Brexit deadline day 1) Talks on brink over level playing field

“Brexit talks between Britain and the EU will collapse later today unless Boris Johnson, Ursula von der Leyen and EU heads of state decide a deal is possible on the “level playing field” issues. Sources following the negotiations said “a landing zone” seemed to be within reach on the vexed issue of governance — resolving any post-Brexit disputes with the UK — and that a compromise on fishing rights may yet be found. The “level playing field” problem is seen as the most intractable of the three outstanding issues.” – Sunday Times

  • Hard Brexit looming for the architects of Vote Leave – Sunday Times
  • Merkel ‘wants Britain to walk across broken glass’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Tory grandees’ fury over Johnson’s ‘nationalist’ no-deal Brexit – Observer
  • No-deal will boost backing for independence, says former Scots Tory chairman – Sunday Times
  • France gears up for war with European neighbours if locked out of British waters – Sunday Telegraph

Brexit deadline day 2) Ministers warn supermarkets to stockpile

“Supermarkets are this weekend stockpiling food and other goods after being told by ministers that a no-deal Brexit is on the cards. Food producers have warned there will be shortages of vegetables for three months and emergency planners predict that no-deal would spark panic-buying on a scale that could dwarf the coronavirus crisis. In a sign of what might be to come, lorries were backed up for three miles on the A20 outside Dover yesterday, after Calais suffered 10-mile tailbacks on Friday. Hauliers blamed the jams in Kent on “stock-building”. – Sunday Times

  • Billions in no-deal Brexit help for farmers and factories – Sunday Telegraph
  • Johnson unveils £4bn No Deal operation – Sunday Express
  • Government preparing app to help lorry drivers avoid disruption in Kent – Sunday Telegraph
  • Brexit staff shortages cause alarm in London – FT

Brexit deadline day 3) David Jones: Johnson should take talks to stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve

“The United Kingdom is seeking a straightforward trade deal for the benefit of both parties. The EU’s overarching negotiating imperative, however, is to do all it can to protect the political integrity of the European grand project. It was ever thus. For the UK, EU membership was a transactional relationship, its purpose the pursuit of prosperity; for most of the 27 member states, however, the Union was, and remains, a political undertaking with federation the ultimate goal. The UK was always a semi-detached EU member, its departure probably inevitable. That conceptual difference has become glaringly apparent in the negotiations over the future relationship. Central to the EU’s demands has been the “level playing field”, Euro-speak for the proposition that the UK should indefinitely align its regulatory standards to those of the Union.” – Sunday Telegraph

Hancock lowers expectations of ‘decoupling’ rural areas from Covid hotspots

“The vast majority of rural towns and areas will see their hopes of being “decoupled” from neighbouring Covid hotspots in higher tiers dashed this week, Matt Hancock has suggested, as senior ministers appeared resigned to London entering Tier 3. The Health Secretary wrote in a letter to Tory MPs that “lived experience” showed that “narrow carve-outs” of lower prevalence areas often leads to them “catching up” or “overtaking” areas close by with high levels of infection. The comments are likely to come as a blow to several Tory MPs representing rural English seats, who say they have been unfairly trapped in Tier 3 due to their proximity to areas hotspots.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Health secretary considers splitting London into tiers – Mail on Sunday
  • Tory MPs say making London Tier 3 will be catastrophic – Sun on Sunday
  • Covid deaths jump by 519 in biggest Saturday rise for 7 months – Sun on Sunday

Khan accused of ‘stinging motorists’ with plans for £3.50 ‘entry fee’

“Sadiq Khan has been accused of “stinging motorists” in Conservative heartlands by drawing up a stealth “Labour tax” which will stifle London businesses and price many people out of visiting London. The Mayor of London is considering introducing a controversial £3.50 boundary charge on vehicles from outside the capital driving in. The move has been criticised as a deliberate attempt to target the numerous Tory commuter-belt constituencies where residents regularly travel to London to see friends and family, as well as visit shopping centres or theatres and art galleries.” – Sunday Telegraph


Wealthy MP urged to pay up for his family’s slave trade past

“A wealthy Tory MP is facing demands to pay reparations for his family’s part in the Caribbean slave trade after the Observer revealed that he now controls the plantation where his ancestors created the first slave-worked sugar plantation in the British empire almost 400 years ago. The MP for South Dorset, Richard Drax, has inherited the 250-hectare Drax Hall plantation in Barbados from his father, inquiries by the Observer have established. His father died in 2017. Drax has not yet declared the land or its properties in the parliamentary register of members’ interests. Last week, leading figures in the Caribbean Reparations Commission (Caricom) described the Drax Hall plantation as a “killing field” and a “crime scene” from the tens of thousands of African slaves who died there in terrible conditions between 1640 and 1836.” – Observer

  • He’s the MP with the Downton Abbey lifestyle – Observer
  • Met police drop probe into ex-Tory minister arrested on suspicion of raping Commons researcher – Mail on Sunday
  • Tory MP with six homes, billed the taxpayer for stays in four‑star hotel – Sunday Times
  • SNP power brokers want Salmond back in the party – Sunday Times

And finally, George Clooney: Why we owe our domestic bliss to … Boris Johnson

“George Clooney will not be sending Boris Johnson a Christmas card, but he may send a thank-you note to No 10 – along with a comb, he told the Observer this weekend. The Hollywood film star and director has recognised he owes part of his current domestic contentment and job satisfaction to a strange run-in he had with the prime minister early in 2014, while Clooney was secretly courting his future wife, Amal. Johnson, he tells the Observer, “literally compared me to Hitler”. The incident, which earned media coverage at the time, centred on the stance Clooney took on the return of the Parthenon marbles, removed on the orders of Lord Elgin, to Greece. “It was kind of great for me!” he said. “There was all this uproar about what I’d said. And I was meeting Amal for dinner that night.” – Observer