The UK’s chief negotiator David Frost and his counterpart Michel Barnier are set to talk over the phone today in an attempt to resolve the Brexit deadlock – after No 10 accused the EU of effectively ending negotiations by refusing to give any concessions.
No 10 reportedly wants Mr Barnier to say the EU will work “intensively” on a trade deal and show a willingness to compromise – putting the onus on France to ease its hardball stance on fishing rights. Brussels is said to expect a “time out” lasting several days before talks can resume.
It comes as Britain’s pharmaceutical industry appealed to Boris Johnson to strike a “side-deal” with Brussels to avoid delays and shortages of medicines if he crashes the UK out of the EU through a no-deal Brexit at the end of the transition period.
Opinion: ‘Boris Johnson has taken a political hit over the Manchester stand-off – whatever his ministers say’
Boris Johnson is again at risk of looking like a “flip-flopper” over coronavirus restrictions in the north of England after a bruising war of words with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham in recent days, according to our columnist Andrew Grice.
The prime minister has been stuck in tense negotiations with local leaders in Greater Manchester over plans to impose Tier 3 status on the area without additional financial support for businesses and workers.
“Boris Johnson has warned he will impose Tier 3 status on Greater Manchester on public health grounds if necessary. But Burnham’s trump card is that he knows Johnson does not want to do this, as it would fuel the toxic narrative of a London-centric government enforcing its will on the north.”
You can find his full piece below:
Conrad Duncan19 October 2020 13:17
It looks like the PM is facing trouble with keeping the UK together beyond Scotland…
Conrad Duncan19 October 2020 13:09
Our travel correspondent, Simon Calder, has more details below on transport secretary Grant Shapps’ plans to cut quarantine requirements for arrivals to the UK:
Conrad Duncan19 October 2020 13:01
New Board of Trade to meet for first time at ‘critical moment’ for UK
The new Board of Trade, including controversial former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, is set to meet for the first time today to examine ways of boosting links with the Commonwealth post-Brexit.
The new-look panel of politicians, economists and industry figures is meeting on Monday at a “critical moment” for the UK, according to international trade secretary Liz Truss.
The board will discuss the principles underpinning its work, which ironically includes a commitment to the rule of law at a time when the government has threatened to breach international law in Brexit negotiations with the EU.
Its work will include reports on Commonwealth trade, delivering on Boris Johnson’s so-called “levelling-up” agenda, reform of the World Trade Organisation and meeting green targets.
“This is a critical moment for the UK and our trading relationships with the rest of the world,” Ms Truss, president of the board, said.
“Our re-emergence as an independent trading nation is an enormous opportunity, but it also comes at a time of rising protectionism amidst the challenges posed by coronavirus.
“The revamped Board of Trade will play a critical role in helping us navigate and shape the new global trading environment.”
Advisers on the Board of Trade include Mr Abbott, pro-Brexit former Tory MEP Daniel Hannan and Labour ex-trade secretary Patricia Hewitt.
Conrad Duncan19 October 2020 12:51
BREAKING: Wales to go into ‘fire-break’ lockdown for 17 days
In a move which is likely to increase pressure on Boris Johnson to impose a “circuit breaker” lockdown in England, the Welsh government has said it will enter a new lockdown for 17 days.
Mark Drakeford, Wales’ first minister, said the decision to close all but essential retail outlets from Friday was designed to avoid a longer lockdown at a later date.
Our deputy political editor, Rob Merrick, has the full story below:
All but essential retail will shut from Friday – tougher measures than in Scotland or tier 3 areas of England
Conrad Duncan19 October 2020 12:39
Opinion: ‘Joe Biden could be very bad news for Boris Johnson’s Britain’
Although many Britons will be hoping that Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump in next month’s US presidential election, the former vice president’s victory could end the so-called “special relationship” between the US and the UK, according to our columnist Sean O’Grady.
The Democratic candidate is a known critic of Brexit and is thought to share former president Barack Obama’s dislike of Boris Johnson.
“Biden probably doesn’t like Johnson. He certainly doesn’t like Brexit, doesn’t think it has been good for Britain, Europe or America, and said in 2018 he’d have voted Remain as an MP or voter. He shares the Obama view on Johnson, as with so much else.
“Moreover, Biden shares the general Democrat revulsion at what Brexit is doing to the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish peace process.”
You can find his full piece below:
Conrad Duncan19 October 2020 12:28
BA doesn’t ‘believe’ in government’s 7-day quarantine plan
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has told an airline industry conference that government is working hard on a “test and release regime” – which will still involve a quarantine period of at least seven days.
He said: “My ministerial colleagues and I have agreed a regime, based on a single test provided by the private sector and at the cost to the passenger, after a period of self-isolation … The next step is to develop how this approach can be implemented.”
But the new boss of British Airways, Sean Doyle, has demanded that the self-isolation requirement for international arrivals is replaced by Covid-19 tests before departure. Doyle dismissed Shapps’ plan – saying: “We do not believe quarantine is the solution.”
Adam Forrest19 October 2020 12:12
EU ‘expects deadlock to last days’ in cooling off period
As lunchtime approaches, a reminder of where we stand on all things Brexit. Chief negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost are set for a crucial phone call this afternoon. As if things weren’t tense enough, Maros Sefcovic will be leading a European Commission press conference later, after a UK-EU Joint Committee meeting on the withdrawal agreement in London
No 10 are said to want Barnier to indicate that the EU is willing to work “intensively” to get a deal done. Downing Street is also said to wants some indication from Barnier that the EU will be willing to compromise, effectively putting the onus on France to ease its hardball stance on fishing rights. “If they want to do a deal, we can do a deal,” one senior UK government official has told Politico.
The Times reports that Brussels expects a “time out” of no more than a week to allow everyone to cool off from the fireworks of the recent EU Council summit. “A circuit breaker on Brexit may have a positive effect,” said one diplomatic source.
Meanwhile, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has called on No 10 to strike a swift “side-deal” with Brussels to avoid delays and shortages of medicines if he crashes the UK out of the EU.
Adam Forrest19 October 2020 11:57
Labour MP in hospital with pneumonia after contracting Covid
Yasmin Qureshi, the Labour MP for Bolton South East, has gone into hospital two weeks after testing positive for coronavirus.
She announced the news in a message on her Facebook page: “I’m being very well looked after and have nothing but praise and admiration for the wonderful staff at the hospital.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer said: My thoughts are with my friend Yasmin Qureshi who has been admitted to hospital after being diagnosed with Covid-19. My thanks go to the staff caring for Yasmin at the Royal Bolton Hospital, along with NHS staff across the country.”
Adam Forrest19 October 2020 11:42
Johnson ‘is in two minds whether he really wants a deal’
ITV’s Robert Peston – who only last week said the odds of a trade deal with the EU were ‘quite close to 100 per cent’ – now sounds pretty gloomy on the chances of an agreement.
In his latest piece for The Spectator, the TV host explains his understanding of both sides’ positions on state aid has changed. Boris Johnson, apparently counselled by Dominic Cummings on the issue, believes the EU’s demand for some kind of enforcement mechanism is “unacceptable”.
Worse still for all of us hoping for a deal, Johnson apparently doesn’t even know if he wants one. One of his close colleagues told Peston: “The PM is in two minds constantly over this. He doesn’t know whether he really wants one [a deal] so no one else [around him] does.”
Adam Forrest19 October 2020 11:32