Boris Johnson’s ready to implement social care plan now delayed

Boris Johnson has admitted that his promised blueprint for overhauling the crisis-hit social care system could be delayed until next year.

During the leadership contest, Mr Johnson said he had a reform plan ready to go once he arrived in office.

However, speaking during the G7 summit in Biarritz, he would only say that the proposals would be unveiled “in due course”.

And he disclosed that the government was hoping for a cross-party backing for its plans. This aim would inevitably delay agreement over a reform package.

Mr Johnson told reporters: “Social is huge issue facing this country. We do have to address it. We are working very hard on it.

‘So difficult’

‘Nobody should be forced to sell their home and everybody should have dignity and security in old age’ (Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

“In an ideal world we would bring parties together across the political divide and get a consensus on it, because it is so difficult.

“We will be advancing plans in due course that satisfy two criteria – nobody should be forced to sell their home and everybody should have dignity and security in old age.”

Theresa May repeatedly shelved plans for a ‘green paper’ setting out proposals for reform of the social care system. The issue – and charges that she was planning a “dementia tax” – helped to derail the Tory election campaign in 2017.

Her government announced injections of cash into the system in response to repeated warnings that it was on the brink of financial collapse.

But critics said she was only papering over the cracks and failing to take the long-term decisions required to put the system on a stable footing.

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BBC should ‘cough up’and pay for free TV licences for the over-75, Boris Johnson says

Boris Johnson has challenged the BBC to “cough up” and change its mind over forcing the over-75s to pay for licence fees.

The corporation will collect around £745m from 2021, rising to more than £1bn by 2029, from charging older viewers for their licences.

Up to 3.7m pensioners will have to start paying £154.50 a year from next June, with only households on pension credit benefit remaining exempt.

The BBC has argued that it has been forced to charge older viewers and listeners because of the squeeze imposed on its finances by David Cameron’s government.

Agreed deal

But Mr Johnson hit out at the corporation’s stance, telling journalists: “The BBC received a settlement that was conditional upon their paying for TV licences for the over-75s. They should cough up.”

‘Boris Johnson is trying to blame the BBC for his own Government’s policy’ (Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire)

He was accused of hypocrisy over the comments as the Tory Government told the BBC in 2015 that it would have to shoulder the cost of free licences from 2020 when a government subsidy ends.

It decided to charge most pensioners based on the argument that the relative wealth of many older people had increased in recent years.

In their election manifesto of 2017 the Conservatives insisted that the licence fee concession should remain.

‘Blame the Government’

Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader, said: “Boris Johnson is trying to blame the BBC for his own Government’s policy, but this obfuscation will not work.

“The blame for scrapping free TV licences lies firmly with the Government.”

A BBC spokesman said: “It was the Government who decided to stop funding free TV licences for the over 75s, and Parliament gave responsibility to the BBC to make a decision on the future of the scheme. There was no guarantee that the BBC would continue to fund free licences for the over 75s, as the Culture Secretary at the time has confirmed.

“We’ve reached the fairest decision we can in funding free TV licences for the poorest pensioners, while protecting BBC services. If the BBC funded all TV licences for the over 75s it would mean the closure of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live, and several local radio stations. It is a matter for the Government if it wishes to restore funding for free licences for all over 75s.”

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Boris Johnson says 50 more towns will get a share of £1bn Government high street cash

Fifty more towns will get a share of a £1bn Government fund designed to boost England’s run down high streets.

Boris Johnson has confirmed a doubling a number of towns that will benefit from the Future High Streets Fund.

Fifty other towns have already been shortlisted to develop plans to improve their high streets. New recipients of the cash will now include Barrow, Blackpool, Clackton, Dudley, Grimsby and Woolwich.

The announcement has been welcomed by the Centre for Towns, a non-partisan body that carries out research into the vitality of town centres.

‘Attract new businesses’

‘This scheme is going to re-energise and transform even more of our high streets’ (Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

Mr Johnson said: “Our high streets are right at the heart of our communities, and I will do everything I can to make sure they remain vibrant places where people want to go, meet and spend their money.

”But with our town centres facing challenges, we’re today expanding the High Streets Fund to support over 100 high streets to regenerate – backed by £1bn of vital investment.

“This scheme is going to re-energise and transform even more of our high streets – helping them to attract new businesses, boost local growth, and create new infrastructure and jobs.”

The extension comes on the back of the £3.6bn Towns Fund announced last month, which included an extra £325m for the Future High Streets Fund, taking it to £1bn.

Successful candidates will progress to the second phase of the Future High Streets Fund and receive up to £150,000 to support proposals that can be submitted for capital funding.

The scheme was launched in December 2018 and is part of the Government’s plan to reshape town centres to drive economic growth and improve living standards.

Labour has also announced plans for the High Street (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Labour has also announced plans for the High Street (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “High streets have a crucial role to play as we work to grow the economy of all parts of the country.

“Our £1 billion Future High Streets Fund is key to delivering this, empowering local leaders to help transform their high streets and town centres as consumer habits change, by investing in housing, workplaces, infrastructure and culture.

“Interest in the Fund has been huge, and with so many strong applications, I am extending the number of towns moving forward to the next phase and getting a chance to develop their proposals.

“The government is going to level-up our regional economies and as Communities Secretary I am proud to be driving this agenda forward.”

A study by the Local Data Company has found that more than one in ten town centre shops are empty. Around 29,000 retail units are estimated to have been left empty for at least a year.

A record 2,481 shops disappeared from UK high streets last year – up 40 percent on the previous year. Big chains such as Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld went bust and vanished.

Others including Mothercare and New Look did restructuring deals with their landlords and closed a string of shops.

Companies have blamed increasing costs and the rise in online shopping with consumers now spending one in every five pounds online.

Abandoned shops

Labour has said it would allow councils to seize abandoned shops and give them a new lease of life as co-operatives or community centres to review Britain’s high streets.

The plan announced earlier this month said boarded up high streets were a “symptom of economic decay” which is lowering living standards.

Professor Will Jennings, the o-founder of the Centre For Towns, said: “It is welcome news that struggling town centre’s are receiving attention from government. It will be important to make sure these investments aren’t sticking plasters but start to address the fundamental challenges faced by towns under the UK’s current economic model.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Last month we committed to a £3.6bn Towns Fund demonstrating our commitment to prosperity in towns across the country, which included increasing the Future High Streets Fund to £1bn.

”As such, we will be able to extend the shortlist of places progressing to the next stage of assessment for the FHSF.“

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Boris Johnson to announce £10m Amazon rainforest funding

Boris Johnson will today announce £10 million of funding to help protect and restore the Amazon rainforest in Brazil – including in areas affected by the current fires.

More than 72,000 fires have been recorded in Brazil so far this year, many of them in the Amazon rainforest where farmers are illegally deforesting land to make way for cattle and crops.

They have been to emboldened to break the law after President Jair Bolsonaro signalled his intention to help the economy by boosting agriculture and mining.

But leaders around the world have criticised the president and are pressuring him to curb the blazes.

Financial assistance

They are also proposing to step up financial assistance to protect the forest.

In addition to the £10 millon pledge, the prime minister will announce that the UK is increasing its contribution to the international Green Climate Fund. The fund’s projects safeguard forests and land – including in the Amazon – as well as working to reduce emissions, and help people cope with the effects of climate change in developing countries.

At the G7 meeting in France, Mr Johnson will underline that biodiversity and climate change are “two sides of the same coin” and must be addressed in tandem if we are to protect the planet. The destruction of forests and other habitats creates emissions that contribute to and accelerate the rate of climate change.

G7 summit

Ahead of today’s G7 session on climate change and the environment, Mr Johnson said: “In a week where we have all watched, horrified, as the Amazon rainforest burns before our eyes, we cannot escape the reality of the damage we are inflicting on the natural world.

“The planet faces two immense threats: climate change and biodiversity loss. These are two sides of the same coin – it is impossible to solve one challenge without fixing the other.

“We cannot stop climate change without protecting the natural environment and we can’t restore global nature without tackling climate change,” he added.

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Boris Johnson admits Brexit deal is ‘touch and go’ and starts blaming Brussels for the failure

Boris Johnson has conceded that the chances of a Brexit agreement are “touch and go” but warned that Brussels would be to blame for failure to strike a withdrawal deal.

He insisted that the prospects of an accord were improving, but there was little sign that an early breakthrough was in sight following talks with Donald Tusk, the European Council president.

Their meeting at the G7 summit in Biarritz came after Mr Johnson travelled to Paris and Berlin to outline the government’s position to Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.

They have given him 30 days to find a workable alternative to the contentious Irish backstop proposal, which is at the centre of the Brexit impasse.

‘Depends on our EU friends’

Boris Johnson said: 'It all depends on our EU friends and partners' (Photo: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)
Boris Johnson said: ‘It all depends on our EU friends and partners’ (Photo: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)

Following his 25-minute meeting with Mr Tusk, the Prime Minister refused to repeat his claim during the Tory leadership contest that the odds against a no-deal Brexit were a “million to one”.

He told the BBC: “It all depends on our EU friends and partners, I think in the last few days there has been a dawning realisation in Brussels and other European capital what the shape of the problem is for the UK.

“I think it’s going to be touch and go but the important thing is to get ready to come out without a deal.”

Mr Johnson did not repeat his warning that in the event of a no-deal the UK would withhold the majority of the £39bn “divorce payment” agreed by Theresa May and Brussels. Reports yesterday suggested that Britain believed it could be liable for as little as £7bn under those circumstances.

Later Mr Johnson said: “I think what the entire European Union understands is that if we come out without a deal that the £39bn is not pledged.”

Turmoil ‘highly unlikely’

He played down warnings of turmoil following a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, insisting food shortages would be “highly unlikely” and he would “guarantee” that medicine supplies would be unaffected.

Following the talks, Downing Street said he had told Mr Tusk that “we will work in an energetic and determined way to get a better deal and we are very willing to sit down to talk with the EU and member states about what needs to be done to achieve that”.

But an EU official said the meeting had mainly restated known positions and Brussels had been hoping for “new elements to unblock the situation”. The session was said to have been conducted in a “genuinely positive atmosphere”.

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Tories hit by new Brexit in-fighting as Philip Hammond demands an apology

The Conservative Party was hit by new in-fighting after Philip Hammond demanded an apology over accusations that he and other ministers leaked secret Whitehall documents on the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit.

The Chancellor registered his complaint in a letter to the Prime Minister in which he said he was writing on behalf of all the ministers sacked by Mr Johnson upon arrival in office.

Downing Street responded by taking a swipe at Mr Hammond’s claim to represent former ministers.

The furore centred on last week’s leak of the so-called “Operation Yellowhammer” papers which outlined the scenario of food and fuel shortages and huge delays at Channel ports following a no-deal Brexit.

Documents dismissed

The documents outlined the potential problems the country could face in a no-deal Brexit (Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

Number 10 sources dismissed the documents as “out of date” and blamed disgruntled ex-ministers such as the former Chancellor for leaking the paperwork as a way of undermining Mr Johnson’s negotiations in Brussels.

Mr Hammond wrote: “I am writing on behalf of all former ministers in the last administration to ask you to withdraw these allegations which question our integrity, acknowledge that no former minister could have leaked this document, and apologise for the misleading briefing from No.10.”

He said the confidential assessment was dated August 2019 and said he could not have been released by ministers who had resigned or been dismissed when Mr Johnson announced his top team on 24 July.

A Downing Street source said: “I’m sure the Prime Minister will reply in due course. I’m sure he will be interested to learn that Philip Hammond represents all former ministers.”

The source disputed the suggestion it had been drawn up under Mr Johnson’s premiership. “It doesn’t reflect the changes made by the Government in terms of preparing for no-deal.”

Mr Hammond is emerging as the potential leader of Conservative rebel MPs attempting to thwart a no-deal Brexit when the Commons returns next month. Between 30 and 40 Tories are said to be ready to work across party to try to stop a Brexit no deal.

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Battle to ban junk food adverts before 9pm pits the health of our children against profits

The advertising industry is lobbying new Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an attempt to “halt” Government plans to fight childhood obesity by banning all junk food ads before 9pm.

The proposed watershed on advertising food and drink products that are high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) was put forward by Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, early this year following a high-profile social media campaign, #AdEnough, led by the television chef Jamie Oliver.

But the ad industry and its clients in the food sector clearly scent an opportunity in Mr Johnson’s accession to Downing Street and have complained to him of the “plans for onerous new advertising restrictions”. In a letter to Number 10, Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, writes: “We ask you to halt these plans.”

The sin tax

Much has happened since the consultation on an HFSS ad ban, for television and online, started on 18 March. Mrs May’s failure to deliver Brexit on 31 March opened the door to a new Prime Minister who, even before he was selected by Conservative members, promised to “look out how effective the so-called ‘sin taxes’ really are”. Mr Johnson is positioning himself as a free trade champion who will release business from the shackles of regulation and fight “the continuing creep of the nanny state”.

Jamie Oliver was overjoyed at the proposed ban, seeing it as a triumph for his #AdEnough campaign, which encouraged supporters to upload pictures of themselves with their hands over their eyes, in protest against HFSS advertising. “This is a once-in-a- generation chance to stop our kids being bombarded by these ads,” said the chef’s website.

Junk food advertising around children’s programmes is already banned. The proposed watershed would extend it to all content from 5.30am to 9pm, including family shows such as Britain’s Got Talent. London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan introduced a junk food ad ban on London transport this year. Oliver described that as a “massive step forward for child health”.

A closed-down Jamie's Italian restaurant in Glasgow (Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images0
A closed-down Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Glasgow (Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images0

The TV chef has had a turbulent few months. His restaurant empire collapsed in May with the loss of 1,000 jobs and closure of 22 outlets. But his strength as a campaigner for improved food standards was underpinned by his success as an entrepreneur and employer.

The ad and food industry might sense this formidable critic and influencer is weakened. In his letter to Mr Johnson, Mr Woodford makes the business case for advertising. “Every pound spent on advertising returns £6 to GDP,” he writes, claiming that total advertising spend delivers £142bn to UK GDP and supports one million jobs.

He might add advertising fuels our market economy, funds free news media and is core to the UK’s internationally admired creative industries. But it feels threatened, not least by Mr Johnson’s willingness to Brexit without a deal. “Having arrangements that allow free flow of services across borders is critical for the continued success of our world-beating advertising industry,” Mr Woodford tells the PM. A new Advertising Standards Authority clampdown on gender stereotyping has also led to bans on campaigns from Volkswagen and Philadelphia.

In a separate letter to Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, Mr Woodford complains a junk food watershed would cost £1bn in lost GDP. He asks her to “reconsider”.

Childhood obesity battle

The ban has a purpose. Last summer the Government pledged to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and reduce the gap between children from the most and least deprived areas.

Barbara Crowther, of the Children’s Food Campaign, points to a YouGov poll in February showing that 72 per cent of people support a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts during family television shows. The last series of Britain’s Got Talent was “peppered with ads for chocolate, sweets, pizzas, snacks and fast food,” she notes. Such advertising, “constantly nudges” children towards “unhealthy food and drinks”.

In a phone call, Mr Woodford argues that such ads are not aimed at children and have negligible impact on children’s calorific intake. “The products are pleasures in people’s lives,” he says. “Consumed in moderation they are a perfectly rational part of a healthy diet.”

Yet last year a Cancer Research UK study called A Prime for Action made a link between junk food marketing and youth obesity.

Advertising can adapt. Great strides have been taken in reflecting Britain’s cultural diversity in ads, and Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty has promoted a truer picture of women’s body shapes. Car ads celebrate cleaner, hybrid models and drinks brands showcase low-sugar variants.

But junk food adverts may yet be reprieved as a fixture of family television viewing. In which case it will be Mr Johnson, not Mr Oliver, influencing what ends up on the plates of British children.

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Motoring industry welcomes Boris Johnson’s plan to cut fuel duty

The motoring industry has strongly welcomed government plans to cut fuel duty for the first time in almost a decade.

Boris Johnson wants the cut to form part of an emergency budget by Chancellor Sajid Javid and help pave the way for a general election, according to media reports.

Fuel duty has been frozen by the Government for nine consecutive years and stands at 57.95 pence per litre for petrol and diesel.

The proposal will benefit Britain’s 37 million car drivers as well as industry, by sharply reducing distribution costs, advocates said.

Move welcomed by motoring industry

“This will help the world’s already highest taxed drivers to increase their consumer spending. It will reduce inflation, prices in the shop, increase tax revenue to the Treasury and massively support hard pressed hauliers during this time of Brexit upheaval. A true vote winner,” said Howard Cox, founder of FairFuelUK campaign group.

Christopher Snelling, of the Freight Transport Association, said: “This would be excellent news…. A cut would massively stimulate the UK economy whilst mostly paying for itself as Government would get more tax from other sources as a result.”

Air pollution campaigners likely to be disappointed

Although the move has been welcomed by business and consumers, environmental campaigners will be disappointed amid suggestions that fuel duty should be increased to discourage driving and reduce air pollution.

The Bright Blue think tank said in a report this month that Britain’s departure from the EU provided an opportunity to raise air pollution standards and suggested removing the existing freeze on fuel duty.

“We recommend ending the freeze on the value of fuel duty from the next tax year. In addition, diesel fuel should attract a surcharge of fuel duty in its sale. This could be badged as a ‘Diesel Duty’,” the report said.

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Boris Johnson admits chance of Brexit deal is ‘touch and go’

Boris Johnson has admitted the chance of a Brexit deal is “touch and go” after a series of meetings with European leaders.

In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, the Prime Minister appeared to admit that the prospect of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October is now likely, despite previously describing the prospect as a “million to one.”

Asked whether his past claim still stands, Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s going to be touch and go, but the important thing is to get ready to come out without a deal.”

However, the leader insisted there is still “an opportunity to do a deal” following his meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and European Council president Donald Tusk.

Dawning realisation of problem

He said: “I think that it all depends on our EU friends and partners. In the last couple days, there’s been a dawning realisation in Brussels and other European capitals, what the shape of the problem is for the UK.

“I think everybody gets it by now. It’s to do with that withdrawal agreement, it’s to do with the fact that under the current terms, we’d be kept locked in the EU legal order, the trading system without any say on those things. That can’t work for a great country like the UK.”

Asked whether people in the UK would be able to get medicine in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Johnson said: “That is certainly a guarantee we can make, but I do not want at this stage to say that there won’t be unforeseen difficulties.”

In an interview with the BBC, Boris Johnson admitted the chance of a Brexit deal is 'touch and go'
In an interview with the BBC, Boris Johnson admitted the chance of a Brexit deal is ‘touch and go’ (Photo: Andrew Parsons/PA Wire)

In a letter on Monday, Mr Johnson had outlined demands for the EU to ditch the Northern Irish backstop from the withdrawal agreement, asking for “flexible and creative solutions to the unique circumstances” around the Irish border.

Mr Tusk rejected the suggestion, responding: “The backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found.

“Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support reestablishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.”

Refusing to pay EU divorce bill

Mr Johnson also confirmed he had threatened to abandon the UK’s EU spending commitments if no deal is reached.

The Sunday Times had reported that Mr Johnson will tell Donald Tusk that he is only willing to pay £9 billion of the £39 billion divorce deal already agreed under Theresa May.

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This is what happens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal

Mr Johnson told the BBC: “I think he knows that the reality is that if we come out without a deal… clearly, that £39 billion is part of [agreeing a] deal.”

He declined to say how much of the money he would withhold, adding: “We will have substantial sums from the £39 billion, a very substantial residue… to get Britain ready for the world beyond Brexit.”

Deciding to withhold funds is likely to stoke tensions with EU leaders, who would regard the move as a default on the UK’s debts.

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Boris Johnson ‘seeking to shut down Parliament for five weeks before Brexit date’

Boris Johnson will seek to shut down Parliament for five weeks in an attempt to stop MPs delaying Brexit further, it has been claimed.

The Observer revealed on Sunday that the Prime Minister had approached attorney general Geoffrey Cox to ask for legal advice about whether parliament can be suspended from 9 September.

An email seen by the newspaper from senior government advisers to an adviser in Johnson’s office says the prime minister recently requested guidance on the legality of such a move.

The legal guidance given in the email is that shutting parliament may well be possible, unless the courts agree to demands by anti-Brexit campaigners to block such a move.

MPs outraged

Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer
Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer voiced outrage at the idea of proroguing Parliament. (Reuters)

Labour MPs reacted furiously to the news, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer saying: “Any plan to suspend parliament at this stage would be outrageous.

“MPs must take the earliest opportunity to thwart this plan and to stop a no-deal Brexit.”

Tory remainer Dominic Grieve said the email showed Mr Johnson was trying to “circumvent” the will of MPs.

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Donald Trump promises Britain a ‘very big trade deal’ as he holds first talks with Boris Johnson

“This memo, if correct, shows Boris Johnson’s contempt for the House of Commons,” he said.

“It may be possible to circumvent the clear intention of the House of Commons in this way but it shows total bad faith. Excluding the house from a national crisis that threatens the future of our country is entirely wrong.”

Government sources, however, said Number 10 officials ask for legal and policy advice every day.

“The claim that the Government is considering proroguing parliament in September in order to stop MPs debating Brexit is entirely false,” they added.

Yellowhammer publication

It comes amid reports that the government could be forced to publish the latest assessments of the possible impact of a no-deal Brexit when Parliament returns.

Mr Starmer said he could use a parliamentary device to compel ministers to release documents linked to the Operation Yellowhammer no-deal preparations.

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Boris Johnson and Donald Trusk clash over no-deal Brexit blame

In a letter to Michael Gove, the Cabinet minister in charge of no-deal planning, Sir Keir indicates Labour could use a humble address to the Queen – a tactic the opposition has used in the past to require the Government to disclose Brexit-related documents.

Sir Keir said Labour would “not hesitate to use all parliamentary devices available” when Parliament resumes on 3 September to compel ministers to publish all the Operation Yellowhammer documents if the Government does not do so voluntarily, the Sunday Times reported.

Leaked Operation Yellowhammer documents indicated the UK will be hit with a three-month “meltdown” at its ports, a hard Irish border and shortages of food and medicine if it leaves the EU without a deal.

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Boris Johnson says Donald Trump wants a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal within a year

Donald Trump has told Boris Johnson that he wants to hammer out a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the United States within a year.

His timetable emerged after the two leaders held their first face-to-face meeting at the G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz.

The Prime Minister told ITV News: “There’s an opportunity to do a great free trade deal with the United States. The President is very gung-ho about that and so am I.”

But he warned that there would need to be “some movement” from the US in order to clinch a deal by next summer.

“They want to do it within a year, I’d love to do it within a year, but that’s a very fast timetable,” Mr Johnson added.

Trump predicts ‘very big trade deal’

Earlier Mr Trump predicted that Britain and the United States would clinch a “very big trade deal” quickly after Brexit as he held his first face-to-face talks with Boris Johnson.

“We’re going to do a very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had with the UK” Donald Trump

He hailed the Prime Minister as the “right man for the job”- and forecast that the UK would prosper once it had been freed of the “anchor round the ankle” of European Union membership.

The two leaders, who met at the G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz, announced they were setting up a “special relationship economic working group”.

It will be seen as the opening step in negotiations over a post-Brexit UK-US trade agreement.

Mr Johnson has warned that striking a deal would be far from “plain sailing”, not least because of the array of trade barriers faced by British companies attempting to export to America.

Trump’s upbeat note

But Mr Trump struck an upbeat note as he met the Prime Minister, insisting: “We’re going to do a very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had with the UK.”
He added: “At some point, they won’t have the obstacle of … they won’t have the anchor around their ankle, because that’s what they had. So we’re going to have some very good trade talks and big numbers.”

The President took a swipe at Theresa May as he forecast that a deal could be reached “pretty quickly”.

He said he had been “stymied” previously because “nothing got done on the other side, as you’ve seen from Brexit.” He said: “This is a different person, and this is a person that’s going to be a great prime minister, in my opinion.”

Johnson ‘doesn’t need Brexit advice’

Standing alongside the Prime Minister, he said that Mr Johnson did not require any advice on delivering Brexit.

“He’s the right man for the job.  I’ve been saying that for a long time.  It didn’t make your predecessor very happy.  But I’ve been saying it for a long time: He’s the right man for the job.”

Mr Johnson responded: “I’m very grateful for that.  And we’re looking forward to having some pretty comprehensive talks about how to take forward the relationship in all sorts of ways, particularly on trade.  And we’re very excited about that.”

But he warned there were “tough talks ahead, adding: “I don’t think we sell a single joint of British lamb to the United States.  We don’t sell any beef. We don’t sell any pork pies.

“And there are clearly huge opportunities for the UK to penetrate the American market in the way that we currently don’t. And we’re very interested to talk about that with you.”

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Conservatives surge to 12-point poll lead over Labour ahead of Brexit deadline

The Conservative Party has extended its lead over Labour as Boris Johnson appears set to press ahead with a no-deal Brexit.

A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times found that Mr Johnson has extended his party’s lead over Labour, as rumours continue to swirl of a potential early election.

The poll places the Tories on 33 per cent, a full 12 points clear of the Labour Party on 21 per cent.

The Liberal Democrats are in third on 19 per cent, with the Brexit Party on 14 per cent of the vote and the Green Party receiving 7 per cent.

Labour has not topped a national poll at any point in August, with the Conservatives maintaining a lead of three to 12 points.

Boris Johnson could win majority

If repeated in an election, with anti-Brexit voters split between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the result could put Boris Johnson on course to receive a majority in Parliament.

YouGov’s Adam McDonnell explained that Mr Johnson’s strategy of appealing to Brexit voters “could pay off” as long as the Remain vote “continues to be split” between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

He explained: “Conservatives are well equipped to win over further voters from Nigel Farage, and current evidence suggests they have a have a better chance of winning over Leave voters than Labour have at increasing their Remain share.

“More than half of those who currently say they will vote for the Brexit Party backed the Conservatives in 2017, so are at least somewhat open to voting for the party.”

Boris Johnson could be on course to win a majority in Parliament if a snap election is held
Boris Johnson could be on course to win a majority in Parliament if a snap election is held (Photo: Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

He added: “If the Conservatives hold on to and improve their vote share among Leavers nationally while Labour and Liberal Democrats continue to split the Remain vote, this could prove very fruitful for the Tories in not only Leave areas but also some Remain areas.

“In constituencies such as Canterbury or Kensington, where a majority voted to Remain in 2016, Labour managed to win seats off the Conservatives in 2017.

“If there is a national swing in the Remain vote share to the Liberal Democrats compared to 2017 the Conservatives could win these marginal seats back.”

Previous polling focused on party leaders suggested that voters hold considerably more positive view of Mr Johnson than of Jeremy Corbyn.

Fuel duty cut fuels election speculation

It was reported elsewhere on Sunday that Mr Johnson is preparing to cut fuel duty in an emergency budget by Chancellor Sajid Javid, in an apparent signal that a snap election could be on the cards.

The giveaway to motorists would be the first time rates of fuel duty have been cut in eight years, with rates remaining frozen under David Cameron and Theresa May.

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Tory MP accidentally reveals ‘General Election 2019’ planning on Instagram

A Downing Street source told The Mail on Sunday: “After eight years, it is time to finally put some money back into the pockets of motorists. The savings would help hard-working hauliers, commuters and parents on the school run.

“It also sends a clear message that the Prime Minister is fully behind business in the run-up to Brexit.”

The Sunday Times reports that Downing Street has “wargamed” the prospect of an election on 17 October, just two weeks before Mr Johnson’s Brexit deadline.

An election could also be called if MPs succeed in a plot to oust Mr Johnson via a vote of no confidence if he attempts to pursue a no-deal Brexit.

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Donald Trump promises Britain a ‘very big trade deal’ as he holds first talks with Boris Johnson

Donald Trump has promised Britain a “very big trade deal” as he and Boris Johnson held their first bilateral talks.

The President met the recently-appointed Prime Minister on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Biarritz and hailed him as the “right man for the job” of delivering Brexit.

Mr Trump said he had long held his views on Mr Johnson’s suitability for being Prime Minister, which “didn’t make your predecessor very happy”.

The two leaders were meeting to talk about the possibility of a UK-US trade deal once Britain has left the European Union.

‘Not plain sailing’

The two world leaders share a joke as they sit down for talks. (Getty)

The president said: “We’re going to do a very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had with the UK and now at some point they won’t have the obstacle, they won’t have the anchor around their ankle, because that’s what they have.”

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Boris Johnson complains to Donald Trump over US restrictions on pork pies, peppers and shower trays

However, Mr Johnson has warned that a trade deal with the US will not be “plain sailing” and has raised a series of areas where he wants concessions from Washington.

He told Mr Trump: “Talking of the anchor, Donald, what we want is for our ships to take freight, say, from New York to Boston, which for the moment they’re not able to do.”

The president said he wanted a deal done “quickly” because in the past he had been “stymied” under Theresa May and while the UK was still negotiating Brexit.

He added: “This is a different person and this is a person that’s going to be a great Prime Minister, in my opinion.”

Trade war warnings

Mr Johnson used the talks to warn Mr Trump against escalating his trade war with China. (Getty)

Mr Johnson told him: “I know that there will be some tough talks ahead because at the moment I don’t think we sell a single joint of British lamb in the United States; we don’t sell any beef… and there are huge opportunities for the UK to penetrate the American market in ways we currently don’t.”

Read more:

25 senior ambassadors warn Boris Johnson over no-deal Brexit

Asked if he had made clear his views on protecting the NHS and animal welfare standards in trade talks with Mr Trump, the Prime Minister said: “There is complete unanimity on that point.”

The Prime Minister also warned Mr Trump against escalating his trade war with China.

“We are in favour of trade peace on the whole,” he said as the two leaders and their teams had a working breakfast at the Hotel du Palais.

Additional reporting from the Press Association

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Boris Johnson complains to Donald Trump over US restrictions on pork pies, peppers and shower trays

Boris Johnson warned that clinching a post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump would not be “plain sailing” as he detailed a litany of restrictions on British exports entering the United States.

He protested about the “very considerable barriers” faced by companies trying to sell goods as diverse as shower trays, pork pies, wine, cauliflower, rulers and insurance to American consumers.

The Prime Minister has spoken of his aim to secure a “fantastic” trade agreement with the US after Britain leaves the European Union.

He will hold talks with President Donald Trump on Sunday on the issue at the G7 meeting of world leaders in the French resort of Biarritz.

Mr Johnson will stress that the NHS will not be “on the table” in trade talks and that Britain will not compromise on standards of food hygiene and animal welfare.

Breakthrough hopes played down

U.S President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump land in France (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
U.S President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump land in France (Photo/Andrew Harnik/AP)

Ahead of the summit, he played down hopes of an early breakthrough as he disclosed that he had already discussed some of the restrictions with the President.

“I think there is a massive opportunity for Britain, but we must understand that it is not all going to be plain sailing,” Mr Johnson said.

“There remain very considerable barriers in the US to British businesses which are not widely understood.”

He said Britain had sold 250,000 shower trays around the world, but added: “There is some kind of bureaucratic obstacle that stops us selling them in the US because they are allegedly too low.”

The Prime Minister said wallpaper and pillows had to be fire-tested again upon arrival in the US rather than being automatically admitted.

Pork pies and peppers banned

Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron take their seats (Photo: Andrew Parsons/Pool/Getty Images)

Melton Mowbray pork pies and British peppers are barred from the US, while cauliflowers can only be imported through specific ports.

Mr Johnson protested that English-made wine exports were “heavily restricted”, while UK microbreweries faced heavy taxes to set up in the US.

Meanwhile, the American military is barred from buying British-made rulers and measuring devices because of strict public procurement rules.

“The point I am making is that there are massive opportunities for UK companies to open up, to prise open the American market,” the Prime Minister said.

“We intend to seize those opportunities but they are going to require our American friends to compromise and to open up their approach because currently there are too many restrictions.”

Asked by journalists whether he believed Mr Trump was more popular than commonly believed, he replied: “That’s very likely. President Trump has pioneered a quite remarkable way of communicating directly with the electorate.

“My impression is that is also popular with large numbers of people in our country.”

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Boris Johnson and Donald Tusk clash over who would be to blame for a no-deal Brexit

Boris Johnson clashed with Donald Tusk as he warned the European Council President that he would be remembered as “Mr No Deal” if he blocked a Brexit agreement.

The Prime Minister escalated tensions with Brussels ahead of his arrival in Biarritz at the G7 summit of world leaders.

In talks on Sunday, he will urge Mr Tusk to build on indications from the French President Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel that they will listen to new ideas for replacing the Irish backstop.

But he will also reiterate his warning that he is ready to lead Britain out of the EU without an agreement if the bloc does not concede on the backstop issue.

As he arrived in Biarritz, Mr Tusk said he was about to discuss Brexit with a third Conservative Prime Minister.

He said he was “willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all EU member states, including Ireland, if and when the UK government is ready to [put them forward]”.

The European Council President added: “One thing I will not cooperate on is no deal, and I still hope that Prime Minister Johnson will not like to go down in history as ‘Mr No Deal’.”

Johnson’s retort

Speaking en route to Biarritz, Mr Johnson retorted that failure to reach a Brexit agreement by 31 October would also reflect badly on Mr Tusk.

He told journalists: “I have made it absolutely clear I don’t want a no-deal Brexit. But I say to our friends in the EU if they don’t want a no-deal Brexit then we have got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty.

“If Donald Tusk doesn’t want to go down as ‘Mr no-deal Brexit’ then I hope that point will be borne in mind by him too.”

The Prime Minister also hit back at Mr Tusk’s protest six months ago – aimed at the leaders of the Vote Leave campaign including Mr Johnson – that there would be a “special place in hell for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan”.

He said: “I have great relations with our friends and partners in the EU and intend to continue to improve them the whole time without getting into any post-Brexit eschatology [the theology of death] with the president of the council.”

China warning to Trump

Ahead of talks with President Donald Trump on Sunday, Mr Johnson urged him to avoid ramping up his dispute with Beijing.

Asked if he would be telling Mr Trump he should not escalate the trade war with China, he replied: “You bet.”

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Boris Johnson is spending £125 million to research ‘flying taxis’

Boris Johnson has pledged £125 million in government funding to research the possibility of “flying urban taxis”.

The PM committed the funding as part of a £300 million project to develop high-tech travel innovations.

The Department for Transport says the ‘Future Flight Challenge’ funding will cover the development of “flying urban taxis, electric passenger planes and freight-carrying drones.”

In a release, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed that “electric and autonomous aircraft” could make journeys “better for passengers”, while Mr Johnson said the investment “will help speed up the development of greener flights, and new ways of delivering the goods we order online.”

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom added: “The possibilities for new ways to transport goods and services – or to get from A to B – are endless.

“This investment will help make the most of the exceptional talent and expertise we have in these industries, and ensure the UK leads the way internationally in designing and developing technology, from electric taxis to drones delivering parcels.”

However, flying taxis would require a massive overhaul to the airspace flight regulations before they could even be tested in the UK, due to strict rules on drone use in urban areas.

Vanity projects

The former Mayor of London has previously faced attacks from opponents for squandering money on extravagant “vanity projects”.

Mr Johnson backed left-field proposals to build a 22-mile bridge to France, a 28-mile bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland, and a floating airport in the Thames Estuary.

Boris Johnson has previously come under fire for splurging public funds on “vanity projects” (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

His ill-fated plan for a ‘Garden Bridge’ crossing the Thames was abandoned in 2017, only after £46m of public funding was sunk into the project.

Mr Johnson also splashed out £60 million constructing a cable car in Greenwich, which was declared to have “no regular users” within years of opening in 2012.

In 2014, Mr Johnson spent £300,000 to buy used water cannon, which were not licensed for use on UK mainland, from the German federal police. They were ultimately sold off for scrap, fetching just £11,000.

Flying taxis

Although you may not see flying taxis on the streets of London any time soon, it is not the first time the idea has been mooted.

German company Volocopter unveiled a concept this month for an autonomous flying taxi that it claims will one day be able to pick up passengers within cities.

A concept for a flying taxi from German company Volocopter
A concept for a flying taxi from German company Volocopter (Photo: Volocopter)

Volocopter  says the drone-like 18-rotor VoloCity vehicle, which can only carry two people and light hand luggage, is “designed to serve as an on-demand inner-city air taxi.”

However, the company does not have permission to fly the battery-powered aircraft within cities, due to rigorous flight safety standards.

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25 ambassadors warn Boris Johnson not to abandon ‘British interests’ for no-deal Brexit

Twenty-five senior former British ambassadors have warned Boris Johnson not to abandon the country’s interests to pursue a no-deal Brexit.

A letter, published in The Times as Mr Johnson heads to his first G7 summit in Biarritz, France, warns that a no-deal Brexit “would result in an unprecedented — and self-inflicted — diminution of Britain’s international influence.”

The op-ed — which includes among its signatories two former ambassadors to the United States and former British representatives to the World Trade Organisation, NATO and the United Nations — suggests that the UK abandoning its EU commitments with no exit deal could see the UK marginalised in international politics.

It warns: “The UK has successfully used its role within the EU to drive forward global action… [and] on  so many foreign policy issues, our unique position of being close to Washington and also inside the EU has allowed us to shape decisions and advance our interests, and those of our friends across the world.

“There is little doubt that we will be of less interest to them if we cut less ice in Brussels.”

Unilateral abandonment

The letter urges Mr Johnson: “We need a foreign policy based on long-term UK interests and a strong economy, and that requires close relationships with our European neighbours.

“No-deal represents the biggest unilateral abandonment of those interests in modern British history. It should not be allowed to happen. We hope the prime minister uses this G7 meeting to signal a different approach.”

Boris Johnson has warned Brexit critics they are
Boris Johnson has warned Brexit critics they are “gravely mistaken” about the UK losing its place on the world stage (Photo: Getty)

None of the signatories to the letter are serving ambassadors, who are prevented from speaking out on political issues.

The careers of the signatories span from 1984 to 2014.

High possibility of no deal

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who served as Britain’s Ambassador to the US and the EU under John Major, told the newspaper that there is “now a high possibility” that a no-deal Brexit could happen.

He said: “[It] throws away the huge advantage we’ve had for 25 years. I feel that very strongly… the idea that Johnson is about to come up with philosopher’s stone now is for the birds.”

Read more:

What is a no-deal Brexit? The consequences of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement

In his speech to the G7 leaders, Mr Johnson will say: “Britain will never flinch from the special responsibilities that go with being a pillar and an architect of the international system.

“Some people question the democratic decision this country has made, fearing that we will retreat from the world.

“Some think Britain’s best days are behind us. To those people I say, You are gravely mistaken.

“We will stand up for liberty, democracy, the rule of law, equality and human rights – the ideals that we share with our friends and allies.”

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Boris Johnson insists Britain will remain a ‘outward-looking, self-confident nation’ after Brexit

Boris Johnson declared that Britain would remain an “outward-looking, self-confident nation” and a key player on the international stage after Brexit as he headed for his first meeting of world leaders.

He will hold face-to-face talks with Donald Trump at the G7 summit on Sunday ahead of the launch of negotiations between Britain and the United States over a trade deal.

The Prime Minister is determined to use the gathering in the French resort of Biarritz to build on the apparent willingness of Germany and France to engage in fresh efforts to avoid a no-deal Brexit. He insisted that the UK would not become insular after leaving the European Union and he was determined to take a leading role in action to combat the world’s most pressing problems.

“The Britain I lead will be an international, outward-looking, self-confident nation,” Mr Johnson said.

UK will ‘remain at heart of world alliances’

Emmanuel Macron dashed Boris Johnson’s hopes that European Union leaders would make major concessions to resolve the Brexit stand-off
Emmanuel Macron dashed Boris Johnson’s hopes that European Union leaders would make major concessions to resolve the Brexit stand-off (Photo: AP/Daniel Cole)

“Some people question the democratic decision this country has made, fearing that we will retreat from the world. Some think Britain’s best days are behind us. To those people I say: you are gravely mistaken.

“We will stand up for liberty, democracy, the rule of law, equality and human rights – the ideals that we share with our friends and allies. We will remain at the heart of the alliances that span the world.”

He will join the leaders of the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan in Biarritz amid tensions over a joint response to world trouble-spots.

They will attempt to stake out common ground on Iran despite Mr Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the international agreement curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Fears of Russian aggression

Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson a deadline of 30 days to find a formula for averting a no-deal Brexit
Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson a deadline of 30 days to find a formula for averting a no-deal Brexit (Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty)

Also on the agenda are fears of Russian military aggression, the unrest in Hong Kong and the continuing civil war in Syria.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is the summit host, has scheduled discussions on the environment, maritime pollution and threats to biodiversity, as well as sessions on artificial intelligence and policing the internet.

Mr Trump and Mr Johnson have spoken warmly of each other and have a strong personal rapport.

However, key differences of outlook are likely to emerge in their breakfast meeting on Sunday.

Mr Johnson opposes the President’s call for Russia to be readmitted to the leading nations’ club after it was ejected from the G8 over its military activities in Ukraine.

At odds with Trump on Iran

He also disagrees with Mr Trump’s determination to rachet up economic pressure on Iran and with the President’s scepticism about global warming.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “This weekend we will see the ugly spectacle of our Prime Minister pursuing his ‘Trump First’ policy.”

Many other prominent world figures will attend the summit, including the European Council President, Donald Tusk, who will hold talks tomorrow with Mr Johnson.

The Prime Minister will tell him that he was encouraged by his meetings this week with Mr Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who have suggested that the UK has a month to find an alternative to the contentious Irish backstop scheme.

He will also brief Mr Tusk on the government’s recent moves to accelerate planning for a potential no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

Mr Johnson played down the prospect of an imminent Brexit breakthrough, warning: “This is not going to be a cinch.”

Britain seeks major US trade deal

Britain is pressing for a comprehensive post-Brexit trade agreement with the United States rather than a series of side deals.

John Bolton, the US national security adviser, has floated the idea of the two nations hammering out “interim deals” to lower tariffs in specific sectors such as manufacturing.

But Boris Johnson will indicate in his G7 meeting tomorrow with Donald Trump that the UK’s preference is for an over-arching agreement covering all areas of the economy.

He is also understood to believe that it is more important to get the right deal for the UK rather than a speedy agreement.

Mr Johnson will reiterate his message that the National Health Service must not be caught up in transatlantic negotiations over trade, and that he will not compromise over food quality standards.

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Boris Johnson asks for Donald Trump’s support in landing top IMF post for George Osborne

Boris Johnson has lobbied Donald Trump to back Britain’s bid for George Osborne to become the next head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He is understood to have made the case for the former Chancellor in a telephone call to Mr Trump earlier this week.

The Prime Minister could return to the subject when he holds talks with the President on Sunday at the G7 summit at the French resort of Biarritz.

The search is on for a successor to Christine Lagarde who is stepping down after eight years at the IMF’s managing director.

Kristalina Georgieva, the Bulgarian chief executive of the World Bank, is the front-runner after she was endorsed by the European Union as its nomination for the job

Boris Johnson has promised to use the G7 summit to call for a renewed focus on protecting nature and tackling climate change (Photo: Thierry Chesnot/Getty)

Osborne ‘interested’ in job

However, Mr Osborne, who is now the editor of the London Evening Standard, has made known that he would be interested in the post.

He has reportedly argued that the current economic climate requires a “skilled political communicator and operator” and “not a technocrat”.

Although he and Mr Johnson were on different sides of the Brexit campaign, they have maintained a cordial relationship and he gave his paper’s endorsement for Mr Johnson’s successful campaign for the Tory leadership. Mr Osborne’s chances of landing the post would depend on Britain winning the backing of the United States and China against the candidate backed by the EU.

A close friend of David Cameron, he served as Chancellor for six years before being sacked by Theresa May as one of her first acts in Downing Street.

Wide portfolio of interests

Mr Osborne quit as an MP at the snap election of 2017 and has built up a wide portfolio of interests.

As well as editing the Standard, he acts as a £650,000-a-year adviser to fund managers Blackrock and has a lucrative sideline in public speaking.

The IMF was set up after the Second World War to co-ordinate global financial policy.

Jointly governed by 189 countries, its top job has traditionally gone to a European, although a Briton is yet to be appointed its managing director.

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Boris Johnson ‘deeply concerned’ by fires in the Amazon and calls for rainforest to be protected

Boris Johnson has waded into the global row over the burning Amazon rainforest, calling for international action to protect what has been dubbed the “lungs of the world”.

Critics from football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic to French President Emmanuel Macron have been piling pressure on the Brazilian government to contain the wildfires blazing across the Amazon.

More than 72,000 blazes have been recorded across the rainforest so far this year – an 83 per cent increase on the same period last year and the highest level since records began in 2013.

“The Prime Minister is deeply concerned by the increase in fires in the Amazon rainforest and the impact of the tragic loss of these precious habitats,” a government spokesman said.

“The effect of these fires will be felt around the world, which is why we need international action. The Prime Minister will use the G7 to call for a renewed focus on protecting nature and tackling climate change together,” he said.

Smoke billows from a fire in the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas State (Photo: Ueslei Marcelino)
Smoke billows from a fire in the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas state (Photo: Ueslei Marcelino)

The Prime Minister’s comments come after Mr Macron declared the Amazon fires should be top of the agenda at the G7 summit.

Portugal international Ronaldo said in a tweet: “The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen and it’s been burning for the past three weeks. It’s our responsibility to help save our planet”.

The G7 meeting this weekend

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for the Amazon fires to be top of the agenda at the G7 summit  (Photo: Getty Images)

The G7 meeting begins in Paris tomorrow, with Ireland and France threatening to block a trade deal currently being negotiated with Brazil and Finland urging a ban on Brazilian beef unless Brazil takes action to better protect its rainforests.

The surge in wildfires has occured since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January having promised to boost the economy, in large part by developing farming and mining.

As a result, farmers have been encouraged to clear land to rear cattle and grow soya by deliberately lighting fires, as the government cuts back on enforcing penalities for burning down forests, campaigners say.

How the fires are starting

A man works in a burning tract of Amazon jungle as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil (Photo: Reuters)

These intentional fires are thought to be the main reason for the increase in blazes although President Bolsonaro suggested, without providing evidence, this week that it could be the work of NGOs seeking to discredit him. The NGO community strongly denies this.

In the UK, Extinction Rebellion campaigners protested outside the Brazilian Embassy in London – part of a global gathering at 22 of the countries embassies and consulates around the world and in 52 cities in Brazil.

“The Amazon is so vital to all life on Earth, including ours. I’m scared that if we lose it then there won’t be any hope for our survival – and yet the Brazilian government are actively encouraging its deforestation and exploitation,” said Peter McCall, a pub landlord from London, who took part in the protest.

What is happening to the Amazon and why it matters

Why is the Amazon burning?

While the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has suggested that the blazes could be the work of NGOs seeking to undermine his authority, he has not provided any evidence, while campaigners strongly refute his apparent suspicions.

Instead, the overwhelming consensus is that farmers feel liberated, maybe even encouraged, to burn officially protected swathes of rainforest with little risk of punishment after Bolsonaro made it very clear that farming and mining were key to the Brazilian economy.

Why the Amazon is important?

The Amazon is regarded as the “lungs of the world” because it produces about a fifth of the oxygen essential for life. It also hosts an incredible array of wildlife, with one tenth of the world’s species represented among the trees.

Apart from helping the world to breath and acting as a giant nature reserve, the Amazon has a key role to play in protecting the world from climate change. Huge quantities of planet-warming CO2 are absorbed by its trees – which wreaks havoc when they are felled and carbon stored up over decades is released back into the atmosphere.

What can be done? (The carrot and the stick).

On the “stick” side, countries can use their economic might to pressure Brazil into taking action to catch and discipline its farmers. For example, a trade agreement being negotiated between Brazil and the EU is coming under threat as France and Ireland insist that Brazil toughens its stance on deforestation.

On the “carrot” side, countries can offer financial incentives to Brazil and other countries in the Amazon to keep their trees. However, compared to the riches on offer from mining and farming, these would need to be huge – although given the value of the eco-services they supply to the planet, there is a strong argument for making big payments.

The main carrot being offered, however, is running into problems. Norway has just followed Germany in suspending donations to the Brazilian government’s Amazon Fund, central to international efforts to curb deforestation, after it interfered with its governance.

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G7 summit 2019: Trade deals, Trump and climate top Boris Johnson’s agenda in first major summit in Biarritz

The annual G7 summit being held in France this weekend will be Boris Johnson’s first major international event since becoming Prime Minister and his first chance to come face to face with several world leaders – including US President Donald Trump. 

All eyes are likely to be on Mr Johnson and Mr Trump during their first meeting as the two countries prepared to begin the complicated task of negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal.

The two leaders are understood to have spoken warmly together on the phone and Mr Trump was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Mr Johnson on becoming prime minister.

But the meeting will be a balancing act for the Prime Minister as, despite the closeness between the US and UK, there are several issues that Britain actually sides with Europe over the US – for example the Iran nuclear deal and the involvement of Russia in G7.

The prime minister is expected to have a breakfast meeting with President Trump on Sunday, during which he will hope to agree on a post-Brexit negotiations.

Background of the G7

G7, which stands for “Group of Seven”, is a meeting of seven majorly advanced nations, with the world’s leading economies and industries.

G7 leaders pose for the family photo during the G7 Summit on June 8, 2018 in La Malbaie, Canada. (Photo: Getty Images)

It was set up in in the seventies and began as an informal gathering of heads of states during which they could discuss topics of the day and issues of importance.

Since 1975, the group has met annually to discuss economic policies and, since the eighties, G7 Finance Ministers have also met at least semi-annually at separate meetings.

It now consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – which represent more than half of the global net wealth.

The President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council are both also welcome to attend the summit.

Russia was a member for some time but, in 2014, it was excluded because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

US President Donald Trump will also attend the summit and will meet Mr Johnson for the first time (Photo: Getty Images)

45th Summit

This year’s summit will be hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, who will welcome world leaders to the French city of Biarritz for the two day meeting starting on Saturday and running until Monday.

For the 2019 Summit, Mr Macron also invited the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, as special guests to attend the outreach session.

The full list of attendees will be as follows:

Canada – Justin Trudeau
France – Emmanuel Macron
Germany – Angela Merkel
Italy – Giuseppe Conte
Japan – Shinzō Abe
United Kingdom – Boris Johnson
United States – Donald Trump
European Union – Donald Tusk
Australia – Scott Morrison
India – Narendra Modi
Spain – Pedro Sánchez
Rwanda – Paul Kagame

What is due to be top of the agenda?

President Macron has said he wants his meeting to focus on fighting inequality and protecting biodiversity and the climate.

He has also said that he wants to prioritise protecting democracy and freedom during a time of rising digital influence and artificial intelligence.

Emmanuel Macron dashed Boris Johnson’s hopes that European Union leaders would make major concessions to resolve the Brexit stand-off
Mr Johnson will be attending the summit, his first major international event (Photo: AP/Daniel Cole)

Brexit

Brexit will certainly be on the agenda, even if it is not the top priority. Mr Johnson already met with Chancellor Merkel and President Macron to specifically discuss the Brexit impasse but the Summit will be his first opportunity to meet with with Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.

Read more:

How Macron intends to stop Trump derailing talks at the G7 Summit?

The Italian and Spanish leaders, Mr Conte and Mr Sanchez, who are core members of the EU, will also both be in attendance.

Downing Street will be hoping that Mr Tusk, who reacted with disdain to Mr Johnson’s requests to scrap the backstop, will be more inclined to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister following the conciliatory tone of his recent meetings in France and Germany.

As well as meeting with Mr Trump, Mr Johnson will also have the opportunity to speak to the leaders of India, Canada and Australia about future trade deals.

Amazon

In addition the leaders are expected to talk about the fires currently ravaging the Amazon rain-forest after both Mr Macron and Mr Johnson spoke out about the issue.

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita (Reuters)

Mr Macron called the wildfires an international crisis and said the leaders of the G7 group of nations should prioritiseholding discussions on the issue during the summit on France.

His comments were followed by an announcement from Berlin that German Chancellor Angela Merkel viewed the fires as “shocking and threatening”.

And Mr Johnson promised that he would use the gathering of world leaders as as a change to “call for a renewed focus on protecting nature”.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister is deeply concerned by the increase in fires in the Amazon rainforest and the impact of the tragic loss of these precious habitats.

“The effect of these fires will be felt around the world, which is why we need international action to protect the world’s rainforests.

“The UK will continue to support projects in Brazil to do this and the Prime Minister will use the G7 to call for a renewed focus on protecting nature and tackling climate change together.”

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What is the backstop? Brexit’s Irish border problem explained – and how the alternatives could work

Boris Johnson has been given 30 days to come up with an alternative to the Irish border backstop if the UK has any hope of leaving the EU with a deal at the end of October.

The Prime Minister has, until now, been met with a hardline stance from the EU despite his repeated demands to scrap the unpopular backstop from the Withdrawal Agreement.

But during his first visit to the continent since taking office, he was told by his German and French counterparts they would consider alternative options proposed by the Prime Minister, as long as protects the border.

What does this mean?

What is the Brexit backstop and why is it such a big deal?

A Welcome to Northern Ireland sign (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The concept of the backstop was devised to address to the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It will be the only land border between the UK and the European Union post-Brexit and, from the start of Brexit negotiations, both sides have said they want to avoid a hard border between the two nations.

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But, for a long time, the UK and the EU have been unable to agree on exactly how to achieve this.

Hard border

The concerns have origins in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which enables an “invisible” border between Northern Ireland and the Republic as part of the peace settlement.

At present, goods and services are traded between the two within very few restrictions because the UK and Ireland are both members of the EU single market and customs union, which means that products don’t need to be inspected for customs and standards.

December 1972: Residents of Belfast queuing up at a checkpoint leading out of the city’s shopping area. Such checkpoints enable British soldiers to search local shoppers and their bags. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

But a hard border would mean having physical checkpoints for customs inspections and charges, monitoring people and goods crossing between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Both the EU and the UK have said they do not want this to happen as  they believe it could be damaging to communities, jobs and individuals in both countries, and hark back to a period of tension and conflict at the border.

What is the problem?

If a Brexit deal is agreed between the EU and UK then it will likely contain a transition period, during which the two sides will need to agree on a trade deal to ensure the flow of goods continues over the border without delay.

But officials are worried about what will happen after the transition period. If a wider trade deal is not agreed on time there will need to be physical checkpoints at the border, ending the ability to keep it open and frictionless.

And if the UK leaves without a deal, which means exiting the EU without a transition period, it will cause the same problem.

A defaced ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’ sign is displayed on the Irish border (Getty Images)

Backstop ‘safety net’

This is where the backstop comes in – it is designed to act as a safety net in the event that a trade deal is not agreed.

Both sides agreed in December 2017 that the backstop is necessary to avoid a hard border. And they signed up three three key principles of it:

  • The backstop must maintain a cross-border co-operation
  • It needs to support the all-island economy
  • And it must protect the Good Friday peace agreement

The idea is to have this contingency plan immediately spring into action if no trade deal is agreed by the end of the Brexit transition period and, in doing so, protect the area from having a hard border put in place.

Why has it not been accepted?

Although both sides agreed in principle to the backstop, there have been several sticking points as to what it will look like and how it will be implemented.

Disagreements

The EU wants a backstop that keeps Northern Ireland in the customs union and parts of the single market, as it will end the need for border checks on trade passing between the north and the Republic.

Theresa May is hoping to broker a deal over the Irish border (Photo: Getty)
Theresa May was unable to broker a deal over the Irish border (Photo: Getty)

But the UK has not approved this idea as it will essentially separate Northern Ireland from the UK with a customs border down the Irish Sea, giving it a different status to the rest of the country.

Former prime minister Theresa May suggested during negotiations with the EU that the backstop could allow the whole of the UK to remain aligned with the customs union for a limited time after Brexit, until a long-term agreement could be reached.

But this idea was not welcomed by the EU, which claimed it amounted to the UK “cherry picking” its access to the single market, and flatly rejected the idea of a time-limited backstop.

Mrs May announced in November 2018 that if the backstop was implemented, her plan would see Northern Ireland staying aligned to some rules of the EU single market and be part of a temporary single custom territory – essentially keeping the whole of the UK in the EU customs union.

This plan would have continued as the trade deal between the UK and the EU until, crucially, both sides agreed it was no longer necessary.

May’s Brexit deal was rejected repeatedly in the Commons due to the backstop (Photo: Getty Images)

Rejected by Parliament

But the idea did not go down well in the Commons – indeed it sparked several Cabinet resignations – as MPs raised concerns that the UK could end up with no power to set its own tariff rates or secure future trade agreements with other countries.

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Brexiteers claimed the plan could see the UK placed in a position where it would be unable to leave backstop arrangement until the EU approved a new trade agreement.

They raised concerns the UK could end up in an “open-ended” customs union arrangement, despite reassurances the backstop is designed to be a temporary situation.  

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which Mrs May relied on for her parliamentary majority, were also unhappy about the arrangement, arguing that it meant Northern Ireland being split from the rest of the UK.

After Mrs May secured last minute Brexit agreements from the EU, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said the changes could “reduce the risk” of the UK being trapped indefinitely inside the backstop, but did not not remove it entirely.

Emmanuel Macron dashed Boris Johnson’s hopes that European Union leaders would make major concessions to resolve the Brexit stand-off
Emmanuel Macron said he would consider small changes to the deal (Photo: AP/Daniel Cole)

Are there any alternatives?

Mr Johnson has consistently insisted the EU must reopen the Brexit deal in order to scrap the backstop from it, or he will take the UK out of the bloc without a deal on 31 October.

He maintains there are “abundant solutions” to the border issue and has repeatedly referenced the use of “technology” as a solution which, he said, is ready to be implemented.

He has already endorsed a report drawn up by Tory MPs Greg Hands and Nicky Morgan on alternative arrangements to the backstop, which suggests the use of a combination of administrative and technological measures.

Behind the border checks

One of the proposals is to use an existing customs procedure known as transit for the majority of trade passing through the border, which will allow customs declarations to be submitted before and after the goods actually cross it.

Any concerns can be flagged up by customs officials, and these goods can then be checked at their source or destination, rather than at the border itself.

This could see fewer physical checks at the border, reducing disruption.

Boris Johnson has written to Brussels demanding that the EU agrees to scrap the backstop and said he would come up with alternatives (Photo: Getty Images)

This plan has also been suggested specifically for food and plant products, which could be checked at factories or farms.

But any increase in inspections and random checks could still put pressure on existing border staff and create the need for new mobile customs teams to carry out inland checks on both sides of the border.

Alex Stojanovic, a researcher at the Institute for Government, noted in a recent blog post that the system will also require small traders to employ the services of a customs broker to ensure they are trading legally, potentially at great cost to producers.

“With the Irish Government determined to resist such costs, any plan that ‘existentially’ impacts the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland does not seem to be a realistic alternative to the backstop,” he said.

Electronic checks

The report suggested the development of electronic customs clearance checks and the use of “trusted trader schemes”, to enable businesses to avoid customs checks and cut down on paperwork.

This could work in unison with the previous suggestion of checking goods before they are shipped, using sophisticated computers to track products across the border.

The Belfast to Dublin motorway crosses the border line between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (Getty Images)

The border between Norway and Sweden uses a similar system where cars pass through unmanned border posts that use cameras to scan number plates.

Computers then allow the goods to be declared to customs before they leave the warehouses. But lorries transporting goods must still stop at a staffed crossing.

Enhanced economic zones

The report also floated the idea of creating “enhanced economic zones” to straddle the border between Londonderry and Donegal, and possibly also Newry and Dundalk, while giving out tax breaks and creating a free trade zone.

These zones would be exempt from normal border requirements and some traders – who fall below a certain VAT threshold – would also be exempt from customs procedures.

Large-scale exemptions for small traders have already been proposed by the UK and dismissed by the EU over concerns it could incentivise companies to stay below the VAT threshold in order to benefit from exemptions.

This concept, it could be argued, also creates two more borders which could lead to big implications for people living just outside the Special Economic Zone.

Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel attend a joint press conference following Johnson’s arrival at the Chancellery on August 21, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: Omer Messinger/Getty Images)

What next?

Brussels has promised to work with the UK to develop alternative arrangements to the backstop. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron both said this week that they will consider other options.

Mr Johnson has been given 30 days to come up with a workable solution that can then be presented to the bloc.

But, despite the conciliatory tone the prime minister has received, neither leader committed to reopening the Withdrawal Agreement – something the EU has ruled out numerous times.

Brussels will have to be convinced that any other option is workable, efficient and not open to abuse before it will consider it.

And, if technology is part of the solution, it will have to be ready to be implemented for the 31 October deadline.

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Boris Johnson’s desire to raise childhood vaccination rates is more than just a battle against conspiracy theorists

Boris Johnson took to Twitter this week to deliver a message to the nation about the importance of getting children vaccinated as it emerged the UK has lost its “measles-free” status with the World Health Organisation (WHO) – three years after the virus was eliminated in the country.

“Hi folks, it’s very important to remember that vaccinations save lives,” the Prime Minister told his 903,000 followers. Johnson puts the problem down to “complacency” and increasing numbers of people listening to “superstitious mumbo jumbo”. He has ordered urgent action to improve vaccination uptake. NHS England will write to GPs urging them to promote “catch up” vaccination programmes for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) for 10-11 year olds, as well as all those 5-25  year olds who have not had two doses of the jab.

The comments posted beneath Johnson’s video are shocking: “anti-vaxxers” spout conspiracy theories about how vaccine ingredients are “neuro toxic”, damaging to children and based on “fraudulent” studies. However, Jamie Lopez Bernal, a senior epidemiologist with Public Health England (PHE) has said anti-vaxx messages may not be behind the lack of jabs and that “timing, availability and location of appointments” were bigger barriers instead.

The closure of 500 Sure Start centres, launched 20 years ago as a flagship of Tony Blair’s Labour Party, has also had a damaging impact. The centres brought “big benefits for children’s health” according to a recent report by The Institute for Fiscal Studies which pointed out they were often a first port of call for parents needing information and support for vaccinations.

 

The Government also wants to strengthen the role of local immunisation coordinators – healthcare professionals that promote vaccines particularly with hard-to-reach families. This includes supporting areas with low uptake and tailoring specific local interventions to under-vaccinated communities.

Responding to the Government’s plans, Helen Donovan, a public health expert at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “These suggestions will go some way towards improving the uptake of vaccines. A system-wide approach, better access to appointments combined with improved public information and communication with parents on a one-to-one level, is the most effective way to ensure more people receive vaccines they need.

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“Nurses are pivotal to earning public trust in the vaccination programme and are a vital source of information for parents and guardians. This job is made more difficult when vaccination services are fragmented. The widespread nursing shortages further compound the issue.”

The recent rise in anti-vaxxers is also damaging as although they remain a minority, it only takes a minority of parents who refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated for the whole vaccination programme to be put at risk.

Increasing knowledge

Social media companies will also be called to a summit to discuss how they can promote accurate information about vaccination (Photo: Getty)

Oxford University’s excellent Vaccine Knowledge Project, a source of independent information about vaccines and infectious diseases, states that “herd immunity” only works when a high percentage of the population (93 to 95 per cent) is vaccinated, as it is difficult for infectious diseases to spread because there are not many people who can be infected. For example, if someone with measles is surrounded by people who are vaccinated against measles, the disease cannot easily be passed on to anyone, and it will quickly disappear again. It gives protection to vulnerable people such as newborn babies, elderly people and those who are too sick to be vaccinated.

And yet in 2017-18, coverage declined in nine of the 12 routine vaccinations measured at ages 12 months, 24 months or five years in England compared to the previous year, the latest data shows. The message is either not getting through or not being listened to. MenB coverage is reported as a national statistic for the first time this year and achieved 92.5 per cent at 12 months.
Last year 6-in-1 vaccine coverage – known as the 5-in-1 vaccine until 2017 and which protects children against diptheria and tetanus among other diseases – declined for the fifth year in a row, decreasing 1.6 per cent since 2012-13 and is at its lowest since 2008-09. However, coverage at 24 months has remained above the 95 per cent target since 2009-10.

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Coverage for the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine as measured at two years decreased for the fourth year in a row. Coverage for this vaccine is now at 91.2 per cent, the lowest it has been since 2011-12. Little wonder that the Prime Minister has stepped in to try and reverse the decline. Cases of the “really nasty disease”, as Mr Johnson put it, rose to 966 in England last year – nearly four times as many as the total number confirmed in 2017.

Unicef estimated 527,000 children in the UK missed out on their first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017: two innoculations are needed for children to be covered. It means the UK has lost its “measles-free” status with the World Health Organisation – three years after the virus was eliminated in the country.

Low understanding

Here is why we need to look deep behind the anti-vaccination movement beyond social media (Photo: YURI DYACHYSHYN/AFP/Getty)

In its report on promoting vaccination uptake, the Royal Society for Public Health found that the vast majority of people who chose not to vaccinate did not cite inconvenience as a key factor, suggesting people are more likely to have been swayed by “anti-vaxx” messages online.

There was a fairly low understanding of herd protection, especially for working-age adults, and the myth of vaccine overload remains persistent, the report found, with just over a quarter (28 per cent) of people believing incorrectly that “you can have too many vaccinations”.

Johnson has now called for health leaders to renew their efforts to meet 95 per cent for both doses of MMR, which would mean herd immunity. Currently just 87 per cent of children are getting their second dose of the jab, which has likely contributed to the spread of measles.

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The advice online from NHS.uk will also be updated to address parents’ concerns about vaccines and address misleading information about the dangers of vaccines, by giving people NHS-approved, evidence-based and trusted advice on vaccines including through a new website. A summit of social media companies is also being called, to discuss how they can play their part in promoting accurate information about vaccination. Finally, the Department for Health and Social Care – working with PHE and NHS England – will deliver a “comprehensive strategy” to address the issue in the autumn.

Back on the Prime Minister’s twitter feed, the odd voice of reason does interrupt the flow of conspiracy theorists. One responder said: “I can’t understand the mentality of people who don’t get their children vaccinated.

“What is the point in not getting them protected from these deadly diseases? Absolutely crazy.”

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The Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith to help improve ‘unpalatable’ NHS hospital food

Bake Off judge Prue Leith has been named the star adviser for a government “root-and-branch review” into NHS hospital meals which the Prime Minister has promised will result in healthier meals for patients. Ms Leith has previously said “most hospital food is a disgrace” and that patients were being served ready meals “that look like an unidentifiable plate of grey mush”. Now the broadcaster and former chair of the School Food Trust has been tasked with putting her menus where her mouth is and help to improve the whole system.

Fears about the state of hospital food have peaked in recent weeks following a listeria outbreak in May which killed six patients. The review aims to improve public confidence in hospital food by “setting out clear ambitions for delivering the high-quality food patients and the public have a right to expect”.

The NHS in England serves more than 140 million meals to patients every year. Around half of the NHS’s hot food is bought in from external suppliers. Around a fifth of all hot meals served at NHS hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales are made at private firm Apetito in Trowbridge, Wilts, and shipped up to 650 miles.

Patients at around 430 hospitals are served 46,000 reheated ready meals from that company. The food is held in freezers for an average of two months while unusual product lines may be stored for up to a year. Campaigners have called for more fresh food to be made on site in hospitals.

Send it back

Around half of NHS hospitals are failing to comply with basic food standards, the Campaign for Better Hospital Food said this month. That followed a Unison survey which found more than half of hospital staff in England say they would not eat the food served to patients because it is unhealthy and of poor quality. Staff had major concerns over the meals served to patients alongside their own access to good quality, nutritious meals.

No free drinking water, poor food-preparation facilities or meals unsuitable for dietary or religious needs were among other top complaints. Health campaigner said the findings highlight the failure of the NHS to ensure hospital vending machines, restaurants and shops provide good quality, nutritious meals.

An audit of NHS health centres in May found that three-quarters of the best-selling snacks in hospital cafes and canteens were rated as unhealthy, along with half of the most popular cold drinks.

Despite hospitals taking steps to promote healthier eating, the audit found that medical staff, patients and visitors tended to shun nutritious snacks in favour of crisps, sweets, cakes and other baked foods including pastries and muffins. The Scottish researchers who carried out the audit called for radical restrictions on junk food in UK hospitals.

The review will consider how NHS trusts could use less frozen food, make greater use of seasonal, fresh produce and source locally where appropriate. New systems to monitor food safety and quality more transparently, including looking at how NHS Boards are held to account, will also be assessed.

Whether too many hospitals rely on outsourced catering and whether the NHS needs to increase the number of hospitals who have their own chefs will also be considered.

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Ms Leith, who accused previous Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt of “ducking the issue”, said: “Millions of pounds are wasted in hospitals with food ending up in the bin, unpalatable food being the main complaint. I’m delighted that at long last Downing Street and the Department of Health have decided to do something about it.

“A hospital meal should be a small highlight, a little pleasure and comfort, and it should help, not hinder, the patient’s recovery.”

Some food offerings at NHS hospitals could be healthier (Photo: Katherine Button)
A lot of food offerings at NHS hospitals could be healthier, critics have said repeatedly (Photo: Katherine Button)

Philip Shelley, former head of the Hospital Caterers Association and catering lead for Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, will chair the review which will draw on the expertise of hospital caterers, patient groups, suppliers and kitchen staff across the country.

Mr Johnson said: “Guaranteeing hospitals serve nutritional, tasty and fresh meals will not only aid patient recovery, but also fuel staff and visitors as they care for loved ones and the vulnerable.

“Our NHS has led the way since the day it was formed. This review will ensure it remains the standard-bearer for healthy choices, as it works unstintingly to improve the nation’s well-being.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Years of austerity mean that some hospitals are only spending close to £3 per patient a day on meals for patients – it’s an utter disgrace. Labour will invest in hospital catering, enforce mandatory minimum standards and bring catering back in-house.”

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Backstop explained: what is the Irish border Brexit deal and how will the EU react to Boris Johnson’s plans?

What is the Irish backstop?

It is the plan developed by Brussels and Theresa May to maintain a “soft border” on the island of Ireland.

It involves the United Kingdom remaining in a customs union until a post-Brexit trade deal is struck with the European Union. In addition, Northern Ireland would remain aligned to parts of the European single market.

Why did they think it was needed?

All sides agree that the imposition of a “hard border” is unthinkable when the economies of Northern Ireland and the Republic are so interlinked. In addition, there are fears that it would undermine the 20-year-old Good Friday Agreement and play into the hands of violent Republican dissident groups.

However, it would also become an external border of the EU, threatening the integrity of the European single market.

Why?

Emmanuel Macron dashed Boris Johnson’s hopes that European Union leaders would make major concessions to resolve the Brexit stand-off
Emmanuel Macron dashed Boris Johnson’s hopes that European Union leaders would make major concessions to resolve the Brexit stand-off (Photo: AP/Daniel Cole)

The government wants Britain to gain the ability to set its own tariffs on imports from outside the EU and to diverge from regulations set by Brussels.

The EU says it would be impossible to have two different customs regimes operating either side of the 310-mile border without jeopardising the operation of the single market, which is fundamental to the bloc.

Theresa May largely accepted this argument and following fraught and protracted negotiations consented to including the backstop plan in the withdrawal agreement.

It was the key reason why the agreement was heavily defeated three times in the Commons, paving the way to Mrs May’s political downfall.

What does Boris Johnson say?

He has been adamant that the withdrawal agreement has to be reopened and the “anti-democratic” backstop scrapped as a precondition for his government signing a Brexit deal with Brussels.

The Prime Minister maintains there are “abundant solutions” to the Irish border issue and said he is prepared to abide by Angela Merkel’s “very blistering” 30-day timetable for finding them.

What alternatives could he produce?

He has not yet detailed his thinking, but has pointed to a lengthy report last month by two Tory MPs who recommended a combination of administrative and technological measures for resolving the conundrum.

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They suggested the development of electronic customs clearance checks and the use of “trusted trader schemes” enabling businesses to avoid customs checks and cut down on paperwork.

They also floated the idea of creating “enhanced economic zones” to straddle the border between Londonderry and Donegal, and possibly also Newry and Dundalk, with tax breaks and a free trade zone.

For food and plant products, mobile units could be used to carry out checks away from the border.

How could the EU react?

Brussels has promised to work with the UK to develop alternative arrangements to the backstop.

However, Brussels would have to be convinced that any other option was workable, efficient and not open to abuse.

There are also doubts over how soon technological solutions could be ready.

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Brexit talks: Boris Johnson warned Irish backstop has to stay by Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron dashed Boris Johnson’s hopes that European Union leaders would make major concessions to resolve the Brexit stand-off – but backed the 30-day deadline for the Prime Minister to find a formula for breaking the deadlock over the Northern Ireland border.

The French President struck the tough note as he held talks in Paris with Mr Johnson, who has insisted Britain is heading for a no-deal exit unless the Irish backstop scheme is abandoned.

Mr Macron said he backed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s suggestion that the UK Government should be given a month to find a workable alternative to the backstop.

But he also described the scheme, which is designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, as “indispensable” and insisted that Brussels would reject Mr Johnson’s demand for substantial changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.

EU talks

The French President struck the tough note as he held Brexit talks in Paris with Mr Johnson
The French President struck the tough note as he held Brexit talks in Paris with Mr Johnson (Photo: Getty)

Ahead of the meeting in the Élysée Palace, the Prime Minister vowed to make Britain a “flying buttress for Europe” – the architectural term for an arch which supports a building from outside the main structure.

He has spent much of the week trying to forge links with EU leaders in an effort to convince them he is serious about pressing ahead with a no-deal Brexit on 31 October unless the backstop is ditched.

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However, he faces an uphill struggle as Mr Macron made clear he would only accept minor changes to the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Brussels and Theresa May.

The President said key features of the document, including the backstop, were “indispensable guarantees to preserve stability in Ireland” and to “preserve the integrity of the single market”.

Irish backstop

Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson a deadline of 30 days to find a formula for averting a no-deal Brexit
Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson a deadline of 30 days to find a formula for averting a no-deal Brexit (Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty)

Standing alongside Mr Johnson, he said: “We will not find a new Withdrawal Agreement within 30 days that will be very different from the existing one.” But he appeared to accept the timescale suggested by the German Chancellor, adding: “No one will wait until 31 October to find the right solution.”

The Prime Minister insisted that alternatives to the backstop could be found as “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

He said he was encouraged by “positive noises” – such as Mrs Merkel’s comments on Wednesday – about the need to tackle the issue at the centre of Brexit impasse.

“She said if we can do this in two years then we can do this in 30 days and I admire that ‘can-do’ spirit she seemed to have and I think she is right,” Mr Johnson declared.

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Under the backstop proposal, the UK would remain in a customs arrangement with the EU until a free trade deal is clinched, while Northern Ireland would stay aligned to elements of the European single  market.

Mr Johnson has lambasted the scheme – which was rejected three times by MPs – as “anti-democratic” and repeatedly said scrapping it is a pre-condition of any agreement with Brussels.

Mrs Merkel sought to play down the importance of the 30-day period she floateddescribing it as merely “an allegory for being able to do it in a short period of time”.

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Emmanuel Macron says there will be no significant differences to Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, but it could be amended

Emmanuel Macron has said he would be open to minor changes to the existing Brexit deal before the October deadline, but reiterated the EU is not prepared to scrap the Withdrawal Agreement completely to meet the UK’s demands.

The French President has met with Boris Johnson for Brexit talks after the Prime Minister demanded the EU negotiate a new deal that did not include the Irish border backstop or face a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Macron now backs German Chancellor’s Angela Merkel’s suggestion that the UK should have 30 days to come with an alternative proposal, which would involve minor changes to the deal.

He said the EU is open to discussing the future relationship with the UK but warned the guarantee of the Irish backstop was indispensable to any deal.

Minor changes

“We will not find a new Withdrawal Agreement within 30 days that will be very different from the existing one,” he said as he spoke alongside the Prime Minister at Elysee Palace on Thursday.

The two met for Brexit talks (Photo: PA Wire)

The French premier said any failure to reach an acceptable deal – which would lead to a no-deal Brexit – would be “a political decision to be taken by the Prime Minister, it’s not our decision”.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly demanded the backstop – a contingency plan aimed at ensuring a soft border with Ireland in all circumstances – should be scrapped.

But Mr Macron said the Withdrawal Agreement and Irish backstop are “not just technical constraints or legal quibbling” but are “genuine, indispensable guarantees” to preserve stability in Ireland and the integrity of the single market.

He said the EU had “always said that it was available to discuss, depending on the wishes of the UK, our future relationship”.

30-day deadline

Mr Macron told reporters: “What Angela Merkel said yesterday, and which is very much in line with the discussions we have had since the very beginning, is that we need visibility in 30 days.

“I believe that this also matches the goal of Prime Minister Johnson. No one will wait until 31 October to find the right solution.”

He said the EU would be open to finding an answer “without totally reshuffling the Withdrawal Agreement” but emphasised this would not involve jeapardising the single market or peace in Ireland.

“We should all together be able to find something smart within 30 days if there is goodwill on both sides,” he said.

“The Irish backstop, as we call it, is a point that has been negotiated in the context of the geography of Ireland and the past political situation.

Protect single market

“So it is an important element that allows us first of all to guarantee the stability in Ireland and also the integrity of the single market. These are our two goals.

“When you talk about flexibility, well let me be very clear with you, these two goals have to be met. We therefore have to find a solution that guarantees the integrity of the single market.”

Responding to Mr Macron, Mr Johnson said while he wants a deal, the UK “must come out of the EU on 31 October – deal or no-deal”.

He added: “I want to make it absolutely clear to you Emmanuel – to the French people – that of course I want a deal. I think we can get a deal and a good deal. I was powerfully encouraged by our conversations last night in Berlin with our mutual friends.

“I know that with energy and creativity and application we can find a way forward for all our businesses and our citizens.”

He added: “We think, and I understand your desire to protect the integrity of the single market, of course, we understand that, but we think that there are ways of protecting the integrity of the single market and allowing the UK to exit from the EU whole and entire and perfect as it were.”

He added: “It was very interesting to hear some of the positive noises that we’re now hearing about the ways that can be done. We look forward to developing those thoughts in the next few weeks.”

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Editor of Germany’s biggest tabloid predicts no-deal Brexit ‘with so many side agreements, that it’s basically a Brexit deal’

The editor of Germany’s most popular tabloid predicted that the outcome of the latest round of Brexit negotiations will be a no-deal Brexit with a number of side agreements that add up to a form of a deal.

Julian Reichelt, editor-in-chief of Bild newspaper, told the BBC Newsnight programme that Angela Merkel will seek a solution to the Brexit problem that allows her to save face while still reaching an agreement.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with the German chancellor in Berlin on Wednesday and will meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday. The two leaders are considered the EU’s top power brokers in the union of 28 member states including the UK.

‘Basically a Brexit deal’

Julian Reichelt, editor-in-chief of Bild, gave his predictions on Brexit. (Photo: BBC)

Mr Reichelt said that despite tough rhetoric on both sides: “I would predict that we will end up with something that is still no-deal Brexit, with so many side agreements, that it’s basically a Brexit deal.

“That is a classic way of Angela Merkel, not giving in, but giving in. You know, saying what everyone wants to hear and doing what most Germans want.”

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What is a no-deal Brexit? The consequences of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Ms Merkel said: “If one is able to solve this conundrum, if one finds this solution, we said we would probably find it in the next two years to come but we can also maybe find it in the next 30 days to come.

“Then we are one step further in the right direction and we have to obviously put our all into this.”

‘A very blistering timetable’

Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson a deadline of 30 days to find a formula for averting a no-deal Brexit
Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson a deadline of 30 days to find a formula for averting a no-deal Brexit (Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty)

Mr Johnson said he was “more than happy” with the timetable proposed by his German counterpart.

“I must say I am very glad listening to you tonight Angela to hear that at least the conversations that matter can now properly begin,” he replied.

“You have set a very blistering timetable of 30 days – if I understood you correctly, I am more than happy with that.”

Mr Johnson told Ms Merkel that the backstop – a set of measures to avoid a hard border on Ireland – would have to go as part of further discussions, or else Britain was prepared to leave without a deal.

He said the backstop, which he has called “anti-democratic” would need to be removed “whole and entire” before a deal could be reached.

‘Internal democratic crisis’

Mr Johnson is braced for a cooler reception when he meets President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday in Paris
Mr Johnson is braced for a cooler reception when he meets President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday in Paris (Photo: ALEXEI DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty)

Mr Johnson is likely to face a tougher stance in his meeting with Mr Macron at the Elysee Palace on Thursday, with the French President telling journalists that renegotiating the backstop is out of the question.

He said: “We have to help the British deal with this internal democratic crisis but we must not be hostage to it nor export it.”

The PM will be back in France on the weekend to take part in the G7 summit that is being held in Biarritz on the country’s south-western coast.

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Boris Johnson prepares for tense talks with Emmanuel Macron after French president refuses to budge on backstop

Boris Johnson is set for tense talks in Paris with Emmanuel Macron just hours after the French President ruled out making concessions to the Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister’s European trip started off on a conciliatory note after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would be willing to consider an alternative to the Northern Ireland backstop if the UK could come up with a proposal.

While Ms Merkel did not explicitly say she would be prepared to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement – something ruled out by the EU in the past – she did set Britain a 30-day deadline for coming up with a backstop solution, and said she would prepared to consider it.

But Mr Johnson is preparing to be met with a less compromising tone from Mr Macron on Thursday, after the French president told journalists the UK’s demands to renegotiate the Brexit deal were “not an option”.

UK ‘crisis’

He said: “We have to help the British deal with this internal democratic crisis but we mustn’t be hostage to it nor export it.”

Mr Johnson could have his work cut out meeting the French President (Photo: Getty Images)

Ahead of the meeting, he said Mr Johnson’s demand to renegotiate the divorce deal was not workable and maintained that he was not prepared to reopen negotiations of the Brexit deal.

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Angela Merkel gives Boris Johnson a 30-day deadline to dodge no-deal and solve Irish backstop

He also said he saw no reason to grant a further delay to Brexit unless there was a significant political change in Britain, such as an election or a new referendum.

Mr Macron warned Britain that it risked being subordinated by the United States if it crashed out of the European Union.

“The British are attached to being a great power. The point can’t be to exit Europe and say ‘we’ll be stronger’, before in the end, becoming the junior partner of the United States, which are acting more and more hegemonically,” he said.

Challenge for PM

The comments could prove a challenge for Mr Johnson, who will meet his French counterpart for lunch at his official residence to discuss changing the terms of Britain’s exit.

Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a joint press conference following Johnson’s arrival at the Chancellery on August 21 (Photo: Getty Images)

Mr Johnson flew to Paris after his three-course dinner with Mrs Merkel, an evening that a Downing Street spokesman called “constructive”.

Speaking at the press conference on Wednesday, Ms Merkel said: “If one is able to solve this conundrum, if one finds this solution, we said we would probably find it in the next two years to come but we can also maybe find it in the next 30 days to come.

“Then we are one step further in the right direction and we have to obviously put our all into this.”

Mr Johnson said he was “more than happy” with the timetable proposed by his German counterpart.

Merkel prepared to consider change

“I must say I am very glad listening to you tonight Angela to hear that at least the conversations that matter can now properly begin,” he replied. “You have set a very blistering timetable of 30 days – if I understood you correctly, I am more than happy with that.”

Mr Johnson told Ms Merkel that the backstop would have to go as part of further discussions – or else Britain was prepared to leave without a deal.

He said the backstop would need to be removed “whole and entire” before a deal could be reached.

But Mr Johnson, on his first trip to Germany as Prime Minister, said he was optimistic an agreement could be struck.

“What in my experience happens is that people find a way through and I think that if we approach this with sufficient patience and optimism, as I say, we can get this done and it is in the final furlong generally when the horses change places and the winning deal appears,” he told the press.

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Brexit talks: Angela Merkel gives Boris Johnson a 30-day deadline to dodge no-deal and solve Irish backstop

Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson a deadline of 30 days to find a formula for averting a no-deal Brexit by producing an alternative to the contentious Irish backstop scheme.

She set the clock ticking – and put the onus on Britain to break the Brexit impasse – at talks in Berlin with the Prime Minister.

He responded by saying he accepted her “very blistering timetable” and will have been encouraged that the German Chancellor struck a cautiously positive note in their encounter.

Mr Johnson is braced for a cooler reception when he meets President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday in Paris.

30 days to solve Brexit

Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson a deadline of 30 days to find a formula for averting a no-deal Brexit
Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson a deadline of 30 days to find a formula for averting a no-deal Brexit (Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty)

French officials believe a no-deal Brexit on 31 October is the most likely scenario because of Mr Johnson’s demand for the withdrawal agreement to be renegotiated.

Mr Johnson began his drive to persuade European leaders to reopen talks with a message to the European Council President Donald Tusk that Britain would leave without a deal unless the “anti-democratic” backstop was ditched.

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The scheme would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU – and Northern Ireland in some parts of the single market – until a free trade deal was reached with the bloc.

It was proposed, and supported by Theresa May, but rejected three times by MPs, as a way of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Irish backstop stand-off

Mr Johnson is braced for a cooler reception when he meets President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday in Paris
Mr Johnson is braced for a cooler reception when he meets President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday in Paris (Photo: ALEXEI DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty)

The issue has been as the heart of the stand-off between London and Brussels since Mr Johnson demanded that the backstop plan is abandoned.

Mrs Merkel challenged the Prime Minister to come up with a workable alternative which protected the integrity of the single market within a month.

She said: “If one is able to solve this conundrum, if one finds this solution, we said we would probably find it in the next two years to come, but we can also maybe find it in the next 30 days to come.

“Then we are one step further in the right direction and we have to obviously put our all into this.”

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Boris Johnson sets course for no-deal Brexit after refusing to relent on demands to scrap backstop in letter to Brussels

Mr Johnson replied: “I must say I am very glad listening to you tonight Angela to hear that at least the conversations that matter can now properly begin.

“You have set a very blistering timetable of 30 days. If I understood you correctly, I am more than happy with that.”

A Downing Street source said it was happy with the tone of Mrs Merkel’s exchange.

Brexit compromise

Mrs Merkel challenged the Prime Minister to come up with a workable alternative which protected the integrity of the single market
Mrs Merkel challenged the Prime Minister to come up with a workable alternative which protected the integrity of the single market (Photo: Omer Messinger/Getty)

The government was not briefed beforehand that she would set a 30-day deadline, but Mr Johnson’s team hopes it indicates that European leaders are preparing to renegotiate and compromise.

However, a French presidential aide was far more downbeat ahead of the Prime Minister’s trip to Paris, telling AFP: “The scenario that is becoming the most likely is one of no-deal.”

The official also poured cold water on Mr Johnson’s claim that Britain would not have to pay the agreed £39bn “divorce payment” to the EU if no agreement was struck.

“The idea of saying ‘there’s not a deal, so I won’t pay’ does not work,” the official said.

“We cannot imagine that a country like the UK would back out of an international commitment.”

The official added: “There’s no magic wand that makes this bill disappear.”

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