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Johnson ‘refuses to back down’ in face of deadlock in Brussels

“Boris Johnson and EU leaders gave their Brexit negotiators four more days last night to get a deal as they warned that “very large gaps” remained between the two sides. After three hours of “frank” discussion in Brussels between the prime minister and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, Downing Street said it was “unclear” whether the remaining differences could be bridged. The two leaders gave their teams until Sunday to reach an agreement but said that if a deal was not possible by then, a “firm” decision would have to be taken to suspend talks and prepare for a Brexit without one… The impasse came before an EU summit in Brussels today which Downing Street hopes will unlock talks, with European governments becoming more pragmatic as the prospect of no-deal looms in three weeks.” – The Times

  • Four days to avoid no deal – Daily Telegraph
  • Whitehall braces for fallout of no-deal Brexit – FT
  • Talks could run later than Sunday deadline, Raab admits – Daily Telegraph
  • UK faces years of talks ‘even if deal agreed’ – Daily Express

More:

  • Starmer offers Labour backing for Brexit deal in vote – The Times

>Today:

>Yesterday:

Britain to sign whopping £20billion post-Brexit trade deal with Canada

“Britain will sign its post-Brexit trade deal with Canada today in an agreement worth £20billion a year to the UK economy. It will be the second post-Brexit trade deal Britain has signed following Japan. Trade Secretary Liz Truss will ink the deal with her Canadian counterpart tomorrow in an agreement that will roll over the current EU agreement that eliminates 97 per cent of tariffs. And the two sides have agreed to start talks in the New Year over a bespoke UK-Canada trade deal to deepen ties between the two countries. The deal also paves the way for Britain to join a multi-national Trans-Pacific trade partnership because Canada is a key member. Joining the 11-strong Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) would provide a major boost for post-Brexit Britain and the Government hopes to open talks on joining it early next year.” – The Sun

  • UK and Singapore sign post-Brexit free trade agreement – FT
  • Lords vote to revoke UK trade deals with countries committing genocide – The Guardian

Brexiteers warn sovereignty is threatened by ECJ’s role in Northern Ireland

“UK sovereignty will be threatened by the continued role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Northern Ireland after January 1, senior Brexiteers have warned. Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, confirmed in the Commons on Wednesday that the UK will “accept the acquis [the body of EU law] in a specific number of areas in Northern Ireland” from next year. EU law will still apply to key areas such as customs and state aid, a leading pro-Leave barrister said, after the Government this week withdrew contentious clauses from Brexit legislation that sought to curtail the ECJ’s involvement in domestic UK affairs. The clauses were scrapped after Mr Gove secured a deal on Tuesday with Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission Vice-president, to reduce checks on goods and food moving between the mainland and Northern Island. On Wednesday night prominent Tory Brexiteers threatened to try and re-insert the clauses, however.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Brexit border plan leaves Ulster business groups uneasy – FT
  • ‘EU doesn’t understand UK is sovereign’, says Fox – Daily Express

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: The Northern Ireland Protocol deal – an improvement on what the EU envisged a year ago

>Yesterday:

Patel 1) Johnson sued over failure to sack her for bullying

“Boris Johnson is facing an unprecedented legal challenge over his decision to clear Priti Patel of bullying her officials. Lawyers acting on behalf of senior civil servants issued a pre-action notice to Downing Street yesterday accusing the prime minister of acting unlawfully by overruling the findings of his own independent adviser and clearing the home secretary of misconduct. The notice, which is the first step towards a judicial review of Mr Johnson’s decision, states that if it were allowed to stand it would set a “damaging precedent” that would exempt ministers from being bound by normal employment practices. If the challenge succeeds Mr Johnson’s decision could ultimately be struck down, which would have profound implications for ministerial accountability.” – The Times

  • Nationwide poll aims to find out how many women are victims of online sex crimes – The Sun

Patel 2) Home Secretary meets Hong Kong freedom-fighters risking the wrath of China

“Priti Patel stuck two fingers up at Beijing by meeting with some of Hong Kong’s freedom fighters – the first time a Cabinet minister has done so. The Home Secretary met with Nathan Law and Beatrice Li – both wanted by China – and vowed Britain would stand beside them. It was the first time a British Cabinet Minister met with Nobel Peace Prize nominee Mr Law who fled Hong Kong before a warrant for his arrest was issued by the Chinese Government. She also met with Ms Li, whose brother Andy has been imprisoned by the Chinese government and Shaun Bailey, Conservative Candidate for London Mayor – who hosted the session. The meeting is the first between a Minister and the freedom fighters since Britain offered a path to citizenship to around three million Hong Kongers fleeing China’s new draconian security laws in the city-state.” – The Sun

  • Patel draws up new laws to curb protests which blockade Parliament, courts and newspapers – The Sun
  • Blunder sees sixty-nine fishing boat migrants ‘walk free’ – Daily Mail
  • Home Office failure to digitise border system will cost extra £173m, says NAO – The Guardian

More than 10,000 patients ‘caught Covid-19 while being treated in hospital’

“More than 10,000 people acquired coronavirus when they were being treated in hospital for other illnesses, The Telegraph can disclose. Analysis of statistical data shows that thousands of patients who had been admitted to hospitals across England caught the potentially deadly virus during their stay, with one NHS Trust recording that nearly four out of every ten Covid-19 cases they were treating had been acquired in its hospitals. Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said that 139 out of 357 Covid-19 patients they had treated had caught the virus there – 38.9 per cent – with board papers showing that five patients had died. The startling figures show that since August, more than 16 per cent of people treated for Covid-19 in hospital have acquired the potential deadly virus there.” – Daily Telegraph

  • What happened with the Pfizer vaccine and is it a cause for concern? – Daily Mail
  • NHS told not to give Covid vaccine to those with history of allergic reactions – The Guardian

More:

  • UK should ‘learn lessons’ from second Scottish Covid wave – FT
  • Welsh families urged to cancel their Christmas celebrations – The Sun
  • London could face tighter Covid restrictions, warns Khan – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Hancock bounces bounces bounces back

Cronyism row over Unite union’s new hotel and conference centre

“Britain’s most powerful union chief is embroiled in a cronyism row over a reported £35million property deal. Len McCluskey is under fire from members of his leadership team concerned about a hotel and conference centre being built for the Unite union. A union source claimed officials had refused to answer questions over allegations of spiralling costs and delays at the site in Birmingham. Under construction by the Liverpool-based Flanagan Group, it was initially expected to cost £7million and to open in March. The company runs bars, restaurants and hotels in Merseyside and has won major construction and development contracts from Unite and the city council.” – Daily Mail

  • Bryant ‘told Speaker Lindsay Hoyle to ‘f*** off’ in Commons spat’ – The Sun

Sturgeon’s husband ‘contradicted’ her evidence to Salmond inquiry

“Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, has been accused of contradicting her evidence to a parliamentary inquiry about her meetings with Alex Salmond to discuss allegations of sexual harassment. Murrell, chief executive of the Scottish National party, told a special Holyrood inquiry that his wife had met Salmond at their home on Scottish government business and not as SNP leader. Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, said his testimony on Tuesday “directly contradicted” Sturgeon’s written evidence to the committee, where she said she had met Salmond as SNP leader. Murrell, who has been married to Sturgeon since 2010, replied: “I don’t accept that.” Opposition MSPs and Salmond believe his evidence strengthens serious questions about whether Sturgeon broke the ministerial code – potentially a resignation matter, because she may have misled parliament.” – The Guardian

  • Sturgeon-backed Scottish history document for schools blasted as ‘dangerous nonsense’ – Daily Mail

Brown and English mayors urge Johnson to ‘save’ the Union by devolving more powers

“Gordon Brown and English mayors have urged Boris Johnson to ‘save’ the Union by devolving more powers as calls grow for a second Scottish referendum. They warned the Prime Minister that ‘time is fast running out’ to keep the UK intact and argued that the way to protect it was to create a more federal Britain. Mr Brown said the letter, coordinated by Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis, should serve as a ‘wake-up call for us all’. The letter was backed by fellow Labour mayors London’s  Sadiq Khan, Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham and Liverpool’s Steve Rotheram… It comes after the Prime Minister, who opposes a second referendum, was said to have told Tory MPs last month that devolution to Scotland had been a ‘disaster’.” – Daily Mail

  • SNP considers reaching out to EU behind Johnson’s back – Daily Express

Admiral Lord West: Cutting the Naval Reserve would be an insult to its members and a disaster for the Navy

“Does the Royal Navy value its reservists? The nearly 3,000 men and women serving in the Royal Naval Reserve, many of whom have made great sacrifices in their civilian careers to serve their country, will doubtless draw their own conclusions from the decision taken by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to stand them down until April next year, a move that includes pausing all training activities. Nobody doubts the need for hard choices to be made. Recent welcome increases to the defence budget, which all told amount to an extra £24.1 billion over the next four years, have not solved the financial black hole facing the military. However, cost-cutting at the expense of the Naval Reserve is short-sighted for two key reasons.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Deal or no deal, Boris faces a double-edged sword – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Brexit: was it worth it? – Ed West, UnHerd
  • The deal-or-no-deal debate is different this time – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • How detached will Northern Ireland be from Brexit Britain? – Graham Stewart, The Critic