Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Wednesday 18 Nov 2020
Brexit trade deal ‘days away’ as hurdles fall
An agreement between the UK and EU about post-Brexit trade could be “just days away,” says The Daily Telegraph, after the latest talks in Brussels. Hopes have risen after the Irish prime minister said “landing zones” for an agreement are now in sight. France is believed to have accepted that its fishing rights in UK waters will be reduced after the transition period ends on 31 December, removing one of the most significant obstacles.
Trump fires official who rejected election fraud claim
Donald Trump has fired Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who had denied the president’s allegations of widespread voter fraud. On Twitter, Trump said he was firing Krebs because of his “highly inaccurate” statement that there “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised”.
PPE suppliers with political ties ‘more likely to succeed’
Companies bidding to supply personal protection equipment, such as masks and gloves, were ten times more likely to be successful if they had political connections, according to the parliamentary spending watchdog. It emerged yesterday that a Spanish businessman who acted as a go-between on contracts to provide gowns, masks and other equipment for NHS workers was paid £21m of taxpayers’ money.
Corbyn’s return to Labour Party provokes mixed response
Sir Keir Starmer has faced both criticism and praise after Labour decided to readmit former leader Jeremy Corbyn just three weeks after he was suspended for his reaction to the report on anti-Semitism in the party. The Board of Deputies of British Jews said Labour had taken a “retrograde step” in its efforts to rebuild relations. However, Len McCluskey, head of the Unite union, tweeted: “Jeremy Corbyn’s readmission is the correct, fair and unifying decision.”
Household mixing ban proposed to save Christmas
People from separate households will be barred from mixing when the national lockdown ends under government plans to keep the infection rate low in the run-up to Christmas, according to The Daily Telegraph. In recent days, government scientific advisers have suggested that a return to the regional tiered system will have to be accompanied by tighter rules within each tier. However, the plans also reportedly include a loosening of restrictions for a few days over the festive season.
Ban on new petrol and diesel cars in UK from 2030
The government has announced that new cars and vans powered wholly by petrol and diesel will not be sold in the UK from 2030, ten years earlier than previously expected. Boris Johnson says the move is part of a “green industrial revolution” to tackle climate change and create jobs. The plan also aims to make cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and to invest in zero-emission public transport for the future.
Self-isolating Boris Johnson to hold PMQs remotely
The prime minister will make history today by holding his weekly question-and-answer session with MPs via video link. Boris Johnson is self-isolating in 10 Downing Street after coming into contact with fellow Conservative MP Lee Anderson, who later tested positive for coronavirus. He decided to take questions remotely rather than ask deputy Dominic Raab to stand in for him.
Anxiety grows over Trump’s military plans
Senior Republicans have expressed concerned about Donald Trump’s “bucket list” of actions for his final weeks in office, The Times reports. The outgoing president has ordered a withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and options for a strike on Iran’s main nuclear processing facility were reportedly discussed at the Oval Office last Thursday. Trump was talked out of an attack.
Investors flock to Bitcoin during the coronavirus pandemic
Anxiety over the Covid-19 pandemic has helped Bitcoin, the world's best-known cryptocurrency, to pass $17,000 (£12,800) and hit a three-year high. Amid volatility on global stock markets, investors have been piling money into cryptocurrencies, which they see as a “safe haven”. However, one investor said: “I have far more confidence in the $50 note in my wallet retaining its value over time than Bitcoin.”
Weinstein monitored amid Covid-19 rumours
The disgraced Hollywood boss Harvey Weinstein is sick and being “closely monitored” in prison, where he is serving a 23-year sentence for rape. A spokesperson for Weinstein said he has a fever but would not “confirm nor deny” that the 68-year-old had tested positive for Covid-19. He is considered vulnerable to the virus because of age, weight and other medical issues.