Navy ‘to board French boats and arrest fishermen’

“The Royal Navy Police will be given the power to arrest French and other EU fishermen who illegally enter Britain’s waters in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The government is preparing legislation to extend the powers of the navy police so that they can board foreign vessels and arrest fishermen amid concerns about violent clashes in the Channel. The Royal Navy is also ready to deploy four patrol ships to stop and even impound EU fishing vessels if they illegally enter the Channel after a no-deal Brexit. The 80-metre “River Class” vessels will be deployed after January 1 to police the exclusive economic zone, which extends up to 200 nautical miles from shore. The move has echoes of the “cod wars” with Iceland in the 1970s. Britain deployed 22 frigates to protect the fishing fleet, which led Iceland to try to buy American gunboats to drive them off. In 2018 French and English fishing boats clashed over scallop fishing.” – The Times

  • The Red Wall stiffens its sinews and is ready to embrace a no-deal Brexit – Daily Telegraph
  • EU states urged to push UK into new talks in event of no-deal Brexit – FT
  • What would a no-deal Brexit mean for business? – Daily Telegraph
  • UK faces pricier food and possible shortages in no-deal Brexit – FT

>Today: Book Reviews: Britain’s relationship with the EU: no love affair, followed by a bad marriage and a stormy divorce

Johnson’s attempts at direct Brexit talks rebuffed three times in a week

“Boris Johnson’s attempts to negotiate directly with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron have been rebuffed three times in a week, prompting him to warn a no-deal outcome to Brexit talks is now “very, very likely”. EU sources disclosed Friday that the offer made by the Prime Minister this week to travel to Paris or Berlin had been snubbed by the French President and German Chancellor, despite the growing threat of a failure to strike a trade agreement. A no-deal decision could come as early as Sunday, the new deadline set by Britain and the EU for a review of the progress of the negotiations. Negotiations are continuing over the weekend to try and find a way to break the deadlock. France and Germany have recently closed ranks after a series of briefings suggested Mrs Merkel was leaning on Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, to go soft on Britain to avoid no deal.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister says wonderful no-deal Brexit would let us do what we want – The Times
  • Ireland ‘in despair’ over Brexit deal collapse as anger at Macron grows – Daily Express


  • Nandy accused of siding with EU over wrangling of Brexit trade deal – Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit staff shortages cause alarm in London – FT


Matthew Parris: We’re heading for a true believers’ Brexit

“They don’t believe in it. The tragedy and the ignominy of this cabinet is they don’t even believe in it themselves. They don’t believe in the painless Brexit or the sunlit future they’ve promised to deliver. You can hear it in their voices as they tour the studios and TV sofas ducking the words “no deal” and babbling about Australia. You can see it in their eyes as they try to reconcile their pledge to strain every sinew to get a deal, with their assurance that it will be fine if they don’t get one. You can sense it in their body language as swagger teeters on the edge of fear. That photograph of Boris Johnson standing beside Ursula von der Leyen said it all. Whole political careers have been built on selling Brexit by men and women who don’t, in their guts, buy Brexit. And now, in the days ahead, they must make the sales pitch of their lives.” – The Times

  • No deal is not inevitable, but it is fast becoming our most viable option – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Britain faces a no-deal crash-out: even ultra-Brexiters said this would be a disaster – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian
  • On Brexit, the Tories have fallen prey to magical thinking – Camilla Cavendish, FT


>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Brexit. In the short-term, a bumpy ride. In the medium, a massive success – that’s my instinct, anyway

Covid-19: Minister ‘threatens headteacher over pre-Christmas online lessons’…

“The government is using its emergency powers under the Coronavirus Act to threaten to use legal action against headteachers who want to allow their pupils to learn remotely in the run-up to Christmas. The Observer understands any schools that were planning to move most of their teaching online during the last week of term, to ensure none of their pupils would have to self-isolate on Christmas Day, are being ordered to remain open. One headteacher in Hertfordshire was sent an official letter last week from the schools minister, Nick Gibb, warning him that the government is prepared to deploy its new powers under the act to ensure his secondary school stays open for all pupils until Friday. Last Wednesday, the day before the school planned to close, Gibb wrote a letter to Warren, stating that he was “minded to direct” the board of trustees to keep the school gates open and had the power to do this under schedule 17 of the Coronavirus Act.” – The Guardian

  • Schools that try to close early before Christmas face being sued by the Government – Daily Mail

…amidst doubts about family reunions as fast tests miss half of infections

“Care homes have been told that lateral flow tests are not accurate enough for allowing visitors in after data from a pilot showed that they missed 51 per cent of coronavirus cases. Figures published yesterday by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) dealt a blow to Boris Johnson’s hopes of using rapid tests to allow people more freedom. Liverpool started testing people with PCR tests before allowing them to visit care homes as a result of the data but a week later the government started sending out more than a million lateral flow tests to care homes to fulfil a pledge of allowing visits in England by Christmas. Some homes are now refusing to use the tests, saying the government must offer firmer evidence that they are safe. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, has also drawn a distinction between using lateral flow tests to find more cases in people with no symptoms, where low levels of accuracy are less of a problem, and using them to allow some activities, where it is a serious complication.” – The Times

  • Christmas shopping warning for Londoners as capital ‘heads for Tier 3 next week’ – Daily Mail
  • Postcode lottery means many areas not able to offer £500 self-isolation money – The Sun
  • Dozens of GP practices in England opt out of Covid vaccine rollout – The Guardian
  • Is your area getting a coronavirus mass testing scheme? – Daily Mail


  • ‘There will be another nasty virus, but next time Britain will be ready’ – Interview, Kate Bingham
  • Vaccine passports make no sense if the Covid jabs don’t stop you spreading the virus – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: George Freeman MP in Comment: Ministers need to make Covid a catalyst for a serious community health crusade

Social media must protect users and free speech under new law

“Social media companies will have a duty to be impartial and will be barred from “arbitrarily” removing comments because they are controversial, the government will announce next week. Ministers will announce plans on Tuesday for a statutory duty of care, which will be enforced by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator. Companies that fail to meet the duty could face multimillion-pound fines or be blocked from operating in Britain. However, the legislation will also include measures to protect freedom of speech after concerns were raised in Downing Street that the powers could prompt social media companies to take posts down unnecessarily. One source familiar with the plans told The Times the government was concerned that social media companies were removing legitimate content on the ground that it was controversial, rather than because it was harmful or inaccurate.” – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Ambitious, energetic, but quiet on the culture wars – a year on from Johnson’s “stonking” majority, what have we learned?

Anderson demands Union Flag flown from schools and buildings

“A red wall MP  has demanded a new law to make schools and public buildings fly the union flag. Lee Anderson, who won the Ashfield seat for the Tories at last year’s election, has written to ministers urging them to help the nation celebrate Britain’s culture and heritage more. In an letter to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove he said the move would be an “opportunity for everyone to come together and reassert our pride in our country”. And in an article for The Sun he said his constituents were sick of “tokenistic virtue signalling” and “a rewriting of our history”. Instead he said people wanted to “to learn from and embrace our past, to respect our heritage” to improve all our futures… Campaigners across the nation have renamed streets and buildings for fear of offence over controversial pasts. Streets on a new housing estate have been given a string of bizarre new names, The Sun revealed this week. They claim Diversity Grove, Equality Road, Respect Way, Destiny Road, Inspire Avenue and Humanity Close reflect “core values”.” – The Sun

UK government ‘has underestimated takeup for Hong Kong resettlement scheme’

“Hong Kong residents are likely to move to the UK faster than the British government has anticipated, and more should be done to prepare for their arrival, a new advocacy group has said. HongKongers in Britain (HKB) surveyed city residents hoping to emigrate under a new British government scheme that opens in January, allowing those with colonial-era British National Overseas (BNO) status to obtain visas and pursue a “path to citizenship”. The Home Office has already said it expects nearly half a million people to take up the offer over its first three years, but HKB said the number could be more than 600,000. Around three-quarters of those planning a move hold university degrees and earn salaries well above the city’s average, so will be well positioned to contribute to the British economy. But few have family in Britain and only half have friends here, so they may need help settling and integrating. Three-quarters plan to travel with children, so schools need to be prepared for an influx of students, the group said.” – The Guardian

  • New bullying row amid claims minister shouted at staff – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Does cross-party support for the Mali mission signal a new consensus on deploying troops overseas?

UK pledges to end financing for overseas fossil-fuel projects

“The UK is set to end financing for oil and gas projects overseas — a move that will strip out billions in underwriting loans to energy projects — as it works to burnish its green credentials ahead of a major climate summit.  Support for overseas fossil-fuel energy projects has totalled more than £3.5bn over the past five years but will be halted sometime next year, though no date was set for when the new policy will take effect and the government said there would be “limited exceptions”.  The policy is the latest environmental initiative by Boris Johnson, who will make the announcement at the UN climate summit that the prime minister is co-hosting on Saturday, which marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate accord.  The government’s support for overseas fossil-fuel projects, mainly in the form of project finance provided by UK Export Finance (UKEF), had been highly controversial and criticised for years by environmental groups that argued it was a poor use of taxpayer money.” – FT

  • From social care to tax, it’s proving tough to keep promises – The Times


  • One year on from the election, this Government is keeping its word – Priti Patel MP, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Year One of Johnson’s Government. Are Conservative MPs ready to back unpopular measures in Year Two – and afterwards?

MPs face pay freeze as independent body rules rise would ‘not reflect the reality’ of the pandemic

“MPs will not receive a pay rise, Parliament’s standards body has ruled, amid concerns it would be “inconsistent” during the coronavirus crisis. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) on Friday ordered a pay freeze for the next financial year instead of the £3,300 pay hike after coming under pressure from MPs. The chair of the independent body that sets their salaries, Richard Lloyd, wrote to parliamentarians saying the raise would “not reflect the reality” that the public is facing from the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis. He was under pressure to scrap the recommended hike as Chancellor Rishi Sunak imposed a pay cap for millions of public sector workers because of the financial turmoil… Dozens of other backbenchers have spoken out against an MP pay rise, out of concern that the gesture would appear unjust.” – Daily Telegraph

Fury as Khan proposes charging people £3.50 to drive into London

“Sadiq Khan has sparked fury as he threatened to charge people a daily fee of £3.50 to drive into ALL of London in an attempt to fill the black hole in Transport for London’s finances. In another row with the Government, the London Mayor has said he will roll out the new plans unless the capital is allowed to keep £500 million in vehicle tax paid by Londoners. Mr Khan wants the money, paid every year in vehicle excise duty, to be funnelled straight into London’s transport system rather than going to the Government. Anyone who drives into central London is already slapped with a £15 congestion charge any day of the week between 7am and 10pm. The charge was extended to weekends earlier this year as Mr Khan struggled to keep control of TfL’s finances. Speaking today, Mr Khan accused the Government of not “playing fair” with the £500million in vehicle tax.” – The Sun

Charles and Camilla cancel Christmas at Balmoral after Sturgeon warns them: ‘you’re not welcome’

“Although he’s Prince of Wales, it’s Scotland where the heir to the throne has always felt most at home. But he and Camilla will not be able to celebrate Hogmanay at their beloved home on the Balmoral estate, I hear, as Scotland’s scowling First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has made the Royal Family feel unwelcome in their own kingdom. ‘It’s very sad, but their Royal Highnesses do not want to cause trouble,’ one of their friends tells me. ‘They understand the difficulties of travelling during the crisis and look forward to returning to Scotland as soon as possible.’ This week, Scottish National Party leader Sturgeon publicly revealed that her government had reminded Buckingham Palace of the strict Covid restrictions north of the border ahead of Prince William and Kate’s morale-boosting visit on the royal train. Restrictions include a ban on ‘non‑essential travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK until further notice’.” – Daily Mail

  • SNP driving Scotland towards ‘£2.5bn economic calamity’ with ‘ludicrous’ 4 day work week – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Matthew Greenwood in Comment: The SNP has been a disaster for education – just look at the attainment gap

US Supreme Court rejects Trump-backed challenge to election

“The US Supreme Court on Friday rejected an unprecedented attempt by the state of Texas to throw out election results in four battleground states that Donald Trump lost, an effort backed by the president and more than 100 other elected Republicans. In a brief statement explaining its decision, the court rejected the suit without a hearing, saying Texas had no standing to challenge the results in other states: “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognisable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.” Two of the court’s most conservative justices, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, said they would have supported a hearing on the case, but added in a short statement that they would “not grant other relief”… The Texas attorney-general, Ken Paxton, a Republican reportedly under federal investigation, had asked the US high court to dismiss more than 20m votes in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, four battleground states that carried Joe Biden to victory.” – FT