EU rubbishes Boris Johnson's claims that post-Brexit trade is running 'smoothly'

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Cat Neilan
·55 min read
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Exports of fresh fish and seafood have been severely disrupted by delays since the UK's transition period ended. - PA
Exports of fresh fish and seafood have been severely disrupted by delays since the UK's transition period ended. - PA

Brussels has rubbished Boris Johnson's claims that post-Brexit trade between Britain and Northern Ireland is going "smoothly".

During today's PMQs, Mr Johnson acknowledged some disruption being caused by "complications over form-filling" and a drop in demand because restaurants are shut.

But he told MPs that "the proof of the pudding" was in the fact that there was "more transit now taking place between Larne and Stranraer and Cairnryan than there is between Holyhead and Dublin because it's going so smoothly."

However a senior EU diplomat has rubbished these claims.

"It's clear that things are not running smoothly yet, but I don't think anybody expected them to run smoothly, because it's a big change," the source said.

Daily reports from the border made it "quite clear" that neither side were prepared, although the official added: "It's quite clear, also, that the UK authorities were less prepared than the ones on the continent."

"That adds up to there being friction at the borders and we always said that was going to be much more friction, because of the new situation," the diplomat said.

Follow the latest updates below.

04:07 PM

And that's it for another day...

It's been another busy day in Westminster, as the Government attempts to keep the vaccine programme ploughing ahead.

Boris Johnson claimed there would be a post-Brexit "el Dorado" for fishermen in five years, and insisted trade was "smooth" - something which has been quickly rubbished by those in the EU.

His spokesman insisted he had full confidence in Priti Patel after a video emerged of the Home Secretary saying she had called for the borders to be shut back in March.

And the Number 10 team defended the "Captain Hindsight" nickname the PM uses for the Labour leader, despite him having urged 'kind and civil' language.

Some in Westminster and beyond are biting their tongues about the departure of Donald Trump - with various degrees of success.

But the jury is still out on what Joe Biden's presidency will mean for the UK, with 26 per cent of readers saying we will have a better relationship, while 27 per cent said it would be worse. A further 47 per cent said there would be no impact.

With all eyes turning to Washington, you may want to keep up to date with the latest from the inaugaration here.

Read on for the rest of the day's news.

03:42 PM

Nicola Sturgeon tells Donald Trump: Don't haste ye back

Donald Trump might have told his supporters that he will be back - but Nicola Sturgeon has told him not to hurry.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on Joe Biden's inauguration day, the First Minister said many people will be happy to say "cheerio" to Donald Trump, adding that "don't haste ye back" would be the perfect farewell message to the outgoing US president.

03:40 PM

US ambassador bows out with promise that special relationship will 'flourish'

The US ambassador to the UK has bowed out promising the "special relationship" between the two countries will "continue to flourish" under President-elect Joe Biden.

Woody Johnson tweeted a video about the Second World War, featuring former prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, saying: "It has been the greatest honor to be your U.S. Ambassador."

Earlier in the day he posted: "It’s been a great journey and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it."

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03:32 PM

No need to extend grace periods for Brexit red tape, says Northern Ireland Secretary

The Northern Ireland Secretary has told MPs he does not believe there will be any need to extend the grace periods around red tape for the new Irish Sea trading arrangements.

For the first three months, the number of veterinary health certificates required on animal-based food products is significantly reduced.

There is also a six-month grace period on the continued import of products from Great Britain that are ultimately due to be banned altogether under the protocol - including sausages and other chilled meats.

Brandon Lewis told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee: "We're not at the moment in a position where we want to be looking at extending the grace periods," he said.

"We recognise there are still issues where we want to make sure you've got that good free flow of products such as the great British banger, as the Prime Minister outlined," he added.

03:23 PM

British bangers feel the bite of Brexit in Northern Ireland

British sausages in Northern Irish supermarkets could become a thing of the past after Brussels appeared to rule out British demands for the "free flow" of UK meat products after Brexit.

The only way supermarkets in Northern Ireland can avoid Brexit border controls is to buy EU sausages from countries such as Germany, France or Ireland, EU officials said.

“People now need to adapt to changes. The only way to avoid controls is to source things through the EU from now on,” an EU official said.

Read the full article here.

03:17 PM

Lobby latest: Number 10 defend 'Captain Hindsight' nickname, days after calling for 'kind' language

Boris Johnson's "Captain Hindsight" nickname for Sir Keir Starmer is not "rude" or "unpleasant", Downing Street aides have insisted.

The Prime Minister continued to use the label just days after he was said to want "kind and civil" political debate.

Mr Johnson's press secretary Allegra Stratton said the jibe was "not a rude word or uncivil" but was a way of making a point about Sir Keir's position on key decisions taken during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Stratton said: "In the Prime Minister's opinion, Captain Hindsight is not an unpleasant name.

"Captain Hindsight is the description of a politician who keeps coming forward and saying that 'the solution was obvious' when previously he had not actually decided one way or the other."

She added that the plea for "kind and civil language" was in relation to "the bad, unpleasant treatment that Conservative MPs received... when months ago the issue of free school meals came up and they received a great many unpleasant and unacceptable messages".

03:11 PM

With friends like these... Biden believed Obama discouraged him from running in 2016

Former US president Barack Obama tweeted to his former vice president: "Congratulations to my friend, President Joe Biden! This is your time."

But our US editor has some thoughts on that:

Donald Trump left a letter to his successor Joe Biden before leaving the White House, his spokesman has said.

The 45th president, who refused to accept his defeat for more than two months, never congratulated Biden on his victory.

03:01 PM

Further 1,027 Covid deaths in English hospitals, NHS says

A further 1,027 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 63,322, NHS England said on Wednesday.

Patients were aged between 29 and 101. All except 49, aged between 37 and 99, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between December 14 and January 19, with the majority being on or after January 12.

There were 53 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

London was the worst-affected region, with 239 deaths registered, followed by the Midlands, with 190 and the South East, with 170 deaths.

There were 148 deaths registered in East of England, 124 in the North West, 100 in the North East & Yorkshire, and 56 in the South West.

02:57 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street rejects Theresa May criticism of PM

Downing Street has rejected Theresa May's criticism that the UK had abandoned its position of "global moral leadership" under her successor Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The UK is and will continue to be an outward-looking nation and will continue to be a leading voice on the international stage.

"I would point to the work we have undertaken on climate change, both home and abroad, where we were one of the first countries to commit to net zero by 2050.

"You've seen the role that we've played in response to the pandemic and the action we've taken to support Covax (a global initiative to ensure vaccines reach those in greatest need) and other issues where we've played a big part on the international stage."

The No 10 spokesman said he was not aware of any conversations the Prime Minister had held with Mrs May since taking office.

02:55 PM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson still has full confidence in Priti Patel, says No 10

Boris Johnson still has full confidence in Priti Patel, his spokesman has said, after a video emerged of her telling Tory supporters that she argued for the UK border to be shut back in March.

Boris Johnson was quizzed at Prime Minister's Questions by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer about why he chose to "overrule" the Home Secretary.

But the Tory leader evaded the question on Wednesday, instead opting to criticise Labour's own policy on border controls.

Speaking later the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I'm not going to get into the detail of private conversations, but I would point back to the measures that we have introduced to ensure that we are not allowing the virus to be reimported into the UK given the hard work that the public has undertaken to suppress and try and control the virus."

02:46 PM

Patrick O'Flynn: Britain can do without leadership lessons from Theresa May

After Boris Johnson’s 2019 general election victory, Theresa May spoke at a gathering of Tory MPs and cracked a joke against herself: this, she said, was how her 2017 campaign had been intended to pan out.

“Good on Theresa – not such a bad old stick,” thought an audience dazzled by Johnson’s electoral success. They won’t be thinking that now.

For in the latest of a series of sniping interventions against the PM, Mrs May has used the inauguration of Joe Biden to criticise her successor, directly accusing him of flouting civilised norms that are the bedrock of a rules-based international order and implying that his style of leadership has more in common with the outgoing Donald Trump than that of the new President.

Mrs May is absolutely right to stick a stiletto into the back of the disgraceful Trump over his refusal to accept the election result.

But, argues Patrick O'Flynn, in other regards her article betrays the same fundamental lack of understanding of the powerful forces testing the solidarity between and within western nations that characterised her disastrous premiership.

02:42 PM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson not spoken to Welsh Tory leader over alleged Covid breach

Boris Johnson has not yet spoken to Welsh Tory leader Paul Davies about the Senedd drinks party, his press secretary has said.

Mr Davies was among four figures alleged to have been drinking on site four days after a ban on the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol on licensed premises came into force (10:33am).

The Prime Minister's press secretary Allegra Stratton she did not believe Mr Johnson had spoken to Mr Davies.

But she added: "The Prime Minister expects everybody, no matter their standing, no matter their status, to be sticking to the rules as well as they are able."

Asked if the Prime Minister believed Mr Davies should keep his job, Ms Stratton said: "I haven't had a conversation with him about that. But I would just say more broadly... the Prime Minister needs everybody, no matter their status, no matter their position in life, to be going above and beyond in following the rules on Covid."

02:37 PM

Lobby latest: Covid-secure evacuation centres being readied for Storm Christoph areas

Covid-secure evacuation centres are being made available to those forced to leave their homes as a result of flooding, Number 10 has said.

Boris Johnson announced that he would be chairing a Cobra meeting today to discuss a response to the Storm Christoph damage.

Ahead of that the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We are live to that issue, should evacuations be needed.

"Preparations to create Covid-secure rest centres have been made. They have been made by relevant agencies as a precautionary measure.

"We will ensure Covid-secure rest centres if they are needed.

"The important message for the public now is to continue to monitor the information that the Environment Agency are providing and sign-up for flood alerts if they haven't already."

02:30 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street defends 12 week delay despite Israel's warning over protection rates

Downing Street has not recognised suggestions from Israel that efficacy from the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine may be as low as 33 per cent - although stressed that protection takes some time to develop.

The Downing Street spokesman said the decision to delay the second dose to 12 weeks was because "it remains our priority to protect as many people as possible from the virus".

He added: "That decision was based on a review of the data available, which showed that the Pfizer vaccine was 89 per cent effective in protection against Covid between 15 to 21 days after the first dose.

"It remains the case that the chief medical officer and the JCVI recommend offering one dose first and another dose up to 12 weeks after," he added. "But again I would point to what the medical experts and scientific advisers have said previously about the fact that once you've received the first dose, it takes some time for your body to build up immunity.

"You don't have immunity immediately after taking the first dose, but again, we've set out why we are doing the dosages in the way we are, and that's to protect as many people as possible as quickly as possible."

02:27 PM

Lobby latest: 'Complex' manufacturing process holding up vaccine rollout, says No 10

The decline in daily vaccine figures is due to the "complex" nature of manufacturing the inoculations, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman reiterated what ministers including Matt Hancock, Boris Johnson and Nadhim Zahawi have said about supply being the chief factor.

Pressed on why the supply was being hindered, the spokesman added: "As we and the companies have said previously, producing and manufacturing a vaccine is a complex process.

"But you've seen that we have continued to ramp-up the programme of vaccinating the public. You've seen that throughout December and January.

"It is obviously the case with the Oxford vaccine being approved by the MHRA, it does make it easier to get it out to care homes and to other areas, given the slight ease of logistics."

02:24 PM

London continues to lag as England's Covid vaccines jump more than 301,000

More than 301, 000 Covid vaccines have been carried out in the last 24 hours, NHS England data shows.

A total of 4,419,704 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between December 8 and January 19, according to provisional figures, including first and second doses, a rise of 301,362 on Tuesday's figures.

Of this number, 3,985,579 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 298,3730 on Tuesday's figures, while 434,125 were the second dose, an increase of 2,989.

London is still lagging behind the rest of the country, despite being home to more people, with 476,168 jabs given over this period. That compares to 830,828 in the Midlands; 742,156 in the North East and Yorkshire; 615,810 in the North West; 722,548 in the South East; 510,830 in the South West and 494,603 in the East of England.

02:11 PM

Allison Pearson: Tea with the new First Lady? It's the least you can do, Melania

One of the quainter features of the American Presidential inauguration is the First Ladies’ tea.

It is customary for the outgoing president’s wife to invite her successor for a ‘tea and tour’ at the White House. The tradition dates back to Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower’s meeting in 1952. Admittedly, it’s not always the warmest or easiest occasion.

Betty Ford was spitting mad when her husband, Gerald, lost in 1976 to Jimmy Carter. She twice cancelled the tour she was giving to Rosalynn Carter and, when it finally happened, it was “a brief but cordial walk-through”.

The sting of defeat can make things hard.

Yet, all First Ladies of the modern era have managed to swallow their pride and be the bigger person for the sake of what Lady Bird Johnson called “the great quadrennial American pageant”.

But, Allison Pearson notes, not so for Melania Trump.

Melania Trump has not extended the hand of friendship – or even a cup of Lapsang and a mini muffin – to Jill Biden - AP
Melania Trump has not extended the hand of friendship – or even a cup of Lapsang and a mini muffin – to Jill Biden - AP

02:04 PM

Have your say: How will Joe Biden's presidency change the 'special relationship?

All eyes are on Washington today, where Joe Biden will soon be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

Much has been made of the UK Government's relationship with outgoing president Donald Trump, with scepticism over whether Boris Johnson will be able to charm his successor, who has been more than a little dubious about the benefits of Brexit.

Ministers have repeatedly stressed that the special relationship' refers to that between the countries rather than the personalities leading them. But as have have seen with successive leaders, their passion for or aversion towards a region or policy can have a real impact.

So how will Biden's presidency change the relationship? Have your say in the poll below:

02:03 PM

Foreign Secretary congratulates Joe Biden and Kamala Harrs on 'historic day'

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab sent his congratulations to president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris ahead of the "historic day" in Washington.

He said: "From climate change to trade and security, our two countries share a close bond and special relationship.

"We look forward to working with you on shared priorities as a force for good in the world."

01:53 PM

Nearly half of adults think Biden will be better for UK than Trump

Almost half (47 per cent) of UK adults believe Joe Biden will be better at working constructively with the UK than his predecessor Donald Trump.

The 45th president has now left the White House for Mar-a-Lago, as he is skipping today's inauguration. Just one in six (17 per cent) expect that his successor will be worse at working closely with the United Kingdom.

Some 42 per cent expect Mr Biden to forge a closer bond with Boris Johnson than Mr Trump.

Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta ComRes said: "“These results are most likely not a reflection of Joe Biden being exceptionally popular in the UK, but of the fact that his predecessor is held in historically low regard.

"Nonetheless, most Britons clearly have positive expectations for the new President."

Donald Trump leaves the White House ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration - Reuters
Donald Trump leaves the White House ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration - Reuters

01:47 PM

Donald Trump has left the White House - for now

Donald Trump has left the White House for the final time in his tumultuous presidency.

The 45th President will skip his successor's inauguration, choosing instead to fly to Florida, via Maryland for a farewell event.

He promised: "We will be back in some form."

However work is underway to erase his impact on the US, with aides briefing that Joe Biden will sign 17 executive actions just hours after he is sworn in today, undoing a raft of Trump policies.

Follow our US inauguration day live blog for all the latest updates here.

So long, 45: As he left Trump told supporters "We've accomplished a lot." - AP
So long, 45: As he left Trump told supporters "We've accomplished a lot." - AP

01:27 PM

Courts opening hours could be extended to cope with Covid backlog

The Ministry of Justice is considering opening courts for longer to help clear the backlog of cases built up during the pandemic, a minister has said.

Responding to an urgent question, justice minister Chris Philp told the Commons that 20,000 remote hearings a week are now taking place in crown courts and magistrates' courts.

He said: "In the first lockdown, and as these measures have been put into place, backlogs have understandably developed. This has been the case across the world. But the fruits of our labours are now being seen."

Mr Philp added: "We will not rest, we are adding more courtrooms, further increasing remote hearings and examining options for longer operating hours."

01:23 PM

Sir Kim Darroch: Republicans must convict Trump or face a future as the voice of the angry white man

This Wednesday, at noon in Washington DC, Joe Biden will stand before Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, raise his right hand, place his left on The Bible, and recite the oath of office, thus becoming the 46th President of the United States.

He faces a challenging time, but the Republican Party also faces a core challenge; a fork in the road.

Trump is not a man who will now focus on building his Presidential library. The opposite: he will continue to foment anger and resentment amongst his followers and looks to be contemplating a 2024 run.

As Sir Kim Darroch argues, much of the GOP's future hangs on whether enough senators side with the Democrats on the impeachment charges.

12:46 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson hails G7 summit as opportunity to bring world together in Cornwall

Derek Thomas, Conservative MP for St Ives, has the final question which is about the G7 summit and the "low carbon industrial revolution".

Boris Johnson says he believes the summit will "not only be an opportunity to bring the world together to tackle Covid", but also to "showcase that wonderful part of the United Kingdom".

He lists several local businesses, and the fact that the Romans mined tin in Cornwall, saying it is "once again at the heart of the UK's 21st century green industrial revolution".

12:44 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson dodges question about structural racism

Apsama Begum, Labour's MP for Poplar and Limehouse, asks about the disproportionate impact of Covid on BAME communities.

She calls on the PM to "finally recognise" that t is caused by structural and racism, and asks him what he is doing about it.

Boris Johnson says he does not agree with her last point, but says it is "so important" that the vaccine rollout is carried out "in coordination with local government at all levels".

12:42 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson quizzed on vaccine priority list

Jason McCartney, Tory MP for Colne Valley, asks about prioritising police officers and other "whose essential daily work brings them into contact with other people" for the vaccine once the most vulnerable groups are completed.

Boris Johnson says the Government will "rely on what the JCVI has to say" but adds; "We want to see those groups vaccinated as soon as possible".

12:40 PM

PMQs: Government working 'virtually around the clock' to secure Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release

Tulip Siddiq asks about her constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose five year prison sentence is due to end shortly.

Boris Johnson says "we are working virtually around the clock to sure the release of all the dual nationals that concern us in Tehran".

He says "without going into the details of the cases" they are doing "everything we can for what we consider the completely unjustified detention" of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

12:37 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson promises 'El Dorado' for fishermen

Boris Johnson has promised struggling fishermen a post-Brexit "El Dorado", following accusations he had not been straight with the industry.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw used PMQs to argue that the Prime Minister's previous claims that fishermen would not need to fill in "unnecessary forms", and that musicians would still be free to tour the EU were not"correct".

But Mr Johnson responded: "It is absolutely true that some British fishermen have faced barriers at the present time owing to complications over form-filling and indeed one of the biggest problems is that, alas, there is a decline in appetite for fish in continental markets just because most of the restaurants, as he knows, are shut.

"The reality is that Brexit will deliver and is delivering a huge uplift in quota, already the next five years, and by 2026 the fishing people of this country will have access to all the fish in all the territorial waters of this country.

"To get them ready for that El Dorado, we're investing £100 million in improving our boats, our fish processing industry and getting fishing ready for the opportunities ahead."

12:34 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson promises 'massive' investment in'blue and green tech'

Sir Gary Streeter, the Tory MP for South West Devon, asks for assurance "that levelling up does not just mean the north, but every part of the United Kingdom".

Boris Johnson says the "potential of the South West is enormous", particularly in "blue and green technology".

There will be "massive" investment in infrastructure, he says.

12:33 PM

PMQs: Regulator poised to approve vaccine variants as Covid mutates, says Boris Johnson

Harborough MP Neil O'Brien asks about developing vaccines to deal with new variants.

Boris Johnson says this is an "incredibly important point" and ministers have been talking to scientists "over the last days and weeks intensively, just in the last few hours">

He says they are confident the regulator MHRA will be able to "turn around new applications for new variants of new vaccines" to deal with that.

12:31 PM

PMQs: NI-GB trade 'going so smoothly', says Boris Johnson

Claire Hanna, the SDLP MP for Belfast South, notes Brandon Lewis' recent claims that there is no border in the Irish Sea and that disruption has been caused by Covid rather than Brexit.

She asks him to be "straight with the people of Northern Ireland".

Boris Johnson says there is "actually more transit now taking place" between Britain and Northern Ireland than Holyhead and Dublin "because it is going so smoothly".

12:28 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson challenged to call Uighur abuses 'genocide'

Ian Blackford returns, highlighting the Government's rejection of an amendment effectively banning trade with countries found to be carrying out genocide.

He asks the Prime Minister to "clearly state" that genocide is being carried out against the Uighur people.

Boris Johnson says this is a judicial matter, but what is happening in Xin Jiang is "utterly abhorrent".

The UK is taking steps against products made with slave labour, he adds.

12:25 PM

PMQs: UK has 'best possible relationship' with US, says Boris Johnson

Ian Blackford challenges the Prime Minister about the UK's relationship with the US and its standing in the world.

Boris Johnson says the UK should have "the best possible relationship" with the US, and stresses the "phenomenal" year ahead with the G7.

He also stresses the Gavi summit, net zero and says they will work with Joe Biden a new trans-Atlantic partnership.

But Mr Blackford disappears for his second question - to the cheer of MPs in Westminster.

12:22 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson recommits to 'very hard' mid-February vaccine pledge

Rob Butler, Conservative MP for Aylesbury, asks for confirmation that everyone in the most vulnerable groups will be vaccinated by the middle of February.

Boris Johnson says they are "on track to deliver our pledge - though it is very hard, I must stress to the House, it is very hard because of supply constraints".

12:20 PM

PMQs: Keir Starmer like 'weather vane spinning in the breeze', says Boris Johnson

Sir Keir Starmer repeats his question, saying the Prime Minister has ignored it - why did he overrule the Home Secretary on shutting the borders last March?

Boris Johnson repeats that the UK has "one of the toughest border regimes in the world".

He claims the Labour leader is "like watching a weather vane spinning round and round depending on where the breezes are blowing".

He claims Labour would have joined the EU vaccination scheme, kept borders open and attacked the UK taskforce.

"They continue to look backwards, to play politics, to snipe from the sidelines - we get on with the job".

12:17 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson insists UK has 'one of toughest border regimes'

Sir Keir Starmer then asks abut Priti Patel's comments which emerged in a video this morning, in which the Home Secretary said she wanted the b orders to be shut last March.

He asks why Boris Johnson overruled her.

The Prime Minister suggests that "Captain Hindsight" argued that borders should not be shut last March.

"We are in the middle of a national pandemic and this country is facing a very grave death toll, and we are doing everything we can to protect the British public," he says. "That is why we have instituted one of the toughest border regimes in the world."

12:15 PM

PMQs: Sir Keir Starmer demands more answers on police records data

Sir Keir Starmer continues on his theme and asks how long it will take for "all the wrongly deleted records to be reinstated".

Boris Johnson says it will depend and people are "working around the clock on this issue".

He adds that "any loss of data is unacceptable", but that the Government has been investing "massively" in policing.

The Labour leader then quotes comments from Priti Patel this morning, suggesting it will take some time.

12:13 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson says it is 'outrageous' that police data was lost

Sir Keir Starmer says a letter from the National Police Chief's Council "makes it clear" that 403,000 records may have been deleted, saying "I am sure he has been briefed on this".

He says this "isn't just a technical issue - it is about criminals not being caught and victims not getting justice".

He adds that it has affected live investigations, and asks why 10 days later "he still hasn't got to the bottom of the basic questions".

Boris Johnson says it is "a feature" of the questions that he fails to listen to the answers.

"Of course it is outrageous that any data should have been lost but... we are trying to retrieve that data."

12:10 PM

PMQs: Sir Keir Starmer challenges Boris Johnson on arrest records

Sir Keir Starmer welcomes the inauguration of Joe Biden as a "moment of victory for hope over hate".

He then turns to the deletion of hundreds of thousands of police records last week, and asks how many investigations could have been damaged.

Boris Johnson says the Home Office is working to assess the damage, and they believe they will be able to rectify the damage caused and restore the lost data.

But the Labour leader says that is "not an answer to the question". It is a "basic" question, he notes and asks how many convicted criminals have had their records deleted.

Mr Johnson says he answered "entirely accurately" because "we don't know".

12:06 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson to hold Storm Christoph floods Cobra today

Sir Lindsay Hoyle expresses best wishes to Joe Biden on the day of his inauguration, before he hands over to Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister echoes this, and says he looks forward to working with the new administration "on our shared priorities".

He confirms that he will be holding a Cobra over the floods caused by Storm Christoph - which Downing Street had said was not on the agenda during yesterday's lobby meeting.

11:57 AM

Northern Ireland Secretary rejects suggestions that empty shelves caused by Brexit

Brandon Lewis has rejected suggestions that post-Brexit disruption is causing "empty shelves", as suggested by two Labour MPs today.

Rachael Maskell and Kerry McCarthy both called on the Northern Ireland Secretary to take urgent action to resolve issues, but he did not acknowledge their starting point.

Mr Lewis told MPs while there had been empty shelves, "Welsh ministers have been talking about empty shelves" as well.

"We all saw [that], partly as a result of challenges we saw at Dover and the Dover Straits just before Christmas as a result of Covid," he added.

Some issues relating to parcels had occurred "because guidance was published on 31 December", but the Government was working to "find a way through this".

11:52 AM

Don't 'overstate' trade issues in Northern Ireland, minister tells MPs

MPs must not "overstate" the problems some businesses are experiencing as a result of the post-transition disruption to trade, Brandon Lewis has said.

The Northern Ireland Secretary told MPs there was a "strong desire to keep trade flowing as smoothly as we can", and ministers were "working closely and will continue to work closely with [the DUP] and colleagues in the Northern Ireland executive".

But he added: "It is important we don't overstate the issues - although that doesn't meant there aren't issues. The grace period is working well, goods are moving and we are working closely with traders as they adapt.

"Our focus is on taking this work forward, with a pragmatic and appropriate approach to maintaining Northern Ireland's integral place in the UK internal market."

He added: "As the PM rightly said last week if we need to will not resist using Article 16 [of the protocol]."

11:42 AM

Teachers 'deeply frustrated' by more 'chaos' from DfE, says union

Headteachers and other school staff ​are "deeply frustrated at the regularity of chaotic announcements" from the Department for Education, a union has said, after yet another U-turn.

This morning the Government "paused" daily contact testing at schools, following concerns raised by Public Health England about the accuracy of such an approach (10:17am).

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “School leaders have previously expressed considerable concern regarding the Government’s plans to use negative lateral flow test results as an alternative to isolation.

"It was clear to all but Government that the reliability of these tests is simply not good enough to warrant such action.

"It is good news that the Government has finally recognised the advice of health experts and come to the correct conclusion on this matter," he added.

"But once again, it is professionals on the front-line who are left unsure which way to face following another Government U-turn, and who are deeply frustrated at the regularity of chaotic announcements emanating from the centre.”

11:32 AM

Labour blasts Priti Patel's 'shocking' admission over UK borders

Priti Patel's claim that she wanted the UK's borders shut last March is "a shocking admission", Labour has said.

The Home Secretary's comments, which surfaced in a video made to the Conservative Friends of India group, demonstrate " the Government's failure to secure the UK's borders against Covid", her shadow Nick Thomas-Symonds said.

"Priti Patel's admission, coupled with the complete lack of strategy for testing of travellers, means that the Government has left our doors open to the virus and worrying mutations," he added.

"Ministers now need to - urgently - review and overhaul border policy, whilst taking responsibility for the huge damage their incompetence has done to our national safety and security."

A Home Office spokesman said: "We have strong measures at the border in place which are vital as we roll out the vaccine."

Home Secretary Priti Patel told Tory supporters that she argued for the UK border to be shut to international visitors in March when the pandemic first emerged.  - PA
Home Secretary Priti Patel told Tory supporters that she argued for the UK border to be shut to international visitors in March when the pandemic first emerged. - PA

11:30 AM

Priti Patel: I wanted borders shut in March

Home Secretary Priti Patel told Tory supporters that she argued for the UK border to be shut to international visitors in March when the pandemic first emerged.

The comments, said to have been made to the Conservative Friends of India group, are contrary to her public defence of the Government's decision not to enact a full arrivals shutdown.

In comments first reported by political website Guido Fawkes, Ms Patel said: "On 'should we have closed our borders earlier', the answer is yes. I was an advocate of closing them last March."

The recording surfaced this morning, after she appeared to shift the blame for the UK's high death toll on scientists and other advisers.

11:29 AM

Pfizer vaccine still effective against Covid variants, study suggests

A Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech appears to protect against a coronavirus variant spreading rapidly across the UK.

The results come amid growing fears that the variant, dubbed B.1.1.7, has mutations that may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines designed to protect against Covid-19.

In a new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers from BioNTech collected blood samples from 16 people who had received the Pfizer vaccine in previous clinical trials.

They found that a lab-made version of the virus - with all the mutations resembling the B.1.1.7 variant - was neutralised by antibodies. The mutation is present in the UK variant, as well as another highly transmissible new variant that has emerged in South Africa.

Pfizer said it had tested 16 different mutations in the variants and none had any significant impact on how the vaccine worked.

11:17 AM

Have your say: How will Joe Biden's presidency change the 'special relationship?

All eyes are on Washington today, where Joe Biden will later today be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

Much has been made of the UK Government's relationship with outgoing president Donald Trump, with scepticism over whether Boris Johnson will be able to charm his successor, who has been more than a little dubious about the benefits of Brexit.

Ministers have repeatedly stressed that the special relationship' refers to that between the countries rather than the personalities leading them. But as have have seen with successive leaders, their passion for or aversion towards a region or policy can have a real impact.

So how will Biden's presidency change the relationship? Have your say in the poll below:

10:53 AM

Sajid Javid: Joe Biden will see Brexit Britain for what it really is: his closest partner

From insurrection to inauguration in two weeks. Today, scenes of smoke-strewn violence on the front steps of the Capitol will be replaced by smiling crowds and the Stars and Stripes.

As the smoke clears, Joe Biden’s first task clearly starts at home and we can expect that he will be magnanimous in victory. In doing so he should recognise some of the reasons why eleven million more people voted for Trump than four years ago, and seek to bring a polarised nation back together.

It’s true that Biden and many of those around him were Brexitsceptics. Some Democrats have gone further by falling for the temptation of projecting their opposition to Trumpism onto Brexit – not helped by Nigel Farage’s bombastic tours of Fox News and Trump rallies.

But, argues Sajid Javid, as the incoming administration looks for partners in an unpredictable world they will see Britain for what it really is.

10:37 AM

Priti Patel: No serious criminals will 'get away with anything' over arrest records blunder

Criminals will not get away with serious crimes as a result of the deletion of hundreds of thousands of police records, Priti Patel has said, but she acknowledged that it was not yet clear how many records were permanently lost.

The Home Secretary said it will "take time" to know the full picture and details could have to be manually re-entered into the database.

An estimated 213,000 offence records, 175,000 arrest records and 15,000 records on people were potentially incorrectly deleted as a result of a defective code.

Asked whether some criminals would "get away with" offences due to the potential losses, Ms Patel said: "No, it is not about serious criminals getting away with anything.

"Multiple records are held on the same individuals on the same crimes on other profiling systems as well."

10:33 AM

Welsh Tory leader could face action over Covid breach, suggests former standards chairman

A group of Senedd politicians who drank wine at the Welsh Parliament days after a pub ban had come into force displayed "very serious, poor behaviour", according to a former standards official.

Former minister Alun Davies allegedly consumed alcohol with Welsh Conservatives leader Paul Davies, the Tories' chief whip Darren Millar and the party's chief of staff Paul Smith in a Senedd tea room four days after the ban began. All four men deny breaking Covid-19 rules.

Yesterday Welsh Labour said Mr Davies had been suspended pending an investigation.

Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, told BBC Radio Wales: "It's very serious, poor behaviour by a group of politicians. I think it's a serious matter which requires speedy investigation and action if necessary.

"The public hate hypocrisy, they hate being told to abide by the rules by all of the politicians and then suddenly they find examples of where it looks like the rules may have been broken," he added.

Sir Alistair said a period of suspension from the Senedd could be required "to show how strongly everybody feels about their behaviour".

10:24 AM

UK must 'seize opportunity' to overcome 'disastrous' relationship with Trump, says Labour

The UK Government's relationship with Donald Trump has been "particularly disastrous", and ministers must seize the opportunity to start again with Joe Biden, a Labour frontbencher has said.

Lisa Nandy, shadow foreign secretary, told Sky News: "We've had a Government that has tried very hard to get very close to the president over the last few years but it has produced absolutely nothing in the way of results. We don't have a trade deal, we are seeing huge tariffs on key industries like Scotch whisky.

"We haven't been able to persuade the United States to join forces with us on any of our top priorities, including fighting the virus.

"So there is an opportunity now for the world to turn a page on a very difficult era, the US will start to look outwards again, the [incoming] US president has already phoned the UK Prime Minister, which is really good news, given the strained relationship between Boris Johnson and the Democratic Party.

"There is an opportunity here for Britain if we seize it and I very much hope that this Government will."

10:17 AM

Government pauses daily testing in schools

The Government has paused the daily testing of pupils and teachers in secondary schools after Public Health England warned the balance between the risks and benefits is "unclear".

The decision comes after the new variant has shown to have higher rates of transmission and a higher secondary attack rate, which "increases the risk of transmission everywhere, including in school settings".

A Government spokesperson said they were adopting the recommendation and "pausing daily contact testing in all but a small number of secondary schools and colleges".

"Daily contact testing, used as an alternative to up to a whole class having to isolate if a positive case is detected, continues to have the potential to be a valuable tool to keep more young people and staff at school, the best place for students’ development and wellbeing," the spokesman added. "We will continue pilots to gather further data and to build the evidence base for the programme.

"Regular testing of staff will increase to twice weekly as further reassurance and to help break chains of transmission during this period."

10:11 AM

The town where residents wonder when they'll ever get a Covid vaccine

It is now more than six weeks since the rest of the country began getting vaccines, after Britain became the first country in the world to give jabs made by Pfizer the green light.

But not in Sandwich – which, perhaps ironically, is home to one of Pfizer's manufacturing plants. It is in the heart of Kent, where the mutant strain of Covid which continues to fuel record deaths and hospitalisations was first detected.

On Tuesday, health officials announced that 4.2 million people across the UK have had the vaccine, including more than half of those over the age of 80. The day before, Boris Johnson said the programme was going so well that invitations will now start being sent to those aged 70 and over.

In Sandwich, the news only added to fears that the town had been entirely passed over.

10:03 AM

What's on the agenda today?

It's shaping up to be another busy day in Westminster, with PMQs the centrepiece of events. However Brandon Lewis also has a busy diary.

Here's what is coming up:

11:30am: Northern Ireland questions

12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.

12.15pm: Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, holds a coronavirus briefing in Cardiff.

12.30pm: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon faces questions in Holyrood

12.30pm: Robert Buckland, the Justice secretary, responds to an urgent question in the Commons about backlogs in the criminal justice system.

2.30pm: Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland Secretary, gives evidence to the Northern Ireland affairs committee.

09:48 AM

Don't bank on 'big bang' change to lockdown, says Sir Patrick Vallance

Priti Patel gave nothing away about plans for some restrictions to be lifted in time for the Easter holidays as reported by the Telegraph this morning, but Sir Patrick Vallance has stressed any relaxation will be gradual.

He told Sky News: "The advice at the moment is vaccines are not going to do the heavy lifting for us at the moment, anywhere near it.... This is a really difficult, dangerous situation we're in, and we need to get the numbers down, so I don't see a release of these measures as being a sensible thing to do in the short term."

He said it was hoped that as the vaccine took effect and numbers dropped, it would be possible to start a gradual release of some of the measures.

"But I think it's important to recognise this is not going to be a sort of big bang, 'great, take the lid off, everything's fine, we can all go back to normal'.

"This is going to be a slow release, monitoring carefully, understanding the effects."

09:41 AM

Still 'not safe' to visit care homes after double dose of Covid vaccine, says Sir Patrick Vallance

Sir Patrick Vallance has said it is "not safe" for people to visit loved ones in care homes even after residents have had both doses of the vaccine.

Speaking to Sky News, Sir Patrick said: "This is a horrible situation, and many of us have got relatives who are in care homes and how difficult it is not to be able to see them and not to be able to do the things that we all wish to do - the normal human things - but I'm afraid my answer to this question is no, it's not safe.

"With the levels of infection as they are at the moment we have to stick to the rules to get the levels down, and that means not jumping the gun," he added.

"This is not the time to be relaxing any measures at all, I'm afraid, and care homes have got done a good job of getting rules in place... and we have to stick with that for a bit longer."

He said it would be "tricky" to allow visits unless community infection dropped much lower.

09:38 AM

Israel wrong to suggest first vaccine dose just 3pc effective, says Sir Patrick Vallance

Sir Patrick Vallance has played down Israel's claim that efficacy from the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine may be as low as 33 per cent, although admitted it might not be as high as clinical trials suggested.

Studies showed that from day 10 after vaccination to 21 days and beyond, it was "much more like 89 per cent", the Chief Scientific Adviser told Sky News, although admitted "when you get into real-world practice things are seldom quite as good as clinical trials".

He added: "It probably won't be as high as that in practice, but I don't think it'll be as low as the figures you've just given."

09:33 AM

Face masks and social distancing 'likely' requirements for next winter, says Sir Patrick Vallance

Annual vaccinations are likely to be required "at least for a few years", Sir Patrick Vallance has said.

The Chief Scientific Adviser said he was hopeful that the vaccine rollout "will lead us into a much better position in the summer and then going into next winter", although stressed that people should not "assume that there won't be anything needed next winter."

It was "likely" that people will be asked to "wear masks in certain places", keep up with hand washing, and "making sure that we're sensible about the way in which we interact with people in indoor environments" next winter, he said.

"But this virus has taken us by surprise time and time again and we just don't know," he added.

"I'd be very surprised if we go on year on year with needing to do things more than that. But this coming winter, I think we need to wait and see how far we get on with the current reduction in numbers that needs to occur."

Sir Patrick Vallance appeared before MPs wearing a face mask back in July
Sir Patrick Vallance appeared before MPs wearing a face mask back in July

09:27 AM

At least 70pc of population need vaccine for herd immunity, says Sir Patrick Vallance

At least 70 per cent of the population would need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, Sir Patrick Vallance has said.

The Chief Scientific Adviser told Sky News that some hospitals looked "like a war zone in terms of the things that people are having to deal with", despite a relatively low proportion of people being infected.

"We're talking about something like one in eight. So it's not a very high percentage of the total population," he said. "In terms of the numbers of people that would need vaccination, it's worth just understanding what the vaccine will do."

As well as providing "individual protection", scientists are hopeful it will stop transmission, although currently this is not confirmed.

He added: "You'll need very very high levels of population coverage - 70 per cent or more - in order to get some degree of immunity across the whole population."

09:18 AM

UK will not 'automatically' miss vaccine deadline because of supply chain rejig, says Priti Patel

The UK will see "inconsistencies" in vaccine supply due to changes at supply plants, but it does not "automatically" mean the mid-February target will be missed, Priti Patel has said.

The Home Secretary told ITV's Good Morning Britain it was "inevitable" that the pharmaceutical giants were "reconfiguring their supply chains and their ability to process and manufacture the vaccine" because demand for the vaccine was "beyond comprehension".

She admitted it would make it " challenging in terms of having a streamlined approach to the delivery of the vaccine", adding there would be "inconsistencies in terms of vaccine rollout".

But she stressed it was "no bad thing" , adding: "It does not mean automatically that we will not be able to meet our objective of getting to the vulnerable by mid-February."

09:13 AM

UK death toll because 'no one could conceive' how deadly Covid was, says Priti Patel

The UK's "catastrophic" death toll is because no could "conceive" how deadly coronavirus would be when the outbreak struck last year, Priti Patel has said.

The Home Secretary told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "When you look at the number of deaths, the number is absolutely catastrophic - appalling in every sense of the word.

"And that is partly because back in March, no one could speculate or even conceive how challenging, not just this pandemic, but how deadly coronavirus would be. None of us knew at that stage."

09:03 AM

Priti Patel: Universal Credit uplift decision will be made 'as situation evolves'

Priti Patel has dodged questions about whether the Government will extend the uplift to Universal Credit, despite acknowledging the support as a "vital lifeline".

The Home Secretary told Radio 4's Today programme: "We have absolutely been there for most vulnerable, we have put billions of additional support to the welfare system."

She added that "decisions around Universal Credit, like all decisions throughout this pandemic, are subject to review and change and we will make decisions obviously based on the health context as the situation evolves".

Asked about her previous statements disavowing the Conservative's reputation as the "nasty party", she said: "2002 and 2021 are totally different eras."

08:58 AM

Priti Patel defends Boris Johnson over Theresa May's accusations

Priti Patel has defended Boris Johnson, after Theresa May accused the Prime Minister of a moral failure on the global stage.

The Home Secretary told the Today programme Mr Johnson had been the "architect" of Global Britain, when he was foreign secretary under Ms May.

"That is very much about being an open, global, innovative, global partner, leading in multilateral organisations, sharing strong alliances between democracies, when it comes to our values.

"When we look at the state of the world... we as a country never bury our heads in the sand, or forget about our moral principles, or ignore strife in the world.... we have been at the forefront of many, many international issues and that will not change."

Asked about Ms May's specific charge of having "retreated" from commitments, she said: "I fundamentally disagree with that, particularly as this government has been speaking out against regimes complicit in all sorts of dreadful behaviour."

The UK's "actions speak louder than words", she added, saying the country was "at the forefront of Global Britain".

08:52 AM

Deaths will 'keep rising', Priti Patel warns

Priti Patel has warned that deaths will "keep rising", after data suggested the UK has the world's worst daily death rate.

Statistics published yesterday by Our World in Data, an Oxford University research platform, showed that the UK now has the worst seven-day average of new daily Covid-19 deaths per million people - a rate of 16.54 per 1,000,000.

Asked about this, the Home Secretary stressed there were several reasons for this, including comorbidities, "eldery deaths, more people being susceptible to the virus" and the way deaths were being recorded, which differ country-by-country.

She added: "This is a deeply, deeply sobering moment... We know that deaths will keep rising, as are the n umber of hospitalisations. This is a reflection of Covid.

"It is deeply, deeply tragic, we all have responsibilities now to stop the spread of the virus."

08:48 AM

Local delivery of vaccine behind 'variability' in programme, says Priti Patel

Priti Patel has stressed the "variability" in the vaccine programme is because it is being "delivered by local NHS".

Asked about the Telegraph's story this morning, about residents of Sandwich who are being left behind, she told the Today programme: "There is not going to be a consistent rollout programme in the country, for various logistical reasons, geography reasons.

"But the fact of the matter is we are averaging 140 jabs a minute, which is incredible. We have vaccinated half of over 80 year olds and are now seeing more vaccine doses out there in the country."

She added: "We have got our own target of reaching nearly 15m of the most vulnerable in mid-February."

08:43 AM

Drop in daily vaccinations because of factory upgrades and supply chain changes, says Priti Patel

Priti Patel has suggested the drop in daily vaccination figures could be as a result of manufacturers "upgrading their factories, changing their supply chains".

The Home Secretary told Radio 4's Today programme: "There remains a long and difficult road ahead, no question, when it comes to the vaccine.

"We are also now seeing the suppliers - Pfzier and AZ - upgrading their factories, changing their supply chains. That will inevitably have implications in terms of supply of the vaccine."

Asked if that meant there could be a longer-term dip in the numbers, she added: "There will be a reconfiguration of the supply chain, because of demand domestically and internationally."

But she added "I can't tell you what the numbers will be".

08:33 AM

Chopper's Politics: Pay rise is best honour for NHS workers, says outgoing Unison leader

The outgoing General Secretary of Unison says that suggestions that healthcare workers should receive some recognition for their contribution to fighting the pandemic are a nice extra, but that it's more important to "build back better".

Speaking to Christopher Hope on the Chopper's Politics podcast, which you can listen to on the audio player below, Dave Prentis said "When we've asked our health service members, and we've got over half a million, not just doctors, nurses, but cleaners, mortuary workers, porters, all of them, they say to us that the clapping was great. It was a morale boost. It was great... when we could hear it. But most of us were working."

He went on to say "Some of them didn't make it through to the clapping. They died looking after our interests. And what could be better than giving everybody a decent pay increase for the work that they've done."

08:28 AM

UK 'not out of the woods' despite vaccine rollout, says Home Secretary

The UK is still not "out of the woods" when it came to dealing with the second wave of Covid-19, Priti Patel has said, as the death toll nears 100,000.

The Home Secretary told BBC Breakfast: "I would put it on the scale of tragedy that every single life lost, every single death, is a personal and human tragedy.

"All our lives have been touched and altered by coronavirus, which is why we are in the current situation of having a national lockdown.

"You've heard me say before that we have to absolutely focus on sticking with the coronavirus rules - staying at home, stopping the spread of this deadly, dreadful virus and disease.

"And also look at the pressures on our NHS ... this is deeply challenging and none of us can say, hand on heart, that we're out of the woods yet.

"We have a long way to go. The vaccine rollout is a positive step forward but we've obviously got to vaccinate a very significant number of the population, and that work is taking place."

08:18 AM

No business appetite for 'bonfire of workers' rights', says recruitment agency boss

Businesses do not wish the Government to enact a "bonfire of workers' rights", a leading recruitment agent has said.

Yesterday the new Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, confirmed his department is reviewing how EU employment rights protections could be changed after Brexit.

Speaking to the business, energy and industrial strategy committee Mr Kwarteng confirmed that he was consulting with business leaders on EU employment rules, including the working time directive, although stressed "the idea that we’re trying to whittle down standards, that’s not at all plausible or true."

This morning James Reed, chairman of Reed recruitment firm, told the Today programme: "I don't think there's any wish in business, that I am aware of, for a so-called bonfire of workers' rights.

"I think it is very important workers' rights are protected," he added. "They must be protected because fair treatment is the bedrock of good workplace relations, so I am hopeful that is protected and secure."

08:08 AM

Joe Biden's inauguration is 'frankly, time to move on' from Donald Trump, says Home Secretary

The inauguration of President Joe Biden is "frankly, time to move on" from Donald Trump's tenure, Priti Patel has said, hailing the handover as a "moment of change" for the world.

The Home Secretary, who was the first Cabinet minister to directly link Mr Trump with the violent storming of the Capitol earlier this month, said he had been "very robust" and the UK had enjoyed "working very strongly" alongside his administration.

But she told Sky News "A new political era is now starting. There is a lot to do globally [including] uniting the US at the end of the Trump administration, and stepping up to really confront and address many of the global challenges we face collectively."

She added: "As you would expect the Government... looks forward to working with President Joe Biden and his administration on a whole range of issues."

Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president amid unprecedented security after Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol - Shutterstock
Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president amid unprecedented security after Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol - Shutterstock

08:06 AM

'Range of reasons' for UK's high death toll, Priti Patel insists

There are a "range of reasons" for the UK's high death toll, Priti Patel has said, suggesting "comorbidities" have made some people "more susceptible to this virus".

It comes as the UK recorded a further 1,610 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday - the highest number reported on a single day since the outbreak began - bringing the country's total to 91,470.

The Home Secretary told BBC Breakfast: "I don't think this is the time to talk about mismanagement.

"We have been with this virus, this pandemic, for about a year now and it is a global pandemic across the world.

"Governments respond very differently - we've seen that across the world, but based on the facts, the science, the evidence that has been presented to us as decision-makers. We have seen harrowing death tolls around the world."

08:04 AM

Priti Patel looks to shift blame for UK's 'appalling' death toll on scientists

The Home Secretary has tried to shift blame for the UK's high death toll onto scientific advisers,

Priti Patel told BBC Breakfast "there is no one reason as to why we have an appalling death toll", saying that there would be an opportunity in the future to "look back... with humility" at what could have been done differently.

But when challenged over several of the UK Government's actions - such as locking down relatively late, not pressing ahead with Test and Trace in the spring and not closing the borders - she said: "I don't think that is right way to look at this at all."

Ms Patel added: "We have had a range of advice, from range of advisers... Scientists advised us at the time it would not have made difference to take border measures.

"Again on lockdown we listened to the advice."

07:53 AM

Theresa May accuses Boris Johnson of abandoning Britain's 'global moral leadership'

Theresa May has launched a fresh onslaught on Boris Johnson, accusing her successor of abandoning Britain's position of "global moral leadership".

The former prime minister warned Mr Johnson's threat to override Britain's treaty obligations in the Brexit divorce settlement risked signalling a "retreat" from the UK's global commitments.

In an article in the Daily Mail to mark the inauguration of Joe Biden as the US president, she hit out at the way Donald Trump had "whipped up" his supporters to storm the Capitol after refusing to accept the election result.

"What happened in Washington was not the act of a lone extremist or a secretive cell, but an assault by a partisan mob whipped up by an elected president," she said.

"I know from experience that leaving power is not easy - especially when you feel that there is more you want to do. But anyone who has the honour of serving in such a position must always remember that the office is bigger than the individual.

Boris Johnson and Theresa May in the Commons - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
Boris Johnson and Theresa May in the Commons - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor