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Prime Minister to pledge surplus Covid vaccine to poorer countries at G7

“Boris Johnson will lead efforts to fend off accusations that the world’s richest countries are hoarding Covid vaccines by pledging at a G7 summit that the UK will donate surplus doses to poorer countries and cut to 100 days the time it takes to produce new jabs. Both Russia and China are threatening to win an escalating vaccine diplomacy war by sending their vaccines direct to Africa, while the G7 club of wealthy nations continues to pile up surplus supplies as insurance against stocks running out. Johnson, who is chairing the first meeting of the G7 attended by new US president Joe Biden, found himself forced to share some of the limelight with the French president Emmanuel Macron. On Thursday Macron announced a parallel plan for 5% of Europe’s vaccine stocks to be sent to Africa now, saying his proposal had the backing of the German chancellor Angela Merkel.” – The Guardian

  • He demands 100-day vaccine target for G7 to prevent Covid repeat – Daily Express

James Forsyth: The Government’s great climate change challenge

“After the pandemic, the biggest challenge facing Boris Johnson is the Net Zero target: a 30-year plan to decarbonise the economy. The flawed way to do this is to tax energy so much that factories shut down and industry moves abroad. The net result would be fewer jobs at home but no great reduction in the amount of carbon emitted globally. An agenda to destroy jobs that does little for the planet would be a hard sell to the public. As one influential Tory warns, there’s little point in the government taking action on climate change if all you are doing is “outsourcing your manufacturing to China where carbon intensity is higher”. But this is going to become an increasingly big problem in years to come and there is mounting concern about it at the top of government.” – The Times

  • My green manifesto – Bill Gates, FT

>Today: Anna Firth and Megan Trethewey: Greening your campaign – some ideas for council candidates

>Yesterday: Adam Afriyie MP in Comment: Self-interest will drive up EV use and drive down pollution if charge points are available

Johnson to launch advertising blitz urging ‘one more heave’ of lockdown when he reveals roadmap

“Boris Johnson’s restrictions-lifting roadmap will be accompanied by an ad blitz urging “one more heave” of lockdown. The Government is currently spending millions on a Covid public awareness campaign designed to shock people into staying at home. But ahead of the first restrictions easing on March 8, a new softer message will be deployed as more freedoms are restored. A source said: “As we wait for the vaccine rollout to reach everyone, it’s essential that the rules are not ignored at the final stretch. Mr Johnson vowed to be driven by data not dates in his “cautious and prudent” lifting of Covid restrictions, starting on March 8 with reopening schools. He has repeatedly stressed that restrictions will be eased cautiously – and urged Brits to show patience in the months ahead.” – The Sun

  • Hope for holidays overseas as ministers discuss Covid vaccine passports – The Times
  • The Covid vaccines data that pave way to freedom – Daily Telegraph
  • Over-40s to get Covid jabs by the end of March – Daily Mail
  • Blair reveals roadmap out of Covid lockdown, complete with ‘traffic lights’ – Daily Telegraph

Education:

  • Unions and governors urge cautious reopening of schools in England – FT
  • Mass-testing will mean some pupils don’t go back to school until April warn teachers – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: John Bald in Local Government: Handing the education system back to Blairite advisers is misguided

Buckland suggests company bosses who demand workers get a ‘jab for a job’ would not be breaking the law

“Companies demanding employees have a Covid vaccine before they are allowed to work might not be breaking the law with the demand, a top minister has suggested. Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said it was unlikely that forcing current staff to have the jab as a condition of employment would be allowed. But he suggested it might be possible to make it a condition of a job offer for new staff. It came as Pimlico Plumbers and Barchester Healthcare, one of the UK’s largest care home groups, joined others saying they will not hire new staff who have refused jabs on non-medical grounds. Downing Street has said it would be ‘discriminatory’ to force someone to have a coronavirus vaccine in order to keep their job.” – Daily Mail

  • Harper erupts at ‘ridiculous’ calls to enforce vaccine passports – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Is the UK about to squander its vaccine miracle? – Fraser Nelson, FT

>Yesterday: Garvan Walshe’s column: We can be sure that those who have been vaccinated won’t die of Covid. So the case for lockdowns is vanishing fast.

Frost to take ‘more assertive stance’ on EU than Gove

“Boris Johnson’s newly-appointed EU relations minister believes his predecessor Michael Gove was too weak in negotiations over Northern Ireland. The prime minister yesterday stripped Gove of his role overseeing Britain’s future relationship with Europe and replaced him with Lord Frost, who negotiated last year’s Brexit deal. In a move that opponents claimed amounted to a “sidelining” of Gove, Downing Street said that Frost would have a seat in cabinet and take over all responsibility for dealings with Brussels. He will take Gove’s job as UK chairman of the withdrawal agreement joint committee as well as the partnership committee that will oversee the implementation of the Brexit trade deal.” – The Times

  • He’s tasked with taking on ‘heavy-handed’ EU over Northern Ireland protocol – Daily Telegraph
  • Diplomats and business express caution over Frost cabinet role – FT
  • Gove ‘relaxed’ about losing key Brexit brief, allies suggest – The Guardian

More:

  • Sturgeon orders that the EU flag is kept flying over Scottish government buildings – Daily Mail

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Forget the theories about Frost’s appointment. What does it mean for Gove?

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Frost’s appointment chills the temperature for the EU

Britain urges EU to join trade alliance with US to end China’s ‘appalling behaviour’

“Liz Truss is set to urge EU chiefs to join Britain in taking a tough line over China’s “appalling behaviour” on the world stage. The Trade Secretary will travel to Brussels tomorrow for talks with top eurocrat Valdis Dombrovskis about a stricter approach towards Beijing. She wants the UK to act as the lynchpin in a three-way alliance with the US and the EU that will force China to act more responsibly. Brussels recently angered Joe Biden by signing a trade and investment pact with Beijing despite his pleas to hold fire on the deal. It has been accused of going soft on China to protect German business interests. A Whitehall source said Ms Truss wants to “work hand-in-glove” with Europe on global trade “including tackling China’s appalling behaviour”.” – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Our next live event: Truss on ‘Global Britain – navigating the post-Brexit world’

Sunak delays business rates review until autumn

“Rishi Sunak will on Friday announce he is delaying until later this year a final report on a review of business rates — a key part of his promise to “level the playing field” between the high street and online retailers. The chancellor will argue that postponing the report, which will consider the case for an online sales tax, to the autumn will allow him to make decisions when the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic has receded. In the meantime, Sunak is expected to announce in the Budget next month an extension of the year-long business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure, giving the hard-hit sectors much-needed breathing space. The exemption had been due to expire on March 31.” – FT

  • Chef turns up the heat on Chancellor to extend VAT cut and furlough – The Sun
  • Fuel duty hike ‘may stop UK bouncing back’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Tax and borrowing tricks that give us an edge – Ed Conway, The Times

>Today: Sajid Javid MP in Comment: Housing First helps to break the cycle of rough sleeping. So let’s scale it up and finish the job.

UK troops surge as Iraq simmers

“Hundreds of British troops will be sent to Iraq in the biggest increase of UK soldiers there since the last Gulf War. The decision is expected to double or even triple the current numbers later this year. In total 179 British troops lost their lives in Iraq following its invasion in March 2003 until the official cessation of Operation Telic eight years later. The last British fighting troops withdrew in May 2011 at the end of the controversial campaign. Currently 100 UK personnel are stationed there training Iraqi security forces. Under a new Nato mission, they could also be used in a security role – which could bring them into direct conflict with militia groups. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s announcement last night came days after a rocket attack on a US base in northern Iraq killed a civilian contractor and wounded nine others.” – Daily Mail

Starmer offers savers the chance to ‘invest in Britain’s recovery’

“Sir Keir Starmer has offered savers the chance to invest in the UK’s coronavirus recovery with a new “British Recovery Bond”, as he set out to woo northern voters back to the Labour Party. The Labour leader said his scheme could raise money for infrastructure projects in neglected regions, while offering a reasonable rate of return for people who have built savings during the pandemic. In a major policy speech on Thursday Sir Keir rejected recent claims from his critics that he has been “soft” on the Government during the coronavirus crisis, insisting that his “constructive” approach had been “in the national interest”. The speech, which took six months to write, set Labour’s course for the next decade as it attempts to win back traditional voters’ trust by working with businesses to rebuild the economy.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour leader falls in the polls and is accused of stealing ideas – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Bonds could be more than a gimmick – Larry Elliott, The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: How even a modest Labour revival in Scotland could return more Conservative MPs

>Yesterday: Left Watch: Starmer’s new chapter speech is short on content

North of England leaders fear region faces ‘cheap and nasty’ rail alternative

“Leaders in the north of England fear that a new £39bn railway line could be scaled back, with the region ending up with a “cheap and nasty” alternative instead. The Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, and others are concerned that the government wants to water down plans to build Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), which is supposed to halve journey times in the region. Currently, travelling coast to coast by train in the north can take longer than getting from Leeds to Paris by rail. Burnham told a meeting on Thursday that the people of the north of England “will not forgive us” if their leaders did not fight against the region being palmed off with a “cut-price railway in the north and a fully funded railway everywhere else”.” – The Guardian

Salmond finally set to appear as Holyrood witness

“Alex Salmond is expected to launch a series of public attacks on Nicola Sturgeon next week, after Holyrood agreed to publish claims which his allies believe could end the First Minister’s career. The former SNP leader is finally set to appear as a witness in front of a Scottish Parliament committee on Wednesday, which is investigating an unlawful civil service investigation into sexual harassment claims against him. The breakthrough came after he appeared to have won a row over whether his dossier of allegations against his successor would be published. Although already in the public domain, MSPs refused to officially release Mr Salmond’s written evidence into the multiple ways in which he believes Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code in her handling of complaints against him, citing legal concerns.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Holyrood agrees to publish evidence – The Guardian
  • Davidson tears into Nationalists over Salmond probe – Daily Express
  • SNP’s day of reckoning as party civil war erupts – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: There’s something rotten in the state of Scotland. But can anyone do anything about it?

UK to launch £800m science research agency

“An £800m agency to back “high-risk, high-reward” scientific research championed by former Number 10 adviser Dominic Cummings will be formally launched by the UK government on Friday. The independent research agency, set to be operational next year, will be charged with funding “the most ambitious, cutting-edge areas of research”, cutting through bureaucracy to give Britain a lead in the industries of the future. The body was a favourite project of Cummings who was passionate about creating a British version of the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, formerly called Arpa. His WhatsApp handle still says: “Get Brexit Done, then Arpa.” But government officials said that Cummings, who left Downing Street in November after a power struggle in Number 10, was not being talked about as a future leader of the body.” – FT

News in Brief:

  • Is there any hope of a rational discussion about ‘our NHS’? – Kristian Niemietz, CapX
  • Starmer’s vision cedes the initiative to Sunak – Graham Stewart, The Critic
  • Labour’s real problem is Wales – Dr David Jeffery, UnHerd
  • It is time to make friends with the EU – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • A strong Pound is bad news for our recovery – John Mills, Reaction