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Brexit breakthrough ‘remains beyond reach’ as fishing row prevails

“Michel Barnier told EU ambassadors on Tuesday night that Britain’s latest offer on fishing rights was unacceptable after declaring that trade negotiations were in the “final push”. Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, were said to be in constant contact on Tuesday as they searched for a Brexit trade deal breakthrough. The two leaders appeared to have taken the lead in negotiations, with Mrs von der Leyen calling other EU leaders such as Emmanuel Macron to try to broker a compromise. Mr Barnier told the ambassadors of the remaining 27 member states in Brussels on Tuesday night that a breakthrough had not been found… A UK official said that while the teams “continue to work hard to find an agreement”, there were still “significant gaps” between the two sides.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Barnier pushed aside as Brexit talks boil down to fish worth £60m – The Times
  • Johnson and von der Leyen intensify ‘hotline’ talks – FT
  • ‘Growing fears’ the UK has watered down its demands on fishing at the last minute – Daily Express

More:

  • How will Brexit affect universities and research? – The Times
  • Furlough must continue until the coronavirus pandemic ends, says BoE boss – The Sun
  • UK self-employed feel the pain of missing out on Covid support – FT
  • Sex-crazed Roaring ’20s awaits post-pandemic, claims Yale professor – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • The EU has outsmarted the UK at every turn – David Blake, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Why fishing has always been a bigger part of Brexit than its cash value would suggest

Military to test lorry drivers as Channel crossings set to resume

“Britain’s borders reopened last night after France appeared to have been left isolated by the European Commission. After a day of intensive talks President Macron agreed to a new testing regime to ensure that goods can flow across the Channel. Britons and citizens of other nations will be able to travel to the European Union but only after producing a negative PCR test for the coronavirus, which can take up to 72 hours to give a result. They will be granted access for “essential” travel only. The move came as ministers were expected to agree today that more areas of Britain will be moved into the toughest Tier 4 restrictions as soon as Boxing Day. Military personnel and health officials will be deployed in Kent to give thousands of lorry drivers lateral flow virus tests, which can return results in 20 minutes, to free them up for travel.” – The Times

  • Mobile units will administer tests to at least 6,000 freight drivers stranded in UK – Daily Telegraph
  • Chaos at Dover: 10,000 angry lorry drivers clash with police – Daily Mail
  • Seafood rots by the roadside as gridlock predicted to last days – The Times
  • Industry groups hit out at Covid-19 tests for lorry drivers – FT
  • Supermarkets swamped in race for last-minute supplies – Daily Telegraph

Calls for Armed Forces to test school pupils for Covid as ministers plan for January return

“The Armed Forces should be sent into schools to swab students if headteachers refuse to run testing centres themselves, a leading Tory MP has said. Robert Halfon, the chair of the Education Select Committee, said schools must reopen with mass testing in January to avoid students falling behind. But if schools do not have capacity then the Armed Forces could be used to administer the tests on site, he suggested… Mr Halfon suggested schools could host mobile testing centres on playgrounds if there is not enough space to run tests inside school buildings. The call came after Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said he would reopen schools “if we possibly can” in January, but stopped short of telling students they would definitely return.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Patel uncertainty on return of schools angers parents – The Times

More:

  • Pfizer vaccine will be rolled out to residents of English care homes ‘in next few weeks’ – Daily Mail
  • Britain’s chaotic PPE scramble as Covid catastrophe unfolded – Daily Telegraph
  • Government ‘operated illegal buy British policy’ over Covid contracts – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Shut the school gates again, Prime Minister, and you will ruin young lives – Molly Kingsley, Daily Mail

>Today: Chris Skidmore MP in Comment: It’s freedom that will make Britain a global science superpower – not Whitehall micro-management

>Yesterday: Allie Renison in Comment: Pregnant and breastfeeding women deserve choice over whether they have the Coronavirus vaccine

Sturgeon admits ‘stupid mistake’ after breaking coronavirus rules

“Nicola Sturgeon has apologised and admitted she made a “stupid mistake” after she broke her own coronavirus rules by taking off her face mask at a funeral wake. Scotland’s First Minister was photographed speaking to three elderly women last week while standing with her face uncovered in an Edinburgh pub. Under laws passed by Ms Sturgeon’s government, which she has relentlessly urged the Scottish public to follow, customers in hospitality venues must wear masks unless seated at a table. The photograph, obtained by The Scottish Sun, was published just hours after Ms Sturgeon reminded the public at Holyrood of the importance of wearing face coverings… The picture emerged just a few hours after Ms Sturgeon warned Scots that they may face a return to the full lockdown imposed in March, due to fears over a mutant strain of coronavirus.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scotland’s financial sector ready for Brexit, says trade body – FT
  • Lockdown looms for Scotland – The Guardian

More areas may move to Tier 4 on Boxing Day

“More of England could be moved into the toughest coronavirus conditions as soon as Boxing Day, with ministers expected to agree today which areas need further controls. At the Downing Street press conference on Monday Boris Johnson ducked questions on whether the next review date could be brought forward from December 30. Insiders said last night, however, that decisions to move areas from Tier 3 to Tier 4 were likely to be taken at a meeting of the “Covid-O” cabinet sub-committee and could be implemented as soon as the weekend. Among areas understood to be under consideration are West Sussex and the remaining parts of East Sussex that are not already in the toughest tier. Other areas reported to be under threat of being placed in Tier 4 include parts of the North and Midlands such as Rugby, Burnley, Lincoln and Stoke-on-Trent.” – The Times

  • Johnson ‘won’t hesitate’ to tear up Christmas Day bubbles over Covid fears, claims Jenrick – The Sun
  • ‘High chance’ of full national lockdown in January – Daily Telegraph
  • Wider curbs ‘inevitable’ as new strain spreads – FT
  • Britain faces a ‘human disaster’ unless there’s a full Tier 4 lockdown everywhere by New Year, says expert – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: T.I.N.A

Daniel Finkelstein: Let’s face it: the virus is in control, not us

“This sort of thinking is why every Covid-19 development is treated as if it were a political story about the competence of the government or its incompetence. Or Britain’s position in the world. When Britain was the first to approve the vaccine, some supporters of Brexit claimed that it was leaving the EU that had given us the edge. Remainers dismissed this as nonsense. We were still in the transition period, so we had no extra freedoms. Yet when France stopped our lorries these same Remainers said that despite the fact we are still in the transition period, it was all the fault of Brexit. Meanwhile Leavers said it wasn’t. Neither seems to appreciate that there are things in life that actually aren’t about Brexit, or about liking or disliking Boris Johnson. The virus didn’t mutate in order to broadcast a political judgment. And it wasn’t the fault of the prime minister that it mutated.” – The Times

  • Government’s chaotic handling of Covid made a Christmas U-turn inevitable – Catherine Haddon, The Guardian

Johnson’s peer appointments take Lords total to 830 despite Tory promise

“Boris Johnson’s announcement of 16 new peers is in stark contrast with the promise made by his predecessor Theresa May to keep numbers in the House of Lords down, Lord Fowler has said. With the additions taking membership in the Lords to 830, the Lord Speaker said that Mr Johnson had “run smack against” recommendations by a Lords committee to cut the number of peers to 600. Mr Johnson has overseen 52 appointments to both houses. Lord Fowler, who as Norman Fowler held several cabinet posts, also called it a “nonsense” that the prime minister was able to overrule recommendations by the House of Lords Appointments Commission after Mr Johnson nominated the Tory donor Peter Cruddas despite the commission’s reservations. He said the role of the commission needed to be reviewed urgently.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister overrules watchdog with Cruddas peerage – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson accused of ‘cronyism’ – FT
  • House of Lords cost ‘hiked up by half a million pounds a year’ – Daily Express
  • Watson rejected for peerage for second time – The Sun

Editorial:

  • Decision will fuel concerns about Johnson’s cavalier attitude to maintaining standards in public life – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: According to the Coalition Agreement, which the LibDems co-own, there should be a cull of their peers

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: ConservativeHome columnist Hannan to become a peer

Lord Tebbit’s ‘utter devotion’ to wife Margaret, who has died at 86

“Along with her husband, Margaret Tebbit – who died aged 86 in the early hours of Saturday at the couple’s Suffolk home following years suffering from Lewy Body Dementia – could easily have died in the early hours of October 12, 1984. Unlike the five who were murdered that night, the Tebbits survived the explosion of an IRA bomb that ripped through the Grand Hotel, Brighton, planted in the hope of assassinating the ‘other’ Margaret, the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and all of her Conservative cabinet. But both the Tebbits were cruelly injured and Margaret paralysed from the neck down, their lives changed irrevocably. The striking image of an ashen-faced Norman being stretchered from the wreckage wearing only his pyjamas became one of the enduring images of the IRA’s attack.” – Daily Mail

  • She died ‘without forgiving IRA bombers who destroyed her life’ – Belfast Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • What will boundary changes mean for British politics? – Matt Singh, CapX
  • Macron’s no-deal delusion – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Who’s behind Marcus Rashford? – Will Lloyd, UnHerd
  • Male transgenderism is sexism on steroids – Josephine Bartosch, The Critic