Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 21 Dec 2020

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

1

Chaos expected as France shuts border

Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the government's emergency committee after France closed its border with the UK for 48 hours in response to the fast-spreading new strain of Covid-19. No lorries or ferry passengers will be able to sail from the port of Dover, leading to travel chaos. Manston Airport in Kent is being prepared to accommodate up to 4,000 lorries.

2

Brexit teams miss deadline

Brexit trade talks continue this week after negotiators failed to reach an agreement over the weekend. Negotiators edged closer to a compromise on fishing rights but missed the European Parliament’s deadline. This raises the prospect of weeks without arrangements from 1 January even if an agreement is reached, The Guardian reports.

3

Retail chiefs beg Sunak for help

Shop bosses are urging the chancellor to extend a business rates holiday amid fears that new coronavirus measures could put thousands of jobs at risk. After non-essential retailers were ordered to shut under new Tier 4 restrictions, industry executives called for help from Rishi Sunak. The Daily Telegraph says the “beleaguered industry” is forecast to suffer a further £2bn of lost sales per week.

4

Israeli spyware ‘hacked phones’ for UAE

An Israeli private intelligence firm’s spyware was used to hack the phones of dozens of Al Jazeera journalists, claim leading researchers. The experts at the University of Toronto said they discovered what appears to be a major espionage campaign against one of the world’s leading media organisations, ordered by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

5

PM ‘delayed Christmas move to avoid vote’

A senior Conservative MP says Boris Johnson deliberately waited until parliament was no longer sitting to “cancel Christmas”. Sir Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, pointed out that MPs had voted on the original arrangements for the Christmas relaxation. He added: “The view of most colleagues was that, to be changed, another vote would be required in the House of Commons.”

6

Boeing 737 cleared by safety regulator

The executive director of Europe's aviation safety agency says he is “certain” Boeing’s 737 Max is now safe to fly. Patrick Ky insisted his organisation had “left no stone unturned” in its review of the jet and its analysis of design changes made by the manufacturer. The aircraft was grounded in March 2019 after two accidents in which a total of 346 people died.

7

Rise in terror arrests during 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a spike in the number of children being arrested for terrorism, say police. A total of 17 under-18s were arrested in the year to September 2020 compared with 11 in the year to September 2019. Police say the pandemic is promoting a climate for lonely young people to be drawn to terror groups.

8

India crowns new Miss Transqueen

Fashion designer Shaine Soni has been named India’s Miss Transqueen at the country’s beauty pageant for transgender women. She will represent India at next year’s Miss International Queen, the world’s biggest pageant for transgender women. Soni was born biologically male but she identified as a girl from a young age.

9

Pandemic helps us sleep longer

The Covid-19 pandemic means people are finally getting the right amount of sleep, according to a British scientist. Analysis from a sleep-tracking app found users had woken up much later on average after March 2020 than they did last year, while their bedtimes did not significantly change. People are staying in bed for around an hour later.

10

Hamilton named BBC sport personality

Lewis Hamilton has been voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2020. The Formula 1 world champion equalled Michael Schumacher's record of seven world titles with his fourth consecutive championship in 2020. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson finished second in the public vote while jockey Hollie Doyle came in third. “I want to say congratulations to all the incredible nominees,” said Hamilton.

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