Downing Street sets effective September deadline for Brexit talks

Cat Neilan
David Frost returns to Brussels for the first face-to-face Brexit talks since March

Downing Street has effectively set the end of September as the deadline for Brexit trade talks, as another round kicks off today.   

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the UK had been “very clear” with the EU that the talks needed to be completed sooner rather than later.  

He added: “We’ve always been clear that talks can’t go on into the autumn. We need to make progress as soon as possible.”

Boris Johnson recently said there was “no reason” why talks could not be wrapped up by the end of July.  But speaking today the spokesman proved difficult to pin down to a date, pointing to the fact that talks were scheduled for July and August. 

Asked if autumn started in September, he said: “I think we have spoken in the past about not wanting to be continuing having talks in October.”

The UK’s chief negotiator David Frost is due to replace Sir Mark Sedwill as National Security Adviser from the end of August, with a short "transition period" as he oversees the conclusion of the negotiations with Brussels, the Prime Minister's spokesman said. 

"If there is a small overlap with the Brexit negotiations that is possible. David has said he will of course remain the chief negotiator while the talks are being concluded, one way or another," he added.

Read more below.

03:00 PM

And that's it for another day...

It's been another busy day, with the Prime Minister's decision to oust Sir Mark Sedwill as Cabinet Secretary, and to gift his chief negotiator David Frost the job of National Security Adviser, getting plenty of fire. 

However, you could hardly agree more with his actions: 74 per cent of those who took our daily poll said it was "well overdue", and that you hoped it was a sign of big changes being made to "the blob" - Dominic Cummings' description of the Civil Service. 

Now that the press conferences are no longer taking place on a daily basis, Politics Live will be finishing at the earlier time of 4pm.  I'll be back from 8am tomorrow.

In the meantime Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, is due to reveal what the Government will do about the outbreak in Leicester shortly. It seems likely that the restrictions that the rest of England will emerge from on Saturday will remain in place for another fortnight in that city. You can keep on top of the news as it happens in our coronavirus blog.

02:50 PM

Why does Black Lives Matter only care about black lives when white people are threatening them?

It would be both foolish and offensive not to acknowledge the horrendous catalogue of suffering and injustice endured by black Americans like George Floyd at the hands of US police.

But, argues Ike Ijeh, the deaths of thousands of other Americans of all colours who have died as a result of police brutality exposes the inflammatory Black Lives Matter narrative of a racist police force specifically killing black people as a myth.

02:47 PM

More details surface on Greece's ban on UK flights

Further details have emerged of Greece's move to extended its ban on flights from the UK until July 15.

Flights will remain restricted even after Greece reopens its borders to international visitors on Wednesday, sources have told the Athens News Agency.

The policy was agreed at a meeting of government officials chaired by prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

He reportedly said: "The whole opening procedure is dynamic and the data will be continuously evaluated."

Flights from Sweden are also included in the extended ban.

Tui, the UK's biggest tour operator, was due to serve four Greek islands when it resumes its operations for UK customers on July 11.

02:23 PM

No extension to benefits sanction ban, says minister

The Work and Pensions Secretary has said she will not extend the ban on benefit sanctions beyond tomorrow, telling MPs it is "important" for claimants to start looking for work again.  

Benefit sanctions were halted for an initial three months in legislation that took effect on March 30. But despite Labour urging the Government to introduce an "immediate extension" to stop people being sanctioned amid ongoing disruption to childcare and the wider economy, Therese Coffey offered no reprieve.

She said: "Well actually it’s important that as the Jobcentres fully reopen this week, that we do reinstate the need for having a claimant commitment. It’s an essential part of the contract to help people start to reconsider what vacancies there may be.

"But I know I can trust the work coaches, my Jobcentre managers who are empowered to act proactively where people, there will be some people right now who’ve never had to look for a job in the last 20 to 30 years.

"They will need careful support tailored to ensure they can start to look for the jobs that are available, and that I hope will become very soon available."

02:05 PM

Further 25 people die with Covid-19 across UK 

A further 25 people have died with coronavirus in all settings across the UK, Government figures show.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said 43,575 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Sunday.

The Government figures do not include all deaths involving Covid-19 across the UK, which are thought to have passed 54,000.

The DHSC also said in the 24-hour period up to 9am on Monday, 93,881 tests were carried out or dispatched, with 815 positive results. Overall, a total of 9,290,215 tests have been carried out and 311,965 cases have been confirmed positive.

The figure for the number of people tested has been "temporarily paused to ensure consistent reporting" across all methods of testing.

01:25 PM

NHS England reports further 18 deaths. 

A further 19 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 28,672, NHS England said.

Patients were aged between 60 and 96 years old. All had known underlying health conditions.

The regional split was more even than it has been in recent weeks, with the East of England, London and the South West all reporting two deaths, while there was just one in the Midlands. 

Three people were reported to have died in the North West, four in the North East & Yorkshire and five in the South East.  

01:23 PM

MOT testing gets back on the road

Mandatory MOT testing will be reintroduced from 1 August as restrictions are slowly lifted, roads minister Baroness Vere has announced.

Drivers have been granted a six-month exemption as a result of the lockdown, but all drivers whose car, motorcycle or van is due for an MOT test from 1 August will be required to get a test certificate to continue driving their vehicle. Those whose MOT was due before that point will still be exempt for six months. 

 Roads minister Baroness Vere said: “As people return to our roads, it is vital that motorists are able to keep their vehicles safe. That’s why as restrictions are eased, from 1 August MOT testing will again become mandatory.

“Garages across the country are open and I urge drivers who are due for their MOT to book a test as soon they can.” 

01:20 PM

Where's Wally: Face-to-face Brexit talks kick off 

The Brexit talks might have been socially distant on a metaphorical level for some time now - but the new round of negotiations taking place this week will be conducted with more space between the two sides than ever before. 

Michel Barnier has tweeted this picture as talks get under way in the flesh for the first time since the pandemic began. You can just about see David Frost and co, with everyone sitting well spaced out.

But no one is wearing face coverings and there are no windows, which, given all we've been told about indoor transmission, somewhat begs the question - how long will these talks run?

01:12 PM

Local lockdowns would be harsh, and potentially pointless, penalties

There are just five days to go before you can enjoy a pint down your local boozer – although perhaps not if you live in Leicester. Restrictions there, it seems, will remain in place for another fortnight after a "surge" in Covid cases – 866 of which have been diagnosed in the past fortnight.  

But, leaving aside the lack of proof of any Covid-19 surge, locking down individual cities would just cause economic and civil strife, writes Ross Clark

12:56 PM

Air bridges: Greece is off the list

We are expecting an announcement on air bridges later this week - but one thing that seems likely is that Greece won't be among the first countries on the list. 

12:49 PM

EU diplomats criticise Frost over security role

European Union diplomats have criticised the UK’s chief negotiator for accepting a new job as National Security Advisor before the Brexit trade deal was finished, my colleague James Crisp reports. 

"Barnier didn’t run for commission president to deliver Brexit but doing that isn’t enough for Frost apparently,” one EU diplomat told the Telegraph, "Is there such a shortage of people in the UK that they had to pick the chief negotiator?" Ouch.

"But then again when did a British official last refuse an honour? On the other hand now everything that goes wrong in Britain now will be Frost’s fault,” the diplomat added. Double ouch.

12:36 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street defends plans to fine parents over school no-shows

Downing Street has defended the approach to schools reopening in September, after Gavin Williamson said this morning (9:20am) parents would be fined if children did not go back.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the Education Secretary had made it clear that "it will be compulsory for children to return to school unless there is a very good reason or a local spike where there have been local lockdowns".

"We want all children back in school for September because that's the best place for them to learn," the spokesman said.

In response to the prospect of headteachers refusing to comply with implementing the order, the spokesman said: "As the Education Secretary said it is vital that we get back to compulsory education and it is a long-standing matter of fact that parents can be fined if they fail to send their children to school."

 

12:34 PM

Lobby latest: Government drawing up plans to tackle obesity crisis

The Government is drawing up plans to help tackle Britain's obesity crisis, Downing Street has suggested. 

This morning Boris Johnson said politicians should not treat obesity as "irrelevant", noting that the country is "significantly matter" than most of Europe, which may have played a factor in the country's higher coronavirus death toll.   

With the Prime Minister expressing his desire to bring forward plans to deal with the growing problem, his spokesman said this afternoon that he considered it a "serious national issue". 

He added that it was one Mr Johnson was "determined to tackle in order to prepare the country for future health crises," as well as noting that recent reports had suggested ministers are preparing to outline an obesity strategy in the "next couple of months." 

12:31 PM

Households in Wales can form bubble from Monday

Meanwhile over in Wales, the First Minister has announced that two households can pair up and form "one extended household" from Monday.

Mark Drakeford told the Welsh Government's daily press briefing: "This can allow families and close friends who have been separated by the coronavirus pandemic over the last few months to reconnect with one another and to enjoy one another's company again indoors.

"Our aim has been to introduce this in a way which is as safe as possible, as fair as possible, and as simple as possible.

"And we've now reached the stage where, provided the situation remains favourable this time next week, we will be able to lift the stay local requirement, and at the same time we'll be able to make changes to the rules to allow people from two separate households to form one exclusive extended household."

12:29 PM

Lobby latest: Chancellor to lead infrastructure taskforce 'Project Speed' 

A new infrastructure delivery taskforce known as "Project Speed" will be led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and will be tasked with delivering major projects better and faster, Downing Street has said. 

Mr Sunak will lead the new group to help deliver the Government's manifesto commitments to invest tens of billions of pounds on new major transport, road and broadband projects, as well as upgrades. 

These will include the proposals to build 40 new hospitals, as well as a school rebuilding programme announced in the past 24 hours. 

Much of this is expected to be included in a major speech due to be delivered by Boris Johnson tomorrow. 

12:27 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street won't rule out Scottish exemptions to air bridges

After Nicola Sturgeon claimed during her daily press briefing (see 12:47pm) that Downing Street had not consulted the Scottish government on air bridges, the Prime Minister's spokesman repeatedly refused to say whether she had the power to prevent them from applying to Scotland. 

He added that the Government had consistently taken a "four nations approach" on the travel quarantine policy throughout its implementation.

The First Minister said that while she could "see the benefits" of a UK-wide approach, her administration would be considering the use of them before making any announcement. 

The list of approved countries is due to be announced around the middle of this week, with people allowed to start travelling from July 6. Before then the government hopes to reach agreements on mutual travel routes with the nations involved. 

 

12:18 PM

Lobby latest: Health Secretary to reveal Leicester plan this afternoon

Matt Hancock will tell MPs what the Government is planning to do in order to control the outbreak of coronavirus in Leicester this afternoon. 

The Health Secretary is meeting local leaders to discuss the city's coronavirus flare-up shortly. He will then return to the Commons later on Monday. 

Asked whether Mr Hancock would be telling Leicester to delay easing lockdown for a fortnight after the rest of England enjoys new freedoms on July 4, the spokesman said: "I genuinely don't want to pre-empt the discussions that they are going to have later on."

Downing Street insisted the powers existed to impose local lockdowns to tackle outbreaks of Covid-19.

"Either the local authority or Public Health England have a range of powers themselves to allow them to contain local outbreaks - for example they can impose temporary closures of public spaces, businesses and venues," the spokesman said.

Admissions could be stopped to hospitals and the Health Secretary also has powers under the Coronavirus Act.

Earlier today (8:06am) the city's mayor Sir Peter Soulsby was highly critical of the Government, claiming he had only received a critical report overnight, which he described as having been "cobbled together very hastily" and damning it as "superficial and inaccurate".

Instead of a city-wide lockdown, the report suggests Leicester should remain with the current restrictions in place for another fortnight.

12:15 PM

Lobby latest: Fisheries and level-playing field to dominate Brexit talks this week

UK and EU negotiators will resume negotiations this week on a future trade deal, with the thorny issues of level playing field arrangements and access to UK waters on the table.

This afternoon the Prime Minister's spokesman confirmed that this week's negotiating round would see the two teams return to the key areas of contention, along with discussion on criminal and judicial cooperation, mobility between countries and intelligence sharing on security matters. 

The week will conclude with a meeting between David Frost and his counter Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator. 

12:14 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street dismisses criticism over political appointment to NSA

Downing Street has  defended the Prime Minister's decision to make a political appointment to the role of the National Security Adviser, saying it is "not unusual" in other countries to appoint an ambassador to the position. 

Amid claims that figures within the defence and security establishment have question David Frost's lack of experience, the Prime Minister's official spokesman pointed out that he had spent many years as a diplomat, had served as an ambassador and adviser to various Cabinet ministers. 

Asked if Mr Frost's selection signalled a shift to a US-style of political appointments, the spokesman said only that it was only one "particular appointment." 

12:11 PM

Lobby latest: Sedwill to take on new 'economic resilience' role, says Downing Street

Sir Mark Sedwill will take up a role working on "economic resilience" and the G7, Downing Street has confirmed.

The UK is due to assume the group's rotating presidency next year.

Sir Mark is stepping down as the Cabinet Secretary in September, with Boris Johnson embarking on a rapid search to find his replacement in the meantime. 

The Prime Minister's official spokesman declined to comment on reports that Sir Mark had been forced out of the post, adding that the exchange of letters between him and Boris Johnson "spoke for themselves."

12:08 PM

Lobby latest: David Frost's Brexit and security briefs likely to overlap

David Frost is likely to stay on as the UK's chief Brexit negotiator for a month after taking up his new role as Boris Johnson's National Security Adviser (NSA), Downing Street has suggested.

Mr Frost is due to replace Sir Mark Sedwill as NSA from the end of August, with a short "transition period" as he oversees the conclusion of the negotiations with Brussels, the Prime Minister's spokesman said. 

While Number 10 has stated its desire for a trade agreement with the EU to be finalised by the Autumn, the spokesman acknowledged this was likely to mean the end of September.  Mr Frost's role as chief negotiator will end once an agreement is ratified, he added. 

"If there is a small overlap with the Brexit negotiations that is possible. David has said he will of course remain the chief negotiator while the talks are being concluded, one way or another," he added.

12:01 PM

Iran issues arrest warrant for Donald Trump 

Iranian news agency Fars News has reported that Tehran has issued arrest warrant for US President Donald Trump over killing of top general Qassem Soleimani.

Iran has also asked Interpol for help detaining the President.

Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said Mr Trump, and more than 30 others Iran accuses of involvement in the January 3 attack that killed the commander of its Quds Force, face "murder and terrorism charges".

Mr Trump was the only individual identified. The lawyer said Iran would continue to pursue his prosecution even after his presidency ends.

11:47 AM

Scotland not consulted on UK plan for air bridges, says Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has claimed the UK Government did not consult the Scottish Government ahead of plans to introduce ir bridges between the UK and countries in Europe.

Scotland's Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf had a conference call with Michael Gove and the other devolved administrations on the issue on Monday morning, she added.

Ms Sturgeon said she can "see the benefits of adopting a consistent approach across the UK" but said quarantine restrictions could become more important in Scotland as the relative impact cases coming into the area from overseas could "potentially become greater", not just for the nation's health but also economy.

As a result, she said her Government will be taking more time to consider the use of air bridges and will make a further announcement on them in the future.

11:44 AM

No Covid deaths in Scotland for fourth day in a row, says Sturgeon

There have been no deaths registered of people who tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland for a fourth consecutive day, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Speaking at the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing, she said the latest figures showed no new deaths within the previous 24 hours.

The total number of people who have died under the measurement remains at 2,482.

Ms Sturgeon said five more people tested positive for the virus since Sunday, taking the total to 18,241.

A total of 740 patients were in Scottish hospitals with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, down 38 in 24 hours.

Of these, 10 were intensive care, a fall of three.

11:40 AM

Watch: Boris Johnson pledges 'activist, interventionist' approach

Boris Johnson this morning unveiled a £1bn package to build 50 new schools over the next decade, as he begins to reset the agenda towards his domestic policies.

The Prime Minister said he would take an "activist, interventionist" approach and urged businesses to start investing again. 

You can watch below. 

11:23 AM

Weddings to be quiet affairs under new coronavirus guidance

People should avoid singing, shouting or raising their voices during wedding ceremonies, while the bride and groom must wash their hands before and after exchanging rings, new official guidance says. 

Small weddings and civil partnership ceremonies have been given the go-ahead to "begin safely" from 4 July, with groups of less than 30. That number includes the couple, witnesses, officiants, guests. photographers, security or caterers. It does not include staff employed by the venue.

Further restrictions released this morning show that those ceremonies will have to be staid affairs, with no large receptions or parties allowed after the big moment, and a ban on food or drink during the official proceedings. 

As is the case with rules for those going to pubs and restaurants, guests are being told to avoid singing and keep their voices down - even when saying 'I do'. 

"Spoken responses during marriages or civil partnerships should also not be in a raised voice," the guidance says.

"This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets."

11:12 AM

Brexit talks resume as David Frost takes on new security role

David Frost might have been named the new national security adviser but he's still got the small matter of Brexit talks to deal with. 

Teams led by Mr Frost and the EU's Michel Barnier are meeting in Brussels today for the first face-to-face round of talks since the coronavirus crisis. 

Mr Frost will take up the new role at the end of August but promised the talks with the EU "remain my top single priority until those negotiations have concluded, one way or another".

Boris Johnson hopes the UK-EU talks could result in a deal by the end of July, although both sides have acknowledged the end of October is when an agreement needs to be concluded in order to ratify it this year.

The current transition period expires at the end of the year, meaning new arrangements will need to be in place or the UK will follow World Trade Organisation rules for its relationship with the EU.

European Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie said: "Our overall message this week, but also for the coming weeks and coming months, is to intensify our negotiations in order to make progress in order to get a deal."

Mr Ferrie said he had "no particular comments to make" about Mr Frost being given a second job while the negotiations continued.

He added: "From our side at least we are fully concentrated on the negotiations."

Ahead of the latest round of talks, Mr Frost said the EU's "unrealistic positions" would need to change if there is to be any progress.

10:56 AM

Franklin or Theodore: Which Roosevelt should we channel?

There's an interesting debate happening on Twitter over the Prime Minister's suggestion that we adopt a "Rooseveltian" approach to the economy.

Robert Colville, who helped co-write the Conservatives' manifesto which led to the party's hugely successful election, thinks Boris Johnson should channel Theodore rather than Franklin, which trade adviser Shanker Singham appears to agree with, while former MP Nick Boles suggests "a blend of both". 

And here's what Matt Kilcoyne of the Adam Smith Institute has to say: 

 You can let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

10:48 AM

Chopper's Politics: A postcard from New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters

Isolated from the rest of the world, all signs point to New Zealand avoiding anything near the scale of the coronavirus crisis seen in Europe. But is the battle over yet?

My colleague Christopher Hope gives Winston Peters, the country's Deputy Prime Minister, a call to discuss what the country got right, the difficulties of easing their lockdown and why he saw Brexit coming.

10:35 AM

Civil Service 'not the Government's plaything', says Sir Bob Kerslake

The Civil Service belongs to the country as a whole and is not "the Government's plaything to do as it wishes", Sir Bob Kerslake has said. 

The former head of the Home Civil Service warned against allowing it to become politicised, saying "you only have to look across the pond to America to see how a partial civil service is definitely not serving the country very well". 

He told Sky News the UK had a good balance of a permanent civil service alongside political appointees who help ministers to "deliver on their political priorities". 

"It's not perfect.. Nobody is saying it can't improve but I don't think we want to turn to the American model yet," he added. "There is no plan at the moment... no plan, no analysis, no evidence for what they are trying to do 

"The Civil Service is too important to have handled that way," Sir Bob said. "It's our collective Civil Service - it's not the government's plaything to do as it wishes."

What do you think? Have your say in our daily poll

10:27 AM

Sedwill's ousting could leave ministers and officials' relationship 'fractured and fragile' 

Sir Bob Kerslake has warned that the Prime Minister's move to oust Sir Mark Sedwill from his role as Cabinet Secretary could leave the relationship between the Government and the Civil Service "fractured and fragile". 

The former head of the Home Civil Service told Sky News it was "pretty extraordinary times to be making fundamental changes at the top of the Civil Service" in the midst of the pandemic and with transition looming. 

He added: "The letter [from Mr Johnson to Sir Mark] was pretty cordial but events were not - there was a lot of hostile briefing."

Sir Bob noted that while there was often a lot of change after elections "the nature of these changes looks and feels very different. There has been a consistent pattern of hostile briefing."

He added it was "grossly unfair" to suggest the Civil Service was "entirely to blame" for failings in the response to coronavirus and called for an independent inquiry to learn lessons before a second peak "rather than the opinion of one senior adviser" - meaning Dominic Cummings.

The former mandarin added that the prospects of getting a Brexit deal were "not looking brilliant", saying he was "not holding my breath". 

10:16 AM

It's Prime Minister's 'responsibility' to be interviewed by ITV, claims Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer did the broadcast round for Labour this morning, including an appearance on ITV's Good Morning Britain, where he told presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid it was the Government's "responsibility" to do likewise. 

Boris Johnson and his ministers have not appeared on the show for 62 days. 

The Labour leader also accused the Prime Minister of being "asleep at the wheel" on coronavirus. 

10:06 AM

Phil Hogan withdraws from WTO leadership race

Phil Hogan, the EU Commissioner for Trade, has withdrawn from the race to become director general of the World Trade Organisation. 

In a statement, he explained that current challenges, from coronavirus and Brexit to the "escalation of trade rhetoric and the unnecessary imposition of tariffs" by the US and the need to build "a level playing field with China" should be his focus. 

"The World Trade Organisation is in crisis and requires all members to engage sincerely in meaningful reforms of this important international body," Mr Hogan added: "The current global trade challenges should require all members to work together. Regrettably this is not happening today."

09:46 AM

Prime Minister 'concerned about Leicester' amid coronavirus flare up

Boris Johnson said the Government was "concerned about Leicester" where there has been a flare-up of coronavirus.

On a visit to a construction site in west London, the Prime Minister said: "We are concerned about Leicester, we are concerned about any local outbreak.

"I want to stress to people that we are not out of the woods yet. We are making these cautious, calibrated steps, we are opening as much of hospitality as we can on July 4, opening as much of the economy as we can - some things, alas, still remain closed until they can become Covid-secure.

"But to make all that possible we have to remain vigilant."

He said the local "whack-a-mole" strategy had worked in Weston-super-Mare and where there had been outbreaks around GP surgeries in London.

"That's the same approach that we will bring to bear in Leicester as well."

09:37 AM

Why the Government is wrong to channel Roosevelt

Boris Johnson today echoed comments made by Michael Gove at the weekend, with the pair both referencing former US president Franklin D Roosevelt and his New Deal as a model for the UK's economy to follow out of the coronavirus-induced recession. 

But the Adam Smith Institute's Matthew Lesh argues that FDR is the last person you should channel if you're looking to encourage "greater radicalism not less”. 

The lesson of this crisis cannot be to make the state an “efficient force for good”, he claims. However benign, grand plans in the dictatorial spirit usually end in tears.

09:28 AM

Boris Johnson: 'Nobody should know' if Sedwill's replacement is Brexiteer 'least of all me'

Boris Johnson has said "nobody should know" whether Sir Mark Sedwill's successor is a Brexiteer "least of all me". 

Speaking as he announced a £1bn schools building programme, which he described as part of a wider "activist, interventionist approach" being taken by the Government, which would also play out in the economy. 

Paying tribute to Sir Mark, who he said had taken on "some of the toughest gigs" in Whitehall, Mr Johnson said his departure was "very logical" coming after a period in which the Cabinet Secretary had helped deal with Brexit and the toughest part of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Asked if his replacement should be a Brexiteer, the Prime Minister said: "The great thing about the civil service is nobody should know, least of all me. We have a wonderful Civil Service, they are impartial, they are the best in the world. 

"Who knows what his or her views should be."

09:18 AM

Mortgate approvals plunge further during May's lockdown

UK mortgage approvals plunged further to 9,273 in May – defying expectations that they would bounce but from April’s 15,900, figures from the Bank of England show.

This was around a third of the nadir reached during the financial crisis in 2008, and shows the near-total shutdown of the UK’s real estate sector was even more severe than feared.

Households' consumer credit borrowing shrunk by three per cent annually in May - marking the weakest growth since records started in 1994. It follows a 0.4 per cent fall in the 12 months to April.

Within May's figure, the annual growth rate of credit card lending was negative for the third month running, falling to minus 10.7 per cent, compared with 3.5 per cent as recently as February.

Growth in other types of borrowing remained positive, at 0.7 per cent.

09:06 AM

Britain 'on knife edge' with second spike tipped for July, says Sage adviser

Britain is on a "knife edge" and likely to see an increase in coronavirus cases by July, a Government adviser has warned.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he was concerned that there will soon be a surge of new infections caused by lockdown restrictions being eased towards the end of May.

Read the full story here.

09:04 AM

Justin Welby is rewriting the principles that hold our societies together

Last week, this blog reported that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had been dragged into the Black Lives Matter statues row. 

 “Some will have to come down,” he said, and “some names will have to change.”

As our columnist Nick Timothy writes today,  Welby had the chance to draw the line.

But instead he has come to represent "the madness of our times, and the moral cowardice of our leaders". 

08:50 AM

Defund the Police campaign 'nonsense', says Labour leader

Sir Keir Starmer has rubbished the aim of Black Lives Matter to defund the police in the UK as "nonsense". 

The Labour leader, who was pictured taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter, told BBC Breakfast: "Nobody should be saying anything about defunding the police.

"I was director of public prosecutions for five years, I've worked with police forces across England and Wales bringing thousands of people to court, so my support for the police is very strong.

"There's a broader issue here. The Black Lives Matter movement - or moment, if you like - internationally is about reflecting something completely different, it's reflecting on what happened dreadfully in America just a few weeks ago and showing or acknowledging that as a moment across the world.

"It's a shame it's getting tangled up with these organisational issues, with the organisation Black Lives Matter, but I wouldn't have any truck with what the organisation is saying about defunding the police, that's just nonsense."

08:33 AM

Have your say on: Sir Mark Sedwill's departure

Boris Johnson is today embarking on the search to replace Sir Mark Sedwill, after the country's most senior civil servant confirmed he was stepping down by mutual agreement - not-so-subtle code for having been ousted.

As revealed in this morning's Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister is expected to focus his recruitment among pro-Brexit officials, having handed his chief negotiator David Frost the role of national security adviser. 

Is it wise to make a political appointment, with someone who is likely to support the Government's aims. Could it create a Civil Service full of "yes men" as former Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell warned today. Or is it a reflection of the fact that the Civil Service has in fact been political for years?

Have your say in the poll below.

08:21 AM

Parents to be fined if children do not return to school in September, says Education Secretary

It will be compulsory for children to return to school from September, with fines for parents who refuse, the Education Secretary has revealed.

Speaking with LBC this morning Gavin Williamson said: "It is going to be compulsory for children to return back to school unless there's a very good reason, or a local spike where there have had to be local lockdowns.

"We do have to get back into compulsory education as part of that, obviously fines sit alongside that.

"Unless there is a good reason for the absence then we will be looking at the fact that we would be imposing fines on families if they are not sending their children back."

He added it will be a "full class size" from the start of the autumn term, but suggests bubbles will remain in place to keep the risk of transmission down.

Increased cleaning will also be maintained, he said.

Gavin Williamson

08:14 AM

Starmer stands by decision to sack Long-Bailey and keep Russell-Moyle

Sir Keir Starmer has said he stands by his decision to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey from her role as shadow education secretary last week, but not to eject fellow frontbencher Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

Speaking on Sky News, he said: "When I took over as leader of the Labour party, I said I would root out anti-Semitism, and I've been judged by my actions, not by my words.

"I took the decision I did on Thursday and it was the right decision."

Sir Keir was asked whether Ms Long-Bailey would have kept her job if she had apologised, as shadow environment minister Lloyd Russell-Moyle remained in post following his apology for comments he made about JK Rowling in a row about trans rights.

The Labour leader said: "I won't go through the ins and outs of the discussions with Rebecca Long-Bailey on Thursday, but it's well known that she was asked to delete the tweet, that didn't happen, and I took the action that I did.

"In relation to Lloyd Russell-Moyle, he has apologised, and I think that was the right thing to do, he should never have written that in the first place."

The shadow minister accused JK Rowling of using her own sexual assault as “justification” for discriminating against trans people.

08:02 AM

David Frost's appointment as national security adviser 'not unusual', says minister

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said it is not unusual for a special adviser such as David Frost to be appointed national security adviser.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "He will be, but that's not unusual. That's what you see in the United States, that's what you see in many other countries.

"This is a man who has impeccable public service, very much a background that similar people who have held this role in the past before have come from having worked in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for an awful long time, so this isn't an unusual appointment."

Mr Williamson did not deny that Boris Johnson would seek a Brexiteer to replace Sir Mark Sedwill as Cabinet Secretary, as revealed in today's Daily Telegraph.

He said: "The Prime Minister's search is to get the very best person into that role and applications will be opening from next month to get someone of the very highest calibre to step into some big shoes."

David Frost has been named as the national security adviser

07:59 AM

Government still consulting on schools plan, says Education Secretary

The Government is still consulting on how to get children back to school, despite plans being unveiled this week, Gavin Williamson has said.

Asked if there will be a detailed plan this week, the Education Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There will."

Asked if all social distancing requirements could be removed to allow a total return, he said: "We're going to take the opportunity to spell out exactly as to how we will see a full return for all children back into school before the end of this week.

"As I'm sure you'll understand and appreciate at the moment, we're consulting and talking with different people, whether it's headteachers, whether it's unions, whether it's representative bodies."

07:46 AM

'Absolutely right' that shadow minister apologised for JK comments, says Starmer 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was "absolutely right" for shadow environment minister Lloyd Russell-Moyle to apologise for the comments he made about JK Rowling in a row about trans rights.

"Trans rights are human rights, the legislation we've got doesn't go far enough," he told Good Morning Britain.

"We ought to have a cross-party consensus about looking at it to see whether it can be developed.

"What concerns me here is the whole issue has become a political football, there must be a space for a mature discussion about how we improve the rights of the trans community."

Asked whether he was accusing Rebecca Long-Bailey of anti-Semitism, after she was sacked after she refused to apologise for sharing an article that contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, Sir Keir Starmer said: "No I'm not."

He said he believed most people in the Labour Party supported his decision.

He told Good Morning Britain: "It's pretty obvious to me that the casual link between something goes wrong in the world and you point the finger either at the Jews or Israel, it's the casualness of it that is very obvious and offensive.

"I actually think within the party as the dust settles on this most people in the party recognise the decision made last Thursday is the right decision."

07:40 AM

Bring forward Budget in July, says Keir Starmer

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the Government to bring forward a July budget as part of its "duty" to the people who have lost their jobs amid the pandemic.

Speaking on Sky News, he said: "I am concerned that there should be a July budget because we're living through a health crisis, we've got an economic crisis coming right up alongside it, and we're likely to see unemployment the like of which we've haven't seen for a generation.

"And I think the Government should be putting forward a budget in July setting out precisely how it's going to ensure that as many jobs are preserved as possible."

The Labour leader added: "Any budget in July has to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs. If we go to two or three million people unemployed, that's going to be so damaging for so many families and for our economy."

Sir Keir said he would bring infrastructure projects forward in the budget, extend the furlough scheme to save jobs in the most hard-hit industries like the hospitality sector, and create a "future jobs fund" to help those made unemployed get back into the workforce "as quickly as possible".

Keir Starmer

07:33 AM

Ousting Sir Mark Sedwill could erode independence, warns former top mandarin

Boris Johnson's move to oust Sir Mark Sedwill and replace him with a Brexiteer could create a civil service filled with "yes men" who fail to "speak truth to power", a former senior official has warned.

Gus O' Donnell,  who between 2005 and 2011 served as the Cabinet Secretary, told the BBC's Today programme that the proposed Whitehall shake up could erode the independence of the civil service. 

"I'm worried about the appointment of David Frost as national security adviser because I'm not quite sure how putting a special adviser in that role works, how that's consistent with Michael Gove's desire for deep subject knowledge for someone who hasn't really had much of a background in national security," he said.

Asked if the service's impartiality is being eroded, the peer said: "I think appointing a special adviser to a national security role is quite clearly an example of that.

"It's a problem because political appointees are there and they are more likely to be subject to group-think, more likely to be yes-men, more likely to say what it is ministers want to hear as opposed to giving good, objective, speaking truth to power which is what it's all about."

Gus O'Donnell

07:23 AM

'Dom is outstanding', says Boris Johnson 

Asked about his chief adviser Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson says he has "many excellent advisers" and says "Dom is outstanding". But then he quickly moves the conversation onto what he wants to do. 

We want to work on a "big, big programme" to "bounce forward", he explains.

"This has been a disaster, let's not mince our words, this has been an absolute nightmare for the country," he said.

"The country has gone through a profound shock. But in those moments you have the opportunity to change and to do things better.

"We really want to build back better, to do things differently, to invest in infrastructure, transport, broadband - you name it."

The Prime Minister repeats his claim that now is not the time for an inquiry, admitting that some things did go wrong. But he says some achievements were "extraordinary", pointing to the building of Nightingale Hospitals and ventilators. 

But asked about failings including the lack of PPE at the start of the outbreak, he says: ""Of course I take that to heart, and of course I take responsibility."

07:19 AM

Politicians can't treat obesity as irrelevant, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has said if people look back over "the great anthology of embarrassing articles" it is clear that in the past he has taken a libertarian stance on obesity, but has now changed his mind. 

"We are significantly fatter than most of [Europe]... I am not going to pretend I've had original thinking about this... but I think it is something we need to address. 

Asked if he was interventionist, he says he is "certainly when it comes to getting our economy to bounce back". 

"We certainly must have a care for the health of our population," he adds, noting the UK would be better placed to fight off coronavirus if the country was fitter.

"I think [obesity] matters, and I don't think politicians can treat it as irrelevant."

07:15 AM

UK is taking 'whack-a-mole strategy' on local flare ups, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson says the "curve going in the direction roughly they thought it would".

He says hospital and death numbers are going down, but says "the crucial thing" is the "whack-a-mole strategy" for places like Leicester, where there are local flare ups. 

He says that it's important that local authorities are given the powers to be able to deal with the situations as they arise.

But the Prime Minister isn't challenged about the claims made by Leicester's authorities this morning, regarding the lack of data and the report being "cobbled together" at the last minute.

 

07:13 AM

Sir Mark Sedwill will 'continue to serve this country', says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson pays tribute to Sir Mark Sedwill, saying he "came in at a very difficult time", and has "seen the Government through" challenges including Brexit and "the really worst bits of the Covid crisis". 

"He has got a lot more offer and I am sure he will," the Prime Minister adds. 

"There is an awful lot of stuff that comes out in the newspapers that I wouldn't automatically attach a lot of credence to. People brief all sorts of things into the newspapers... all I can tell you is Mark is an outstanding servant to this country and will continue to be so."

07:10 AM

Time for Rooseveltian approach to economy, says Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister has said the UK will need an economic approach like the one enacted by former president Franklin D Roosevelt in his 'New Deal' out of the US's Great Depression.

Boris Johnson told the newly-launched Times Radio there will be "some bumpy times" as the UK comes out of coronavirus, but that the country is "very resilient indeed".

He promises the Government will continue to engage with businesses and individuals, as the furlough scheme winds up. "We will double down on our initial agenda," he says, confirming he will set out his domestic vision in Dudley tomorrow. 

"This is the time to invest in infrastructure, this is the time to make those long-term decisions for the good of the country.

"You have to be careful and the Chancellor will be setting out our plans in the spending review in the autumn.

"But in the end what you can't do at this moment is go back to what people called austerity, it wasn't actually austerity but people called it austerity, and I think that would be a mistake.

"I think this is the moment for a Rooseveltian approach to the UK."

07:06 AM

Will Leicester be locked down? 

Coronavirus testing data will be discussed at a Monday morning meeting between Leicester's mayor and Government officials amid suggestions a local lockdown could be imposed on the city.

Leicester public health director's Ivan Browne was critical about the level of information given to the city to tackle the outbreak.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Interestingly it's very much around the younger working-age population and predominately towards the east part of our city.

"I don't think at the moment we're seeing a single cause or a single smoking gun on this so we need really try to dig down and find out what is going on and it's likely to be a combination of factors.

"Information has been challenging all the way through this. "It has definitely been challenging and I think as director of public health we have really been pushing for some time to ask for as complete a data set as possible because that's how we can really effectively start to challenge these things on the ground."

In a subsequent interview the city's mayor Sir Peter Soulsby was highly critical of the Govt, claiming he had received a report overnight that had been "cobbled together very hastily, superficial and inaccurate".

Instead of lockdown, the report suggests Leicester should remain with the current restrictions in place for another fortnight. 

 

07:03 AM

Starmer accuses PM of 'trying to shift responsibility' over Sedwill move

Sir Keir Starmer has attacked the Prime Minister for ousting Sir Mark Sedwill, accusing him of trying to "shift responsibility from himself to someone else". 

A letter written by the Cabinet Secretary to Boris Johnson was published yesterday, saying "We have agreed that I will stand down and leave government service at the end of September." Sir Mark has been blamed by No 10 aides for failure to control the pandemic. 

But the Labour leader told Sky News: "The responsibility isn’t with the Cabinet Secretary, it is with the Prime Minister to get schools open. 

"He should have led from the front and have a clear plan in place."

"We cannot have a Prime Minister who shifts responsibility from himself to someone else. If you’re Prime Minister, you’re responsible." 

Sir Keir also said now was not "the time to start moving around senior civil service", adding: "Spend your time getting budget together, getting schools reopened, rather than moving the Civil Service around."

06:45 AM

Brexiteer to run Civil Service

Boris Johnson will today begin the search for a Brexiteer to run the Civil Service after its current head was ousted ahead of a wholesale reform of Whitehall.

Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, will stand down in September after losing a power struggle with Mr Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings.

The civil service union responded by accusing Downing Street of spending months undermining Sir Mark with “corrosive and cowardly” anonymous briefings.

Mr Johnson intends to reform Whitehall by recruiting more Brexiteers and relocating Government departments to the regions, and made it clear to Sir Mark that he was not the man to drive the revolution.