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Johnson ‘confident’ that EU efforts to ‘disrupt vaccine supplies’ will fail

“Britain has more than enough coronavirus vaccines for this year and could eventually donate them to other countries, senior industry sources told The Times last night. They said that Britain had secured the doses needed to meet its targets and expected its deals with pharmaceutical companies to be honoured. It came as Boris Johnson said that he was confident EU threats to disrupt supplies would fail. The bloc’s vaccination rate is lagging far behind Britain’s and Brussels has accused Astrazeneca, one of the biggest suppliers, of reneging on delivery agreements. It has called for supplies from the company’s British factories to be diverted to Europe. It marks an escalation in a deepening post-Brexit conflict that has included German threats to block exports of Pfizer’s vaccine from its factory in Belgium to Britain. A senior German MEP warned that the stand-off was heading towards a “trade war”.” – The Times

  • EU demands British Covid vaccines – Daily Telegraph
  • AstraZeneca ‘hints it won’t give in to demand’ – The Sun
  • Doses  ‘planned, paid for and scheduled’ will stay in UK, says Gove – Daily Telegraph
  • Covid vaccine ‘can’t fail’ to stop virus spreading – The Times
  • Blair urged the UK to put a global ‘travel pass’ on the G7 agenda – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • How the vaccine network grew into rare British success – The Times
  • British experts defend 12-week delay for second vaccine dose – FT
  • Why the UK’s vaccine gamble paid off, and the EU left itself without a leg to stand on – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Vaccines. The United Kingdom v a “rules-based organisation”.

‘Three-stage’ plan to end lockdown in Britain

“Schools will not open until March at the earliest, Boris Johnson has said, as the Government works on a “three-stage plan” to release Britain from lockdown. The Telegraph understands that officials are working on proposals which could see most shops closed until April, and pubs and restaurants shut until May. On Wednesday, Mr Johnson announced that schools will not reopen before March 8, and even that would depend on the success of the vaccine rollout and the rate of Covid-19 deaths and cases. Promising to publish a “roadmap” on February 22, he said that would allow Britain to “begin steadily to reclaim our lives”. A senior government source said the current thinking would mean that, once schools return, it could be at least another month after that before non-essential shops would be allowed to open. The “staggered approach” would mean that if schools open in March, shops would be unlikely to get the green light until April, while pubs and restaurants could remain closed until May.” – Daily Telegraph

Cabinet split over schools reopening date

“Boris Johnson overruled his education secretary yesterday and announced that schools in England will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest. The prime minister insisted it was right to “buy the extra weeks we need” to vaccinate the most vulnerable and said that the country was in a “perilous situation”. The Times has been told that the delay was resisted by Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, at a meeting of the government’s Covid-19 operations committee in the morning. He had been pushing for schools to reopen after the February half-term but this was rejected by the prime minister, who was chairing the meeting. It means other lockdown restrictions will also remain in place until March 8, because Mr Johnson has said that the closure of schools will be the first measure to be reversed.” – The Times

  • ‘Students like me are the last thing on the government’s mind’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Pupils will fall a year behind but the mental harm may last longer – The Times

Editorial:

  • Delay a blow to pupils and parents, but it will buy crucial time for vaccinations – The Times

>Yesterday:

Chancellor ‘lays the groundwork for potential tax rises’

“Rishi Sunak has told Tory MPs that implementing tax rises soon will hand the Government greater leverage to slash them ahead of the next election in 2024. The Chancellor made his pre-budget appearance at the powerful 1922 committee of backbench Conservatives on Wednesday evening to take soundings before the fiscal event on March 3. He told MPs that honesty and fairness were his guiding principles, as he signalled that difficult decisions lie ahead on raising revenue and reducing the deficit, according to several sources present on the call. Laying the groundwork for potential tax rises in the coming budget and the next one, Mr Sunak argued that the public would respect candour about what is to come. Such moves will also burnish the Conservatives’ reputation for responsible management of the public finances, and are essential to differentiate the party from the opposition, he added.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sunak urged to give more money to help victims of domestic abuse – The Sun

Going abroad for no good reason will be illegal, Patel warns

“Leaving the country without good reason is to become illegal, Priti Patel announced yesterday. The home secretary criticised social media stars for “showing off in sunny parts of the world” and said travellers would be required to fill out a declaration form explaining why they are flying, which will be checked by airlines. Only “essential” travel will be allowed, and police will issue fines at borders. The government is reviewing the list of travel exemptions to ensure people are not abusing the system. Britons returning from 30 high-risk countries, including Brazil, South Africa and Portugal, will have to go into hotel quarantine for ten days. Details of the plan will be announced next week. Ms Patel had privately advocated a temporary full closure of borders, followed by the introduction of hotel quarantine for all entering the UK. The idea was rejected by the prime minister.” – The Times

  • British holidaymakers ‘will be stopped at border and sent home’ – Daily Telegraph
  • UK launches review of Covid quarantine exemptions – FT

More:

  • Home Office set to shake up UK anti-terror strategy Prevent – The Sun

Editorial:

  • Our borders must be completely sealed until millions more Brits have had Covid vaccine – The Sun

Allister Heath: Covid is a 1914 moment for the post-Cold War globalised order

“Yet just like our own pre-Covid universe, when we thought we had conquered disease, it was too good to be true. The Great War wiped it all away, and it took around 100 years for the global economy to surpass the level of integration it had reached in 1914. It is now Covid’s turn to wreck the assumptions that underpinned another period of globalisation: a wonderful, freewheeling, ultra-mobile 30-year affair that started with the downfall of communism in 1989 has come to a screeching end. A paradigm has shifted: a shrinking, integrating world is expanding and fragmenting again. Many of the freedoms we had taken for granted have been revealed as temporary privileges, revocable at any time, by states that are flexing muscles we thought had atrophied. A liberal era is over; a new phase of managed globalisation is upon us. It will affect all of us hugely, in two major ways.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Next time there won’t be a vaccine to save us – David Aaronovitch, The Times
  • The blame game for Covid-19 deaths should look far beyond the Tories – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Can mass travel ever recover from Covid? – Iain Martin, The Times

Government plan to build 24,000 homes faces legal challenge

“A plan to build more than 20,000 homes in rural Oxfordshire, championed by secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick, is facing a legal challenge from residents who say it is incompatible with the government’s legally binding commitments to tackle the climate emergency. Campaigners have issued a legal claim against South Oxfordshire district council’s decision to go ahead with the local plan – which sets out proposals to build 24,000 new homes in the area by 2035. Jenrick, is accused of “massive intervention” to push the scheme through after he ordered South Oxfordshire district council to go ahead with the development in March… The legal challenge is the latest attempt to stop major infrastructure projects – from a new runway at Heathrow to Europe’s biggest gas fired power station – which campaigners argue fail to meet the government’s legally binding commitments to tackle the climate emergency. Both challenges have faced recent setbacks in the courts.” – The Guardian

>Today: Sam Hall in Comment: The Government must secure tougher emission-reduction commitments at this year’s COP26

>Yesterday: Clive Moffatt in Comment: Going green with the lights off. We need a more realistic approach to climate change.

Johnson ‘struggles to stem support for Scottish independence’

“Boris Johnson will visit Scotland on Thursday to try to stem support for independence, as ministers grapple with ways to persuade Scots of the advantages of remaining in the 313-year-old union with England. The prime minister is expected to focus on the vaccination effort to highlight the role of the whole UK in what has so far been one of the world’s most successful Covid-19 inoculation programmes. Meanwhile, ministers in London are looking to bypass the pro-independence Scottish National party government in Edinburgh by funding some “UK projects” north of the border directly from London. But while Mr Johnson wants to remind Scotland that the UK Treasury has underpinned economic support packages during the coronavirus crisis, some ministers are uneasy at a strategy depicting Scots as recipients of cash from London.” – FT

  • Prime Minister visits Scotland despite Sturgeon warning him it’s ‘not essential’ – The Sun
  • Gove insists Johnson is right to go – Daily Mail
  • SNP concedes it lacks competence to negotiate with the EU – Daily Express

Comment:

  • There is no cunning wheeze to stop Scottish independence – Robert Shrimsley, FT
  • It is misleading to call the four entities of the United Kingdom the “four nations” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Review of UK workers’ rights post-Brexit ‘is axed in sudden U-turn’

“A controversial review into how EU employment rights protections could be changed after Brexit is no longer going ahead, the business secretary has announced. In an interview with ITV’s Peston, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “So the review is no longer happening within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). I made it very very clear to officials in the department that we’re not interested in watering down workers’ rights.” He added: “I can’t have been more clear about this on a number of occasions. I’ve said repeatedly that Brexit gives us the opportunity to have higher standards and a higher growth economy and that’s what officials in the department are 100% focused on.” The Guardian understands the consultation on employment rights was signed off by Kwasi Kwarteng’s predecessor Alok Sharma, who left after being given a full-time role leading preparations for the Cop26 climate conference.” – The Guardian

  • Small businesses struggle with Brexit red tape – FT

Sacked aide claims Labour MP failed to act over antisemitism

“A Labour MP has been accused of failing to act on claims of antisemitism after sacking a Jewish aide who previously signed a non-disclosure agreement. Elaina Cohen, 61, has accused Sir Keir Starmer’s office of failing to take seriously her complaints that Khalid Mahmood, 59, the MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham and the shadow defence procurement minister, ignored her concerns of antisemitism by Labour colleagues. She said that she was sacked yesterday after “a year of bullying” by a Labour staffer. Ms Cohen reported Mr Mahmood, her former boyfriend, to the Labour leader’s office and to West Midlands police last year over bullying motivated by discrimination. It was recorded as a non-crime hate incident. Ms Cohen was one of the original whistleblowers about antisemitism in Labour.” – The Times

  • Labour failing to win back enough Tory voters, officials warn – The Guardian

Comment:

  • After all these years, the Holocaust’s warning has proved correct – Liam Fox MP, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Tim Briggs in Local Government: Labour’s neglect of council housing tenants is losing it working class votes

BBC forced into grovelling climbdown after calling IRA terrorist a ‘veteran’

Shield“BBC bosses have been forced into a humiliating climbdown after labelling a dead IRA terrorist a “veteran” and grovelled for the “upset” it caused. In coverage of the funeral of Eamon “Peggy” McCourt, BBC News described the republican gunman as a “veteran.” Police are probing possible Covid rule breaches at the gathering in Londonderry on Monday. But the BBC’s description of the late McCourt as a “veteran” – giving equivalence between criminals and troops – sparked uproar. Defence chiefs, MPs and former soldiers raged against the corporation, accusing it of besmirching the 1,400 British soldiers who laid down their lives during The Troubles. Former Defence Minister Lord Lancaster told The Sun the BBC’s choice of words was “bizarre and deeply insulting”.” – The Sun

Poll puts Le Pen almost level with Macron if they make the final round of next year’s French elections

“A poll ahead of next year’s French presidential election has put far-right politician Marine Le Pen almost level with President Emmanuel Macron, should they make it to the final round. The poll by Harris Interactive saw Macron receive 52 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 48 percent, according to Le Parisien. France is due to head to the polls in April 2022 for the first round of the presidential election. The incumbent President Macron is eligible for reelection but has not yet said whether he will run again. Le Pen, who came second to Macron in the 2017 election and third to François Hollande in the 2012 election, has announced that she will run in 2022. Only the survey results for the first round of the vote have been made public for now, with Le Parisien reporting what it says are the poll’s second round findings from the poll. The study was commissioned by the CommStrat firm and the daily L’Opinion and was carried out online between January 19 and 20.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • Whatever he might imagine, Brown is not the man to save the Union – Henry Hill, CapX
  • How the nationalists tweak their records to escape scrutiny – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • Vaccine wars: the global battle for a precious resource – Matthew Lynn, The Spectator
  • Italy’s government collapses. What now? – Robert Fox, Reaction
  • Is live music in Britain doomed? – Alexander Larman, The Critic