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Johnson refuses to revoke Christmas Covid freedom

“Boris Johnson has ruled out scrapping Christmas Covid freedoms in England but will urge people to reconsider plans to visit elderly relatives. Despite mounting warnings that a five-day easing of social distancing will cause a third wave of infections when the health service is at its most vulnerable, the prime minister’s allies said that he was determined to maintain the relaxations. The government will issue new guidance on Christmas in the coming days and is understood to be producing an advertising campaign aimed at discouraging people from seeing relatives unless necessary. The guidance is expected to recommend that people celebrate locally where possible rather than travel across the country. It is also likely to urge people to think carefully about spending Christmas with elderly relatives.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister fighting to keep five-day bubbles as medics demand rules break is axed – The Sun
  • Downing Street concerned that if plans were cancelled, it could lead to lower compliance later – Daily Telegraph
  • Minister savaged on Christmas easing of Covid rules – Daily Express

More:

  • England’s new testing programme for travellers overwhelmed within hours – FT

Comment:

  • Johnson has a habit of delaying tough choices. In a pandemic, it’s lethal – Rafael Behr, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • The risks are too great and the government should revise its planned easing – The Times
  • Johnson must not row back on Christmas – Daily Telegraph

Commuters to benefit after fare increases ‘pushed back by government’

“Commuters will be able to buy cheaper rail season tickets after fare increases were pushed back by two months by the government. The window for passengers to buy their tickets was extended before a 2.6 per cent rise meaning those renewing before February 28, get up to a year’s travel at the old rates. Chris Heaton-Harris, Rail Minister, said: “Delaying the change in rail fares ensures passengers who need to travel have a better deal this year. “Right now, our priority must be ensuring our transport network is safe for passengers and staff… Government guidance still says people should reduce the number of journeys made wherever possible.” – The Sun

  • Tories break rail fares promise with increases above inflation – The Times
  • HS2 spur to Leeds should be delayed, infrastructure commission advises – FT

Brexit trade deal could be rushed through parliament in 24 hours

“Parliament could ratify a Brexit deal with the European Union in as little as 24 hours, Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested yesterday, as talks to bridge the final gaps between the two sides continued in Brussels. The Commons leader has yet to announce when MPs will break for Christmas in order to allow parliament time to pass a bill that would give an agreement legal status in the UK before December 31. Mr Rees-Mogg told a podcast for the website Conservative Home that the process could be “truncated” from six days to less than two. He said that parliament passed the Abdication Act 1936 in one day to recognise that Edward VIII was handing succession to his brother, George VI… One senior Tory Brexiteer said that most MPs would give Boris Johnson, the prime minister, the benefit of the doubt if he agreed an eleventh-hour deal. The MP warned, however, that the house must be given the chance to digest it.” – The Times

  • MPs primed to vote for a potential agreement next week – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Big buzz’ among Tory MPs as UK finally heads towards agreement – Daily Express
  • UK drops push for renationalising of fishing vessels in Brexit talks – The Guardian

Comment:

  • If Johnson betrays Brexit vote we will be tied to EU forever – Alex Story, Daily Express

>Yesterday: Audio: The Moggcast: Might a Bill to enact a Brexit trade deal pass through Parliament in 24 hours?

Government retreat on UK internal market bill ends Lords stand-off

“A stand-off between peers and the government over the future operation of the UK internal market post-Brexit has ended after ministers brought forward concessions. Following an extended tussle with the House of Lords, the executive has agreed changes to legislation, which will ensure future flexibility for the devolved administrations. The ending of parliamentary ping-pong with the Commons paves the way for the UK internal market bill to become law. The legislation is required for when the UK finally departs from the EU’s single market and customs union at the end of the transition period. However, in its original form there were concerns over what was seen as the centralisation of power in Westminster at the expense of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Gerard Fox and Martin Smith in Comment: How a sunset clause could break the logjam in the Brexit trade talks

UK draws up plans to rival Singapore with post-Brexit shipping regime

“The UK is drawing up plans to turn London into a rival of Singapore as a hub for shipping companies to register vessels after the Brexit transition period, according to people briefed on the proposals. Industry bodies and unions have been canvassed over the reform of the shipping industry’s so-called tonnage tax after January 1 2021, when the UK is no longer subject to the EU’s state aid regime on subsidies. The proposals, described as “blue-sky thinking” by one person familiar with their contents, are being developed as EU-UK trade talks reach a crunch point in Brussels – with the issue of managing Britain’s regulatory divergence the biggest bone of contention. According to calculations provided to the government, revamping the UK’s shipping tax and regulation regime could be worth £3.7bn to the economy over three years and create 2,500 high-quality jobs directly, as well as 25,000 in related companies.” – FT

  • Johnson will visit India next month to strengthen post-Brexit ties – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • London’s markets rivalry with EU intensifies – FT
  • Banks hedge bets on Brexit but hope for the best – The Times
  • Treasury plans UK tax shake-up for asset holding companies – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: Johnson’s Brexit journalism and Brexit politics are of a piece: in both he thrives by infuriating the Establishment

Tory shires escape housebuilding bonanza after new U-turn from Jenrick

“Robert Jenrick will today abandon an algorithm that would have dramatically increased housebuilding in the Conservatives’ southern heartlands. England’s 20 biggest cities will instead take a larger share of new homes under revised plans drawn up by the housing secretary after a backlash from Conservative MPs including Theresa May. Boris Johnson announced in the summer that each local authority in England was to be given a revised target for the number of new homes to be built and told to designate land for preservation or development. Ministers said that this would remove uncertainty and lead to new homes being built more quickly. However, more than 80 Tory MPs registered their opposition to the planned algorithm to distribute the annual target between local councils in what threatened to become the biggest rebellion against the prime minister.” – The Times

  • Housing Secretary announced algorithm had been tweaked to include the North – Daily Mail

Secondary school pupils and teachers in England to be given weekly Covid tests

“All secondary school pupils and teachers in England will be tested weekly for coronavirus from January as tensions flare again over how to manage the potential for children to spread Covid-19. Education secretary Gavin Williamson on Tuesday declared a “milestone moment” as he announced schools would be given rapid lateral flow tests to be carried out weekly for all pupils, and daily tests for close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases. The move came in the midst of a legal dispute between Mr Williamson and London’s Greenwich council after the government forced schools in the borough to stay open amid escalating coronavirus cases. But the mass testing announcement did little to assuage teachers’ anger. They accused the Department for Education of taking a heavy-handed management approach while offering little support.” – FT

  • Williamson says lateral flow tests would remove the need for pupils and teachers to self-isolate – The Times
  • Heads angry after two councils forced to back down over Covid school closures – The Guardian

More:

  • Department to review English schools guidance on anti-capitalist groups – The Guardian
  • Patel says children abused by grooming gangs were let down by the state – The Sun

Alice Thomson: Williamson is wrong about schools — again

“Many Essex and Kent schools have already closed early, as have most private schools. Educational establishments in Germany and the Netherlands, among other European countries, are shutting so that families can self-isolate before seeing elderly relatives over Christmas. Everyone should hunker down and hibernate before pulling any crackers together to minimise infection. It’s far more important that schools are ready to open again at the beginning of the new year, when they will be provided with rapid testing kits; that’s when the battles should begin. Mr Williamson has repeatedly called it wrong, whether dithering about re-opening schools in the summer when the virus dipped and teachers should have been encouraged to return earlier, performing several car-crash U-turns over GCSE and A-level exam results, failing to get computers to disadvantaged children or refusing to call for free school meals at half-term.” – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Why is Williamson fighting so hard to prevent schools breaking up early for Christmas?

£12bn jabs bill and NHS could need an extra 46,000 workers

“The Covid-19 vaccination plans will cost UK taxpayers at least £11.7 billion, the public spending watchdog says. A National Audit Office report also revealed that the NHS calculates it may need 46,000 staff to deliver its coronavirus vaccination programme if 75 per cent of people take up the offer. It said buying and manufacturing jabs, deploying them in England and supporting global vaccine development efforts came with an initial price of £11.7 billion. But that does not cover the cost of any ongoing, multiyear vaccination programme, and the audit office warned the total cost was “uncertain”. It also does not include deployment costs in other areas of the UK. Two out of five contracts with drug companies do not provide for a refund of upfront payments made to secure vaccines should they fail to get regulatory approval.” – The Times

  • Cost does not cover future multiyear programmes for jabs, National Audit Office says – FT
  • Half ‘won’t get jab by end of 2021’, report reveals – Daily Mail
  • Tensions over handling of UK Covid vaccine rollout – The Guardian
  • Why won’t they say how many have been given jab? – Daily Mail
  • EU to bring forward vaccine approval amid growing anger in Germany – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Stop wasting billions on testing: only the vaccine can save us now – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Government must come clean about how the vaccine rollout is going – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Why Conservative backbench resistance to the Government’s Covid strategy may be fading away

Ministers scrap unconscious race and gender bias training for civil servants

“More than 800,000 jobs have been lost during the Covid pandemic, alarming figures have revealed. Unemployment rose to 4.9 per cent in October despite £280billion in bailout schemes. This was up from 4.8 per cent in the previous month. And redundancies hit a new high of 370,000 between August and October, the Office for National Statistics said. By October, the number of employees on payroll was down 819,000 on the pre-pandemic figure. But there were 547,000 job vacancies in the UK, a rise of 110,000 on the previous quarter. The figures are for shortly before England’s second national lockdown. As a result, ministers extended the furlough wages scheme to March.” – The Sun

  • Ministers criticised for failing to find alternative – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Slaying the strange beast of unconscious bias training – Lee Rowley MP, The Times
  • Good riddance to the bunkum of ‘unconscious race-bias’ classes – Calvin Robinson, Daily Mail

>Today: Mark Lehain in Comment: The end of unconscious bias training and Truss’s coming speech on equality – signs of a Ministerial anti-woke fightback.

News in Brief:

  • We should think hard before penalising the self-employed again – Professor Len Shackleton, CapX
  • Why do we tolerate the childbirth battleground? – Louise Perry, UnHerd
  • The religion of human rights – Andrew Tettenborn, The
  • John le Carré knew England’s secrets – Tom McTague, The Atlantic
  • Islam must adopt the Moroccan model – Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, The Spectator

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