Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Tuesday 15 Sep 2020

1

Brexit bill passes Commons hurdle despite 30 Tory abstentions

A law that would give Boris Johnson’s government the power to override parts of the Brexit agreement with the EU has passed its first hurdle in the House of Commons as MPs backed it by 340 votes to 263. However, 30 Tory MPs abstained and two voted against the controversial bill, which would allow ministers to break international law.

2

No coronavirus tests available in worst hotspots

Covid-19 test appointments are unavailable in the ten parts of the country with the worst outbreaks, according to The Times. Shortages are likely to continue for some weeks as laboratories struggle to process all samples sent to them, the paper reports, forcing testing centres to cut back on appointments. Ministers say they are drawing up plans to restrict what they call “frivolous demands” for tests.

3

Trump says global warming will ‘start getting cooler’

Donald Trump has brushed aside concerns over climate change on a visit to California, telling an official in the fire-hit state that it would “start getting cooler”. The US president, a climate change sceptic, dismissed an official's plea to not “ignore the science” on climate change, and said: “It'll start getting cooler, you just watch... I don't think science knows actually.”

4

Starmer calls for furlough replacement to avoid ‘scarring’ losses

Labour leader Keir Starmer will call on the government to replace the furlough scheme with targeted support for key industries. In an address to the TUC, the Labour leader will also call on Boris Johnson to outlaw “firing and re-hiring” methods to avoid the “scarring effect” of “mass unemployment”. Almost ten million workers have been furloughed since March, and the scheme is set to end on 31 October.

5

Brexit scenario paper warns of 7,000-lorry queues

A confidential document has said the government should prepare for queues of 7,000 lorries in Kent and two-day delays to cross into the EU after Brexit. The 46-page “reasonable worst-case scenario” report forecasts that thousands of passengers could be forced to wait an extra two hours for Eurostar trains. A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “This is not a forecast or prediction of what will happen but rather a stretching scenario.”

6

Panama links mass grave to New Light of God sect

Authorities in Panama say they are investigating a mass grave which they believe contains the bodies of people killed by a religious sect. Skeletal remains are being removed from the site in the remote north-western indigenous Ngäbe-Buglé region after a grave containing seven bodies was found nearby in January. Police have arrested the alleged leader of the New Light of God sect.

7

Signs of life detected in the atmosphere of Venus

Scientists who have discovered a rare molecule in the clouds of Venus say it may indicate the presence of life. The combination of phosphorus and hydrogen suggests that colonies of living microbes could be thriving in the oxygen-free environment of the planet’s atmosphere. However, it is believed that the surface of Venus, with an average temperature of around 464C (867F), is far too hot to sustain life.

8

Anxiety surges in Britain over past ten years

The UK has suffered an “explosion” in anxiety over the past decade, according to new research. The combination of the financial crash, austerity, Brexit, climate change and social media has led mental illness to treble among young adults, it says. It now affects 30% of women aged 18 to 24 and has increased across the board among men and women under 55.

9

Bill doubles sentence for attacking emergency workers

The maximum jail sentence for people who assault police officers, nurses or any other emergency workers is to be doubled from one to two years. Among a series of reforms to sentencing being announced by the Ministry of Justice, the law will also protect prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and all frontline health workers.

10

Netanyahu prepares to sign UAE and Bahrain agreements

Benjamin Netanyahu has flown to Washington to sign diplomatic deals with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. “We now have two historic peace agreements, with two Arab countries, which were established in one month,” he said. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the countries are “simply coming out of the closet with the clandestine strategic ties they’ve maintained for years”.

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