World News

Post-Brexit plunge in exports caused by ‘unique factors’ says David Frost

David Frost said the combination of Brexit and lockdown made the 40.7pc drop in exports ‘inevitable’ – Reuters

Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser David Frost has said the 40 per cent drop in exports to the UK in the month after Brexit was caused by a “unique” set of factors that are “starting to unwind”.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today show that overall goods exports from the UK fell by £5.3 billion – 19.3 per cent. That was driven by a £5.6 billion, or 40.7 per cent, plunge in exports of goods to the EU.

But while Brexit played a factor, Lord Frost insisted that stockpiling and lockdown were also behind the drop in cross-border trade.

The newly-promoted Cabinet Office minister said that January’s “unique combination of factors made it inevitable that we would see some unusual figures”, but insisted that “caution should be applied”.

He added: “These effects are starting to unwind. The latest information indicates that overall freight volumes between the UK and the EU have been back to their normal levels for over a month now, ie since the start of February.”

04:02 PM

And that’s it for another day…

Boris Johnson may be in Northern Ireland, but back in London the row over whether this weekend’s vigil for Sarah Everard should be allowed continues.

Prominent women from all parties, including several former ministers, have said the plans for an event in Clapham and others nationwide should go ahead. Indeed, the indication from Government sources this morning was that they expected the police to turn a blind eye.

But with Downing Street and ministers urging people to stick to the Covid rules, discussions are ongoing this afternoon.

More than 1,700 readers have voted in our daily poll, with 67 per cent of you saying the events should not be allowed to take place, while 33 per cent have come out in support.

For more on that story, and the rest of the days news, carry on reading below.

03:52 PM

Banning Sarah Everard vigil ‘complete nonsense’, says Margaret Hodge

Veteran Labour MP Margaret Hodge has said “of course” the vigil for Sarah Everard should go ahead, and that any suggestion it should be stopped is “complete nonsense”.

She added: “Streets & open spaces are there for ALL to use! We will not be cooped up.”

03:43 PM

Probe into Nicola Sturgeon must be published before May elections, say Scots Tories

The findings of an investigation into allegations that Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code should be published before May’s elections, the Scottish Tories have sad.

James Hamilton, the former head of public prosecutions in Ireland, is probing whether the First Minister misled Holyrood over the botched handling of harassment complaints against her predecessor.

Scottish Tory chief whip Miles Briggs has written to the head of the civil service, saying: “I am deeply concerned that a failure to publish in advance of the election purdah… would mean that the report’s publication during the election campaign would breach the purdah guidance.

“While I understand the need to allow James Hamilton the space to conduct his work, it is important to the people of Scotland that they are able to read his findings ahead of the election.”

Mr Briggs said it was “vital” the separate investigation, into the complaints procedure at the heart of the Salmond inquiry, was “published immediately”, adding: “It cannot be shut down until after the election.”

03:30 PM

UK will ‘probably not’ fully return to the office after lockdown, says Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has said a full return to the office after the pandemic will “probably not” happen, pointing to emerging trends such as hybrid working and “hotdesking” in local serviced offices writes Harry Yorke.

Speaking to the website Politico, the Chancellor shared Boris Johnson’s desire to see city centres return to full health after the crisis, describing offices as a “good and positive thing” for “teambuilding”, “camaraderie” and “spontaneity”.

However, he added: “Is it going to come back in exactly the same way? Probably not.”

“Even small changes have quite big implications, whether it’s for the economics of commuter rail, or a coffee shop that’s used to servicing commuters.

“If people work one day a week on average at home, and everyone does that, that’s 20 percent less commuting traffic — that’s not a small impact.”

Instead he noted the emergence in New York of “a new business model of serviced offices, but in neighbourhoods” for people who “don’t want to work at home when they’re doing their days at home” as a possible trend that could catch on in the UK.

How much commuting time is saved by working from home?

How much commuting time is saved by working from home?

03:22 PM

Have your say: Should the vigil for Sarah Everard be allowed?

Several senior Conservative MPs have come out in support of the vigil for Sarah Everard,.

The vigil, at Clapham Common bandstand in south London, was organised after 33-year-old Ms Everard’s murder sparked anger over the safety of women on the UK’s streets.

The Metropolitcan Police has told Reclaim These Streets the event would not be permitted due to the coronavirus lockdown, however former ministers including Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley, as well as party vice chairman Nickie Aiken, have said it should go ahead.

However Downing Street has suggested people should “follow the rules”, which preclude mass gatherings.

But what do you think? Have your say in the poll below.

03:10 PM

Covid vaccines: More than 281,000 jabs given in England yesterday

More than 281,000 Covid vaccines were given in England yesterday, official figures show.

A total of 20,807,385 jabs have been given in England since the vaccination programme began on December 8, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses.

That is a rise of 281,073 on the previous day.

Of this number, 19,798,473 were the first dose of a vaccine, a rise of 211,393 on the previous day, while 1,008,912 were a second dose, an increase of 69,680.

Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?

Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?

03:05 PM

Sexual harassment of women in street could become new offence

A new law to protect women against public sexual harassment is being considered as Priti Patel reassured women they were safe to walk the streets after the disappearance of Sarah Everard.

The new offence of public sexual harassment is being backed by Nimco Ali, the feminist campaigner appointed by the Home Secretary to advise on the Government’s new strategy to combat sexual violence against women and girls.

Writing for The Telegraph, Ms Ali, said loopholes in the current law meant young teenage girls had to suffer explicit sexual and abusive comments from men on streets without police being able to take action against them. Polls show 90 per cent of women have experienced such behaviour.

Read her column in full here.

Nimco Ali - Getty

Nimco Ali – Getty

02:45 PM

Find another way to pay tribute to Sarah Everard, women told

Women should find another way to pay tribute to Sarah Everard rather than an in-person vigil, Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said.

Ms Freeman has warned any vigil in a public place would go against coronavirus restrictions, saying that she would join commemorations if “we were in normal times”. But she added: “We are not in normal times.

“The rules are there for a reason, they are there to protect all of us from a virus that doesn’t play by the rules, that as soon as we come together looks to transmit itself from one person to another person and in doing that also is giving significant opportunity to mutate.

“I will take my private steps, I will light that candle on Saturday night, I will engage via social media to show my frustration, my anger, that women are still not safe on our streets, still not safe from male violence on our streets at any time of the day.

“I will not join a public vigil because that risks everyone from this virus,” she added. “What I’m saying to all the women who are feeling angry, afraid, upset – I’m right there with you, but please do not have a vigil. Take the steps that we ask people to do to show how you feel but not in a public gathering.”

02:42 PM

Cumbria coal mine facts ‘being distorted’, says Tory mayor

The Conservative mayor of Copeland in Cumbria has warned that the facts are being “distorted” as the Government launches an inquiry into the coal mine.

The Government had previously decided not to intervene on the project near Whitehaven in Cumbria, which was in the hands of local officials, but ministers have taken control because of “increased” controversy.

Mike Starkie said: “It’s disappointing and regrettable that we have got to this stage, but there was a certain inevitably about this.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “I think the message is being distorted around this project.

“We’re going to need steel to drive forward the green agenda – if you’re wanting to build wind farms, nuclear power stations, they all need steel.

“And the demand for coking coal is going to be there right through to 2050.”

02:30 PM

Andy Street: the bellwether for Tory fortunes

Andy Street was one of seven metro mayors who were elected four years ago as part of the government’s devolution agenda, and the only one to come to the job without a political background. He is also one of the country’s first openly gay mayors. And now he has a fight on his hands – one that has resonance far beyond deciding who exactly will run the West Midlands for the next four years.

Mayoral elections will be held in May. If Street – one of only four Conservative directly elected mayors out of 24 across the country – wins, it augurs well for the Tories.

If he loses, it could be an indication that the party’s triumphant breaching of the ‘Red Wall’ in the 2019 election has gone into retreat. Not that Street would argue that, of course.

“There’s no question there’s been some movement to Labour over the last 12 months,’ he concedes. ‘But we do not believe it’s been significant.”

Read the interview in full here.

Andy Street used to run another bellwether - John Lewis -  Andrew Fox

Andy Street used to run another bellwether – John Lewis – Andrew Fox

02:20 PM

Seven in 10 positive Covid cases in school children likely to be wrong

Seven in 10 positive coronavirus tests in school children are likely to be wrong, experts have warned, as they called on the Government to bring back confirmatory PCR testing.

Pupils are currently being tested twice a week for coronavirus using lateral flow devices, but real-world data has shown they miss positive cases around 50 per cent of the time.

Although they pick up 99.9 per cent of negative cases, meaning fewer than 0.1 per cent will be false positives, the prevalence rate is now low enough that false positives will be making a significant contribution to the overall figure.

Previously, positive tests were confirmed using a more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) lab test, but this week the Government admitted it had quietly scrapped the process at the end of January.

It means that thousands of pupils and their families are having to isolate needlessly, and missing more school after months away from classrooms.

Proportion testing positive for antibodies by age

Proportion testing positive for antibodies by age

02:04 PM

Boris Johnson visit to Northern Ireland marred by Sinn Fein snub

Boris Johnson has been snubbed by deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during his visit to Northern Ireland after he declined a political meeting with Sinn Fein.

Ms O’Neill refused to welcome the Prime Minister to Belfast on Friday in her Stormont role after a request for a meeting with her and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald was not accepted.

Mr Johnson is meeting with First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster during a visit tied to the response to the coronavirus pandemic. He also joined Mrs Foster at a vaccine centre in Lakeland Forum in Enniskillen, which is in her Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency.

Ms O’Neill said: “Mary Lou McDonald and myself have a long-standing request to meet with the British Prime Minister to discuss a number of commitments which he and his Government have reneged on in the ‘New Decade New Approach’ over this past year, and also his reckless and partisan approach to the Irish Protocol. He did not facilitate the meeting.

“I have no plans to meet with him today.”

02:01 PM

Further 132 Covid deaths registered in England

A further 132 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 85,067.

Patients were aged between 41 and 100 years old. All except eight, aged 52 to 100 years old, had known underlying health conditions. The date of death ranges from 21 March to 11 March 2021 with the majority being on or after 7 March.

There were 32 deaths in the Midlands, which was the worst-affected region, followed by the North East & Yorkshire and East of England, where 25 deaths were registered in both area.

There were 20 deaths registered in the North West, 13 in London, 11 in the South East and six in the South West.

01:47 PM

UK’s R-rate falls again

The UK’s coronavirus reproduction number, or R value, is between 0.6 and 0.8, according to the latest Government figures.

R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.

When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but when it is below 1, it means the epidemic is shrinking.

An R number between 0.6 and 0.8 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between six and eight other people.

The latest growth rate is between minus 7% and minus 4%, which means the number of new infections is shrinking by between 4% and 7% every day.

01:28 PM

Let ‘people come together’ for Sarah Everard vigil, says Bishop of Gloucester

A bishop has urged police to allow the vigil for Sarah Everard to go ahead as planned so people can express “deep sadness that such violence against women continues”.

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Revd Rachel Treweek, told The Telegraph. “I express my deepest condolences to Sarah Everard’s family and friends and I am holding them in my prayers at this tragic time.

“It is unsurprising that there has been such strong expression of grief, sadness and anger from women and men across the country. The vigil, planned in accordance with current Covid lockdown regulations, is an opportunity for people to come together in a safe way, to show their support for Sarah’s family, to pray and hold a moment’s silence, and to express deep sadness that such violence against women continues.

“It is poignant that the abhorrent murder of Sarah has come at a time when the Domestic Abuse Bill is being debated in the House of Lords. It is vital that we do all we can, not only to create legislation which protect victims and survivors of domestic abuse, but that we also examine the root causes which perpetuate a culture in which girls and women are so often diminished, and in which, on average, two women are murdered each week.”

01:10 PM

Have your say: Should the vigil for Sarah Everard be allowed?

Several senior Conservative MPs have come out in support of the vigil for Sarah Everard, ahead of a court hearing to decide whether to exempt the gathering from Covid restrictions.

The vigil, at Clapham Common bandstand in south London, was organised after 33-year-old Ms Everard’s suspected kidnap and murder sparked anger over the safety of women on the UK’s streets.

The Metropolitcan Police has told Reclaim These Streets the event would not be permitted due to the coronavirus lockdown, however former ministers including Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley, as well as party vice chairman Nickie Aiken, have said it should go ahead.

But what do you think? Have your say in the poll below.

01:09 PM

UK must ‘show leadership’ over Alexei Navalny disappearance, say Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats have called for the UK to “show leadership” after Alexei Navalny’s lawyers said he had been moved to an unknown location.

The critic, who returned to Russia after recovering from being poisoned, is serving a sentence of around two-and-a-half years after a court ruling the West condemned as politically-motivated.

Foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran said: “It is inexcusable that Alexei Navalny’s whereabouts are currently unknown. The Kremlin must provide clarity on this immediately to his lawyers.

“The UK should not stand for such human rights abuses and take further action,” she added. “The Liberal Democrats continue to call on the Government to investigate implementing fresh Magnitsky sanctions, as the US has done in recent weeks, and assure us that anyone, no matter their wealth or status, will be considered.

“Britain should not be a safe haven for anyone aiding Alexei Navalny’s detention and mistreatment. The UK must show leadership, standing up for the rule of law and democracy, on the world stage.”

12:57 PM

Wales’ ‘stay local’ restrictions could be lifted before Easter

Wales’ new “stay local” restrictions could be lifted on March 27 “if the public health situation continues to improve”, Mark Drakeford has said.

The First Minister told a press conference that the process of opening up the tourism sector, starting with self-contained accommodation, would then begin, alongside organised children’s outdoor activities and the reopening of libraries.

Further parts of the economy – such as outdoor hospitality, the wedding sector, leisure centres and gyms – at the end of April, he added.

“I understand, of course, that other businesses and sectors will want to know when it is their turn to reopen,” he said.

“I understand that everybody wants a definitive date so that they can plan ahead. Unfortunately, there are very few guarantees in this pandemic.”

Mr Drakeford said he hoped the Welsh Government would be able to “keep on taking further steps to unlock Wales” at each three-week review period during the spring.

12:47 PM

Wales has lowest rates in UK, Mark Drakeford says

The seven-day incidence rate for Wales is now around 41 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people in the country, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Test positivity rate was “stable” at 4.3%, with the latest ONS infection survey suggesting Wales has the lowest rates in the UK, he told a press conference.

“At the same time, the number of Covid-related patients in hospitals is falling faster now every week,” Mr Drakeford said.

The figures “give us ground for optimism” but warned that Wales would be coming out of lockdown with a more infectious form of the virus present across the country.

“We know that as soon as we relax the rules and people begin to mix again, there is an inevitable risk that infections will rise,” he added. “If we do too much too quickly, we will lose control of the virus and that will set off a new wave of infections.”

Map of UK's seven-day Covid-19 infection rate, by local authority

Map of UK’s seven-day Covid-19 infection rate, by local authority

12:43 PM

Lobby latest: No 10 urges people to ‘follow the rules’ over Sarah Everard vigil

Downing Street has said Boris Johnson “completely understands the strength of feeling” around Sarah Everard’s disappearance but urged people to abide by the coronavirus restrictions when asked about a proposed vigil.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “He understands the strength of feeling around this case and nobody could fail to be moved by the experiences shared by many women since Sarah’s disappearance.

“We are still in a pandemic, we would ask people to follow the rules and social distancing rules but we do understand the strength of feeling on this issue.”

Pressed again for his position on the protest, the spokesman said: “He does completely understand the strength of feeling on this and we would ask that people continue to follow the rules and social distancing rules.”

12:35 PM

Changes to BoE remit ‘slippery slope to undermining independence’, says former governor

Changes to the Bank of England’s remit risks undermining its independence – and is ‘not coherent’ with inaction on other green policies, Lord King has said.

The crossbench peer and former BoE governor told the House of Lords: “Fiddling with the Bank of England’s remit while at the same time taking no action on a carbon tax and freezing fuel duty again are gestures, not a coherent policy.

“More importantly, they are the first steps on the slippery slope to undermining the independence of the Bank – and we cannot afford to lose that.”

12:31 PM

‘Harmless gesture’ in changing BoE remit ‘may prove damaging’ warns Mervyn King

The former governor of the Bank of England has raised concerns about a change to the institution’s remit, warning that “a harmless gesture today may prove damaging tomorrow”.

Crossbench peer Lord King of Lothbury said: “I am concerned about the change to the remit of the Bank of England. Independence of the Bank was accompanied by a clear mandate expressed by the inflation target.

“When asset purchases commenced in 2009, a framework was established to ensure that the Bank did not become the arbiter of credit allocation among different sectors and different companies.

“But the new remit requires the Bank to do just that – to, and I quote ‘reflect the importance of environmental sustainability and the transition to net zero in its purchases of corporate bonds’.

“Some may argue that it is a harmless gesture – after all, given the inflation outlook it is far from obvious that there will be new asset purchases by the Bank. But what seems a harmless gesture today may prove damaging tomorrow.

“I know climate change arouses passions, but that is no reason to embroil the Bank of England in what should be the responsibility of Government.”

12:14 PM

Labour deputy leader says ‘women’s voices must be heard’

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has said “women’s voices must be heard”, as she backed calls for the vigil for Sarah Everard to go ahead.

“I hope we can come to solution whereby the protect can go ahead in a Covid-compliant way.

“This is a moment where women need to stand up and [be listened to],” she added.

11:53 AM

Exclusive: Supreme Court’s powers must be curbed, says top lawyer

The Supreme Court must be reined in with new legislation in the wake of its controversial Brexit-linked rulings, a former leading government lawyer has said.

Sir Stephen Laws, previously the Government’s most senior drafter of legislation in his role as First Parliamentary Counsel, is calling for curbs on the UK’s highest court and for clarification over its judges’ powers over Parliament.

His intervention comes in a report published by centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, which he has also submitted to the independent inquiry on judicial review commissioned by Boris Johnson. Ministers are examining plans to change the name of the Supreme Court and to allow specialists to preside over certain cases, changing the present system which allows cases to be heard exclusively by permanent judges.

In the report published today, Sir Stephen argues that the Supreme Court’s rulings in two cases brought by Gina

Miller “should be statutorily overturned to restore trust between the courts and political institutions”. Read the full details here.

Campaigner Gina Miller after the Supreme Court hearing on Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament - Reuters

Campaigner Gina Miller after the Supreme Court hearing on Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament – Reuters

11:37 AM

Scrap ‘intolerable’ Northern Ireland Protocol, says Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster has renewed calls for Boris Johnson to “stand up for Northern Ireland” and ditch the “intolerable” Protocol governing Irish Sea trade post-Brexit.

Stormont’s First Minister and DUP leader welcomed Mr Johnson’s announcement setting out plans to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland’s formation, but she added: “The Prime Minister must also stand up for Northern Ireland and replace the Protocol, which is damaging to the economic and constitutional position of Northern Ireland.

“The inherent problems of the Protocol can only lead to further divergence and greater difficulties over time if not replaced.

“The Northern Ireland Department for Agriculture has now confirmed that 20 per cent of all checks across the entire EU, with grace periods intact, take place between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“This is intolerable. We need the Prime Minister to act to deliver unfettered trade from GB to NI and to restore the balance of relationships between East-West as well as North-South.”

11:24 AM

Wales’ First Minister hits out at ‘misleading’ claims of curfew for men

Mark Drakeford has hit back at suggestions he is considering a temporary curfew for men, in the wake of the Sarah Everard case.

Asked about such an option, which has been floated by Green Party peer Baroness Jones (see below), the First Minister told BBC Breakfast: “It wouldn’t be at the top of the list of things we would consider because it would be, at the very best, a temporary intervention.”

Pressed on the matter, he added: “If there were a crisis and you needed to take dramatic action that allowed that crisis to be drawn down you would consider all measures that would make a difference.

“It would only ever be a temporary answer – it is not at the top of our list. There are other things we can do and should do, but people need to be safe and to feel safe.”

But he subsequently hit out at suggestions it was being considered.

11:14 AM

Post-Brexit issues with EU-UK trade ‘starting to unwind’, says David Frost

David Frost has insisted the factors that led to a 40 per cent drop in exports to the UK in the month after transition ended are “starting to unwind”.

Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser and newly-promoted Cabinet Office minister said that January’s “unique combination of factors made it inevitable that we would see some unusual figures”, but insisted that “caution should be applied”.

Stockpiling and lockdown, as well as Brexit, affected the drop in trade, Lord Frost added.

“These effects are starting to unwind. The latest information indicates that overall freight volumes between the UK and the EU have been back to their normal levels for over a month now, ie since the start of February,” he added.

11:00 AM

Covid transmission drops by at least 30pc after jab, study suggests

Transmission of Covid-19 drops by at least 30 per cent after a person is vaccinated, a new study suggests.

Public Health Scotland and the University of Glasgow assessed 300,000 NHS workers between December 8 – the first day of vaccination in Scotland – and March 3.

The researchers looked at the records of people who live with both vaccinated and unvaccinated healthcare workers, finding those who had a single dose were at least 30 per cent less likely to pass the virus on.

Given that people living with healthcare workers could also catch the virus from other sources, researchers say the 30 per cent figure is a low estimate.

Those who have had both doses of vaccine were found to be at least 54% less likely to pass on the virus.

Transmission data 02

Transmission data 02

10:47 AM

Fraser Nelson: After lockdown we can expect a third wave – and No 10 needs to admit it

In spite of all of our success, not just procuring but inventing Covid vaccines, Brits are still stuck under one of the most stringent lockdowns in the developed world, writes Fraser Nelson.

Vaccinated Americans have been told they can now meet each other indoors, given how unlikely they are to catch or pass on the virus. Israel has reopened, with Tel Aviv cafes now buzzing. No such latitude for the fully-vaccinated Brits.

It’s not as if Britain still has dangerously high virus levels: ours are almost the lowest in Europe. Ministers have been astonished at how few pupils tested positive in the lateral flow tests deployed for school reopenings this week. But the Prime Minister set his earliest date for a full reopening – June 21 – before any of this was apparent.

His No10 narrative is simple: stay at home. We’re almost there. Let’s keep going: just three more months and we can all get back to normal. But this isn’t quite right. When Britain reopens, we can expect a third wave of Covid… Then, perhaps, panic – and pressure for a fourth lockdown.

Read Fraser’s column in full here.

10:29 AM

Have your say: Should the vigil for Sarah Everard be allowed?

Several senior Conservative MPs have come out in support of the vigil for Sarah Everard, ahead of a court hearing to decide whether to exempt the gathering from Covid restrictions.

The vigil, at Clapham Common bandstand in south London, was organised after 33-year-old Ms Everard’s suspected kidnap and murder sparked anger over the safety of women on the UK’s streets.

The Metropolitcan Police has told Reclaim These Streets the event would not be permitted due to the coronavirus lockdown, however former ministers including Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley, as well as party vice chairman Nickie Aiken, have said it should go ahead.

But what do you think? Have your say in the poll below.

10:22 AM

Discussions over Sarah Everard ongoing, says Metropolitan Police

The Metropolitan Police has said discussions are ongoing about whether the vigil for Sarah Everard can take place, ahead of a court hearing today.

Under the current Covid-19 lockdown in England, people are largely required to stay at home and can only gather in larger groups for limited reasons, such as funerals or for education.

Police can break up illegal gatherings and issue fines of £10,000 to someone holding a gathering of more than 30 people.

A statement issued by the force said: “We understand the public’s strength of feeling and are aware of the statement issued by Reclaim These Streets with regard to a planned vigil for Sarah Everard in Clapham Common this weekend.

“We remain in discussion with the organisers about this event in light of the current Covid regulations.”

10:15 AM

Tory vice chair says Sarah Everard vigil should be allowed

A Conservative Party vice chairman with responsibility for women has joined the chorus of voices calling for the Sarah Everard vigil to go ahead this weekend.

Nickie Aiken, the MP for Cities of London and Westminster, told the Telegraph: “If people wish to show their support for Sarah and her family then they should be allowed to do so.

“My thoughts are with Sarah’s friends and family at this time. I can’t begin to imagine the devastation they feel.

“Women and girls have the right to be safe and equally importantly feel safe. We must do all we can as a society to change attitudes between the sexes but that does not mean demonising men. It means ensuring we have laws in place to tackle any form of misogyny whether online and all walks of life.

“I hope the vigil can go ahead to remember the vibrant impressive woman Sarah clearly was and to remind us all that we still have much more to do to ensure women feel and are safe.”

Nickie Aiken MP

Nickie Aiken MP

10:06 AM

‘Penalty’ for allowing English tourists into Wales will be to halt reopening, says Mark Drakeford

Reopening Wales’s tourism industry will be halted if holiday providers are found to be taking bookings from people in England over Easter, Mark Drakeford has said.

Self-contained accommodation is allowed to reopen from March 27, however English tourists have been banned from travelling into the nation until England’s roadmap catches up.

The First Minister told the PA news agency: “People who let accommodation should not be taking bookings from people who live outside Wales. We will be talking with our local authority colleagues and with the police next week, just to see if there is anything we need to do to mobilise our own enforcement authorities.

“If the industry were to act irresponsibly, the penalty would be we wouldn’t be able to carry on reopening the industry.

“I know there are rogues in any part of life. But I think that the industry will absolutely recognise that we want to go beyond self-contained accommodation. We want the tourism industry in Wales to have a longer and better season this year than we managed last year.”

09:43 AM

Britons told to leave Myanmar amid growing violence

Britons have been told to flee Myanmar unless they have an “urgent” reason to remain there, as concerns grow over violence in the wake of the military coup.

The Foreign Office advised British nationals on Friday to leave the south-east Asian country by commercial means after one of the bloodiest days of the regime’s crackdown. Around 300 Britons are estimated to still be in Myanmar, with the vast majority being residents.

At least 10 people protesting against the coup were shot dead by Myanmar’s security forces yesterday, as an independent UN expert cited mounting evidence of crimes against humanity. Protests, strikes and other forms of civil disobedience have gripped the nation since the coup toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s government on February 1.

The official guidance was updated to: “Advice for British nationals to leave the country by commercial means, unless there is an urgent need to stay.”

09:37 AM

Women warned against joining Sarah Everard vigil by minister due to ‘perilous state’ of pandemic

A minister has urged people not to take part in a vigil for Sarah Everard, warning that the country remains in a “perilous state”.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, said while she understood the desire to take part in tomorrow night’s vigil “we are in the middle of pandemic, we do have restrictions in place to protect the public”.

She said the police and the courts would have the final say, noting that “emotions are running high”.

“I do understand how people, quite rightly, want to show their respects,” she told Sky News. “It’s a balance between the desire to show those respects and to mark Sarah’s life and at the same time making sure we don’t spread the virus. We’re still in a perilous state.”

Asked if she understood the desire to participate as a woman, Ms Donelan replied: “As a woman I also recognise that we are in a pandemic, and that restrictions are in place to safeguard the lives of women and men.”

09:35 AM

Pay rise of more than 1pc for nurses not a U-turn, minister insists

Any pay rise for nurses that is more than one per cent will not be a U-turn as the review is a “process”, a minister has insisted today.

The Government has come under intense pressure after its proposed pay rise – which is less than inflation- emerged after the Budget last week. Ministers have since insisted it will be subject to the independent pay review board’s recommendations, later this year.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, also defended the Track and Trace system, which she described as “robust”.

Responding to watchdog criticism of the scheme, she said: “When we look at their figures, I don’t see how they can possibly say that.

“9.4 million individuals have been traced as a result of this and if they’d been walking around with Covid…”

09:29 AM

Priti Patel should ‘step in’ to allow Sarah Everard vigil, says former minister

Priti Patel should “step in” to allow the Sarah Everard vigil to go ahead, a senior Conservative MP has said.

Caroline Nokes, a former minister and chair of the women and equalities committee, told the Telegraph: “A woman has been taken off the streets and murdered. It’s a shocking crime, which has resonated with all of us who walk home at night alone, alert to potential threats, wearing shoes we can run in and clutching our keys ‘just in case’.

“Of course the vigil should be allowed to go ahead. It can be done socially-distanced, with great care,” she added.

“The Home Secretary needs to step in, recognise the gravity of this crime and the way it has made people feel. Shen needs to tell the Met Police to allow it to go ahead, so that all who want to sharer their thoughts for Sarah Everard and their concerns about their own safety can do so.”

09:23 AM

Sarah Everard vigil to be treated ‘like every other lockdown gathering’, says Government source

Police could turn a blind eye to the Sarah Everard vigil, a senior source has said.

Reclaim These Streets events had been planned across the UK on Saturday, with the main vigil being held in Clapham, where she was last seen on 3 March.

However organisers are going to the courts today in a bid to overturn a Met Police ruling that the gathering would be unlawful under pandemic restrictions.

The Government is awaiting the outcome of this morning’s hearing before commenting officially.

Noting the sensitivities around the vigil, one source said: “The police will want to treat this in the same way they have treated every other gathering during lockdown.”

Although anti-lockdown protesters were arrested earlier this year, at the height of the peak, there were no Covid-related arrests made during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.

09:14 AM

Sarah Everard vigil can be ‘Covid-compliant’, says former minister

A former minister has said the Sarah Everard vigil should be allowed to take place this weekend, saying “it can be done in a Covid-compliant way”.

Organisers are going to the courts today in a bid to overturn the Met Police ruling that the gathering would be unlawful under pandemic restrictions.

But Karen Bradley, the former Northern Ireland secretary, told the Telegraph: “It’s a difficult balance, and I can see why there would be concern about it being compliant with lockdown rules, but so many people have been affected by this awful incident.

“I do understand why they want to show their sympathy for and solidarity with Sarah, her family and friends,” she added. “I am sure it can be done in a Covid-compliant way”.

08:55 AM

Green Party peer defends call to impose 6pm curfew for men

A Green Party peer has defended her call to impose a 6pm curfew for men in the wake of Sarah Everard’s disappearance.

Baroness Jones of Moulescoomb told the House of Lords yesterday that such a move would “make women a lot safer, and discrimination of all kinds would be lessened”.

Speaking with Sky News this morning, she added: “I just don’t think that men understand the pressure that women are under and if this has sparked intense scrutiny, I’m really happy.

Asked if this would just be inflicting on men what women have to endure, she replied: “Exactly. That’s my exact point.

“Nobody makes a fuss when, for example, the police suggest women stay home, but when I suggest it men are up in arms.”

Baroness Jones admitted it was “not an entirely serious suggestion… I was just trying to highlight that when the police victim blame by asking women to stay home, we don’t react. We just think it’s normal.”

08:48 AM

Arrest of police officer over Sarah Everard case ‘deeply disturbing’ , says Priti Patel

Priti Patel has said the arrest of a serving police officer on suspicion of Sarah Everard’s murder is “deeply disturbing”.

The Home Secretary said safety concerns had been exacerbated by the fact the man arrested in this case was a serving officer.

“The police hold positions of trust in our communities and it is deeply disturbing to imagine that someone who we would all put our faith in if in danger could allegedly be responsible for such an abhorrent crime,” Ms Patel wrote in The Sun.

“However, the professionalism and conduct I have witnessed through my own engagement with the police since Sarah’s disappearance has reminded me that the vast majority of police officers serve with the utmost integrity and represent the very best of public service.

“There are currently hundreds of dedicated officers working night and day to bring the perpetrator to justice under the leadership of the first female Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick.”

08:47 AM

Michael Gove and Alister Jack: Saving the Union over cigarettes

At the heart of the fightback against Scottish independence is a pair of Scots: Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary.

Mr Gove has been tasked by Mr Johnson with strengthening the Union. Mr Jack, a businessman before entering parliament in 2017, represents Dumfries and Galloway.

Usually when cabinet ministers meet to discuss major policies they do so with meetings packed with advisers and note-takers that are planned well in advance.

That is not always the case for Mr Gove and Mr Jack. Instead, they often meet for cigarettes to thrash out weighty issues of the Union.

The Cabinet Office and Scotland Office are next to each other, meaning a speedy chat over a fag is easily arranged. A well-placed source said: “It’s literally by the bike sheds.”

Read Ben Riley-Smith’s deep dive into the campaign to save the Union here.

Michael Gove: Saving the Union over cigarettes - PA

Michael Gove: Saving the Union over cigarettes – PA

08:35 AM

40pc drop in exports ‘inevitable’ after Brexit and Covid, says Government

The Government has blamed the “inevitable” drop in exports during January on a “unique combination of factors”, including lockdown, stockpiling and Brexit.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a £5.6 billion, or 40.7 per cent, plunge in exports of goods to the EU. Overall exports from the UK fell by £5.6 billion – 19.3 per cent.

A Government spokesperson said: “A unique combination of factors, including stockpiling last year, Covid lockdowns across Europe, and businesses adjusting to our new trading relationship, made it inevitable that exports to the EU would be lower this January than last.

“This data does not reflect the overall EU – UK trading relationship post Brexit and, thanks to the hard work of hauliers and traders, overall freight volumes between the UK and the EU have been back to their normal levels since the start of February.

“Many businesses have adapted well, and our focus now is on making sure that any business that is still facing challenges gets the support they need to trade effectively with the EU.”

08:25 AM

Five-mile ‘stay local’ rule can be interpreted ‘flexibly’, says Wales’ First Minister

Wales’ new five-mile ‘stay local’ rule can be interpreted “with some flexibility”, the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It is guidance and is to be interpreted in people’s individual circumstances.

“Of course there will be people, in rural Wales particularly, who don’t live five miles away from a shop – they would have to travel further, and they’ll be able to do that over the next two weeks.

“People can interpret it with some flexibility in their local circumstances.”

As long as people “are not passing lots of shops” they are allowed to travel beyond five miles to get to a shop or hairdressers, he added.

08:15 AM

Erasmus study scheme replacement will be ‘life changing’, says minister

The Government’s post-Brexit replacement for the Erasmus programme will be “life changing” for many young people. the universities minister has said.

Michelle Donelan said the Turing scheme, which will fund 35,000 global exchanges from September 2021, and will partner with colleges and industry as well as universities, would result in “similar numbers of inward mobility” as overseas partner universities would act reciprocally by “waiving fees”.

“I cannot stress how life-changing some of these opportunities are, we’re talking about our students going to some of the world’s best institutions overseas and some of their students coming over here,” she told BBC Breakfast.

“Our pull factor is amazing, we are the second most attractive destination to international students across the world, we have more of the top 100 universities than the whole of the EU added up together.”

08:11 AM

May 17 too early for international travel, says Mark Drakeford

Wales’ First Minister has said he believes May 17 is too early for international travel to resume, warning that it runs the risk of “reimporting” the virus as happened last year.

Mark Drakeford told BBC Breakfast that September 2020 was a “difficult month” in Wales as people returned to the country from holidays abroad and brought Covid-19 with them.

“I do not want to see all the hard work that people in Wales have put in over recent weeks being undermined by the reimportation of the virus,” he said.

“The Prime Minister’s road map for England is very clear that these are indicative dates and when I’ve raised this with UK ministers they always emphasise that the decision would be made in the circumstances much closer to the time.

“For me, that does look early,” he added. “I would want to be completely confident that we are not running the risk of a reimportation of the virus, particularly now that we know there are new variants of this virus in other parts of the world.”

08:08 AM

Safety has been priority for Sarah Everard vigil, says organiser

One of the organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard said that they had tried to be “thoughtful” with safety measures.

Anna Burley told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Clapham Common was in-part chosen as it is a “wide open space”, while organisers had emphasised wearing masks and the importance of social distancing.

“Safety has been a priority from the get go,” she said.

“It would be ironic to organise a vigil to think about women’s safety in public spaces without also thinking about the health and safety aspects.”

She added: “We were trying to be very thoughtful. We had QR codes so that people could do track and trace, and just really trying to work out how we can do this in a really safe way.”

08:06 AM

Sarah Everard vigil received ‘about-face’ from police, says organiser

One of the organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard, due to take place in Clapham in south London on Saturday, has said there was an “about-face” by the police on the decision to allow the event to go ahead.

The Reclaim These Streets group plans to go to the courts today to challenge the Met Police, which ruled that it would be unlawful.

Anna Burley told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that organisation for the vigil began on Wednesday evening, adding: “We proactively wrote to the police and the local council. Initially, we had feedback that they were looking at ways to navigate this, that they would be looking at how they could proportionately and appropriately provide community policing to the event.

“And we were in conversation about how we could do that safely so that people could express their anger and their grief without putting themselves or others at risk.

“We then had an about-face mid-afternoon yesterday. We were being put under increasing pressure that individually, we would be at risk for doing so, but as would everybody who attended and all of the women across the country potentially who have been organising sister vigils in their own areas.”

08:04 AM

‘Not all men are predators’, minister stresses, as she is quizzed about better education

A minister has stressed that “not all men are predators”, as she was asked if there should be better education for boys on the matter of harassment.

Michelle Donelan, minister of state for universities, said the case of Sarah Everard was a “rare incident” but that everybody, “whether man or woman” should feel safe walking down the street.

“I do want to assure women that our streets on the whole are safe but this is a rare incident and the Government is committed to this agenda,” she told Sky News.

“It’s important to stress that not all men are predators and we shouldn’t get into that kind of language.

“But throughout our education system it’s not just geared up on the academic side but also developing people’s character and their interactions with others.

“This is certainly something we can look at once again.”

08:01 AM

English tourists banned as Wales lifts ‘stay home’ rule

English tourists will be prevented from travelling into Wales for another few weeks, despite the “stay-at-home” rule being dropped for those living within the nation, Mark Drakeford has said.

Up to four adults from two households will also be allowed to meet up in a private garden in Wales from Saturday as the restriction is replaced with a “stay local” command.

Speaking to the BBC stressed that this did not apply to people in England who must continue to stick with the dates set by Boris Johnson.

“At Easter time, Welsh people will be able to travel for holidays over Easter within Wales, and to self-contained accommodation,” Mr Drakeford told Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The rules in England will not permit that. The Prime Minister’s road map says that for the weeks after March 29, people should minimise travel, there are to be no holidays, and people won’t be allowed to stay away from home overnight.

“If it won’t be safe to stay overnight in England, then obviously it would not be safe for people to travel into Wales.”

08:00 AM

Conservative MP hits out at ‘capitulation to climate alarmists’ over coal mine row

Northern MPs are up in arms over the decision to intervene in plans to build a controversial coal mine in Cumbria.

Red Wall Tory Mark Jenkinson has hit out at the U-turn, which will see the Government introduce a public inquiry, saying it is a “capitaluation to climate alarmists”.

He called for a “grown up discussion” around the process “away from sensationalist tweets and headlines”, stressing the mine would help play a role in “getting to net zero by 2050”.

Labour’s Ed Miliband has welcomed the move, but attacked the govt, saying “the saga of this mine is a symptom of a govt that isn’t serious about its climate ambitions”.

07:46 AM

Boris Johnson to rule out second Scottish independence referendum

Boris Johnson will make clear on Sunday that he will not grant a second Scottish independence referendum, even if the SNP wins a majority in May’s Holyrood elections.

In a speech to the Scottish Conservative Party conference, the Prime Minister will argue holding a referendum during the Covid-19 pandemic would be reckless.

The defiant message comes as Whitehall increasingly focuses on how to counter the prospect of ‘Scexit’ – Scottish exit from the Union – in the coming months and years.

Ministers have agreed there should be no new version of Better Together, the pro-UK campaign in the 2014 referendum, instead relying on an existing web of Unionist bodies.

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