Johnson’s deadline arrives but deal with EU still possible, says UK negotiator … senior medical figures back ‘circuit breaker’ … London walks it
Pro-Europe protesters demonstrate outside parliament.
Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex/Shutterstock
Top story: Fishing, playing fields and portable loos
Hello, I’m Warren Murray. Together let us see what is going forward this Thursday morning.
Boris Johnson said that if by 15 October there was a lack of agreement with the EU on post-Brexit trade, then both sides should “accept that and move on”. That day has come – but his chief negotiator, David Frost, will not be advising the PM to walk away. Sources say Frost believes a deal is still possible in the next few weeks, with tentative signs of a compromise on fisheries. Our editorial foretells that “talks will continue, the clock will carry on ticking. Mr Johnson’s bluff has been called.” The OECD has warned against the damage a disorderly Brexit combined with Covid could do.
EU leaders meet in Brussels today and a decision from the prime minister is expected on Friday once they have given their assessment of the negotiations. One of the outstanding issues remains the level of access for EU fishing fleets in British waters. The French want to maintain the status quo in the English channel. But EU diplomats have suggested there might be room for manoeuvre in the wider seas, including the Celtic and Irish eas and the waters around Scotland. France among others would insist that any losses for European fleets should be made good through taking away UK rights to EU waters.
Another issue more important to many members is the level playing field: the EU wants to ensure neither side can undercut standards or use big subsidies to gain a market advantage. Then there is how any deal would be enforced. Daniel Boffey, the Guardian’s Brussels bureau chief, goes through these points in greater detail. Whatever happens, in the event of border delays the lorry drivers will be looked after with roadside portable loos, to avoid what one Conservative MP called “bottles that look like they’re filled with Irn-Bru but they’re not” being discarded on laybys.
Power shortage in the wind – National Grid has warned Britain’s electricity will be in short supply over the next few days after a string of unplanned power plant outages and unusually low wind speeds. The operator said it would take action to “make sure there is enough generation” during the cold weather spell to prevent a second major blackout in as many years. A spokeswoman for National Grid said the latest electricity supply squeeze was not expected to be as severe as recorded last month and it did not expect to issue an official warning in the next 24 hours. Concerns over National Grid’s electricity supplies have been relatively rare in recent years – its greater challenge has been an oversupply of electricity that has threatened to overwhelm the grid during times of low demand.
Coronavirus latest – At the start of the pandemic we were told that Covid-19 was a respiratory illness from which most people would recover within two or three weeks, but it’s increasingly clear that there may be tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands, who are still experiencing symptoms months after becoming infected. Here is what we know so far about “long Covid”.
UK hospital doctors and public health experts have backed growing calls for a “circuit breaker” but Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has led voices supporting a regional tiered approach to avoid economic damage. A decision on whether to extend tier 3 restrictions – closing pubs that do not serve food and banning household mixing – to Greater Manchester and Lancashire is expected today. Residents of nine major French cities including the Paris region as well as Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse and Lille are to be confined to their homes from 9pm to 6am. The rules will come into effect from midnight on Saturday and apply for four weeks. In Germany the federal and state governments have agreed that cities or regions where infection rates are rising rapidly will have to adopt an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants, which has already been imposed in Berlin. Get the latest coronavirus developments at our global live blog.
‘Pretty staggering’ US turnout – The US election could be its most significant for foreign policy since 1940, with huge implications for the UK. This morning Patrick Wintour, the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, considers possible scenarios – Biden wins, Trump is returned, the result becomes mired in dispute – and what they could mean for Britain. On the electoral battleground itself, people have been queueing for hours and hours in record numbers to lodge an early ballot – a “pretty staggering” 14 million Americans have already voted. Facebook and Twitter have restricted their distribution of a sketchy New York Post story about Joe Biden and Ukraine, sparking outrage among conservatives. Melania Trump has revealed Barron Trump, her 14-year-old son with the president, tested positive for coronavirus but has since tested negative.
The candidates are scheduled to hold duelling town-hall events tonight after their second debate was cancelled because Trump won’t do it remotely as per the rules. This is a good spot to mention that Guardian US is producing a weekly election briefing called Fight to Vote – sign up here for all the circus on that side of the pond.
Crackdown on Thai protests – The situation for free speech and protest has worsened in Thailand with the government using emergency powers in a bid to sweep demonstrations off the streets. Gatherings of five or more people have been banned along with the publication of news or online messages that could harm national security in the eyes of the authorities. Leaders of anti-government protests, Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok, were arrested early on Thursday, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group said. Protests have escalated for three months and protesters set up camp outside the office of the prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, demanding his resignation. Demonstrators also directed their anger at a royal motorcade amid calls for an end to the monarchy.
Cash out at the tills – Shops would offer cashback without consumers needing to make a purchase under Treasury proposals to protect people’s access to cash. In 2019 consumers received £3.8bn in cash when paying for items at a till, making it the second most popular way of withdrawing money behind ATMs. But the Treasury said EU regulations made it difficult for retailers to offer cashback when people were not paying for goods and it may change the rules after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.
Rather pedestrian – The world’s most walkable cities include London, Paris, Bogotá and Hong Kong, with the UK capital outranking almost 1,000 cities around the world on car-free spaces, schools and healthcare, and the overall shortness of journeys. The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) said very few cities overall gave pedestrians priority with most dominated by cars – US cities ranked particularly low for walkability due to urban sprawl. Among cities with more than 5 million inhabitants, only Bogotá in Colombia was in the top five for all three measures: living within 100m of car-free places such as parks and pedestrianised streets; living within a kilometre of both healthcare and education; and small city blocks making it easier to walk directly to a destination without big detours.
Today in Focus podcast: Story of the Mangrove Nine
Guardian arts and culture correspondent Lanre Bakare discusses the Mangrove Nine, a group of black activists who found themselves on trial at the Old Bailey in 1971 after protesting against police harassment. Their story became a landmark moment in British history, though many have never heard of it.
Lunchtime read: ‘Machines set loose to slaughter’
Autonomous machines capable of deadly force are increasingly prevalent in modern warfare, despite numerous ethical concerns. Is there anything we can do to halt the advance of the killer robots?
Liverpool and Manchester United have been forced into an embarrassing climbdown over their push to reform English football, but the ugliest parts of Project Big Picture will be back. Gareth Southgate insisted Harry Maguire will bounce back after the defender’s dismal start to the season took another turn for the worse when he received an early red card during England’s 1-0 defeat to Denmark in the Nations League. In Glasgow, Ryan Fraser’s early goal against the Czech Republic was enough to send Scotland four points clear at the top of their group.
Wasps’ preparations for the Premiership final have been thrown into turmoil after the club announced seven Covid-19 cases, raising concerns over whether their Twickenham showdown against Exeter will go ahead in just 10 days’ time. Team Sky and British Cycling’s former doctor Richard Freeman admitted losing medical information from a third computer after the UCI requested blood data from riders at the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in 2011. And transgender women will still be allowed to play women’s rugby at all non-international levels of the game in England for the foreseeable future, the Guardian can reveal, after the Rugby Football Union decided that more evidence was needed before implementing any ban.
The Korean pop band BTS have scored a hit on the stock exchange with their management company Big Hit Entertainment doubling its share value on its first day of trading. Global shares have slipped as investors locked in recent gains amid rising concerns about resurgent Covid-19 infections and after the US treasury secretary dashed hopes of a stimulus package before the election. The Australian dollar has shed 0.5% to $0.7128 after the Reserve Bank stoked speculation of a near-term cut in interest rates and more longer-dated government debt purchases. Data showed 29,500 Australian jobs were lost in October while unemployment rose to 6.9%. At home the FTSE is slated to be 0.6% lower when the trading floor opens while the pound is worth $1.301 and €1.107 at time of writing.
Some political cover in the Telegraph for the PM hesitating to implement Sage’s advice of a two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown. “Sunak: new lockdown would inflict terrible harm”. The i suggests it is coming by degrees anyway: “Tougher lockdown by end of week” and the Times says “Millions facing new lockdown” with Boris Johnson said to be “working on plans to adopt a version of a circuit breaker” (perhaps using skills acquired making model buses).
The Express delivers its daily booster shot with “Jobs crisis: it won’t be as bad as feared” (it seems “Crisis? What crisis?” didn’t fill the allotted space). The Mirror laments Greater Manchester becoming “Another fallen giant” as “Tier 3 lockdown spreads” while the Guardian has “Ministers and local leaders clash over threat of further restrictions”.
The Mail splashes with “The proof lockdown tears the heart out of Britain”. A pretty gory pun that – it’s talking about cardiac and stroke deaths being attributed to “stay-at-home guidance which has discouraged even the desperately ill from seeking medical help”. The Metro has a story from Selly Oak, Birmingham about testing: “Students are handed used Covid swabs”. The FT has “Austerity not inevitable to restore public finances to health, says IMF” –Larry Elliott unpacks that one for you here.
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