Brexit news – live: No 10 denies plan for green ‘meat tax’ as bank boss says UK should turn focus away from EU

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London should compete with New York and Singapore, not Paris and Frankfurt in post-Brexit world

Downing Street has denied the government is planning a new carbon tax that could force up the price of foods with a heavy environmental impact such as meat and cheese.

A senior government official “categorically” denied the claims after rampant speculation was sparked by a leaked Whitehall memo showing Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak had written to all departments asking for suggestions on how “some form of carbon pricing” could be introduced across the economy in the next decade.

Earlier, Barclays boss Jes Staley said London should compete with financial markets in New York and Singapore – rather than with European economic hubs – in the post-Brexit world.

“I think what London needs to be focused on is not Frankfurt or not, Paris – it needs to be focused on New York and Singapore,” he told the BBC.

Mr Staley, who has run the bank since 2015, also said that Brexit had the potential to deliver a “positive” future for Britain.

Such optimism is not currently shared in Northern Ireland, where leaders have called for calm amid growing tension over post-Brexit trade disruption over the Irish Sea. 

Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s first minister, encouraged people to channel their frustrations through constitutional means, after the country’s chief constable warned of a “febrile” atmosphere there. 

The Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney echoed this sentiment by saying that parties needed to “dial down the rhetoric” on the Northern Ireland Protocol, which unionists want to be scrapped.

  • Editorial: If we lose the Northern Ireland Protocol, the rest of Brexit could quickly unravel
  • Brexit: Loyalist figure suggests ‘it may be time to fight physically for our freedoms within UK’
  • Boris Johnson’s Scottish adviser for union ‘sacked following furious row’
  • Ministers refusing to open talks to solve Brexit exports crisis to make EU ‘feel pain’, says industry leader


Russia to expel German, Swedish and Polish diplomats accused of taking part in Navalny protests

Russia has announced the expulsion of diplomats from Sweden, Poland and Germany for taking part in a rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that their attendance at the ‘unlawful’ protests on 23 January were ‘unacceptable and inappropriate’.

The announcement followed a meeting between Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell in Moscow on Friday.

Follow this story as it breaks here:

Liam James5 February 2021 15:31


No 10 denies plans for meat tax to drive down carbon emissions

Downing Street has denied the government is planning a new carbon tax which could force up the price of staples like meat and cheese as well as gas heating.

Speculation over the levy was sparked by a leaked Whitehall memo revealing that Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak had written to all departments asking for suggestions on how “some form of carbon pricing” could be introduced sector-by-sector across the economy over the next decade.

And No 10 and the Treasury did nothing to quash the idea on Thursday, refusing to comment on the issue ahead of Mr Sunak’s 3 March Budget.

Our Political Editor Andrew Woodcock has the full story here:

Liam James5 February 2021 14:59


‘We are doing all we can’ to safely remove protesters, says HS2 team

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said its team was doing “all we can” to safely remove protesters from a tunnel beneath Euston Square Gardens after they “attached themselves” under the ground.

She said: “The safety of those trespassing and that of the HS2 staff and emergency service personnel in this operation is of paramount importance. We are doing all we can to end this illegal action safely, and progress has been made with access secured to the underground tunnel.

“The High Court this week issued an order to require the illegal occupiers to leave their tunnel.

“Dr [Larch] Maxey still hasn’t complied with the court order which also told him to provide information on the tunnels and its occupants.

“We urge Dr Maxey to comply with the order as soon as possible – for his safety and the safety of the other activists and the HS2 staff and agents tasked with removing them from the danger they have put themselves in.”

Activists have been holed up under Euston Square Gardens all week

(HS2 Rebellion/AFP via Getty)

Liam James5 February 2021 14:25


No ‘current plans’ for vaccine passports despite reports, says Downing Street

Downing Street has said the government has no “current plans” for vaccine passports after The Times reported that officials were working on a certification system which would enable people to travel to countries allowing foreign visitors if they can show they have been innoculated.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “There are still no current plans to roll out vaccine passports. Going on holiday is currently illegal.

“We have always been clear that we will keep the situation under review. We are not going to speculate on this matter any further.”

Sounds like a “maybe” then… Our Travel Correspondent Simon Calder explains what a vaccine passport scheme could look like if ministers were to introduce one:

Liam James5 February 2021 13:52


Local elections will go ahead in May, Downing Street confirms after confusion

Downing Street was forced to issue a correction during a wobbly press briefing where reporters were left guessing after a notice saying local elections will go ahead in May was withdrawn.

A No 10 spokesperson initially said that a Cabinet Office press notice — confirming local elections would go ahead on 6 May — had been issued “in error” and had been withdrawn.

However, a few minutes later the spokesperson said the notice was correct.

“We have confirmed today that the elections must go ahead,” the spokesperson said. “The Cabinet Office document is correct.”

Liam James5 February 2021 13:25


Government should avoid ‘being driven by a calendar’ on Covid

A pair of scientists advising the government have warned against lifting coronavirus restrictions too quickly.

Professor Graham Medley, chair of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), said ministers should “make decisions dependent on the circumstances, rather than being driven by a calendar of wanting to do things”.

He was backed by Dr Mike Tildesley, also from Spi-M, who said there needed to be a gradual easing out of lockdown to avoid having to later return to restrictions due to a surge in cases.

Liam James5 February 2021 13:05


Handforth parish council: The history of a feud

An unlikely political hero emerged last night from the depths of the rural-urban fringe near Manchester Airport.

Everyone now knows Jackie Weaver, acting clerk at a heated Handforth Parish Council meeting that went viral on Thursday, has the authority. But why was she forced to assert it over grumpy chairman Brian Tolver and his supporters?

Adam Forrest has taken a deep dive into the recent affairs of Handforth Parish Council to find what led to the chaotic power struggle in that fateful Zoom meeting:

Liam James5 February 2021 12:47


UK finalises Ghana trade deal

The UK and Ghana have concluded negotiations on a future trade deal, the Department for International Trade (DiT) has announced.

Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, said on Twitter the deal accounts for £1.2bn in trade and would be signed shortly.

DiT said the agreement will provide for “duty free and quota free” access for Ghana to the UK and “preferential tariff reductions” for UK exporters to Ghana.

Liam James5 February 2021 12:31


Top nine priority groups will be vaccinated by May, No 10 confirms

Everyone in the top nine priority groups will receive their first coronavirus vaccine dose by May, the government has confirmed.

As a result, a Cabinet Office statement said that ministers could commit “with confidence” to local elections going ahead in England and Wales in May.

Rory Sullivan5 February 2021 12:03


Covid cases must drop to below 1,000 a day before lockdown lifts, says Hunt

The former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that lockdown should only be lifted if Covid-19 case numbers fall below 1,000 cases a day.

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Hunt said the UK should look to Taiwan and South Korea as examples on how to keep transmission rates low.

His message comes as the prime minister faces pressure from some of his backbenchers to ease restrictions fully by the end of May.

Here’s Chiara Giordano with the details:

Rory Sullivan5 February 2021 11:46

The independent

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