Brexit 1) ERG set to approve Johnson’s Brexit trade deal

“Senior Eurosceptics have said that the prime minister’s Brexit deal will help to restore sovereignty amid growing signs that they will give it their support today. The European Research Group of Tory MPs has spent the weekend poring over the 1,246-page agreement with their legal advisers. Most are keeping their counsel before this “star chamber”, led by the veteran Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash, delivers its verdict on the deal but it is understood that they have not had any objections so far. Sir John Redwood, a senior Eurosceptic Tory MP, told Times Radio that on first impressions “there were some very big issues that we fought hard for that were secured”. – The Times

  • Hardline Tory Brexiters signal support for EU trade deal – FT
  • Fishing to get £100m as ministers accused of Brexit deal ‘betrayal’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Britain must use Brexit freedoms to become more competitive, Johnson told – Daily Telegraph
  • EU and China poised to agree investment pact – FT

Brexit 2) Starmer faces rebellion before Brexit deal vote

“Keir Starmer is facing a high-profile rebellion against Labour’s Brexit position on the eve of the vote in parliament, as prominent MPs including John McDonnell and Clive Lewis accused him of “falling into the trap of rallying around this rotten deal”. Labour is likely to contain a major rebellion of frontbench MPs, but an increasing number of prominent supporters are urging Starmer to change course. Backbenchers have also raised concerns on private WhatsApp groups that Labour’s endorsement for the deal has been given without the legislation being published. Tory Brexiters who are studying the trade deal will deliver their verdict on Tuesday afternoon.” – The Guardian

  • Poll of polls shows parties neck-and-neck – the i

Brexit 3) Paul Goodman: Johnson’s next challenge is to save the Union

“Boris Johnson won’t want to be remembered as the prime minister who won national independence only to lose the United Kingdom itself, but the prospect of Scotland voting to break up the Union is the challenge facing him in the new year. Elections to the Scottish parliament are due to take place in May. Along with Covid-19, the fallout from the Brexit trade deal and the effect of both on the economy, the SNP’s drive for independence represents the prime minister’s greatest obstacle. The prospects are bleak for unionists. Nicola Sturgeon’s party is polling better than the Conservatives and Labour combined in Scotland. And on independence itself, supporters have been outnumbering opponents since late March. Ms Sturgeon polls well in Scotland; Mr Johnson polls badly.” – The Times

  • Constituency boundary shake-up expected to boost Tory party – FT
  • With Brexit done, Johnson’s next task is to protect the Union, Katy Balls – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 1) PM under pressure to delay school reopenings

“Boris Johnson is facing increased pressure from cabinet ministers and scientific advisers over the reopening of schools as more than 40,000 coronavirus cases were recorded in a single day for the first time. As the number of patients with Covid-19 in English hospitals exceeded the peak of the first wave, there was new uncertainty for parents after the government confirmed yesterday that the plans for primary schools to reopen next week along with Years 11 and 13 were under review. The Times has been told that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, and Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, suggested at a meeting hosted by Downing Street that the reopening of schools might have to be delayed.” – The Times

  • Plan to reopen England’s schools within two weeks under review, says Gove – FT
  • England school reopening in doubt with ministers divided – The Guardian
  • Johnson urged to delay school reopenings – Daily Express
  • Secondary schools must stay closed in January to stop Covid spread, warns Sage – Daily Telegraph
  • Army drafted in for school and college tests – Daily Mail
  • NHS workers brace for another Covid surge – The Guardian
  • Nightingale hospitals stand empty despite surging Covid cases – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Ministers warned ‘vaccinate two million a week to avoid third wave’

“Vaccines will have to be delivered at a rate of two million a week – double the current target – to avoid a devastating third Covid wave, ministers have been warned. The projection has been made by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in a new paper shared with the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which is understood to be circulating in Whitehall. It comes as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been hailed as a “game-changer”, is expected to be approved by Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency imminently. The vaccine offers the hope of a rapid expansion of the roll-out of jabs because it does not require special storage, and the Government has ordered 100 million doses.” – Daily Telegraph

  • All over-50s can get Covid vaccine by end of spring, NHS chief pledges – The Times
  • Two thirds of England could be in Tier 4 this week – Daily Telegraph
  • Fears of a new Tier 5 – Daily Mail

Britain looks weak if it can’t protect its citizens, says Hunt

“Britain “is beginning to look weak” over a failure to protect its citizens imprisoned by Iran, the former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned. The government has failed to demonstrate any consequences for the imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe nearly two years after the case was formally elevated to a diplomatic dispute between London and Tehran, he said. “We must show the world that if you imprison a British citizen on trumped-up charges you will pay a very heavy price because Britain is a major player on the world stage and intends to remain one,” Mr Hunt writes in The Times today. “Allowing ourselves to be pushed around like this at the moment of post-Brexit renewal sends the opposite signal.” – The Times

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