Kent lorry chaos: More military support deployed for driver tests

An extra 800 military personnel are to be sent to Kent on Christmas Day to help clear a backlog of lorries waiting to cross to France.

About 4,000 lorries are still waiting to cross the English Channel after the French closed their border with the UK.

Drivers must test negative for Covid-19 before boarding a train or ferry.

The extra support will take the number of military personnel delivering testing to drivers in Kent to about 1,100.

French firefighters have been supporting the testing effort, while the Polish defence minister said in a tweet that a team of territorial army soldiers would be sent to Kent.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that of the 2,367 drivers tested by 12:00 GMT on Christmas Eve, three have tested positive.

Ferries will continue to operate over Christmas, but Mr Shapps said it could take several days to clear the backlog.

Brexit trade deal: What does it mean for fishing?

Fishing was one of the final sticking points in the post-Brexit trade talks. While fishing is a tiny part of the economy on both sides of the Channel, it carries big political weight.

Regaining control over UK waters was a big part of the Leave campaign in 2016 and fishing is an important issue in several EU member states, including France.

We don’t have all the details yet as the deal itself hasn’t been published.

But both Boris Johnson and the Ursula von der Leyen – the president of the European Commission – spoke about what had been agreed.

25% of EU boats’ fishing rights in UK waters will be transferred to the UK fishing fleet, over a period of five-and-a-half years. The EU wanted a longer ‘transition period’, the UK wanted a shorter one – it looks like they’ve met somewhere in the middle.

According to the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, which was briefed on the matter by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, EU fishing quota in UK waters will be reduced by 15% in the first year and 2.5 percentage points each year after.

By June 2026, it’s estimated that UK boats will have access to an extra £145m of fishing quota every year. In 2019, British vessels caught 502,000 tonnes of fish, worth around £850m, inside UK waters.

Boris Johnson is promising fishing communities “a big £100m programme to modernise their fleets and the fish processing industry” to help them manage this extra fish.

After the transition ends, the UK will have the right to withdraw EU boats’ access to UK waters.

But Mrs von der Leyen said the EU will have “strong tools to incentivise” continued access for the EU fleet to UK waters. This might involve using tariffs (or taxes on UK goods entering the EU).

As the text of the deal is yet to be published, it’s still unclear how the new quota will be allocated to British fishermen, exactly what access UK boats will have to EU waters and what measures have been agreed to preserve fish stocks and marine life.

As part of its membership of the EU, the UK was subject to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The CFP, which was signed in 1970, means every fishing fleet from EU member states has equal access to European waters.

Ordinarily, each country would control access to their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which stretches up to 200 nautical miles from the coast, or to a maritime halfway point between neighbouring countries.

In the EU, fishing rights are negotiated annually by ministers from each member state, who gather for marathon talks every December to haggle over the volume of fish that can be caught from each species.

National quotas are then divided up using historical data going back to the 1970s, when the UK fishing industry says it got a bad deal.

At present, the UK fishing fleet has the right to catch just under half of the annual fishing quota in UK waters. The EU-27 fleet has access to about a third of the annual catch and the remainder is in the hands of boats from Norway and the Faroe Islands.

Danish, Dutch and French fishing vessels are particularly dependent on fish caught in UK waters – each of them catch more than 100,000 tonnes of the UK’s fish every year.

UK vessels caught under 100,000 tonnes of fish, worth roughly £106m, from EU waters in 2019.

The issue is complicated by the fact that parts of the British quota have been sold off by British skippers to boats owned by EU companies.

In England, for example, more than half the quota is under foreign ownership. That amounts to £160m or 130,000 tonnes a year, according to BBC research.

UK fishermen also sell a large proportion of their catch to the EU.

In 2019, the UK fishing industry exported more than 333,000 tonnes of fish to the EU. That accounts for nearly half of the total catch of the UK fishing fleet and roughly three quarters of total fish exports from the UK.

Some parts of the industry – such as shellfish – are totally dependent on such exports.

But it’s worth remembering that fishing is only a tiny fraction of the overall economy both in the UK (about 0.02% in 2019) and in the EU (some landlocked countries have no fishing fleets at all).

According to the Office for National Statistics, fishing was worth £437m to the UK economy in 2019. By comparison, the financial services industry was worth £126bn.

In many coastal communities though, fishing is a major source of employment – responsible for thousands of jobs.

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UK flooding: Billing Aquadrome park in Northampton evacuated

More than 1,000 people are being evacuated from a flooded holiday park.

Occupants of 500 caravans have been forced to leave the Billing Aquadrome park in Northampton, where heavy rain left water up to 5ft (1.5m) deep.

Police, who were helped by firefighters and lowland search and rescue teams, said some of those stranded were suffering from hypothermia.

At least two leisure centres in Northampton are set to be turned into emergency accommodation.

Residents have been told to find accommodation with friends and family where possible, and assured that they would not be breaching Covid-19 regulations in such “exceptional circumstances”.

However Ch Supt Mick Stamper, of Northamptonshire Police, urged people to avoid homes where others are shielding or self-isolating.

“This is an exceptionally challenging situation and emergency services, working with partners and volunteers working flat out to resolve the situation and safeguard those affected on site,” he said.

Temperatures in the area are due to drop below freezing in the early hours of Friday, and police said waters are set to keep rising for another four to five hours.

Billing Aquadrome describes itself as a “place you can come to relax and recharge whenever you like, and for as long as you like (during our 11-month season)”.

In November 2012 the park was evacuated also due to flooding.

Brexit: What will happen to pet passports after transition ends?

When the UK was a European Union (EU) member you were able to take your dog or cat from the UK to the EU and back again without them having to go into quarantine, provided that certain conditions – such as having a pet passport and getting them microchipped – were met.

That will continue to be the case for the rest of 2020 while the UK is in a transition period with the EU.

From 1 January 2021, however, pet passports will no longer be valid. This was confirmed by the European Commission after the future EU-UK deal was announced.

You will still be able to take your pet from England, Scotland and Wales to the EU, but you will need to follow a different procedure.

The EU has agreed that Great Britain should be given “part two listed” status, allowing pets to travel within its borders providing the owners obtain an animal health certificate (AHC).

This decision is separate to the wider deal between the EU and the UK on trade and their future relationship, announced on 24 December.

The AHC confirms that your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies.

You will need to get a new certificate each time you travel with your pet and you must obtain it 10 days before you travel. The document is valid for four months, for a single trip into the EU, onward travel within the EU and for re-entry to Great Britain.

The certificate will be issued by your vet and this process will begin on 22 December.

On arrival to the EU, you will need to enter through a designated travellers’ point of entry, listed on the EU website here.

The rules apply to guide dogs as well.

If you want to take your pet from England, Scotland or Wales to Northern Ireland, you will have to obtain an AHC, as if you were going on holiday to the EU.

The certificate will have to be presented to a designated travellers’ point of entry in order to undergo the necessary compliance checks.

In addition, for entry from Great Britain into Northern Ireland (as well as into Ireland, Finland and Malta), pet dogs will have to be treated against a type of tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis), one to five days before arrival.

The government website says: “The UK government recognises that pet owners and assistance dog users will need time to adjust to these changes. It’s working with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) on an enforcement approach that takes these challenges into account.”

If you live in the EU and have a pet passport issued by an EU member state, you will be able to use it to bring your pet to the UK after 2020.

You will be able to return to the EU with the EU-issued pet passport as well.

If you are using a UK-issued pet passport, the government’s website says you should speak to your vet who will help you to ensure you are compliant with EU rules.

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Warwickshire couple celebrate 72nd wedding anniversary

A couple say “it’s almost too good to be true” to be celebrating their 72nd wedding anniversary.

Glynne Morris, 96, and wife Kathleen, 93, married at St Leonard’s Church in Wollaton, Nottingham on Christmas Eve in 1948.

Now living in Warwickshire, the great-grandparents say they will be celebrating their milestone “quite happily” with a meal together at home.

They are also hoping to mark it with a bigger celebration after the pandemic.

Mr Morris said he and his wife had been close neighbours growing up.

“I spent about four years in the Navy during the war and when I came back and she’d grown into a very attractive young lady,” he said.

Mr Morris, who only gave up playing golf at 95, worked for Raleigh Cycles, while Mrs Morris worked for Player’s Cigarettes.

Eventually, Mr Morris’s work brought them to Stratford-upon-Avon, where they lived for many years, and where Mrs Morris worked at Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

They have lived in Cleve Prior for 30 years.

“We enjoy pretty good health, we’re doing pretty well,” he said.

Asked the secret to their long marriage, Mr Morris, who plans to celebrate the occasion with a gin and tonic, said: “We’ve never been unhappy.

“You don’t go through life without a quarrel… but I think we’ve benefitted from having active social lives.

“We’ve been very blessed with lots of friends and I played golf until I was 95 and tennis until 66 – and Kathleen was in the Stratford Operatic Society for many years.”

The couple have two children, Lindsey and Jon, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Jon Morris, who lives in Salford Priors, said during the pandemic he had been able to see his parents “most days” to take food and any medication.

They are planning on “waves and kisses outside the front of the house” with their parents on their anniversary.

Glynne Morris said they hope to have a proper celebration in the spring, “once we have had the vaccinations and things get better”.

BBC receives 266 complaints over Vicar of Dibley

The BBC has received 266 complaints about a scene in The Vicar Of Dibley, referencing the Black Lives Matter movement.

In last week’s Christmas episode, Dawn French’s character, Reverend Geraldine Granger, took the knee and delivered a sermon about racism.

The corporation has previously defended the sitcom scene.

It said in a statement it “was in keeping with the character and the theme of the show”.

French’s character is shown being filmed by parishioner and farmer Owen Newitt as she tells the audience she has been preoccupied with the “horror show” of the death of George Floyd, who died while in US police custody.

Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed in May while being arrested by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sparking anti-racism protests around the world.

In the scene, the vicar noted that Dibley, the fictional Oxfordshire village, is “not the most diverse community”, and encouraged its residents to get behind the anti-racism campaign, which gained pace around the real world following Mr Floyd’s death.

Some viewers of the episode criticised it on social media.

“A lovely calm day, full of humanity, compassion and support all round…” responded French, at the time on Twitter.

The comic actor later clarified in the comments that she was being “a tad ironic”.

Brexit deal: Nicola Sturgeon says major promises broken on fishing

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has accused the UK government of breaking promises to Scotland’s fishing industry over the post-Brexit trade deal.

The Scottish government said the agreement announced on Thursday was “a bad deal for fishing”.

But the UK government has insisted the deal will allow Scotland’s fishermen to flourish outside the EU.

Negotiations in Brussels went down to the wire over what EU fishing boats are allowed to catch in UK waters.

Until the end of this year, the UK will be bound by the EU’s rules including the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

There will then be a five-and-a-half year transition period for the fishing industry.

Asked where the biggest compromises had been made, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had wanted “complete control over our fisheries from the get-go.”

“The EU began with wanting a transition period of 14 years, we wanted three years,” he said, describing the final agreement as “reasonable”.

Ms Sturgeon said it appeared that “major promises” made by the UK government on fisheries had been broken.

“The extent of these broken promises will become apparent to all very soon,” she said.

“People in Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, but their views have been ignored.

“This is a far harder Brexit than could have been imagined when the EU referendum took place, damaging and disrupting this nation’s economy and society at the worst possible time.”

The first minister argued that Scotland “has the right to choose its own future as an independent country and once more regain the benefits of EU membership”.

However, the UK government’s Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the deal was “great news for Scotland’s businesses”.

He said it deal brought “huge opportunities” and “exceptional access” to the EU market and new markets around the world.

“We have an agreement on fisheries which will ensure that our fishermen, and our coastal communities, will flourish outside of the EU’s unfair Common Fisheries Policy,” he said.

“The UK will once more be a sovereign coastal state.”

He added that the deal would protect famous Scottish products such as whisky, Arbroath smokies and Orkney cheddar.

The seafood industry welcomed news that a deal had been done, but warned that disruption when trying to get the fish into the single market would have “serious consequences” for perishable products such as salmon.

Seafood Scotland chief executive Donna Fordyce said: “With Brexit will come new, untested, and extremely complex processes that the seafood sector will have to comply with in just a week’s time, at huge cost which they can ill afford just now.

“This bureaucratic blockade will result in some lorries not making it to Europe in time to ensure their highly perishable cargo is saleable.

“Seafood businesses will try their best to navigate the changes, but some will not survive.”

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation added that the industry faced “lots more red tape, bureaucracy and paperwork”.

Scotland Food and Drink said that without a deal some exports would have faced “crippling” tariffs of up to 80%.

James Withers warned of more disruption at ports, and urged the UK government to seek a grace period on the introduction of new export checks on 1 January.

Farmers’ union NFU Scotland welcomed the avoidance of a no-deal Brexit, but said “fresh negotiations” should take place to facilitate the export of seed potatoes.

Under the new arrangements, the EU will allow almost all food and plant exports from Great Britain to continue after Brexit – but not seed potatoes.

Many Scottish farmers grow seed potatoes to sell to farmers in warmer climes, where yield on potatoes is affected by year-round bugs and disease.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the prime minister’s “irresponsible brinksmanship” and “gross mismanagement” of the process had caused “huge economic uncertainty.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said it was “a raw deal” which would erect more trade barriers and add billions to the cost of imports and exports.

The Scottish Greens’ Patrick Harvie said people in Scotland had been “badly let down by a Brexit they didn’t vote for”.

Brexit: Firms warn clock is ticking to keep goods moving

Businesses have given a relieved welcome to the Brexit trade deal, but warned there was more work to be done.

In a statement, Number 10 said: “The deal is fantastic news for businesses in every part of the UK.”

But Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors, warned: “The clock is still very much ticking for businesses.”

“Guidance on implementing the mammoth text is urgently needed across government.

Mr Geldart said digesting the practical changes required and adapting “in the middle of a pandemic and the festive season, while border disruptions continue, is a huge ask.”

The CBI echoed the IoD’s concerns, saying firms needed urgent confirmation of grace periods to smooth the cliff-edge on everything from data to rules of origin.

“We need to ensure we keep goods moving across borders,” said Tony Danker, CBI director-general.

He said the deal “will come as a huge relief to British business at a time when resilience is at an all-time low”.

“But coming so late in the day, it is vital that both sides take instant steps to keep trade moving and services flowing while firms adjust.”

It called for immediate guidance from government across all sectors.

After a last-minute titanic struggle over the economic minnow that is fish, a deal has finally been landed.

The relief of avoiding no-deal is the perfect Christmas present for UK business. Having avoided what they considered the calamity of no-deal, minds will now turn to the detail in nearly 2,000 pages of text.

And those who do business with the EU will not have long to peruse it. Even though a deal has been done, UK traders face a new raft of paperwork and cost. More than 200 million additional customs forms will need completing at a cost of more than £7bn a year.

Haulage companies warn that many businesses are not ready for this new normal. That is perhaps understandable when you consider they have had several previous false alarms when they’ve stockpiled for no reason. They’ve been dealing with the worst health and economic disaster in living memory and have had precious little detail on exactly what they are facing until the very last minute.

The elephant not in the room and barely mentioned in the deal is services. There is no automatic access to a market worth £100bn to UK firms last year. A huge sigh of relief, yes – but any celebrations may be brief.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, urged the EU and UK governments to work to implement the new arrangement as soon as possible.

“They must ensure there are no tariffs from Day One and find new ways to reduce the checks and red tape that we’ll see from 1 January,” she said.

“Businesses are undoubtedly relieved to hear that a deal has been agreed and will be hoping that it will now be ratified by respective parliaments across Europe,’ said Richard Burge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“However, in on-the-ground terms for business, there are likely to still be questions unanswered and operational detail missing.”

Business group Logistics UK was optimistic about the deal.

“It removes the risk of tariffs being placed on almost every item imported from the EU, which would have raised prices and slowed the rate of economic growth,” said Elizabeth de Jong, the group’s policy director.

But TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady was scathing. “This deal is better than nothing, but not by much. It won’t protect jobs and puts hard-won workers’ rights on the line.”

She called on the prime minister to “make good on his promise to level up Britain”, saying: “He needs to act fast. There can be no more pointing the finger at the EU.”

Concerns were raised over the fact that financial services did not form part of the trade deal.

“The agreement should be less criticised for what it contains than what it does not contain – namely the future of financial services,” said Daniel Pinto, chief executive of Stanhope Capital Group.

He said the City now needed to take its future in its own hands. “Post-Brexit, it should lure international companies and revamp its regulatory framework to make it much more flexible.”

Nicolas Mackel, chief executive of Luxembourg for Finance, said the deal was positive news for financial services.

“While financial services has never been covered by the trade negotiations, this vital breakthrough bodes well for the conversations happening around equivalences and delegation,” he said.

“Until now, the souring negotiating mood on the future relationship was putting these important financial footbridges across the Channel under great pressure and there was a risk of collapse.”

Half-marathons grouped start branded insane

Concerns have been raised over the safety of an “insane” mass start of around 250 runners at a half-marathon.

The Indian Queens Half Marathon held on Sunday in Cornwall did not feature a staggered start as recommended by Covid-19 safety advice.

One runner in the event, John Barnes, said he was “surprised” to see so many people congregating at the start.

The race director said she believed she had followed guidance and any breach was unintentional.

Current advice from UK Athletics and Run Britain states “mass starts are not permitted”, suggesting staggered starts instead.

The race is part of the Cornwall Road Running Grand Prix and had chip timing, which means times can be tracked and compared even if they do not start at once.

Cornwall Council confirmed it had allowed the event to go ahead after being told a staggered start would be in operation.

Mr Barnes said he moved to the back of the starting pack and claimed many others were “confused” by the way the race was organised.

He said it “didn’t make sense” to have so many people setting off at once “given we’re supposed to be socially distanced.”

Runner Davey Green posted a video of the start of the race to Facebook which has had more than 8,200 views.

He said this was “simply not how you organise a Covid safe event”.

He added: “On the day it all went wrong and was avoidable and repairable, with a delayed kick-off and staggered starts.”

One response to the video read: “This NHS frontline stressed worker, who is spending Christmas alone to keep my family safe, would like to thank the organisers of that insane event from the bottom of my very disappointed heart.”

A spokeswoman for Cornwall Council said the event was approved based on plans which said “mask wearing and social distancing, including staggered start times, would be followed”.

“We also spoke to the event organiser to stress the importance of adhering to these Covid-secure measures to ensure everyone’s safety,” she added.

Alison Beare, Indian Queens Half Marathon race director, said she believed she was following the advice.

She said she had “poured over many variations” of guidelines from the government and UK Athletics and argued “mixed messages” were being sent out.

Ms Beare pointed to government coronavirus guidance on sport which states: “Event organisers should consider rolling start times to allow social distancing to be maintained.”

She added the race was organised so congregation on the start line was brief and she had advised runners to wear masks for the start in advance.

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