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Hancock says UK has reached ‘perilous moment’ in pandemic

“Health secretary Matt Hancock warned the UK had reached a “perilous moment” in the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting the NHS may struggle to continue providing routine services unless Britons work together to suppress Covid-19. A total of 17,540 new cases of coronavirus were recorded on Thursday and Mr Hancock said he was “very worried about the growth in cases, especially in the north west and north east of England, parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and parts of Yorkshire”. In the north west, hospitals were seeing admissions double about every fortnight and they had risen by 57 per cent in the past week alone, he added. Addressing the annual conference of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, Mr Hancock said: “We know from bitter experience that the more coronavirus spreads, the harder it is to do all the other vital work of the NHS too.”” – FT

  • Health Secretary accused of trying to ‘bounce’ Johnson into shutting the hospitality sector – Daily Mail
  • Government will consider mandatory masks in offices, says Jenrick – Daily Telegraph
  • Starmer blasts ‘Whitehall knows best’ Covid attitude – The Guardian
  • New £60m cash for Covid marshals to force people to follow virus rules – The Sun

More:

  • Get tough now to save the NHS from imploding, doctors urge – The Times
  • Vulnerable Brits face months staying indoors under plans for shielding – The Sun
  • NHS drive to ensure non-Covid sick get help – Daily Telegraph
  • More than 13,000 scientists and medics sign anti-lockdown petition – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: If test and trace is to succeed, a centralised approach won’t work

Local furlough pays two thirds of wages in firms forced to shut

“Rishi Sunak will announce a local furlough scheme today in which the government will subsidise two thirds of the wages of workers in pubs, restaurants and other businesses that are forced to close to stop the spread of coronavirus. Pubs and restaurants in northern England will be shut next week in an effort to stop hospitals being overwhelmed by the rising number of Covid-19 cases. A new system of restrictions divides England into three tiers of escalating severity. Merseyside and other parts of northern England will be placed in the highest tier as some hospitals start to run out of dedicated coronavirus beds. Businesses such as pubs, restaurants and cafés will be forced to close. The local furlough scheme will remain in place for as long as businesses are locked down. The scheme is significantly more generous than the successor to the wage support scheme announced by the chancellor last month, which subsidises a fifth of part-time wages.” – The Times

  • Sunak set to announce further job support as recovery runs out of steam – Daily Telegraph
  • Chancellor ‘plans carbon emissions tax’ to help rebuild economy – The Times

Comment:

  • The bitter battle between Team Health and Team Wealth – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
  • Fickle hand of fate sorts winners from losers – Ed Conway, The Times

>Today: Allie Renison in Comment: Sunak wants to link funding to viability. He’s right – but he must help to keep firms viable in the first place

>Yesterday: David Willetts in Comment: The Government is wrong to propose cutting back on Universal Credit while the triple lock remains untouched

Tougher lockdowns will wreck our economies, ‘Red Wall’ MPs warn

“Boris Johnson faced a backlash from “Red Wall” MPs and regional leaders on Thursday as they complained that lockdown measures were killing their local economies. Large parts of northern England are preparing for new restrictions on Monday when a three-tier “traffic light” scheme is due to be introduced, which is expected to shut pubs, bars and restaurants in high-risk areas. An estimated 10 million Britons are to be hit by the tougher lockdown measures as Covid numbers soar, with pubs and restaurants expected to be closed in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Nottingham. A leaked document obtained by the Nottingham Post showed that the much-trailed tiered system is expected to be announced on Monday and come into effect on Wednesday.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson faces northern backlash over new Covid-19 measures – FT
  • Northern leaders react with fury at being ‘treated like a petri dish’… – The Sun
  • …and vow to oppose lockdown without financial support – The Guardian

More:

  • Ministers accused of justifying pub closures with ‘cobbled together’ statistics – Daily Telegraph
  • Scottish pubs barred from selling booze indoors for 16 days – The Sun
  • Expert warns of ‘catastrophic’ consequences of new lockdown – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Treating the North like a lab is a blatant misuse of power – David Blunkett, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Sturgeon imposes a sweeping new lockdown as the Salmond scandal deepens

Keir Starmer: All we want is a prime minister with a plan

“First, we need to guarantee local leaders are in the room and involved in decisions about restrictions in their area. At the moment the Government is operating under the misguided, arrogant and counterproductive view that ‘Whitehall knows best’, that decisions can be made behind closed doors, without any real consultation or by even picking up the phone to those on the frontline. The party that was elected on a promise to level up is instead talking down to huge swathes of the country. This is fuelling public frustration and resentment in the system. Second, we have got to fix testing. We can only control the virus if we know where the virus is. That is why I said a few months ago that the Government needed to spend the summer, when cases were much lower, building a testing system that works. They failed to do so, distracted by a series of fiascos of their own making. Now we hear stories of families struggling to get a test and, when they do, having to wait days for a result.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson has a year to get his troops in line – James Forsyth, The Times
  • Labour moving in to attack spells danger for the Tories – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • Every nation needs to prepare for a Covid vaccine now – Sir Michael Barber, The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The most powerful player in Parliament on Coronavirus isn’t Brady, or even Johnson – but Starmer

Trade 1) Johnson told ‘this is the moment of truth’ as Brexit talks enter last week

“Boris Johnson has been told that now is “the moment of truth”, with just seven days left to reach a post-Brexit trade deal by the deadline. European Council president Charles Michel called on the Prime Minister to restore international trust in the UK, urging him to “put all the cards on the table”. Speaking alongside Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin in Dublin, in a show of unity over Brexit and the Internal Market Bill, Mr Michel said: “To get to an agreement we need significant steps to be made by our British friends in the coming days, not only on fisheries but also the level-playing field and governance. “On other issues…progress has been made but it’s not enough.  This is the moment of truth.” Mr Johnson spoke with Mr Michel yesterday, when they agreed that negotiators should “work intensively in the coming days to try to bridge the gaps”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Brussels looks to divvy up old UK fishing rights in Brexit deal – FT
  • Barnier warns EU leaders against a ‘half-baked’ deal – The Times
  • SNP attempts to keep Scotland linked to Brussels post-Brexit ‘shot down by EU’ – Daily Express
  • UK reveals plans for up to 10 inland border sites to cope with Brexit chaos – The Guardian
  • Thousands of UK businesses not prepared for Brexit, MPs told – FT

Trade 2) Government set to defy campaign on imported food standards

“The UK government is set to reject legal measures to uphold food standards in future trade deals, defying a campaign backed by farming unions, TV chef Jamie Oliver and more than a million members of the public. The House of Lords voted to add amendments to the agriculture bill passing through parliament to require that any imported food products meet UK domestic standards on food safety, animal welfare and the environment. But ministers have signalled they will not back the change, or another amendment giving the new Trade and Agriculture Commission a statutory role in scrutinising trade agreements, when the bill returns to the House of Commons next week. They believe measures effectively requiring identical food standards to those of the UK would prevent them from negotiating new trade deals.” – FT

  • Trade deals must not damage food standards, experts warn – The Times
  • Abbott registers as agent of foreign influence over UK trade adviser role – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Fox on his withdrawal from the contest to head the WTO

Chancellor’s aide to be face of No 10’s televised press briefings

“Boris Johnson has recruited Rishi Sunak’s head of communications to host the government’s new White House-style televised press briefings. Allegra Stratton, 39, a former BBC and ITV News presenter, will effectively become the face of Downing Street after being appointed to the role. Mr Johnson wants to build on the daily coronavirus press briefings, which were watched by millions, and says the plan will “introduce a culture of transparency and openness”. The Times reported last month that Mr Johnson wanted to recruit Ms Stratton. He was said to have been impressed with her role in helping bolster Mr Sunak’s reputation. The press briefings will be held in a former colonial courtroom in No 9 Downing Street. It is being converted into a media suite in the style of the White House briefing room.” – The Times

  • Could being the face of Johnson be the worst job in politics? – The Guardian

May leads Tory rebellion against planning changes

“The government faces a potentially serious rebellion over its plans to centralise and accelerate the housebuilding process in England after Theresa May led a string of senior Tory MPs in expressing opposition to the proposals in parliament. May, speaking in a Commons backbench debate organised by another Conservative MP, Bob Seely, said that while she and others fully supported the need for more homes to be built, ministers must “think again on this”. The former prime minister, who has in recent weeks also been a vocal critic of the government’s plans to break international law by unilaterally rewriting parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, said the plans would remove local decision-making, build over rural areas, and not deliver the affordable homes needed.” – The Guardian

>Today: Local Government: London councils are still sitting on empty garages that could be replaced with new homes

>Yesterday: Bob Seely MP in Comment: Ministers must revise the housing plan to give our cities the homes they need

China may pose threat to UK as northern sea route clears, says navy chief

“China represents a strategic threat to Britain as its navy could reach the North Atlantic via the Arctic by a route opened up by global heating, the head of the Royal Navy has said. Adm Tony Radakin, the first sea lord, said an “increasingly assertive” China had the capability to reach waters north of the UK by using the emerging Northern Sea Route. “Climate change is a concern for all of us, but it is opening up new maritime trade routes across the top of the world, halving the transit time between Europe and Asia. And we sit at the gateway to those routes,” the navy chief said in a speech given from the new £3.1bn Prince of Wales aircraft carrier in Portsmouth on Thursday… Experts say it is at least 10-12 sailing days quicker than traditional routes via Singapore and the Suez canal, and its emergence has become a growing source of concern at senior levels of the navy.” – The Guardian

  • The Royal Navy has only one vessel which can operate in high polar regions – FT

News in Brief:

  • Ignore the hyperbole, Britain isn’t on a ‘slippery slope’ to dictatorship – Ioan Phillips, CapX
  • Will Catholics be kingmakers in the US? – Christopher Rhodes, UnHerd
  • Care homes crisis, the British state, and the perils of over-centralisation – Robert Fox, Reaction
  • Expelled from the Tory Party conference – Josephine Bartosch, The Critic
  • It’s time to ban puberty blockers for children – Julie Bindel, The Spectator

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