UK covid vaccine rollout 'unbelievable', Boris says ahead of major lockdown roadmap announcement at 5pm

BORIS Johnson has called Britain's vaccine rollout "unbelievable" as he prepares to make a major lockdown announcement this evening.

The Prime Minister will set out his lockdown 'roadmap' at an address to the nation at 5pm this evening, which you can watch live, here on this page.

In it he is expected to announce the return or children to schools and the cautious lifting of other coronavirus measures, such as rules preventing friends from meeting one another outside.

Declaring Britain's incredible vaccine rollout an "unbelievable effort", the PM doubled down on taking a slow and steady approach to lifting lockdown, telling Brits his plans are "cautious but irreversible".

Follow our live blog below for the very latest UK politics news

  • Dan Keane

    FRANCE CLAIMS IT HAS VACCINATED MORE PEOPLE THAN BRITAIN

    France has tried to claim its vaccine rollout is going better than Britain's.

    Europe Minister Clement Beaune tore into the UK's jabs programme and said his country has "fully vaccinated" more people.

    The latest figures show Britain has delivered 15.6 million doses to almost a quarter of the population.

    In contrast France has managed a measly 2.9 million, reaching just 4.4% of its people.

  • Dan Keane

    HOSPITALITY BOSSES CALL ON SUNAK TO EXPAND VAT CUTS

    Hospitality bosses have called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the VAT cut by another year ahead of his March budget.

    The calls, in a letter co-ordinated by industry body UKHospitality, comes amid uncertainty over when hard-hit venues will be able to reopen.

    Hospitality bosses have demanded that the reduction of VAT from 20% to 5% on food and soft drinks is extended into the next financial year and also expanded to cover more areas of the sector.

    "Should we be allowed to reopen in the run up to Easter, it could also help us avoid having to pass on substantial price rises to customers in early April as a result of returning to a 20% rate, just prior to the Easter trading weekend," bosses wrote in the letter.

  • Dan Keane

    QUARANTINE ROW ESCALATES

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland will have to "look at alternatives" if an agreement cannot be reached on international quarantine rules with the rest of the UK.

    Holyrood has imposed strict measures on incoming travellers, who are required to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel.

    In England, quarantine hotels are only required for visitors from a "red list" of 33 countries designated as high risk – meaning travellers arriving from elsewhere could avoid it by entering Scotland via England.

    Speaking at the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the First Minister said: "It would be better if we had that four nations approach, or at least a three nations approach where the border of the island that Scotland, England and Wales share, had the same provisions in place.

    "My responsibility is to try and protect Scotland as much as possible so if it just proves impossible to do that then we have to look at alternatives, but it would be far better to try to come to a reasonable agreement on a four nations, or at least a three nations, basis."

    Credit: AFP
  • Dan Keane

    NEW POST-BREXT ROLE FOR GOVE ANNOUNCED

    Michael Gove will take on a new role as the UK's representative on the post-Brexit Partnership Council with the European Union.

    The Cabinet Office minister is already joint-chair of the Brexit Joint Committee alongside EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic.

    A UK Government spokeswoman told the Express: “We’ve informed the European Union that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will co-chair the Partnership Council for the United Kingdom on an interim basis.

    “This is in addition to his existing responsibilities as co-chair to the Joint Committee.”

  • Dan Keane

    RUSSIA BLAMES EU FOR DEMISE OF RELATIONS WITH MOSCOW

    Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has blamed the European Union for its deteriorating relations with Russia.

    At talks with Finland's foreign minister on Monday, Lavrov laid the blame for the bad state of ties on Brussels.

    He said: "Relations have been consistently torn apart by the European Union.

    "The carcass of these relations was consciously destroyed at the initiative of Brussels."

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    BREXIT COULD BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR UK TO GO GREEN

    Brexit should be an opportunity to cut tax and go green, experts say.

    They called for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to use his new freedoms to scrap VAT on eco-products such as solar panels, electric cars and double glazing.

    Hayden Wood, boss of renewable energy firm Bulb, said making the move in next month’s Budget would show Britain meant business ahead of hosting the COP26 UN climate summit in November.

    He told The Sun’s Green Team campaign: “We already penalise people with taxes on cigarettes — why not try to incentivise people to do the right things?

    “The Chancellor should definitely be trying to do that for the people who find it most difficult to improve their homes, and they are the people who would benefit from it.”

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    RETAILERS FACE 'PERFECT STORM' 

    Retail bosses have warned the sector faces a "perfect storm" as new border regulations come into force in April with a raft of retailers still unable to serve customers in Northern Ireland.

    Trade bodies and firms have called on the Government to extend the current grace period amid continued uncertainty over the level of checks which will then be introduced.

    Aodhan Connolly, director for Northern Ireland at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), warned that the situation could become even more complicated in the coming months.

    He said: "We just don't know at all – it is entirely possible the systems they have put in place will not be what's needed in April.

    "We need time. In an ideal world we would have an extension and retailers would have more time to prepare for what needs to be a long-term sustainable solution that allows us to continue giving Northern Irish households choice and affordability."

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    MANUFACTURERS HIT BY BREXIT-RELATED DISRUPTION

    Brexit issues are causing England's smaller manufacturers significant disruption as they look to recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis, research suggests.

    A survey of almost 300 small to medium-sized firms which manufacture goods found that half reported problems with exports and imports since the start of the year.

    South West Manufacturing Advisory Service and the Manufacturing Growth Programme said their study showed that almost two thirds of companies have seen negative price changes within their supply chain since leaving the EU.

  • Dan Keane

    OFFICERS 'FROM 33 POLICE FORCES CALLED TO HELP OUT IN KENT'

    Officers from 33 different police forces have been called to help manage Brexit contingency plans in Kent, according to KentLive.

    Officers from Gwent in Wales, Devon and Cornwall and Yorkshire have been lending a hand to local authorities in managing road traffic and helping in lorry parks.

    Assistant Chief Constable Claire Nix said: "As part of Kent Police’s contingency planning mutual aid officers have been requested to assist the force.

    "Mutual aid provides valued support between forces, something Kent Police frequently contributes resources to support other forces in times of need.

    "Kent Police recover EU exit related costs from the Home Office.”

  • Dan Keane

    EUROPEAN SHOPPERS STILL BUYING BRITISH

    European shoppers are still buying British despite increased costs and delivery delays caused by Brexit, a new survey has revealed.

    Research commissioned by eShopWorld, an Ecommerce technology and services provider, found that nearly half of French (42%) and German (41%) shoppers would still buy from a UK retailer despite logistical complications.

    Tommy Kelly, CEO of ESW, told the Retail Times: “Six weeks on from the Free Trade Agreement, it’s no surprise that Brexit has introduced some initial complexity into the purchasing journey, from both the point of view of retailers and consumers, as these new processes bed in. 

    "But despite these short-lived hurdles, our research clearly shows ongoing positive purchasing intent from European shoppers, who are prepared to overlook this initial disruption."

  • Dan Keane

    SENIOR MEP BLASTS 'DIPLOMATIC DISASTER' OF EU VACCINE CRISIS

    A senior MEP has accused Ursula von der Leyen of causing a "diplomatic crisis" between the EU and the UK following the row over Covid vaccines.

    Guy Verhofstadt, the senior liberal MEP and former Belgian prime minister, said the EU commissioner had made the situation "worse" by rushing in panicked measures – such as threatening to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol.

    He said: "A fiasco I called it and a fiasco it is. After two months the rollout of vaccines is dramatically low in Europe.

    "On average no more than 4 per cent of European citizens received a first dose.

    “The introduction of new export authorisation for Covid vaccines adds only unnecessary burdens and by doing so prolongs and doesn’t speed up vaccinations.”

  • Dan Keane

    TRUSS HAILS NEW INDIA PARTNERSHIP

    Liz Truss has welcomed the UK’s post-Brexit trading relationship with India.

    The deal, signed off by the trade minister on a recent visit to the country, was hailed as a “new chapter in the UK’s national story”.

    She wrote in the Express: “We are seeing the strength of our partnership – built on our common values – in our steadfast support for each other in the fight against coronavirus.

    “Living up to its reputation as the ‘pharmacy of the world’, India has kept supplies of critical medicines and medical-grade PPE flowing to the UK.

    “Meanwhile, the Serum Institute – which I visited on Monday – is set to produce over a billion doses of our life-saving Oxford vaccine.”

  • Dan Keane

    SCOTTISH MINISTERS CALL FOR SUPPORT FOR WHISKY INDUSTRY

    Two Scottish ministers have called for more help for the whisky industry from the UK Government.

    Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has pushed for Brexit-related export issues to be resolved in a letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice.

    Mr Ewing said: "It's been a particularly difficult year for Scotland's food and drink sector.

    "A once booming whisky industry has seen overseas exports drop by 23% in the last year alone.

    "The whisky industry was already reeling from the triple threat of US import tariffs, the coronavirus pandemic slowing global demand, and a complicated alcohol duty system before Brexit compounded matters."

  • Dan Keane

    LONDON'S TRADING VOLUMES FIVE TIMES LARGER THAN EU'S, THINK TANK CLAIMS

    London's share trading volumes are five times larger than the whole of the EU combined, a think tank has claimed.

    William Wright, founder of think tank New Financial, told the Express that the City was still going strong despite London losing its place to Amsterdam as Europe's largest trading centre.

    Writing alongside a graph showing daily trading volumes in London and Amsterdam he said: "Before we start getting too excited about Amsterdam overtaking London as a financial centre, here’s a summary of the daily trading volumes in derivatives and foreign exchange (with equities at the bottom for context).

    "Volumes in London are roughly 75 times larger, and roughly five times as big the whole of the EU combined."

  • Dan Keane

    UK AND EU PLAN NI HOTLINE

    Officials from the UK and the EU are planning to create an emergency hotline to discuss trade issues in Northern Ireland.

    European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic today claimed that the Northern Ireland protocol needed "day to day care".

    He told the Financial Times that he had been discussing the hotline with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, and the pair wanted to deal with issues at the border "at the moment they arise, before they become big, big issues".

  • Dan Keane

    NORTHERN IRELAND DELIVERY DISRUPTION CONTINUES

    Retail bosses have warned the sector faces a "perfect storm" in Northern Ireland as new border regulations come into force in April.

    Trade bodies and firms have called on the Government to extend the current grace period amid continued uncertainty over the level of checks which will then be introduced.

    A number of Brit retailers are still unable to deliver products to Northern Ireland, including Halfords, John Lewis and Fortnum & Mason.

    Some firms have said they are still developing IT systems which can deal with the new trade requirements.

  • Dan Keane

    PORTS URGE MINISTERS TO DELAY CHECKS

    Ports in the UK are urging ministers to delay the introduction of customs checks, the Telegraph reports.

    Richard Ballantyne, boss of the British Ports Association, said: “We’re in a position now where we’ve been encouraging the Government to look at a pragmatic approach to enforcing controls.

    “The focus of this is very much July. Getting the infrastructure ready at and around ports is a bit of a race against time.”

    He stressed that some ports are not prepared for the latest changes, and that full delays would need to be a few months rather than years.

  • Dan Keane

    EU TO ALLOW DATA FLOW

    The EU will allow data to flow to the UK after deciding that Britain has an adequate level of protection for personal information, City AM reports.

    It comes as a big boost to law enforcement cooperation with the bloc, and will also be hailed by businesses who transfer customer information.

    A draft decision is expected to be approved this week, according to the Financial Times.

  • Dan Keane

    POUND SURGES AGAINST THE DOLLAR

    The pound climbed above $1.39 today for the first time in nearly three years as Britain reaps the benefits of a successful vaccine rollout.

    "GBP continues to reap the dividends of a successful vaccine roll-out and momentum is building towards a re-opening of the economy probably starting with schools on March 8th," said Chris Turner, Global Head of Markets at financial services company ING.

    ING also told clients that Britain's Brexit deal had removed some pressure from the currency, and could support sterling towards $1.40.

  • Dan Keane

    TREASURY ANNOUNCES £1.1BN BOOST FOR SCOTLAND

    The Treasury has announced a further £1.1 billion of coronavirus support funding for the Scottish Government.

    It said the £1.1 billion can be spent now or carried over into the 2021/22 financial year.

    Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay said: "From the outset of this crisis, people and businesses in Scotland have been able to rely on the UK Government.

    "UK Treasury schemes such as furlough, support for the self-employed and business loans have helped to protect jobs and livelihoods."

  • John Hall

    RAAB SAYS UK SHOULD WAIT TEN YEARS BEFORE ASSESSING BREXIT

    Dominic Raab has urged Brits to wait ten years to assess whether Brexit has worked or not.

    Speaking on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, he said: "We have always been clear that there are changes that come with exiting the transition period, and what we’re trying to do is support businesses as best we can to manage those.

    "I think if you take a 10-year view, as well as looking at the short-term risk, which is right to do, actually the growth opportunities in the future are going to come from emerging and developing economies around the world."

  • John Hall

    NO DISCUSSION ON 'MUTUAL ENFORCEMENT' PLAN

    The European Commission vice-president says he has not discussed UK proposals that would restore the border on the island of Ireland.

    It comes after a report in the Sunday Telegraph claimed Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is considering an alternate "mutual enforcement" plan to the Northern Ireland protocol on Brexit.

    This would remove the border from the Irish Sea and restore the land border in Ireland.

    But Maros Sefcovic said his discussions with Mr Gove this week had focused on the implementation of the protocol.

    He told RTE's The Week In Politics: "What we discussed with Michael Gove was very much focused on the implementation of the protocol."

  • John Hall

    BRIT MANUFACTURERS FACING HIGHER COSTS

    Post-Brexit trade restrictions have pushed up the cost of parts and raw materials for two thirds of small British manufacturers surveyed last month.

    The survey of nearly 300 firms, by consultants South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) and the Manufacturing Growth Programme, found that 65 per cent of manufacturers are reporting higher costs.

    "Price hikes in the supply chain have been immediate, and we are hearing tales of lead times being extended on raw materials," said Nick Golding, managing director of SWMAS.

    The British government has pledged £20 million to help small firms get used to the new rules.

  • John Hall

    IRISH SHOPPERS STAY LOYAL TO BRIT RETAILERS

    Irish shoppers have remained loyal to British online retailers despite extra costs incurred by Brexit.

    An Post, Ireland’s largest parcel delivery firm, said it expects deliveries of British parcels this year to continue to increase despite the UK leaving the EU.

    It comes despite certain packages being subject to Vat and Customs &
    Excise fees.

  • John Hall

    BORIS MUST DELIVER 'BIG BANG' FOR THE NORTH

    Boris Johnson is facing calls from Tories to "level up" by unleashing a new investment boom in the North of England.

    The Northern Research Group (NRG) of MPs said the region needs its own "Big Bang" comparable to the explosion of finance activity in the City of London in the 1980s to deliver economic growth.

    NRG chairman Jake Berry said: "At the last election millions of northern voters broke with tradition by voting for the Conservative Party, in many cases for the first time.

    "The Prime Minister needs to recognise that they did so not only to deliver Brexit, but to voice the systemic disadvantages felt in many communities that were tired of being neglected in favour of London and the South East."

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