Biden warns Northern Ireland peace deal must not be ‘casualty’ of Brexit
US presidential election frontrunner Joe Biden has insisted the Good Friday peace deal in Northern Ireland cannot become a “casualty” of Brexit.
The intervention by the Democratic Party nominee for the White House came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces concerted opposition to Government moves that would override the divorce deal with Brussels regarding trade with Northern Ireland.
As Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was visiting Washington DC to discuss the issue, former vice president Mr Biden, who is leading incumbent president Donald Trump in a series of nationwide polls ahead of the November election, said a future trade deal between the US and UK could only happen if the peace agreement was respected.
Mr Biden tweeted: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.
“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”
His comments came as Mr Johnson saw the resignation of a senior law officer, Lord Keen, and was forced into a compromise over controversial plans to break international law by overriding the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
The remarks echoed those of Democratic Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.
Before a meeting with Ms Pelosi, Mr Raab accused Brussels of the “politicisation” of Northern Ireland issues in the context of Brexit trade talks.
He said the EU stance threatened the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Raab said he had made clear the UK has an “absolute” commitment to the Good Friday Agreement.
“The UK action here is defensive in relation to what the EU is doing, it is precautionary, we haven’t done any of this yet, and it is proportionate,” he said.
“What we cannot have is the EU seeking to erect a regulatory border down the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Britain.”
Ms Pelosi has warned Congress would never pass a free trade agreement with the UK if legislation to override the Brexit divorce settlement was to “imperil” the peace process.
She said in a statement following her meeting with Mr Raab that she “welcomed his assurances but reiterated the same message that we delivered to the leaders of the UK in London last year: if the UK violates its international agreements and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress”.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Mr Raab, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had “great confidence” the British Government “will get this right in a way that treats everyone fairly and gets a good outcome for what it was the people of the United Kingdom voted for now several years back”.
The Government will table an amendment to the UK Internal Market Bill, giving MPs a vote before it can use powers which would breach the deal brokered with Brussels last year.
Around 30 Tory rebels were thought to be preparing to vote for an amendment on Tuesday which would have required a Commons vote before the provisions in the Bill relating to Northern Ireland could come into force.
Downing Street relented and announced in a joint statement with Conservative MPs Sir Bob Neill and Damian Green that it would seek to amend the Bill to require the Commons to vote before a minister can use the powers.
The statement said: “Following constructive talks over the last few days, the Government has agreed to table an amendment for Committee Stage.
“This amendment will require the House of Commons to vote for a motion before a minister can use the ‘notwithstanding’ powers contained in the UK Internal Market Bill.”
But Mr Johnson risked further conflict with the EU when he said Brussels was not acting in good faith.
He told the Sun: “We assumed our EU friends and partners would want to negotiate in good faith. We’ve been paid up members for 45 years.”
The Government’s top law officer for Scotland resigned on Wednesday amid reports he was unhappy about the plans to override the Withdrawal Agreement.
Lord Keen of Elie QC, the Advocate General, said in his resignation letter: “Over the past week I have found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what I consider to be my obligations as a Law Officer with your policy intentions with respect to the UKIM Bill.
“I have endeavoured to identify a respectable argument for the provisions at clauses 42 to 45 of the Bill but it is now clear that this will not meet your policy intentions.
Labour’s shadow attorney general Lord Falconer said: “This has been a week of chaos from the Government’s own law officers, whose legal advice has been renounced by its own Government and the voice of the law officers has been muted, and their authority is completely shot.”
Published: 17/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
To help the people of North Derbyshire complete their Virtual Sparkle Night in aid of Ashgate Hospicecare, Spire Radio will be live from 6 pm on Saturday 19th September with an all-request show dedicated to everyone taking part in this year’s event. The Sparkle Night Walk is Ashgate Hospicecare’s biggest fundraising event of the year, […]
Harry Styles postpones all shows for the rest of 2020
Harry Styles has postponed all of his planned shows for the rest of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The chart-topping singer said “everyone’s health and safety remains our top priority” as he pushed back tour dates in South America, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand “until further notice”.
He added: “I really hope to play the shows as planned for 2021 but will continue to monitor the situation over the coming weeks and months.
“I can’t wait to see you all on the road as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
Styles, 26, had been set to take his Love On Tour tour to Monterrey, Mexico, at the end of the month.
This would have been followed by performances in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, New Zealand and Australia.
The North American and European dates had previously been pushed back to next year.
They included a planned Halloween-themed “Harryween” at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Styles’s most recent album Fine Line was released in December last year and was supported by the singles Lights Up, Adore You, Falling and Watermelon Sugar.
Published: 16/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Eat Out to Help Out scheme sees inflation fall to near-five year low
Last month’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme and the Government’s VAT cut helped push UK inflation to its lowest level for nearly five years in August, according to official figures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the Consumer Prices Index tumbled from 1% in July to 0.2% in August – the lowest rate since December 2015.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s popular Eat Out to Help Out discount last month to encourage people to eat out again after lockdown was the biggest driver in pushing down the rise in the cost of living by slashing prices in restaurants and cafes.
The ONS also said the cut to value added tax (VAT) on hospitality and tourism from 20% to 5% helped lower inflation.
It added that air fares fell in August for the first time on record as the pandemic saw more Britons holiday in the UK this summer.
Clothes prices also fell back as retailers held off from rising prices for the usual autumn selling season.
Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: “The cost of dining out fell significantly in August thanks to the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme and VAT cut, leading to one of the largest falls in the annual inflation rate in recent years.
“For the first time since records began, air fares fell in August as fewer people travelled abroad on holiday.
“Meanwhile the usual clothing price rises seen at this time of year, as autumn ranges hit the shops, also failed to materialise.”
Published: 16/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Hancock forced to prioritise who gets Covid-19 tests in face of increased demand
Coronavirus tests in England will be rationed as the Government struggles to get to grips with soaring demand amid warnings that the country faces a tough six months in the battle with Covid-19.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there would be “prioritisation” of tests for people with acute clinical need and those in social care settings as he acknowledged “operational challenges” in the system.
He faced a barrage of complaints in the Commons about people being forced to travel long distances or even enter false addresses in the hope of securing a test.
On Tuesday evening Bolton NHS Foundation Trust said a “high volume of patients” had turned up at accident and emergency asking for a coronavirus test.
The trust tweeted: “A&E is currently very busy, managing a high volume of patients who have arrived requesting a #COVID19 test
“Patients are requested not to turn up to the hospital.”
Bolton has the highest infection rate in England.
NHS leaders have called for health workers and patients to be given priority after Government sources admitted that demand for tests is currently far outstripping supply.
Mr Hancock said an updated prioritisation list would set out who will be at the front of the queue.
It comes after anyone suffering symptoms, regardless of where they work or live, were urged to book tests in recent months and amid concerns that the return of children to school – and a Government drive to get employees back in the workplace – could increase testing demand.
“We have seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible,” Mr Hancock said.
“As demand has risen, so we are having to prioritise once again and I do not shirk from decisions about prioritisation. They are not always comfortable, but they are important.”
Acute clinical care is the top priority, with social care next on the list and currently receiving more than 100,000 tests a day.
Mr Hancock said prioritisation was “a choice that we must make”.
Government sources acknowledged there was no accurate data on how many people who are not eligible for a test have tried to book one.
Mr Hancock admitted that it might be “a matter of weeks” before the testing problems are resolved.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth claimed Mr Hancock was “losing control of this virus”.
Mr Hancock told MPs that the average distance travelled to a test site is now 5.8 miles and defended the Government’s efforts.
But in the Commons:
– Twickenham MP Munira Wilson said her constituents had been told to enter a postcode as if they lived in Aberdeen in order to secure a test near their south-west London homes.
– Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said constituents in his Surrey constituency had been sent to Bristol or the Isle of Wight for tests.
– Public Accounts Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said 90 people were turned away from a walk-in test centre in east London by staff from Deloitte, which runs the service.
Downing Street was forced to deny reports that tests are not available in the worst-hit parts of England.
A No 10 spokesman said: “Our capacity continues to be targeted to where it is most needed, which is why booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for people with symptoms.”
The testing situation was discussed at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, who has been advising ministers, said the speed at which more people would need tests had been underestimated and warned that the problem could get worse.
Sir John told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think they are definitely behind the curve in terms of getting the necessary tests for what we need today.”
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said the health service in England had been hit by staff being off work who were unable to get a test or were forced to wait for results.
He said the NHS “simply can’t spare members of staff waiting for tests not being able to come into work” and patients unable to be tested.
Professor Alan McNally, director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham, who helped set up the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab, told BBC Breakfast there were “clearly underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about”, plus a surge in demand for tests.
Leading figures in Whitehall are braced for a difficult winter with the possibility of further increases in Covid-19 cases among the more vulnerable elderly population.
“This is going to be a problem for six months and I think anyone who thinks otherwise is extremely optimistic,” a senior source said.
While the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 was relatively low, the source said “the direction of travel is only going to go one way, in my view between now and the winter, which is up”.
“And as that happens, the risk is that we get bigger numbers,” the source warned, potentially leading to an increase in the number of deaths.
The Government said that as of 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 3,105 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
A further 27 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday. This brings the UK total to 41,664.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 57,500 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Published: 16/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Parents of Year Six pupils living in Derbyshire can now apply to Derbyshire County Council for their child’s secondary school place for September 2021. Around 9,000 year six primary school children – who were born between 1 September 2009 and 31 August 2010 – have been sent information about the application process. The deadline to […]
Unemployment rises amid pandemic – Scotland
Unemployment in Scotland rose between May and July amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to latest figures.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the unemployment rate for people aged 16 and over increased to 4.6% (128,000) over that period, a 0.1% increase on the previous quarter.
This was higher than the the UK wide rate of 4.1%.
The proportion of people aged 16-64 in employment also rose to 74.3% (2.65 million), a 0.1% increase on the previous quarter.
Business Minister Jamie Hepburn said: “For the period May to July 2020, Scotland’s employment rate estimate rose slightly over the quarter to 74.3% and the unemployment rate estimate also rose slightly over the quarter to 4.6%.
“These figures only partially show how the lockdown measures needed to suppress coronavirus (Covid-19) have affected our economy and labour market – they still do not reflect the full impact on employment as the Job Retention Scheme will have offered some relief to many employers and employees.
“Our Programme for Government, published this month, has protecting and renewing Scotland’s labour market at its heart through our new National Mission to create new, good, green jobs.
“This includes a National Transition Training Fund to support up to 10,000 people at risk of redundancy or unemployment and the Scottish Youth Guarantee, worth £60 million, will ensure every young person has the opportunity of work, education, or training.
“A new £100 million Green Jobs Fund will be created while a new Inward Investment Plan will create 100,000 high value jobs over the next decade and boost GDP.
“We continue to call on the UK Government to also play its part and extend the Job Retention Scheme, particularly for sectors such as travel, tourism and hospitality that face significant long-term challenges, likely to remain when the scheme ends next month.”
Published: 15/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
NHS staff forced to stay off work due to lack of testing – leaders
A lack of testing is contributing to staff absences across the NHS, putting services at risk, health leaders have warned.
NHS Providers, which represents NHS trust leaders, said hospitals in Bristol, Leeds and London had raised concerns over the weekend about the lack of tests available for NHS staff.
It warned that the recovery of normal NHS services was being put in jeopardy, while preparations for the winter pressures of Covid-19 and seasonal flu were being hampered.
NHS staff are having to self-isolate due an inability to get a test for themselves or family members, it said.
Testing has come under intense scrutiny after people across England reported they were unable to book tests, or were being offered tests hundreds of miles away.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said there was a lack of detailed operational information on the shortages, such as how long they will last.
He said: “It’s clear that there are current capacity problems with the testing regime.
“Trust leaders from Bristol, Leeds and London have all raised concerns over the weekend about the lack of testing availability leading to greater levels of staff absence.
“It’s not just access for tests for staff members themselves, it’s also access for their family members as NHS workers have to self-isolate if their family members are unable to confirm if they have Covid-19 or not.
“The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests.
“They need to know all this information so that they can plan accordingly.
“For example, trusts need to know if they should try to create or re-establish their own testing facilities as quickly as possible.”
Mr Hopson said NHS trusts were also concerned about the impact of testing shortages on patients who need to be tested before being admitted for hospital treatment.
“We’re aware of a small number of examples of patients being unable to get such tests, which cuts across trusts’ ability to restore services in the way they have been asked to do,” he said.
“We are concerned, for example, that patients waiting for hospital treatment can no longer highlight this fact when applying online to access a test.
“We need to prioritise tests for healthcare workers and their families and patients coming in for treatment, many of whom have already waited longer than normal.
“Our recent survey showed how concerned trust leaders were about the impact of inadequate testing on their ability to restore services and it’s disappointing that no detailed information on the current problems has been shared.”
He urged the Government “to be honest and open” about what was going on.
“The Government response has often been to rely on a random, impressive sounding, overall statistic – the number of tests performed or PPE (personal protective equipment) items delivered – or to set out a bold future ambition – a world class test and trace service by June, or a moonshot testing regime at some point next year,” he said.
“Both approaches ignore the operational problem at hand. Neither helps the frontline organisations that actually have to deal with the problem.”
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said testing capacity has been targeted at the hardest-hit areas following a rise in demand.
An NHS spokeswoman said: “Hospitals continue to fully comply with recommended patient and staff testing protocols. To further support the national Test and Trace programme, NHS hospital labs have now been asked to further expand their successful, fast turnaround and highly accurate, testing capacity.”
Published: 15/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Around 695,000 jobs lost since March as unemployment rises
Around 695,000 UK workers have been removed from the payrolls of British companies since March when the coronavirus lockdown began, according to official figures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate of unemployment increased as another 36,000 jobs fell off payrolls across the country.
Meanwhile, unemployment increased by 104,000 to 1.4 million for the three months to July.
It said the rate of unemployment therefore increased to 4.1%, in line with analyst expectations.
ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: “Some effects of the pandemic on the labour market were beginning to unwind in July as parts of the economy reopened.
“Fewer workers were away on furlough and average hours rose.
“The number of job vacancies continued to recover into August, too.
“Nonetheless, with the number of employees on the payroll down again in August and both unemployment and redundancies sharply up in July, it is clear that coronavirus is still having a big impact on the world of work.”
Published: 15/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Test and trace system must be fit for purpose, Government warned
Health leaders have urged the Government to be more “honest” over problems with coronavirus testing as a senior doctor said a “fit for purpose” system is needed now.
It comes amid signs of strain on testing capabilities causing large queues, people reporting they have been unable to get tests and others being offered tests hundreds of miles from their homes.
The problems are also contributing to staff absences with some health workers having to self-isolate because they or members of their household are unable to get tests, an organisation representing trust leaders said.
NHS Providers added that trusts are “working in the dark” because they are not being told why the shortages are occurring or how long they are likely to last.
Chief executive Chris Hopson urged the Government “to be honest and open” about what was going on.
He said there has often been a reliance on a “random, impressive sounding, overall statistic”, giving the examples of a “world class test and trace service by June, or a moonshot testing regime at some point next year”.
But he said those approaches “ignore the operational problem at hand”.
Deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery told the BBC a lack of testing was affecting services across the UK.
She said: “It means that trusts up and down the country are unable to start the restoration of services that we so desperately need to see after Covid.
“And also, critically, they are now preparing for winter and if they have staff unable to come and work on the front line because they haven’t had tests that’s going to make it incredibly difficult for them.”
The British Medical Association’s council chairman said that despite the Government’s ambitious Operation Moonshot plan for millions of UK tests to be carried out daily, the focus must be on the testing system currently in place.
In a speech to the doctors’ union’s annual meeting on Tuesday, Dr Chaand Nagpaul is expected to say: “The Government is now shooting for the moon promising to deliver mass continuous testing with a test that doesn’t yet exist at a cost nearly as much as the total NHS budget.
“Down here on Planet Earth, we need a fit for purpose test and trace system in the here and now with capacity, agility and accessibility that doesn’t require 100-mile journeys that disadvantage some of the most vulnerable.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted last week that there had been “challenges in access to tests” but insisted that “the vast majority of people get their tests rapidly and close to home”.
Residents in Bolton, where the infection rate is the highest in England, have complained of long delays in trying to book a test and in some cases being offered appointments in other areas of the UK.
Council chiefs have urged the Government to treat “major flaws” with the online booking system for tests as “a matter of the utmost priority”.
Council leaders in Sefton, Merseyside, and Bury, Greater Manchester, urged people to only apply for a test if they had symptoms or had been asked to do so, amid reports of a rise in requests from those without symptoms.
An NHS spokeswoman said hospital labs have been asked to “further expand their successful, fast-turnaround and highly accurate testing capacity” to support the test and trace programme.
Meanwhile Labour has called on the Government to set out a “clear winter plan” to protect care homes amid signs they are experiencing a new rise in Covid-19 cases.
In a letter to Mr Hancock, shadow minister for social care Liz Kendall said there must be action in five areas – one being the weekly, rapid testing of care staff across all settings – to ensure past “mistakes” are not repeated.
The World Health Organisation’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that testing was one of the “public health basics” countries need to do well to be able to “reopen their societies, economies and borders safely”.
Elsewhere, the first night of the Government’s new “rule of six” legislation did not seem to have deterred crowds from restaurants and bars in central London, although groups appeared to be sticking to the six-person limit.
Published: 15/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub