Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 18 May 2022

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

1

Ministers ‘warm to windfall tax’

The government is warming to the idea of introducing a windfall tax on oil and gas companies after discovering the move would be “wildly popular” with the public, said The Telegraph. Voter research conducted in Whitehall has found that as many as eight in ten people back the tax raid on energy companies with increased profits. Focus groups also found that voters consider oil and gas companies to be “corporate cowboys”. The paper added that the findings help explain why Rishi Sunak has “kept the door open” for a one-off windfall tax, a move that his party “traditionally opposes”.

2

‘Wild speculation’ over arrested MP

A Conservative MP has been arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that the unnamed backbencher in his 50s was in custody over allegations dating back to between 2002 and 2009. The party said the MP had been asked by the chief whip not to attend Parliament while an investigation is held, reported the BBC. Conservative politicians are now fearing that their party’s decision to not identify the man could “spark wild speculation” about his identity, said the Daily Mail.

3

EU threatens trade war

The European Commission has raised the prospect of a trade war with the UK, vowing to respond with “all measures at its disposal” if London rewrites the Northern Ireland protocol, reported The Guardian. Yesterday, foreign secretary Liz Truss announced plans for a bill that would make key changes to the protocol, including “waiving all checks on goods flowing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland where they are not destined for the Republic of Ireland”, said the paper. Maroš Šefčovič, a European Commission vice-president, said that “unilateral actions contradicting an international agreement are not acceptable”.

4

Depp lawyers turn on Heard

Johnny Depp’s lawyers have accused Amber Heard of using drugs, striking him and manipulating photos she has used as evidence of his alleged abuse. The actor’s legal team tried to discredit his ex-wife by disputing her claim that Depp sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle. Cross-examining Heard in court in Fairfax County, Virginia, Depp’s lawyer, Camille Vasquez, suggested it was actually the actress who had attacked her then-husband with a bottle in 2015. Depp is suing Heard for $50m (£40m) over a column she wrote in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic abuse.

5

Pollution causes one in six deaths

A global study has found that pollution is killing nine million people a year, making it responsible for one in six of all deaths. Toxic air and contaminated water and soil “is an existential threat to human health and planetary health, and jeopardises the sustainability of modern societies”, the review, published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, concluded. The researchers estimated the economic impact of pollution deaths at $4.6tn (£3.7tn), about $9m a minute, said The Guardian.

6

Ukraine tries to save Mariupol troops

Ukraine is doing “everything possible and impossible” to save the remaining fighters trapped in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant, said deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar. The BBC said that Ukraine wants its troops – the last defenders of the southern port city – to be exchanged for captured Russian soldiers as part of an evacuation deal confirmed by Moscow. Meanwhile, Russian investigators plan to interrogate the soldiers who have already been evacuated from the steelworks and could charge them with “crimes committed by the Ukrainian regime against the civilian population in south-east Ukraine”.

7

Government ‘failed NHS workers’

The government failed in its duty to protect NHS staff during the Covid pandemic, a major health union has claimed. The British Medical Association (BMA) said medics came to avoidable harm and suffering, and that the government “failed in its duty of care” in its management of the Covid-19 pandemic, reported The Independent. The BMA’s report explored the impact of the shortages of PPE on health workers, with accounts from doctors suggesting they did not have access to adequate protective equipment during the first pandemic wave.

8

‘Ferry’ vessels deployed for migrants

Border Force has deployed “ferry-style” vessels to pick up migrants after the government’s new Rwanda policy failed to stem a surge in illegal Channel crossings, said The Telegraph. As the number of migrants reaching British shores approached 9,000 in less than five months – more than double last year’s rate – two crew transfer vessels, that can each carry 92 migrants, were sent to the Channel. Legal challenges are likely to delay the first one-way flights to Rwanda, which Boris Johnson had initially wanted by the end of the month.

9

Nursing demographics ‘unsustainable’

Nearly 50% of the new nurses and midwives registered to work in the UK in the past year have come from overseas, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has found. The total – more than 23,000 – has led nurse leaders to question whether international recruitment on this scale is sustainable. The data for 2021-22 also found that more than 27,000 nurses left the register last year, up 13% on the year before and reversing a downward trend in leavers seen in recent times.

10

Cooking oil price rises by 40%

Cooking oil is one of the goods to jump most in price this year, going up by 18% in the last year on average across all variations, reported The Telegraph. Rapeseed oil and coconut oil prices have risen by more than 40%, while sunflower oil and vegetable oil have gone up by 39%. Dairy products have also risen sharply along with pasta, which has soared in price by 16.2% compared with 2021. One item, add the paper, has more than quadrupled in price since May 2021: the price of Morrisons’s apple crumble has gone up by 341%.

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