Today’s daily politics briefing
The UK risks becoming a “failed state” unless the government makes major reforms, former prime minister Gordon Brown has warned Boris Johnson. Mr Brown urged No 10 to move further on devolution and replace the House of Lords with a “senate of the regions”.
It comes as work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey brought her Good Morning Britain interview to an abrupt end after falling out with host Piers Morgan on Covid death rates. “I’m sorry Piers … I’m going to go,” she said before hanging up.
Meanwhile, the Road Haulage Association has revealed almost half of all trucks bringing goods into the UK are heading back to the EU empty, as exports slump after Brexit. “There is not normal demand from exporters … around 40 per cent [of hauliers] are returning to the continent empty,” said chief executive Richard Burnett.
Taking us to court? Not a good look, says SNP
Taking the Scottish government to court over the holding of another independence referendum would not be a “good look” for Boris Johnson’s government, according to one of Nicola Sturgeon’s ministers.
The SNP released a “roadmap” to an independence referendum at the weekend, which said another vote could be held if a pro-separation majority is returned to Holyrood in May, even if the necessary Section 30 order is not granted.
It seems the party is preparing to force the government into a legal showdown, saying it would then be for the UK government to seek to block a referendum through the courts.
Mike Russell, Scotland’s constitution secretary and SNP president, made clear the separatist party would claim to have the “people of Scotland” on its side if it won the Holyrood election.
He told the BBC: “I think it’s such a bad look for any government to say, ‘Even if the people of Scotland vote for something, we’ll take them to court to stop them.’
“(It’s) not just the government – that would essentially be taking the whole people of Scotland who voted for it to court.”
Adam Forrest25 January 2021 10:11
Rishi Sunak ‘throws his weight behind quarantine hotels plan’
Ministers are thought to be close to agreeing a plan for quarantine hotels. Rishi Sunak has “thrown his weight” behind the idea of forcing everyone who enters to UK to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, according to The Times.
Officials are said to be confident about finding enough rooms for arrivals (currently around 10,000 a day). Transport secretary Grant Shapps is thought to be arguing that the quarantine should only apply to passengers arriving from countries with new variants. But the chancellor has reportedly sided with other ministers keen to make it a blanket restriction.
They are not expected to meet to approve anything until a meeting of the Covid-O committee on Tuesday. It comes after Matt Hancock revealed that 77 cases of the variant detected in South Africa had been found in the UK.
Adam Forrest25 January 2021 10:02
Thousands of EU care workers face losing immigration status
Thousands of care workers in the UK risk being criminalised and losing their right to work overnight, according to a new report that issues a stark warning about a lack of knowledge of the EU settlement scheme.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) warns that the care sector faces being “devastated” at a crucial time – as a large cohort of its workforce are unaware that they need to apply for settled status.
A survey revealed one in three care workers from the EU were not aware of the June 2021 deadline for the scheme. Our social affairs correspondent May Bulman has all the details:
Adam Forrest25 January 2021 09:43
2020s ‘could be as bad as the 80s’, says Burnham
England is a “very unequal” country in terms of living standards and job opportunities, the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has said.
Backing Gordon Brown’s call for more devolution, Burnham told Sky News he had a “real fear” that over the next decade the north of England “could be as bad as the 1980s if we don’t see a massive transfer of power and resources”.
Asked what the government’s “levelling up” strategy meant for him, Burnham said: “I mean giving people in all parts of the country the same standard of living, the same opportunities, the same life expectancy.
“We are a very, very unequal country when you look at those things. The government likes to talk about levelling up, purely in terms of big infrastructure, railway lines. I think you’ve got to start with people, you’ve got to start with homes, communities.”
Adam Forrest25 January 2021 09:39
Therese Coffey hangs up on Piers Morgan
An announcement will be made “shortly” on whether to keep the £20-a-week universal credit uplift, work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey has said.
“We are in active consideration of the options on how to best support people … I hope we will be able to come to a decision soon,” she told BBC Breakfast.
Things didn’t go smoothly on Good Morning Britain, where she brought her interview to an abrupt end, after host Piers Morgan pressured her to explain why the UK has the worst Covid death rate in the world. “I’m sorry Piers – I’m going to have to go to another broadcaster … I’m going to go.”
“You’re going to go!?” asked Morgan.
“You had 20 minutes of my time – I appreciate your time as well. Bye bye.”
Adam Forrest25 January 2021 09:19
Big slump in UK export deliveries, says haulage chief
The Road Haulage Association has revealed the extent of Britain’s post-Brexit export slump, with almost half of all trucks bringing goods into Britain are heading back to Europe empty.
“There is not normal demand from exporters, which means around 40 per cent [of hauliers] are returning to the continent empty,” said chief executive Richard Burnett.
He said many companies are still putting off resuming exports to the EU because of complications over new customs regulations. And drivers are reluctant to make as many trips because of the extra red tape, according to Burnett.
“They are also worried about being stuck in port if they don’t have the right customs paperwork,” said the RHA leader. “The new Covid tests are also very unpopular and are having an effect on the number of hauliers who are prepared to make the trip.”
Adam Forrest25 January 2021 09:15
Boris Johnson warned UK could become ‘failed state’
Britain risks becoming a “failed state” without serious reform to its governance structures, Gordon Brown has warned. The former Labour PM urged Boris Johnson to devolve more power to regions and to replace the House of Lords with a regionally elected chamber.
It comes as a weekend poll found 52 per cent to 48 per cent support for Scottish independence (excluding don’t knows). Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday morning Brown said there was no democratic mandate for another Scottish independence referendum.
Asked whether he thought there was one, he said: “No, no, I don’t think so.
“People in Scotland are worried about the virus, they’re worried about jobs, they’re worried about the future of young people, this is their priority at the moment.”
Adam Forrest25 January 2021 09:09
Tory MPs demand plan to reopen schools
Tory MPs are demanding the government set out a “route map” for the reopening of schools in England, frustrated by Hancock’s failure to guarantee they would be back before Easter.
Robert Halfon – education committee chair – has asked for an urgent question in the Commons today, and is asking that No 10 considers a bold adjustment to its vaccination plan. “If it means priority vaccinations for teachers … then it is worth it.”
Former work and pensions Secretary Esther McVey said: “We genuinely seem to have forgotten about school children.”
The Tories’ Covid Research Group leader Mark Harper added: “As the PM himself said last August, ‘keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible.’ I couldn’t put it better myself.”
Education secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to confirm this week that children will not be returning to class after the February half-term break.
Adam Forrest25 January 2021 09:04