Brexit news – live: Hancock hits out at EU vaccine ‘protectionism’ and ports plead for money amid border chaos

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab answers questions from MPs

Matt Hancock spoke out against vaccine “protectionism” today after the EU threatened to tighten rules on exports of jabs produced in the bloc.

The health secretary said the intervention was “not the right approach in a pandemic”, following similar remarks from vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi and other Tory MPs. David Jones, a member of the hardline European Research Group, had a particularly harsh take, accusing Brussels of being “childish and spiteful”. 

Meanwhile, Britain’s port chiefs warned Boris Johnson’s government that new border infrastructure needed to manage post-Brexit bureaucracy is still not up to scratch because of inadequate funding.

It comes as the leading financial analysts at Moody’s said the UK economy is set to become “significantly smaller” because of the Brexit trade deal – pointing to “significant negative consequences” ahead because of all the new barriers to trade.


Starmer accuses Boris Johnson of being ‘behind the curve’

“There’s a strong sense I think that our government has been behind the curve at every stage,” Sir Keir Starmer said as Boris Johnson addressed the nation after the UK death toll from the pandemic passed 100,000.

“There has been a reluctance to take tough decisions when they needed to be taken,” the Labour leader told reporters.

“And here we are today, we find ourselves with this awful milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid.”

Liam James26 January 2021 18:08


PM declines to give NHS staff financial bonus for work during pandemic

Boris Johnson has declined to give NHS staff in England a financial bonus after health and social care colleagues in Scotland received a £500 payment as thanks for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.

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When asked about the bonus, Mr Johnson instead said: “We do our absolute utmost to support our wonderful NHS staff and indeed have had a three-year pay package for nurses, that I think was 12.8 per cent, and will continue to invest record sums in the NHS.

“I think the amount we invested in the NHS even before the pandemic began was more than any time in modern memory, £34bn package of investment, and that will continue under this government.”

Conrad Duncan26 January 2021 17:44


Johnson says it is ‘hard to compute the sorrow’ of 100,000 Covid deaths

Boris Johnson has said it is “hard to compute the sorrow” of the number of people who have died from coronavirus after the UK’s Covid-19 death toll passed 100,000 this afternoon.

The prime minister told a Downing Street briefing that when the pandemic is over the country will “commemorate the small acts of kindness, the spirit of volunteering and the daily sacrifice of millions”.

Our policy correspondent, Jon Stone, has more details below:

Conrad Duncan26 January 2021 17:27


Premium: ‘Keir Starmer take note – calling on the government to do what it already intends to do is poor opposition’

Labour needs to stop calling on the government to do what it is already planning to do and use parliamentary time to make constructive suggestions, according to our chief political commentator John Rentoul.

“It is one thing to work out what the government is likely to do and to demand that they do it – Keir Starmer is good at that, although it has its dangers. It is quite another thing to take what the government has already said it will do and to demand that it do it – that just looks silly.”

You can find his full piece for Independent Premium below:

Conrad Duncan26 January 2021 17:18


Starmer says UK’s 100,000 Covid deaths is ‘national tragedy’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said it is a “national tragedy” that the official coronavirus death toll has now passed 100,000.

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In a statement, Sir Keir said: “This is a national tragedy and a terrible reminder of all that we have lost as a country.

“We must never become numb to these numbers or treat them as just statistics. Every death is a loved one, a friend, a neighbour, a partner or a colleague. It is an empty chair at the dinner table.”

He added: “To all those that are mourning, we must promise to learn the lessons of what went wrong and build a more resilient country. That day will come and we will get there together.

“But for now we must remember those that we have lost and be vigilant in the national effort to stay at home, protect our NHS and vaccinate Britain.”

Conrad Duncan26 January 2021 17:02


Return to 0.7 per cent aid pledge will have to wait for Covid recovery, Raab says

The UK’s spending on global aid will not return to its previous level of 0.7 per cent of national income until the economy has recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, Dominic Raab has warned.

The foreign secretary told MPs he was unable to provide a fixed level of debt or deficit which would allow a return to the target as aid would have to “compete” with other government spending demands.

Our political editor, Andrew Woodcock, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan26 January 2021 16:57


Hancock mocked for hypocrisy in denouncing ‘nationalism’

Author Emma Kennedy points out there was a hint of hypocrisy in Matt Hancock’s earlier remarks against nationalism given he was sat in front of a large mural of the Queen and a Union Jack at the time. 

The Celebrity Masterchef winner also noted that ministers now routinely make speeches in front of flags, which she says is new. 

Liam James26 January 2021 16:49


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Foreign Office told diplomats to cut as much as 70% from aid budget, says Labour

British ambassadors have been instructed to cut up to 70 per cent from their overseas aid budget within three weeks, the Labour party has said.

Sarah Champion, chair of the International Development Select Committee, said the Foreign Office has ordered cuts of 50-70 per cent from aid budgets, leaving “no doubt” lives will be lost as a result.

“Welcome to day 26 of Global Britain,” the Rotheram MP jibed as she warned the cuts would destroy the UK’s humanitarian credentials.

Liam James26 January 2021 16:23


UK will help identify new Covid variants abroad, Hancock pledges

Matt Hancock has pledged that the UK will carry out genomic sequencing for other countries to help identify new coronavirus variants.

The health secretary offered the support of Public Health England, who will lead a new variant assessment platform to analyse the genetics of coronavirus samples.

He said: “Our new variant assessment platform will help us better understand this virus and how it spreads and will also boost global capacity to understand coronavirus, so we’re all better prepared for whatever lies ahead.”

Liam James26 January 2021 15:59


More campaigners speak out after Environment Bill delayed

The government has drawn a great deal of flak today after delaying Boris Johnson’s flagship environmental legislation by six months.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Kierra Box said the delay was “not the action of a government wanting to demonstrate world leadership on the environmental crisis”, while Katie White from the WWF called for a guarantee the Bill would be “first out of the box” in the next parliamentary session.

Sarah Woolnough, chief execuitve of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation raised concerns that the “national health crisis” of air pollution was being “pushed aside”.

More on this from Harry Cockburn here:

Liam James26 January 2021 15:37


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