Today’s daily politics briefing
The leaders of the UK’s five largest business groups have written to Boris Johnson’s government demanding action on the “substantial difficulties” firms are facing over Brexit bureaucracy. They warned of “significant loss of business” unless ministers help ease red tape problems.
It comes as the scale of Britain’s export slump was revealed. Some 65 per cent of lorries travelling from the UK to the EU are empty, according to figures from French border authorities. “The balance of UK trade has been badly affected,” said the Road Haulage Association.
Meanwhile, the government admitted up to 142,000 tonnes of food could be wasted over the next six months because of border disruption. Labour demanded ministers “take action now to support our exporters and prevent this costly food waste”.
Business secretary says debate around BLM has ‘kind of cartoon-like view’ of past
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said that much of the debate around Black Lives Matter has not grasped the complexity of history.
Speaking on the Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast, he said: “I think a lot of the debate around Black Lives Matter and imperialism or colonialism has a very kind of cartoon-like view of what was happening over centuries across a quarter of the world.”
He also described the toppling of statues earlier this year as an “act of vandalism”.
Our Whitehall editor Kate Devlin has more on this story:
Rory Sullivan29 January 2021 13:12
Schools in Wales could reopen after February half-term, says Drakeford
Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford has announced that schools in Wales could start to reopen in February, as the country has seen a significant drop in the number of Covid-19 cases.
He said: “If infections continue to fall, we want children to be able to return to school after half-term from February 22, starting with the youngest children in our primary schools.”
The country currently has 170 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, down from 270 last Friday.
Rory Sullivan29 January 2021 12:51
Amazon plans to open first packing warehouse in Ireland amid Brexit disruption
Amazon plans to open its first packing warehouse in Ireland, Bloomberg has reported.
While the retail giant said it would not comment on “rumour and speculation”, the potential move would allow the Irish customers to receive its goods faster.
Currently, many items are dispatched from the UK to Ireland, with delays resulting from the new post-Brexit customs rules.
Rory Sullivan29 January 2021 12:39
Greens vow to change policing of cannabis
Sian Berry, the Green Party’s candidate for London mayor, has vowed to change the policing of cannabis, if she is elected to City Hall.
The co-leader of the Greens, who is currently third in the polls, said tackling the problems around the enforcement of cannabis laws would “fix the heart of a lot of the disproportionality of policing”.
“The experience of young black men on the streets of London is they are constantly suspected of drug offences when in actual fact they’re even less likely to be taking drugs than white young men. It’s just utterly disproportionate,” Ms Berry told The Independent.
Here’s my colleague Andy Gregory with this exclusive:
Rory Sullivan29 January 2021 12:19
AstraZeneca vaccine contract release
Has the EU been hard done by? Or are Brussels bosses attempting to cover for their failure to order vaccines quickly enough? The AstraZeneca contract is finally out, so we can all get reading.
Adam Forrest29 January 2021 12:00
AstraZeneca will release ‘redacted’ vaccine contact
UK-based pharma giant AstraZeneca will publish a redacted version of its contract with the EU amid a deepening row between the two sides over vaccine supply shortages.
Eric Mamer, chief spokesmen of the European Commission, told a Brussels briefing: “AstraZeneca has agreed to publish the redacted contract signed between the two parties on August 27 2020.”
He added: “We welcome the company’s commitment towards more transparency in its participation to the rollout of the EU vaccine strategy.”
Adam Forrest29 January 2021 11:40
Rashford: Doing better than Starmer?
More than half of British citizens believe Marcus Rashford is doing a good job of holding the UK government to account over its response to the pandemic. Which is a much higher proportion than those who say Labour leader Keir Starmer – or the national media – are doing the job well.
Some 56 per cent of respondents to Ipsos MORI poll agreed the striker known for his off-the-field campaigning efforts to tackle child poverty, had done a good job in pressing Westminster to do more.
Some 29 said Starmer was doing a good job of holding the government to account during the ongoing crisis – just behind the media (on 31 per cent) and Piers Morgan (32 per cent).
Adam Forrest29 January 2021 11:37
David Frost will lead ‘international policy unit’
The government has now confirmed that Boris Johnson has ditched plans to make his chief Brexit negotiator David Frost the new national security adviser.
The PM said in a statement that David Frost would instead be appointed as “representative for Brexit and international policy” and would head up a new international policy unit in No 10.
Johnson said: “I am hugely grateful to Lord Frost for his herculean efforts in securing a deal with the EU, and I am thrilled that he has agreed to be my representative for Brexit and international policy as we seize the opportunities from our departure from the EU.”
Adam Forrest29 January 2021 11:30
Export slump: Two-thirds of lorries leaving UK are empty
Around two-thirds of lorries travelling from the UK to the EU via Calais and Dunkirk have nothing in them, new figures have revealed.
An average of 3,400 lorries a day travelled from the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel in France – but 65 per cent were empty of goods, according to figures from the Prefecture Hauts-de-France et du Nord, first cited by ITV News.
It appears to show Britain’s export slump is “substantial” – to borrow a term used by business leaders in last night’s showdown summit with Michael Gove.
Some of the slump could be down to companies across the continent stockpiling before the Brexit deal came into force, but the Road Haulage Association (RHA) believes the export issues are much more significant.
The RHA said: “The balance of UK trade has been badly affected … We are urging the government to act on this now and not shrug it off as teething problems that will soon disappear.”
Adam Forrest29 January 2021 11:08
China won’t recognise British passport for Hong Kong residents
China has responded to the news the UK launch its new visa scheme for Hong Kong citizens from this Sunday. The Chinese government will no longer recognise the British National (Overseas) passport as a valid travel document.
Boris Johnson’s government anticipate around 300,000 Hong Kongers with British National (Overseas) status could apply will use the new visa route to citizenship over the next five years.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing: “The British side’s attempt to turn a large number of Hong Kong people into second-class British citizens has completely changed the nature of the two sides’ original understanding of BN(O).
“This move seriously infringes on China’s sovereignty, grossly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs, and seriously violates international law and the basic norms of international relations.”
Adam Forrest29 January 2021 10:50