Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 March 2022
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
PM compared Ukrainian struggle to Brexit
Boris Johnson is under fire for comparing the struggle of Ukrainians to people in Britain voting for Brexit. In a speech to the Conservative Party's spring conference, the PM said Britons, like Ukrainians, had the instinct “to choose freedom” and cited the 2016 vote to leave the EU as a “recent example”. Tory peer Lord Barwell said voting in a referendum was not "in any way comparable with risking your life" in a war. Guy Verhofstadt, who led the European parliament in Brexit negotiations, described the comments as “insane”.
Moscow escalates with hypersonic missiles
Russia has failed to gain control of the air and is “largely relying on stand-off weapons” launched from Russian airspace, said the UK defence ministry. Meanwhile, US officials have confirmed to CNN that Russia launched hypersonic missiles against Ukraine last week, the first known use of such missiles in combat. Traveling at very high speed, hypersonic weapons are difficult to detect, posing a challenge to missile defence systems.
Whitehall justified P&O sackings
A leaked memo has revealed that Whitehall officials attempted to justify P&O Ferries’ sacking of 800 workers by telling ministers it would “ensure that they remain a key player in the UK market for years to come through restructuring”. The Department for Transport shared the memo across the government, including with the prime minister’s private office, before P&O told staff in a video recording on Thursday that it was their final day at the company. Cabinet ministers then condemned the redundancies as a public backlash ensued, noted The Sunday Times.
William sparks indigenous rights row
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were forced to pull out of a planned visit to a Mayan village on the first leg of a royal tour of the Caribbean after its residents accused the prince of personally perpetrating an “injustice”. Locals are furious that they have been denied access to 12,000 acres in the area which a charity, which William is a patron of, bought to preserve wildlife from agricultural interests.
PM and Sunak at nuclear odds
The Sunday Telegraph reported that Boris Johnson is privately frustrated with Rishi Sunak over the chancellor's apparent resistance to the PM’s desire for a dramatic increase in the number of nuclear power plants in Britain. According to government sources, the PM is fuming that Sunak has not backed the “dash to nuclear” that Johnson believes is needed to shore up Britain's energy supplies long-term in the face of the Ukraine crisis.
Booster jabs from next week
Around 600,000 people in England will be invited to book an additional Covid booster this week. The jab is being offered to adults over the age of 75, care home residents and the most vulnerable over-12s, with around five million people in the UK eligible. Last month the UK's vaccines advisers said some immunity from previous jabs is likely to be waning. Covid cases are rising across the UK, with an estimated one in every 20 people infected.
Scotland sizzles on warm UK day
Saturday was the warmest day of the year so far, said the Met Office, with the mercury reaching 20C in Kinlochewe in north-west Scotland, about 10C above average for this time of year in the area. All four home nations also basked in temperatures well above the average for March the temperatures are forecast to drop on Sunday with highs of 13C in Wales, 11C in Scotland and England and 10C in Northern Ireland.
Plans for Queen to pace herself
The Queen’s workload has been “under review” as palace aides work with royal doctors to ensure that she paces herself, reported the Sunday Telegraph and she is “unlikely to ever undertake hours of investitures again”. Duties that require her to walk significant distances or stand for extended periods will be curtailed after the Queen admitted to a pair of military visitors to Windsor Castle: “As you can see, I can’t move.”
Dragon joins refugee scheme
A twenty-something investor on BBC programme Dragons’ Den has announced he has signed up to offer his home to a Ukrainian family fleeing the war as part of the UK government’s sponsorship scheme. Steven Bartlett, the founder and former CEO of social media marketing agency The Social Chain, said he would donate the scheme’s £350 monthly allowance to the Disasters Emergency Committee, which is carrying out work in Ukraine.
West banned from Grammys
Kanye West has been barred from performing at next month’s Grammy awards ceremony due to “concerning online behaviour”, a representative for the rapper has said. The news comes after West, now legally known as Ye, was suspended from Instagram for 24 hours after responding to criticism from Trevor Noah, the comedian and Daily Show host, by using a racial slur. The post was then deleted.