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Coronavirus: Johnson to chair Cobra as case numbers spike

“Boris Johnson will pledge today that the government will “stop at nothing” to fight coronavirus as ministers prepare the public for drastic measures to tackle the spread of the illness. The prime minister is to chair a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee that will sign off a “battle plan” to tackle the virus, which, he will warn, presents “a significant challenge for our country”. Health officials confirmed yesterday that the number of infections had jumped from 23 to 36, the biggest rise in a single day, including a second case where a cause had not been identified. All of the patients, which include the first case in Scotland, are being investigated and their close contacts traced. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said yesterday that the illness could have “huge economic and social” consequences.” – The Times

  • No 10 and Department of Health clash over access to EU pandemic warning system – Daily Telegraph
  • EU vows to help nationals ‘outside the mainstream’ stay in UK – The Guardian
  • Hunt for coronavirus ‘super-spreader’ after biggest jump in British cases – The Times
  • Health worker at Hertfordshire cancer clinic is among 13 latest patients – Daily Mail
  • Johnson warns coronavirus ‘will get worse before it gets better’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Vaccine is ‘months away’, warns Hancock – The Sun
  • Most South Korean cases have mild symptoms – BBC

More:

  • Calls for policymakers to act to prevent coronavirus ‘doom loop’ – FT
  • Sunak ‘put at the mercy of coronavirus’ as he plots his first budget – The Times
  • Local elections could be delayed by outbreak – The Guardian
  • Latest advice – H.M.Government

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Hancock on the Coronavirus, 111, public demand – and putting more resources in

Nick Timothy: Coronavirus is one danger among many in our fragile globalised world

“The interconnected nature of the world economy means we are more exposed than ever to decisions made by foreign governments, financiers and business leaders. When Chinese growth falters, for example, the knock-on effects for the world economy will be severe. And there are other risks associated with globalisation. As the European migration crisis showed, in the modern world huge movements of people are possible. The decisions made by foreign leaders – like Angela Merkel in 2015, or Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who last week opened Turkey’s border with Greece – can cause grave consequences for many countries other than their own. As coronavirus is proving, the scale of international travel means viruses can be difficult to contain.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Warning to Johnson: coronavirus is the only story in town – Will Clothier, Times Red Box
  • The Prime Minister must stop playing the invisible man – Andrew Rawsley, The Guardian
  • We’re too selfish to stop coronavirus spreading – Clare Foges, The Times

Editorial:

  • We must take care of our personal hygiene to save Britain – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Conservative activists: there is no Climate Emergency. Our survey.

Trade 1) Truss says workers will ‘share in £1.8billion pay rise’ if US trade deal comes off

“Tens of thousands of workers will share in a £1.8 billion pay rise under a US trade deal that is “there for the taking”, the International Trade Secretary says. Liz Truss predicts that Britain’s economy will grow by £3.4 billion when a deal is signed, with the North East, Midlands and Scotland seeing the biggest uplift. Boris Johnson said Britain will “drive a hard bargain” when it unveils its negotiating objectives on Monday. Talks will begin later this month, running in parallel with UK-EU trade negotiations. The UK mandate keeps the NHS out of any deal and upholds British standards on food standards and animal welfare, meaning Britain will reject any attempt to sell chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef to the UK.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Britain to set out mandate for post-Brexit US deal – FT
  • Prime Minister insists he will drive a ‘hard bargain’ with Trump – Daily Mail
  • US trade talks will lower prices, Johnson vows – The Times

Comment:

  • Scotland has most to gain from a US trade deal – Andrew Bowie MP, Times Red Box
  • ‘If you care about the North, Boris, then get up here!’ – Mark Casci, Daily Mail

>Today: Greg Hands MP in Comment: It’s time to get behind our push for free trade – as we begin to negotiate a deal with the United States

Trade 2) EU threatens ‘nasty battle’ over fish

“EU bosses have threatened “a nasty battle” over fish today – as they warned they could derail a deal over quotas. Speaking 24 hours before Britain and EU negotiators will start thrashing out a post-Brexit trade deal tomorrow, France’s Europe minister said the whole deal could fall in over access to our waters. Amelie de Montchalin was asked today if the deal would fall apart on fishing. She told the Andrew Marr Show: “Yes. We said that there are four topics which are linked in negotiations.” And she added: “On fish and other topics, all we play it with emotion, with drama, with passion, with symbols and we know how to make it a very I think nasty battle.” She stressed that things would get “very difficult” and “we will both lose” if a deal isn’t done to maintain the status quo.” – The Sun

  • Brexit fishing war risks Channel blockade – The Times
  • Business group calls for more customs agents funding – FT
  • Leak suggests no-deal exit in the summer – Daily Express
  • UK’s Galileo rival delayed amid wrangling and rising costs – FT

Comment:

  • The UK’s threat to walk out of EU trade talks is real – Wolfgang Münchau, FT
  • Can a nation be both open and in control? The UK is about to find out – Hans Kundnani, The Guardian
  • EU is terrified now we’re the world’s flexible friend – Mark Francois MP, Daily Express

Mandarins ‘demand inquiry’ into Patel bullying allegations

“Senior civil servants have called on the cabinet secretary to open an independent investigation into bullying claims against Priti Patel as it emerged that there had been at least one earlier formal complaint before the resignation of her top civil servant. The home secretary is facing calls to answer questions from MPs today after the resignation on Saturday of Sir Philip Rutnam, permanent secretary at the Home Office. He accused Ms Patel of “shouting and swearing” at staff, “belittling people” and making “unreasonable and repeated demands”. The Times understands that Downing Street is so far resisting calls for an independent inquiry into Ms Patel’s conduct. Ms Patel denies allegations of bullying.” – The Times

  • Johnson praises ‘fantastic’ Home Secretary as new allegation emerges – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Inept Home Office is a putrid, leaky swamp – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Why Rutnam’s row with Patel shocked Whitehall – Catherine Haddon, The Guardian
  • Straw’s secret for handling the mandarins – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • This debacle is symptomatic of a government that is spread too thin – The Times

>Yesterday:

Raab heads off to the Gulf with ‘a full agenda’

“Dramatic Houthi rebel advances and threats to end humanitarian aid in Yemen will lead Dominic Raab’s agenda when he makes his first visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday. The British foreign secretary will also travel to Muscat later this week to meet the new Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, to discuss his role in any mediation talks in Yemen. The last few weeks have seen Houthi military victories on the borders with Saudi Arabia and, separately, warnings from aid agency USAid that it will stop working in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen unless interference in the free distribution of aid ends… Raab is expected to meet the president of Yemen’s UN-recognised government, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, to discuss the war effort…” – The Guardian

Chancellor ‘plans to scrap tax relief for entrepreneurs’ could bring in £3 billion

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak is planning to scrap entrepreneurs’ tax relief worth £2.7bn in the March 11 Budget in order to increase spending on public services. The move was attacked by some business leaders who claimed it would hurt entrepreneurship, as well as Conservatives MPs concerned about a backlash against Mr Sunak’s first Budget. Entrepreneurs’ relief enables company founders selling their businesses to pay capital gains tax at a rate of 10 per cent. That compares to the 20 per cent rate that usually applies to gains of up to £10m. Government insiders said the abolition of entrepreneurs’ relief could bring close to £3bn a year into the Treasury’s coffers, which would be spent on the government’s priorities, including hiring more nurses and police officers.” – FT

  • Chancellor’s local distillery urges him to cut so-called ‘gin and tonic tax’ – The Sun

Comment:

  • Sunak’s free ports plan reinvents Thatcherism for the Johnson era – Quinn Slobodian, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Anthony Browne MP in Comment: Sunak should clean up the dirty diesel tax break

Tory rebels ‘bid to block northern section of HS2’

“A group of Tory rebels have bid to block the northern section of HS2 in a fresh Commons vote today (Monday). MPs will tonight vote on a procedural motion that permits Part 2b of HS2 to go ahead. Last month Boris Johnson gave HS2 the “green signal”, with track-laying on the first phase between London and Birmingham to begin in April. The Prime Minister said phase one – London to Birmingham – would go ahead straight away, together with phase 2a, from Birmingham to Crewe, with phase 2b, the two spurs to Leeds and Manchester, following after a review of their costings and routes. However one Tory MP said a “conservative estimate” was that 25 percent of Tory MPs will rebel when the procedural motion on part 2b is put to the House this evening.” – Daily Telegraph

McDonnell attacks ‘toothless’ Treasury Committee

“The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has warned that the Commons Treasury committee risks becoming “toothless” after it emerged that all of the Conservative MPs on the influential committee have past connections to the finance industry. Parliament is due to vote on Monday to confirm the election of the 11-member panel of MPs that is responsible for holding the Treasury to account on financial policy, as well as questioning the Bank of England and banking industry bosses. McDonnell said there were questions over the Conservative selections. Four of the six Tory MPs on the committee worked at banks – including NatWest, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers. Another, Anthony Browne, elected as the Tory MP for South Cambridgeshire in December, was previously chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), the leading lobby group for the sector, until 2017.” – The Guardian

  • Long-Bailey fails to rule out giving Corbyn top job in shadow Cabinet – Daily Express

Comment:

  • The Labour leadership contest has exposed new factions in the party – Jeremy Gilbert, The Guardian

>Today: Richard Holden MP’s column: Local elections 1) Will more bricks fall from the Red Wall this May?

>Yesterday:

British troops in Afghanistan prepare to return home

“British troops are preparing to leave Afghanistan after the signing of a peace deal between the Taliban and the United States. The 1,100 remaining soldiers, based in Kabul, will be part of a 14-month operation to withdraw a total of 16,500 coalition troops and vast amounts of military equipment, including Foxhound armoured patrol vehicles. It will be a big logistical challenge. Defence sources said the troops would be withdrawn in co-ordination with Nato, which is in charge of the Afghan national army training programme. The Royal Irish Regiment represents the bulk of Britain’s contribution, forming the Kabul security force.” – The Times

  • UK forces are sent to Senegal to provide counter-terrorism training – Daily Mail
  • Alarm over surge in suicides by veterans of Afghanistan war – The Times

Editorial:

  • America should not rush to pull out its troops – The Times
  • Africa’s Sahel must not replace Afghanistan as a haven for terrorists – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Beware the super-spreaders of coronavirus conspiracy theories – Cindy Yu, The Spectator
  • Patel and the downside of Cummings’ permanent revolution – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • The dangerous pull of political tribalism – James Mumford, UnHerd
  • Why it’s harder for businesses to stay out of politics – Matt Singh, CapX
  • The state must stop funding political groups – Jeremy Hutton, 1828

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