The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has said it will monitor any moves by the UK to introduce a “light touch” approach to goods entering the country from the EU after the Brexit transition period.
It comes after the the UK Government said on Friday that it was exploring whether to adopt fewer checks on imports from the EU for around six months.
Roberto Azevedo, director-general of the WTO, said that such a move is “not a no-go by definition”, but that the UK would have to follow strict rules.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “You have transitional periods in most of these trade deals. So, you may have a period where that ‘light touch’ may be part of the transitional agreement and other members of the WTO may take that as something acceptable.
It may, however, be done in a way that challenges the rules of the WTO a little bit more and then members, I think, will be looking very carefully.”
He also said he believes there is a “pretty good chance” of the UK and EU finding a deal before the end of the transition period.
A couple who were arrested when armed police stormed their home and held them for 36 hours over the flying of drones at Gatwick Airport will receive £200,000 in compensation and an apology from police.
Paul and Elaine Gait, who were questioned after the airport was forced to cancel flights and repeatedly close over a three day period during the height of Christmas travel in 2018, have settled their claims for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment in an out-of-court settlement package with Sussex Police.
To this day, no-one has been charged over the incident, and police have said that some reported drone sightings may have been Sussex Police’s own craft.
Hi everyone, I’m Molly Blackall, taking over the blog from my colleague Josh Halliday for a little while.
Returning briefly to Rishi Sunak’s interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, the chancellor said the economy was taking a “enormous hit” from coronavirus but insisted that the government had protected millions of jobs through the furlough scheme.
Sunak said he hoped the opening of non-essential shops in England from Monday, coupled with the ability for companies to take on workers part-time next month, would help “drive the recovery” before the furlough scheme ends in October.
Asked about research by the Institute for Employment Studies, which suggests that 3 million people are currently unemployed – the highest since the 1980s – and that by Autumn the level of unemployment would be the highest in UK history, Sunak said there would be “hardship ahead” and that the government was dealing with an unprecedented situation and that the virus would have “an enormous cost”.
“What I do know is the situation would be a lot worse if we hadn’t acted in the way we did,” he added.
Sunak said it was important people had the confidence to go shopping because the government had “made enormous progress” in tackling the virus, and that shops would have safety measures in place.
On the 14-day quarantine of arrivals to Britain, Sunak said it would keep it under review and that it was “looking at all options,” including opening up travel corridors with other countries. He did not demur from the suggestion that the quarantine would be relaxed.
Sunak said a second spike in infections would be “very damaging” and that all countries were “feeling our way through” the virus. He added:
Until there’s a cure, a vaccine, everything we do carries some degree of risk. I think everybody acknowledges that. Our job is to execute the plan we put in place, which is to protect people, make sure the NHS isn’t overwhelmed and that is what thus far we’ve been able to achieve.
Memorial to mark third anniversary of Grenfell fire
Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer will today join people across the country in marking the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
A video message from the prime minister will be shown at a virtual service being hosted by the Bishop of Kensington this morning. This evening, Downing Street will be illuminated to commemorate those who lost their lives.
Several other landmarks, including the Palace of Westminster, Trafalgar Square fountains and Grenfell Tower have also been lit up this weekend, while digital screens at the site of the tower carry messages from local stakeholder groups.
“We can all remember where we were three years ago today when we saw this tragedy unfolding on our screens and across the London skyline,” Johnson recalls in his message.
Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, said he would be “relentless” in ensuring those responsible for the disaster are held to account:
David Lammy, the Labour MP, has released this powerful interview with Channel 4 News in which he says that a crucial part of Britain’s safety net for vulnerable people – safe housing – is “falling apart around our eyes”:
Chancellor says decision on easing two-metre rule is for ministers rather than scientists
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has said a decision on whether to ease the two-metre rule in England will be for ministers rather than the government’s scientific advisers.
Sunak said the public would take confidence from the fact ministers were being advised by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty.
He told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show:
Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance throughout all of this have provided advice to ministers. Ultimately it is for ministers. We are the people who are elected to make decisions in this country.
People should hold us responsible and accountable for making those decisions. I think that people are comforted and have confidence in those decisions if they know that we are taking advice from our scientists.
Pippa Crerar, the Daily Mirror’s political editor, points out that taking such a decision without the express backing of Vallance and Whitty would be even trickier if the pair are “on resignation watch,” as the Sunday Times reports today.
Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy has accused the government of having “buried” recommendations from a report by Public Health England looking at the disproportionate toll Covid-19 has had on people from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Lammy said:
It’s horrifying that at the moment across this country it’s hard to be black or Asian and not know someone, or someone who knows someone, who has died. I’ve lost an uncle. I’ve lost a classmate who died at 45 due to this terrible virus.
The point is it’s a scandal if one week Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock say ‘Black Lives Matter’ and then we find out today that they buried part of the review that had the recommendations in it to do something about it.
He added: “Get on it with it because people are dying every day and you said ‘Black Lives Matter’. It’s no wonder why people are upset.”
Man arrested after photograph of someone urinating next to PC Keith Palmer memorial
A 28-year-old man has been arrested in Essex on suspicion of outraging public decency after a man was photographed urinating next to the memorial dedicated to PC Keith Palmer, the Metropolitan Police has said.
The man is currently in custody in Essex after presenting himself at a police station, the force said.
Speaking yesterday in response to an image circulating on social media, Commander Bas Javid said: “We are aware of a disgusting and abhorrent image circulating on social media of a man appearing to urinate on a memorial to PC Palmer.
“I feel for PC Palmer’s family, friends and colleagues. We have immediately launched an investigation, and will gather all the evidence available to us and take appropriate action.”
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has suggested he is very much in favour of reducing the two-metre social distancing rule. Unsurprising, perhaps, for the minister responsible for the economy but important nonetheless that he has said it.
On Sky News, Sunak said “I very much understand the positive impact it will have” on the economy but “at the same time we must make sure it’s safe to do so”.
He suggested that reducing the rule could be the “difference between three quarters and a third of pubs opening, for example” – an example that will almost certainly win the backing of some newspapers. Sunak also said Norway and Denmark had recently reduced their social distancing guide from two metres.
He welcome that Boris Johnson was overseeing a “comprehensive review” of the policy, which Sunak said would consider evidence from economists as well as scientists “so we can look at it in the round”.
When Sophy Ridge said it sounded like Sunak was very much in favour of shortening the rule, the chancellor said: “I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the findings of [the review] … it’s right to look at it and I’m glad we’re doing so.”
Rishi Sunak condemns violent protests as ‘shocking and disgusting’
The chancellor Rishi Sunak has described the clashes between police and protestors in London yesterday as “shocking and disgusting” but said the UK had made “enormous progress” on issues of race.
Appearing on Sophy Ridge’s programme on Sky News, Sunak confirmed that the justice secretary Robert Buckland would meet Conservative MPs this week to discuss strict new measures against those who vandalise a war memorial, including potential 10-year jail terms.
“There will always be a small minority who maintain prejudice and indeed are racist but that’s not the description that I would make of our country,” he said, adding that things have changed “enormously for the better”.
Labour’s shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, has said the party would potentially support proposals to jail for 10 years anyone who desecrates a war memorial.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that ministers are considering plans to make it easier to prosecute those who vandalise historic monuments, including with jail terms of up to a decade.
Speaking on the Sky News Sophy Ridge programme, Thomas-Symonds said he was “extremely disturbed” by the “completely unacceptable” scenes of violence on the streets following protests on Saturday.
My colleague Peter Walker tweets:
Today’s front pages
A variety of stories make the front pages of Sunday’s newspapers, with some focusing on the violent scenes in London yesterday and others on coronavirus.
The Observer leads with a warning from England’s children’s commissioner Anne Longfield that there was a “very dangerous” threat to the historic right to education for children after the government said most schools would not reopen until September at the earliest.
The Sunday Times reports that plans to allow people to change their legal gender by self-identifying as a different sex have been scrapped.
The Mail on Sunday says Boris Johnson has paved the way for the two-metre social distancing rule to be scrapped by “taking personal control of the decision to axe it”. It says the prime minister has commissioned a “comprehensive No 10 review” of the policy.
The Sunday Mirror leads with a simple one-word headline: “Shameful” as it depicts the violent demonstrations by far-right activists in London.
The Independent on Sunday reports on Brexit (remember that?) and a poll suggesting that most Britons would support an extension to the transition period for leaving the European Union due to Covid-19.
The Sunday Telegraph says ministers are considering proposals to jail for 10 years anyone who desecrates a war memorial.
And finally… the Daily Star Sunday reports on “a big flap” in the Royal household after “eight of the Queen’s racing pigeons died in quarantine”. The paper says the poor pigeons died in crates after being flown to South African to take part in a race. A “Palace coo” is underway, it says.
Good morning and welcome to the UK liveblog.
There is widespread condemnation of the violent protest in central London yesterday, which saw thousands of demonstrators – including far-right activists – descend on the capital prompting clashes with the police.
As of 9pm on Saturday, the Metropolitan police said it had made more than 100 arrests at the protest which Boris Johnson said had descended into “racist thuggery”.
The clashes with police and journalists came after thousands of white nationalists poured into London to “protect the monuments,” after graffiti on the statue of Winston Churchill and the Cenotaph in London, and the toppling of the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, during Black Lives Matter protests last weekend.
Elsewhere today, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is touring the TV studios ahead of the reopening of non-essential shops in England on Monday as the government attempts to reboot the economy.
It’s also emerged that the prime minister has ordered an official review of the two-metre social distancing rule, potentially providing a further boost for business. However, any move to one metre is likely to split the government’s scientific advisors who have repeatedly expressed caution about reducing the rule.