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Brexit 1) Johnson urges Brussels to ‘play fair’ on state aid rules

“Boris Johnson last night called on the European Union to drop its demands to allow Brussels to subsidise industries across Europe while denying the UK the same rights. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has called for Brussels aid to be exempt from any future subsidy control regime as part of a Brexit deal. Mr Johnson told Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, that the exemption would allow the EU to unfairly support European industries while putting UK firms at a competitive disadvantage. The issue has been brought into focus by a €750 billion EU pandemic recovery fund and other payments that will be used to directly support many industries in countries that are significant rivals with the UK, such as France, Italy and Spain. While similar forms of government aid to industry would be subjected to subsidy control scrutiny, EU payments in the next Brussels budget would be excluded.” – The Times

  • Help me clear Brexit hurdles, he urges Von der Leyen – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson says talks in ‘serious situation’ after call with EU chief – The Guardian
  • Brussels’ demands branded ‘offensive’ and ‘unreasonable’ – The Sun
  • Britain’s annual Brexit capitulation draws nigh – FT
  • Barnier says just ‘hours’ left for Brexit deal – Daily Express

More:

  • UK urges EU to drop privacy law that will stop firms scanning for child abuse images – Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit trade talks buffeted by EU Covid relief state aid row – FT
  • Merkel faces growing backlash over Britain getting vaccine before Germany – The Sun

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Your Brexit trade talks countdown. Fourteen days left until transition ends fully.

>Yesterday: Roderick Crawford in Comment: Brexit and trade. What we are and aren’t committed to in order to help bring about a level playing field

Brexit 2) Sturgeon plots keep to Scotland tied to EU as fishermen to be ‘forced to follow hated CFP’

“Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP have unveiled a decade long fishing strategy to stay aligned to controversial EU fishing laws as relations between London and Edinburgh turn sour over a Brexit trade deal. In a snub to Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan, the SNP-led Scottish Government unveiled plans to stay aligned to the EU Common Fisheries Policy. It comes as Brexit trade deal talks orchestrated by Michel Barnier and Lord Frost continue to see an impasse on fisheries – the core sticking point of the negotiations. The European Parliament yesterday set down a three-day deadline for post-Brexit trade deal negotiators to strike a deal, warning that MEPs will not have time to ratify an agreement this year unless it is ready by Sunday night. On fishing, the UK Government claims the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has “long been a source of discontentment.”” – Daily Express

  • Brussels can smell panicking Britain’s desperation to get a Brexit deal – Jonathan Saxty, Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson’s levelling-up mission starts now – James Forsyth, The Times

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: The beacons are lit! Aberdeen calls for aid, and London must answer

Third national lockdown looms after Christmas

“A third national lockdown will be considered if coronavirus infections continue to rise after Christmas, Downing Street has suggested. More than 38 million people in England – 68 per cent of the population – will be in Tier 3 from Saturday after large parts of the South East were plunged into the harshest level of restrictions by ministers. Tory MPs in some of the new Tier 3 areas branded the decision “ridiculous”, but Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said he was left with no choice after infection rates surged by up to two thirds in some areas. It came as Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, extended the furlough scheme until the end of April, adding to speculation that tight restrictions that prevent people working will continue beyond Easter.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Two thirds of England to live under Tier 3 lockdown rules – The Times
  • Ministers mull ‘Tier 4’ crackdown – Daily Mail
  • NHS hospitals running out of beds as Covid cases continue to surge – The Guardian

Schools:

  • Secondary schools to delay new term after rising Covid rates prompt mass testing… – FT
  • …days after Williamson threatened councils with legal action if they closed early – Daily Mail

>Today: Philippa Stroud in Comment: So you wanted an impact assessment of the effects of lockdown, restrictions – and of Covid itself? Here it is.

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Covid. There’s nothing wrong with supplementing rules with advice.

Home Secretary accuses senior Tory MP of breaking Covid rules

“The home secretary, Priti Patel, has accused a senior Tory MP of breaching Covid-19 rules after he attended a Christmas dinner for 27 people at a private members’ club. Tobias Ellwood, a former Foreign Office minister who chairs the influential Commons defence select committee, attended an event at the Cavalry and Guards Club in London on Tuesday evening hours before the capital moved into tier 3. Only a day earlier in parliament he called on the government to review its plans to relax restrictions for Christmas to avoid a third wave in the new year. The dinner, in Piccadilly, was held by the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) and was initially described as a “Christmas party” on its website before the reference was removed.” – The Guardian

  • Patel urges people to call police on their neighbours if they break Christmas rules… – The Sun
  • …and says she will not be visiting her parents for Christmas – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Ellwood is yet another hypocrite destroying trust in our rule-makers – Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Hancock announces further restrictions and a few relaxations

Furlough scheme extended until end of April, Sunak announces

“Rishi Sunak has extended the furlough scheme for another month until the end of April amid mounting concerns about the impact of lockdown restrictions on the economy. The chancellor announced that the scheme, which subsidises 80 per cent of people’s wages up to a maximum of £2,500 a month, would be extended until April 30. The decision came as 4.2 million people in the south and southeast of England were put under Tier 3 restrictions, the highest level. It means that two thirds of the population, about 37 million people, are now living under Tier 3, which includes the closure of pubs and restaurants. Downing Street refused to rule out a third lockdown after Christmas to bring the virus under control. Some cabinet ministers believe another lockdown is inevitable while others anticipate tougher restrictions in Tier 3 areas.” – The Times

  • King of Sweden blasts country’s ‘failed’ coronavirus response – The Guardian

Taxes:

  • Families face council tax rise next year after local authorities given green light for hike – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • We must never repeat the staggering global $6 trillion cost of lockdown – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Jenrick, King of Liverpool?

Rees-Mogg accuses Unicef of ‘stunt’ for giving food parcels to London children

“Jacob Rees-Mogg is embroiled in a row with Unicef after saying the agency “should be ashamed of itself” for sending food parcels to children in deprived areas of London. The leader of the House of Commons accused the humanitarian organisation of “playing politics” after it said it would donate £25,000 to a community group providing breakfasts in Southwark. The United Nations Children’s Fund is responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide. It is the first time in its 74-year history that it has funded a project in Britain and forms part of a wider £700,000 aid programme that is being run in partnership with Sustain, the food and farming alliance. Yesterday Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said that it was a national disgrace that Unicef’s intervention was needed. Challenged in the Commons over the government’s record on child food poverty, Mr Rees-Mogg criticised the agency.” – The Times

  • Commons leader criticised over comments about £25,000 pledge in south London – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Our ‘informative, interesting’ Moggcast stars in the Commons chamber

Truss hits out at woke equality drive as she vows to level up UK with ‘facts not fashion’

“Liz Truss has condemned the focus on “fashionable” race and gender issues and promised the government will turn its attention to people’s social class and individual character. The Equalities minister said the discrimination debate should not focus solely on race, religion, sexual orientation and disability. Discussion had too often been dominated by “fashion” and not “facts”, she said. The government is launching an Equality Data Programme to gather information on people’s backgrounds, social mobility and inequality between regions. Ms Truss said the state’s agenda has been too narrow and ignored other crucial ways in which the country is not fair. Setting out a new “Conservative values” approach in a speech at the Centre for Policy Studies think tank she dismissed quotas, targets, and unconscious bias training as “tools of the Left” that “do nothing to fix systems”.” – Daily Express

  • Judges’ landmark ruling is a victory in the war on woke – Daily Mail

>Yesterday:

Fraser Nelson: The new Tory equality agenda is far more than a victory over wokeness

“Julia Lopez, a Cabinet Office minister, announced this week that such “training” was to end in the civil service. It’s not just pointless, she said, but it reinforces damaging stereotypes. This is the new Tory theme. To reject the old equalities agenda as the disease of which it purports to be the cure – promoting stereotypes, discrimination and division. It also means talking more warmly about Britain. Rishi Sunak told me recently that he’s in politics to repay the country that gave his family every chance in life – a country, he says, that thinks nothing of having a Hindu Chancellor placing Diwali lights on the steps of Downing Street. From any background, it’s not hard to see Britain as one of the best places in the world to live, he argues, if you look at the facts.” – Daily Telegraph

  • University ‘safe spaces’? As I found, they’re a danger to us all – Andrew Doyle, Daily Mail
  • Equalities Minister is bone-headed for suggesting that gender equality is a woke cause – Rosa Prince, Daily Telegraph

Home Office to deploy ‘stealth squad’ of speedboats and jet skis to catch Channel migrants…

“A high-speed drone boat with state-of-the-art surveillance technology is being trialled by Border Force as part of a hi-tech strategy to combat Channel migrants. The 41-foot unmanned boat with radar and camera and capable of speeds of more than 40 knots was tested on Thursday in the straits of Dover as a new technique to help detect and intercept migrant boats and catch smugglers. The boat (below), known as MADFOX  and controlled from a master vessel, comes alongside plans to deploy jet skis to help Border Force agents patrol the channel after migrant crossings this year topped 8,500 –  seven times the rate of 2019. The boat is also under trial with the Royal Navy. Border Force vessels have already conducted trials with Royal Navy experts of nets as a technique for stopping the boats at sea by clogging their propellers.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Last-minute legal challenges to block foreign criminals being deported ‘will be banned’ – The Sun

…as Lewer sacked after ‘stop leaks or else’ letter to top Tories was leaked to gossip site

“A ministerial aide was sacked last night after a probe into the sharing of a letter warning top Tories to stop leaking. Andrew Lewer was fired as parliamentary private secretary at the Home Office after a short inquiry into the publication of the letter from Tory chief whip Mark Spencer. The memo to parliamentary private secretaries and Tory vice-chairmen told them they could not vote against the Government or endorse campaigns criticising government policy. Mr Spencer also pointed out that the Prime Minister’s foreword to the Ministerial Code ‘strictly prohibits “leaking” or any other breaches of trust’. But despite the warning, ironically, the letter was leaked yesterday to the Guido Fawkes political gossip site. Mr Lewer was contacted last night but did not respond. Boris Johnson was infuriated in October when plans for a second lockdown were leaked to the media.” – Daily Mail

  • Patel insists that she didn’t shout and swear at staff – The Times

Army wants Cold War plan for China

“Britain and its allies face a moment of truth over whether it is possible for the democratic world to peacefully coexist with China, the head of the military has suggested. The West needs to devise a long-term strategy to defend itself against Beijing’s expansionism akin to that adopted at the outset of the Cold War, General Sir Nick Carter said yesterday. The chief of the defence staff used his annual lecture to the Royal United Services Institute to warn that Britain may need to adopt a similar way of thinking to its “authoritarian rivals” in Russia and China to deny them the means to “take over our way of life” via cyberwarfare. He also said that Russia’s armed forces were “flexing their muscles in our own back yard with an ostentation they have not displayed since the Cold War” after a dozen of their warships and aircraft were seen off Scotland last month. In remarks that reflect a shift in the military’s priorities away from traditional warfare, Sir Nick called for Britain to build a “digital sphere of influence” to combat threats from Beijing and Moscow.” – The Times

  • Russia is ‘flexing muscles in Britain’s back yard’, Chief of the Defence Staff warns – Daily Telegraph
  • Feds call ‘nine-month long undetected’ Russian hack a ‘grave threat’ – Daily Mail

Labour to appoint Jewish board to help draw up antisemitism complaint process

“Labour will appoint a Jewish advisory board to help oversee the creation of an independent disciplinary process to respond to incidents of antisemitism. The party announced the change, which is part of an overhaul ordered by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, after the body found it was responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act when dealing with complaints of antisemitism among members. It has now published an “action plan for driving out antisemitism”, which the EHRC agreed could be placed into the public domain. In it, the party commits to drafting a new process for dealing with complaints by April next year, and implementing it as soon as possible after the 2021 party conference, which would need to approve the changes. An advisory board of Jewish stakeholders will be appointed to consult about the new system, and Labour will report back to the EHRC regularly about progress.” – The Guardian

Sturgeon to take charge of Scotland’s drug death epidemic after admitting record ‘indefensible’

“Nicola Sturgeon has said she will take charge of tackling Scotland’s drug death epidemic after admitting her government’s record was “indefensible” and giving only muted backing to her beleaguered public health minister. A contrite First Minister said she would attend the next meeting of her government’s Drugs Death Taskforce in the new year and report back to Holyrood by the end of January. Challenged repeatedly by opposition leaders over swingeing SNP cuts to drug rehabilitation facilities, Ms Sturgeon said many of the criticisms were “legitimate and it is for me to take that squarely on the chin.” She apologised for the spiralling number of deaths and said she would work with Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick on the next steps, but conspicuously failed to defend his record against a chorus of demands to sack him.” – Daily Telegraph

  • SNP MP blasts Tik Tok for not removing ‘beautiful but wicked’ anti-vaxxer – The Sun

News in Brief:

  • China’s grey-zone warfare against Taiwan should concern Johnson as well as Biden – Gray Sergeant, CapX
  • The Moroccan deal with Israel fills me with joy – Marie K Daouda, UnHerd
  • The insidious attacks on scientific truth – Richard Dawkins, The Spectator
  • How to fix our broken justice system – David Cowan, The Critic