Watch live: Boris Johnson faces Keir Starmer and MPs during PMQs
Responding to the Labour leader’s request during prime minister’s questions, the prime minister told MPs he mourns “every death” that has occurred due to the virus.
Meanwhile, Amazon has halted sales of wines, beers and spirits in Northern Ireland due to complex new excise rules. The company is reportedly ready to pull more products from the province – including over-the-counter medicines – over changes brought in by the Brexit deal.
The online retailer is said to be concerned that excise duty will now have to be paid twice on shipments which are sent from the British mainland across the Irish Sea following Mr Johnson’s trade agreement.
It comes as the Lib Dems branded a plan to charge EU students coming to the UK over £1,000 to use the NHS a “pointless red tape nightmare”. Meanwhile, home secretary Priti Patel is set to announce a hotel quarantine plan for arrivals from the highest-risk parts of the world.
PM dodges Labour demand to vaccinate all teachers during half-term
Mr Johnson has dodged a Labour demand to vaccinate all teachers and school staff during February half-term to allow classrooms to reopen, political editor Andrew Woodcock reports.
The demand came as Sir Keir went on the attack over the government’s record on coronavirus in the House of Commons, repeating his call for all arrivals at UK airports and ports to be subject to mandatory quarantine in hotels.
Samuel Osborne27 January 2021 12:26
Starmer demands Johnson answer why UK has highest coronavirus death rate in Europe
Sir Keir Starmer has demanded Boris Johnson answer why the UK has the highest coronavirus death rate in Europe.
Mr Johnson told MPs he mourns “every death” that has occurred due to the virus.
At the start of prime minister’s questions, the Labour leader said: “Yesterday we passed the tragic milestone of 100,000 Covid deaths in the United Kingdom. That is not just a statistic, behind every death is a grieving family – a mum, a dad, a sister, a brother, a friend, a colleague, a neighbour.
“The question on everyone’s lips this morning is why? The prime minister must have thought about that question a lot, so could he tell us why he thinks that the United Kingdom has ended up with a death toll of 100,000, the highest number in Europe?”
Mr Johnson replied: “Like (Sir Keir), I mourn every death in this pandemic and we share the grief of all those who have been bereaved. And let him be in no doubt and let the House be in no doubt that I and the government take full responsibility for all the actions that I have taken and that we have taken during this pandemic to fight this disease.”
Mr Johnson said that “yes there will indeed be a time when we must learn the lessons of what has happened”, adding: “I don’t think that moment is now when we are in the throes of fighting this wave of the new variant, when 37,000 people are struggling with Covid in our hospitals.”
Samuel Osborne27 January 2021 12:19
Covid response set to dominate PMQs
PMQs is up very soon. You can follow live at the top of the page. The UK’s Covid death toll and the government’s handling of the pandemic is sure to dominate today’s encounter between Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer.
What’s been said this morning? Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said the government’s response would have been different “with the benefit of hindsight” – but also defended his boss. “Nobody has worked harder than the prime minister.”
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the mistakes had been “unforgivable” and shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said the PM had not been “up to the job” over the past 12 months.
Adam Forrest27 January 2021 11:54
Amazon move shows ‘utter chaos’ in trading
The Best for Britain group has responded to the news Amazon is halting sales of alcohol – and possibly more product lines – over confusion about excise rules.
“When a company the size of Amazon is struggling to deal with something as fundamental as excise payments, it’s clear the present UK trading environment is in utter chaos and ministers really must get a grip now and cut Whitehall red tape for British businesses,” said chief executive Naomi Smith.
She added: “When Airbus, BMW and Siemens warned about the impact on their UK-based operations of the UK leaving the EU, Boris Johnson infamously said ‘f*** business’. Now is the time to right that wrong, and show industry that this is a pro-business government after all.”
Adam Forrest27 January 2021 11:38
Eel fishermen forced to find new markets
Eel fishermen in Northern Ireland will be forced to find new markets due to post-Brexit problems.
Sector chiefs based at Lough Neagh – a freshwater lake in the province – said the new trade border in the Irish Sea meant they could no longer sell to Billingsgate Market in London (where jellied eels are sold).
Pat Close of the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative, told the BBC London had represented “very significant trade” – 20 per cent of their catch. “We find with the Northern Ireland Protocol, [Great Britain] could be in the middle of the world as far as we’re concerned.”
Adam Forrest27 January 2021 11:19
AstraZeneca ‘pulls out of EU meeting’
The row deepens. The UK-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has pulled out from a meeting with EU officials scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the disagreement over Covid vaccine supplies, according to a Brussels official.
The official added that the EU keeps asking the company to provide further explanations about its announcement to cut vaccine deliveries to the bloc in the first quarter.
Adam Forrest27 January 2021 11:04
Discontent ‘growing’ in Northern Ireland over protocol, says police chief
Discontent in loyalist communities in Northern Ireland is “growing” over the protocol arrangements forged as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, a senior police officer has said.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said: “We are seeing signals, there are signal incidents that have happened, particularly in recent days.”
He told MPs: “We are starting to see graffiti, we are picking up social media sentiment of a growing discontent, particularly within the Protestant-loyalist-unionist community … That has not manifested itself in any outworkings at this point.”
Adam Forrest27 January 2021 11:01
Fishing chief demands UK-Norway deal
A supertrawler which normally catches around 10 per cent of all the fish sold in the UK’s chip shops has left port for a one-off voyage to the island of Svalbard, as its owner demands a deal with Norway over distant waters fishing rights.
The Kirkella – which has been described as the pride of the UK’s distant-waters fishing fleet – has been tied up in St George’s Dock, Hull, since returning from her last trip at the beginning of December, leaving her 100-strong crew at home.
The vessel’s owner, UK Fisheries said detailed agreements are still needed with the non-EU countries involved in the post-Brexit distant waters arrangements – including Norway.
UK Fisheries chief executive Jane Sandell said: “We’re glad to be going out fishing at last, but this is only a sticking plaster … unless something changes very soon, we’ll have no more work for our crews for the foreseeable future.”
Adam Forrest27 January 2021 10:50
EU citizens ‘asked to show evidence of status in UK’
Some EU citizens who live in the UK have reportedly been questioned at the border and asked to show some evidence about where they live and whether or not they have settled status.
Politico has reported on cases involving at least four EU nationals – from Finland, Romania and Malta – who were stopped on their return home to the UK and asked questions about their residence. “It was more like the border control feeling you get in the US,” said one.
EU diplomats told the website border officials could be in breach of the law with their questions.
“The Border Force officials have the authority to try to determine who you are and even to ask you for details of your residence, but they cannot ask you for proof of your settled or pre-settled status,” one said.
Adam Forrest27 January 2021 10:21
Brexit losses ‘disappointing’, says City leader
The UK’s loss of financial business to the EU due to Brexit has been “disappointing”, a leading figure in the City of London has said.
London has seen major asset and job losses over the past year and the sector was largely during the divorce deal negotiations, cutting off the City from its biggest single customer.
“It’s disappointing to lose business but it’s not at all catastrophic,” said Catherine McGuinness, who is the political leader of the financial district’s ruling body.
“We are very confident in London’s basic strengths and that we will make up business elsewhere,” said told Reuters. “No matter what happens, London will continue to thrive.”
Adam Forrest27 January 2021 10:06