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Government plans Covid vaccine passports to allow foreign holidays

“British officials have started work on a “vaccine passport” as Greece prepares to waive quarantine rules for tourists who can prove that they have been inoculated against coronavirus. A certification system is being planned, The Times has learnt. The Foreign Office, Department for Transport and Department of Health and Social Care are working on options for travellers to countries that may demand it as a condition of entry. Early data suggesting that the jabs reduce transmission as well as prevent serious disease and death has revived the debate over whether individuals who have been vaccinated should have more freedom. British tourists may be welcomed to Greece in May provided they can provide proof of inoculation against the coronavirus, tourism officials said. Government officials have told the Greek Ministry of Tourism that Britain’s vaccination process is so advanced that British holidaymakers will save their lucrative summer season.” – The Times

  • Ministers race to book 28,000 quarantine hotel rooms by 5pm – Daily Telegraph
  • Quarantine hotels to take in 44,000 arrivals a month – The Times
  • Vaccine refuseniks face visit from the persuaders, says Zahawi – The Times

Return of sport and socialising outdoors when Covid lockdown eases

“Outdoor sport and socialising are set to be among the first activities to be allowed after schools return next month, The Times has learnt. Boris Johnson’s plans for a release from lockdown in the spring will prioritise open-air contact and set out dates for the opening of retail and then hospitality after pupils return to classrooms. Outdoor activity is likely to be permitted first in each phase. Team and individual sports such as golf and tennis, along with limited social gatherings outside, would therefore be possible within weeks of a planned return of schools from March 8. Outside markets are likely to be allowed to open before high street shops, and al-fresco dining before eating indoors. Government sources said that the plans were “tentative”, and that only the date for the earliest return of pupils had been agreed.” – The Times

  • Exiting lockdown: How the goalposts have shifted since January 4 – Daily Telegraph
  • Treasury economists work on plan for phased lifting of Covid restrictions – FT
  • Johnson to scrap rules making pubs serve a ‘substantial meal’ with drinks – The Sun

70 Tory MPs demand a route out of lockdown amid fears Boris is being ‘beaten up by the scientists’

“More proof that Britain has passed the peak of the second wave of coronavirus emerged today as daily deaths and cases continued to fall and pressure on intensive care units finally started to ease. Department of Health officials recorded another 915 Covid victims – including a seven-year-old – and 20,634 positive tests. Both daily counts were down by more than a quarter week-on-week. Separate Public Health England figures showed all but three local authorities saw coronavirus infections drop last week, plummeting in London, the South East and other areas that were ravaged before Christmas. Cases in care homes fell by a third, data also showed. The latest Test and Trace report today claimed positive Covid tests plunged by 41 per cent in the last fortnight, in another sign the crisis is firmly in retreat… A 70-strong group of lockdown-sceptic Tories in the CRG block today demanded Boris Johnson lifts restrictions altogether by the summer. The Prime Minister is facing an angry backlash and claims he is being ‘beaten up by scientists’.” – Daily Mail

  • Hunt: Covid restrictions should stay until cases fall to 1,000 a day – The Guardian
  • UK past the second wave peak: here’s what the numbers show – Daily Telegraph
  • Scientists raise hopes of March meetings and normal summer – The Times
  • ‘No case’ to delay school restart until March, say government scientists – Daily Telegraph

Sunak hails vaccine success as model for more nimble UK economy…

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak has hailed the early success in Britain’s coronavirus vaccine rollout as an economic model for the future, with an emphasis on “nimble” regulation and an active role for the state in promoting innovation. Mr Sunak’s comments are expected to be reflected in his March 3 Budget, when he will map out a post-Brexit economic plan, which will also feature the idea of greater British self-sufficiency in key areas. Speaking at a Treasury “jobs of the future” event, Mr Sunak highlighted his belief that Britain could be “agile” in creating a regulatory framework for new industries. Several ministers share the business view that the post-Brexit focus should be on creating a regulatory framework to allow new sectors such as data, fintech and life sciences to flourish, rather than scrapping existing EU rules.” – FT

  • Patel urges ethnic minority Brits to get ‘life saving’ Covid vaccine – The Sun
  • Take action over MPs linked to Covid conspiracy figures, Johnson told – Daily Mail
  • Fines for breaching Covid-19 self-isolation rules could rise to £5,000 – The Times

More:

  • Record household spending spree to regenerate British economy after pandemic – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Our Cabinet League Table. Truss is still top, Johnson is up again – and Kwarteng comes straight in at fourth.

…and France furious as Britain snatches Covid vaccine Valneva deal ‘from under its nose’

“A French vaccine financed by Britain is at the centre of a row over the Macron government’s failure to ensure supplies for its people. The French government refused to fully fund research by Valneva, a Franco-Austrian startup that has developed its vaccine at its headquarters near Nantes in the Loire region. Instead, the British backed the development, securing an agreement to supply 60 million doses from a plant in Livingston, West Lothian, starting in October. France will get the vaccine only next year. Franck Grimaud, the company’s chief executive, said that several governments had been contacted at the launch of the project. “The UK responded the fastest,” he said… “Inactivated” vaccines are considered to have advantages over “live” ones because they can boost previous vaccinations. Critics in France said the failure by Paris to back Valneva was symbolic of the government’s poor management of the vaccine race, in which Britain has stolen a march.” – The Times

  • Macron under pressure as rollout falters – FT
  • France rejects a third lockdown, saying ‘economic, social and human’ cost cannot be justified – Daily Mail
  • Scholz takes aim at Von der Leyen over EU failures – The Times
  • Now Netherlands bans Oxford jab for over-65s as EU turns on UK firm – Daily Express
  • Sturgeon under fire for saying the UK’s jab rollout success has little to do with Brexit – The Sun

US:

  • Johnson & Johnson asks the FDA to authorize its one-shot, ‘100 per cent effective’ vaccine – Daily Mail

Fraser Nelson: We need dissenting voices in the lockdown debate more than ever

“At first, Chris Whitty was frank about this when discussing lockdown. It’s a finely balanced decision, he’d say: you have to consider the indirect deaths as well as the deaths. But over the past few months, the debate has become dangerously polarised. The Chief Medical Officer no longer talks about collateral damage, and Government messaging has hardened. Not so long ago, we saw official adverts urging us to seek NHS care if we felt a suspicious lump. Now, adverts in bus stops show the face of a Covid patient with an oxygen mask asking us to “look him in the eyes” and say if our journey is necessary. This changes the mood – and will obviously have consequences. Positive and negative. The Prime Minister speaks about the “frustrations” of lockdown as if it’s just a matter of being annoyed that you can’t go to the pub. But it’s more than that. It’s worry about the damage this lockdown inflicts on education, health and society.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Schools need revolution to undo Covid damage – James Forsyth, The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: O’Brien and his critics. Covid sceptics, Covid believers, Covid deniers: cool it

New ‘carbon taxes’ on food could put British farmers at a ‘competitive disadvantage’, Johnson warned

“New carbon “taxes” or charges on foods such as meat and dairy risk putting British farmers at a “competitive disadvantage” compared to other countries, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has said. It came as MPs warned of the potential impact on bills for families already struggling due to the covid-19 pandemic, after Downing Street refused to rule out introducing charges on sectors that produce more pollution. It follows reports that the Prime Minister has ordered Government departments to produce a “price” for carbon emissions across all areas of the economy as part of his drive to hit net zero by 2050. According to The Times, the proposals will play a central part of the green agenda Mr Johnson intends to set out in the run-up to the UK’s hosting of COP26 in November. Under the UK’s new emissions trading scheme, heavily polluting industries such as aviation and electricity generation will be asked to pay for the pollution they emit above a set cap.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Downing Street slaps down plans for ‘meat tax’ after outrage from MPs – The Sun

More:

  • Cumbria coal mine: Prime Minister feels the heat over plans – The Times

Comment:

  • Plans for a Cumbrian coalmine illustrate the Tory dilemma: green policies or jobs? – Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Patrick Hall in Think Tanks: A demand-led on-street chargepoint scheme will be essential to the electric vehicle revolution

Patel vows to combat ‘plague’ of Channel people traffickers

“Priti Patel has said that illegal migrant crossings had “plagued” governments for decades and announced plans for a crackdown on people smugglers. The home secretary told the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs that she was frustrated by the difficulties in stemming the number of migrants crossing the Channel. She said that the government would publish a policy paper on plans for new legislation within the next fortnight, which would be followed by a consultation. The legislation will be announced later in the year. Patel is said to be concerned about the sentencing of gangs who traffic people across the Channel. The maximum sentence for human trafficking is 14 years, but the average sentence is about three years. Last year a record 8,410 migrants were intercepted crossing the Channel in small boats. In 2019 the number was 1,850.” – The Times

  • ‘Massive uncertainty’ over UK migration data amid pandemic – FT

More:

  • Home Secretary admits home schooling has been ‘challenging’ – The Sun

>Today: Sir Roger Gale MP in Comment: Special relationship or coercion? America’s approach to extradition is not the conduct of an ally.

More than 30 UK bidders ready to pursue ten freeport zones

“At least 30 ports and airports around the UK are considering bids for just 10 slots to become freeports — special economic zones that will benefit from lower taxes — which were presented by Brexiters as a benefit of leaving the EU. The level of interest will come as boost to Boris Johnson, who has hailed freeports as a key tool in the UK prime minister’s “levelling-up” agenda aimed at tackling regional inequality. The deadline for bids in England is Friday — with winners announced by the spring — but the process is moving more slowly in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Before becoming chancellor, Rishi Sunak presented freeports as one of the benefits of Brexit. In reality the UK had several freeports while it was within the EU and axed them in 2012 when the Conservatives were governing in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.” – FT

  • Cadbury to move production of Dairy Milk bars back to UK from Europe in post-Brexit boost – The Sun

People misled on Irish Sea border, says ex-law chief

“People in Northern Ireland were misled by ministers to believe that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal would not create a border in the Irish Sea, the government’s former chief legal officer says. Sir Jonathan Jones said that it had been “obvious” that it would disrupt existing trade routes within the UK. “It always seemed obvious, at least to me, that there was going to be a border in the Irish Sea,” Jones, whose department gave advice to the government on the agreement, told Times Radio. “There has been a problem with people not being honest, or people [not] understanding what the consequence of the new agreements was going to be. It’s obviously feeding this public and political concern with the agreement.” … Jones resigned from his post over Johnson’s threat last year to renege on the Northern Ireland protocol in the event of a no-deal Brexit. He said that ministers should not make the same mistake again.” – The Times

  • Northern Irish police chief urges calm amid post-Brexit tensions – The Guardian
  • Brussels pushes back on UK bid to rewrite Northern Ireland protocol – FT

>Yesterday: Stephen Booth’s column: Now our own Government says it may trigger Article 16 in Northern Ireland. Is the move a bluff? Or is it for real?

Scotland 1) Johnson sacks Scottish adviser ‘to install ally’

“Boris Johnson has sacked his top Scottish adviser after claims he wanted to hand Nicola Sturgeon too much power. After less than a year in the job Luke Graham, a former MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, is being replaced as head of Downing Street’s Union unit by Oliver Lewis, a former head of research at Vote Leave who is close to the prime minister. Government sources said that Lewis, previously Lord Frost’s deputy in the Brexit negotiations, would offer a “very different” direction to his “federalist” predecessor. Graham, 35, “wanted to keep giving them powers”, one source said. “Clearly that’s not going to work.” However, his allies were mystified by that characterisation, and a Whitehall source said: “I have never heard Luke argue for more powers for the devolved administrations.” Neither faction disputed that Graham had failed to win the prime minister’s ear during his time in Downing Street.” – The Times

  • Tory supporters ‘open to tactical voting to stop SNP majority in May’, poll suggests – Daily Telegraph
  • Rees-Mogg slaps down SNP’s demand for more cash – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: David Mundell in Comment: Why Sunak should deliver for the Scotch Whisky industry next month

Scotland 2) Salmond could refuse to appear as witness after Holyrood refuses to publish his Sturgeon claims

“Alex Salmond could pull out of giving evidence to a Holyrood inquiry due to a row over its refusal to publish his allegations against Nicola Sturgeon. A spokeswoman for the former First Minister said it was “quite extraordinary” that his written evidence over whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code would not be made public by the committee. Mr Salmond’s belief that Ms Sturgeon repeatedly misled the Scottish Parliament over her handling of sexual harassment complaints against him is already common knowledge. The submission, to a separate inquiry into Ms Sturgeon’s conduct which he also sent to the Holyrood committee, has also been reported widely by the media. A Holyrood spokeswoman suggested that the information would not be published to follow legal obligations. If it is not published, it cannot be referenced in the committee’s public sessions.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: As the Scottish Government digs in, calls grow for a judge-led inquiry into the Salmond scandal

Chaotic council discussion which sees chairman and deputy thrown out takes internet by storm

“It’s not often that a seven-minute edited highlights package from a parish council meeting soars up the YouTube most-viewed rankings. Or that a clerk overseeing such proceedings becomes a Twitter trending topic and finds herself installed as a tongue-in-cheek favourite to win the Nobel Peace Prize. But the December 10th Handforth Parish Council Planning & Environment Committee meeting was, its minutes assure us, an extraordinary meeting – leaving a shocking trail of chaos, power grabs and insults. The meeting, footage of which surfaced yesterday, starts badly. As the fine burghers of the east Cheshire village (‘a fast-growing community connecting Cheshire to Greater Manchester, with a major retail centre and luxury car outlets, and easy access to Manchester Airport’) gather for the 7:30pm Zoom call, a male voice chimes in from off-camera. ‘F*** off,’ he says. We then meet parish council chairman Brian Tolver and matters don’t improve. His Zoom title, despite being the chairman, is ‘Handforth PC clerk’. There is clearly history here.” – Daily Mail

>Today: Local Government: Cladding removal means a huge bill. Punishing taxpayers or homeowners is an uncomfortable choice for Conservatives.

News in Brief:

  • From vaccines to vaping: leaving the EU is saving British lives – Mark Oates, CapX
  • Behavioural science won’t save us – Stuart Ritchie, UnHerd
  • Can the Northern Ireland protocol be untangled? – Graham Stewart, The Critic
  • Salmond consulting lawyers over farcical Holyrood inquiry meltdown – The Hound, Reaction
  • Full text: Salmond’s submission to the Hamilton inquiry – The Spectator