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Listen up, Michel! MEPs threaten to BLOCK Brexit deal even if Barnier approves it

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Senior members of the European Parliament have hinted they are still prepared to veto the free-trade agreement if the Brussels diplomat doesn’t present a “sufficiently balanced” compromise. Their warning comes as Mr Barnier is locked in intensive online negotiations with UK counterpart Lord Frost as time runs out to secure a future relationship pact. Talks resumed online yesterday after they were brought to a halt last week when an EU official tested positive for coronavirus.

The Frenchman is expected to travel to London for face-to-face talks later this week.

Disputes over future access to Britain’s fishing waters and common standards, including state aid rules, are holding up a significant breakthrough.

With EU sources expecting a last-gasp trade-off between fisheries and the level playing field, some are now worried Mr Barnier will go too far in order to secure a deal and preserve his legacy.

EU Parliament Brexit sherpa Christophe Hansen said: “If there is a deal, I believe it will be sufficiently balanced that the European Parliament can give its consent.

“Otherwise, there will be no deal. Michel Barnier knows very well what we expect from him. And that is the reason why consent will be given.”

Boris Johnson is expected to personally intervene in the trade talks amid rising hope a deal can be secured in the coming days.

Downing Street said there are still issues that need to be resolved as talks resumed yesterday.

But the Prime Minister and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are to talk to push an agreement over the line.

No10 said Parliament has shown that it can “act at pace” when it needs to pass legislation swiftly.

Brussels is hoping to have a pact signed off by Monday to allow a law to be passed in the European Parliament on December 28.

Mr Hansen said the bloc would have to meet Mr Johnson’s fisheries demands for an agreement.

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The Luxembourger MEP said: “There will be compromises to be made on fisheries. The status quo, that is somewhere we’re not going to land.”

Bernd Lange, the EU Parliament’s trade chief, said: “It’s already five past midnight. We need a text, otherwise ratification and democratic scrutiny by the European Parliament will be a farce.”

A No10 spokesman said: “We will take back control of access to our waters.”

He insisted there will no extension to the transition period.

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Irish premier Micheal Martin fuelled hopes.

He said: “I would be hopeful that by the end of this week we could see the outline of a deal. That remains to be seen. It’s down to political will.

“One must remain hopeful that a deal can be arrived at.”

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World News

Joe Biden warning: President-elect could spark ‘constitutional outrage’ with ‘tinkering’

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Iain Dale told Express.co.uk the President-elect has refused to rule out increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court. There are currently six justices that lean towards the Republican Party and three that a more aligned to the Democrats.

Mr Dale said: “Joe Biden has refused to rule out increasing the number of Justices on the Supreme Court.

“I think this would be a constitutional outrage if he tried to tinker with that.

“I do not think that has been changed since the 1860s if I am right.

“It is a bit like Trump losing the election and then challenging the result.

“I am not sure the American people would stand for that.

“I am not sure Congress would necessarily stand for that either.”

The political commentator also told Express.co.uk that Mr Biden’s “mental decline” is “highly likely” to result in Kamala Harris taking over as President of the United States during his Presidency.

He added Mr Biden will have an advantage as US President but he is not the leader that America needs. 

Mr Dale said: “Joe Biden does have an advantage in that he will have a lot of people who have been there and served under President Obama.

“So they are not coming in cold to power.

“However, Joe Biden is showing material signs of mental decline.

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“I do not think he is the leader that is needed for America at the moment.”

The political commentator added: “He does not strike me as somebody who is a decision-maker.”

“I do not see him providing leadership.

“I do think it is highly likely that Kamala Harris could take over as President at some point during a Biden Presidency.”

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Politics

Unacceptable! SNP accused of ‘not learning lessons’ from coronavirus chaos in care homes

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It comes after more than almost 2,000 elderly residents of care homes died during the first wave of coronavirus earlier this year. Scotland Health Secretary Jeane Freeman came under fire after she claimed it was “entirely right and proper” for patients to be discharged to the homes without first being given the all-clear under clinical guidance.

 

Under Government guidance, current policy states two negative tests are needed for a patient who was being treated for COVID-19 to be discharged into a care home.

Meanwhile, one negative test would be needed if they were dealing with another health problem.

However, Ms Freeman stressed this policy was not always followed and said clinicians had the power to discharge a patient to a care home without a negative test result in “exceptional circumstances”.

The SNP led Scottish Government has repeatedly come under fire for its handling of care homes during the pandemic.

A report released last month by Public Health Scotland found more than 100 people were discharged from hospital to care homes in the early part of the pandemic without first testing negative for coronavirus.

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon disputed this claiming the report showed hospital discharges did not increase the likelihood of a coronavirus outbreak in care homes.

In answer to a parliamentary question from Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, the Health Secretary said the discharge should only be allowed if “it is in the clinical interests of the person to be moved”.

The Scottish Labour MSP accused the Health Secretary of “throwing doctors and social workers under the bus for following her guidance”.

She said: “People known to have COVID-19 should not be placed in care homes and Jeane Freeman must put a stop to this dangerous practice immediately before more lives are lost.

“Thousands of older and disabled people living in care homes have been forbidden from even talking to their loved one through the window, yet the Scottish Government is allowing residents to bring the virus through the back door.

“Too many lives have already been sacrificed. This must end today.”

Donald Cameron MSP, Scottish Conservative Health spokesperson, added: “When I heard the health secretary suggest people may be sent to care homes without getting a COVID-19 test, I was genuinely shocked.

“There were always going to be mistakes made in the first wave of this pandemic.

“Everyone accepts that. We were tackling a virus few people understood.

“What nobody will accept, or forgive, is that we don’t seem to have learned any lessons.

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“From what the SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said, she hasn’t learned much.

Mr Cameron accused the SNP of “dodging responsibility” and added: “Instead of stepping up and saying ‘yes, we got this wrong’, the SNP has evaded questions at every turn.

“The first time around, mistakes were unacceptable but they were also understandable. This time around, there is no longer any excuse.”

But Ms Freeman said the final decision would be made by health and social work professionals, adding it would not be appropriate for politicians to intervene.

Speaking to the BBC, she said: “If and where older people are being discharged from hospital into a care home or back into their own home without the two negative tests for coronavirus that we have in our policy position, that will be a clinical decision made by a clinical team and the social work team that are working with that elderly person and their family.

 

“It is entirely right and proper, I think, that clinicians who are experienced in elderly care and medical care and social work staff experienced in social work support for older people are the ones who will make the final decision.”

Ms Freeman sought to reassure those with concerns, saying this was an “exception” to the current rules.

She added: “The care homes themselves take serious responsibility about their infection prevention and control procedures, and do their very, very best to follow our guidance, with our support, on PPE and other matters.

“It is not right, and I don’t believe your viewers would expect, me as a non-medical, non-clinical politician to be intervening in that decision.”

 

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Matt Hancock warns Britons to sacrifice ‘until Easter’ despite Oxford vaccine breakthrough

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Matt Hancock welcomed news from Oxford University and its pattern AstraZeneca about the effectiveness of the coronavirus jab, which was found to have an overall 70 percent cover rate. The Health Secretary confirmed the Government is ready to begin vaccinations as early as December but insisted Britons might still be asked to sacrifice for months to ensure the infection rate does not spiral out of control. Speaking to the Today programme, Mr Hancock said: “If this all goes well in the next couple of weeks, then we are looking at the potential of starting the vaccination programme next month, for this Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as well as the Pfizer vaccine.

“But in all cases, the bulk of the roll-out will be in the new year and I know people are absolutely desperate to understand the timescale of this.

“Crucially, I think we’ve got to keep the virus suppressed using mass-testing and the sorts of measures and responsibilities we have for the next few months.

“But we are looking, with high confidence now, that from after Easter, things can really start to get back to normal.”

The Government confirmed 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine had been bought but the Health Secretary said only jabs in the low millions will be immediately available for the roll-out programme.

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Mr Hancock also warned the tiers system expected to come into effect once the England-wide lockdown comes to an end on December 2 will”have to be stronger” than before.

He said: “The number of cases is now clearly starting to fall across the whole of the UK.

“In England, we come to the end of the lockdown as you know on December 2, and so we do think that we can replace the lockdown with a tiered system.

“But the tiered system, whilst lighter than lockdown, will have to be stronger than the previous tiers that were in place.”

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Brexit LIVE: Boris Johnson issues checkmate warning to EU over deal – ‘Time is up’

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The Prime Minister remains confident a deal can be secured with talks entering their final week as civil servants start to draft EU relationship legislation. With the transition period due to end on December 31st, a deal is yet to be struck between UK and EU negotiators as fishing, governance and the level playing field remain significant stumbling blocks.

Whitehall officials are confident a deal can be secured by November 30th so draft legislation can be passed.

But the EU is remaining more cautious with any deal having to be ratified by the 27 member states before the end of December. 

Whitehall sources told Express.co.uk Boris Johnson was “optimistic” on a deal but stressed any deal “needs to strictly be” in the UK’s interests.  

One told Express.co.uk: “This week is the turning point in the talks, time is running out.

“It’s essentially a checkmate, we are laying down our requests and are not backing down.”

Talks will begin virtually today after a member of Michel Barnier’s team tested positive for COVID-19 last time and could be face to face in London as early as Thursday. 

As Express.co.uk exclusively revealed on Saturday, it is hoped draft legislation could be debated before the Commons as early as next week. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told BBC Andrew Marr yesterday the UK should not be going for a Brexit deal “at any price”,

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, indicated that there had been “better progress” towards reaching an agreement.

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8am update: IFS expresses ‘uncertainty’ over Brexit deal 

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said there was still much uncertainty about both the long and short-term impacts of a Brexit deal.

“Even the best deal we could get would have been counted as one of the hardest imaginable Brexits three or four years ago when we started to look at this,” he told the Andrew Marr show, referring to economic modelling done by the IFS.

“That sort of deal will result, at best, in the economy growing less quickly than it otherwise would have done.

“It is worth saying that, especially in the context of coronavirus, there’s just such uncertainty about what the impact is going to be, and particularly the short-term impact.”

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Rishi Sunak fact-checks Andrew Marr using BBC’s own figures against him in fiery clash

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Rishi Sunak “took issue” with Andrew Marr’s facts in the middle of his interview, and used the BBC’s own evidence to prove his point. The Chancellor was being confronted over the three million people who have reportedly been excluded from his self-employment coronavirus support schemes. He explained why the number of people may not be as large as claimed.

Mr Sunak said: “Take a step back, I think our support for the self-employed has been more comprehensive and generous than almost any other country in the world.

“I probably would slightly take issue with the idea that three million people have been excluded, as you say.

“I think actually your BBC Reality Fact-Check thing looked at this.

“They found that the largest number of those people are actually people who are not majority self-employed, which means they make more money from employment rather than self-employment.”

Mr Marr cited the Institute for Fiscal Studies, who say that seven out of eight workers don’t qualify for the £500 payment for self-isolation.

The Chancellor shot back: “That’s something different but let’s just talk about the self-employment issue.

“Of the three million people, the majortiy of those who you said are excluded are not. It’s just that they’re not majority self-employed.

“The IFS, as you’ve said, thinks it should be targeted. That’s one way of targeting that support on those who predominantly make their earnings on self-employment. Of those there are around 1.5 million people who don’t make the majority of their income from employment.”

BBC Reality Check had written about the claim: “The three million figure, which was also referred to by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, appears to comes from a group called Excluded UK, which provides a breakdown of the figure.

“The biggest group they cite is the 1.175 million people who earn less than 50 percent of their income from self-employment and so are not eligible for the support provided for the self-employed.

“But it means that group receives at least half of their income from working as an employee, and that work would make some of them potentially eligible for support from government schemes such as the furlough scheme.”

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They added: “So while such people would not get as much of their income replaced as workers who are entirely employed or wholly self-employed, it is not right to say that they have been “completely excluded”.

The Government has a support scheme for self-employed workers who have been financially affected by the virus.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) allows those eligible to claim a taxable grant of a certain percentage of their average monthly trading profits.

The grant is paid out in a single instalment covering three months.

A third round of SEISS has been introduced due to the second national lockdown.

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Labour MP refuses to give party’s position on Brexit deal despite being asked THREE times

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Brexit talks have reached crunch point as the transition period deadline hurtles closer, sparking concerns about achieving a deal in time. Sky News host Sophy Ridge questioned Labour’s Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell over whether her party would be inclined to support the final agreement when it comes back to the House of Commons. However, the MP remained vague about the party’s position, despite being repeatedly asked the same question.

Ms Powell said: “We’ve always said that we want there to be a deal. That is our starting point.

“We have now left the EU so the arguments about Leave and Remain are over.

“The very best situation we could get for this country is a deal with the EU.”

She was asked again by the host but only added that the party “needed to see the detail”.

More to follow…

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Archaeology discovery: 2,000-year-old mystery unearthed in Pompeii at ancient Roman villa

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The two men died from a volcanic heat blast, they were then covered by the falling ash. When Vesuvius erupted 2,000 years ago the two men were in a corridor in a wealthy villa in Pompeii. The partial skeletons of each man were found beside a staircase to the wealthy villa’s upper level.

The announcement was made by officials at the archaeological park on Saturday.

The elegant villa where the two men were found is on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city that was devastated when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.

It is thought the two men succumbed to a powerful volcanic blast that took place on the second day of the eruption event.

One of the victims was a youth, aged 18 to 25.

He had a spinal column with compressed discs, this led archaeologists to assume he was a manual labourer, most likely a slave.

The other victim had a more robust bone structure, especially in his chest area.

This led archaeologists to assume he was a wealthier individual.

The cranial bone analysis placed the wealthier man at about 30 to 40 years old.

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The high-status individual and the suspected slave “were perhaps seeking refuge” from the eruption “when they were swept away” said Pompeii director Massimo Osanna.

Archaeologists claim the wealthy man, aged between 30 and 40 was wearing a woolen cloak.

This is because traces of wool were found around his neck.

Speaking to reporters Mr Osanna said: “It was a death by thermal shock, as also demonstrated by their clenched feet and hands.”

Describing the discovery he said the find was “an incredible and extraordinary testimony” of the morning when the eruption took place.

The volcanic eruption buried Pompeii in ash, freezing the site in time, and making it a rich source of investigation for archaeologists.

The discovery of the two men was made this month when archaeologists were carrying out a dig at the large villa.

The villa’s position was on the outskirts of the ancient city.

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‘I am sick of talking!’ Brexiteer orders Boris Johnson to walk away from EU talks now

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Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib snapped as he criticised Boris Johnson’s attitudes towards Brexit. While speaking to Martin Daubney and Belinda de Lucy on Brexit Unlocked, Mr Habib complained Boris Johnson failed to paint a clear, positive Brexit Britain picture. He also explained the many benefits and opportunities Britain has after cutting ties with the EU.

He said he was tired of speaking with the European Union on Brexit and insisted Boris Johnson should have fulfilled his promises by walking away from the negotiating table.

Mr Habib said: “What is there to negotiate?

“We have got our red lines and if the EU is not prepared to grant us our red lines that by the way merely require us to get our sovereignty back, we should have walked out of the room.

“Boris Johnson said we would leave on the 30th of June if they wouldn’t give us what we want, he didn’t.

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“He then said the end of July and we never walked, he then said the 15th of October and they still haven’t given us what we want.

“We are still talking to them, I am sick of talking.”

Mr Habib also insisted Boris Johnson should have highlighted the most positive aspects of Brexit throughout his premiership.

He added the Prime Minister should be routinely painting a picture of the bright future ahead for the UK.

He said: “We don’t need them, we voted to leave because we think there is a brighter future outside of the European Union.

“We don’t want to stand in their hanging on to their flipping coat tails hoping they will grant us some minuscule degree of sovereignty.”

Mr Habib also highlighted all the positive changes he wanted to see in Brexit Britain.

He said: “I want out, I want our £18billion a year back and I want to levy tariffs on them.

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“I want to make sure that those industries that relied on trade with the European Union have adequate

“Government grants and support so they can transition away from their dependency on them.

“I want to trade freely with the rest of the world.

“I want to deregulate, I don’t want any new green revolution, I want to get rid of those blooming environmental laws that come across from the EU.

“I want to reduce tax on fuel and I want the poor and working-class of this country to be re-energised.

“I want them to be put on their front foot and levelling up the country, wasn’t that one of Boris’ promises?”

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Coronavirus breakthrough: New AstraZeneca anti-body cocktail boosts cure hopes

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The new drug relies on a different process in helping the body fend off coronavirus than a regular vaccine and is raising hopes in the battle to end the pandemic. The pharmaceutical giant began late-stage trials of the new drug that when administered protects individuals from infection for up to 12 months. Now in Phase III, the company will begin an international clinical trial by recruiting a total of 5,000 from Europe and the United States.

The new antibody cocktail medicine is known as AZD7442.

The new drug relies on a treatment known as the prophylactic process.

This treatment is different from being vaccinated as it introduces new antibodies to combat the disease instead of prompting the body to create them.

Those with weak immune systems can benefit more from a prophylactic treatment than a regular vaccination as their response to creating new anti-bodies has been compromised.

AstraZeneca is the pharmaceutical company behind the development of the new coronavirus vaccine, working with researchers at Oxford University.

Trials of the new drug began in the UK on Saturday.

A total of 1,000 participants have had the anti-body combination administered to them at nine sites across the UK.

AstraZeneca researchers from the UK said: “What we are investigating in this study is whether we can provide protection by giving antibodies that have been shown to neutralise the virus.

READ: Coronavirus latest: More than 40 vaccination sites will give jab to millions of people

“This will be done by injection into the muscle.”

Professor Andrew Ustianowski, the chief investigator with the UK trial, added: “The hope is that this will then provide good protection for many months against infection.”

The drug acts using monoclonal antibodies that mimic the human body’s natural antibodies.

These monoclonal antibodies are manufactured in a laboratory and have been developed to treat some types of cancer.

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AstraZeneca said the new antibody cocktail has the potential to treat those who have already been infected with coronavirus.

It can also be used as a preventative medication for healthcare workers who are exposed to higher viral loads.

At a press conference, AstraZeneca’s executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development Mene Pangalos said: “These have been engineered specifically to have what we call a long half-life, so we think they will confer protection for at least six, but more likely closer to 12 months,”

He added that this drug “in effect, acts almost like a passive vaccination”.

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