Boris Johnson insists vaccine manufacturers will supply UK amid pressure from EU to divert doses
More than 100,000 surplus pigs are stranded on farms across the UK because of Brexit bureaucracy, farmers have revealed. The National Pig Association (NPA) has demanded an urgent meeting with the government about an export slump caused by red tape complexities.
It comes as Boris Johnson’s government has announced it has scrapped its controversial post-Brexit review of employment rights. Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he did not wish to “water down” workers’ protections.
Meanwhile, Britain and the EU stand on the brink of a vicious vaccine war after Brussels demanded the diversion of coronavirus jabs produced in the UK. Tory MP Peter Bone said the bloc had acted “disgracefully” during the row. “Hands off our vaccine,” he said.
Miliband claims victory on workers’ rights
Labour’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband is pleased at the government U-turn over post-Brexit employment rights.
“Thanks to all those who helped to force the government to back down on their plan to axe workers’ rights,” he said. “The next task is to force them to improve rights, starting with legislation against the firing and rehiring of workers on worse terms and conditions.”
Adam Forrest28 January 2021 09:55
Starmer denies Labour backed EU vaccine scheme
Keir Starmer has denied that Labour suggested the government should have signed up to the EU’s vaccine procurement scheme – accusing Boris Johnson of making “false” claims.
“Labour never pushed for anything to do with the EU vaccine scheme,” Starmer told LBC. “It’s something the prime minister put to me without ever letting me answer,” he added – claiming Johnson’s claims were “false” and “bogus”.
Starmer said he had been “hugely supportive” of the UK’s vaccine efforts and did not want to see any vaccines diverted out of the UK.
On Wednesday, Johnson told the Commons: “I think it’d have been a great pity if we’d followed the advice of the leader of the opposition who said stay in the EU vaccines programme.”
Adam Forrest28 January 2021 09:49
‘I’m with the PM’: Starmer backs Johnson’s Scotland trip
Labour leader Keir Starmer has backed Boris Johnson over his trip to Scotland – despite first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s claim the journey was not essential.
“I’m with the prime minister on this one,” Starmer told LBC. “He’s the prime minister of the United Kingdom. It is important that he travels to see what’s going on on the ground … I expect the prime minister to do that, frankly.”
Starmer said he believed Johnson was visiting a vaccine centre north of the border later today. “He needs to know what’s happening with the vaccine roll-out … I’m going to defend him on this.”
Adam Forrest28 January 2021 09:40
Labour demands free school meals for half-term
Labour has called for all school staff to be vaccinated over the February half-term, after Boris Johnson announced pupils would not be back until 8 March at the “earliest”.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner told GMB: “We want our schools to open safely. It’s about having a plan to make that happen.”
The party is also calling for the government to extend free school meals during the upcoming holiday. “The prime minister condemned the disgraceful food parcels that hungry children have been given, yet now he is planning to leave them without free school meals,” said Rayner.
“The government voted against free school meals in October, had to be shamed into extending support over the Christmas holidays and now they are letting down our children again.”
Adam Forrest28 January 2021 09:32
Gove: UK won’t allow vaccines to be diverted to EU
Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said there “will be no interruption” to UK vaccine supplies from AstraZeneca after the EU demanded doses from British plants.
Gove said on Thursday that the “first and most important thing” is that the supply schedule agreed with the UK-based pharmaceuticals giant is honoured.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “First thing, we must make sure that we continue with the effective acceleration of our vaccination programme. That relies on the supply schedule that has been agreed to be honoured.
“Secondarily,” he added, the desire is to ensure allies receive vaccines but he added that “I think we best achieve that through dialogue and cooperation and friendship”.
Pressed on whether the government would allow vaccines to go to the EU, he said: “No, the critical thing is we must make sure that the schedule that has been agreed and on which our vaccination programme has been based and planned goes ahead.”
He said much the same thing on GMB, insisting that “the programme of vaccination has been agreed and assured”.
Adam Forrest28 January 2021 09:22
Government ‘in denial’ over Brexit, as survey finds businesses downcast
Just over one-third of the UK’s small and medium-sized businesses trading with the EU think trade with the bloc will shrink after Brexit, a new poll has found.
Some 38 per cent of firms surveyed by Redfield & Wilton Strategies for Politico said they expected their own exports to the bloc will decrease during 2021.
“Many, many small operators will just stop exporting,” said Peter Hardwick, trade policy adviser at the British Meat Processors Association. He claimed the government “is in a little bit of denial over this”.
Adam Forrest28 January 2021 09:21
100,000 pigs ‘stranded’ on UK farms due to Brexit, say farmers
More than 100,000 surplus pigs are currently stranded on farms across the UK, frustrated farmers have revealed.
The National Pig Association (NPA) has written to environment secretary George Eustice to demand an urgent meeting about difficulties with customs red tape and other bureaucracy which continue to hampered exports.
“The overall picture is now one of enormous disruption to our export supply chain, but of minimal problems and relative ease for EU imports into the UK,” NPA chairman Richard Lister wrote in his letter.
Pork exports have dropped to quarter of normal volumes, according to the FT. “If we don’t get this trade flow issue sorted out then we’ll lose these markets around all my lifetime,” one Norkfolk pig farmer told the newspaper.
Adam Forrest28 January 2021 09:01
Post-Brexit review of workers’ rights axed in U-turn
The government has scrapped its controversial post-Brexit review of employment rights – with a cabinet minister making clear he did not wish to “water down” protections.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told ITV’s Peston: “So the review is no longer happening within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. I made it very, very clear to officials in the department that we’re not interested in watering down workers’ rights.”
He added: “I can’t have been more clear about this on a number of occasions. I’ve said repeatedly that Brexit gives us the opportunity to have higher standards and a higher growth economy and that’s what officials in the department are 100% focused on.”
Reports suggest the minister’s predecessor Alok Sharma, who left earlier this month to work full-time on the COP26 climate conference, had been behind the review.
Labour had accused the government of wanting to remove vital protections following reports the 48-hour maximum working week was under threat.
Adam Forrest28 January 2021 08:54
Tory MPs attack ‘disgraceful’ EU over vaccine row
Britain and the EU stand on the brink of a vicious vaccine war, after Brussels demanded the diversion of coronavirus jabs produced by UK-based AstraZeneca to make up for shortfalls on the continent.
Boris Johnson is trying to steer clear of confrontation with the EU, but Tory MPs have lashed out over the row. Backbencher Peter Bone said the EU was trying to cover up for its own failings by demanding the company diverts its planned delivery programme.
He said: “The EU has acted in a disgraceful way, to say, ‘We want to jump the UK because we are the EU and important’ is unbelievable. Hands off our vaccine, there is no legal or moral right to have it.”
The Conservative backbencher claimed the EU’s “bureaucracy, inefficiency and petty politics” had delayed its vaccine programme – suggesting Brexit had allowed the UK to do things differently.
Fellow Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen told Good Morning Britain on Thursday: “The EU is coming out with a very strange excuse for botching their vaccine procurement.” He said he found Brussels claims’ about AstraZeneca failing to meet contractual commitments “ludicrous”.
Adam Forrest28 January 2021 08:47