Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Friday 4 Dec 2020

1

UK says Brexit deal less likely as EU hardens stance

A senior government source has told the BBC that the likelihood of a breakthrough in post-Brexit trade negotiations is “receding” and accused the EU team of “bringing new elements into the negotiation” at the “eleventh hour”. However, says The Guardian, it is widely believed that the “tortuous negotiations” could reach a “climax” at the weekend.

2

NHS staff de-prioritised for Covid vaccine

NHS staff will no longer get the Covid-19 vaccine first after what The Guardian describes as a “drastic rethink” over who should be prioritised. Hospitals will begin by immunising care home staff and hospital inpatients and outpatients aged over 80. The news comes at the same time as warning of a third wave of Covid-19 in January after restrictions are eased over Christmas.

3

Faucci apologises for remarks over vaccine approval

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, has apologised for saying the UK rushed the vaccine approval process. “I have a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint,” he told the BBC. The Times says Britain will fight back against “irresponsible” global criticism of its rapid approval of a coronavirus vaccine.

4

Patel slams ‘do-gooding’ celebs for Windrush comparison

Priti Patel has accused Labour MPs and “do-gooding” celebrities of insulting Windrush victims by comparing them to criminals who have recently been deported. “The Windrush scandal is a stain on our country's history,” the Home Secretary said. “To attempt to conflate the victims of Windrush with these vile criminals set for deportation is not only misjudged and upsetting but deeply offensive.”

5

Ministers break pledge by slashing £1bn from rail budget

The government has cut £1bn from the rail infrastructure budget after previously promising record investment as part of its “levelling up” agenda. Network Rail’s “enhancement” budget for the five-year period from 2019 had been set at £10.4bn but this week rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said that it would be cut to £9.4bn. The shortfall is likely to mean the cancellation of some projects.

6

Biden will ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days

Joe Biden is to ask Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office to curtail the spread of Covid-19. The US president-elect told CNN he believed there would be a “significant reduction” in Covid-19 cases if every American wore a face covering. Donald Trump rejected calls from US health experts to mandate masks on public transport as “overly restrictive”.

7

Four dead after explosion at Bristol water plant

Four people have been killed and one person injured after an explosion at a wastewater treatment plant in Bristol. A rescue operation involving urban search and rescue teams, tracker dogs and helicopters was launched following the explosion, which could be heard more than a mile away, at the Wessex Water site in Avonmouth. Police say they do not believe the incident was terror-related.

8

High Court says government fails to protect trafficking targets

The Home Office is failing to prevent potential trafficking victims from being treated as illegal immigrants, the High Court has ruled. The judges said people waiting for their modern slavery claims to be concluded were being stripped of immigration status due to an “unlawful lacuna” in policy. Campaigners say this reveals that the government’s commitment to maintaining the hostile environment for illegal immigrants has “trumped its promises on tackling modern slavery”. 

9

Eton head says he doesn’t want to ‘shut down’ debate

The head master of Eton College says he will not apologise after the 580-year-old institution was caught up in a row about free speech. After a teacher was dismissed for gross misconduct for recording a lecture which questioned “current radical feminist orthodoxy,” Simon Henderson said he did not want to “shut down debate”, but to ensure that staff and students “feel comfortable”.

10

UK sets ‘ambitious’ target for carbon emissions

Britain will seek to cut its carbon emissions by at least 68% of what they were in 1990 by the end of 2030, Boris Johnson has announced. The prime minister said the “ambitious” target would lead the UK to cut emissions faster than any major economy. So far, Britain’s emissions have dropped by 45% since 1990.

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