Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 17 Dec 2020

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

1

PM tells Brits to have a ‘little Christmas’

Boris Johnson has urged the public to have a merry but “little” Christmas. The prime minister told families to show “extreme caution” over the festive season, adding that celebrations should be kept “short and small”. Meanwhile, towns and cities in England will discover today whether they will be moved to a different tier of Covid restrictions when Health Secretary Matt Hancock reveals the outcome of the latest review.

2

Coroner finds pollution killed girl

A coroner has ruled that air pollution was the cause of death of a nine-year-old girl. The Inner South London Coroner’s Court said Ella Kissi-Debrah’s death in February 2013 was caused by acute respiratory failure, severe asthma and air pollution exposure, after she was exposed to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter pollution in excess of World Health Organization guidelines. The ruling is the first of its kind in the UK.

3

New Lockerbie suspect to be charged

The US is expected to charge another suspect in the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing. A Libyan intelligence officer identified as Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, who is in custody in Libya, will be extradited to the US to stand trial, The Wall Street Journal reports. The majority of the 270 victims on the Pan Am flight from London to New York were American citizens. 

4

Unicef to feed hungry UK children

The charity Unicef has launched a domestic emergency response in the UK for the first time in its history. The UN agency, which is responsible for providing humanitarian aid to children worldwide, will help feed children impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said: “The fact that Unicef is having to step in to feed our country’s hungry children is a disgrace and Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak should be ashamed.”

5

Johnson to send MPs home

Boris Johnson will send MPs home for Christmas on Thursday in a move seen as a ploy to intensify pressure on Brussels over Brexit. The Telegraph says the move is a signal to the EU that the PM is “not prepared to cave to EU demands over fishing” as talks continue over the details of a post-Brexit trade deal. Speaking to the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs last night, Johnson quipped: “Don't recall us, we'll recall you”, the paper adds.

6

Ministers may delay school returns

The government may delay the re-opening of schools after Christmas to allow pupils to be tested for Covid-19. Amid growing concern about the spread of the virus, the Department for Education is expected to announce plans for children to be taught online in January. Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, has called for schools to shut early for the Christmas holidays, as well as reopening later than planned in January.

7

Europe scraps pet restriction plan

Pet owners will find it easier to take their beloved creatures to Europe following  Brexit after the European Commission relaxed restrictions that would have forced them to plan trips to the continent three months in advance. Instead, British travellers will need to visit a vet no more than 10 days before travelling to get a certificate proving that their pet has had a rabies injection.

8

Cardinal says Trump is ‘our barbarian’

Cardinal George Pell has praised Donald Trump’s “splendid” Supreme Court appointments and said the president made a “positive contribution” to bringing Christian values into the public sphere. Launching his book Prison Journal, about the 404 days he spent in solitary confinement before his sexual abuse conviction was overturned by Australia’s high court, Pell said the US president is “a bit of a barbarian, but in some important ways, he is our [Christian] barbarian”.

9

Compensation order for IRA suspect

A suspected IRA member blamed for the Hyde Park bombing in 1982 has been ordered to pay more than £700,000 in damages to the daughter of one of the soldiers killed in the operation. Although John Downey was never convicted of the attack, Sarah Jane Young took legal action against him “for vindicatory purposes”, The Times reports. She said she has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, nightmares and flashbacks since the attack, which killed four soldiers at Hyde Park and seven in Regent’s Park.

10

Tory newsletter ‘encourages fake news’

Labour has called for an inquiry into a Conservative Party newsletter that urged the Tories to follow the example of Donald Trump and “weaponise fake news”. The Wellingborough Conservative Association newsletter told Tories to “say the first thing that comes into your head – it’ll probably be nonsense, you may get a bad headline, but if you make enough dubious claims fast enough, you can get away with it”.

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