Published:

Coronavirus: MPs demand clarity on foreign holidays…

“Ministers are under pressure to confirm the return of foreign holidays after Spain said that it would reopen to vaccinated tourists. MPs on the transport committee said that the initial target date of May 17 for restarting international travel should be confirmed to provide certainty for consumers and businesses. In a report, it said that the government had to set out clear standards that countries would have to meet on testing and vaccination levels to be deemed “safe” for British holidaymakers. It said that any delay to holidays beyond May 17 could prove “critical” to airlines, airports and tour operators. Yesterday Spain said that it was considering the introduction of a health passport that would open the doors to those vaccinated.” – The Times

  • Up to ten million extra vaccine doses could be available to UK within days – Daily Mail
  • Johnson warns of Covid surge in Europe and slaps down demands to unlock faster – The Sun
  • Daily Covid cases drop by seven per cent in a week – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Scientific advice should be published routinely to inspire confidence in the road map – Greg Clark MP, Times Red Box

…and Johnson defends Test and Trace as it’s called ‘most wasteful public spending programme of all time’

“The Prime Minister rowed in to defend NHS Test and Trace on Wednesday as a former Treasury chief described it as “the most wasteful and inept public spending programme of all time”. A report this week by MPs on the parliamentary spending watchdog declared there was “no clear evidence” the programme had successfully reduced Covid-19 infections despite the “unimaginable” sums spent on it. Their conclusion was backed by Lord Macpherson of Earl’s Court, a former permanent secretary at the Treasury until 2016. He tweeted that the system “wins the prize for the most wasteful and inept public spending programme of all time”, adding: “The extraordinary thing is that nobody in the Government seems surprised or shocked. No matter: the BoE [Bank of England] will just print more money.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • He insists under-fire £37billion system is worth the money – The Sun

More:

  • Parents stop children being tested for Covid at school over fears of false results – The Times
  • Up to 250,000 school pupils could be wrongly ordered to self-isolate, union warns – Daily Mail

Government to create 6,000 green jobs with two new offshore wind ports in the North

“Boris Johnson will create 6,000 new jobs with two offshore wind ports to turn the Red Wall green, it was revealed last night. The PM will pump £95million into two flagship ports in The Humber and Teeside, promising to “put the wind in the sails” of Britain’s green revolution. Construction will begin later this year to turn the country’s old industrial heartlands green in a move fit for the future. Once complete, they will have the power to create a whopping 9GW of energy offshore wind projects each year – enough electricity to power 8 million homes. Ministers have promised to create enough to power every home in the UK by 2030… It comes after the Chancellor used the Budget to name both Teesside and Humberside as two of eight freeports – which will slash taxes and customs fees in the area in a bid to bring even more investment to the regions.” – The Sun

  • Ex-steelworks to make wind farm parts – The Times
  • Major new £95 million offshore wind investment scheme – Daily Express

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: Opportunities for an agile, creative Britain from Brexit – as endorsed by former Remainers

Johnson gives nurses hope of bigger rise

“Boris Johnson has hinted that nurses could be given a bigger pay rise by suggesting that they could be treated “exceptionally”. Sir Keir Starmer accused the prime minister yesterday of clapping for carers last year before choosing to “shut the door in their face at the first opportunity”. The Labour leader will today make the government’s commitment to a 1 per cent pay rise for NHS workers the centrepiece of his party’s campaign for the May elections. He will tell a virtual event that “a vote for Labour is a vote to support our nurses”, adding that key workers deserve a “proper pay rise”… Johnson indicated that nurses could be given a more significant pay rise once the independent pay review body reports back.” – The Times

  • Labour to ‘weaponise’ nurses pay row in May elections slogan… – Daily Telegraph
  • …and slams Downing Street for spending taxpayer money on ‘propaganda’ documentary – Daily Mail
  • Opposition demands Johnson corrects record on party’s NHS deal vote – The Guardian
  • Long-Bailey under fire over support of NHS strike in middle of pandemic – Daily Express

More Labour:

  • Man who threatened to kill MP banned from contacting politicians for 12 years – Evening Standard

>Yesterday: Robert Halfon MP’s column: Conservatives must never be complacent about Starmer. The public mood can change quickly.

Prime Minister takes passage to India to support ‘Indo-Pacific tilt’

“Boris Johnson is planning a spring trip to India as part of Britain’s new “Indo-Pacific tilt” strategy, in the first major bilateral visit by a UK prime minister since Theresa May toured Africa in 2018. Johnson’s Indian visit will follow the launch next week of the government’s “integrated review” of foreign and defence policy, highlighting the economic opportunities of Asia and the potential strategic threat of China. The fact that Johnson’s overseas trip is the first such tour by a British premier since May visited Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in August 2018 shows the extent to which UK foreign policy has been paralysed, first by Brexit and then Covid-19. Johnson will launch the 100-page integrated review on March 16, a document that will shape Britain’s post-Brexit foreign and defence policy.” – FT

  • He demands ‘immediate’ release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe in call with Iran’s president – Daily Telegraph

China:

  • Brussels seeks to win round critics of EU-China deal – FT
  • US Navy admiral issues warning that China plans to invade Taiwan in the next six years – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • UK’s policy towards China is riddled with contradictions – Robert Shrimsley, FT

Royal Navy’s fleet to shrink to all-time low despite Johnson’s vow to replace frigates

“The Royal Navy’s fleet is to shrink to an all-time low — despite the PM’s vow to make Britain Europe’s foremost naval power. The number of frigates could dip below ten for the first time. Its 13 minesweepers will also be replaced by drones under modernisation plans. The overall number of warships will fall from 66, before starting to recover after 2027. Boris Johnson vowed last year to replace frigates. But a former First Sea Lord, Admiral Lord West, said: “They are not building new ships quickly enough.” At least four Type 23 frigates, which specialise in hunting subs, are due to be phased out before their replacements have been built. The cuts will take the frigate fleet from 13 down to nine by 2026, unless the Navy extends their lifespans.” – The Sun

  • Border Force patrol boat HMC Vigilant taken off migrant route – The Times

EU 1) Fridges, TVs and washing machines sold in Northern Ireland ‘must bear EU instead of Union flag’

“Refrigerators, televisions and other white goods sold in Northern Ireland must display the EU flag on post-Brexit energy efficiency labels, despite them bearing the British flag in the rest of the United Kingdom. The Union flag is not allowed on the EU-wide label, which Northern Ireland has already introduced because it must follow some Brussels regulations under the Withdrawal Agreement, which prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland. Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman, told The Daily Telegraph it was an example of how the Northern Ireland Protocol was detaching the country from the rest of the UK. “The very fact it will be an EU flag, although we’ve supposedly left the EU…is an illustration of how we’re now treated differently,” he said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • New label for appliances on the mainland – The Sun
  • Food manufacturers face fresh hit from Brexit red tape – FT
  • British representative sent to Washington in diplomatic ‘counter-offensive’ – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Of course we should bridge the Irish Sea – Alan Dunlop, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Plan to link Scotland and Ireland is a bridge too far – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: If the EU is as committed to the Belfast Agreement as it claims, here’s what it will do – sooner or later

EU 2) Brussels hits back in vaccine exports row with UK

“Brussels on Wednesday hit back in a row with Boris Johnson over coronavirus vaccine exports, with European officials highlighting how Britain has received more doses than any other country monitored under new EU controls. The UK prime minister denied claims by Charles Michel, European Council president, that Britain had introduced an “outright ban” on vaccine exports. The European Commission acknowledged no such ban was in place, but EU officials noted that Michel had been drawing attention to the fact that no vaccines have so far been sent from the UK to the bloc. The row with the UK — which led to an EU official being summoned to the Foreign Office in London to explain Michel’s comments — sparked acute frustration in Brussels given the bloc’s status as a major Covid-19 vaccine exporter.” – FT

  • Johnson hits back at EU and insists ‘we have not blocked vaccines’ – Daily Telegraph
  • EU admits it was wrong to claim UK is blocking Covid vaccine exports – The Sun
  • Shameful EU boss doubles down on vaccine attack – Daily Express
  • EU regulators ‘had major concerns over the quality of early batches of Pfizer’s Covid jab’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • It’s the EU that’s making trouble, not Britain – Iain Martin, The Times
  • Brussels elite will never take responsibility for its vaccine disaster – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Scottish Conservatives claim SNP is ‘mired in sleaze’

“The Scottish National party was on Wednesday accused of being “mired in sleaze” after its parliamentary business manager at Westminster stepped aside while the SNP investigates a sexual harassment complaint against him. The complaint against Patrick Grady, SNP chief whip, comes less than two months before the party contests elections to the Holyrood parliament that it hopes will provide a platform to push for its goal of Scottish independence. It follows a bitter rift between Scottish first minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond sparked by harassment complaints against him. A Scottish government investigation into the complaints was ruled unlawful in 2019 and Salmond was last year acquitted of all 13 sexual offence charges against him.” – FT

  • Nationalist ministers to criminalise ‘disagreements at dinner table’ under hate crime law – Daily Express

…as Sarwar criticised over pro-independence candidate sacking

“Anas Sarwar, the new Scottish Labour leader, is facing an escalating rebellion by senior figures and activists on the party’s left after an election candidate was sacked for backing Scottish independence. An open letter attacking the sacking of Hollie Cameron as a candidate for Glasgow Kelvin has been signed by the former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and several hundred Labour officials, peers, councillors and activists. Cameron told the National, a pro-independence newspaper with close links to the Scottish National party, that she was a yes voter in 2014 but was now sceptical. She claimed Labour would support a fresh independence referendum. The only “quibble” was over its timing, she said. That directly contradicts Labour’s stance, and she was removed as the party’s candidate in May’s Holyrood election on Tuesday…” – The Guardian

  • The more Johnson forces the union together, the more likely it will fall apart – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • He acts like a recruiting sergeant for the nationalists – Alex Massie, The Times

News in Brief:

  • The new Crime Bill is not enough to deal with the extremist threat – Ian Acheson, CapX
  • Harry and Meghan’s modern brand of revenge – Freddy Gray, The Spectator
  • Momentum’s vapid ‘socialism’ is not fit for the 21st Century – James Bloodworth, UnHerd
  • Two cheers for the LRB – Secret Author, The Critic