Brexit news – live: Government rejects claim worker protections to be scrapped as Rudd attacks ‘boy’s club’ PM

Environment Secretary George Eustice addresses EU “teething problems”

The government has insisted ministers are not planning to “lower” workers’ rights amid reports they are preparing to tear up key protections enshrined in EU law.

The Financial Times said the 48-hour working week could be scrapped under government plans for a post-Brexit overhaul of employment laws. Labour described the reported plan as a “disgrace” and warned it would fight any such moves “tooth and nail”.

Meanwhile, Amber Rudd has criticised her former boss, Boris Johnson, for the way he treated people in order to get his Brexit agenda through, “whatever the cost in terms of the economy and, I thought, the consequences to people’s lives”.


PM’s attitude to Brexit disruption feels like ‘slap on the face with a wet kipper’

Boris Johnson is in danger of proving himself “a buffoon” if he continues to underestimate the scale of the problems implementing his Brexit trade deal, an MP from Northern Ireland has warned.

Ian Paisley Jr, a leading figure in the DUP, attacked the prime minister for claiming current disruption to trade amounted to only “teething problems” which would soon be fixed.

“The prime minister is in real danger of proving to people that he is actually a buffoon,” Mr Paisley told BBC Newsnight on Mr Johnson’s attitude to the difficulties being caused by customs red tape.

“If he doesn’t recognise that [his] comments about there being just teething problems going on here … then he really isn’t in touch. He doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of what’s happening.”

Tom Batchelor15 January 2021 11:57


Schools told not to provide free meals over half term

Schools have again been told by the government not to provide free meals or vouchers to needy pupils over half term, sparking a new row over how to stop children from going hungry.

The government appeared to be setting itself up for another argument with poverty campaigners and unions on Thursday after the Department for Education told headteachers they “do not need to provide lunch parcels or vouchers”.

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Instead, advice from the Department for Education says a general pandemic support fund set up to help low-income families during the holidays would be adequate to cover mealtime needs.

Tom Batchelor15 January 2021 11:50


Employment lawyer says workers rights reforms likely to be limited by Brexit trade deal

Following a report in the FT that the government is considering diluting some of the UK’s employment regulations, Malcolm Mason, employment expert at Keystone Law, said he believed the government would make significant changes due to Chapter 6 of Title XI of the TCA which specifically sets out the need for a “level playing field” between the UK and EU.

“The news that the government is planning to dilute some of the UK employment and labour laws will not come as much of a surprise for many,“ he said.

“Afterall, one of the main issues that was campaigned about in the run up to the Brexit vote was the ability to take control of UK laws. 

“Whilst the new business minister has denied that they will be scrapping some protections, such as the 48-hour limit on the working week, many directives, such as the TUPE, the Fixed-Term workers directive and the Framework Health and Safety Directive have always been an issue for Conservative UK governments and UK businesses and they were strenuously resisted from the outset with considerable and protracted debate and argument.

“Indeed, some were implemented only after requiring EU enforcement proceedings or the threat of such proceedings.

“Right up until the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was signed, I and many others involved in the employment and HR area believed that going forward, the UK employment legislation, in the relatively near future and subject to parliamentary time, would be revised and parts removed or tweaked to make them more acceptable to UK business.

“This, however, is no longer my view because of the TCA and the need for a “level playing field” between the UK and EU in certain areas (including labour and social policy).”

Tom Batchelor15 January 2021 11:21


Covid travel rules rolled out in Wales

Passengers arriving into Wales from all international destinations will be required to present a negative Covid test result before departing to help protect against new strains of coronavirus circulating internationally, Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, has announced.

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From 4am Monday 18th January 2021, inbound passengers arriving by boat, plane or train from countries outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) will have to take a test up to 72 hours before departing the country they are in, to help protect against the new strains of coronavirus such as those seen in Brazil, Denmark and South Africa.

The introduction of the measures is in response to the changes seen in the transmission of the virus both in in the UK and across the globe.

For travel to England, you must take the test in the three days before you start your journey.

For example, if you travel on Friday, you must take a test on the Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, advice on the gov.uk website states.

Tom Batchelor15 January 2021 11:07


South America and Portugal travel ban comes into force

A ban on air travel from a swathe of South American countries as well as Portugal has come into force amid growing fears of a new variant of Covid-19 in Brazil.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said the new restrictions applied from 4am on Friday to “reduce the risk of importing infections”.

Tom Batchelor15 January 2021 10:40


Brexit-backing DUP MP attacks ‘buffoon’ Johnson over border problems

The DUP’s Ian Paisley has said Boris Johnson is in “real danger of proving to people that he is actually a buffoon” amid mounting anger over the prime minister’s claim that there were only “teething problems” along the Irish Sea border.

Mr Paisley, who was a strong proponent of the UK leaving the EU, complained about the impact of the new rules on Northern Ireland and said the PM “doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of what is happening.”

He was speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight programme. Here is the clip: 

Tom Batchelor15 January 2021 10:27


Labour to force vote on government’s £1,000-a-year Universal Credit cut

Labour is to force a vote in parliament on the government’s plans to cut benefit payments by as much as £1,000 a year.

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Boris Johnson on Wednesday confirmed he would push ahead with plans to slash £20 a week from universal credit in April, a cut which will affect six million families.

Tom Batchelor15 January 2021 09:59


Labour calls on Priti Patel to take responsibility for policing data loss

The policing minister has said officers are “working at pace” to recover 150,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records that were accidentally wiped from police databases.

Kit Malthouse told Home Office officials and police officers to confirm their initial assessment that “there is no threat to public safety” from the apparent blunder.

He said the deletion from the Police National Computer (PNC) related to people who were arrested but released without further action.

Labour said Home Secretary Priti Patel should take responsibility for the “extraordinarily serious security breach” that “presents huge dangers for public safety”.

The Times, which first reported the breach, said that the lost data could allow offenders to go free because evidence from crime scenes will not be flagged.

Tom Batchelor15 January 2021 09:40


Exports to EU to plunge by more than one-third because of Brexit

Exports to the EU will plunge by more than one-third because of Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit trade deal, a new study predicts.

Total UK trade will nosedive by 13 per cent, according to the London School of Economics (LSE) analysis, making a mockery of the government’s claims of a buccaneering “Global Britain” outside the bloc.

And Britons will feel the pain in their wallets and purses, with income-per-head forecast to fall by 6 per cent – just 2 per cent less than if there had been a no-deal Brexit.

Tom Batchelor15 January 2021 09:36


UK heads towards double-dip recession

The UK economy is on track to head back into recession as official figures showed that it fell in November after the country was hit by stricter coronavirus restrictions.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said UK gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 2.6% month-on-month in November.

Tom Batchelor15 January 2021 09:24


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