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Boris Johnson has said no deal is now “very, very likely”


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With EU and UK leaders now warning that a no-deal Brexit is the most likely outcome when the transition period ends on 31 December, PoliticsHome has set out the biggest changes that the UK will face from the New Year.

As Brexit trade talks go down the wire, a trade deal between the UK and EU is looking increasingly out of reach.

Both sides have said they will keep negotiating until Sunday – with major stumbling blocks on state aid rules and fishing rights still to be tackled – but neither seem optimistic an agreement will be reached. Boris Johnson admitted on Friday it was now “very, very likely” there would be no deal.

While industry and opposition leaders have said the impact of a no-deal would be “catastrophic” for the UK, the Prime Minister continues to insist it will be “wonderful” for the country.

Either way, no deal will mean substantial changes to almost every part of the UK’s economy and how Brits can travel.

Here’s how things will change:

Trade and Tariffs

Without a deal, the UK would be forced to trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms. This means the UK and the EU would impose tariffs on any imported goods, with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) predicting this would  up to 90% of UK exports would be subjected to WTO tariffs.

Some supermarket chains, including Tesco, have claimed the impact of tariffs could see yearly food bills rising by between 4-5% and warned there may be shortages of some products, including fruit and vegetables.

Prices for goods imported into the UK from EU countries would also likely rise as a result of the British government setting up their own tariff system.

The average tariffs for ‘third country’ goods entering the EU currently stand at 11.1% for agricultural goods, 15.7% for animal products and 35.4% for dairy.

A no-deal scenario would also lead to so-called “non-tariff barriers” to trade, with lorries crossing into the EU facing border checks which could lead to serious delays.

The government has already built a large 6,000 capacity lorry park in Kent in anticipation of the major tailbacks that could follow from a no-deal Brexit.

Hauliers would also be required to apply for permits to take freight across the channel, but UK firms were granted fewer than 2,000 of these permits for next year, despite an average of around 10,000 trips currently being taken by UK lorries each year.

Meanwhile, HMRC has already forecast that British firms will be forced to spend an additional £15bn a year on paperwork to adapt to the new regulatory environment, including new custom declarations, licenses and labelling on some products.

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Travel

Brussels has already agreed that in the event of no-deal that planes would continue to be allowed to flights between the UK and the EU for a maximum period of six months, with safety certificates issues for parts remaining valid, provided they were issued before the end of the year.

However, major airlines, including EasyJet, British Airways and Ryanair could all fall foul of EU laws which state that operating licenses to fly routes within the bloc are provided only to companies which are owned by EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.

Both sides have committed to further steps to ensure travel routes are not disrupted, but the EU have recently tied talks around airline travel to fishing rights, meaning there could be significant disruption if a deal is not struck.

France and Britain have already agreed that the Channel Tunnel would remain open for a nine month period following no-deal, but would need to come to a new legal agreement to ensure the crossing remained open beyond that period.

And those wishing to travel abroad will also have to ensure there is at least six months left on their passports and will lose access to priority EU queues at the border.

Meanwhile, the bloc has also committed to bringing in a visa-waiver permit by the end of 2022 which will cost around £6.40, allowing Brits to make multiple visits to EU countries for three years. This is similar to current arrangements for Brits travelling to the US.

Negotiations are still continuing over whether UK travellers would require International Driving Permits if they are taking short trips to the bloc, but those taking their own vehicles to the continent could also be forced to carry a physical copy of their “green card” proof of insurance documents to ensure they are covered.

Brits will also lose access to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which entitles them to state-provided medical treatment if they fall ill abroad. Currently, there are around 27 million UK nationals with the cards, but in the event of a no-deal Brexit they would be required to purchase travel insurance, with higher premiums for those who have pre-existing conditions.


Medicines and research

Drug industry groups have already predicted that border checks on medicines could result in initial delays of up to six weeks, with further potential delays if the UK and EU fail to adopt a mutual agreement on standards.

Without such an agreement, manufacturers would face additional red tape by having to comply with two sets of regulations if they wished to sell their products in both markets.

In response, Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered UK pharmaceutical firms to build up a six-month stockpile of medicines to avoid any major delays, and a special agreement has been struck to ensure there is no disruption to the delivery of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

Exiting without a deal would also end the UK’s involvement in the EU’s Horizon research funding programme which has provided British universities with cash and cross-border co-operation on a range of major research projects.

The EU have offered the UK continued access to the scheme at a cost of £15.2bn with further top-ups if UK researchers win grants from the programme. But Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International said the proposal was “not appealing” and could lead to the UK losing money if it failed to win funding grants above the £15bn figure.

Meanwhile, the future of the UK’s participation in the Erasmus student exchange programme remains unclear, with ministers promising a new national programme would be created if an agreement cannot be struck.


Economy

Sterling has already dropped amid the gloomy predictions that a no-deal Brexit is now the most likely outcome, with many economists and financial groups warning the UK currency could face further dips in 2021.

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, a no-deal exit is likely to mean an almost 2% hit for the UK’s GDP, with unemployment rising a further percentage point to 8% in 2021.

The UK financial services industry has taken steps to prepare for the event of no-deal with many firms setting up UK and EU legal offices to weather any major disruption to business.

But no-deal could still mean some firms are unable to provide financial products to EU customers from their UK bases, including trading in shares.

Meanwhile, the additional financial pressure could force central banks to cut interest rates further, despite the Bank of England already slashing rates to record lows of 0.1%.

If they drop into negative interest it could mean customers having to pay banks to look after their savings.

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Business

Without an agreement, data sharing arrangements between the UK and EU would instantly come to an end. How businesses can share data, communicate with suppliers and customers is a vital component for future trade, deal or no-deal, with failure to strike an agreement impacting almost every business on both sides of the Channel.

While an agreement is yet to be reached, the EU and US have previously come to a bilateral agreement on the issue meaning there is scope for a side deal on data equivalency.

In the event that negotiations fall apart this weekend, both sides will have to ensure that urgent talks take place to ensure some system is in place by 1 January or risk major disruptions to businesses.

Mobile roaming arrangements will also come to an end without a deal, meaning mobile users will face extra charges when they travel. Some UK providers have already agreed they will continue to offer the service to their customers for part of next year, but there is still uncertainty over how long the arrangements will last.

The UK auto industry is particularly exposed to the impacts of tariffs, with cars and parts exported to the bloc subjected to an additional 10% tariff. It means the price of an average British car sold in the EU would rise by around €3000.

British fisherman would be granted full access to UK waters, with trawlers from other countries banned from entering. The same agreement would stop UK vessels from entering EU waters. But, the imposition of tariffs on UK fish exported to the bloc, which currently make up 75% of current sales, could damage the industry.

Under the current rules, exports of cod and smoked salmon would be hit respectively with tariffs of 12% and 13%.


Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Protocol, set up as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, will come into force in the event of deal or no-deal.

The agreement ensures the invisible land border on the island of Ireland will remain open, allowing passport-free travel, and securing the arrangements made under the Good Friday Peace agreement.

The deal will see Northern Ireland remain aligned with some EU customs and standards rules while simultaneously staying within the UK’s customs territory.

Months of friction over the implementation of the agreement had led to UK ministers threatening to scrap the customs checks and trade barriers in the event of no-deal, leading to warnings that the move could put the peace process at risk.

But on Tuesday, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove announced an agreement in principle had been struck with the EU to reduce the threat of major disruption from 1 January.

Ministers said the agreement would include giving a six-month grace period on mandatory health checks on some products going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, while also allowing food suppliers selling to supermarkets in the region a three-month extension of current rules.

So-called trusted traders will have a three year exemption on tariffs for goods travelling from Britain, and there will be no requirement for exit or export declarations for products travelling between GB and NI for the same period.

But businesses in Northern Ireland have continued to raise concerns about the future of the relationship when the exemptions end, with some suggesting checks on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain amounted to a new border in the Irish Sea.

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Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump

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“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.

The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”

But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.

On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.

Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.

The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.

Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.

Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.

A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.

But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.

The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.

Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.

A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.

Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.

The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.

Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout

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Matt Hancock has agreed to remove some of the training modules required for volunteers to sign up to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (PA)


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Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.

It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.

The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.

“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.

In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.

“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.

“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”

Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.

He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same. 

“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”

Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.

The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.

But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.

Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”

The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”

The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.

“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided. 

“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.

“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”

The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.

He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.

He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.

“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.

“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.

“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”

Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”

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How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers

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Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.

The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.

After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.

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