Published:

EU ‘threatens to block exports of Pfizer Covid vaccine’

“Britain’s Covid vaccine supply is in jeopardy after the EU threatened to block exports of the Belgian-made Pfizer jabs amid a row with UK-based AstraZeneca. Brussels decided to impose tighter controls on exports after reacting with fury to the news that AstraZeneca will deliver 50 million fewer doses to the EU than it had expected. Ministers now fear deliveries of the Pfizer jabs will – at best – be delayed by extra paperwork and that the EU could try to stop doses being sent to non-EU countries after saying it will “take any action required to protect its citizens”. In March, the bloc imposed export restrictions on personal protective equipment after it struggled with supply to its member states. On Monday night, MPs accused the EU of acting out of “spite” and trying to deflect blame for its own mistakes in getting vaccination programmes off the ground.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Brussels brings in new controls amid fear over vaccine supply – The Times
  • Tories warn EU will ‘poison relations for a generation’ – Daily Mail
  • Fury at EU’s ‘vaccine nationalism’ – The Sun
  • Scientists’ fury at ‘completely incorrect’ German claim about Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – Daily Mail
  • UK will open labs to world in hunt for new Covid variants – The Times

More:

  • Brussels warns Britain against downgrading EU ambassador’s status – The Guardian
  • Brexit leaves UK and EU diminished in fight against international crime – FT
  • Starmer’s MPs vote to keep Britain ‘shackled to EU employment laws’ – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Tories are at odds over benefits of Brexit – Rachel Sylvester, The Times

Johnson hints at easing coronavirus lockdown…

“Ministers will look at easing lockdown measures next month, Boris Johnson said yesterday as he insisted that he wanted England’s schools to reopen “as fast as possible”. The prime minister said that the government would be “looking at the potential of relaxing some measures” when restrictions are reviewed on February 15. He added: “I do think now this massive achievement has been made of rolling out this vaccination programme, I think people want to see us making sure we don’t throw that away by having a premature relaxation and then another big surge of infection.” Matt Hancock, the health secretary, struck a much more cautious tone when he warned that demands on hospitals made any short-term relaxations of the measures impossible. Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, suggested that the UK may have to wait for the spring before any significant change in the rules because the NHS would still be under strain from other winter illnesses.” – The Times

  • Hancock rebuffs MPs seeking roadmap out of restrictions – The Guardian

Schools:

  • Primary schools ‘safe to open soon’ – The Times
  • Pressure grows on Prime Minister from his own party amid doubts over original return date – FT
  • Furious MPs demand Williamson faces Parliament – The Sun

Comment:

  • Our children are paying the highest price in lockdown, we owe them answers – Suzanne Moore, Daily Telegraph

>Today:

…as he touts vaccine rollout as example of ‘wonderful Union’ on visit to Scotland

“Boris Johnson is to launch a charm offensive in Scotland later this week as part of his plan to save the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister is expected to use a visit north of the border to highlight the UK Government’s role in delivering hundreds of thousands of coronavirus vaccines to the Scottish NHS in an attempt to turn the tide against record levels of support for independence. Plans for the trip emerged after Gordon Brown warned that the UK was at risk of becoming a “failed state” and splitting up unless Mr Johnson embarks on a programme of major constitutional reform. The SNP is determined to push ahead with its plan for separation, and published plans at the weekend to hold an independence referendum even without UK Government approval. Unionists are frustrated that Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity has soared during the pandemic, despite UK Government initiatives such as the furlough scheme and the Treasury boosting the Scottish Government budget by billions of pounds.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Hancock takes swipe at Sturgeon and says UK ‘stronger together’ in fight against Covid – The Sun
  • He said other nations had ‘stepped forward’ to help Scottish Ambulance Service – Daily Mail
  • Sturgeon ‘failing to provide seven-day vaccination’ after Sunday total falls to record low – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Inoculations are done at the rate of 250 every minute – The Times
  • Councils set to be enlisted to boost Covid-19 vaccination rates – FT

>Yesterday: Neil O’Brien MP’s column: Five lessons from the pandemic

Universal Credit uplift set to be extended while Covid restrictions last

“The £20 Universal Credit boost is likely to stay while Covid rules remain – and then be phased out to target the poorest. The bump expires at the end of March. And PM Boris Johnson has stepped into a growing Cabinet rift to demand a middle way to avoid a cliff-edge. It has been seen as a weekly lifeline to Britain’s poorest families, adding an extra £1,040 a year income. Chancellor Rishi Sunak does not want to make the £6billion uplift permanent but is under pressure from MPs and Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey to change his mind. He says it will cost the equivalent of a penny on income tax for 30 million Brits, and a 5p rise in fuel duty to fill the black hole in Britain’s battered finances… It is understood Mr Sunak plans to announce at the Budget that the full measure will stay for a long as Covid restrictions are in place, before being phased out to help only the neediest.” – The Sun

  • MPs demand UK Covid support for 3m excluded self-employed – FT

More:

  • Hunt says Covid cases in self isolation should be tracked by GPS – Daily Telegraph
  • Covid-19 carriers ‘are refusing to get checked over fears they will have to stop working’ claims testing tsar – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: James Heywood in Think Tanks: A £20 blanket uplift in Universal Credit would miss an opportunity for better targeted change

British residents flying back from Covid hotspots face hotel quarantine

“A limited system of hotel quarantine will be introduced in England this week but initially only for British residents returning from countries with new, more virulent forms of coronavirus, including Portugal, South Africa and Brazil. Whitehall sources said Downing Street would “reserve the right” to go further by requiring all visitors from anywhere in the world to isolate for 10-days at their own expense. The decision to limit the requirement at first to certain countries came after travel industry executives warned that imposing mandatory hotel quarantine on all arrivals immediately could prompt a rush of UK citizens returning home in days, making it hard to find sufficient hotel rooms near airports. The move effectively means only British residents will be affected. Bans had already been put in place over recent months on visitors entering the UK from South Africa, Portugal, Brazil and other South American countries in an attempt to control the spread of new variants of the virus that scientists fear could be resistant to existing vaccines.” – FT

  • Britons returning from South Africa and Brazil the first to pay £1,500 be locked down for ten days – Daily Mail
  • Covid quarantine hotels ‘will take three weeks to be ready’ – The Times
  • Who will be forced to quarantine and can I upgrade my hotel room? – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • For many, ten days spent in a quarantine hotel would be deeply traumatic – Zoe Strimpel, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

£30m deal to build Britain’s first fleet of unmanned fighter drones

“Britain’s first fleet of unmanned fighter aircraft will be developed in Northern Ireland following a £30 million investment by the Ministry of Defence. The “loyal wingman” aircraft, as it has been nicknamed, will be designed to fly at high speeds alongside fighter jets such as the Typhoon or F-35. The contract to design and manufacture the prototype, which is expected to support 100 jobs, was handed to Spirit AeroSystems, an American company, in Belfast in a three-year deal. Team Mosquito will develop the RAF’s Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (Lanca) technology, with a vehicle flight-test programme expected by the end of 2023. The MoD plans to start manufacturing the first aircraft by 2025. Armed with missiles, surveillance and electronic warfare technology, it will be Britain’s first uncrewed aircraft able to target and shoot down enemy aircraft and survive against surface-to-air missiles.” – The Times

>Today: Profiles: Wallace, one of Johnson’s Long Marchers, and a traditional but also irreverent Defence Secretary

Sturgeon’s husband ‘should be investigated for possible perjury’, Scottish Labour claims…

“Nicola Sturgeon’s husband should be investigated for possible perjury over sworn evidence he gave to the Alex Salmond inquiry, the interim Scottish Labour leader has said. Peter Murrell, who is also the SNP’s chief executive, is facing questions over the existence of messages to other party officials related to the criminal probe that Mr Salmond faced. When he gave evidence to the Holyrood inquiry under oath last month, Mr Murrell said there were no other messages between himself and party officials about Mr Salmond, other than an exchange in which he spoke about pressure being applied to police to investigate the former party leader. However, Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP who questioned Mr Murrell, said information had been seen by the committee to suggest he had “not been truthful”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • First Minister accuses Alex Salmond of spinning ‘false conspiracy theories’ – The Sun

…as Scottish Tory leader dismisses SNP ‘wildcat’ referendum move

“The Scottish Conservatives would boycott any “wildcat” referendum on independence from the UK, the party’s leader declared on Monday amid a renewed push by the governing Scottish National party to end the three century-old union with England. The SNP announced at the weekend that it would seek to hold another independence referendum after May elections for the Scottish parliament — without UK government approval if necessary. Voters in Scotland rejected independence by 55-45 per cent in 2014, but opinion polls over the past year suggest another referendum on the issue would yield a majority for leaving the UK. At an online event, Douglas Ross, Scottish Tory leader, said any new plebiscite must follow the “gold standard” of the 2014 vote, which was approved by the UK government under devolution legislation.” – FT

  • Party would boycott unofficial independence plebiscite – The Guardian

More: 

  • UK at risk of becoming failed state, says Brown – The Guardian
  • Sturgeon’s ‘anti-English’ stance laid bare by paradoxical pro-Brussels position – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Andrew Bowie MP in Comment: That weekend poll and Scotland’s future. Until we start to call ourselves British, why should anyone else?

William Hague: Constitutional tinkering won’t stop the Scottish nationalist juggernaut

“At its heart, the problem here is not the current balance of devolved powers or the economic arguments. It is that Scotland has a distinct political identity and feels that England has become permanently out of step with it. Seen from Edinburgh and Glasgow, the UK has Tory Government for the foreseeable future, reinforced by English voters being strikingly keen on Brexit, with ministers who have looked flat-footed in the early stages of a monumental crisis. For an alternative, they see a Labour Party that used to represent Scotland but has recently been completely hopeless. There is a good deal of polling evidence that this dominant perception is the real issue. If so, the Union will only be maintained if both the Labour and Conservative parties can change the way that many Scottish voters see them.” – Daily Telegraph

  • If Remainers cared as much about our own Union as the EU, we might be able to preserve it – Hugo Rifkind, The Times
  • Johnson’s last-minute bid to save the union can’t undo years of neglect – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

Labour writes to CPS over ‘fraudulent’ Tory London mayoral leaflets

“The Labour party’s lawyers have written to the director of public prosecutions alleging that Shaun Bailey, the Conservative party’s candidate for London mayor, used fraud to influence upcoming elections by publishing leaflets headed with fake City Hall insignia. Bailey’s campaign last month drew cross-party condemnation for the leaflets, which said Londoners’ council taxes would rise “if you do not take action” and vote against the incumbent mayor, Sadiq Khan. The leaflets did not explicitly mention the Conservative party. Labour’s complaint called the leaflets a “fraudulent device” to gain undue influence, as described by the 1983 Representation of the People Act. Under the act, Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions, is responsible for making inquiries into potential offences. The London mayoral election has been scheduled for May 2021, a year later than initially planned because of the coronavirus pandemic. Khan is the strong favourite to win.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Nobody wins from vaccine nationalism – Laura Spinney, UnHerd
  • British vaccine roll-out vindicates Brexit, and I voted to Remain – Steve Moore, Reaction
  • Hancock’s tests for lifting lockdown – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • Battle over Scottish independence is going to be a fight, not a rout – John Lloyd, CapX
  • Keep Britain’s countryside free from bureaucracy – Andrew Tettenborn, The Critic