Daily Briefing

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

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1

Biden’s victory confirmed by electoral college

Joe Biden has said it is “time to turn the page” after his victory in the US election was confirmed by the electoral college. The president-elect said that US democracy had been “pushed, tested and threatened” but had “proved to be resilient, true and strong”. He won November’s contest with 306 electoral college votes to Republican Donald Trump’s 232.

2

Barnier says deal could be agreed this week

Michel Barnier has hinted that a post-Brexit trade and security deal could be sealed within days, after Boris Johnson made a key concession. The EU’s chief negotiator said the prime minister’s acceptance of the need to ensure that there was fair competition between British and European businesses had unlocked negotiations. Barnier cautioned that the pathway to agreement remained “very narrow”, however.

3

London heading for Tier 3 rules

Millions more people in England face will be subject to the toughest Covid-19 restrictions from tomorrow, as the health secretary warns that a new strain of the virus may be linked to a rise in infections. London, most of Essex and parts of Hertfordshire will enter Tier 3 on Wednesday. A study of infection data has found that the drop in coronavirus infections stalled after the second lockdown ended.

4

Campaigners call for reusable face masks

Calls are growing for a switch to reusable face coverings as newly published figures show that more than 100 million disposable masks are binned in the UK every week. Research for the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) found that nearly 70% of people who wear disposable masks are unaware that they are single-use plastic. “Whether they are binned or littered they will damage the environment,” a spokesperson for the NLWA said.

5

Gas boilers to be banned within 15 years

The installation of new gas boilers is to be banned by the mid 2030s as the UK shifts to low-carbon alternatives such as heat pumps and hydrogen boilers. A newly published government paper says the UK will “transition completely away from natural gas boilers” as part of its target to hit net-zero emissions by 2050. The announcement comes a week after the independent Climate Change Committee recommended phasing out gas boilers.

6

Eton College teacher loses dismissal appeal

An appeal panel has ruled that Eton College’s dismissal of a teacher was justified. Will Knowland, an English teacher at the prestigious school, was sacked earlier this year for gross misconduct after recording a lecture in which he questioned “current radical feminist orthodoxy”. The headmaster of Eton said that there are “limits to the freedoms that teachers have”.

7

Trump attorney general steps down

The US attorney general has resigned after contradicting Donald Trump by saying that the Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. The departure of Trump loyalist William Barr “ends a tenure marked by brazen displays of fealty to a president whose political agenda he willingly advanced”, The Guardian says.

8

Furloughed jobs under threat from automation

As many as 61% of furloughed jobs in the UK are in sectors at high risk of automation, according to a new report. The Commission on Workers and Technology, chaired by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, says that workers in industries hit hardest by the Covid pandemic – including hospitality, leisure and retail – face a “double whammy” as their roles are at the most risk of being replaced by machines.

9

Government launches crackdown on social media

Ministers have announced a new duty of care under which social media companies will face multibillion-pound fines if they fail to protect children and adults who use their services. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Home Secretary Priti Patel said the reforms would create a “new age of accountability” for social media platforms.

10

Blair rock opera plays ‘fast and loose with facts’

A rock opera about the life of Tony Blair will play “fast and loose with the facts”, according to the theatre staging the new show. Tony! (A Tony Blair Rock Opera) will be performed at the Turbine Theatre in London from February and features a colourful cast of characters including Princess Diana, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

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