Number 10 and the Department for Education are understood to be preparing to hold a crunch meeting Monday after scientists warned that closures may be necessary to slow the spread of the new Covid-19 variant.
It follows reports that the department is fighting to reopen schools under the current staggered timetable from the beginning of next month, but has not ruled out a further delay until January 18.

There will be a ‘crunch’ meeting tomorrow, says the Sun.

EDUCATION Secretary Gavin Williamson has warned he faces an “enormous battle” to keep secondary schools open in January, it was reported.
A crunch meeting between Downing Street and Department of Education officials is due to be held on Monday to decide when schools will open.
It comes after scientists warned the new strain may be more easily spread among younger children.
Mr Williamson is said to have privately expressed concern that so-called Covid “doves” in Government, who are more in favour of restrictions, could close schools.

Dover

Meanwhile, thanks to our magnificent armed forces, the road block on the Kent coast has been cleared, says the Mail.

British Army troops came to the rescue of thousands of weary truckers this Christmas as stranded drivers finally started to head home after days of being stuck in their cabs on a Kent airfield.
The soldiers sacrificed their own time with their families and loved ones to help more than 8,000 drivers get their vehicles on to ferries heading back to Europe.
As these pictures show, the huge queues at Manston airfield on Christms Day, right, were cleared by Boxing Day, far right, as troops processed the lorries that became trapped after France suddenly closed its borders last week.
Last night, several angry truckers blamed French President Emmanuel Macron for the delays, with one accusing him of ‘dirty politics’.

The Telegraph says the blockage was cleared after mass testing.

A backlog of more than 3,000 lorries stranded in Dover on Christmas Day was finally cleared today after 15,000 truckers were tested for coronavirus.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that by 9am on Boxing Day, all freight drivers had left Manston Airport.
The disused airfield had been used as a testing site for HGV drivers trapped in Kent after France banned all travel from the UK on Tuesday this week.

Dog thefts

Sky News has a worrying story about rogue dog breeders.

Criminal gangs are cashing in on an exploding demand for puppies driven by the pandemic lockdown.
Pedigree dogs are being stolen and used for intensive breeding after prices quadrupled because of the desire for a COVID companion.
Detective Superintendent Neil Austin from the National Police Chiefs’ Council told Sky News: “With more people working from home, the demand for puppies has increased – as has the cost of purchasing a puppy – which has increased from around £500 to more than £2,000.

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