Published:

‘Prepare for no deal’, Johnson tells Britain

“Boris Johnson told Britain to prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period without a deal as he stepped up the pressure on EU leaders before a summit last night. The prime minister said he had the cabinet’s very strong backing in rejecting the “deal on the table” and warned it was vital that “everyone gets ready” for the no-deal option. Asked if he thought leaving in three weeks’ time without an agreement had become the most likely outcome, he said: “I do think we need to be very, very clear, there is now a strong possibility, a strong possibility, that we will have a solution that is much more like an Australian relationship with the EU than a Canadian relationship with the EU.” Unlike Canada, Australia does not have a trade deal with Europe.” – The Times

  • He says Brussels wants to ‘punish’ the UK as EU accused of threatening blockade – Daily Telegraph
  • Inside the summit where the PM’s Brexit talks with the EU ran aground  – Daily Mail
  • Commission chiefs set out ’emergency rules’ to ease transition to no-deal Brexit – Daily Express
  • EU makes fishing and transport no-deal offers in return for ‘level playing field’ – The Guardian

More:

  • Top business leaders are thrown into panic – Daily Mail
  • What a no-deal Brexit means for both sides – The Times
  • Sectors that will be hit by a no-deal Brexit – FT
  • Countries ’round on Macron’ in desperate fight to save huge trade deal – Daily Express
  • Agreement cannot ‘come at any price’, minister warns, as Tory concern grows – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Catherine Barnard in Comment: The wonky level playing field. The row at the heart of the trade talks disagreement between the UK and the EU.

>Yesterday:

James Forsyth: The EU has dangerously misread Britain

“The two sides are simultaneously close and far apart. They are near to a zero-tariff, zero-quota deal. But they are stuck on the same issues that they have been for months: fishing and the extent to which Britain adheres to the level playing field. The British side is more pessimistic about the chances of resolving these differences. The danger is that the remaining optimism on the European side comes from a belief that Johnson will climb down at the last minute. This is a dangerous misreading of the situation. Johnson is under very little domestic pressure to do so. I am told that “around the cabinet table there is a strong desire for a deal, but there is a willingness to do no-deal”. The sense that the EU hardened up its position late last week has strengthened the cabinet’s resolve. In parliament, Johnson has an 80-seat majority, his party behind him and a leader of the opposition who is visibly uncomfortable talking about Brexit, as this week’s PMQs showed.” – The Times

  • Vindictive Brussels harms itself by turning Brexit into a punishment – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph
  • The huge gamble that Johnson can’t afford to dodge – Simon Walters, Daily Mail
  • The Prime Minister would only have himself to blame for a no-deal Brexit – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

>Today:

Brexiteers warn deal needs more than 24 hours’ scrutiny

“Brexiteers have warned Boris Johnson that any Brexit trade deal will need more than 24 hours’ scrutiny in parliament, as they prepare to sit between Christmas and New Year. The Commons should eschew its usual two-week end-of-year recess and sit “through the night, round the clock” to comb through the legal text of a trade agreement if one is secured between the UK and EU, Tory MPs have said. Mr Johnson has set Sunday as a deadline for reviewing the “future of the talks” over a trade, security and fishing deal, suggesting that negotiations could continue into next week. The extended timetable has sparked fears that if a deal is eventually clinched, the window for parliamentary scrutiny of it will be squeezed, as UK ratification must take place by the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Deal is 97 per cent done so don’t walk away now, urges Ireland – The Times

More:

  • Biggest arts groups get £165m to stage revival after pandemic – The Times

>Yesterday:

Britons to be on EU quarantine list in weeks unless infections fall

“British travellers face being temporarily banned from European destinations after January unless coronavirus cases fall in the UK. Under EU rules designed to curb the spread of the infection, only travellers from third countries deemed safe are allowed entry to the bloc for non-essential reasons. Individual states can relax the rules, although there is no guarantee that this will happen. At present these rules do not apply to British travellers because the UK, during the transition period, remains a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). At the end of the year Britain will automatically leave the EEA and the European Council will have to decide whether to include it on a list of safe countries. Infection rates in the UK are significantly higher than in other countries on the list.” – The Times

  • Industry outcry over plans to block travelling to Europe – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Alberto Costa MP in Comment: There are too many barriers to Britishness. Post-Brexit, it’s time for a more welcoming citizenship policy.

Daily tests allow Covid contacts to escape fortnight of isolation

“Daily coronavirus tests are being given to people who have been in contact with someone who tested positive, in a pilot project designed to free them from having to self-isolate for a fortnight. Under the scheme, undergoing trials in a number of schools, businesses and universities, close contacts of people with Covid-19 are contacted by phone and then sent a week’s lateral flow testing devices. The contacts are then required to test themselves by swabbing their nose and/or throat each morning for seven days. If the test gives a negative result, the person is free to leave their home for that day. A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has raised concerns about poor compliance with self isolation and the failure of the test and trace system to reach people quickly. Surveys suggest the proportion of contacts complying with instructions to self-isolate is between 10 and 59 per cent. The government is offering £500 support payments to improve compliance.” – The Times

  • Two week self-isolation slashed to 10 days to help reunite families for Christmas – The Sun
  • Test and trace system falling short, finds UK spending watchdog – FT
  • It repeatedly failed to hit goals despite £22bn cost – Daily Mail
  • Hancock to host No10 press conference with Whitty tonight – The Sun

More:

  • UK’s order of 60m Sanofi and GSK vaccines delayed until end of 2021 – Daily Telegraph
  • Wales ‘set for second firebreak lockdown from December 28’ – The Sun
  • Could parts of the Midlands and North be released from Tier Three before Christmas? – Daily Mail
  • Banks strong enough to support economy through pandemic, says Bank of England – FT

Comment:

  • Like the financial crisis, Covid is a gift to populists – Philip Stephens, FT

Wealth tax report gives ‘political cover’ for raising existing taxes

“An influential report proposing a one-off 5 per cent wealth tax in the UK could pave the way for broader increases in inheritance and other capital taxes, financial advisers have warned. They were responding to the publication this week of a study by a widely-respected Wealth Tax Commission, led by academics at the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics, which suggested that a one-off 5 per cent levy on assets, including main homes, could raise £260bn to repair the country’s pandemic-ravaged public finances. The advisers said that while such a tax would be politically difficult for a Conservative government to enact, the proposal could help pave the way to raising existing UK taxes on assets, notably capital gains tax as well as inheritance taxes. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has launched a review of capital gains tax, prompting speculation that rates might be raised to close the gap with income tax rates.” – FT

>Yesterday: Matt Kilcoyne in Comment: A wealth tax is a bad idea at the best of times – let alone in the aftermath of a pandemic

Patel demands urgent action from Burnham to solve ‘policing crisis’

“Home Secretary Priti Patel has written to Manchester mayor Andy Burnham demanding an urgent action plan to sort out the city’s policing crisis, following a damning report. HM Inspectors found Manchester, England’s second-largest police force, failed to record more than 80,000 crimes in a year, and closed cases without proper investigation. In her letter to Mr Burnham, Ms Patel said: “These findings risk further eroding the confidence and trust that the people of Greater Manchester are entitled to have in their force’s ability to keep them safe.” She said she wanted to see, no later than February 4, his response to the recommendations by the inspectors, and to send her his “recovery plan at the earliest opportunity”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Liverpool mayor to step aside following arrest – The Guardian

More Home Office:

  • UK to deny asylum to refugees passing through ‘safe’ third country – The Guardian

>Today: James Palmer in Local Government: How devolution can bost innovation and economic growth

UK’s first gigafactory to provide £2.6bn boost for ‘red wall’ town

“Battery start-up Britishvolt will build the UK’s first gigafactory in Blyth, in a boost for both north-east England and the government’s ambitions of creating a homegrown electric car industry. The £2.6bn battery production centre will create up to 3,000 jobs by 2027 in the town of 37,000 people 13 miles north of Newcastle and support another 5,000 in the supply chain, the company said on Friday. Construction at the site is expected to begin in the summer, with the first batteries scheduled for production by 2023. Blyth Valley MP Ian Levy said the investment was the largest in the region since carmaker Nissan set up its plant in Sunderland more than 35 years ago, which is now worth more than £4bn.” – FT

  • Rail revival plan to connect South West – The Times

Comment:

  • I’m launching the Property Research Group to fight for reform of property taxes – Kevin Hollinrake MP, Daily Telegraph

‘Shame on her!’ Furious Davidson erupts at Sturgeon in ‘brutal FMQs showdown’

“Ruth Davidson snapped at Nicola Sturgeon for her involvement in a sexual harassment investigation on former First Minister Alex Salmond. Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson snapped at First Minister leader Nicola Sturgeon as the pair discussed the code of conduct by the SNP leader during an investigation into a sexual assault by former First Minister Alex Salmond. While speaking in First Minister’s Questions (FMQs), Ms Davidson demanded a clear set of details regarding a meeting Ms Sturgeon held with Mr Salmond. She noted that Ms Sturgeon’s husband, Mr Peter Murrell, gave a different account of the events of this meeting… Ms Sturgeon reiterated that she had already explained the reasons for her meeting with Mr Salmond in written evidence and she noted that she would answer further questions in person to the committee in a few weeks time.” – Daily Express

News in Brief:

  • The FTC’s case for breaking up Facebook is deeply flawed – Sam Bowman, CapX
  • One small step for free speech – Douglas Murray, UnHerd
  • Russia’s bid to control the Arctic – Francis Pike, The Spectator
  • Cummings and the illusion of control – Rob Sutton, The Critic