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Johnson ‘spurns flag waving’ as UK sets global pace with vaccines…

“Boris Johnson was on Friday accused of wanting to start “a vaccine war” by a senior EU official as Brussels imposed export controls on jabs from the bloc. But after years of Brexit tension with Brussels, the British prime minister has spent the week trying to do the exact opposite. After being pilloried for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Johnson finds himself in the unusual position of having manoeuvred Britain into the position of being a global leader in the purchase and distribution of vaccines. “We gambled and it paid off,” said one ally of Mr Johnson on Friday. Britain now has orders for 367m doses of seven different vaccines in production or development and the good news kept coming this week for the prime minister. The UK has vaccinated more than 10 per cent of adults, compared with the EU’s 2 per cent, and encouraging results from two more trials this week raised hopes that vaccines by Novavax and Johnson & Johnson could come on stream in Britain later this year.” – FT

  • How British scientists put the UK ahead of the game – Daily Telegraph
  • Strategy ‘paying off’ as latest trials boost stockpiles – The Guardian
  • Jabs are slowing spread of virus already, early study shows – The Times
  • Government estimates 220,000 will be the true death toll of the pandemic – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Vaccine is our only way out so when you get the call to have it please, please take it – Nadhim Zahawi, The Sun
  • The jabs success story may help Johnson bounce back – Tom McTague, The Times

…as vaccine roll-out grinds to halt as shortages hit EU

“Vaccination plans across the European Union are unravelling as Brussels begins negotiations to acquire the latest jab to be backed by promising clinical trial results. The bloc’s failure to secure an advance order from Novavax, which appears to prevent 89 per cent of infections, has become emblematic of the sense of disarray in national capitals. Glitches in production of two vaccines and a shortfall in deliveries from Astrazeneca have prompted a crisis in some areas, with the regions around Paris and Madrid temporarily forced to stop giving first doses, and moving Jens Spahn, the German health minister, to declare: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in and with the greatest crisis since the Second World War.” Germany has warned it is facing shortages for at least another “ten hard weeks”; Italy says it is running ten days behind schedule.” – The Times

  • EU ‘declares vaccine war on Britain’ by demanding AstraZeneca diverts ’50m’ UK doses – The Sun
  • Commission backs down over Covid vaccine export controls – Daily Express
  • France and Italy suffer further blows as Moderna will deliver fewer doses – Daily Mail
  • Fury at Macron’s ‘nonsense’ claims about Oxford Covid vaccine – Daily Telegraph
  • Barnier tells Brussels to step back from Covid vaccine war – The Times

Ireland:

  • Bloc reverses course after Irish border curbs for vaccines trigger uproar – FT
  • Ex-Northern Irish Secretary denounces ‘almost Trumpian act’ – Daily Mail

More:

  • ‘Brexit was au revoir not goodbye’ – Interview, The Times

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: EU threatens war-time occupation of vaccine makers as AstraZeneca crisis spirals

“The EU sledgehammer is coming down. The European Council is preparing to invoke emergency powers of Article 122 against AstraZeneca and Big Pharma within days. This nuclear option paves the way for the seizure of intellectual property and data, and arguably direct control over the production process – tantamount to war-time occupation of private companies. This is Europe First pushed to another level. It takes the EU into the territory of 1930s methods and an authoritarian command economy. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, is being badgered by member states to take action before the escalating vaccine crisis mutates into a political crisis as well and starts to topple governments. He is offering them the most extreme option available in the Lisbon Treaty… Germany has become the hardest of hard-liners, departing ever further from its traditional role as a good global citizen and defender of markets.” – Daily Telegraph

  • No wonder the EU is trying to distract the world from its failings – Fleur Launspach, Daily Mail
  • Our vaccine success shows there is a way to stop the decay of the great British state – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • The day the bullies of Brussels went mad – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Jab triumph will allow us to be generous to a failing EU – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • EU’s block on life-saving Covid jabs bound for UK is an act of unforgivable hostility – The Sun
  • It is ill judged and risks undermining the global fight against the virus – The Times

>Today: David Gauke’s column: The UK, the EU, vaccines – and future relations. Here, jingoistic politicians. There, Trumpian ones. Bodes badly.

Lift lockdown once most vulnerable are vaccinated, urges senior Tory

“The leader of the influential group of Tory MPs pressuring prime minister Boris Johnson over the UK’s Covid lockdown said on Friday that all restrictions should be eased once the most vulnerable groups had been vaccinated. Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, told the Financial Times’ Payne’s Politics podcast that politicians rather than scientists should determine the risk to society from the virus after everyone aged 50 and over have received the vaccine. “I think once you vaccinated certainly the top nine groups, and you’ve reduced 99 per cent of those that have died from Covid, and to reduce the level of hospitalisation by 80 per cent, it seems to me at that point, you’d struggle to make an argument for having any restrictions in place at all,” he said. Mr Harper’s views run contrary to the prime minister, who has said England should take a gradual path out of lockdown from March 8 — the earliest date when schools might be able to reopen.” – FT

  • Johnson ‘wants lockdown exercise rules relaxed’ but shops, gyms and hairdressers could stay shut – Daily Mail
  • Tiers set to return amid claims they could be ditched for a nationwide approach – The Sun
  • SAGE urges Downing St to make face masks compulsory outdoors in crowded areas – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Personal liberty is another, unsung victim of the pandemic – Camilla Cavendish, FT

>Today: ToryDiary: As the Treasury digs in on Eat Out to Help Out, its critics are fighting an uphill battle

Johnson reverses national security advisor appointment of Lord Frost

“The Prime Minister has reversed plans to make Lord Frost his national security advisor and appointed a Ministry of Defence mandarin, signalling an end to the “hard rain” on Whitehall. Boris Johnson announced that the peer, who led his negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU and the subsequent bilateral trade deal, would instead become a representative for Brexit and international policy. The move followed a backlash when Lord Frost was first unveiled as Mr Johnson’s choice for one of the most senior security jobs in Government last June, with opponents complaining about his lack of experience in the domain. Eyebrows had also been raised at the decision to appoint a political adviser rather than a career civil servant. Critics pointed at the time to the influence of Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s then chief adviser, who is said to have warned a “hard rain” would fall on Whitehall.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cabinet faces firmer hand after a week of divisive leaks – The Times

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Johnson can say all the right words. But not in a way that people relate to, as Blair and Cameron could.

Ministers 1) Britain can’t spend way to prosperity after Covid, Kwarteng warns

“Britain cannot spend its way to prosperity, the Business Secretary has warned amid a growing Tory debate over state spending in the run-up to the Budget in March. Kwasi Kwarteng, promoted to the Cabinet earlier this month, signalled that a squeeze on public spending is coming with the Government deficit, fuelled by Covid handouts, forecast to exceed £400 billion this month. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is keen to rein in public spending and start setting out future tax rises in the Budget. But Tory backbenchers and several senior Government ministers are pushing for further public spending increases and believe this is the way to boost the economy in the wake of the pandemic. Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Kwarteng insisted that a booming private sector was the way in which Britain will recover after the virus crisis… The comments come as the Government begins to turn its attention to a post-pandemic future.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Is Sunak set to extend the stamp duty holiday? – Daily Mail
  • economic impact ‘could kill an extra 40,000 people over 50 years’ – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • ‘We’re constantly looking at the glass being half-empty – actually it’s three quarters full’ – Interview, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Paul Ratner in Comment: My obsessive compulsive disorder story. The £100 billion plus cost of poor mental health. And what Ministers should do.

Ministers 2) Badenoch under fire over tweets about journalist who sent her questions

“A government minister is facing criticism after publicly accusing a journalist of “making up claims” and creating disinformation for asking questions about a video campaign promoting the coronavirus vaccine programme. In a Twitter thread, Kemi Badenoch accused the journalist from HuffPost of “creepy and bizarre” behaviour, and published screenshots of questions sent to her MP’s office and to a ministerial press office, naming the reporter. In the wake of the tweets, the journalist concerned, Nadine White, had been forced to make her own Twitter account private as she was receiving so much abuse, HuffPost said. Badenoch, who serves both as exchequer secretary to the Treasury and as an equalities minister, said White was undermining trust in the vaccine programme by asking why the minister did not appear in a video promoting vaccine take-up in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.” – The Guardian

Ministers 3) Patel criticises asylum seekers after fire breaks out at former barracks

“Home secretary Priti Patel branded the actions of asylum seekers being housed at a former military barracks in Kent on Friday as “appalling” and “deeply offensive” after fire broke out during a protest over conditions at the site, where hundreds have contracted coronavirus. The fire followed days of protests over conditions at Napier Barracks near Folkestone, which the Home Office has started using to accommodate some asylum seekers in preference to the usual system of housing them in hotels or flats. Residents have complained that dormitories in the disused military facility are overcrowded, allowing coronavirus to spread. The home secretary’s statement drew criticism from groups working with asylum seekers. Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, which represents people in immigration detention, questioned why Ms Patel had made the fire a political issue.” – FT

  • Channel migrants ‘set fire to Kent barracks’ after Covid outbreak – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Matthew Barber in Comment: To defeat knife crime, enforcement is not enough

Planning reforms ‘mean beauty will be in the eye of the council’

“Local communities will be given the power to set design standards for all new developments under plans to improve the look and quality of housing. Developers will have to make sure that all new properties adhere to the character of the areas where they are being built, under proposals being announced by Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary. Any planning proposal that does not meet the new criteria will be automatically rejected by local councils as part of efforts to eliminate “identikit” housing estates. Symbolically, the word “beauty” is to be included in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947. The measures come in response to the Building Beautiful Commission that reported last year. It called for local people to be given much more say in setting standards for new homes in their areas and emphasising the importance of ensuring that new developments had adequate green space.” – The Times

  • All new streets set to be lined with trees to make more beautiful neighbourhoods – The Sun

Editorial:

  • A justified push for beautiful buildings cannot become another nimby’s veto – The Times

Salmond ‘torments Sturgeon’ over what she knew of assault claims

“While he was head of the Scottish National Party and Scottish government, Mr Salmond used his political skills to torment opponents, usually UK ministers. The focus of his ire is now Nicola Sturgeon, his former protégée and his successor in both roles. Senior SNP figures are increasingly concerned that the position of the first minister, who is facing two inquiries into her conduct around the investigations into Mr Salmond, is under threat in their war. It is easy to see why there is a desire to protect Ms Sturgeon. Research this week by YouGov for The Times found that she has a net favourability rating of +21 in Scotland, higher than her party at +8. Mr Salmond has a -60 rating, worse than Boris Johnson’s -54, and is unpopular even within the SNP, with 63 per cent of nationalist voters taking a dim view of him. Professor Sir John Curtice, the polling expert, said Ms Sturgeon was a priceless asset the SNP could not afford to lose.” – The Times

  • Johnson sinks push for another independence referendum – The Sun
  • First Minister ‘on brink’ as political analyst outlines path to SNP leader’s defeat – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Don’t wreck England just to foil Sturgeon – Matthew Parris, The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Good Union

China will no longer recognise British national overseas citizens

“China has announced it will no longer recognise the passports of British national overseas citizens just hours after the UK launched its scheme to give passport holders a path to residency as political freedoms decline in Hong Kong. “From 31 January, China will no longer recognise the so-called BNO passport as a travel document and ID document, and reserves the right to take further actions,” the foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, told reporters, according to AFP. It was still unclear whether or not the decision would affect the possibly tens of thousands of people who had been planning to leave Hong Kong since the scheme was announced last summer in response to national security legislation. Hong Kong citizens and foreign residents are not required to show a passport when they depart Hong Kong international airport, instead using a smartcard ID.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • What does the vaccine fiasco promise for ‘European solidarity’? – Kai Weiss, CapX
  • Might Macron lose to Le Pen? – John Keiger, The Spectator
  • How China could turn off Britain’s lights – Clive Hamilton, UnHerd
  • Why is the Cabinet still so united? – Graham Stewart, The Critic