Prime Minister lavished with praise over Brexit trade deal and for ‘saving democracy’

“After a bitter referendum, two general elections, three prime ministers and four and half years of negotiations, it was the day Brexit was finally done. It took five hours of debate for MPs to vote by 521 to 73 to enshrine Boris Johnson’s trade deal into law. And just after midnight on Thursday the Queen gave final approval to the legislation. Her signature puts the agreement into British law, preventing a no-deal Brexit at 11pm on Thursday when the transition period ends. “House of Lords is notified of Royal Assent to the European Union (Future Relationship) Act,” the House of Lords said in a tweet. Summing up the jubilant mood among Brexiteers on the Conservative benches, Sir Bill Cash said the Prime Minister had “saved our democracy”. Lavishing further praise on Mr Johnson, the Brexit “Spartan” added: “Like Alexander the Great, Boris has cut the Gordian Knot. Churchill and Margaret Thatcher would have been deeply proud of his achievements, and so are we.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Brexiteers hail ‘new golden age’ as deal sails through Commons – The Times
  • May claims her own Brexit deal was ‘better’ than Johnson’s – The Sun
  • Tories unite in vote for Johnson’s Brexit deal – The Times
  • Brexit is not over and Britain must not ‘fall into traps’, Davis warns – Daily Mail


  • Now we must loosen the EU’s chokeholds – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit is far from done, this deal is no ‘game, set and match’ – Anand Menon, The Guardian
  • Exit from single market closes a chapter UK did so much to write – Martin Sandbu, FT


  • Britain begins 2021 as the fully independent country it was always meant to be – The Sun

>Today: MPs Etc.: Geoffrey Cox is knighted


Three Labour frontbenchers quit after defying Starmer on Brexit deal

“Three Labour MPs have resigned as junior frontbenchers after defying Keir Starmer and refusing to vote for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. Within hours of the agreement being clinched on Christmas Eve, Starmer announced he would whip his party to support it, despite criticising the substance of the deal as “thin”. But some Labour MPs felt uncomfortable supporting a deal they believed would damage the economy, and feared it would be difficult to criticise the deal if the party backed it. Tonia Antoniazzi, the MP for Gower, Helen Hayes, the Dulwich and West Norwood MP, and Florence Eshalomi, the MP for Vauxhall, resigned from their junior frontbench posts so as to abstain as MPs voted on the legislation implementing the agreement… In total, 36 Labour MPs abstained in the vote, including staunch campaigners against Brexit such as Stella Creasy and Neil Coyle, and leftwingers such as Rebecca Long-Bailey and Diane Abbott.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: The choice before the Commons is between this deal and No Deal, says Starmer

UK ministers to use new powers to sideline SNP over delivery of £100m fishing scheme

“SNP ministers are to be cut out of delivering a £100m scheme to modernise the UK’s fishing industry over fears that they would attempt to sabotage Brexit. The Daily Telegraph understands that the project is to be directly run by Tory ministers across the UK, despite fisheries being a devolved matter. The decision to seize control of the scheme, which will see tens of millions handed out in Scotland to revamp the fleet and fish processing industry, will outrage SNP ministers who will accuse their counterparts in London of trampling on devolution and snatching powers. It is understood that Scottish ministers have already demanded £60m of the £100m pot to run their own programme, with the figure reflecting the size of the fishing industry in Scotland, in behind the scenes talks. However, the UK will instead run the scheme directly using powers they obtained in the recently passed Internal Market Act, which gave the UK government more scope to directly fund projects in devolved areas.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Gove shames Sturgeon’s SNP voting for no deal Brexit – Daily Express
  • Holyrood and Stormont reject ‘disastrous’ Brexit trade deal – The Guardian
  • Brexit paperwork threatens Scotland’s luxury seafood business – FT


  • Brexit’s second act may break the UK union – Philip Stephens, FT
  • Coastal communities have been shafted by Boris’ Brexit deal – Neil Hamilton MS, Daily Express

>Yesterday: Dr Graham Gudgin in Think Tanks: The Deal in Detail 3) Northern Ireland

Turing scheme to replace Erasmus will give students ‘pick of the world’

“If Boris Johnson is to be believed then the only meaningful difference between the Erasmus student exchange scheme and its replacement, a UK-only programme named after the mathematician Alan Turing, will be the number of students participating. The fact that only 15,000 British students at universities, colleges and schools travelled to Europe under Erasmus, half the number of EU students who travelled in the opposite direction, was one factor that led to the prime minister making what he described as the tough decision to withdraw Britain from the programme… Should its ambitious vision be realised, the Turing scheme — which has been given a cautious welcome by the higher education sector, if not Mr Johnson’s political opponents — will in theory enable more than twice that number to study in Europe and beyond.” – The Times

  • Ministers must ensure the successor to the scheme fulfils its potential – The Times

>Today: Anthony Browne MP in Comment: Post-Brexit Britain. Now we’ve taken back control, here’s what we can do with our new powers.

>Yesterday: Dr Gerard Lyons in Think Tanks: The Deal in Detail 2) Economics and regulation

Oxford vaccine approval means ‘freedom by Easter’, Johnson promises…

“Britain will open up by Easter with approval of the Oxford vaccine allowing an accelerated end to social distancing, Boris Johnson promised last night. At least two million people a week are expected to be vaccinated with the NHS aiming to have reached almost 30 million by the end of May. After regulators said that a single dose of the Oxford vaccine could achieve 70 per cent protection, the focus will shift to giving as many people as possible the first jab with second doses delayed for up to three months. Those due to have second doses of the Pfizer jab from next week will have their appointments postponed as the same strategy is adopted for both approved vaccines. The NHS will have 530,000 doses of the Oxford jab available when vaccinations start on Monday, with the rest of four million doses ready shortly afterwards as regulators approve each batch individually.” – The Times

  • Hancock reveals Britain will only have 530,000 doses of Oxford’s jab next week – Daily Mail
  • Race to roll out Oxford Covid vaccine to stave off third lockdown – Daily Telegraph
  • UK approves Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – FT
  • It doesn’t mean vulnerable pensioners can act with ‘wild abandon’ says Van-Tam – Daily Mail
  • Tesco offers to help with roll-out of Oxford vaccine – Daily Telegraph

…but UK faces ‘dangerous situation’ as new Covid cases surge

“The UK is in a “very dangerous situation” in its battle against coronavirus, facing a “grim and depressing picture” of rising infections and deaths as millions more were placed under the tightest tier of restrictions. The bleak picture painted on Wednesday by Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, followed news of the regulatory approval of the Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford university and AstraZeneca, which has raised hopes that the virus could be defeated. But that optimism faded as the UK recorded 981 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest daily figure since April. Infection rates soared to 50,023 new cases. The alarming surge in deaths spurred new measures to limit the spread of the virus… Nowhere in England will be in tier 2 after the government’s latest assessment of the coronavirus data. Only the Isles of Scilly, 25 miles off the Cornish coast, will be in the lowest tier.” – FT

  • Total national lockdown by the end of January is inevitable, says SAGE expert – Daily Mail
  • UK records 981 deaths in highest Covid toll since April – The Guardian
  • Most of England told to stay at home under Tier 4 Covid rules – The Times
  • Full list of areas going into Tier 4 and Tier 3 from tonight – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Farewell, Sweden

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: With the exception of the Scilly Isles, all of England will now be in Tier Four or Three

A million primary pupils to stay at home as sweeping school closures imposed

“One million primary school pupils will not return to classrooms as planned next term as Boris Johnson unveiled sweeping school closures and warned more could follow. The Prime Minister said that in order to combat the spread of the new coronavirus variant, the majority of secondary school pupils will now stay at home until “at least” January 18, two weeks after term was supposed to start. Those in exam years 11 and 13 will return on January 11. Only the children of key workers and vulnerable children will go back on January 4, the scheduled start date. It means the staggered start to term which had previously been announced will be moved back by a week. Primary schools in “high infection areas”, estimated to affect one million pupils, will also close for the first time since the spring for at least two weeks as Mr Johnson said “even tougher action” was needed because of the “sheer pace” of the rising infections.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Williamson orders schools to remain shut in worst-hit areas – The Times

>Today: Bill Bowkett in Local Government: The pandemic has shown the value of localism. But the Government seems to be ignoring this lesson.

>Yesterday: Dr Raghib Ali in Comment: Why we should put our children first and keep schools open

Matt Hancock: With our vaccine delivery plan, we can turn 2021 into our year of renewal

“The end of this pandemic is in sight and I am thrilled that we are able to end the year with a moment of hope and cheer. The Oxford vaccine, developed right here in the UK, has now been given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – the single biggest stride we’ve been able to take since this pandemic began. This is a real British success story that has given hope to people here in the UK and across the world, bringing forward the moment when we can get our lives back to normal. The NHS has a clear vaccine delivery plan and will roll it out far and wide across the UK, as quickly as we receive it; and because the clinical advice says people get protection after the first dose, we can accelerate this rollout even further. We know that the next few weeks will be hard, with the virus advancing, and with tougher restrictions in place across the UK.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Niggling questions on Nightingale closures, ‘defeating Covid’ and vaccine protection – Rod Liddle, The Sun
  • Don’t leave the vaccine roll-out to the lumbering NHS – Matthew Lynn, Daily Telegraph
  • Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is as close to a miracle as medicine ever gets – Professor Angus Dalgleish, Daily Mail

BBC film on Cummings ‘breached accuracy rules’

Shield“A BBC documentary about Dominic Cummings broke accuracy rules by suggesting that the prime minister’s former chief adviser was prejudiced against Muslims, the corporation’s executive complaints unit has ruled. Taking Control: The Dominic Cummings Story, presented by Emily Maitlis, risked misleading viewers by taking quotes from a think tank paper about immigration out of context, the unit said. It is the second time in a year that a Maitlis-fronted programme about Mr Cummings has been found in breach of the BBC’s editorial standards, after her Newsnight monologue in May. The documentary, broadcast in March, was promoted by the national broadcaster as its first in-depth investigation into the most powerful unelected figure in Westminster. It featured interviews with more than 20 people who have known Mr Cummings and included a segment about his past views on migration that violated the BBC’s accuracy guidelines.” – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Best and worst Government moment: the Brexit trade deal and Cummings’ road trip to Barnard Castle, respectively

UK pledges an extra £47m in aid as agencies warn of ‘catastrophic hunger’

“The government has promised £47m in extra emergency aid for 2021 as it becomes clear that the coming year will see a dramatic rise in people struggling for food. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said on Wednesday it will provide more aid for food, water, hygiene and shelter in 11 countries, including £8m to Africa’s Sahel region, where the UN has warned of catastrophic hunger. “This extra emergency UK aid will mean people can feed their families and prevent these crises from escalating into widespread famine. We hope to see other donors step up to the plate with some extra funding to prevent these global crises getting worse,” said foreign secretary Dominic Raab. The government said another £8m will go to supporting vulnerable Syrians. The majority of the remaining aid will be spent through the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) which has had to cut back on food aid because of a massive shortfall in funding.” – The Guardian

>Today: Harriet Baldwin MP in Comment: Cutting foreign aid is a blatant breach of our manifesto pledge – and I will not vote for it

News in Brief:

  • Johnson must now make the Union his top priority – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Unfixing Parliament – Joshua Rozenberg, The Critic
  • Deal sells out Northern Ireland and kicks the can down the road – Gerald Warner, Reaction
  • The perils of making Diane Abbott jokes – Meggie Foster, The Spectator
  • Blackford’s shoddy history and clumsy myth-making – Henry Hill, UnHerd