Anger over reports ministers plan to use new laws to override Brexit agreement
Boris Johnson’s administration looked to have raised the stakes over this week’s post-Brexit trade negotiations as reports emerged that ministers plan to rip-up the Withdrawal Agreement.
In reports a Government spokesman appeared to confirm, the Financial Times said the Prime Minister is planning new legislation that would override key parts of the Withdrawal Agreement – the treaty that sealed Britain’s exit from the EU in January – in a move that could risk collapsing the trade talks.
Mr Johsnon also plans to give Brussels a five-week deadline to agree fresh trade terms or otherwise call for both sides to “accept” no-deal and spend the rest of the year minimising the extent of the disruption from the fallout.
He is expected to say on Monday that collapsing the trade talks, should there be no agreement by the October 15 European Council, would still be a “good outcome for the UK”, allowing the country to “prosper mightily”.
The pre-briefed words from Mr Johnson arrived as the FT reported that sections of the Internal Market Bill, due to be published on Wednesday, are expected to “eliminate” the legal force of the Withdrawal Agreement in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs.
As part of the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the region is expected to continue to follow some EU rules after the transition period ends in 2021 to ensure there is no hard border – a resolution some Brexiteers were angry about when initially revealed.
Approached about the reports, a Government spokeswoman said it was working to “protect Northern Ireland’s place in our United Kingdom”.
She said: “We are working hard to resolve outstanding issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol through the Joint Committee and will continue to approach these discussions in good faith.
“As a responsible Government, we are considering fall back options in the event this is not achieved to ensure the communities of Northern Ireland are protected.”
But the suggestion that ministers could possibly undermine an international treaty and use Northern Ireland as a bargaining chip has caused uproar among key figures in Ireland and mainland Europe.
Ireland foreign minister Simon Coveney, an influential player in the formation of the Withdrawal Agreement, tweeted: “This would be a very unwise way to proceed.”
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh said: “It beggars belief that the Government is – yet again – playing a dangerous game in Northern Ireland and sacrificing our international standing at the altar of the Prime Minister’s incompetence.”
The suggested move, along with Mr Johnson’s comments about no-deal, is likely to pile the pressure on as negotiators prepare to meet on Tuesday for another round of crunch talks in London.
UK negotiator Lord Frost, in the lead up to his meetings with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, used a rare interview to vouch not to “blink” as the deadline for securing a deal grows closer.
He told the Mail on Sunday (MoS) the UK would not be a “client state” to the EU, adding that Britain would be exiting the transition period “come what may” after December 31.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, said the negotiations had been “boiled down to two outstanding bones of contention” – control of UK fishing waters and the level of taxpayer support the Government will be able to provide businesses – and argued neither “principle” could not be “haggled away”.
Mr Johnson will make clear on Monday that the UK will not budge, telling his counterparts in Brussels the Government “cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country”, and will look to turn attention to preparing for no-deal.
The MoS reported that Downing Street has created a transition hub, with handpicked officials across Government departments working to ensure the UK is ready to trade without a deal when the transition period ceases.
The Prime Minister is expected to say: “We are now entering the final phase of our negotiations with the EU.
“The EU have been very clear about the timetable. I am too. There needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it’s going to be in force by the end of the year.
“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.”
Published: 07/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Search goes on for Birmingham stabbings murder suspect
A lone murder suspect remains on the loose 24 hours after the start of a string of knife attacks that left one dead and seven injured in Birmingham.
The victims were stabbed during a rampage spanning some 90 minutes in the city centre in the early hours of Sunday, leading police to declare a major incident.
West Midlands Police have launched a massive manhunt for a sole male attacker, and yesterday released CCTV footage of a man they said is wanted on suspicion of murder.
But the force is also facing criticism of their response to the attacks, including why the man was allowed to wander the city for as long as he did.
The public have been urged not to approach the man and to call 999 immediately if they recognise him.
The force said they had received a strong response from their appeal for help tracing the man, with a team of detectives working through the night to follow up new lines of inquiry.
A police hotline and website have been set up for people to pass on information.
Police said a 23-year-old man had been killed in the attacks, while a man and a woman, aged 19 and 32, suffered critical injuries.
Five other people, aged between 23 and 33, were also injured. They were treated in hospital, with two later being discharged.
In the footage released by police, the man is shown wearing a dark-coloured baseball cap and zip-up hoodie with white drawstrings.
Also wearing dark-coloured trousers and shoes, he can be seen standing and walking on a street corner.
Meanwhile, Labour MP for Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood, has criticised police, saying the life of the deceased man could “potentially” have been saved had the police response been swifter.
“We’ve got to look at the fact (the suspect) had two hours to run around the city centre, which has a huge amount of CCTV cameras in place,” Mr Mahmood was quoted as saying by The Times.
“Where was the monitoring? Both the public and police were put at further risk. There is a person dead. How was this man able to go on a two-hour spate?”
Jay Singh Johal, the Conservative candidate for West Midlands police, was quoted by the paper as saying it was “remarkable” the police “didn’t immediately release the most important thing
and give a description for what they are looking for. That delay means this guy could be anywhere.”
Chief Superintendent Steve Graham, of West Midlands Police, said: “At this stage we believe that the attacks were random and we have no indication of a motive.
“I would urge people to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to us.
“We are appealing for anyone who recognises the man in the footage to contact us urgently.”
Mr Graham earlier told reporters that there was “no suggestion” the night’s events were linked to terrorism nor was there anything suggesting it was a hate crime or connected to city gang violence.
Police said they received the first call of the night to Constitution Hill, north of the city centre, just after 12.30am, where a man had received a superficial injury.
This was followed by a further call 20 minutes later to nearby Livery Street, next to Snow Hill railway station. A 19-year-old man was critically injured and a woman was also injured.
An hour later at 1.50am, officers were called to Irving Street, to the south of the city centre, where a man died and another man suffered serious injuries.
Ten minutes later police were called to Hurst Street, in the heart of the city’s Gay Village quarter, where a 32-year-old woman was seriously injured and two men received lesser injuries.
West Midlands police and crime commissioner, David Jamieson, earlier called the assaults “disturbing”, with the violence enfolding as revellers had been enjoying the night.
Savvas Sfrantzis, who owns Mykonos bar and grill in Hurst Street, said he witnessed a woman being repeatedly stabbed, just across the street, after he was alerted by her screams.
He said: “I looked at him, facing him, and I can see he had a blade, small, not very big, and he was stabbing her in the neck.”
He described how the attacker was “so cold”, walking calmly away and “smirking”, while other bar staff bravely tried to follow him.
When he was earlier asked by reporters how he could say the city was safe with the alleged attacker still at large, Mr Graham said West Midlands Police had “a significant presence” of officers, armed and unarmed, if the suspect was sighted.
Asked how the knifeman was able to move through the city centre without being caught, Mr Graham described the suspect’s route through Birmingham as “relatively unusual”.
He later added: “We do not underestimate the impact that these incidents have had on the city of Birmingham today.
“We declared this a major incident at the earliest opportunity and we have drafted in scores of officers to help with the investigation and patrol the city to reassure residents and visitors that we are doing all we can to apprehend the person responsible.”
Police said extra officers had “flooded” the city centre on Sunday, with four scenes being held and examined by forensic experts throughout the day.
In Edmund Street, a black-handled serrated kitchen knife was recovered from a drain, but Mr Graham said it was “too early” to link it to the attacks.
Published: 07/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
One dead and seven injured after Birmingham stabbings
Detectives have launched a murder investigation after a man died and seven people were injured in stabbings in Birmingham city centre.
West Midlands police declared a major incident after officers were called to reports of a knife attack in the early hours of Sunday, with further stabbings then being reported.
The force said in a statement said: “We can now confirm that we’ve launched a murder investigation following the events in Birmingham city centre overnight.
“A man has tragically died. Another man and a woman have suffered serious injuries and five others have also been injured, although their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.
“We believe the incidents, which took place between 12.30am and 2.20am, are linked and we’re doing all we can to find whoever was responsible.”
The force said it was at scenes across the city, including Livery Street, Irving Street and Hurst Street.
It urged witnesses or people who have CCTV or mobile phone footage to contact police.
Chief Superintendent Steve Graham, who is responsible for policing in Birmingham, said: “The events during the early hours of this morning are tragic, shocking and understandably frightening.
“Please be assured that we are doing absolutely everything we can to find whoever was responsible and try to understand what exactly happened.
“We have well-rehearsed plans for dealing with major incidents. Your safety is always our priority and that’s why you’ll see an increase in officers on the streets.
“In the meantime, we’d ask anyone who’s in the city to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to us.”
The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: “Last night’s events are truly terrible and have shocked the people of Birmingham, the West Midlands and the country.
“My first thoughts are with the victims and their families at this time.
“I have every faith in West Midlands Police, who are working extremely quickly on this investigation.
“My thanks also go to the ambulance and hospital staff who are working around the clock to help those who have been injured.”
A witness said he saw three casualties being tended to in the Hurst Street area.
The man, who was staying in a city hotel, was en route to a bar when he saw police cordoning off the immediate scene.
He told the PA news agency: “No-one seemed to know what had happened but it was obviously very serious.
“There were three people on the floor being helped.
“I didn’t sleep much after seeing what I had seen. Hearing that someone has died is just terrible.”
Published: 06/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Police charge 26 people following protest outside printing works
Police have charged 26 people with aggravated trespass after protesters blocked the delivery of some of the UK’s major newspapers.
Some newsagents’ shelves were left empty on Saturday morning after Extinction Rebellion demonstrators targeted Newsprinters’ printing works at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire and Knowsley, near Liverpool, overnight.
Merseyside Police said it had since charged 26 people, aged between 19 and 60, following a demonstration at the “News International premises” in Knowsley on Friday night.
They are due to appear at Liverpool and Knowsley Magistrates’ Court and St Helens Magistrates’ Court on January 8 and 13 next year.
Police said all 26 have been granted bail under the condition they do not enter Merseyside or contact any News International employees.
More than 100 demonstrators used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to block roads outside the Newsprinters’ works on Friday evening, with both protests continuing until Saturday afternoon.
The blockade prevented delivery vans from leaving presses which publish the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp’s titles including The Sun, The Times, The Sun On Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday.
Hertfordshire Police said they had taken 50 people into custody.
XR apologised to newsagents for the disruption but added it would not apologise to Mr Murdoch, calling on him to “stop suppressing the truth about the climate crisis and profiting from the division your papers create”.
Government sources have confirmed to the PA news agency that Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to take a “fresh look” at how XR is classified under law after a stunt Boris Johnson deemed “completely unacceptable”.
The review could lead to XR being treated as an organised crime group, sources said, as part of a clampdown on its activities, which have included bringing cities across the UK to a standstill by forming human barriers along major roads and by disrupting public transport.
Under additional proposals, Parliament, courts and the press could be given special status in regard to the key role they play in democracy, with the potential for police to be handed beefed-up powers to stop demonstrators entering designated areas outside such premises.
“It would be illegal to stop MPs going to vote or judges getting to court and it would also protect a free press,” a Government source told PA.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he thought police already had the powers needed to deal with protests.
Speaking to Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, he said: “We always keep all of our laws under review but I think actually the laws are in place to take relevant enforcement action against criminal behaviour.”
Responding to criticism from Ms Patel that their actions were an “attack on our free press”, XR said: “Our free press, society and democracy is under attack – from a failing government that lies to us consistently, is becoming increasingly authoritarian and is leading us towards four degrees of warming.”
Published: 06/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Labour: The return of students to universities will be a “huge logistical exercise”
The return of students to university is a “huge logistical exercise” against the backdrop of Covid-19, according to Labour.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for leadership from ministers, telling BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “It’s clearly a huge logistical exercise to move a million people and that’s what we’re talking about in terms of students.
“I’m afraid there is a running theme with the Government – there has to be a strategy and plan in place, whether we’re talking about a return to offices, care homes earlier in the year, whether we’re now talking about universities.
“What we need going forward is to ensure we do have the test, track and isolate strategy properly set up.”
Facebook’s head of communications Sir Nick Clegg, former Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, was challenged about the social media giant’s response to dealing with anti-vaccination posts.
He told the same programme: “When there is a vaccine, when that is officially sanctioned, of course companies like Facebook want to actively work with the NHS and the Department of Health to make sure people know what is available to them, and Facebook has the reach to do that.”
Published: 06/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Protests at the port of Dover as more than 5,000 migrants reach the UK this year in small boats.
Protesters have gathered at the port of Dover to demonstrate over thousands of migrants reaching the UK in small boats.
There were fears of violence ahead of Saturday with both pro and anti-immigration activists announcing their intention to assemble in the Kent town.
It comes despite pleas from local MP Natalie Elphicke to “stay away” to prevent a second wave of Covid-19.
On Friday night the words “Rise above fear. Refugees welcome” were beamed onto the White Cliffs of Dover by humanitarian charity Freedom From Torture.
A heavy police presence is in place in the town, with large concentrations of officers in Market Square and the railway station.
A cohort of officers on horseback are among those monitoring the situation.
Various groups had announced their intention to travel to Dover on Saturday to protest for or against migrant crossings.
Pro-migrant activists gathered in Market Square in a demonstration organised by Kent Anti Racism Network.
Addressing a crowd of about 100, Peter Keenan from Kent Refugee Help said when society sees people who are fleeing war and turns them away “that says something about the state of your society”.
He continued: “We are not those people. We are standing up and welcoming people who are in desperate circumstances fleeing from awful situations.”
Meanwhile, others were expected to try and “shut the port down” by driving slowly along roads and potentially trying to block harbour entrances with boats.
Anti-racist group Hope Not Hate had raised concerns in advance of the event that there will be violence and that splintered elements of the British far-right may also travel to Dover.
Chief Superintendent Nigel Brookes from Kent Police said: “As a force, it is our responsibility to facilitate peaceful protests, however we will not tolerate violence or disorder.
“Anyone planning to visit Dover with the intention of committing offences should be aware they are not welcome here and that we will seek to prosecute anyone who breaks the law.”
The total number of migrants who have crossed the sea to Britain in 2020 is now more than 5,600, analysis by the PA news agency shows.
Published: 05/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Extinction Rebellion target newspaper printing presses
Ministers and MPs have criticised environmental protesters for targeting two News Corporation printing presses and delaying the delivery of Saturday newspapers.
More than 100 Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to block roads outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool on Friday night.
By Saturday morning, police said some 63 people had been arrested.
The Newsprinters presses publish the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp’s titles including The Sun, The Times, The Sun on Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.
Readers of The Sun and The Times were told on Twitter that the protest action could mean delayed deliveries of papers to newsagents on Saturday morning.
Reacting on Twitter, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “This morning people across the country will be prevented from reading their newspaper because of the actions of Extinction Rebellion.
“This attack on our free press, society and democracy is completely unacceptable.”
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick tweeted: “A good day to #buyanewspaper. A free press matters to all of us who value a free society. They mustn’t be silenced by an intolerant minority.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry told Times Radio on Saturday morning: “This is very worrying and I don’t really know what it is that is expected to be achieved and I know that for many older listeners it’s very much part of their daily life, getting their paper delivered in the morning, and I just think it’s wrong.”
Speaking to the same radio station, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood claimed XR had “lost sight … of how to campaign” on a “very important issue”.
“The Government has done much itself but obviously could do more and we need to work with the people to get that message across so we all can be more aware of the carbon footprint that we create,” Mr Ellwood added.
“But what they’re doing here is to alienate more people. I fear the organisation itself has been hijacked.”
Hertfordshire Police earlier said delivery lorries had not left the Broxbourne site as of 6am on Saturday.
Shortly before 10am, it said 42 people had been arrested, with more expected.
The force previously said officers were called to Great Eastern Road near the Broxbourne plant around 10pm, where they found around 100 protesters who had “secured themselves to structures and one another”.
Newsprinters condemned the protests as an “attack on all of the free press” which had affected workers going about their jobs, and others such as newsagents who face a “financial penalty”.
The company said it had transferred printing to other sites, but that delays would occur in some deliveries of The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times.
Under a banner reading “Free the truth”, XR tweeted that it was using the disruption to expose the newspapers’ “failure to report on the climate & ecological emergency, and their consistent manipulation of truth to suit their own agendas”.
“Coverage in many of the newspapers printed here is polluting national debate on climate change, immigration policy, the rights and treatment of minority groups, and on dozens of other issues,” the group said.
Hertfordshire Police assistant chief constable Owen Weatherill said officers, including from neighbouring forces, had worked throughout the night to ease disruption.
“The inconsiderate actions of a few people have prevented businesses from operating,” he said.
“Protesters ignored our requests to move location, so we have taken robust action to enable the roads to be reopened and to remove the protesters causing obstructions.”
Merseyside Police tweeted on Saturday morning that 21 people had been arrested at the Knowsley plant and officers were still in attendance.
XR protesters also held a smaller demonstration near Motherwell aimed at disrupting the distribution of Saturday’s Scottish Sun newspaper.
Meanwhile, climate change protesters have been warned they risk a large fine if they fail to comply with coronavirus rules banning gatherings of more than 30 people.
The Met Police said risk assessments explaining how XR activists were minimising the possibility of Covid-19 transmission at a planned march in Westminster “did not meet the required standard”.
The force said XR’s latest round of demonstrations “pose a risk, not only to those involved, but to the wider public and communities of London”.
On Saturday, a procession of activists that set off from Brighton on foot a week ago is due to march the final stretch to Parliament.
They have been banned from taking a 20ft model boat named after teenage activist Greta Thunberg to the streets of Westminster.
Published: 05/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Government to deliver 250,000 clear face masks to frontline staff
The Government will deliver 250,000 clear face masks to frontline NHS and social care workers to help them communicate with people with conditions such as hearing loss and dementia.
The transparent masks are made from plastic with an anti-fogging barrier, meaning patients will be able to see the mouth of the wearer as they speak.
This will help the millions of people with hearing loss who need to use lip reading to communicate, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
In May, a group of nine charities said using transparent face masks could prevent “months of misery” for deaf people, calling for clear face coverings to be commissioned.
People with learning disabilities, dementia and autism may also benefit from the clear masks, as many rely on facial expressions to help them communicate.
The Government has said the masks will be delivered to NHS trusts and social care providers in the next few weeks.
All four countries in the UK will receive an allocation of the masks and deliveries have already begun.
Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “Everyone using our remarkable health and care system deserves the best care possible and communication is a vital part of that.
“This pandemic has posed numerous challenges to the sector, so we are always on the hunt for simple solutions to support those giving and receiving care.
“The introduction of clear face masks will help overcome some of the difficulties carers wearing PPE are facing communicating with people who rely on lip reading.
“If this proves a success I look forward to increasing the supply to make sure whenever a clear mask is needed, there is one available.”
Published: 05/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Major incident declared after multiple stabbings in Birmingham
Multiple people have been injured and a major incident declared after a series of stabbings in Birmingham.
Police and paramedics were called to reports of a knife attack in the early hours of Sunday, with further stabbings then being reported.
One witness told BBC Radio 5 Live that the attack seemed like “one group of boys against another group of boys”.
West Midlands Police said there were “a number” of victims, but the severity of their injuries was not immediately known.
The force denied reports of gunshots being fired, and added “it would not be appropriate to speculate on the causes of the incident”.
A witness, Cara, told 5 Live she had heard racial slurs during the incident, adding that it was a “multicultural night” in the clubs near the Arcadian Centre.
She added: “They were not just having an argument and then fighting, it was straight into fists being thrown. There was not much talking going on.
“Drinks were being dropped, bottles that they had obviously bought in the club, rings were falling off so jewellery was going everywhere, clothes were being torn.
“One of the males actually ended up with his hair being pulled out and left with a bald patch.”
The Arcadian venue, located around five minutes’ walk from Birmingham New Street station, is a hub of restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs and hotels.
Featuring an open air central piazza, it is close to the city’s Chinese Quarter and Gay Village areas.
Police said the response would be ongoing “for some time” and urged people to stay away from the area.
The force added: “We are aware of a number of injured people, but at the moment we are not in a position to say how many or how serious.
“However, all emergency services are working together at the scene, and making sure that those who are injured receive medical care.
“Work is still going on to establish what has happened, and could take some time before we are in a position to confirm anything.”
Published: 05/09/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Derbyshire County Council is highlighting a raft of new support services aiming to help reduce the number of suicides in Derbyshire. The support ranges from online suicide prevention training to the launch of a new emotional health website and coincides with World Suicide Prevention Day which is on Thursday 10 September. The theme for 2020 is […]