People who 'delivered hardest possible Brexit' must resolve Northern Ireland protocol issues

The UK has called for a 'standstill' to renegotiate the protocol - something which the EU has so far rejected - Reuters
The UK has called for a 'standstill' to renegotiate the protocol - something which the EU has so far rejected - Reuters
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The people who "delivered the hardest possible Brexit have to shoulder some of the responsibility" for resolving the problems, Northern Ireland's deputy first minister has said.

Speaking after a North South Ministerial Council (NSMC), Michelle O'Neill said the joint committee was "the forum in which we can iron out some of the issues that need to be resolved, some of which arise because of the lateness of the deal itself, some of which arise because we live in a new trade reality as a result of Brexit."

She added: "I think that it's important that we work constructively where we can to try to resolve the issues that need to be resolved and give wider society that stability which they crave as we go forward."

Northern Ireland's First Minister stressed there was "a window of opportunity" to resolve the issues caused by the protocol.

Paul Givan highlighted the EU's decision to suspend its litigation as a sign there was "recognition that the protocol is causing harm" and that constructive dialogue is required.

"Nobody should be under any illusion as to the implications that the protocol has had, the manner in which it was foisted upon the Unionist community... where we had photographs of border posts being bombed in the 1970s in order to get the European Union on side when it came to this protocol," he added.

"We want to see a new relationship developed... We share this island. It's in our interests for those relationships to work and to be good."

​​Follow the latest updates below.

03:05 PM

And that's it for another day...

Sir Keir Starmer's pleas for the country to get an early release from isolation requirements appear to be falling on deaf ears - but the Labour leader has signalled his qualified support for Covid passes (see 12:20pm and 11:53am).

Quite what that means when it comes to voting on the necessary legislation remains unclear, as he stressed he did not back them for "day-to-day" use, such as going to the pub. And we are still none the wiser as to whether the Government will follow through with its threat, or if it is intended purely as a stick to prob vaccine refuseniks towards the nearest centre.

Certainly Tory MPs remain convinced (see 11:21am and 11:15am).

Ministers might want to pay attention to Sir Keir's demand to end the pingdemic early, however reluctantly though. Some 91 per cent of Telegraph readers have backed his suggestion that England should end isolation requirements at the same time as Wales.

It might be a curious position for the opposition to have taken, given their preference towards caution, but there is no denying it is a popular one - and could end up becoming uncomfortable for the Government come August 7.

For more on that, and the rest of the day's news, carry on reading below.

02:57 PM

The Telegraph weekly news quiz: Have you been paying attention?

In the week that the Tokyo Olympics got underway, The Telegraph's news quiz is here to find out how closely you have been paying attention to the headlines.

In Westminster, plans agreed upon by the Cabinet's Covid-O committee on Wednesday will allow fully vaccinated citizens from the EU and which country to enter England without having to quarantine from August 2?

Elsewhere, a great physicist had one of his key theories proven this week when astronomers managed to look behind a black hole for the first time – who was it?

Test your knowledge below.

02:47 PM

Jeremy Corbyn praises 'woman of amazing strength' after Labour MP is acquitted

Apsana Begum's exoneration at the courts has been welcomed by several Labour colleagues - and former party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

See 3:22pm and 3:06pm for more.

02:31 PM

Foreign travel is of 'particular concern', scientists warned Government

Any increase in foreign travel this summer is concerning while autumn could prove to be "a particularly risky point" for the country, scientists advising the Government have warned.

The latest documents, revealing expert advice given to ministers earlier this month, raised concerns that the return of students to schools and universities for the new term could place "significant pressures" on the health service.

A document dated July 14 warned: "Any increase in foreign travel over the summer and the return of international students to universities in the autumn is of particular concern." In the same document from the SPI-M-O experts warned that September and October "will be a particularly risky point in the trajectory of the epidemic".

It states that "significant pressures on healthcare could be seen" if more normal behaviours, following the lifting of many restrictions, coincide with the return of schools and universities.

02:26 PM

Those who 'delivered hardest possible Brexit' must resolve issues, says Northern Ireland's deputy first minister

The people who "delivered the hardest possible Brexit have to shoulder some of the responsibility" for resolving the problems, Northern Ireland's deputy first minister has said.

Speaking after a North South Ministerial Council (NSMC), Michelle O'Neill said the joint committee was "the forum in which we can iron out some of the issues that need to be resolved, some of which arise because of the lateness of the deal itself, some of which arise because we live in a new trade reality as a result of Brexit."

She added: "I think that it's important that we work constructively where we can to try to resolve the issues that need to be resolved and give wider society that stability which they crave as we go forward."

02:22 PM

Labour MP claims housing fraud case was 'driven by malicious intent'

The Labour MP acquitted over three counts of housing fraud has claimed the case was "driven by malicious intent and has caused me great distress and damage to my reputation".

In a statement after being found not guilty (see 3:06pm), Apsana Begum gave a "sincere thank you" to her legal team and supporters.

"As a survivor of domestic abuse facing these vexatious charges, the last 18 months of false accusations, online sexist, racist, and Islamophobic abuse, and threats to my safety, have been exceedingly difficult," she added.

"I will be consulting and considering how to follow up so that something like this doesn't happen again to anyone else.

"I would now like to get on with my job of representing my constituents - opposing the negligent Covid decisions made by [Boris] Johnson's reckless Tory Government which has caused so many families to lose loved ones who should still be with us today and so much hardship that could have been avoided."

02:08 PM

Man pleads guilty to assault over Chris Whitty altercation

Lewis Hughes, 24, has pleaded guilty to assault at Westminster Magistrates' Court after England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty was accosted in St James's Park in central London on June 27.

A second man, Jonathan Chew, 24, denied charges relating to the incident.

02:06 PM

Labour MP found not guilty of housing fraud

Apsana Begum

Labour MP Apsana Begum has been found not guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court of housing fraud.

The 31-year-old, who was elected in the 2019 General Election, faced three allegations of fraud against Tower Hamlets Council involving disclosure of information about her housing situation in applications made between 2013 and 2016.

Jurors found Begum, 31, not guilty of all three charges.

The Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, in east London, collapsed and wept in the dock as the not guilty verdicts were delivered.

01:58 PM

EU and UK have 'window of opportunity' to resolve protocol issues, says First Minister

Northern Ireland's First Minister said there is "a window of opportunity" to resolve the issues caused by the protocol.

Paul Givan highlighted the EU's decision to suspend its litigation as a sign there was "recognition that the protocol is causing harm" and that constructive dialogue is required.

"Obviously the Irish Government have a very important role in influencing how the European Union conducts its approach to addressing those issues

"Nobody should be under any illusion as to the implications that the protocol has had, the manner in which it was foisted upon the Unionist community... where we had photographs of border posts being bombed in the 1970s in order to get the European Union on side when it came to this protocol.

"That caused huge damage within the Unionist community," he added. "We want to see a new relationship developed... We share this island. It's in our interests for those relationships to work and to be good."

01:52 PM

Meet the women trying to stop an entire generation of girls being left behind

Nimco Ali is a leading global FGM activist and an independent government adviser on tackling violence against women and girls - Getty

Imagine what the world would be like if every child received the education they deserved. The scientific breakthroughs we would achieve. The great enterprises that would be built. The works of art that would be created.

"I believe that education is the single most powerful remedy for the problems of humanity," says Boris Johnson in a video he posted on Twitter ahead of the Global Education Summit, being co-hosted by the UK and Kenyan government in London this week.

But if we really want to change the world for the better, girls' education is a great place to start.

Meet the women involved in that fight here.

01:39 PM

Ryan Bourne: Campus class warriors are trying to cancel the free market

A group of university students engaging in a dumb campaign? Quelle surprise! That was my initial reaction to the furore about a London School of Economics group of activists demanding the dissolution of the Hayek Society, writes Ryan Bourne.

With growing intolerance on campuses to alternative ideas, it was perhaps inevitable that the front line debate over which historical figures are “acceptable” would edge towards free-market thinkers. Now, even a deceased Nobel Prize winner like Friedrich Hayek is not safe, despite the Austrian’s cosmopolitanism and him having taught at the university for two decades.

It is easy to dismiss the demand as one of a rogue Leftie fringe group seeking attention, tapping into the zeitgeist of “no platforming”.

On reflection, though, I think there’s more to this.

Read more from Ryan here.

01:29 PM

UK must resettle Afghan interpreters 'fast', says senior Tory MP

The UK "needs to get on with it and fast" when it comes to resettling Afghan interpreters, a senior Tory MP has said.

Tom Tugendhat, who served in Afghanistan, said the Government "is trying to do the right thing here" and that the efforts made so far were "very much" welcomed.

However, the foreign affairs committee chairman told the BBC's World at One programme: "There are always going to be bureaucratic glitches, there are always going to be things that need ironing out, and up until a month or so ago we had the time to do it.

"Well, now we don't, because we are withdrawing and that means that everybody is in much greater risk than they were only a few weeks ago, and so we need to get on with it and fast."

01:22 PM

Home Office breached human rights by leaving man without HIV drugs for days

A Congolese man with HIV was left without vital medication for several days due to the Home Office's failure to put systems in place to protect detainees with the life-threatening condition, a High Court judge has ruled.

The 28-year-old, referred to only as CSM, went without his antiretroviral medication for three days. CSM was diagnosed with HIV as a child, shortly after arriving in the UK in 1996, and his condition requires him to take medication at the same time each day to prevent the virus "rebounding".

Staff at Harmondsworth IRC, near Heathrow Airport, were able to obtain HIV medication at around midnight on August 9 2019, but CSM was not given it until around 4pm on August 11 2019, more than three days after his last dose.

In a ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Bourne found that the Home Office was in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to have "a sufficient system" in place to deal with HIV-positive detainees.

12:54 PM

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: I refuse to be imprisoned by an incompetent Government

The "amber plus" regime for those returning from France is on one level a trivial detail, hardly newsworthy when set against the magnificent fiasco of the British pingdemic, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.

Yet nothing quite so illustrates the bureaucratic incoherence of Britain’s post-vaccination policy as this lunatic quarantine rule for travellers.

Furthermore, it is slightly alarming to see the authorities deploy the coercive power of the state so breezily, in such a random fashion, and in violation of the known scientific data. Bad habits are being formed.

It is equally disturbing that the Government should persist in error out of pig-headedness, refusing ever to admit that it has got this or anything else wrong, even when the error is demonstrated beyond all argument.

Read more from Ambrose here.

12:45 PM

England's R-rate widens

England's R-rate is between 1.1 and 1.4, according to the latest Government figures.

The figure has widened since last week, when it was between 1.2 and 1.4.

The R-rate represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.

An R number between 1.1 and 1.4 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 11 and 14 other people.

12:26 PM

Olivia Utley: Punishing the young with vaccine passports is discriminatory, immoral and authoritarian

Scenes of joy in nightclubs around Britain may soon come to an end as hints of vaccine passports and another lockdown loom over today's youth.

With the vulnerable vaccinated, it should remain a personal choice to take the inoculation.

Watch the full video above.

12:12 PM

Comment: Britain’s tower of debt will come crashing down very soon

Inflation is on the rise. It’s a tangible change that you can see in your weekly shop, but that is just the visible peak of the iceberg, writes Taha Lokhandwala .

Some of this is short-term; pent-up demand has pushed up prices temporarily, while supply problems have resulted in soaring prices for certain products. Much of this will be ironed out in a few years. However, some is sticky. The pandemic has made the world a more expensive place to live – and that is something we all must ­contend with.

But the looming crisis for household finances is not that prices are rising but what central banks will be forced to do to contain them. It is this threat of rising interest rates that is the hidden mass of the iceberg.

Read more from Taha here.

12:04 PM

Eurostar chief demands airline tax to help save rail link to France

“If the UK Government wants to commit to its objective for carbon emissions reduction… then they have to activate the right levers,” - Eddie Mulholland

The boss of Eurostar is calling for an airline tax to subsidise rail services to the Continent in a move that would help Boris Johnson meet his climate change commitments.

Jacques Damas urged the Prime Minister to encourage more Britons to use Eurostar instead of flying to northern Europe.

“If the UK Government wants to commit to its objective for carbon emissions reduction … then they have to activate the right levers," he said. “This high speed [railway] in the world has a lot of remaining capacity.”

Mr Damas added: “If you do not want to ban, but give an incentive, it is very easy. If you just work with the taxation system. If you take just £1. Take £1 more in taxing fuel for aircraft, and take that £1 as a reduction in access charges on the railway.”

Read the rest of the exclusive interview here.

11:54 AM

Government has 'moral duty' to allow Afghan interpreters to settle in UK, says Starmer

The UK has a "moral duty" to follow the lead of the US by bringing Afghan interpreters who supported British forces to settle in the country, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The first flight evacuating Afghan interpreters and others who worked alongside Americans in Afghanistan arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport on Friday.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer told broadcasters: "I would like to see the Government show the same initiative. The interpreters in Afghanistan have been hugely important to us and we owe them a moral duty to look after them now in the circumstances.

"So I would like to see our Government matching the commitment of the US on this and the sooner we are able to do this, the better."

He added: "We owe an obligation to those who have helped us in Afghanistan, the interpreters who have courageously helped us. We can't abandon them, therefore we must make a commitment to them. The US looks like it is going down that route, but we should take the step in any event."

11:50 AM

The Telegraph View: Mandatory vaccination should not be the norm

The development of a Covid vaccine within a year of the disease first appearing was an extraordinary scientific achievement.

It offered the world the chance to break out of the lockdowns it had inflicted upon itself in a forlorn effort to stop the spread of the virus. But the vaccines have turned out to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand they offer the route to normality, while on the other their very existence encourages governments to exercise greater caution than might otherwise have been the case.

Had there been no vaccine it is inconceivable, though not impossible (look at Australia), that leaders around the world would have continued to shut down economic activity and social interaction for as long as they have.

But the fact that protection against the virus is available also lends itself to new risk aversion: why return to where we used to be before the jabs have been administered to as many people as possible?

Read more here.

11:40 AM

Navy task force 'lawfully navigating South China Sea', says MoD

The UK Government has denied it was provoking Beijing by deploying its most powerful Navy task force in a generation through the South China Sea.

The strike group of Royal Navy and allied ships spearheaded by the giant new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has sparked an angry response from the nationalist state-run newspaper Global Times.

It said: "We seriously warn this group: They are obliged to remain restrained and obey the rules. Please follow the current international shipping lanes and stay at least 12 nautical miles away from the Chinese islands and reefs."

But a Ministry of Defence spokesperson replied: "The carrier strike group is lawfully navigating the South China Sea, just as one-third of global shipping does on an annual basis. It is taking the most direct route through international waters to conduct exercises with allies and partners in the Philippine Sea."

It comes just a month after a British destroyer went through waters off Ukraine, which Russia claimed was a violation of its territory in the Black Sea.

11:31 AM

James Dowling: Keir Starmer’s new chief of staff could reboot the Labour Party

Keir Starmer at the weekend appointed Sam White – the longest serving of Alistair Darling’s special advisers and latterly Aviva’s public policy supremo – as his chief of staff, writes James Dowling.

With Chris Ward, Starmer's deputy chief of staff and speechwriter, announcing his resignation yesterday, the new chief of staff will play a crucial part in determining the Labour leader's fortunes.

White has an unusual diversity of experience covering both top-tier politics and executive leadership in the private sector. He has an approachable, easy-going manner which helps build relationships and loyalty among those he works with, combined with a certain ruthlessness and ability to get things done which meant Mark Wilson, Aviva’s former group CEO, referred to him as his ‘consigliere’.

Read more from James here.

11:20 AM

Sir Keir Starmer backs 'pragmatic' use of Covid passports

Vaccine passports should be used on a "pragmatic" basis, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The Labour leader said there needed to be a "distinction" between mass events and "day-to-day needs" when it came to asking people to prove their Covid status.

He said: "There is a distinction between those massive events and the day-to-day needs of every day life, and certainly we shouldn't be going down the road of passports for day-to-day needs, for every day life.

"We can't have a situation where someone can't have access to a health service or dentistry or supermarkets - that is something I don't think anybody could seriously countenance, so we have to make this distinction.

"But we need to be pragmatic, we need to look at whatever the Government puts on the table when it comes to longer term events, mass events etcetera."

11:16 AM

Covid cases are actually increasing, ONS survey finds

Around one in 65 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to July 24 - up from one in 75 in the previous week, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is the highest level since the week to January 30.

One in 65 is the equivalent of 856,200 people, up from 741,700 in the previous week - though there are "possible signs" that the rate of increase may have slowed, the ONS said.

The ONS survey stands in contrast to the daily government figures, which have showed a steady decline in the number of positive cases.

11:08 AM

Have your say: Should isolation rules end earlier than August 16?

This week Boris Johnson said August 16 was "nailed on" as the date that isolation rules would be lifted for those who have been fully vaccinated.

But now it has emerged that England will be stuck in the pingdemic for a week longer than Wales, which is removing the requirement on August 7, and Scotland, which will drop the rule on August 9.

Labour has challenged the Government to bring its date forward, but so far there are no signs it will change, with Grant Shapps saying isolation was the sole "lever" left to respond to surging cases.

Is the Government right, or are they being overly cautious? Have your say in the poll below.

11:01 AM

You won't legally need two jabs to return to the office, says minister

The Government will not pass legislation forcing people to be fully vaccinated before returning to work, Grant Shapps has said.

Yesterday Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, put the cat amongst the pigeons when he suggested jabs for jobs policies adopted by Netflix, Google and Facebook were "smart", adding: "Whether or not there should be hard and fast legal rules, we would need to look at that carefully."

Quizzed on whether it was right for firms to impose such restrictions, the Transport Secretary told Sky News: "Yes it is a good idea and yes some companies will require it.

"We are not going to make that legislation that every adult has to be double vaccinated before they go back to the office, but yes it is a good idea and yes some companies will require it."

10:57 AM

How EU leaders destroyed AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine dream

In the darkest days of the coronavirus crisis, Emmanuel Macron took to the media circuit with a scathing attack on the world’s cheapest Covid vaccine – and the only one to be produced at cost.

Britain’s pioneering jab, developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca, was “quasi-ineffective” on older people, the French President said. “The real problem on AstraZeneca is that it doesn’t work the way we were expecting it to,” he added.

Weeks later, when a study suggested there was a tiny chance that patients could develop blood clots, the vaccine’s use was curtailed across Europe. In America, it was never approved at all.

The damage caused by Europe’s assault on AstraZeneca is now becoming clear. The company’s decision to make its jab without taking a profit has squeezed margins. The company is now weighing up whether it wants a future in vaccines at all.

Read more on that here.

10:53 AM

Labour rejects 'jabs for jobs' policy for workers

Sir Keir Starmer has said he did not agree with a "jabs for jobs" policy.

Yesterday Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said it was a "smart" move and Grant Shapps this morning said it was "a good idea", but insisted it would not be made law.

The Labour leader told broadcasters: "I don't agree with that. I can see a case for vaccine passports, alongside testing, when it comes to big sporting events or mass events, certainly for international travel.

"But for day-to-day routine - access to the office, access to health services or dentistry or even food - I don't agree with vaccine passports for day-to-day access."

10:47 AM

Ending isolation on Aug 7 will make a 'huge difference', says Sir Keir Starmer

Asked why Labour was not calling for an immediate lifting of quarantine measures on the fully vaccinated, the party leader said time would be needed to implement such a change.

"August 7 is only a week tomorrow and it takes a little bit of change to be put into the system," Sir Keir Starmer told broadcasters. "The other critical thing is that we need the testing centres up as quickly as possible. The Government I think has promised 2,000 of them, they've only put about 250 or so up already.

He added: "There is a huge difference between these dates. In that nine day difference, there are hundreds of thousands of working days that will not be lost.

"There are businesses that won't have the chaos they are facing at the moment and of course lots of people who are planning to go on holiday will have the peace of mind that they can actually go on their holiday so they don't have it interrupted by isolating."

10:41 AM

Sir Keir Starmer: Pingdemic delay so more can get vaccinated is 'a non-argument'

Waiting for more people to get double jabbed before ending the pingdemic "doesn't stack up" as an argument, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The Labour leader, who is currently self-isolating after his son tested positive for Covid-19, told broadcasters: "If the test is whether you are double-vaccinated, the sooner that test is in place the better - that is a non-argument from the Government,

"True that in a week or two, or three or four, more people will be double vaccinated - that is not a good argument for saying that those who are double vaccinated now can't take advantage of the sort of approach that is being shown by Welsh Labour.

"That is an argument that just doesn't stack-up."

10:39 AM

Sir Keir Starmer: Why is Government 'clinging to Aug 16'?

Ending England's pingdemic on the same day as Wales would "allow some order to come back into our lives", Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The Labour leader told reporters: "The Government has never really explained the logic of its August 16 date on isolating. Welsh Labour has obviously taken the lead on this and said in clear terms that if you're double vaccinated, you don't need to self-isolate from August 7.

"We should do the same and allow some order to come back into our lives, allow some stability for holidays and for businesses.

"There is too much chaos, there isn't a satisfactory answer from the Government as to why they are clinging on to the date of August 16 - Welsh Labour is showing the way, we should follow them."

Should isolation rules end earlier than August 16? Have your say at 10:09am.

10:30 AM

Drug deaths figures a 'stain on Scotland', says Scottish Tory leader

The Scottish Tory leader has said the latest drug death statistics are a "stain on Scotland", after figures showed the nation continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe.

Douglas Ross said: "These latest statistics are horrifying and heartbreaking. Behind every number is a lost loved one and a broken family."

He added: "The drugs crisis is our national shame. It is a stain on Scotland that so many of our most vulnerable people have been left without hope, crushed by a system that is thoroughly broken.

"This is not a day for political posturing but it is a simple fact that the Government's small steps are not cutting it. The crisis is getting worse and spiralling out of control. We need a united national effort to make the drastic changes necessary to overhaul the broken system."

See 9:57am and 9:56am for more.

10:27 AM

Vast majority of Britons still wearing face masks: ONS

Freedom day does not seem to have altered our view of face masks - Getty

The vast majority of adults are continuing to wear face coverings when out and about, despite no longer being legally required to do so in certain settings, figures suggest.

Some 95 per cent of people in Britain said they wore face coverings when outside their home in the past week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.

And 89 per cent of adults felt that wearing face coverings to help stop the spread of Covid-19 is either very important or important.

The findings are similar to those from the previous week's survey, conducted before most legal restrictions in England were eased on July 19.

10:21 AM

Government leaving firms to 'do the heavy lifting' on jabs for jobs, says Tory MP

The Government seems to want businesses to "do the heavy lifting" on jabs for jobs policies, but it would be a "very dangerous step", a Conservative MP has said.

Craig McKinlay, the MP for South Thanet, told Sky News he was "very much in favour of encouragement but to have [vaccination] as a draconian rule... is a very dangerous step indeed".

He added: "I've got a feeling that Government is quite keen for businesses to take that risk averse rule and get companies to do that heavy lifting for them.. I am concerned about companies going down this route, but making people do something is a step I am very cautious to tread.

"I will not be supporting such measures if they come to Parliament," he said.

10:15 AM

Using Covid passes akin to asking people their HIV status, claims Tory MP

A senior Tory backbencher has compared using Covid passes to asking people their HIV status.

Craig McKinlay told Sky News: "We know 18-plus younger adults are not taking up the vaccine in such great numbers as those of who are over 50.... I want the Government to encourage vaccination... and I hope the Government is using this as a technique to try and get those numbers up."

He added: "Fair enough a bit of carrot and stick, but I will not will not support mandatory vaccine for normal life.... to force people to do this, as a libertarian Conservative, is step too far."

The MP for South Thanet said: "Let's just put Covid aside for a minute and get your mind around if we were doing this around other serious illness, like TB. Would we ask people about their HIV status? There would be absolute outrage.

"Put the words as a different kind of disease and I don't think we would be having this discussion."

10:04 AM

Boris Johnson told to recall Parliament over 'stealth' Covid ID cards

Boris Johnson is coming under fire from opposition MPs as well as his own - AFP

The leader of the Liberal Democrats has called on the Prime Minister to recall Parliament to debate proposals to introduce "Covid ID cards".

In a letter to Boris Johnson, Sir Ed Davey accuses the Prime Minister of introducing "Covid ID cards onto the nation’s phones by stealth, without even a whisper from Ministers or any scrutiny in Parliament".

The letter adds: "This goes against all our country’s traditions and is utterly deceitful. Parliament must be recalled immediately. How businesses or indeed even churches will be expected to decide who can or cannot pass through their doors has not been made clear. This is a recipe for chaos and dissent on many doorsteps throughout England.

"It would be a grotesque misuse of government diktat to introduce ID cards without any scrutiny, let alone a vote of MPs. The Government owes this to all those individuals and businesses who will suffer as a result of your rushed and botched scheme."

10:02 AM

Compulsory workplace vaccination rules cannot apply to vegans

More than half a million vegans will be exempt if companies introduce compulsory vaccination rules in Britain because their beliefs are protected by employment law, legal experts have said.

So-called ethical veganism was ruled to be a protected characteristic at a tribunal last year, meaning employers would risk legal action if they order staff to be vaccinated.

Other people in protected categories are also likely to be protected by human rights laws, including some religious groups as well as people with certain disabilities or medical conditions.

A spokesman for Lewis Silkin, a law firm, said: “Some ethical vegans may disagree with vaccinations on the basis that they will inevitably have been tested on animals. Ethical veganism has previously been found by an [employment tribunal] to amount to a belief, capable of being protected.”

The protections mean that vegans forced to get a jab could mount a claim of constructive dismissal.

09:51 AM

Man who threatened SNP MP sentenced

Ms Cherry contacted police over a threat on February 1, the day she was dropped from the SNP's front bench - Reuters

A man who sent threatening Twitter messages to SNP MP Joanna Cherry has been ordered not to contact her for five years.

Grant Karte, 30, has also been given a community payback order, supervised for 15 months, with 160 hours of unpaid work in the community.

He previously admitted sending Twitter messages on February 1 that were "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character" in that he repeatedly threatened Ms Cherry contrary to the Communications Act 2003.

Sentencing Karte at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Friday, Sheriff Alistair Noble said: "You pled guilty to a serious charge, a charge involving threatening a member of parliament. Your threat carried implications of violence and one interpretation of what was said was sexual violence."

Sheriff Noble warned Karte that if he breaches the order he will have to return to court.

09:45 AM

'Fortress Australia' will end when 80pc of population is vaccinated, says PM

Australia will reopen its borders and end lockdowns when 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, the country's prime minister has said.

Scarcely 14 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, prompting growing anger domestically.

But Scott Morrison was confident in his plans to end 'Fortress Australia', saying: "I believe we can get there by the end of the year."

Mr Morrison - who faces reelection within the year - said: "The timelines are now in the hands of all Australians... We have to take each step together. And that starts with walking in the door of that vaccine clinic."

See 10:17am for more.

09:34 AM

Covid test and trace revolt as growing number refuse to hand over contacts’ details

Rising numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19 are refusing to hand over details of close contacts, as the numbers forced to self-isolate reached a record high.

Official statistics show almost one quarter of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the week ending July 21 would not provide details of any recent close contacts.

In total, 76.9 per cent of such cases provided such details – with compliance falling by almost 10 per cent in the past month.

Latest weekly figures for England show almost 1.3 million isolation orders sent out by app or NHS Test and Trace, the highest on record.

The figures show 678,102 people pinged by the app in the week ending July 21, up 11 per cent from the previous week. It is the third consecutive week that more than half a million people have been told to self-isolate by the app.

09:28 AM

Rail workers around the country poised to strike over pay

Workers at three rail companies are to take industrial action in the coming weeks in separate disputes over issues including pay and pensions.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Hull Trains, East Midlands Trains and ScotRail will strike on Sundays in August as well as taking other forms of action.

Union members at Hull Trains will ban rest day working and overtime from Monday and stage 24-hour walkouts on August 8, 15, 22 and 29.

The union said talks at the conciliation service over a dispute about pensions had broken down without progress.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "RMT remains fully committed to defending our members' rights to a decent pension in retirement and will do everything in its power to protect our members' final salary pension rights."

09:17 AM

Jeremy Warner: What’s really behind these absurd and restrictive foreign travel rules?

When saintly Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, closed her borders with the aim of going beyond suppression to complete eradication of the disease, she was hailed as setting a shining example to all, writes Jeremy Warner.

What we now see is that failing to combine zero tolerance strategies with an effective vaccination programme – only 14 per cent of Australians and New Zealanders have been fully vaccinated – condemns a country to never-ending isolation. In the case of Australia, where there is now a growing public backlash against the eradication strategy, add lingering and repeated economic lockdown. Once buoyant tourist industries have been all but annihilated.

In Britain, we have at least achieved success with vaccine roll out, but little good does it seem to have done us, with policy on international travel stuck in the muddled, neither fish nor fowl, halfway house of the current traffic light system.

Read more from Jeremy here.

09:09 AM

Have your say: Should isolation rules end earlier than August 16?

This week Boris Johnson said August 16 was "nailed on" as the date that isolation rules would be lifted for those who have been fully vaccinated.

But now it has emerged that England will be stuck in the pingdemic for a week longer than Wales, which is removing the requirement on August 7, and Scotland, which will drop the rule on August 9.

Labour has challenged the Government to bring its date forward, but so far there are no signs it will change, with Grant Shapps saying isolation was the sole "lever" left to respond to surging cases.

Is the Government right, or are they being overly cautious? Have your say in the poll below.

08:57 AM

Scotland's drug death rate 'heart-breaking', says minister

Scotland's drugs minister has said the number of deaths from drugs last year was "heart-breaking".

Angela Constance, who was appointed at the end of last year to try to combat the rising tide of drug-related deaths, announced that figures will be published quarterly from September to help the response to the crisis.

She said: "We are working hard to get more people into the treatment that works for them as quickly as possible. Without treatment, there is little hope of recovery so we are funding as many community and third sector initiatives as we can so that individuals have the widest possible choice and can opt for the support which suits them and their family.

"Of the £250 million announced over the next five years, £100 million will go on improving the provision of residential rehabilitation and I will update Parliament on progress in this area after the summer recess.

"As I have said before, I am determined that every penny of this additional funding will make a difference to all those affected by drug use in Scotland."

08:56 AM

Scotland's drug deaths rise five per cent in a year

Scotland's drug deaths rose to a record 1,339 in 2020, the seventh time in a row that the number has risen.

The figure is five per cent higher than the previous year, meaning Scotland continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe, with 21.2 deaths per 1,000 of the population, more than three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK. Glasgow was again found to be the worst area.

Nicola Sturgeon said the number of lives lost "is unacceptable, each one a human tragedy".

The First Minister tweeted that the Scottish Government "does not shirk the responsibility & we are determined to make changes that will save lives".

She added: "These 2020 figures (though no less shameful because of it) predate actions set out at start of year."

Those actions include appointing a dedicated drugs minister, more funding and a plan to deliver faster access to community support, treatment and rehab.

08:45 AM

Grant Shapps: France will remain amber-plus until 'this time next week'

A decision on France's place in the international travel traffic-light system is not expected until next week, despite the amber-plus ranking sparking outrage in Paris.

Grant Shapps said a decision on its status will be taken "by this time next week" as part of the regular travel list update every three weeks.

Asked if the decision could be taken before then, the Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "No, it's only six days away actually, so I wouldn't expect anything in advance of that, but it is the moment at which this will be looked at."

Asked if that also means waiting to hear whether Spain will join the amber-plus list, Mr Shapps said: "That's right. I would encourage people to broadly ignore the sort of ongoing speculation as much as is possible."

08:44 AM

Chopper's Politics: Washing dishes order is not 'nanny state gone mad', says Allegra Stratton

Telling people not to rinse their dishes to save the planet is not "nanny state gone mad", Allegra Stratton has insisted as she said people should put recycling bins in bathrooms to help the environment.

Earlier this week Ms Stratton, the Government's COP26 spokesman, sparked a debate about what "micro-steps" households can take to help the environment.

She told today's Chopper's Politics: "It's not nanny-statism because it's not me saying 'do this'. It's me saying 'people around the country are already doing quite a few of these things, why don't you Chopper, think about one, or if you want five, that you can do'.

She added: "We are, in Government, doing a huge amount of work to make sure that we're future-proofing the United Kingdom."

Listen to the interview in full above.

08:26 AM

Lord Ashcroft to write unauthorised biography of Carrie Johnson

The billionaire Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft has announced that he is to write a biography of Boris Johnson's wife, Carrie.

Lord Ashcroft has previously written biographies of David Cameron, Rishi Sunak and Jacob Rees-Mogg, as well as other books on military history and British politics.

In a blog on the Conservative Home website, he wrote: "Carrie has interested me for some time.

"Many people know her as Boris Johnson's wife, but her influence developed long before she moved into 10 Downing Street via her work over the last decade within the Conservative Party and also through the posts she has held working for government ministers.

"Aside from politics, she has campaigned in the fields of the environment and animal rights, both of which are areas of great interest to me," he added. "As with all of my political biographies, this project will be independent, objective, open-minded, fair, factual and even-handed. The research I've done already has proved fascinating."

08:17 AM

Labour: Ministers 'tying themselves in knots' over France's amber-plus rating

Ministers are "tying themselves in knots" trying to explain why additional restrictions were imposed on travellers from France, Labour has said.

This morning Grant Shapps sought to explain Dominic Raab's suggestion that the amber-plus rating was because of concerns about the beta variant on the island of Reunion, several thousand miles away from the mainland (see 8:11am and 8:37am).

Jim McMahon, shadow transport secretary, said: "If they misinterpreted the data over cases in mainland France they need to come clean and apologise.

"It's completely unfair that holidaymakers who booked in good faith in line with the Government’s own advice, have had to fork out extra for early flights, or lost income through having to isolate when they came home.

"This is why Labour has been calling for the country-by-country data informing the traffic light system to be published. The Government must do that without delay."

08:11 AM

RNLI donations soar after criticism of migrant rescues

RNLI donations have topped £200,000 in a day after the charity revealed its volunteers were abused for helping migrants.

Online donations to the RNLI passed the £200,000 mark on Thursday, up from around £7,000 on a typical day.

There was also a near four-fold increase in people looking at volunteering opportunities on the sea charity's website during the same period.

A “small number” of others, however, contacted the RNLI to withdraw financial support following boss Mark Dowie's decision to speak out and praise volunteers' work during the migrant crisis.

08:10 AM

Seven million people missing out on employment rights, Labour claim

More than seven million UK workers are missing out on full employment rights because they have been in their job for less than two years, Labour has said.

It comes after the party called for the qualifying period for full employment rights to be scrapped.

Labour analysis of ONS Labour Force Survey data from the period January to March this year shows 7.2 million people - 26 per cent of those employed across the UK - have been in their job less than two years and so do not have protection from unfair dismissal.

Almost two million people have been working for their employer for less than 26 weeks, meaning they cannot request flexible working arrangements, the party said.

Labour's shadow employment minister Andy McDonald called the current rules "unfair".

He said: "Many are restricted from achieving a better work-life balance and miss out on valuable time at home with their families because of these qualifying periods."

07:57 AM

'Biden is keeping the UK travel ban'

Grant Shapps this morning repeated his line about the US travel ban on UK visitors being imposed by Donald Trump.

However, as The Telegraph's political editor points out, that's not quite the full story...

07:54 AM

Government will not 'go as far' as requiring Covid passes for shops or pubs

The Government will not "go as far" as requiring vaccine passports for entry to shops or pubs, the Transport Secretary has said.

Asked on ITV's Good Morning Britain about concerns over vaccine passports being required for entry into certain places, Grant Shapps said: "I don't know why this is particularly controversial - nine out of 10 people have had their first vaccinations and are going on to have their second, so most people have already had their vaccinations anyway - and I'm talking about adults who have had their vaccinations anyway.

"So, for most people this doesn't matter one way or the other. It does protect not just your life but other people's lives when you get vaccinated, so of course, as a society, we should be encouraging it.

"We won't go as far as requiring it to enter a shop or the pub, we will for very close contact things like going to nightclubs - other countries are for international travel - so I think there is precious little reason not to be vaccinated, every good reason to be vaccinated. Why wouldn't we want to save lives? It's just obvious to me."

07:41 AM

No change to US travel ban, Grant Shapps admits

The US has still not signalled any change to the travel ban on visitors from the UK, Grant Shapps has said.

The UK unilaterally lifted its travel ban for US visitors, along with those from the EU, as long as they have proof that they are fully vaccinated with an FDA or EMA-approved jab.

"The US have an executive order, which... bans visitors from the UK and several other countries," the Transport Secretary told Radio 4's Today programme. "I should add, it didn't help the US in their battle with coronavirus - they have had a pretty torrid time.

"It is the case they are yet to release that executive order," he added. "We look forward to hearing news once they have."

07:37 AM

Grant Shapps tries to deflect criticism over France's amber-plus rating

Grant Shapps has attempted to deflect criticism over Dominic Raab for causing confusion over why France was added to the amber-plus on the media.

The Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It was actually the cases the [JCB] were picking from France - there has been some discussion about whether those cases where from Reunion, they may have started there but they were measured in France."

Challenged over the fact it was a discussion prompted by Mr Raab's comments, Mr Shapps said: "I also heard him say 'and in northern France' as well." You can read what the Foreign Secretary actually said here.

Asked if beta variant cases are high in France, he said: "I had been higher, it looks like it has been trending downwards... the Joint Biosecurity Centre will be looking at France and providing fresh advice on where that should sit in the system."

07:32 AM

Funding will 'doubtless change' after Bethany Shriever wins BMX gold, says Grant Shapps

Bethany Shriever's gold medal win in Tokyo will "doubtless" change the funding of female BMXers, Grant Shapps has said.

UK Sport decided to fund only male BMX riders following the Rio Olympics, meaning she had to fund herself before British Cycling stepped in.

The Transport Secretary said the Olympian had "broken the mold".

"She wanted to prove women can do it and she has done that in amazing style," he added. "Funding will doubtless change.

"It demonstrates that a) this is a sport and b) that women should be funded to do it. She has done phenomenally well."

07:16 AM

Labour MP demands answers over 'shocking' migrant conditions

Women with babies and children were among 56 migrants packed into a small room in "shocking" conditions in Dover, the Home Secretary has been told.

Priti Patel has been sent a letter by Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, raising "serious concerns" after MPs visited the Kent Intake Unit.

People were being held in a cramped room for up to 48 hours - double the intended maximum period, while some people, including an unaccompanied child, have stayed in an atrium room for more than 10 days. The committee was also "very concerned" about the "clear risk" of a Covid-19 outbreak.

In the letter, Ms Cooper said: "The holding room facility, in which detained asylum seekers wait for onward placement and screening, is wholly inappropriate... Sharing these cramped conditions were many women with babies and very young children, alongside significant numbers of teenage and young adult men."

07:11 AM

Dominic Raab wrong to suggest remote island was cause of France' amber-plus listing

Grant Shapps has suggested Dom Raab was wrong when he said France was on the amber-plus list because of Reunion island.

The Foreign Secretary yesterday said the additional travel restrictions were imposed because of "the prevalence of the so-called beta variant in particular in the Reunion bit of France", which is 6,000 miles from the mainland.

He added: "It's not the distance that matters, it is the ease of travel between different components parts of any individual country."

But the Transport Secretary this morning said this was not correct. "The beta variant is not just on an island thousands of miles away, it was also and issue in Northern France," he said.

Asked about comments made by Clement Beaune, the Europe minister, who claimed it was "discriminatory", Mr Shapps told Sky News: "It’s always disappointing for any country to be on anything other than the green list."

07:04 AM

August 16 is set in stone 'right now', says Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps has insisted the Government is right to stick with August 16 as the point at which isolation ends, despite Labour's demand to bring it forward by a week.

The Transport Secretary told Sky News: "We are always keeping it under very close review, but the reality is that people putting themselves in self-isolation has been a factor in saving a lot of lives."

Mr Shapps highlighted the testing sites - which are due to be opened in 2,000 locations, although only 260 have so far, adding that isolation was the only "lever" left after other restrictions had been lifted.

Asked if the August 16 date is set in stone despite what the other nations are doing, Mr Shapps said: "Right now that is the date. We'll always keep these things under review but I don't want to open up false hope for you, it's not too far away now."

He added: "Right now I haven't seen anything which suggests that we shouldn't wait until the 16 August."

07:01 AM

End pingdemic on August 7 when Welsh Labour does, Sir Keir Starmer says

Labour is demanding the Government bring forward the end of isolation rules from August 16 to August 7, when the restriction ends in Wales.

Earlier this week Boris Johnson said August 16 was "nailed on" as the date.

But Sir Keir Starmer questioned why England should have a later timeline than Wales or Scotland, with the latter due to end isolation on August 9.

"This has been a summer of chaos for British businesses and British families," he said. "The Tory Government has never been able to explain the logic of their self-isolation rules and has just repeated the same mistakes over and over again...

"The Government's slapdash approach to this global pandemic is crippling our economy and creating real problems for businesses and families alike. Welsh Labour has shown what can be done and it's time for the Tories to do the same."

06:48 AM

‘Smart’ businesses will insist staff have jab, says Raab

Businesses should ensure their staff are vaccinated before returning to the workplace, a Cabinet minister has suggested.

Dominic Raab, the First Secretary of State, said on Thursday that it was a "smart policy" for companies to insist on staff being double jabbed in order to come back to the office.

A government source told The Telegraph ministers wanted firms to advise their staff to take up the jab and "explain why it's obviously a sensible thing to do to protect yourself and others".

Mr Raab's intervention came in the wake of a series of companies announcing plans to make inoculation against Covid obligatory for all employees.

06:47 AM

Good Morning

Team GB has picked up another gold - but the marathon against the pingdemic continues.

Boris Johnson is coming under increasing pressure to bring forward the end to isolation, with Labour finally waking up to the issue.

Here's today's front page.