Transport for Wales Rail services set to be nationalised

Answers have been demanded over reports the Welsh train franchise is on the verge of being nationalised.

A report in The Telegraph said ministers are expected to transfer the Wales and Borders train services to public hands on Thursday morning.

Private firm KeolisAmey has run the Transport for Wales franchise for just two years.

The Welsh Government said it would make an announcement on Thursday.

The changes are due to the coronavirus pandemic which has resulted in a collapse in passenger numbers.

BBC Wales understands the public body Transport for Wales will play a greater role in the delivery of day-to-day rail services, including operating the trains.

KeolisAmey started running the Wales and Border train services in October 2018, after winning a five-year contract worth £15bn.

Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative MS for South Wales Central, said the reported nationalisation “once again highlights the huge economic damage being inflicted by coronavirus, and is sadly yet another significant announcement that is set to evade any sort of scrutiny in the Welsh Parliament”.

He added: “My region of South Wales Central has traditionally had some of the highest rail usage in the country, and there will be a number of questions ministers will need to answer to quell concerns.

“At the very least, Welsh Government should make available an urgent written statement before the meeting of the committee for the scrutiny of the first minister tomorrow afternoon.”

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “The minister for economy, transport and north Wales will tomorrow announce a series of measures to protect services for rail passengers, maintain jobs, and keep momentum on the Metro project, in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”

Brexit: UK ready to welcome EU to continue trade talks

The UK is “ready to welcome the EU team” to continue negotiations over a post-Brexit trade deal, says No 10.

The two sides’ chief negotiators, Lord David Frost and Michel Barnier, spoke on the phone earlier after talks stalled last week.

After the conversation, Downing Street said the pair had “jointly agreed a set of principles for handling this intensified phase of talks”.

They warned it was “entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed”.

The statement added: “It is clear that significant gaps remain between our positions in the most difficult areas.

“But we are ready, with the EU, to see if it is possible to bridge them in intensive talks.”

Both the UK and EU are calling on each other to compromise ahead of the looming December deadline for a deal.

Key areas of disagreement between the two sides include fishing rights and post-Brexit competition rules.

Covid: Do all Tier 3 area workers get 80% of their wages?

The claim: Employees unable to work in Tier 3 areas will get a combination of Job Support Scheme and Universal Credit, which will mean they get 80% of their wages.

Verdict: While that will be the case for some workers, especially those on very low incomes, some workers will get less than 80% under the new scheme.

The prime minister has repeatedly claimed that employees of closed businesses in Tier 3 areas will get 80% of their income.

This is important because the furlough scheme, which closes at the end of October, made sure such workers received 80% of their wages up to a maximum of £2,500.

But the Job Support Scheme, which will replace it in November, will provide 67% of normal salary up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and several MPs have called for the support to be increased to 80%.

But Boris Johnson claims that the addition of Universal Credit (UC) means that it is already worth 80%.

“Combine the Universal Credit with the Job Support Scheme that we’ve just announced and workers will be getting 80% of their existing salary,” he said at Prime Minister’s Questions on 21 October.

Whether a worker gets Universal Credit on top of the job support scheme depends on a number of factors such as the level of their income, whether they have savings and whether they have children.

When the prime minister made the claim on 16 October he specified that he was talking about those on low incomes – clearly those on higher incomes will not qualify for Universal Credit and may be above the £2,100 a month limit for the Job Support Scheme.

It is certainly the case that some workers on low incomes will get at least 80% of their usual wages. In particular, people whose wages were low enough for them to qualify for Universal Credit before their employers were forced to close, are likely to get at least 80% of their wages.

But it is also the case that some workers will get less than 80%.

We asked the Department for Work and Pensions how the prime minister had reached this figure and were told: “Those on low incomes getting the full entitlement [of Universal Credit] will receive at least 80% of their normal income.”

The DWP said that the full entitlement meant the amount that you would get without reductions for having savings.

The point is that the prime minister failed to mention those who do not get UC at all, or only get a bit of it, who would receive less than 80% of their usual income.

An example comes from from the Institute for Fiscal Studies – a single person with no children who owns their own home and earns £11,000 a year, would be entitled to a bit of UC if they were put on the Job Support Scheme, but not much, so they would end up on 73% of their usual income.

Also, the amount of UC you are eligible for starts reducing once you have £6,000 in savings and a worker who has £16,000 in savings will not qualify for any UC, regardless of any other factors. So such a worker would not get 80%.

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PM resists Rashfords free food demands ahead of vote

The prime minister has said he will not change his policy on free school meals, despite Marcus Rashford’s campaign for an extension to fight child hunger.

Boris Johnson has been facing growing pressure over children going hungry due in part to families losing income amid Covid-19 restriction measures.

When asked at Prime Minister’s Questions, he said poor families were supported by the benefits system.

Rashford says child hunger is worsening as the Covid crisis continues.

The Commons is due to vote on a Labour motion on the issue

The footballer won a dramatic U-turn in which the government agreed to extend free school meals over the summer holidays. At the time he vowed to fight on for impoverished children and struggling families.

In a Tweet, he said he was keeping his eye on the Commons which is voting on a Labour plan to offer food support to poorer families until after Easter.

Rashford said he would be looking out for those prepared to “turn a blind eye” to vulnerable children’s needs.

The government says it already supports families through the welfare system.

Schools minister Nick Gibb told MPs on the Education Select Committee on Tuesday that the situation was different now to what it was in the summer.

Before schools broke up for the holidays, Rashford’s campaign nudged ministers into a dramatic U-turn in which they agreed to continue food voucher support to those on free school meals throughout August.

But the Manchester United and England international said: “We aren’t in the same position we were in in the summer, it’s much worse,

“The number of children with little to no access to food has risen significantly.”

And Labour points to a “double whammy” of challenges as the furlough job support scheme comes to an end and Coronavirus restrictions increase in areas which already have high levels of poverty.

The party claims nearly 900,000 children in such Covid hot spots will go hungry, unless the government extends a food scheme.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Robert Halfon called on ministers to sit down with Marcus Rashford and his task force.

He said: “All the statistics show that families are struggling. We know that 10% of families are affected by food insecurity.

“It makes a huge difference – I’m not arguing it should go on forever, but the free school meals should at least go on at least until we are out of the coronavirus [pandemic], we hope, God willing, by next spring.”

Mr Halfon added that there was significant concern and support for the support plan among his fellow Conservative MPs.

A petition to end child food poverty launched by the campaigning footballer last week now has nearly 300,000 signatures.

Mr Gibb told MPs on Tuesday it was not for schools to support families through the free school dinner scheme, in the way that they were during the summer, because schools were now open.

But the Welsh government, which recently ordered a three-week lockdown, announced a move to offer food support to struggling families until next spring. Northern Ireland has also extended support for its children to a lesser degree.

Labour’s Opposition Day debate, due to be take place in the Commons on Wednesday, calls for the provision of free school meals to be extended over each school holiday from October half term to Easter 2021.

The first holiday, the October half term, starts in most areas next week.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner said: “This vote is about our values as a country and whether the government, in the middle of this crisis, is happy to let our children go hungry.

“Millions of families up and down the country are facing a bleak winter of real hardship as the furlough scheme is withdrawn and further restrictions are put in place without proper support for businesses, jobs and livelihoods.”

Data obtained by Ms Green from the Commons library suggests that nearly 900,000 children living in areas with either Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions are entitled to free school meals in the present system.

Labour argues these children and their families face a “winter of hardship” as the jobs retention scheme ends and further lockdown restrictions take their toll on the jobs and local economies.

It has been lobbying Conservative back benchers by letter to support the motion, which already has the backing of the teaching unions.

Many head teachers in poorer areas mounted food delivery operations during the school lockdown to ensure their pupils had enough to eat.

Boris Johnson blames London mayor for TfL bankruptcy before Covid-19

Boris Johnson has claimed Transport for London was “effectively bankrupted” even before the outbreak of Covid-19.

The comments come after Mr Khan accused the government of “draconian” demands in return for a second bailout.

But any need to increase fares was “entirely the responsibility” of London mayor Sadiq Khan, he added.

Mr Khan called Mr Johnson a “liar” and said he had successfully reduced the deficit, left by Mr Johnson when he was mayor in 2016, by 71%.

“Covid-19 is the sole cause of TfL’s challenges. The PM wants to increase fares, the C-Charge and taxes and end free travel for children and older Londoners,” he tweeted.

The mayor previously said ministers aimed to impose a “triple whammy” of measures in return for rescue funding to cover the losses incurred through Covid-19.

The proposals include higher council taxes, an expanded congestion charge zone and a hike in Tube and bus fares.

Mr Johnson told the Commons on Wednesday: “The current mayor of London had effectively bankrupted TfL before coronavirus had even hit and left a massive black hole in its finances.

“Any need to make up that deficit is entirely down to him, it is entirely his responsibility.

“Any expansion of the congestion charge or any other measure taken to improve the finances of TfL are entirely the responsibility of the bankrupt current Labour mayor of London.”

The Department for Transport said talks over a settlement were continuing.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “We now have a prime minister so determined to punish a Labour mayor that he wants to whack a transport tax on his own constituents.

“Yet still they refuse to take the decisive national action needed.

“Instead, they have tried to play people off against each other. Divide, and misrule.”

Mr Khan told a TfL board meeting: “Now is not the time for the government to play party political games or be vindictive towards London. This is far too serious a matter.

“I intend to stand firm and fight for a fair deal for Londoners and do what’s right for our city.”

TfL bosses have asked for a £5.7bn package to prop up services for the next 18 months, after passenger numbers and revenues plummeted in the aftermath the March lockdown.

In May, the government granted TfL £1.6bn in emergency funding to keep services running.

Then on Friday, a last-minute extension of that bailout was secured to cover another two weeks.

As part of the package of new measures, according to Mr Khan’s office, ministers want to:

Union leaders have criticised the proposals, with some highlighting what they say is a discrepancy in the government’s treatment of private rail companies and TfL.

By BBC London political editor Tim Donovan

The virus has ripped the heart out of TfL’s finances – with fares down 90%.

The government is adopting a tough negotiating stance with the mayor on how money can be recouped and transport should be funded now in the absence of usual income.

There’s a condition that Sadiq Khan extend the congestion charge zone to within the north and south circular.

He’s being pressured to agree to big fare hikes and removal of concessionary travel for children and pensioners.

A plan has now emerged for a precept – an extra component to the council tax as exists currently for the police.

It would mean the cost of public transport spread across all Londoners whether they use it or not – but apparently no charge for the millions of users who live outside the capital.

There’s been a ministerial threat to take direct control of TfL, and there are ominous rumblings from the unions.

A pugnacious and provocative approach is emerging towards Labour-run devolved administrations.

For Boris Johnson, metro mayors are currently proving the real enemy.

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is appalling that the government are targeting staff pensions amongst a range of other savage measures in this short-term funding deal.

“I put them on notice that any attempt to hack away at our members’ pension rights will be met by an all-out campaign of political and industrial resistance.”

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “We have agreed an extension to the support period and to roll over unspent funding from the Transport for London Extraordinary Funding Agreement, allowing further time for negotiations for a new settlement.

“These discussions will ensure London has a safe, reliable network. It would be inappropriate to disclose further details at this stage.”

Spending review dropped amid Covid uncertainty

The government has abandoned its long-term Comprehensive Spending Review amid economic uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will instead set out a one-year review in late November.

The Treasury said it was “the right thing” at the moment to “focus entirely” on protecting jobs and responding to the crisis.

Economists had warned that the pandemic meant setting longer-term spending targets would prove difficult.

In its latest figures, the Office for National Statistics said the UK economy was still 9.2% smaller than in February, before lockdown began.

And the government’s net borrowing estimate for September was £36.1bn – the third-highest figure since records began in 1993.

Mr Sunak said: “In the current environment it’s essential that we provide certainty. So we’ll be doing that for departments and all of the nations of the United Kingdom by setting budgets for next year, with a total focus on tackling Covid and delivering our Plan for Jobs.

“Long-term investment in our country’s future is the right thing to do, especially in areas which are the cornerstone of our society like the NHS, schools and infrastructure.”

Last month, Mr Sunak scrapped plans for an autumn Budget in favour of the review, which sets out how much each government department can spend and does not include changes to taxation.

The review had been due to set departments’ resource budgets for 2021-2 to 2023-4 and their capital budgets for 2021-2 to 2024-5.

The devolved administrations’ block grants were also due to be set for 2021-2 to 2024-5.

Covid: Labour urges one nation deal for most restricted areas

Labour is calling for a clear and fair “one nation deal” for English regions facing the toughest Covid restrictions.

The opposition has accused No 10 of a “divide and rule” approach to different parts of the country after talks with Greater Manchester ended acrimoniously.

Lisa Nandy said “playing” councils off against each other was unacceptable and a “national framework” was needed.

Ministers say a “consistent and fair” formula for future talks with other regions will be outlined on Thursday.

It comes as South Yorkshire announced it would enter the highest tier of Covid measures on Saturday.

Ministers have defended the level of financial support available to areas already in tier three, such as Liverpool City Region and Lancashire, in which pubs and bars not serving meals and other leisure businesses have to close.

They say their offer of £60m in overall business support to Greater Manchester – which was rejected by its Mayor Andy Burnham on Tuesday – was still on the table.

But Wigan MP Ms Nandy said the government was responsible for the “absolute mess” in Greater Manchester, accusing them of “shutting down the negotiations” after Mr Burnham held out for £65m.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today that this was part of a pattern of behaviour in which local leaders across the North of England were “bullied” into accepting restrictions without adequate financial support.

“What we have got at the moment is the worst of all worlds where the government says it wants to take a local approach but when local areas stand up for what is needed for their communities the government say we don’t want to negotiate with you.”

Labour have tabled a motion for debate in the Commons later calling for “clear and fair” standardised criteria for Tier 3 negotiations, with more parts of the country expected to enter the highest category in the coming weeks.

The government is expected to win the non-binding vote, although it will indicate the level of disquiet on the Conservative benches about ministers’ handling of the situation.

Asked what Labour was proposing, Ms Nandy said keeping the current funding model used by the government – in which support is calculated per head of the population – was one option as long as it was better funded.

Another option, she said, was a “national scheme” of wage support based on the furlough scheme, which subsidised up to 80% of workers’ pay since March and which is due to expire at the end of the month.

She said the government needed to make good on its promise to support businesses and the self-employed through the winter, particularly in areas such as hers which had been living with restrictions for months.

“At the moment, it feels like the government is taking a divide and rule approach and playing us off one against one other which is really unhelpful,” she said.

“If you don’t provide financial support to one part of Greater Manchester, you don’t help any of us. That is how you do things in the North. That is what we asking them to do.”

The government’s new Job Support Scheme, which replaces the furlough programme, will pay up to two-thirds of wages of businesses forced to close.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the government would publish a “consistent and fair” formula for further support for local councils on Thursday.

“We’ve been very clear that it needs to be proportionate so that’s it fair to people,” he told Today, saying it would comprise cash for local contact tracing and business support.

“You can see that’s working out as 20-21% per head in Merseyside and Lancashire, I expect similar arrangements in South Yorkshire and other parts of the country. That’s what we offered to Andy Burnham.”

He appealed for local councils in Greater Manchester to come direct to him to make arrangements, saying that “the money is still there”, with “GM’s name on it”.

Covid: What will Tier 3 rules for Manchester and South Yorkshire be?

The highest tier of coronavirus restrictions will be imposed on Greater Manchester from 00:01 BST on Friday 23 October, and in South Yorkshire from 00:01 on Saturday.

It means the areas will be moved from Tier 2 (high risk), to Tier 3 (very high risk), joining the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire.

Other parts of the UK have also introduced additional coronavirus restrictions.

Every area of England now falls into one of three categories – medium (Tier 1), high (Tier 2) or very high (Tier 3), depending on the local rate of infection.

Areas with the most rapidly rising transmission rates are placed in Tier 3.

You are not allowed to meet socially with anybody who is not part of your household, or support bubble, indoors.

You cannot meet in private or pub gardens, but can meet in parks, beaches, countryside or forests, as long as you are not in a group of more than six.

Pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals. Alcohol can only be served as part of a meal.

People are being advised not to travel into or out of Tier 3 areas, other than for work, education, youth services or because of caring responsibilities.

Casinos, bingo halls and betting shops, adult gaming centres and soft play areas have closed in all Tier 3 areas.

Extra measures can be introduced, following discussions between central and local government. In Lancashire, car boot sales are not allowed, while gyms in the Liverpool City Region were initially closed but have been told they will be able to reopen.

The latest restrictions will be imposed in Greater Manchester from 00:01 BST on Friday 23 October after the mayor, Andy Burnham, said the government had “walked away” from negotiations after refusing his request for £65m financial support.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “not to act now” would put the lives of Manchester’s residents “at risk”.

The restrictions in Greater Manchester will be reviewed by at least 11 November.

All four local authority areas of South Yorkshire – Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield – will also be moved into Tier 3 on Saturday, Sheffield Mayor Dan Jarvis has confirmed.

Gyms are to stay open there, but gym classes will not be allowed.

You are not allowed to meet socially with people you do not live with indoors – this includes private homes, as well as pubs or restaurants.

People in support bubbles can go on meeting as before and informal childcare may also be provided.

You can still meet friends and family outdoors, but only in a group of up to six people.

Areas in Tier 1 are subject to the basic national rules previously in force.

You may not meet in a group of more than six people, indoors or outdoors, unless you’re in a larger household or a support bubble.

Pubs, bars and restaurants in a Tier 1 area must close by 22:00 BST.

From 18:00 on Friday 23 October until the start of Monday 9 November, Wales will go into a ”short, sharp” circuit-break, a mini lockdown in which:

Adults living alone or single parents will be able to join with one other household for support from anywhere in Wales.

Northern Ireland has introduced four weeks of restrictions. Schools have closed for a two-week extended half-term break and will reopen on 2 November.

Other measures include:

Because of higher levels of Covid infection, 3.4 million people in central Scotland are subject to tougher restrictions until 25 October.

The region affected covers 18 local council and five health board areas (Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian, Forth Valley).

In these areas, all licensed premises – with the exception of hotel bars for residents – have to close indoors and outdoors, though takeaways are permitted.

Cafes can stay open until 18:00 daily, as long as they don’t serve alcohol.

People living in these areas have been told to avoid public transport, unless absolutely necessary, and not to leave their local areas if possible (people from outside are encouraged not to visit).

Other measures include the closing of snooker halls, bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls, the suspension of non-professional contact sports and indoor group exercise for adults.

In the rest of Scotland, pubs and restaurants can only open inside between 06:00 and 18:00 daily until Sunday 25 October, and they are not allowed to serve alcohol.

They are only allowed to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks, although they can serve alcohol outdoors until 22:00.

Hotel restaurants can serve food after 18:00, but only for residents and without alcohol.

Throughout the nation, face coverings are compulsory in indoor communal settings, such as staff canteens and corridors in workplaces.

Covid: What will the Tier 3 rules for Greater Manchester be?

The highest tier of Coronavirus restrictions is expected to be imposed on Greater Manchester, after talks over financial support broke down.

It means the area will be moved from Tier 2 – ”high risk”, to Tier 3 – ”very high risk”, joining the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire.

Other parts of the UK have also introduced additional coronavirus restrictions.

Every area of England now falls into one of three categories – medium (Tier 1), high (Tier 2) or very high (Tier 3), depending on the local rate of infection.

Areas in Tier 1 are subject to the basic national rules previously in force.

You may not meet in a group of more than six people, indoors or outdoors, unless you’re in a larger household or a support bubble.

Pubs, bars and restaurants in a Tier 1 area must close by 22:00 BST.

The rules for Tier 1 also apply in Tier 2.

In addition, you are not allowed to meet socially with people you do not live with indoors – this includes private homes, as well as pubs or restaurants.

People in support bubbles can go on meeting as before and informal childcare may also be provided.

You can still meet friends and family outdoors, but only in a group of up to six people.

The areas to go into high alert restrictions most recently were:

Areas with the most rapidly rising transmission rates are placed in Tier 3.

You are not allowed to meet socially with anybody who is not part of your household, or support bubble, indoors.

You cannot meet in private or pub gardens, but can meet in parks, beaches, countryside or forests, as long as you are not in a group of more than six.

Pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals. Alcohol can only be served as part of a meal.

People are being advised not to travel into or out of Tier 3 areas, other than for work, education, youth services or because of caring responsibilities.

Extra measures for Tier 3 areas can be introduced, following discussions between central and local government.

In the Liverpool City Region, which is in the highest tier, the following premises must close:

Lancashire is also in Tier 3, and also faces these additional restrictions:

Tier 3 status is also expected to be imposed on Greater Manchester.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham had said the area would “stand firm” against plans to move it from Tier 2 to Tier 3, calling it a “flawed” and “unfair” policy.

From 18:00 on Friday 23 October until the start of Monday 9 November, Wales will go into a ”short, sharp” circuit-break, a mini lockdown in which:

Adults living alone or single parents will be able to join with one other household for support from anywhere in Wales.

Northern Ireland has introduced four weeks of restrictions. Schools have closed for a two-week extended half-term break and will reopen on 2 November.

Other measures include:

Because of higher levels of Covid infection, 3.4 million people in central Scotland are subject to tougher restrictions until 25 October.

The region affected covers 18 local council and five health board areas (Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian, Forth Valley).

In these areas, all licensed premises – with the exception of hotel bars for residents – have to close indoors and outdoors, though takeaways are permitted.

Cafes can stay open until 18:00 daily, as long as they don’t serve alcohol.

People living in these areas have been told to avoid public transport, unless absolutely necessary, and not to leave their local areas if possible (people from outside are encouraged not to visit).

Other measures include the closing of snooker halls, bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls, the suspension of non-professional contact sports and indoor group exercise for adults.

In the rest of Scotland, pubs and restaurants can only open inside between 06:00 and 18:00 daily until Sunday 25 October, and they are not allowed to serve alcohol.

They are only allowed to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks, although they can serve alcohol outdoors until 22:00.

Hotel restaurants can serve food after 18:00, but only for residents and without alcohol.

Throughout the nation, face coverings are compulsory in indoor communal settings, such as staff canteens and corridors in workplaces.

Brexit: Standoff continues in trade talks after negotiators call

Talks on a post-Brexit trade deal remain stalled, after a phone call between the two sides’ negotiators failed to make a breakthrough.

UK negotiator Lord Frost said his call with the EU’s Michel Barnier on Tuesday had been “constructive” but in-person negotiations could not resume.

No 10 has said a “fundamental change” in the EU’s approach is required before face-to-face talks should continue.

Mr Barnier said the EU’s door “remains open” following the call.

The Frenchman, who had proposed “intensified” talks in London this week, added: “we should be making the most out of the little time left”.

Both sides are seeking an agreement to govern their trading relationship once the UK’s post-Brexit transition period ends in January 2021.

Both sides are calling on the other to compromise ahead of the looming December deadline for a deal, with key areas of disagreement including fishing rights and post-Brexit competition rules.

The EU wants the UK to agree to rules limiting government help for business and industry, as well as a way for the EU to seek redress if they are broken.

The two sides are also haggling over how much European fishermen should be able to catch in British waters from next year.

Speaking before Tuesday’s call, the prime minister’s spokesman said the EU would need to show talks could be a “genuine negotiation rather than one side being expected to make all of the moves”.

Speaking in Brussels earlier, a European Commission spokesman said it was “pretty obvious” both sides would need to compromise in order for a deal to be done.

It follows a summit in Brussels last week where EU leaders called on the UK to “make the necessary moves” towards a deal.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged business leaders to prepare for the end of the transition period in December, in a conference call alongside Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.

It comes as a government bill granting ministers the power to override sections of the UK’s Brexit divorce agreement cleared its first hurdle in the House of Lords.

However, peers approved a motion by 395 votes to 169 to say the bill’s controversial provisions to break international law would damage the UK’s reputation.

The vote and the scale of the defeat is an indication that peers could seek to make changes to the legislation when they embark on line by line scrutiny of the proposals.

By remaining in the bloc’s single market and customs union, the UK has continued to follow EU trading rules during its post-Brexit transition period.

This 11-month period is due to end in December, and the UK has ruled out seeking an extension.

Formal talks began in March and continued throughout the pandemic, initially via video link before in-person discussions resumed over the summer.

If a deal is not done, the UK will trade with the EU according to the default rules set by the World Trade Organization.