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Once there was the ‘Good Friday Agreement’. Today we have the Christmas Eve Deal.

“Britain and the European Union were last night on the verge of signing a Brexit deal that will define their relationship for decades. They are understood to have reached political agreement on the remaining sticking points and the shape of the overall deal has been signed off by Boris Johnson and member states. However, despite hope that the agreement would be announced yesterday evening it was delayed as lawyers and negotiators attempted to translate the final compromises, particularly on fishing, into binding legal text. Downing Street sources said the deal would give British companies “zero-tariff, zero-quota” access to EU markets with no role for the European Court of Justice in policing the agreement. It would be the biggest trade deal signed by either side, worth £668 billion. Parliament is expected to be recalled after Christmas to ratify the agreement before December 31.” – The Times

  • Work on legal text goes on through night but agreement reached on fair competition and fishing rights – FT
  • So what has Britain bartered out of Barnier? – Daily Mail
  • UK may be on the brink of a deal more generous than anything the EU has offered anyone – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Let’s leave this culture war, it’s time to move on – Daniel Hannan, Daily Mail
  • Macron was the Brexit bad guy right up until the last minute – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Brexit has cost four Tory Premiers their jobs… but at long last, a sigh of relief – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • Johnson played a blinder to secure imminent Brexit trade – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: The Christmas Eve Agreement

Johnson ‘to address the nation as EU trade deal agreed’

“Boris Johnson will address the nation this morning after agreeing a free trade deal with the EU. The Prime Minister is set to speak with Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, this morning to confirm he is happy with the agreement. Both sides planned to sign the deal shortly after 7am, but no official timings have been announced. The Telegraph understands Mr Johnson will then address the nation to announce the news. His statement will be followed by a similar press conference in Brussels. Sources on both sides are claiming victory over the deal, which saw negotiators haggle through the night on individual species of fish and policy on electric cars. The deal concludes four and a half years of legal and diplomatic wrangling over the UK’s future relationship with the EU after the Brexit referendum in 2016.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Merkel pulls strings at 11th hour to avoid No Deal – Daily Mail
  • Pound jumps on hopes Brexit talks are nearing a deal – FT
  • NHS chiefs urge Prime Minister to extend Brexit transition by a month – The Guardian
  • Day by dramatic day, how Brexit history was made – Daily Mail

Johnson ‘issued stern warning’ by Tory Brexiteers over trade deal with Brussels

“Boris Johnson has been issued a stern warning by staunch Conservative Party Brexiteers that any post-Brexit trade deal he manages to strike with the European Union will be scrutinised in detail… Any trade deal would first have to be voted on by MPs in the House of Commons, which would likely have to take place in a matter of days. Now the Tory European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs have insisted it will examine any trade agreement in detail if a deal is indeed reached between the UK and EU on Wednesday evening. The body has vowed it would reconvene its so-called “star chamber” of “highly-experienced lawyers” to scrutinise all aspects of any trade deal… The ERG, headed by chairman Mark Francois, has kept a close eye on Brexit developments since the UK voted to leave the EU during the historic referendum in June 2016.” – Daily Express

  • Starmer to urge his shadow cabinet to back a Brexit trade deal – Daily Telegraph
  • Massive EU trade deal compromise will ‘spark Brexiteer fury’ – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Starmer may be key to slaying the Spartans in the ERG – Simon Walters, Daily Mail

Tier 4 for half of England amid fears of new South African Covid strain

“A new highly infectious strain of coronavirus has been found in Britain as ministers announced that six million more people would be moved into the toughest restrictions on Boxing Day. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, disclosed yesterday that the new variant, which originated in South Africa, is more contagious than the one found in Kent, which has led to a surge in cases in the southeast and London. Visitors from South Africa will be barred from entering Britain from 9am today. All travellers who have arrived in the past two weeks will be required to go into immediate quarantine and must “restrict all contact with any other person whatsoever”. British citizens, visa holders and permanent residents can enter the country from South Africa but must self-isolate for ten days along with the rest of their household, even if their family did not travel with them. The quarantine measures are so severe they will require a change in the law.” – The Times

  • Government considers plans to limit Covid vaccine to one dose per patient – Daily Telegraph
  • UK vaccine lottery ‘overlooks’ vulnerable minorities – FT
  • We may lose control if schools and universities reopen, scientists warn – The Times

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Hancock announces more English areas in more restrictive tiers

Sunak blasted for leaving London for Yorkshire ‘just hours before capital’s Tier 4 travel ban’

“Rishi Sunak left London for his Yorkshire constituency just hours before the capital was plunged into lockdown, The Sun can reveal. On Friday afternoon the Chancellor made the 240-mile journey to Richmond in North Yorkshire, where his family are staying. And he will have to spend Christmas in the market town due to the ban on travel in and out of Tier 4 areas, which covers his main home in Downing Street. Aides said he has no plans to come back and had planned to do constituency work this week. He visited a local hospital at the weekend and was shown their vaccine roll-out centre. Aides insisted that when he left London he was unaware the new travel restrictions would be imposed barely 24 hours later. They said he did not know what was going to be announced, saying he left before Friday’s meeting where Cabinet ministers were briefed on the need for Tier 4 due to the new strain of Covid.” – The Sun

  • Patel instructs police to clamp down on partygoers and pubs – The Times
  • Sturgeon apologises for breaching Covid rules – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Michael Taylor in Comment: The ethnic minority MPs erased by Labour’s self-serving narrative about diversity in Parliament

Tempers boil over as lorry drivers face Christmas in their cabs

“Operation Stack is the code name given by the police and Dover port authorities to manage the flow of heavy goods vehicles when crossings are disrupted over the English Channel. On Wednesday in the gridlock around the port it looked more like Operation Stuck – and tempers started to fray. Amid the chaos, thousands of road haulage drivers stranded here ever since Sunday’s snap decision by the French government to close its borders in response to a new strain of Covid-19 detected in Britain, watched any final hope of being able to return to spend Christmas with their families rapidly dwindle away. For some the prospect of missing their loved ones proved too much and on Wednesday tempers boiled over. In the morning a group of around 50 stranded truckers of various nationalities marched on the police officers guarding the port entrance shouting: “We want to go home”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Slow start to covid testing leaves thousands of hauliers stranded – The Times
  • France’s decision to let travel resume does not immediately help drivers waiting for Covid tests – FT

Isabel Hardman: Tier 4 extension will spark another clash between Johnson and his MPs

“More and more, private conversations with backbenchers yield the phrase, “We can’t really take him at his word any more.” This is a stunning and swift loss of trust in a prime minister who in normal times would still be celebrating the stonking majority he won a year ago. It should be the kind of accusation a leader of the opposition would throw hopefully across the Commons, not something Johnson’s own MPs have largely come to terms with. Many tell me that they no longer pay attention to his regular attempts to set a date by which life will return to “normal” (the latest is Easter, for those wondering which family engagements they should cancel next). Even those who accept that, as one backbencher puts it, “Boris is obviously not enjoying any of this: he looks miserable as hell”, are still infuriated by what they believe is the trigger-happy attitude of health ministers Matt Hancock and Nadine Dorries towards ever-increasing restrictions.” – The Guardian

  • Our only hope amid this Covid-19 horror? All hands to the pump for the vaccine rollout – Angus Dalgleish, Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • Ministers must think creatively about immunity passports – The Times

Truss and Foreign Office split over policy on China and Uighurs

“A behind-the-scenes struggle over UK policy towards China has begun, with Liz Truss, the trade secretary, backing plans, opposed by the Foreign Office, to give the British courts a role in determining whether genocide is happening in Xinjiang province. MPs are due to vote in the new year on the Lords’ all-party amendment to the trade bill, which would give the courts a preliminary role in determining whether a genocide is being committed by a country with whom the UK might sign a trade deal. The Foreign Office (FCDO) is opposed to giving UK courts preliminary power to determine whether genocide is occurring in Xinjiang, or elsewhere, saying this decision rests with competent international courts rather than national governments. But it is claimed Truss is content to back the measure.” – The Guardian

  • China deal proves we were right to leave EU – Iain Martin, The Times

Johnson under fire over House of Lords appointments

“Baroness Boothroyd, a former Commons Speaker, and six other senior peers have accused Boris Johnson of failing to uphold the integrity of the House of Lords after he nominated for a peerage a Tory donor who was embroiled in a cash-for-access scandal. The prime minister overruled independent advice from the House of Lords Appointments Commission to nominate Peter Cruddas. The head of an online trading company, he has donated £3.3 million to the Conservatives, including a £658,000 gift since Mr Johnson became prime minister. Mr Cruddas, 67, resigned as the party’s co-treasurer in 2012 after he offered undercover reporters from The Sunday Times access to David Cameron, who was the prime minister, in exchange for donations of £250,000… The House of Lords Appointments Commission, which vets nominations, said that it could not support Mr Cruddas because of the appeal court’s ruling.” – The Times

  • We need an inquiry into the peerages system – Norman Fowler, The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: If the Lords is to be representative of the Commons, LibDem peers should be culled

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