Brexit talks require “new momentum” if negotiators are to succeed in striking a deal before transition ends, Boris Johnson and a trio of EU leaders have agreed today.
Speaking after a high-level meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and other EU leaders, the Prime Minister told reporters there was “no reason” why a deal couldn’t be struck by next month.
He said: “It’s very clear what we need to achieve, I don’t think we’re actually that far apart, but what we need now is to see a bit of oomph in the negotiations… the faster we can do this the better, we see no reason why you shouldn’t get that done in July.
“The issue is very clear, we fought an election based on these ideas, the manifesto was very clear.”
He added: “I certainly don’t want to see it going on to the autumn/winter as I think perhaps in Brussels they would like.”
European Council president Charles Michel said the EU was “ready to put a tiger in the tank but not to buy a pig in a poke”.
The “level playing field” commitments – where the UK would agree to EU standards on the environment, workers’ rights and state subsidies – were “essential”.
The next five rounds of talks, which will take place face-to-face for the first time since lockdown, will kick off on June 29 in Brussels, rotating between the EU’s home turf and London over the following weeks.
Follow the latest updates below.
It’s been another busy day in politics.
We found out that the two-metre rule will be sticking around for some time yet, as the “comprehensive review” will take weeks to conclude.
We also learned the shocking news that the 28-year-old MP Amy Callaghan had suffered a brain haemorrhage, and had been admitted for emergency neurosurgery, with everyone in Westminster wishing her a speedy recovery.
And we saw the return of the Brexit rhetoric, with Boris Johnson saying there was “no reason” a deal couldn’t be struck in July – while the European Council president Charles Michel said the EU was “ready to put a tiger in the tank but not to buy a pig in a poke”.
People began returning to the shops – albeit with a degree of caution. As for you, 59 per cent who took our poll said you were sticking with online shopping until the crowds calm down.
I’ll be back from 8am tomorrow, to bring you all the news from Westminster and beyond.
Asked about the two-metre rule, with crowds forming in shopping districts, Dominic Raab says the message is that people must continue to keep two metres as much as possible.
The Foreign Secretary repeats that hospitality will be able to reopen “at the earliest from July 4” and it would have to be done safely.
“We have seen progress pretty much the entire UK… if that continues, if we find that measures can be taken in a careful way that means the virus doesn’t spike back up we can give assurance to the hospitality sector,” he says.
Asked about the UK’s relationship with China, in light of what is happening in Hong Kong, Dominic Raab says: “I don’t think it will be business as usual”.
“We have put out a very clear position… it doesn’t feel to me like it’s business as usual.”
“We want to have a balanced approach with China, not just on trade but on climate change,” he adds.
Asked if there is a “reset” taking place, and what he would say to HSBC, Mr Raab says businesses will make their own calls, but “we will not sacrifice the people of Hong Kong”.
We will hold China to those responsibilities, and let businesses and banks make their own judgement call, he adds, urging China to “step back from the brink”.
The result of the Huawei review will be when the full data is back.
Asked if the Government is taking less notice of the science, given the lack of advisers at today’s press conference, Dominic Raab stresses that ministers are the ones making the decisions.
“The judgement calls will inevitably be informed by science” – but the science “isn’t set in stone”, he adds.
He promises that the CMO Sir Chris Whitty and CSA Sir Patrick Vallance will continue to appear at the press conferences, as well as other independent experts to “answer the full range of questions that people have”.
He says he hasn’t “had a question I can’t answer yet”, but stresses they will attend “Perhaps not on a daily basis”, as they have “a huge amount of work to do”.
Raab: There is no magic to two-metre rule
Asked why the Government isn’t implementing existing recommendations into racial inequalities, following comments by Nus Ghani earlier today, Dominic Raab says is it about “setting a new positive agenda for change”.
He adds: “We want to make sure we translate some of the diagnoses of challenges we have got with actionable measures.”
Mr Raab points to the improvement in BAME education and attainment.
Another commission? Ok, it’s welcome. But we have the data on obstacles, prejudice and inequalities. We just need to crack on with real practical solutions which will have a positive impact. pic.twitter.com/pq946ZVxnQ
— Nus Ghani MP (@Nus_Ghani) June 15, 2020
Asked about the two-metre rule, the Foreign Secretary says there is “no magic to one or other measure, there will be different levels of risk” depending on what measures are deployed.
“Based on the steps we are taking we have had essential retail open for a while… we are finding that the scientific basis is constantly evolving,” he adds.
Raab: It is incumbent on businesses to try and maintain jobs
Asked about how British Airways is treating its staff, Dominic Raab says it is “really important that we pull together and have a united team effort” through the “difficult time” posed by lockdown.
He added it was “incumbent on all businesses and employers to try and maintain jobs” and points to the various support on offer, stressing that “it’s for individual business to make those individual decisions”.
Raab rejects criticism over BAME report
Asked about the BAME report into the impact of coronavirus on black and ethnic minority people, Dominic Raab says the Government has commissioned more research, as they want to get to the “bottom of it”.
“I don’t accept this is yet another review… we have made progress.
“The Prime Minister ran his election campaign on a levelling up agenda,” Mr Raab says.
He says progress has been made, and that the GOvernment is acting on the Lammy Review.
Challenged on the leaked reports, Mr Raab says it is a sensitive subject, and that it is “not right to leak snippets out.. precisely because it’s a very sensitive issue.”
“We will release as much information as soon as we can,” he says stressing it must come with “practical advice.”
Raab: Parents will have ‘more challenges than normal’ over summer
Turning to questions from the public, Dominic Raab is asked when the alert level will fall to one. The Foreign Secretary says they are trying to push it down but it is not down to politicians.
The alert level is decided independently by the BioSecurity Centre, he says.
Asked what the Government will do to help the children of key workers who are unable to use the usual routes of grandparents or summer camps, Mr Raab says ministers are working with schools, the Government has provided extra money “but it will be difficult”.
“There will be more challenges than normally have”, he says, “but as we open up schools and as we look at some of those wider offers that schools cane make we give schools time to prepare so we don’t see the virus take back hold of the country. “
Raab: Nearly 300,000 people have tested positive overall
Turning to the slides, Dominic Raab says nearly 300,000 people have tested positive, reiterating that includes just over 1,000 since yesterday.
There were 430 people admitted to hospital on June 12, down from 515 a week earlier.
He points to the fact that most regions are “broadly” following the same downwards pattern.
He says we are not out of the woods yet.
Raab: International experience shows risk of second spike
Dominic Raab says “international experience shows us there is a risk of a second spike” if we do not maintain measures such as social distancing and the testing regime.
Beis and the Treasury are working with businesses so they are able to meet Covid-secure guidelines before they reopen, he adds. That includes hand sanitisers and markings on the floor to show people where they can stand.
He adds that face coverings are now mandatory on public transport.
And secondary schools have started to provide some face-to-face time with students in Years 10 and 12.
Raab confirms 1,056 new cases and 38 deaths
Dominic Raab has started the press conference, confirming there are 1,056 new cases and 38 people have died.
Week-on-week he says that is 155 fewer deaths.
He says there have been more than six million tests carried out or posted out, including over 163,000 yesterday.
“We are taking steady steps at each stage,” he says, thanking the British public for their sacrifices.
The Foreign Secretary points back over some of the recent changes, including support bubbles to help single people who are lonely.
“These modest steps will provide enormous relief,” he says.
Watch: Boris Johnson says Brexit talks need some ‘oomph’
We are now turning away from the House of Commons, where Home Secretary Priti Patel is giving an update on public disorder following a weekend of violent protests, to Downing Street, where Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is due to appear shortly.
I’m not expecting any huge announcements today, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given his own reaction to the high-level Brexit talks today, among other things.
You can see what he said in the video below.
Home Office undergoing work on ‘change of culture’
Priti Patel says she understands the reasons for Black Lives Matters protests and the movement, saying the issues are “absolutely important, essential, vital”.
She points to the race commission announced by the Prime Minister today, and says this will build on existing work to deal with structural racism.
Turning to the Windrush scandal, she says she will soon provide a full update about work being carried out in Home Office to bring about a “change of culture”. There is also work on compensation ongoing, which has to be looked at on an individual basis.
Patel warns violent protesters: ‘You will face justice’
Priti Patel urges the public not to attend protests while coronavirus continues.
“To the quiet, law abiding majority… I completely hear their anger,” she adds. “To the criminals.. your behaviour is shameful.
“No matter who you are, if you have broken the law, you will face justice.
Patel: Image of man urinating next to PC Palmer memorial ‘most abhorrent’
Priti Patel says the picture of protester Andrew Banks urinating next to the memorial of PC Palmer was the “most abhorrent” of the weekend, and pays tribute to the police officer who was killed in the 2017 Westminster terrorist attack.
The Home Secretary says backing the police has never been more important, and the protests in recent weeks have “only underlined the challenges they face”.
She says she is “saddened by the lack of respect shown to our brave officers by a minority of people”.
Ms Patel says “an attack on the police is an attack on us all”.
She says she “refuses to allow monuments to heroes” being attacked, and confirms that Justice Secretary Robert Buckland is looking to take forward the Desecration of War Memorials bill.
Actions have consequences, she says.
Patel condems ‘patently racist’ far right protesters
Priti Patel is now giving a statement to the House on the far-right protests this weekend, which she says “saddened and sickened” her.
“Those thugs, far from protecting our heritage, did all they could to destroy and undermine [our] values. There is no place for their sickening conduct and hate in our society,” she says. “They were violent, they were aggressive and abusive towards police officers.
“They were patently racist.”
Over 210,000 people have attended protests since the death of George Floyd in the US, she says, with the vast majority passing peacefully.
But this weekend saw many fights break out between protesters and police officers, with 38 officers being wounded. On Saturday alone there were 137 arrests for assaults on officers, violent disorders and possesion of class A drugs.
Further 38 deaths from Covid-19 across the UK
A further 38 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus across all settings, the Department of Health and Social Care has said, taking the total official death toll to 41,736.
The Government figures do not include all deaths involving Covid-19 across the UK, which is thought to have passed 52,000.
The DHSC also said in the 24-hour period up to 9am on Monday, 93,163 tests were carried out or dispatched, with 1,056 positive results.
Overall, a total of 6,866,481 tests have been carried out and 296,857 cases have been confirmed positive.
The figure for the number of people tested has been “temporarily paused to ensure consistent reporting” across all methods of testing.
Minister told to halve two-metre rule today
A second senior Tory has challenged Edward Argar over the two-metre rule, demanding ministers announce changes “today” or risk “many more lost jobs”.
John Redwood demanded to know: “Why don’t ministers today announce the halving of the distance?
“If we want the hospitality industry to survive in any form, they need to know today. Leaving it to July 4 means many more lost jobs.”
But Mr Argar, the Health Minister, stressed the review would “consider not only the scientific and clinical evidence, but also the economic impact as well”.
It is “right that is done on the basis of evidence”, he added, although acknowledged “the sooner the better for businesses”.
Senior Tory challenges minister on two-metre rule
A senior backbench Tory has challenged a Government minister over the failure to conduct a review into the two-metre rule and publish it before June 15, after the Prime Minister promised to do so during his Liaison Committee appearance.
Former Business Secretary Greg Clark asked a series of questions about the review, announced at the weekend, which is still expected to take several weeks. Mr Clark, who is now the chair of the Science and Technology Committee, demanded to know whether it would be completed in time for the reopening of the hospitality sector on July 4.
Edward Argar, the Health Minister, said the work is “already underway”, and that ministers were conscious that businesses needed guidance as soon as possible in order to prepare.
But he repeated what we have already heard today – that it will take “a matter of weeks” – before the review will be concluded.
On the international variations, Mr Argar said: “We are very clear that this review will give us the basis to make considered decisions on the most appropriate way forward between striking the balance between public health and economic impact.”
Jenrick: I stand behind Westferry development approval
Robert Jenrick has said “I entirely stand behind” the decision to approve Richard Desmond’s Westferry development, saying it would have led to more homes being built.
“This development would have led to 1,500 homes, 250 affordable homes,” he said. “I would remind the House this contentious decision came to my desk as Secretary of State because the local council failed to determine it in accordance with the law.”
Asked if he knew about the levy coming in the day after the development was approved, the Housing and Communities Secretary says it was “a matter of public record”.
Challenged by Labour MP Ruth Cadbury over the fundraising dinner where Mr Desmond and Mr Jenrick discussed the development, and the fact it does not appear in
“I am sorry to disappoint the hon lady with her pre-prepared question, but the dept were fully informed of my attendance at the event. I discussed with my officials the fact that the applicant had raised the matter, of course I informed the applicant that I was not able to discuss the matter.
“I think I have answered her question comprehensively.”
I acted in good faith on Westferry development, says Robert Jenrick
Robert Jenrick has said he acted “in good faith” when he overruled a local council and the government’s planning inspectorate to approve a major new development in Westferry, in East London.
Mr Jenrick has come under pressure in recent weeks to explain the decision, which was made a day before the introduction of a community infrastructure levy (CIL) imposed by Tower Hamlets council, which would have charged Richard Desmond’s company at least £40m, to be used for local education and health projects.
The billionaire former owner of the Express newspaper made a £12,000 donation two weeks later.
Challenged by Steve Reed, the shadow communities secretary, over his “cash for questions” row on the Westferry development, the Housing and Communities Secretary said “propriety in the planning system is extremely important”.
“The application to which he refers was a highly contentious one. All the applications that come before the Secretaries of State are highly contentious ones.
“I took that decision in good faith, with an open mind, and I am confident, confident that all the rules were followed in doing so.
“All of the relevant information relating to this matter is with the Cabinet Secretary and I will take, have taken and will take again, advice from my permanent secretary about what advice we can publish.
“We want to ensure the correct processes of the planning system are followed, so that means publishing documents bearing in mind the legitimate interests of the parties to this case, which remains a live planning application.”
Traffic levels rise as lockdown starts to lift
Traffic levels in cities across the UK are on the increase, new figures indicate.
Data published by location technology firm TomTom showed the congestion level in London at 3pm on Monday was 27 per cent, up from 25 per cent during the same time last week.
Other cities to experience an increase include Belfast (from 24 per cent to 25 per cent), Birmingham (from 20 per cent to 21 per cent), Cardiff (from 13 per cent to 16 per cent), Edinburgh (from 21 per cent to 23 per cent) and Manchester (from 21 per cent to 26 per cent).
The figures represent the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flow conditions.
Downing Street refuses to give date on two-metre review
Downing Street has refused to say whether the Government’s comprehensive review into the two-metre rule will be completed before pubs and restaurants are allowed to reopen.
The review, which will be led by Number 10’s permanent secretary, Simon Case, was ordered by the Prime Minister amid pressure from business groups and backbench MPs who fear that large parts of the hospitality sector will not be able to open under current guidelines.
But this morning Paul Scully, the Small Business Minister, admitted it would take “a matter of weeks”, insisting the Government did not want to be “rushed into decisions”.
This was confirmed by the Prime Minister’s official spokesman this afternoon. Asked if the review would be completed before July 4, when the hospitality sector is due to reopen, he said only that it would be ready in the “coming weeks”.
“We are aware of the significance of that date and understand that the hospitality industry will want to get going as soon as it can,” he said, adding: “We will want any steps we take to be safe and in line with the five tests.”
“We want to have it completed in the coming weeks.”
When completed, the review will report to the Covid strategy committee, chaired by the Prime Minister. The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser will also be involved in the review.
‘New momentum required’ in Brexit talks, PM and EU agree
Boris Johnson and several leading EU figures have agreed that “new momentum” is required in the Brexit talks, if they are to secure a deal in the remaining time before transition.
The Prime Minister has just finished a virtual meeting with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli “to take stock of progress with the aim of agreeing actions to move forward in negotiations on the future relationship”.
Both sides noted the UK’s statement last week, definitively ruling out any extension to transition and welcomed “the constructive discussions” that have taken place between Chief Negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier so far.
As part of plans to “intensify the talks in July”, both sides agreed that they should seek an “early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement”.
A joint UK-EU statement said: “The parties underlined their intention to work hard to deliver a relationship, which would work in the interests of the citizens of the Union and of the United Kingdom.
“They also confirmed their commitment to the full and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”
NHS England reports further 28 deaths
A further 28 people who had tested positive for coronavirus have died, NHS England has confirmed, bringing the total number to 27,982.
Patients were aged between 59 and 100 years old. All patients had known underlying health conditions.
There were zero deaths in the East of England and just two in the South East, with three in the South West and five apiece in London, the North East & Yorkshire and North West.
Midlands had the highest rate, with eight recorded deaths.
China vows Beijing will not be ‘second Wuhan’ as cases spike
While the number of cases and deaths are dropping in the UK, some countries that have lifted the lockdown are starting to see signs of the much-feared second wave.
China has vowed to avoid a “second Wuhan” after Beijing, the country’s capital, reported for two consecutive days its highest daily infection counts since late March.
Read the full story here.
Boris Johnson joins ministers and political rivals wishing MP a speedy recovery
Boris Johnson has joined those wishing East Dunbartonshire MP Amy Callaghan a speedy recovery.
This morning (9:14am), it was revealed that the 28-year-old SNP MP had suffered a brain haemorrhage, and had been admitted for emergency neurosurgery.
The Prime Minister has tweeted: “My thoughts are with Amy and her family. I wish her a speedy and full recovery.”
Others including ministers James Cleverly and Penny Mordaunt, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, and Lib Dem leadership hopeful Layla Moran were among those also wishing that she get well soon.
Jo Swinson, who Callaghan unseated in December, also wished her a quick recovery.
My thoughts are with Amy and her family. I wish her a speedy and full recovery.
— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) June 15, 2020
No ‘great drama’ to come from today’s Brexit talks, sources say
Government sources have played down the prospects of a significant breakthrough in the Brexit talks, as the Prime Minister holds a high-level summit with Brussels leaders this afternoon.
Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and the UK’s lead negotiator David Frost are due to hold a virtual meeting shortly with Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament.
With the two sides stuck at an impasse over fishing rights and the UK’s ability to diverge from EU rules and regulations, it is hoped that the meeting could help break the deadlock.
However, ahead of the talks, a Government insider suggested the UK had already achieved its central aim of securing a more “intense” programme of negotiations throughout June and July, with Mr Johnson determined to secure a “high quality” free trade agreement by the end of the summer.
They added that they were not expecting any “great drama” to result from today’s meeting.
Separately, the Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters that Mr Johnson would be pushing for a “renewed energy and commitment” to reaching an agreement within the next few months.
With Mr Johnson due to speak to the French President Emmanuel Macron this week, the spokesman also played down suggestions that their talks would focus on the negotiations.
Lobby latest: Nothing untoward in fewer appearances from scientific advisers
Number 10 has insisted there is no untoward reason for a drop in the number of scientists who appear at the daily coronavirus press conferences.
Today’s press conference is expected to be led by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, with no scientific advisers appearing alongside him.
Asked if there was a problem behind the reduction in appearances by the scientists, following reports this weekend that the two chiefs were on resignation watch, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “No – last week you saw, from memory, the chief medical officer, the chief scientific adviser, you saw NHS England’s medical director, you saw Baroness Harding who is in charge of test and trace, you also saw the Health and Safety Executive and a couple of others as well…
“There won’t be an expert there every day but you will still see them.”
He argued that the UK was now moving to a “more operational phase” of the pandemic response.
The spokesman also denied reports from last week that the Chief Nurse, Ruth May, had been dropped from a press conference after allegedly refusing to defend Dominic Cummings.
He added that Ms May had appeared on multiple occasions in the past and was likely to do so again in the future.
Lobby latest: PM’s race commission will report by year-end
Downing Street said the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities launched by Boris Johnson would also examine why working-class white boys fell behind in school.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It will look at wider inequalities including issues facing working-class white boys in schools, for example.”
The spokesman said the commission “will be examining, in detail, racial and ethnic inequalities in Britain but it will also look at other, wider, inequalities”.
Work to establish the commission has commenced, although its membership has not yet been announced.
A report and recommendations is expected by the end of the year.
Downing Street also praised the actions of Patrick Hutchinson, who rescued an injured white man after violence broke out at a far-right rally.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The images are very moving. Nobody should have to face vile racism and abuse.
“I think Patrick Hutchinson’s instincts in that moment represent the best of us.”
Lobby latest: No U-turn on schools, Downing Street suggests
Downing Street has indicated it will not bow to pressure over calls for a free school meals voucher scheme to be extended over the summer holidays.
Responding to a letter from England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford (see 10:29am) for ministers to think again, the Prime Minister’s spokesman confirmed that he would be replying “as soon as he can”.
Praising Rashford for “using his profile in a positive way” to “highlight some very important issues”, the spokesman added that the Prime Minister understood the challenges facing families across the UK.
However, he pointed out that the Government had last week announced an additional £63m of funding to help struggling families.
Asked if that meant Mr Johnson was sticking to the decision to end the scheme, he added: “You have my words”.
Lobby latest: Gavin Williamson will unveil catch-up plan this week
The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is due to set out further details of a summer catch-up programme to close the learning gap for millions of schoolchildren.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that Mr Williamson would be make an announcement later this week.
He also confirmed, as reported by The Sunday Telegraph, that some schools would be able to bring back additional pupils before the summer holidays if they have the capacity to maintain classes of 15 and can demonstrate their plans are safe.
Lobby latest: Quarantine compliance ‘high’, says Downing Street
Travellers entering the UK are complying with the new quarantine rules and compliance is at “high levels”, according to Downing Street.
Despite mounting anger from the aviation and travel sector over 14-day quarantine for overseas arrivals, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said that as of midnight no fines had been issued and that Border Force was unaware of anyone who had refused to hand over their details when entering the country.
Asked for an update on potential air bridges this summer, the spokesman was unable to say which countries the UK had entered into discussions with, stating only that they would provide further updates when possible.
Caroline Wilson appointed as new ambassador to China
Caroline Wilson has been appointed as the UK’s ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, taking over from Dame Barbara Woodward.
Ms Wilson was Europe Director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London from October 2016 until July 2019 and served as Her Majesty’s Consul General to Hong Kong and Macao from 2012 to 2016.
HM The Queen appointed the new Ambassador after the Prime Minister approved the successful candidate on the recommendation of the Foreign Secretary. The request for agreement has been approved by the Chinese Government.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “This is an important juncture in the UK’s relationship with China, with both opportunities and challenges. Caroline is an outstanding diplomat, who will help us navigate the path ahead.”
Ms Wilson added: “It is an incredible opportunity to be asked to represent the UK in China at this critical time. As major economies and leading members of the global community, the UK and China must continue to work together to develop our partnership.
“I look forward to returning to China to take the relationship forward.”
Brussels braces for Boris
Various EU figures have tweeted this picture showing the Brussels team preparing for its high-level meeting with Boris Johnson today.
The meeting is, of course, being held remotely but there are high hopes that it could help to shake things up a bit with talks stalling over the level-playing field and fisheries. Michel Barnier said last week that political intervention was needed to get things moving if a deal was going to be secured in time.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The EU is ready to intensify the talks, we are available 24/7. Let’s inject fresh momentum into the negotiations.”
The Prime Minister did it last summer – will he be able to do it again now?
Historic rotational agreement struck for Irish government
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will become Ireland’s next premier as a deal was struck to form a new coalition government.
The position of Taoiseach will be rotated under the terms of the historic draft programme for government agreed by Mr Martin, current Irish premier and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.
The three leaders have finalised the deal to form a coalition government more than four months on from February’s inconclusive general election.
Fianna Fail won the most seats in the election with 38, to Sinn Fein’s 37 and Fine Gael’s 35. The Greens won 12.
Sinn Fein won the popular vote but its efforts to form a left-wing coalition government foundered, as it was unable to secure the requisite 80 seats to secure a majority in the Dail parliament.
Fianna Fail and Fine Gael – parties that have been historic foes since their formation from opposing sides of Ireland’s Civil War of the 1920s – are now set to enter government together for the first time.
No new deaths in Scotland for third 24-hour period
Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed there were no new deaths caused by coronavirus in Scotland over the last 24 hours, the third time the figure has remained the same since lockdown began.
A total of 2,448 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, no change on Sunday’s figure.
The death total previously remained the same on June 7 and June 8.
But the First Minister stressed that deaths are lower at weekends, and urged people to continue with the social distancing measures, which are currently more restrictive than in England.
Sturgeon: We do not want blended learning for ‘anything like’ a year
Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland will begin ‘specific consideration’ of the evidence for Covid-19 transmission in schools and among young people in the hope of getting pupils back in the classroom as soon as possible.
During the daily press conference, Scotland’s First Minister said she wanted pupils to be able to have face-to-face lessons for “100 per cent of the school week as soon as is possible”.
She added: “While we have a duty to be open with parents that none of us have a crystal ball… it is absolutely not the case that we are planning for blended learning to last for a year or anything like it. “
It is “our firm intention” that next year’s exams will go ahead, and any disruption is made up before that point, she said.
Education is “central to my and the whole Government’s thinking”, she added.
Give a lonely friend a call to ‘let them know you care’, PM says
The Prime Minister has urged people to get in touch with friends or family who are on their own during lockdown “and let them know you care” as part of Loneliness Awareness Week.
Boris Johnson tweeted that the restrictions imposed as part of tackling Covid-19 may be excerbating “loneliness and feelings of isolation” for some who live alone.
He also urged people who are struggling with their mental health to “reach out for help”
I know that the lockdown restrictions have been difficult, and that many will be suffering from loneliness and feelings of isolation.
If you know someone who may be alone at this time, give them a call and let them know that you care.#LonelinessAwarenessWeek (1/2)
— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) June 15, 2020
Crashed American fighter jet on ‘routine training mission’
An American fighter jet has crashed into the North Sea while on a training exercise off the north-east coast of England.
The US Air Force F-15C Eagle, from the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, crashed at around 9.40am on Monday with one pilot on board.
The status of the pilot is not known and a search and rescue operation is under way.
The 48th Fighter Wing said in a statement: “At the time of the accident, the aircraft was on a routine training mission with one pilot on board.
“The cause of the crash as well as the status of the pilot are unknown at this time, and UK Search and Rescue have been called to support.”
RAF spokesman Martin Tinworth said the aircraft has an “exceptional flight safety record”.
Britons twice as likely to visit beer gardens as to sit in pub
With shops reopening from today, YouGov has some interesting polling results out showing how comfortable Britons feel visiting certain establishments.
Garden centres, which of course tend to be outdoors, rank the highest with 64 per cent, while beauty salons and nail bars ranked the lowest with 16 per cent. The latter of course is a slightly moot point as they won’t be opening for a few weeks yet.
The same is true of hospitality. While 53 per cent of people felt comfortable visiting beer gardens, just 26 per cent of people were willing to sit indoors.
Shopping centres came someway in the middle, with 40 per cent of people saying they would feel comfortable visiting them currently.
You can have your say on whether you’ll be hitting the shops this week in our poll below.
Covid-19 immunity could last at least two months, study suggests
People who have had coronavirus may have some level of immunity for at least two months after diagnosis, new research suggests.
Results from an antibody testing study have revealed that Covid-19 antibodies remain stable in the blood of the majority of infected people almost two months after diagnosis, and possibly longer.
However, antibodies were not detected in everyone exposed to the virus, leading to questions about how best to interpret antibody viral tests.
Researchers say their findings give answers to questions around how long people may remain immune after exposure to Covid-19.
The study was led by researchers and clinicians at St George’s, University of London and St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in collaboration with colleagues at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Mologic Ltd and Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Senegal.
Those with the most severe infections with the largest inflammatory response were more likely to develop antibodies. But between two per cent and 8.5 per cent of patients did not develop Covid-19 antibodies at all.
Extremists speak for nobody in this unwanted culture war
If you were watching the news this weekend, you’d be forgiven for thinking the country was more divided than ever before.
It is highly impertinent to assume that what a mob of violent protesters thinks in any way reflects opinion in modern Britain, but this is the game our broadcast media plays.
They take the most extreme views, amplify them and present them as if they were the only two choices available – as if the only options in life are madness or lunacy.
In reality, as Tim Stanley writes, most people want to fix the problems – but they still love their home.
Man gets 14 days after urinating next to memorial of PC Palmer
Andrew Banks has been sentenced to 14 days in custody after being pictured urinating next to the memorial for PC Keith Palmer during Saturday’s far-right protests in central London.
He pleaded guilty to outraging public decency during a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning.
Prosecutor Michael Mallon said Mr Banks, a Tottenham Hotspur fan, was in central London to “protect statues”, but admitted he did not know which statues.
He was said to have drunk 16 pints during Friday night into Saturday morning, and had not been to sleep.
He contacted police after being confronted by his father, the court heard.
His counsel Stuart Harris said his client was “ashamed by his action”, and had mental health issues.
A photograph of the 28-year-old man circulated on social media at the weekend, with many including Home Secretary Priti Patel branding it shameful.
PC Palmer was stabbed while on duty during the Westminster terror attack on 22 March 2017. He was one of five people murdered by Khalid Masood.
Keep quiet on two-metre rule, Sage experts told
Scientists advising the Government about the coronavirus crisis have been warned not to give their personal opinion about the two-metre rule, amid growing controversy over whether it should be enforced in pubs, restaurants and schools.
My colleague Katherine Rushton has the full story here.
Half of those shielding have left their home against advice, ONS data shows
Up to half of people who are shielding from Covid-19 have left their home against advice, while a third have seen their mental health worsen, according to new data.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), based on a survey of 4,149 people who are shielding between May 28 and June 3, found that 49 per cent have been out since shielding began, while 51 per cent have stayed at home.
People who are shielding were initially told not to leave their home or garden, including for exercise, shopping or to go to work. But on June 1, the rules in England were relaxed to say people could leave their homes once a day for exercise.
The poll also found that while 61 per cent of those shielding had experienced no difference in their mental health and wellbeing due to shielding, 35 per cent said their mental health had got worse.
Almost half of those under the age of 60 reported worsening mental health, compared with 26 per cent of those aged 70-74 and 23 per cent of those aged over 75.
Women were also more likely than men to say their mental health had got worse over time.
Forget the rhetoric: Brexit deal could be finalised by October
It is not in the UK or the EU’s interest to admit as much but a Brext trade deal is there to be done.
Both sides continue to insist it is up to the other to compromise on their red lines first, which plays well to their domestic audiences, but neither Britain or the EU want to trade on WTO terms and with tariffs.
As my colleague James Crisp writes, it’s time to forget the rhetoric and propaganda: the groundwork is being laid for an agreement to be finalised by October.
Minister praises ‘inspirational’ footballer who urges U-turn on free school meals
Football Marcus Rashford has pleaded with the Government to support free school meals during the summer holiday as the economic impact of coronavirus takes hold, saying that no child should be going to bed hungry.
The Manchester United and England forward has published an open letter to MPs, saying: “The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked.”
Rashford urged ministers to “make the U-turn and make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority”, stressing this was “not about politics; this is about humanity”.
Small Business Minister Paul Scully said the Manchester United player, who has raised £20 million for vulnerable children in the UK with the charity FareShare since the start of lockdown, was an “inspirational figure”.
But speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Sully showed no sign of backing down. He said: “What we’ve done is put £9m into summer activities, which clearly if people with children are at these activities they will get fed within that as well.
“We’re also bringing in £63 million worth of support to local authorities, for hardship funds, to make sure that people who do struggle can actually get access to a decent meal.”
Government should acknowledge mistakes to give space to deal with multiple crises
The Government has so far insisted it is too early for any inquiry into its handling of coronavirus. But there are good reasons for ministers to start acknowledging their mistakes, in order to create space to get their policy back on track.
As our columnist Nick Timothy writes today, there is always some fudge in politics, and the pandemic and its economic consequences were a nasty surprise that nobody predicted when Boris Johnson won his election in December. But now, with multiple crises before him, there is too much fudge and not enough beef.
What are the alternatives to the two-metre rule?
The Government review of the two-metre rule could take “a matter of weeks”, minister Paul Scully said this morning – but those working in the hospitality and retail sectors have warned that it could destroy businesses.
In the video below former Sage adviser Peter Openshaw, considers the impact of the social distancing rule for the economy and runs through some alternatives that could be deployed.
Police Federation boss calls for ‘unequivocal’ ban on protests during pandemic
The organisation that represents rank-and-file police officers in England and Wales has called on the Home Secretary to ban all protests while the threat of Covid-19 remains.
It comes after a second weekend of violent clashes in the capital as far-right protesters took over areas near the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square on Saturday in response to anti-racism demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Police Federation chairman John Apter said: “In normal times the principle of having the right to peaceful protests is an important one.
“However, we are not in normal times, we are tackling a deadly virus which is indiscriminate in who it can affect… I urge the Home Secretary to be unequivocal in her terms that whilst we are under the threat of this virus, any large gathering or protest must be banned.
“We cannot allow our police officers and members of the public to be put at risk of contracting the virus, especially at such a critical time in our response to the pandemic.”
Protesters could already face sanctions under coronavirus laws, which currently ban groups of more than six people, with exceptions, from gathering.
Have your say: Will you be hitting the shops?
Shops are reopening after 84 days of lockdown, and the crowds are gathering outside Primark and other high street outlets.
This morning Paul Scully, the Small Business Minister, said people should feel confident about getting back and supporting retailers as they look to restart the economy. But urged that those venturing out be “sensible” and work with staff in what will be a very different environment to what we’re used to enjoying.
So will you be hitting the shops or waiting for the crowds to calm down? Have your say in the poll below.
MP undergoes emergency neurosurgery after brain haemorrhage
A 28-year-old MP has had to undergo emergency neurosurgery after she was found collapsed at home suffering a brain haemorrhage last week.
Amy Callaghan, the Scottish National Party’s MP for East Dunbartonshire since deposing former Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson in December, is now in recovery.
Her family has put out a statement confirming the haemorrhage was related to a “previously manageable medical condition”, saying that while she is “under no illusion of the seriousness of her condition”, and the recovery, she will “continue to fight”.
Statement from the Office of Amy Callaghan MP:
On Wednesday, Amy was found collapsed at home suffering a brain haemorrhage. She was admitted for emergency neurosurgery and is in recovery.
Our thoughts are with Amy & her family. We ask their privacy is respected. pic.twitter.com/4cMXVxMwMO
— Amy Callaghan MP (@AmyCallaghanSNP) June 15, 2020
Prime Minister’s ‘victimisation’ comments unhelpful and hurtful, says Lord Woolley
The Prime Minister’s use of language to discuss racial inequality has been “unhelpful, and unnecessary, and to some hurtful”, a peer and Government adviser on race has said.
Lord (Simon) Woolley, the founder and director of Operation Black Vote and the advisory chair of the United Kingdom Race Disparity Unit, told the Today programme the Government had “a window of opportunity” to bring forward a “grand plan” for structural change.
The peer said he wanted a “blank sheet and an honest conversation” about what had to be done to tackle inequalities, including hiring “30-40,000 more black teachers and a curriculum that’s fit for purpose”.
In revealing the launch of a new Government commission to look into racial inequalities, Boris Johnson said he hoped it would “stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination”.
Asked about this phrasing, Lord Woolley said: “Some of his language is frankly unhelpful… Really unhelpful, and unnecessary, and to some hurtful.”
However, he stressed that Mr Johnson’s acknowledgement of “deep-seated inequalities” was encouraging. “If we focus on that and not the other stuff we have a chance,” he said. “We have to be honest… we have to deal with uncomfortable truths.”
PM focusing on Churchill’s statue ‘to distract from central issue’, Lammy claims
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy has said the focus on Sir Winston Churchill’s statue is “bizarre” and claimed it is to “distract from the central issue” of tackling racism.
The Labour MP told the Today programme: “It is deeply worrying – and frankly immature – that Britain is still having a conversation about whether racism actually exists.
“And, frankly, when you watch a man die like we did in eight minutes and 46 seconds – I’d like to ask Boris Johnson why he thinks the way to commemorate his death is to announce yet another commission, and why he insists on talking about statues.
“The Labour Party isn’t talking about statues, the Lib Dems aren’t calling for Winston Churchill’s statue to be removed, neither are the Greens.
“The only person that wants to focus on Winston Churchill’s statue is the Conservative Party and, frankly, it is bizarre.
“They want a culture war because they want to distract from the central issue. Implement the reviews: do something, change it, you’re in power, you’ve been in power for a decade.”
Two-metre rule could put a million jobs at risk, trade union warns
The UK’s two-metre social distancing restriction could put one million jobs at risk in the hospitality sector, according to the chief executive of trade union UKHospitality.
Katie Nicholls warned the rule means many smaller businesses are unable to meet the criteria for safe opening and one third of hospitality businesses may not survive the pandemic.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Monday, she said: “We very much welcome the Government’s decision to conduct a review on this because it is a matter of survival or business failure as far as hospitality is concerned.
“If businesses are opening at two-metre social distance, then they’re operating at 30% of their normal revenues and for a quarter of our small hospitality businesses they won’t be able to open at all.
“If they open at one metre with additional protections to make sure staff and customers are safe, then they can reach 60 per cent to 70 per cent of their normal revenues, and that puts them at break-even.
“So, for many of those businesses it is literally about viability and we know that a third of businesses may not reopen as a result of prolonged closure, and that puts a million jobs at risk across the hospitality sector.”
Minister hints at VAT cut as he points to Chancellor’s ‘flexibility’
A Government minister has not pushed back against reports that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is mulling a temporary cut to VAT in a bid to get the country spending once again.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning, Paul Scully, the Business Minister, said: “The Chancellor will always look at what he needs to do to get the economy working.
“We are looking at the kind of support we are giving at the moment
“He’s shown a lot of flexibility so far… The Chancellor will make any announcements like that in due course.”
Government will not cut two-metre rule in half – and review could take ‘weeks’
The Government will not simply cut the two-metre rule “in half”, as it undertakes a review that could run on for weeks, a minister has conceded today.
Speaking as non-essential shops reopen for the first time since the lockdown began in March, Paul Scully, the Small Business Minister, told Sky News that they were undertaking a “comprehensive review of two metre system to make sure we can see what’s happening”.
But he stressed that any decision would be based on scientific evidence, adding: “No one is saying we are going to review anything to cut it in half.”
Mr Scully, the MP for Sutton and Cheam, then told the BBC’s Today programme the review would “take a matter of weeks to do”.
He said: “It will take a matter of weeks to do but we want to make sure we get the best scientific advice and we can look at the international comparisons.
“Clearly you have the likes of Germany, it’s one-and-a-half metres, America it is one-metre, and see how those differences land in terms of health guidance.”
Mr Scully said the Government did not want to be “rushed into decisions as we gradually open up the economy”.
EU prepares for no-deal Brexit, says French former minister
The European Union is preparing itself for a no-deal Brexit, a French former Europe minister has said.
MEP Nathalie Loiseau told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are ready either for an agreement or for a no-deal and we are getting prepared more actively to a no-deal considering the circumstances.
“We believe it is possible to have an agreement – it has to be ready in October so that parliaments on both sides can ratify it.
“We believe it is possible because we have the political declaration which we negotiated together, signed together and should respect together – so, yes, the framework is here.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is today holding talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in an attempt to inject new momentum into flagging negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal.
The high level meeting will take place by video conference call this afternoon, as they attempt to thrash out a deal before the autumn.
It comes after the EU formally accepted on Friday that the UK would not seek any extension to the transition which allows Britain continued access to the EU single market while talks continue.
Mr Johnson is expected to say that the talks need to be “swiftly concluded,” providing the public and business with certainty on the way forward by the autumn at the latest.
Britain cannot photoshop its past, says Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has warned that Britain cannot “photoshop” its long and complicated cultural history and that to do so would be a “distortion” of our past, amid the ongoing row over the removal of public monuments.
Writing for The Telegraph, the Prime Minister promises to fight “with every breath in his body” any attempt to remove the statue of Winston Churchill from Parliament Square.
Mr Johnson acknowledges Britain has much more to do to tackle the issue of racism and has pledged to set up a cross-government commission to examine inequality.