Published:

Johnson seeks to end UK-Brussels stand-off over AstraZeneca vaccine…

“Boris Johnson has sent an emissary to Brussels to end a bitter stand-off over vaccines, calling for “international co-operation” and warning that a surge in Covid-19 cases in the EU would end up hitting the UK. Speaking on Monday ahead of the anniversary of Britain’s first lockdown, Johnson said Britain and the EU were in the same boat: “On the continent right now you can see, sadly, there is a third wave under way,” he said. “And people in this country should be under no illusions that previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, I’m afraid it washes up on our shores as well.” Tim Barrow, Britain’s former ambassador to the EU, was dispatched to Brussels to try to defuse a looming vaccine war and to offer British support to efforts to boost production capacity.” – FT

  • Britain warns EU it ‘would have no choice’ but to block vaccine exports in return – The Sun
  • Former top civil servant warns against vaccine protectionism – FT
  • Government negotiating to divide up stocks and improve production – The Times
  • ‘Bring back Juncker’, says Hague – Daily Express
  • Germany and France back ban on Covid vaccine exports… but Dutch and Irish oppose it – Daily Mail
  • Prime Minister sends envoy to seek vaccine deal with India to ease UK shortage – FT

William Hague: The EU’s vaccine nationalism is even more dangerous than it looks

“Earlier this month I was chatting to Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of a Zoom webinar, and soon found myself reflecting that the EU Commission might be in better shape if he was still in charge of it. It was a startling thought: having joined in the British effort in 2014 to try to prevent Juncker from becoming Commission president, I never thought I would one day wish he was back. Yet the months since his departure, in which a new Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen has been wrestling with the EU vaccines scheme, have been among the most dismal in its existence. And the damage being done, to future trust, mutual reliance, and the ability to respond to future pandemics in the long term, is adding up by the day.” – Daily Telegraph

Prime Minister prepares to ‘plead with Tory MPs over Covid lockdown revolt’…

“Boris Johnson will address Tory MPs today as he attempts to persuade them to back another three months of coronavirus restrictions amid warnings that further delay “will not be tolerated”. The prime minister will attend the 1922 Committee of backbenchers before a vote on coronavirus regulations on Thursday amid a backlash over the pace at which the lockdown is being eased. Dozens of Tory MPs are expected to either abstain or vote against the government, although the coronavirus powers will still pass because they have the support of Labour. One senior Tory MP said: “People have gone along with this extraordinarily slow so-called road map, but I don’t think they’re in a place where even more delay can be tolerated.”” – The Times

  • Prime Minister vows to end lockdown ‘once and for all’ on anniversary of country first shutting down – The Sun

More:

  • Holidaymakers could be fined £5,000 for visiting airport  – Daily Telegraph
  • Overseas travel ban extended until July due to third wave fears – The Times

Comment:

  • Johnson plays to his voters, not his party – Rachel Sylvester, The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Today’s Covid anniversary and the freedom gap

…as Cabinet colleagues say he was ‘naive’ to give Sturgeon pandemic powers

“Boris Johnson should have used sweeping civil contingencies powers to cut out Nicola Sturgeon from the Covid response, Cabinet colleagues claim. And a year on, some around the top table say the PM regrets his decision not to do so. Ahead of Tuesday’s anniversary of the first Lockdown, The Sun can reveal a major rift at the top of government last March over how to respond to the emerging pandemic. The PM was urged by some ministers and aides not to use 1980s Public Health laws to respond – as Health matters are devolved meaning Edinburgh and Cardiff were given the chance to go their own way in response.” – The Sun

>Yesterday: Aidan Shilson-Thomas in Think Tanks: Parliament failed to monitor pandemic preparation in the run-up to Covid

Care home staff to face compulsory Covid vaccination

Shield“Care home workers will be required by law to have a Covid-19 jab under a historic legal change agreed by Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock, The Telegraph can reveal. Leaked details of a paper submitted to the Covid-19 Operations Cabinet sub-committee last week show that the Prime Minister and Health Secretary have requested the change in law. Ministers feel compelled to act amid alarm at the low take-up of vaccines among staff in care homes, where many of those most at risk from the virus live. Only around a quarter of homes in London, and half in other parts of England, have reached the level of vaccination among staff and residents deemed safe by government scientists.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Minister reveals test and trace spending on consultants – FT
  • Government reviewing whistleblowing rules amid record pandemic sackings – Daily Telegraph

UK ‘tax day’ to include cuts to red tape

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak will hold back from embarking on a large number of public consultations on potential revenue-raising tax measures when the Treasury publishes a raft of consultations on Tuesday. Dubbed “tax day”, the measures will include proposals to cut the bureaucracy involved with inheritance tax for those dying with smaller estates, but Treasury officials say there will not be any consultations on reforming tax reliefs on pension contributions, capital gains tax or increasing taxes on the self-employed. The tax policy and consultation update, for the first time separated from the Budget, is not a backdoor mechanism to raise taxes without telling people in the Budget, the Treasury said.” – FT

>Yesterday: Neil O’Brien MP’s column: The view that manufacturing is a relic of the past is itself a relic of the past

Williamson’s pitch to keep his job: ‘I’m a bit Marmite but stand up for what’s right’

“Gavin Williamson doesn’t think it’s for him to judge whether or not he’s everyone’s cup of tea – but he ventures that he is “almost a little bit Marmite”. Given last summer’s exam fiasco, and the screeching U-turn on schools’ return in January, that might be considered a generous assessment of his popularity. Spring has brought faint glimmers of an unlikely redemption for the Education Secretary, however, as even union leaders concede that this time he led a successful march back into class. It is no longer absurd to believe that Boris Johnson might allow Mr Williamson to continue a job he feels is far from finished, when the Prime Minister finally gets round to shuffling his team this summer.” – The i

  • It’s time we revived direct grant schools – Melanie Phillips, The Times

>Today: Jonathan Simons in Comment: Let’s build on the education reforms we worked for – not tear them down

Police braced for summer of disorder

“Police forces nationwide are bracing for a summer of disorder as warm weather combines with a “frustrated population” after a year of lockdown. All police forces in England and Wales have been ordered to gather and provide intelligence on protests and groups that may be planning demonstrations following Sunday night’s riots in Bristol, The Times has learnt. Yesterday the government confirmed that its temporary ban on protests — brought in to stop the spread of coronavirus — will be lifted on Monday. Senior police sources and the head of the government’s advisory group on policing and security have said they are expecting the end of the ban to trigger a surge in protests.” – The Times

  • More than 20 officers hurt in night of destruction in Bristol – The Times
  • First eight suspects are arrested as detectives hunt up to 500 ‘extremists’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • It’s time for a dedicated riot control police force – Henry Hill, Daily Telegraph
  • The British left needs to condemn political violence – John Woodcock, The Times
  • ‘Revolutionary tourists’ will piggy-back on any tragedy to get their kicks – Celia Walden, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Once Patel has delivered the Crime Bill, she should back it up with a specialised public order police force

Britain sanctions China over persecution of Uighur Muslims

“Britain has announced co-ordinated sanctions with the EU, US and Canada against China in response to Beijing’s “appalling” persecution of Uighur Muslims. Dominic Raab has blacklisted four Chinese officials and one agency allegedly responsible for human rights abuses in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. A senior diplomat at the Chinese embassy in London responded furiously to the announcement of asset freezes and travel bans, saying that reports of forced sterilisation and slave labour in Xinjiang were the “lies of the century”. Conservative MPs urged the government to toughen up its approach to China even further last night after Boris Johnson defeated a rebellion from 29 Tory backbenchers who wanted to stop the government from striking trade deals with countries convicted of genocide.” – The Times

‘Warhorses’ of the military put out to pasture as new era of fighting technology arrives

“The Defence Command Paper makes no secrets of the military’s ambition to pivot towards cyber conflict, space and robotics. Tanks are being retired, traditional mine hunters superseded by autonomous capabilities, and older aircraft replaced with a modern fleet. Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, cautioned that it was “tempting to use the shield of sentimentality to protect previously battle-winning but now outdated capabilities” and said that if the UK were to do so, it would “risk the lives of our people”. As such, hard decisions have been made to fight the wars of tomorrow, as well as working towards achieving the Government’s ambition to be a meaningful player in space by 2030.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Army to lose 9,500 personnel while older tanks, aircraft and warships will be retired – FT
  • More than 100 aircraft are grounded to make way for more drones – Daily Mail
  • Cuts leave armed forces ‘too small to be credible’… – The Times
  • …and ‘barely bigger than US special forces’ – The Sun

More:

  • Williamson leak damaged trust in security council, says May – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Britain’s expanded nuclear arsenal has a vital role to play in reining in China – John Bolton, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • A shrinking military need not be a cause for alarm if it is fast on its feet and open to innovation – The Times

Johnson flies into another storm over deal for second ‘Brexit jet’

“Boris Johnson has risked another row over the use of taxpayers’ money after procuring a second plane painted in the colours of the Union flag. Downing Street confirmed on Monday night that the UK had acquired a second aircraft, a six-month-old Airbus A321, after images emerged of it stationed at Stansted Airport with a red, white and blue paintwork. The plane has been leased from Titan Airways and will be used by Mr Johnson, Cabinet ministers and members of the Royal family for short-haul flights. However, a government spokesman refused to say how much the lease deal cost when approached by The Telegraph, although they insisted it was “value for money”. Details of the contract are due to be published later this year.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Former adviser ‘set to make thousands dishing dirt on rows with PM’s fiancee’ – The Sun

Comment:

  • Even no deal might make more sense than this unstable Brexit agreement – Anand Menon and Jonathan Portes, The Guardian

Inquiry clears Sturgeon of breaking ministerial code…

“Nicola Sturgeon will renew her push for Scottish independence today after she was cleared on all counts of breaching the ministerial code during her involvement with sexual harassment complaints against Alex Salmond, a prosecutor has ruled. James Hamilton, an independent adviser to the Scottish government on the code, cleared the first minister of any wrongdoing in a 60-page report delivered more than two years after she referred herself for investigation. She was found not to have broken any rules in her three meetings and two telephone calls with Salmond, her predecessor and erstwhile mentor, to discuss the Scottish government investigation into him.” – The Times

  • First Minister told she is ‘not free and clear’ despite being cleared of ministerial code breach – Daily Telegraph
  • She vows to focus on elections after being cleared by inquiry – The Guardian

…but she’s accused of misleading the Scottish Parliament

“Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of misleading the Scottish parliament over her dealings with Alex Salmond, but not knowingly, in a highly critical report by MSPs. A specially convened Holyrood committee voted by a 5-4 margin to find the first minister had misled parliament over her accounts of a meeting with Salmond, her former mentor, in April 2018. Their report, small excerpts of which were controversially leaked last week, said: “The committee finds it hard to believe that the first minister had no knowledge of any concerns about inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mr Salmond prior to November 2017. If she did have such knowledge, then she should have acted upon it. If she did have such knowledge, then she has misled the committee,” it stated.” – The Guardian

  • Tories vow to stage no confidence vote – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Sturgeon has won the battle with Salmond but the SNP civil war still rages – Kenny Farquharson, The Times

Labour faces worst Senedd election result in history

“Welsh Labour is facing the possibility of its worst Senedd election result since devolution began in 1999, according to a new poll. The party is predicted to get 32% of the vote in the constituency section of the ballot, down two points from the last poll in January, with the Conservatives on 30% (+4). Plaid Cymru is in third place on 23% (+1) the Liberal Democrats on 5% (+1), Reform UK on 3% (-2), the Greens on 2% (-4) and Others on 5% (+1). The YouGov poll for ITV Wales and Cardiff University also gives Labour (31% – +1) a narrow lead over the Conservatives (28% – +3) in the regional section of the ballot… Overall, Labour would win 22 seats, the Conservatives 19, Plaid Cymru 14 , Abolish the Assembly 4 and the Liberal Democrats 1.” – Wales Online

>Yesterday:

News in Brief:

  • Ignore the hysteria, the Crime Bill is a chance for the police to win back trust – Henry Hill, CapX
  • The cost of vaccine caution – Tom Chivers, UnHerd
  • The shine has finally come off the SNP – Henry Hill, The Spectator
  • How Labour are taking the voting public for granted – Nigel Jones, The Critic