Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 16 Dec 2020

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

1

PM defies Christmas rule pressure

Plans to relax coronavirus restrictions over Christmas were “in the balance” last night, says The Guardian. Amid warnings that the NHS could be overwhelmed, Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to change course. Labour has called for measures over Christmas to be toughened but The Times says the PM “refuses to revoke Christmas Covid freedom”.

2

MPs may sit on Boxing Day

The government has not ruled out a Boxing Day return to work for MPs as hopes rise of a breakthrough in Brussels. If a Brexit trade deal can be struck in time, The Daily Telegraph says Boris Johnson will push back the Christmas recess instead. MPs and peers would then be asked to sit on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

3

Inflation-busting rise for rail fares

Rail fares will increase by more than expected next year after what the government describes as “unprecedented taxpayer support” for rail during 2020. Regulated fares were expected to increase by 1.6% in January, in line with annual rises to July's RPI inflation rate. However, a more contentious 2.6% increase is being planned for 1 March.

4

Trump loyalist congratulates Biden

A leading ally of Donald Trump has congratulated Joe Biden on winning the presidential election last month. Speaking on the Senate floor, leader of the Republican majority Mitch McConnell said that though he had hoped for a “different result” from the White House election, the electoral college had spoken. “So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” he added.

5

Priests call for gay conversion ban

More than 370 religious leaders from around the world are calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy. The signatories include South African cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland David Rosen. However, religious opponents say a ban could risk criminalising pastors. A 2018 survey of 108,000 members of the LGBT community in the UK suggested 2% have undergone the practice.

6

Redundancies soar to new high

The number of people being made redundant in the UK reached a record high in October. The Office for National Statistics said redundancies rose to 370,000 in the three months to October, the most since records began in 1992. Job losses in retail and hospitality powered the trend, as the government began to scale back its furlough scheme and the second wave of Covid-19 hit.

7

Maxwell requests $28.5m bail deal

Ghislaine Maxwell, accused of being an accomplice to alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, is asking to be released from jail on a $28.5m (£21.1m) bail package. The socialite would remain in the custody of a private security guard under the proposed deal. “Ms Maxwell wants to stay in New York and have her day in court so that she can clear her name and return to her family,” the filing states.

8

Retailers asked to boycott Xinjiang

Campaigners are asking retailers to stop using fabric from Xinjiang in China after a BBC investigation showed hundreds of thousands of Uighurs being forced to pick cotton or work in textile factories linked to detention camps. The Chinese government denies the claims, insisting that the camps are “vocational training schools” and the factories are part of a voluntary “poverty alleviation” scheme.

9

Jenrick abandons plan for housebuilding

The government is to scrap an algorithm that would have dramatically increased housebuilding in the Conservatives’ southern heartlands. Amid a backlash from Tory MPs including Theresa May, Robert Jenrick will announce that England’s 20 biggest cities will instead take a larger share of new homes. Bob Seely, Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, said that the change was “absolutely the right decision”.

10

Harry and Meghan announce ‘amazing’ podcasts

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have signed a deal with Spotify to produce and host podcasts. The couple have promised that the shows will offer “different perspectives” and interviews with “amazing people”. Their charity will receive an undisclosed sum from the partnership between their production company, Archewell Audio, and the streaming service. The first episode will be released over Christmas.

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