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Michael Gove urges Tory rebels to BACK Boris’s new tier rules as PM faces Commons fight

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Mr Gove is seeking to head off an escalating backbench rebellion, with Sir Graham, chairman of the 1922 Committee, vowing to vote against the introduction of a new localised tier system once the lockdown comes to an end on December 2, claiming it represented an unreasonable infringement on civil liberties. Writing in The Times, Mr Gove said the decision to impose the lockdown in November had presented Boris Johnson and his cabinet with a “Devil’s dilemma”.

We had to act because if we did not our health service would have been overwhelmed

Michael Gove

However, he said the Government had chosen to take drastic action, just as Emmanuel Macron in France, Micheál Martin in Ireland, Mark Rutte in the Netherlands and Angela Merkel in Germany had done.

He explained: “We had to act, as they did, because if we did not our health service would have been overwhelmed.”

Mr Gove likened the pre-lockdown situation to “a tap filling a bath faster and faster with every day that passed”.

He said: “Lockdown first slowed the pace at which the bath was filling up, then stabilised it. Slowly, it has begun to lower the water level.

“But as we exit this lockdown the level is still high and it would not take too much, or too rapid an increase, for us to risk it overtopping again.”

As a result, the Government had opted to set out “new, stronger tiers”, Mr Gove said.

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He added: “Bluntly, our previous tiers were not as effective as we had hoped. In general, infections continued to rise in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas and even the bare, basic, old Tier 3 wasn’t enough.

“These are, of course, uncomfortable truths. Not least for those of us who argued that these measures, on their own, would be enough. But we cannot ignore the evidence.”

In a pointed message likely to be aimed at would-be Tory rebels, he warned: “When the country is facing such a national crisis, the truth is that all of us who have been elected to parliament, not just ministers, must take responsibility for difficult decisions.

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“COVID-19 is no respecter of constituency boundaries and the hardships we are facing now are unfortunately necessary to protect every single one of us, no matter where we live.

“In any analysis of this government’s, or any government’s approach, the cost of lockdown and restrictions cannot be reckoned against the status quo ante, but only against the cost of inaction, or inadequate action, and the overwhelming of the NHS.”

Mr Gove’s arguments are unlikely to cut much ice with Sir Graham, who outlined his concerns in an op-ed published in today’s Daily Mail.

In it, he wrote: “In practice, the new regime is just as heavy-handed as lockdown, leaving 99 percent of the population under arbitrary state control.

“Riddled with contradictions and unsupported by compelling scientific evidence, these restrictions will cause immense further damage to the economy, cripple our civil liberties and worsen the nation’s health.

“In short, they threaten to destroy the social fabric that makes up Great Britain.

“That is why I shall be voting against their implementation when Parliament decides on the issue on Tuesday.”

Given Boris Johnson’s 80-seat majority in the House of Commons, a rebellion of more than 40 Tory MPs would leave the Prime Minister reliant on Labour to approve the new system.

Tory MP Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the recently formed Covid Recovery Group, is among those who has indicated he is likely to follow Sir Graham’s lead in voting against the new system.

Speaking to Express.co.uk in May, he said: “On the economy, I am gravely concerned.”

He explained was already witnessing the fallout in terms of self-employed people, as well as those working in the hospitality sector, creative professionals, and the mental health impact.

He added: “Every day the economic and clinical reasons for relaxing the lockdown become more evident.”

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Queen health: Her Majesty joked ‘she’s still alive’ after Martin McGuinness question

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Eight years ago, Her Majesty and Mr McGuinness, a former IRA commander, shared a historic handshake, which was seen as part of “the national reconciliation process”. Her visit came a year after she toured the Republic of Ireland, and the symbolic gesture between the Queen and Mr McGuinness was described by then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman as “taking relations between the two countries to a new level”. They added: “We think it is right that the Queen should meet representatives from all parts of the community.”

But in 2016, when the Queen returned to Northern Ireland, she was greeted once again by Mr McGuinness – a year before he stood down as deputy First Minister.

Upon his arrival, the pair shared another handshake, before Mr McGuinness asked the Queen: “Are you well?”

The Queen replied: “Thank you, yes, well I’m still alive!

“We’ve been quite busy – there’s a lot going on. I’ve had two birthdays, so that’s kept me quite busy!”

Their visit was the third high-profile Royal Family trip to Northern Ireland in weeks, as it followed tours by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince William and Kate Middleton.

But it was the historic visit in 2012 which led to many celebrating the meeting between the Queen and Mr McGuinness.

Then-Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: “It brings our journey of relationship building within this island and between these islands onto a new plane.

“I think the vast majority of unionists will be pleased this happened because they know it was essentially a real gesture towards their sense of identity and their sense of allegiance.

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“Whatever personal feelings Martin may have, no more than myself, doesn’t come into it. It was a good thing for him to do and I commend him for it.”

Across the world, the likes of former US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, hailed the event as “the most remarkable sign of change yet” in the Northern Ireland peace process.

The Queen is renowned for her presence as the nation’s most global representative, and has met a host of the most important leaders in world history.

As well as the likes of South African President Nelson Mandela, the Queen has met dignitaries across her impressive reign as monarch.

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This included a visit where she made an impromptu joke to Pope John Paul II as she attempted to break the silence between them.

Her Majesty had been visiting the Vatican in a symbolic meeting before they discussed hopes on how to progress Christian unity ahead of a summit.

The visit came 20 years after they had originally met and was part of a four-day visit to Italy.

But it appears that moments after the frail John Paul II had shaken hands with the huge number of people in the Queen’s entourage, the monarch opted to make a joke to break the silence.

She turned to John Paul II, who sat next to her, and said: “We’ve bought a lot of people with us I’m afraid.”

Smiling, the Queen then shared a laugh with John Paul II before photographs of the pair, alongside Prince Philip, were taken.

Discussing the visit, the Queen said “it was a great pleasure to the Pope again”, and both recalled their previous visit – when John Paul II came to Buckingham Palace in 1982.

The pair then exchanged gifts, which included “50 facsimile prints of Canaletto drawings bound in leather for the Pope, and a facsimile copy of a 13th century illuminated New Testament from the papal library for the Queen”.

The Queen said: “We have a huge collection of Canalettos and I hope this will be of interest for the library here.”

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Who is in the Queen’s Christmas bubble: Royal Family members the Queen has chosen

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Queen Elizabeth II, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, face the same difficult decision as Britons everywhere when it comes to choosing who to spend Christmas with this year. A relaxation of government COVID-19 restrictions will allow up to three households to bubble-up from December 23 to December 27.

Who have the Queen and Philip picked to be in their Christmas bubble?

Royal Family members traditionally descend on Sandringham en masse to spend Christmas with the Queen and Philip every year.

The royal couple usually welcome guests on Christmas Eve and host them until Boxing Day when they peel off following the traditional pheasant shoot.

But this year the COVID-19 pandemic will have dramatically altered the royals’ Christmas plans and Philip and the Queen will have had to choose select family members to join their bubble.

According to a royal insider, the Queen and Philip’s youngest son Prince Edward, 56, will join his parents for Christmas.

Edward, his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, 55, and their children – Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and James, Viscount Severn, 12, are said to be royal favourites.

Speaking of the Queen’s Christmas plans, a source said: “Prince Edward and his family will be one of the two in her bubble.”

From December 23 to December 27, households who have bubbled-up should not mix with others but an ingenious loophole could allow more Royal Family members to see the Queen and Philip on Boxing Day.

While many royal Christmas traditions, including the Christmas Day church visit face being scrapped this year, the Boxing Day shoot at Sandringham is still expected to go ahead.

Shoots can legally take place as they are classified as organised outdoor sports, so up to 30 royals could meet up the day after Christmas.

This could allow more royals including Prince Charles, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, Kate Duchess of Cambridge and their children to meet up without breaching guidelines.

The source told the Daily Mail: “If they go to Sandringham, their traditional Boxing Day shoot could still take place, enabling them to see members of the family unable to join them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.”

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The Queen and Philip’s only daughter Princess Anne could also join her parents for the Boxing Day shoot.

Anne lives in Gloucestershire at Gatcombe House with her husband Timothy Laurence.

Anne’s children Zara Tindall, 39, and Peter Phillips, 42, both live nearby and could join their mother for Christmas this year.

Zara and Peter each have two daughters and the new Government guidelines mean Anne could spend Christmas day with her children and grandchildren.

Will the Queen give a speech this Christmas?

The Queen is expected to go ahead with her annual address, as usual, this Christmas.

The Queen is known to write the Christmas speech herself and following an extremely difficult year for Britain, the address may be more personal than usual.

The Christmas speech is usually pre-recorded at Windsor Castle before being broadcast to the nation on Christmas Day.

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Macron warned: France division to spiral out of control amidst Police brutality outrage

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Emmanuel Macron has been accused of having “tilted to the right” to please voters because of his failure to contain Police amidst repeated claims of brutality against citizens in the past few months. Footage released earlier this week sparked France’s fury after a Paris music producer claimed to have been attacked by Police officers after rushing into his studio to avoid a fine for not wearing a face mask. The release of the video comes as President Macron faces further public backlash across France due to a proposed security law that would forbid people to share or broadcast images of the Police.

France Inter host Pierre Haski said: “We are in a very special moment in France.

“The Government is trying to push for a security law which is raising lots of concerns, lots of opposition.

“And all of a sudden, you have in the same week two incidents of Police violence which are really creating a political problem.

“You have different interpretations, some think President Macron has allowed his minister of interior to give the Police a free hand because he wants to gain votes on the right.”

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Mr Haski continued: “I think it might also be a problem of incompetence, that the authorities in charge of controlling the Police, who are commanding the Police, are just incompetent.

“And the Police feel they have a free hand because there’s not the political reigning in that is needed in situations like that. I think that’s a very, very difficult political moment.

“If there’s no solution, it might get worse.”

CCTV video from the music studio purportedly shows at least four members of Paris Police beating the producer Michel Zecler after having followed him into the building after allegedly spotting him outside without a mask on.

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French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Thursday the officers would be sanctioned if the alleged wrongdoing was confirmed.

The four men involved in the investigation were temporarily suspended after the release of the footage and gave their version of the events at a hearing on Friday.

Investigators from the General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN)have now opened new proceedings for “violence by persons holding public authority” and “forgery in public writing”.

President Macron reacted to the footage condemning all types of racism and said the claims of police brutality “shame” the whole of France.

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Writing on Twitter, the French President said: “The images we have all seen of Michel Zecler’s assault are unacceptable. They shame us.

“France must never resolve to violence or brutality, wherever they come from. France must never allow hatred or racism to flourish.

“I believe in the exemplary Republic: exemplary police with the French, exemplary French with the police as with all representatives of public authority.”

He added: “Exemplary French people with the police. I will never accept the violence perpetrated against our police and our gendarmes, all those who wear the uniform.

“Exemplary law enforcement agencies. Those who enforce the law must obey the law. I will never accept that the gratuitous violence of a few taints the professionalism of the women and men who courageously ensure our protection on a daily basis.

“I ask the Government to quickly make proposals to me to reaffirm the bond of trust that must naturally exist between the French and those who protect them and to fight more effectively against all forms of discrimination.”

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Laura Kuenssberg: BBC editor admitted people ‘tried to silence her’ before brutal attack

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The former ITN reporter was accused of using “language that was hugely irresponsible and unfounded” after she said the Conservative Government was forced into cuts as the UK had “no money left”. Mr Sunak’s one-year spending review, saw the Chancellor warn the House of Commons the nation was in an “economic emergency” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with the challenges “only just beginning”. Within his announcement, Mr Sunak said for public sector workers outside of the NHS there would be a pay freeze, as the UK attempted to lessen its borrowing forecasts.

The MP for Richmond also refused to rule out tax hikes, as borrowing in the UK hit the highest recorded level in the country’s post-war history.

Dissecting the review, Ms Kuenssberg described the public borrowing as “absolutely eye-wateringly enormous”, claiming it was like “the credit card, the national mortgage – everything absolutely maxed out”.

Yet her comments on the BBC’s Politics Live sparked outrage among economics experts, such as Frances Coppola, who said reporters such as Ms Kuenssberg “need to be educated” to report basic economics.

She said: “When the BBC continually broadcasts economic nonsense it is hardly surprising that people know little about economics.

“The state broadcaster has a responsibility to educate and inform. It is failing to do so.”

Ms Coppola also claimed Ms Kuennsberg’s remarks regarding credit cards and mortgages were “nonsense”.

But Ms Kuenssberg is likely to be unfazed by such a stinging attack from critics, as she once explained that people who threaten and abuse her online for carrying out her role within the BBC were “trying to silence me”.

Ms Kuenssberg, in conversation with the then-outgoing director of BBC News James Harding, admitted when she started her career she “didn’t aspire to have the finger pointed at me”.

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Three years ago, when she made the comments, Ms Kuenssberg was forced to have a personal body guard when covering the Labour Party conference – such was the anger she faced over “bias allegations”.

But she said that politics was a “tough business”, adding: “No matter how unpleasant and personal it might be, it is not as bad as what other journalists face around the world in much more difficult circumstances.”

During her career with the BBC, Ms Kuenssberg has faced a series of allegations surrounding claims she had been biased in her reporting against both Labour and the Conservative Party.

In the same year as the UK voted to leave the EU, Ms Kuenssberg saw a petition launched calling for her dismissal.

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On that occasion, Labour and supporters of then-leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed she had been biased against the party during the local elections.

However, the petition was later withdrawn by website 38 degrees due to concerns that it had become a “focal point for sexist and hateful abuse made towards Laura Kuenssberg”.

The claims continued to follow Ms Kuenssberg right up until last year’s general election.

Some members of the public attacked her online after she shared a link to the personal blog of the Government’s then-chief strategist Dominic Cummings.

Critics said by sharing it, Mr Cummings’ views were seen by the public unadulterated.

But more recently, it was her analysis of Mr Sunak’s spending review that saw critics from both sides of the political spectrum take aim at Ms Kuenssberg, who is the BBC’s first female political editor.

She said of the review: “If you think about the debate we had really all the way through from the late noughties all the way through to the 2015 election, it was defined by ‘how is the country going to pay back what we had to borrow in the credit crisis?’.

“This is that, and some, okay?

“This is the credit card, the national mortgage, everything absolutely maxxed out. Enormous levels of the country basically being in the red.”

She added it was “the beginning of the economic emergency”, with “some ministers worried that there are MPs and members of the public, who just haven’t really absorbed yet what the scale of the economic knock here is”.

Among other critics were Jonathan Portes, a professor of economics at King’s College London, who said: “Anyone making claims that we ‘can’t afford’ to support jobs and families during and after the pandemic, that there is ‘no money left’, that we’ve ‘maxed out the nation’s credit card’, [or] that we’re ‘loading debt onto our children’, is talking economically illiterate nonsense.”

And Chris Marsh, a former economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Kuenssberg’s “language [was] hugely irresponsible and unfounded”.

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World War 3 fears surge as Russia threatens to retaliate after US forces ‘violate’ waters

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The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the passage of the USS John S McCain destroyer into Russia’s waters in the Peter the Great Gulf. In their statement, the ministry stated that it sees the US’s move as an open provocation aimed at violating peace and order in the waters.

It also said Russia reserves the right to retaliate against the incident.

The ministry added that any attempts by Washington to undermine Russia’s sovereignty in the water area are unacceptable.

The statement came after Russia’s Defence Ministry said that a US Navy destroyer had entered Russian territorial waters by two kilometres in the Sea of Japan.

The incident took place on Tuesday in the area of water bordered by Japan, Russia and the Koreas.

The Russian Pacific Fleet’s anti-submarine ship Admiral Vinogradov issued a warning to the US vessel reportedly causing it to sail into neutral waters.

In response to Russia, the US Seventh Fleet said the USS John McCain had not been “expelled” from any country.

The US military claimed the destroyer was carrying out an operation to ensure freedom of navigation.

They also said the US had not agreed that Peter the Great Bay was a “historical harbour” under international law.

The US military claimed the Soviet Union declared that the area become part of the Russian territorial waters in 1984.

The Russian Defence Ministry said it used its international communications to warn the US vessel about “the possibility of using ramming to get the intruder out of the territorial waters”.

A spokesman for the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement: “The Russian Federation’s statement about this mission is false.

“USS John S. McCain was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory.

“McCain conducted this FONOP in accordance with international law and continued to conduct normal operations in international waters.”

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He added that the US would never “bow” in intimidation or be coerced by Russia.

The spokesman added: “The operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle, and the United States will never bow in intimidation or be coerced into accepting illegitimate maritime claims, such as those made by the Russian Federation.

“Russia has continued the U.S.S.R. claim.

“By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are not Russia’s territorial sea and that the United States does not acquiesce in Russia’s claim that Peter the Great is a “historic bay” under international law.”

Last year, the Admiral Vinogradov was also involved in a near-collision with a US vessel in the East China Sea.

Both the US and Russia have blamed each other for the incident.

The two countries often accuse each other of conducting military operations at sea and in the air.

Relations between the US and Russia remain tense.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has still not congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory.

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‘Exasperated’ Barnier growing ‘impatient’ as EU chief heads to London for Brexit showdown

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The Brussels diplomat was said to be in a downbeat mood earlier today when he held talks with the European Parliament’s Brexit committee. Following a coronavirus outbreak in the EU’s team, he spent his first day out of self-isolation discussing the state of play in the trade talks with senior figures from the bloc. Mr Barnier complained that “significant divergences” remain between the two sides with time running out to agree a trade deal ready to come into force when the UK’s post-Brexit transition out of the EU single market and customs union concludes on January 1.

In his meeting with MEPs, the Frenchman said there had been no sufficient movement on the main sticking points to declare a breakthrough.

According to a source familiar with the discussions, he was said to be “exasperated and impatient” with his recent head-to-heads with UK negotiator Lord Frost.

One insider said: “Limited progress with big gaps still remaining on the usual issues. Not much to really write home about.”

But despite the deadlock, Mr Barnier insisted progress had been made across much of the Brexit trade deal.

A source said both sides were closing in on agreements for judicial and security cooperation, the free flow of workers and social security.

Mr Barnier also claimed member states had backed his plan to fast-track the ratification process by ensuring only EU leaders and MEPS will have a say on the final agreement.

The EU Parliament is set to hold an emergency session on December 28 to give its approval.

The Brussels diplomat told the senior MEPs that the bloc would have to recognise Britain’s status as an independent coastal state to get a deal on fisheries over the line.

In a private meeting of EU ambassadors, Mr Barnier was reported to be downbeat about the chances of a deal.

An EU source said: “Barnier said the deal remains difficult. The EU and the UK remain at loggerheads over the main outstanding issues, and he wasn’t particularly optimistic about the prospects of the negotiations.”

Mr Barnier earlier this week claimed he was prepared to call-off negotiations unless he was confident a breakthrough was possible over the weekend.

Brussels sources said the two sides were still “nautical miles” away from each other on the issue of fishing quotas.

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Panicked EU states have ordered Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen immediately trigger the bloc’s emergency plans for a no deal Brexit.

An EU insider said: “A deal cannot be guaranteed at this stage and a no deal outcome cannot be excluded. The EU needs to prepare diligently for all possible outcomes.”

But the French government was urging the EU to stand firm and not be “intimidated” by Britain with the Brexit trade talks set to go down to the wire.

Clement Beaune, France’s Europe minister, said: “The British need an agreement more than we do. Europeans must be convinced of this and convinced of their strength in these negotiations.”

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Boris Johnson insisted a deal is there for the EU to sign up to but questioned Brussels’ commitment to secure the pact.

The Prime Minister said: “The likelihood of a deal is very much determined by our friends and partners in the EU.

“There is a deal to be done if they want to do it, which I think would benefit people on both sides of the Channel.”

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Boris Johnson dares EU to watch UK ‘prosper mightily’ without Brexit trade deal

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The Prime Minister made the comments after defending the Government’s latest tier controls for England, while on a visit to Public Health England’s site at Porton Down science park near Salisbury. When the camera turned away from Mr Johnson, he proceeded to discuss the current Brexit talks with the EU and could be heard saying the UK is moving towards an ‘Australian-style model’.

He said: “The likelihood of a deal is very much determined by our friends and partners in the EU.

“There a deal to be done if they want to do it, which I think would benefit people on both sides of the Channel.

“But let’s be absolutely clear, this country can prosper and will prosper mightily in either event.

“If we have to come out with a so-called Australian-style model, or Australian relationship, with the EU, we will make a great success of it.

“Everybody is working very hard but clearly there are still substantial and important differences to be bridged, but we are getting on with it.”

His comments come as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator confirmed face-to-face Brexit talks are able to resume in London.

The talks had moved online after a member of Mr Barnier’s team contracted coronavirus.

But Mr Barnier has now said “physical negotiations” can resume.

He is briefing EU member states ahead of talks with Lord Frost as areas such as fishing rights remain major obstacles to a deal before the Brexit transition period expires at the end of next month.

Mr Barnier tweeted: “In line with Belgian rules, my team and I are no longer in quarantine. Physical negotiations can continue.

“I am briefing Member States & Europarl-EN today. Same significant divergences persist. Travelling to London this evening to continue talks w/ DavidGHFrost + team.”

MORE TO FOLLOW…

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‘Power is going to her head!’ IDS dismantles ‘Scroogy’ Sturgeon’s demands for independence

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The former Conservative leader told TalkRADIO he believed power is going to Nicola Sturgeon’s head after the First Minister announced she will fight for a second independence referendum to take place as soon as 2021. Sir Iain said: “She has used her position throughout the pandemic dramatically to try and make the case for independence.

“They’ve trashed everything that’s come out of the UK Government – there are problems, I know – but they’ve deliberately set out to trash that.

“Their own figures aren’t that brilliant and they’ve had real problems with education and everything else.

“But they constantly turn it around and blame the UK. They blame, blame, blame, blame, blame the UK.

“Meanwhile we’re chucking over £2billion under the new spending assessment up to Scotland.

“I’m happy with that because I believe in the United Kingdom. But she won’t say thank you for that.

“She won’t say we get most of our money not from the European Union but from the UK taxpayers, which is fine.

“I think what’s happening is power is going to her head.

“These daily press conferences that she continues to do are all about selling the Scottish National Party as much as anything else.”

Echoing Sir Iain’s comments, radio host Dan Wootton said: “I’m calling her ‘Scroogy Sturgeon from now on.

“That’s my new nickname!”

The First Minister said an independence referendum that could wrench apart the United Kingdom after Brexit should take place in the earlier part of the devolved parliament’s next term, which begins next year.

If there was another referendum and if Scots voted out, it would mark the biggest shock to the United Kingdom since Irish independence a century ago – just as London grapples with the impact of Brexit.

The pro-independence Scottish National Party leader said she anticipates that a vote will take place “in the earlier part” of the next Scottish parliament, which begins next year.

“The referendum for a whole variety of reasons should be in the earlier part of the next parliament,” Scottish First Minister Sturgeon told the BBC.

Scots voted 55-45 percent against independence in a 2014 referendum but both Brexit and the British government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis have bolstered support for independence among Scots.

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The past 14 opinion surveys have shown that Scots support independence. Those surveys show support ranging from 51-59 percent though views on independence have been volatile over previous years with most polls in 2017-2019 showing Scots opposed to breaking up the United Kingdom.

The SNP is expected to perform strongly in elections to the Scottish parliament in May.

Ms Sturgeon will argue that winning that election would be a mandate for another independence referendum.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the 2014 independence referendum was decisive and a once in a generation event, so should be respected.

His Government says there should not be another independence referendum in the near future.

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‘Look after our OWN first!’ BBC Question Time audience members back UK foreign aid cut

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Rishi Sunak on Wednesday announced the Government plans to cut the UK’s foreign aid budget from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent of gross national income (GNI). The move has sparked a row over whether doing so will be detrimental to Britain’s standing on the world stage, with Tory MPs and former Prime Ministers coming out to criticise the cut. It comes as the nation reels from the devastating economic impact caused by the coronavirus crisis. 

Virtual BBC Question Time audience members were asked for their thoughts on the row on Thursday night. 

Guest Claire said: “To use an aeroplane analogy it is really important that we put our own oxygen mask on first. 

“We need to put it into perspective. 

“It is a cut and it will be reinstated. 

“But it is a question of when will that happen.”

Fellow audience member Stuart from Wales agreed. 

He said: “We are now contributing about £20billion in aid per year.

“We will still be in the top three or four contributors throughout the world. 

“In view of what we have said earlier about public sector pay freezes, I think we should consider that this is a sensible move to make.

“It can be reverted when circumstances improve and I do believe that a large percentage of the population does believe that we contribute more than our fair share anyway.”

Another guest, Michael, said he could understand why the cut had been made – but called for the measure to be short-term.

He said: “What I would like to see, as this is supposedly a short-term reduction, is a fixed date as to when this is to rise back again.”

The audience members’ comments come amid a Tory rising backlash against the plan, with a number of prominent Conservatives having publicly expressed concern about the move, announced in Wednesday’s Spending Review, which reneges on a manifesto commitment.

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Sugg quit in protest against the plan, while former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said the change will cause “100,000 preventable deaths, mainly among children”.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister David Cameron, who brought in the 0.7 percent target, described the move as “very sad”.

Mr Cameron said on Wednesday: “I think it is a very sad moment. We are breaking a promise to the poorest people and the poorest countries in the world that we made and a promise that we do not have to break.”

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It is believed that a one-off cut to the aid target would make a saving of about £4billion.

However, fears have arisen that the temporary reduction could be made permanent.

The commitment to spend 0.7 percent of GNI on foreign aid was enshrined into law in 2015.

Foreign aid spending is linked to the GNI, which has badly hit by the pandemic.

It is understood Mr Sunak’s reforms will require new legislation to be passed by Parliament.

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