Brexit news live: Latest Boris Johnson and Northern Ireland updates

Government considering closing UK borders to prevent Covid spread

UK retailers are considering abandoning goods returned by EU customers, with some even thinking of burning them due to the cost and trouble of bringing them back into the country.

After the post-Brexit introduction of new paperwork and charges for goods crossing over the border, fashion industry boss Adam Mansell said it was “cheaper for retailers to write off the cost of the goods than dealing with it all”, adding the process includes at least four new charges and documents.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of online shoppers have been faced with additional customs and delivery charges costing up to one-third of the price of items ordered from the EU. One shopper was asked to pay £77 in tax on £245 of clothes bought from a French website, The Times reports.

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Wales first minister speaks out after Senedd drinking session

“We cannot possibly expect other people to follow the rules when we are not doing everything we can to make sure that we are complying with them ourselves.”

Just short of a condemnation there from Mark Drakeford, the first minister of Wales, after a group of senior Welsh politicians were reported to have drank together in the Senedd, or Welsh parliament, during a ban on licensed alcohol sales.

The Welsh Conservative leader, Paul Davies, who was among the four said to have gone for a glass of wine or two, has confirmed he was present but his party said he will continue in his post.

Mark Drakeford leads the Welsh Labour Party and has been First Minister of Wales since 2018

Mark Drakeford leads the Welsh Labour Party and has been First Minister of Wales since 2018

(PA)

Liam James22 January 2021 14:20

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Social media users mock government over £800 fines for house parties

The government has been mocked for introducing £800 fines for house parties of 15 guests or more, with social media users joking that 14-person gatherings are now allowed. 

“Does this mean house parties for 14 people are fine?” Piers Morgan asked, while comedian Tim Walker tweeted, via his comic character Jonathan Pie, that “house parties of up to 14 people are allowed.” 

Under current rules, people can be fined £200 for attending an illegal gathering, while organisers of events of more than 30 people can be fined £10,000.

The new £800 fine will come into effect next week. 

Here’s Zoe Tidman with more on the story: 

Rory Sullivan22 January 2021 13:53

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Thousands call for closure of controversial military barracks housing asylum seekers

A petition to shut controversial military barracks used to house asylum seekers has received more than 7,500 signatures within a few hours of being launched on Friday morning.

Charities, including Freedom from Torture, the organisation which organised the petition, have criticised conditions at the Home Office-run facilities in Kent and Wales, arguing that they are not acceptable.

There have been reports of suicide attempts at the barracks, with many residents going on hunger strike to protest against living conditions there.

The Home Office says the accommodation at the Kent barracks, which saw an outbreak of coronavirus recently,  is “safe, suitable, (and) Covid-compliant”.

Rory Sullivan22 January 2021 13:39

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Statues of two 18th century politicians to be removed from sites in London

The statues of two men who profited from the slave trade will be taken down from sites in London, shortly after the government announced its plan to safeguard controversial historic monuments.

The City of London Corporation voted to remove the statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass from Guildhall, saying the political figures symbolise “a stain on our history”. 

This comes just days after the government introduced new legislation to protect monuments like these, giving communities secretary Robert Jenrick the final say if Historic England objects to a council’s decision to pull down such statues. 

On the weekend, Mr Jenrick wrote an article for the Telegraph in which he said he would protect monuments against the “baying mob” of activists. In response, former Conservative minister Ed Vaizey called the communities secretary’s language “ridiculously provocative”. 

My colleague Adam Forrest has the details: 

Rory Sullivan22 January 2021 13:19

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Boris Johnson pursuing ‘pathetic’ anti-woke agenda, says Tory peer

The government’s anti-woke approach — in particular Robert Jenrick’s legislation to protect historic statues — has been described a “pathetic” by former culture minister Ed Vaizey.

Speaking as Boris Johnson’s government faces accusations of seeking to whip up a culture war, the Tory peer said the housing secretary had been “ridiculously provocative” in promising to defend memorials to significant historic figures such as Churchill and Nelson from “baying mobs”.

Mr Vaizey, who remains the UK’s longest serving culture minister, suggested the government instead “lean in” to modern debates over social and racial justice.

Our Political Correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more on this:

Liam James22 January 2021 12:59

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Less than half of voters want immigration to UK to be reduced, polling shows | Exclusive

The government has been accused of being “out of step” with public opinion on immigration after it emerged the proportion of Britons wanting fewer immigrants to arrive has dropped from more than two thirds (67 per cent) in February 2015 to 49 per cent in November 2020, Social Affairs Correspondent May Bulman reports.

Polling by Ipsos Mori of more than 2,500 people, seen exclusively by The Independent, shows that 12 per cent would like to see an increase in immigration to the UK, compared with 7 per cent in February 2015.

In August 2019, 54 per cent of respondents said they would like to see a reduction and 9 per cent said they would like to see an increase – indicating that the public mood has softened considerably on immigration in the past year and a half.

Read the exclusive report in full here:

Liam James22 January 2021 12:41

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Government considering closing borders to all foreign travellers to prevent spread of Covid variants

George Eustice said the government has considered the possibility of closing the borders to all foreign travellers to prevent the spread of new Covid variants.

The environment secretary told Sky News said closure of the borders had been considered and could not be ruled out, though he added he would prefer not to have to take the measure.

He cited concerns a new variant could emerge that would be able to evade the current coronavirus vaccines.

Political Correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more on this:

Liam James22 January 2021 12:22

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Low-paid workers twice as likely to have lost jobs during Covid, report finds

New research suggests low-paid workers are more than twice as likely to have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Low-paid workers, defined as earning less than the Real Living Wage, were also found to have been twice as likely to have had their hours cut, the Institute for Employment Studies said in a report published today.  

Employment loss during the pandemic has been driven by falls in lower-paying jobs in food services and manufacturing, hospitality, residential care and construction, the report found.

Mubin Haq, chief execuitve of the Standard Life Foundation, which funded the research, said: “We have seen some progress but culture and practice remains poor in too many places. More action on incomes, protecting rights and employment support is needed if we are to ease the financial pain and insecurity many families are facing.”

Liam James22 January 2021 12:02

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Government borrowing up nearly sixfold to £34bn in December

Government borrowing reached £34.1bn in December, shooting the country’s debt up to an all-time high, new figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

That marks an increase of £28.2bn on the same month in 2019, a near-sixfold rise.  The public sector has borrowed £270.8bn since the beginning of the financial year in April, up from £58bn in the same period a year earlier.

Even in the financial year beginning after the 2008 crash, borrowing only hit £158bn.

Liam James22 January 2021 11:49

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British shoppers hit with unexpectedly high fees on products from EU after Brexit

Online shoppers in post-Brexit Britain have been faced with paying up to one-third extra in customs duties, VAT and additional delivery charges on goods arriving from the EU.

One shopper, Ellie Huddleston from London, was asked to pay £140 on top of a £380 order, another faced extra charges of £77 on a £245 order from France.

More on these new, and unexpectedly high, charges from Adam Forrest:

Liam James22 January 2021 11:29



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