Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 18 January 2022

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

1

Covid rules ‘to end in March’

Downing Street is drawing up plans to phase out England’s remaining pandemic restrictions in March, according to reports. A senior source confirmed to The Guardian that the PM was looking at ending mandatory self-isolation for positive Covid cases, replacing it instead with “guidance”. The paper said the “beleaguered” Boris Johnson wants to signal to his backbenchers that he is prepared to let the UK live with the virus. A World Health Organisation special envoy for Covid-19 has said there is now “light at the end of the tunnel” for the UK in tackling the disease.

2

Lords defeat police bill

The government has suffered a defeat in the House of Lords over its controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The government lost in 14 divisions, including plans to punish people who lock themselves to objects with up to 51 weeks’ imprisonment, as well as suspicion-less stop-and-search and the introduction of “serious disruption prevention orders” against protesters. In another defeat for the government, the Lords voted to make misogyny a hate crime, an idea that the PM had rejected in October. 

3

Tonga aid efforts hampered by ash

New Zealand wants to send aid to disaster-struck Tonga but ash on the capital’s main airport runway is preventing relief planes from landing. Fears of a possible humanitarian crisis on the archipelago are growing after Saturday’s volcanic eruption sparked a tsunami and severed an undersea communications cable, cutting off the country from the outside world. The mission to repair the cable could take up to a fortnight.

4

‘Pay-per-mile’ for London drivers

Drivers in London could be charged for every journey from 2024 under plans being drawn up to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. Sadiq Khan, the capital’s mayor, said the city should be a global leader in introducing smart road pricing, as a report found car journeys in the capital needed to be cut by more than a quarter to meet net-zero emissions targets by 2030. The BBC said that drivers could expect a “pay-per-mile road charging system” in the future. 

5

Cummings said PM lied over party

Dominic Cummings has accused Boris Johnson of lying after Downing Street denied that the PM was warned against allowing a “bring your own booze” party during the first lockdown. The former aide said Johnson “waved aside” concerns about the gathering. The PM has admitted he attended the event on 20 May 2020, but insisted he believed it was work-related. But, wrote Cummings on his blog, “he knew he was at a drinks party cos he was told it was a drinks party and it was actually a drinks party”.

6

Magistrates can double jail time

The government is planning to allow magistrates in England and Wales to jail criminals for up to a year, rather than the current six-month limit, under plans to clear court backlogs. Stuart Matthews, a partner at the criminal defence firm Reeds Solicitors, warned people to “be afraid” – describing magistrates as largely “untrained volunteers, many of whom do not understand even the most basic of legal principles”.

7

Netanyahu closing on plea deal

Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Israeli prime minister, is negotiating a plea deal which could end his corruption trial, according to a source close to the talks. An agreement could see the 72-year-old plead guilty to reduced charges in return for community service, instead of a potential jail term. The main stumbling block is said to be that Netanyahu is objecting to accepting a charge that would require him to leave politics. He is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

8

Abu Dhabi ‘drone attacks’

Three people have been killed and six injured by suspected drone attacks in Abu Dhabi. Three fuel trucks exploded and a fire broke out near Abu Dhabi airport on Monday in what Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group is claiming as an attack deep inside the United Arab Emirates. Two Indian nationals and one Pakistani were killed in the fireballs. The attack is likely to raise regional tensions as a crucial phase nears in nuclear discussions with Tehran.

9

Airline chiefs appeal against 5G

Bosses from the ten largest airlines in the US have asked Joe Biden for “immediate intervention” in the planned rollout of 5G technology near major airports. The sector is concerned that 5G signals will interfere with sensitive aviation technology like altimeters and impact low-visibility operations. “The ripple effects across both passenger and cargo operations, our workforce and the broader economy are simply incalculable,” the executives wrote. “To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.”

10

FTSE returns to pre-crisis highs

The FTSE 100 has continued its positive start to the year, approaching pre-pandemic highs. The blue-chip index gained 0.9% to pass the 7,600 points level for the first time since January 2020. The Telegraph said sentiment was boosted by takeover talk after it was confirmed that Unilever had tabled an unsuccessful £50bn bid for GSK’s consumer healthcare arm. More mergers and acquisitions are expected, as many FTSE-listed firms are regarded as undervalued.

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