Johnson congratulates Biden – as Merkel, Macron and Martin expected to be called by the US president first

“Joe Biden has begun calling world leaders but Boris Johnson is braced for an early snub from the President-elect. Diplomatic sources acknowledged the Prime Minister was unlikely to be ‘top of the list’ for the man who described him last year as a ‘physical and emotional clone’ of Donald Trump. British diplomats believe Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Irish PM Micheal Martin are among the leaders likely to hear from Mr Biden first as he rebuilds relations with the EU following years of hostility from Mr Trump.” – Daily Mail



Clare Foges: I’m pro-Joe but spare me the Trump haters

“In 1993 the outgoing President George HW Bush penned a letter to his successor, Bill Clinton, that reads like a relic from a less rancorous age. “I wish you great happiness here,” he wrote from the Oval Office. “You will be our president when you read this note . . . Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting for you.” It is hard to imagine similar sentiments winging their way to Joe Biden any time soon. Trump’s ungracious and outrageous behaviour over the past week comes as little surprise, of course.” – The Times

Lords defeat of Brexit bill will put government on track for Biden clash

“Boris Johnson is facing a heavy defeat in the House of Lords this week on controversial Brexit legislation that will break international law, setting him on course for a clash with US president-elect Joe Biden. Peers on Monday will vote to remove clauses from the controversial Internal Market Bill that the government has admitted could break its commitments in the Brexit withdrawal agreement in a “very specific and limited way”. While ministers have argued the legislation is vital for securing trade within the UK, opponents have said it risks violating the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.” FT

EU deal there to be done, says Johnson ahead of London talks

“A trade, security and fisheries deal with the European Union is “there to be done”, Boris Johnson has said before Brexit talks begin in London today. Lord Frost, the prime minister’s chief negotiator, has been holding internal consultations within the government after a short break in high-level negotiations. “I think it’s there to be done, the broad outlines are pretty clear,” Mr Johnson said. “We just need to get them to do it if we can.” The prime minister promised to “redouble efforts to reach a deal” after a weekend phone call with Ursula von der Leyen.” – The Times

Rashford forces the Government into second u-turn on free school meals

“On the day his political soulmate was being urged to belatedly show some humility after defeat in the US election, Boris Johnson once again bowed to the better judgment of a 23-year-old footballer, in the latest of a series of high-profile U-turns. After weeks of digging in his heels and refusing to cede to calls to extend free school meals to children from low-income families during school holidays in England, Johnson phoned the Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford on Saturday night to inform him of his change of heart.” – The Guardian

Sunak 1) Scrap air passenger taxes or risk 8,000 jobs, MPs tell the Chancellor…

“Twenty-nine MPs and peers have written to Rishi Sunak to urge him to scrap air passenger taxes for a year or risk losing nearly half the air routes that could be otherwise saved and 8,000 jobs. In their letter to the Chancellor, exclusively revealed to The Telegraph, the 29 – nearly half of whom are Conservative including three former ministers – said that the move could encourage an extra 21 million passengers to travel once the UK came out of lockdown. A research report by York Aviation also suggested it could generate £7bn in gross value added to the economy, more than three times the revenue that would be generated by keeping air passenger duty (APD).” – Daily Telegraph

Sunak 2) … as he seeks to win over northern MPs

“Rishi Sunak hopes to win round northern Tory MPs today with an address to backbenchers who attacked Boris Johnson last month over the impact of lockdown on their constituencies. The chancellor is to meet the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs (NRG), who wrote to the prime minister to demand a clear route out of regional coronavirus restrictions and a commitment to large-scale investment in their constituencies. Their letter, which caused irritation in Downing Street after it was leaked to The Times, expressed concerns that Mr Sunak’s economic support packages might not be sufficient to prevent the north bearing the brunt of any post-pandemic recession.” – The Times

Coronavirus 1) GCHQ in cyberwar on anti-vaccine propaganda

“GCHQ has begun an offensive cyber-operation to disrupt anti-vaccine propaganda being spread by hostile states, The Times understands. The spy agency is using a toolkit developed to tackle disinformation and recruitment material peddled by Islamic State, according to sources. It is the latest move by cyberagents to counter activity linked to Moscow whose aim is to exploit the pandemic in order to undermine the West and boost Russian interests. The government regards tackling false information about inoculation as a rising priority as the prospect of a reliable vaccine against the coronavirus draws closer.” – The Times

  • Australian lab to start producing Oxford Covid-19 vaccine – The Times
  • Vaccine star Kate Bingham under pressure over PR bill – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Johnson ‘furious’ at being bounced into second lockdown, claims government minister…

“BORIS Johnson is furious that he was “bounced” into imposing a second lockdown, a government minister claims. The PM signed off a new lockdown in England on October 31 after he was warned by Government scientists that Covid-related deaths could rise to 4,000 a day in a worst case scenario. The PM was said to be “cross” that he was forced to hold the hastily-arranged press briefing after details of the short-term lockdown had been leaked to the media. He is said to be worried about the data, which was used to justify a second lockdown, “crumbling” under scrutiny.” – The Sun

Coronavirus 3)… as number 10 could give differently worded briefings to ministers in bid to find lockdown leaker

“Boris Johnson is being urged to hand differently worded briefings to Cabinet ministers in order to catch the leaker who revealed the second national coronavirus lockdown early. The Prime Minister was infuriated when details of the lockdown in England were leaked 10 days ago, forcing him to announce the plan the following day before MPs could formally be told. He is said to be determined to stop future leaks, and one idea being considered by Government whips is for Number 10 to give out differently worded documents.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 4) One in eight shops failed to reopen after first lockdown

“More than one in eight shops are in limbo after temporarily closing for the first lockdown in March and failing to reopen, according to a report. A total of 5,552 shops remain closed with little clarity over their future, underlining the uncertainty facing the retail industry, an analysis by the Local Data Company and the accountancy firm PWC found. These “frozen” shops amount to 888 acres of property across high streets, retail parks, shopping centres and other locations such as railway stations.” – The Times

  • Half a million jobs are at risk in the events industry – Daily Mail
  • More than 90 per cent want to work at home – The Times
  • Wales prepares to leave lockdown, as Drakeford claims infection rates are “plateauing” – Daily Mail
  • Number people seeking help for suicidal thoughts has tripled since lockdown – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 5) Ministers warn lockdown flouters that the police are prepared to escalate their response

“Police are preparing to escalate their response to lockdown breaches, ministers have warned, after large numbers of people appeared to ignore the Government’s advice to stay at home over the weekend. Despite all but essential shops being forced to close, large gatherings were seen at food markets, parks and other open spaces in defiance of the latest restrictions. While forces around the country have vowed to clampdown on large scale breaches of the lockdown such as raves and illegal house parties, concern is growing about the extent to which the ordinary public is adhering to the new rules.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Four are arrested and 24 fined at anti-lockdown protest – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 6) Hospitals are ordered to isolate patients from Denmark amid mutant mink coronavirus fears

“Hospital patients who have recently returned from Denmark must be treated in isolation because of fears about a mutant strain of the coronavirus caught from mink. Guidance from Public Health England and the Department of Health also says people who test positive for Covid-19 within 14 days of arriving from Denmark must be isolated and sent to a specialist “infectious diseases centre”. About 17 million mink are being culled in Denmark after more than 200 people caught Covid-19 linked to fur farms.” – The Times

Coronavirus 7) Nightingales cost £1m per patient, analysis shows

“Nightingale hospitals have cost the taxpayer £1m per patient with medical experts warning most of the facilities will not fully open due to lack of staff. Only two out of the seven Nightingales, built earlier this year at a cost of £220m, have treated patients with Covid-19.  The London and Manchester facilities cared for an estimated 200 people during the first wave. This is the equivalent of about £1m per patient, according to the Sunday Times.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief: