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Pfizer warns EU to back down on vaccine threats to UK

“Pfizer has warned the EU to back down from its threat to block vaccines to the UK because the firm needs crucial ingredients shipped from Yorkshire, The Telegraph has learned. The drugmaker and its partner BioNTech have told Brussels that the UK has the power to retaliate against any export ban by withholding raw materials needed for its jab. Croda International, a chemicals firm based in Snaith, Yorkshire, has been delivering vital “fatty molecules” to Pfizer’s factories in the EU since signing a five-year contract with the firm in November. Pfizer and BioNtech are understood to have warned EU leaders that production at the main vaccine factory in Belgium could “grind to a halt” within weeks if the UK moved to prevent deliveries from crossing the Channel.” – Daily Telegraph

  • EU solidarity collapses after AstraZeneca vaccine shortage leads to new lockdowns – The Times
  • Northern Ireland waives sanctions on Republic residents seeking Covid jabs – FT
  • Alarm over new Covid wave in Europe – The Times
  • Merkel says she will have the Oxford jab after all – Daily Mail

Interview:

  • Bingham: ‘EU leaders undermining the vaccine are completely irresponsible’ – Daily Telegraph

Raab ‘totally misunderstands’ Northern Ireland Brexit terms, warns EU

“Britain’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has been accused by Brussels of displaying a “total misunderstanding” of the Brexit deal after claiming the EU was trying to erect a barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Maroš Šefčovič, the European commission’s vice-president, said Raab’s comments raised major questions, and warned that Britain was tarnishing its global reputation by ignoring the terms of its agreements with Brussels. The EU on Monday launched legal proceedings against the UK over alleged breaches of the Northern Ireland protocol in the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which is designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Brussels accused the UK of seeking to break international law for a second time by overriding the terms of the treaty to unilaterally extend a grace period on paperwork for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.” – The Guardian

  • Brussels sues Britain over tax breaks in Gibraltar – FT

>Yesterday: Catherine McBride in Comment: Truss must free our farmers and consumers from the EU’s shackles

Cummings ‘ready to reveal all’ on Johnson’s lockdown paralysis

“Gathered in the cabinet room were Dominic Cummings along with Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, and others including Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, and Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England. All were convinced of the need for a “circuit breaker” lasting at least two weeks in England given the surge in the number of cases — all, that is, except the prime minister himself. “Dom said that we can’t let the second wave crash, we can’t repeat the mistakes we made during the first lockdown,” a government source said. “But Boris said no.” It marked the start of a critical five days in September during which Johnson’s advisers tried – and failed – to convince the prime minister to implement a lockdown. That period will now come under intense scrutiny as Cummings returns to the front line of politics.” – The Times

  • One year on from the first lockdown, Prime Minister hopes to salvage reputation with vaccine rollout – FT

More Johnson:

  • Watchdog probes claim Downing Street flat makeover was paid for with £60k of Tory party funds – The Sun
  • Number Ten backs Rees-Mogg’s attack on HuffPost journalist – The Guardian

More Cummings:

  • BBC News report claiming roadtrip to Durham broke lockdown rules was inaccurate, broadcaster finds – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: How Zoom has accelerated the decline of the Commons – and how the damage can be reversed

Dowden presses for ‘arts passports’

“Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, has said that it will be “very, very difficult” for theatres to reopen with social distancing in place, as he piled pressure on Michael Gove to approve Covid certificates. He said that it was his “number one mission” to get significant audiences back into venues from June 21, and that it would not be viable for football clubs and theatres to open to spectators if there were limits on their capacity. The FA Cup final in May and the World Snooker Championship next month are among pilot events announced by the government to test the return of crowds to venues. Dowden said that a certification scheme to check if someone had had a negative test or a jab could help get “significant numbers” of spectators back into theatres and football grounds.” – The Times

  • Johnson’s youngest brother failure to reopen theatres – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Tory MPs demand BBC disciplined presenters who ‘mocked Union Flag’ – Daily Express
  • Edwards is forced to take down Welsh flag tweet as he backs Munchetty – Daily Mail

Home Office 1) Asylum lawyers must pay for ‘hopeless’ deportation appeals

“Lawyers who lodge “hopeless” attempts to overturn deportation decisions in the courts will have to cover government costs under plans to protect taxpayers and clear backlogs. The Home Office proposals aim to claw back money from thousands of cases that it believes are lodged in order to frustrate attempts to deport failed asylum seekers and foreign criminals. Ministers hope the changes will stop lawyers “abusing” the appeal system. Thousands of judicial reviews are lodged every year with the Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber. Priti Patel, the home secretary, will announce the proposals next week as part of a wider consultation document about reforming the asylum system.” – The Times

  • Criminals will be stopped from using exploiting modern slavery loophole to stay in Britain – The Sun
  • High Court judge accuses immigration lawyers of abusing the system – The Times

Comment:

  • We can’t let European human rights laws stop Britain controlling immigration – Sajid Javid MP, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Matthew Barber in Local Government: After clearing the court backlog, we need to reform the criminal justice system

Home Office 2) Patel ‘wanted police to stop people gathering at Sarah Everard vigil’

“For a few hours at least last Sunday, the Metropolitan police and their embattled commissioner appeared on the brink. Assailed from all sides over their handling of the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common, there seemed every chance Dame Cressida Dick would have to quit the force she has been in charge of since 2017. Instead she survived, as the Home Office and then Downing Street eventually signalled they retained confidence in her, despite the disturbing scenes of her officers manhandling women. But the support she received from the home secretary, Priti Patel, raised questions about what role, if any, Patel played behind the scenes before the vigil on Saturday evening. A memo leaked to the Guardian offers some clues.” – The Guardian

  • Dozens of Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MPs write to Patel demanding protests should be allowed – Daily Mail
  • Met chief’s job contract ‘unlikely’ to be extended – The Times

Ministers scrap digital ID project after spending eight years and almost £200m

“An identity verification programme that once promised to change the way citizens accessed Government services has been scrapped after eight years of work and a spend of almost £200 million of taxpayers’ money. The scheme, Gov.uk Verify, was introduced in 2013 as a way for the public to prove their identity when using online services, including when paying taxes, accessing Universal Credit, or sharing driving licence information. Ministers had planned for 25 million people to use Verify by 2020, with all Whitehall departments using the system for their own online services. The scheme has now finally been scrapped after several departments, including HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions, refused to use it.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Tracey Follows in Comment: Vaccine passports just the start of a digital identity revolution. Here’s what you need to know.

Government unveils £56million lifeline for Britain’s high streets

“The Government has unveiled a £56million fund for council’s to spruce up shopping hubs and hold beer and food festivals. Up to 9,000 more pubs are expected to be able to open for dine-out customers on April 12 as cuts to red tape will allow businesses to build marquees in gardens and have tables in streets across England. There will be a particular focus on seaside towns, which will receive £6million of the funding pot. Councils can use the money to ‘spruce up’ their high streets with flower boxes, improvements to green spaces and the removal of graffiti.  Rogue parking firms will also be tackled to allow shoppers easier access to town centres.” – Daily Mail

  • Lib Dems: Britain’s struggling hairdressers, pubs and chippies should have NI slashed – The Sun

>Yesterday: Simon Jupp MP in Comment: To support regional airports, ministers should cut Air Passenger Duty

Army creates Ranger regiment to free up Special Forces

“Hundreds of highly trained soldiers will be moved into a new special operations brigade that will deploy into hostile territory as part of a significant restructuring of the army. The Ranger Regiment will comprise four battalions of about 250 personnel who will be specially selected from across the infantry and will take over dangerous missions normally carried out by Special Forces. Their role, modelled on the Green Berets, the US army’s unconventional warfare specialists, will include carrying out cyberattacks and electronic warfare and gathering intelligence backed by new technology such as drones. The announcement of the 1,000-strong brigade came as military chiefs sought to defend looming cuts to the army by insisting that the new force would be more lethal.” – The Times

  • New regiment will stand up the first of its four battalions early next year – FT

>Today: Dr Sarah Ingham’s column: After the party, the hangover. This week, the Integrated Review. Next Monday, defence cuts?

Selecting Remainer to fight Hartlepool by-election a ‘terrible mistake’, warn Labour MPs

“Labour MPs have told Sir Keir Starmer that the party has made a “terrible mistake” by selecting an outspoken Remainer as its candidate to fight a by-election in Leave-voting Hartlepool. The decision to select Dr Paul Williams, a family doctor and the former MP for Stockton South, has prompted a backlash from Sir Keir’s hard-Left critics, who fear the Conservatives will weaponise his outspoken views on Brexit. One pointed to tweets made by Mr Williams prior to his defeat in the 2019 election, including one in which he praised the former Labour Europhile Chris Leslie for showing “real leadership in the fight against this Tory Brexit shambles”. “He shouldn’t be our candidate. It’s a 70 per cent Leave seat,” a former senior frontbencher told The Telegraph on Friday night.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Candidate apologises for slur about Cabinet minister and ‘Tory MILF’ tweet – The Sun

More:

Sturgeon says MSPs suppressed evidence

“SNP members of the committee looking at the investigation into Alex Salmond have discredited their own inquiry, saying it has been tarnished by the “politics of desperation”. In an unprecedented attack on a Holyrood inquiry Nicola Sturgeon, the Scotland first minister, accused MSPs who ruled that she misled parliament of having “deliberately ignored and suppressed evidence” before their full report was published. A leak of part of the report on Thursday found that Sturgeon had potentially breached the ministerial code by misleading the inquiry examining the government’s unlawful handling of sexual misconduct complaints against Salmond. The SNP-chaired panel voted by five to four that she had given inaccurate written evidence over an incident in which she was said to have agreed to intervene in her administration’s investigation.” – The Times

  • First Minister’s woes deepen as inquiry finds her evidence ‘hard to believe’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Sturgeon must quit or face a fresh vote of confidence next week, Tories warn – The Sun
  • Now Starmer backs calls for her resignation – The Guardian

More SNP:

  • MP attacked after claiming hotel expenses during lockdown-breaking trip – Daily Express

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Salmond allegations. Why MSPs need more rights, Scotland more localism – and Westminster should step in.

Andrew Neil: What irony if the wounded Queen of Scots becomes the reason the Union survives

“Sturgeon is on the ropes and her natural instinct is to strike out at all who assail her. It is not a pretty sight. But I would not underestimate her resilience. She is determined to lead the SNP into the crucial Holyrood elections in May, campaigning for an overall majority to reinforce her demand for a second Scottish independence referendum. Interestingly, even some of those pro-Union politicians publicly calling for her to resign hope privately that she stays in situ. They think the fallout from the Salmond-Sturgeon civil war has turned her into a liability who could scupper the SNP’s hopes of an overall majority. Examine the charge list.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • Why Johnson should help Gibraltar accede to the United Kingdom – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • The Police Bill isn’t the threat to democracy the Left say it is – Robert Poll, The Critic
  • Not all Americans are on Team Meghan – Lee Cohen, The Spectator
  • Home schooling is on the rise, and it’s not because of the pandemic – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • The life of Robert Walpole – Andrew Gimson, New Statesman

And finally… how ConHome’s own Phibbs helped bring down the Soviet Union

“Hundreds of miniature leaflets, written in Russian and English, were to be smuggled in and openly distributed. The future journalist and Conservative councillor Harry Phibbs and the military historian Peter Caddick-Adams also volunteered. Just 16 at the time, Phibbs was caught before he could stage his Red Square demonstration. He was interrogated for 24 hours without food or water then expelled from the country. In contrast, Caddick-Adams managed to hand out his leaflets on the Moscow underground undisturbed. ‘Under the circumstances that was not quite what we had wanted but as Harry had been caught and came back in a blaze of publicity, it still worked out well,’ says Lewis.” – Daily Telegraph