Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 November 2021

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

1

UK blames EU for migration crisis

Priti Patel has accused the EU of causing a “mass-migration crisis” in the Channel, arguing that the Schengen agreement, which abolished borders between member states, had left France “overwhelmed” with migrants trying to reach Britain. “Let’s not forget that the real problem on illegal migration flows is the EU has no border protections whatsoever,” she said during a visit to Washington. More than 24,500 migrants have crossed the Channel in small boats this year, almost three times as many as last year.

2

India U-turns on farm laws

The prime minister of India has announced the repeal of three controversial farm laws after a year of protests. Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi’s borders since last November, arguing that the laws allowed the entry of private agricultural companies that would hurt their income. Narendra Modi’s unexpected announcement marks a significant U-turn. Farm campaigners have called it a huge victory.

3

Amazon deforestation rocketing

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has hit its highest level in more than 15 years after increasing by 22% in a year, according to Brazil’s space research agency. Some 5,110 square miles of it was lost during the past year. The rainforest is home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people. President Jair Bolsonaro has encouraged agriculture and mining activities in the Amazon.

4

Johnson has ‘betrayed the north’

The government has been accused of betraying northern constituents after its U-turn on high-speed rail. After ministers decided to scrap the HS2 line to Leeds, senior Conservative MPs, regional leaders and industry figures have accused them of failing to deliver what they had promised with their £96bn rail plan. The Mirror said Boris Johnson’s 2019 manifesto mentioned the pledge to build the high-speed link 60 times, while The Telegraph said the PM “faced a backlash... from ‘deeply disappointed’ Tory MPs”.

5

Bank scam victims to get money back

Banks will be forced to refund victims of money transfer scams under new reforms. After the payment systems regulator announced proposals to make reimbursement for scam victims mandatory, the economic secretary to the Treasury said the government would remove any obstacles to the plan at the earliest opportunity. “Authorised push payment” scams, in which people are tricked into sending money to another account, have soared in recent years. Losses hit £355m for the first half of this year.

6

Threat of full lockdowns in Europe

Europe is “staring down the barrel of full lockdowns” as a fourth wave of Covid plagues the continent, said The Telegraph. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has left the door open to lockdown restrictions and neighbouring Austria, which became the first European country to lock down the unvaccinated, is considering a full federal shutdown. The European Medicines Agency blamed people not getting jabbed and the delta variant of Covid for the soaring cases.

7

Stop-and-search use soars

The number of stop-and-search operations carried out by police has risen by 24% to almost 700,000 in a single year, according to the Home Office. The Guardian said that officers have used the tactic “on the equivalent of one in five male minority ethnic teenagers”. Use of the strategy increased dramatically over the period covering lockdowns, while the proportion resulting in arrest dropped from 13% to 11%. Katrina Ffrench, the director of Unjust UK, said: “The data doesn’t lie. Black communities are clearly not receiving a fair service.”

8

Austerity left children vulnerable, say Lords

Cuts to family support and youth services mean more than a million vulnerable children in England are growing up emotionally damaged and with reduced life chances, a cross-party House of Lords inquiry has found. The Lords Public Services Committee said Covid had accelerated a pre-existing “crisis of child vulnerability” in which increasing number of youngsters and parents were unable to access help before their problems spun out of control.

9

British officers sent to Belarus

The defence secretary has said about 150 British army Royal Engineers will be sent to help reinforce Poland’s border with Belarus. Ben Wallace said those sent would not be combat troops but “guys with diggers”. Tensions have grown in recent weeks as Belarus pushes migrants towards its border with Poland and encourages them to enter the EU.

10

New pressure on Charles charity

The Charity Commission is launching a statutory inquiry – the regulator’s “most serious level of probe”, says the Daily Mail – into the activities of Prince Charles’s charity. The regulator wants to establish whether donations meant for the prince’s charity ended up at the Mahfouz Foundation, run by a Saudi billionaire awarded an honorary CBE by Charles. Regulators in Scotland are also investigating a £500,000 gift received from a Russian donor.

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