Brexit latest news – EU citizens offered £2k to leave UK as 'settled status' deadline looms, plus Amazon customs jitters

EU CITIZENS are being offered £2,000 and free flights to leave the UK before the "settled status" deadline, it was claimed today.

Since New Year's Day, EU citizens have reportedly been added to the UK's voluntary returns scheme where cash and flights are offered to encourage people to return to their home countries, the Guardian reported.

The move has been brought in ahead of the June deadline for EU citizensliving in Britain to apply for "settled status", which entitles them to the exactly the healthcare, education and benefits rights as British citizens.

The news comes as it was revealed Amazon will stop selling certain products in parts of the UK amid concern over post Brexit custom rules.

The online giant fears taxes will now have to be paid twice on all shipments of wine, beer and spirits sent from British mainland across the Irish Sea.

Follow our live blog below for the very latest on Brexit and the EU…

  • Chris Bradford

    SCOTTISH SECRETARY: 'INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND WOULD HAVE LARGEST DEFICIT IN EU'

    An independent Scotland would have the largest deficit in the EU and it "would break member state rules", Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has said.

    Facing down SNP questions over the granting of a second independence referendum, Mr Jack told MPs the Conservatives "respect democracy".

    SNP MP Mhairi Black claimed Brexit had been "bulldozed through", asking the Scottish Secretary: "If he's so sure of the strength of the union, why he is so afraid to test that strength with another independence referendum?"

    Mr Jack responded that the outcomes of the referenda on Scottish independence (2014) and Brexit (2016) were both respected.

    He added: "An independent Scotland would have the largest deficit in the EU and actually it would break member state rules.

    "I believe as we focus on coming out of the pandemic, being all in the rowing boat together, pulling on the oars in these choppy waters, is the best place for Scotland and the best for the UK."

  • Chris Bradford

    NORTHERN IRELAND SHOULD FREEZE CO-OPERATION WITH REPUBLIC, CLAIMS UNIONIST

    A unionist has called for co-operation with the Republic of Ireland to be frozen and work implementing the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol to be abandoned.

    Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister has called on the DUP to stop officials operating Irish Sea port checks on goods from the rest of the UK.

    Mr Allister has been a persistent critic of the large unionist parties and devolved powersharing with Sinn Fein over many years.

    The TUV leader said: "Underpinning Stormont, we are told, is the equilibrium of the north/south and east/west arrangements.

    "With the east/west relationship being trashed by the operation of the Protocol, the DUP and UUP, as key operatives of the north/south arrangements, should freeze their involvement until the east/west equilibrium is restored."

  • Chris Bradford

    EU ENVOY URGES BIDEN TO REMOVE ALUMINIUM TARIFFS AND SETTLE AIRCRAFT SUBSIDY DISPUTE

    The EU's ambassador to the United States called on the Biden administration to immediately lift aluminium tariffs imposed on imports and work to settle a longstanding dispute over aircraft subsidies.

    Stavros Lambrinidis said that Brussels was "entirely ready" to work with the United States to strengthen the transatlantic trade relationship and had no desire to erect a "Fortress Europe."

     

  • Chris Bradford

    EU PUSHES FOR ACCESS TO ASTRAZENICA VACCINES FROM UK PLANTS

    The European Union is pushing AstraZeneca to supply the bloc with more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine from plants in Europe and Britain after the company announced delivery delays, adding to frustrations over the EU's inoculation programme.

    The EU is making more comprehensive checks on vaccines before approval, which means a slower rollout of shots compared with other countries such as the UK.

    The issue has been exacerbated by AstraZeneca and Pfizer both announcing delivery holdups in recent weeks.

    AstraZeneca's delay was caused by production issues at a plant in Belgium.

    "UK factories are part of our advanced purchase agreement and that is why they have to deliver," EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said today.

    Credit: Reuters

     

  • Chris Bradford

    TORY CLAIMS EU'S 'BUREAUCRACY AND PETTY POLITICS' HAS DELAYED ITS VACCINE PROGRAMME

    Tory Eurosceptic Peter Bone claimed the EU's "bureaucracy, inefficiency and petty politics" had delayed its vaccine programme, when he asked PM Boris Johnson if Brexit had aided the UK's response.

    In response, Mr Johnson said: "We certainly were able to use speed and agility to deliver on the programme that we needed to do.

    "I think it'd have been a great pity if we'd followed the advice of the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Keir Starmer) who said stay in the EU vaccines programme, and who wanted to get rid of big pharmaceutical companies in the crazed Corbynite agenda on which (Sir Keir) stood at the last election."

    Mr Johnson said the UK had been able to do things "better in some ways", adding: "It's early days and it's very, very important to remember that this is an international venture, these vaccines, we depend on our friends and partners and we will continue to work with those friends and partners in the EU and beyond."

  • Chris Bradford

    POLICE: DISCONTENT IN NORTHERN IRELAND GROWING OVER BREXIT DEAL

    Cops in Northern Ireland said they were noticing "growing discontent", expressed via graffiti and social media, among the province's unionists over its post-Brexit divergence with mainland Britain.

    Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan told UK lawmakers that the coronavirus pandemic had so far helped in "moderating people's behaviour in terms of the desire to protest".

    "Were we not in this current environment, we would probably see a more visible outworking of that on the streets," he said.

    Unionists, who want Northern Ireland to remain part of Britain, are angry over the new customs checks required on goods travelling across the Irish Sea, complaining there is now a border between the province and the rest of the UK.

    Discontent in the "Protestant, unionist, loyalist community" is being expressed in graffiti and on social media, McEwan told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

  • Alex Winter

    NEWS THAT DEMANDS A STIFF DRINK…

    A fine wine firm supplying all the colleges at Cambridge University is waiting on 20,000 bottles – thanks to a red tape bottleneck.

    Cambridge Wine Merchants has been told to put a cork in it for the time being – because the consignment is stuck at the Port of Tilbury in Essex.

    Frustrated, the company has blamed Brexit disruption, and if the same problem hits other fine wine merchants this side of the Channel, connoisseurs might have to go begging for a bottle, with warnings that prices may soar.

    Clientele include university dons and professors.

  • Alex Winter

    WARNING OVER 'CREATIVE' CRIMINALS

    More on that last blog post now.

    The European Arrest Warrant allows EU members to request the arrest and detention of criminals in other countries without extradition talks between them.

    Mr Rodhouse told a virtual meeting of MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that criminal gangs are always on the alert for new opportunities.

    "Organised criminals are creative, agile, responsive and are always looking to exploit some part of our system for their gain and for others' misery," he said.

    "I am very confident in the ability of the NCA and our partner agencies to keep pace with that and get ahead of it, but it keeps people up 24 hours a day doing that work and we have to continue to do so."

  • Alex Winter

    NEW PLAN FOR ARRESTING SUSPECTS INTERNATIONALLY

    Procedures for arresting suspected criminals in other countries after Brexit look positive, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has said.

    New extradition, data sharing and law enforcement co-operation arrangements are underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Senior NCA official Steve Rodhouse said important provisions like the ability to arrest on an Interpol (international police) red notice have been preserved, along with timescales for the surrender of suspects.

    He added: "The mechanics look positive.

    "It is a new process, it is not well-practised, it is early days and we need to see how it operates."

  • Alex Winter

    BREXIT-THEMED TEXT SCAM CIRCULATING UK

    Brits are being urged to be vigilant as a Brexit-themed text scam reportedly makes it's way around the UK.

    The Chartered Standards Trading Institute reported receiving evidence of a text scam, themed around the UK's exit from the European Union.

    The message read: "we need to verify your identity to keep up with EU standards".

    It then instructed the recipient that "to avoid restrictions" they must visit a website to upload their personal details. 

    Lead officer at CTSI, Katherine Hart, urged recipients of the message to report it to authorities.

  • Chris Bradford

    ‘NO DESIRE FOR A BONFIRE OF REGULATION’, SAYS CITY CHIEF

    London has no desire for a bonfire of regulations to retain its position as a top international finance centre after Brexit but it is ready to act if the EU blocks access, the City of London’s political leader said.

    The financial hub has suffered some job losses in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum and financial services were largely excluded from UK/EU divorce talks.

    Catherine McGuinness said London could not become a “rule taker”.

    She said: “We’re not looking for a bonfire of regulation, we’re not looking for a move away from international standards – absolutely not.

    “We’re not expecting any major deregulation at all.”

  • Chris Bradford

    TORY MP DISMISSES CLAIMS THAT WORKERS RIGHTS WILL BE DILUTED POST-BREXIT

    Tory MP Anthony Higginbotham has dismissed claims that workers’ rights could be diluted in a post-Brexit world.

    This week, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng revealed his department is reviewing how employment rights could be adapted after Brexit, including looking at the 48-hour week.

    Defending the review, Mr Higginbotham said: “We have some of the best standards in the world for workers and there will be no change.

    “We have 28 days of annual leave in the UK, compared with a requirement of 20 in the EU. Parental leave allowance stops for a child of eight in the EU but at 18 in the UK. Maternity leave is paid for 39 weeks in the UK, but for only 14 weeks in the EU.

    “However, protecting UK workers means more than just these rights; it is about making sure that people get a decent wage for the work that they do."

  • Chris Bradford

    BRITAIN AND SWISS TO RAMP UP PREPARATIONS FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES DEAL

    Britain and Switzerland will press on with plans to strike a trade deal for their vast financial services industries, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed.

    The two countries are aiming for a mutual recognition deal in which they would accept the broad thrust of each other’s financial rules – a type of arrangement that the European Union had rejected in Brexit talks with London.

    Britain is keen to maintain the City of London’s attractiveness as a global financial hub after full access to the EU ended last month.

    “The UK and Switzerland are both global financial centres, with a shared commitment to high standards of regulation, market integrity and investor protection,” Mr Sunak said.

    “Our ambition is to deliver one of the most comprehensive agreements of its kind in financial services as part of our plan to seize new opportunities in the global economy now we have left the EU.”

  • Chris Bradford

    ‘VACCINE SNAILS’

    German politicians have been branded “vaccine snails” as public outrage builds over the country’s slow jab roll-out.

    Health ministers have been told to shape up by local media over the “embarrassingly slow” vaccination process which has seen just 1.8million people receive the jab so far.

    In a searing article in Bild, the newspaper told politicians they “can and must do better” to get the public vaccinated safely.

    Germany now trails behind the UK and US in the jab effort with only 1.8million Germans vaccinated to date, compared to the UK’s 6.8million. 

    Once praised for its rapid response to coronavirus, Germany is now struggling with high case numbers, a mounting death rate, and a vaccine roll-out that has seen the country jab just 2 in 100 people over the course of a month. 

    Read more HERE.

  • Chris Bradford

    FESTIVAL BOSSES FEAR LACK OF VISA-FREE TRAVEL COULD PREVENT UK ARTISTS FROM PLAYING ON CONTINENT

    European festival bosses are worried that the issue surrounding touring musicians could prevent many UK acts from booked to play on the continent.

    The PM failed to secure visa-free travel for UK artists wishing to tour Europe in his divorce deal with Brussels.

    The current deal means people need to pay for a visa if they want to enter the EU for more than 90 days.

    Former tour manager Erin Van Eerdenburg told NME the new extra costs, visa issues, paperwork and bureaucracy would prove “horrible” and “very limiting” for artists.

    He said: "If we were at a festival and a band pulls out because of an accident or somebody’s ill or whatever, we could have called an English band to replace them and fix it in one day. This will now be impossible."

  • Chris Bradford

    STORMONT CALLS FOR GOVT TO TAKE ACTION OVER PLANTS

    A Stormont minister has urged the UK and Irish governments to take urgent action to address Brexit barriers to importing soils and plants into Northern Ireland.

    Agriculture minister Edwin Poots said the viability of the region's agriculture and horticulture sectors is on the line as a consequence of new Irish Sea trading arrangements.

    The Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is currently preventing the importation of certain plants, soil, plant products and seeds.

    Mr Poots said: "The importance of allowing trade to continue is absolutely vital to the agriculture and horticulture sector's viability and associated economic activity."

  • Chris Bradford

    LABOUR URGES MINISTERS TO APOLOGISE FOR CLAIMS OF NO NON-TARIFF BARRIERS

    Labour MP Ian Murray asked if ministers will apologise to Scottish exporters about claims of no non-tariff barriers to trade that were made by Boris Johnson.

    He told MPs: "Trade deals of course with other countries won't make up for what we've lost from leaving the EU and day after day, we see chaos at our ports, exporters being overwhelmed by paperwork and the result is Scottish businesses are damaged.

    "This Government's lack of planning and no provision for services, matched with growing bureaucracy at our borders, is severely hampering our industries. Now the Prime Minister said on Christmas Eve that the EU Brexit deal would mean, and I quote, 'no non-tariff barriers to trade'.

    "This is demonstrably false. So does (Iain Stewart) want to take this opportunity to apologise to Scottish exporters who are completely hampered by the very non-tariff barriers to trade that the Prime Minister said didn't exist?"

    Mr Stewart responded: "I don't think it's fair to paint it as chaos and tailbacks at the ports, the traffic is flowing freely at most ports. There is and has been some short-term issues with paperwork, any new system has some short-term bumps but we are engaging directly with the exporters affected."

  • Chris Bradford

    NORTHERN IRISH EEL CAN’T BE SOLD IN BRITAIN

    Eel fisherman in Northern Ireland cannot sell their stock to Britain under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

    It means finding new buyers for almost 50 tonnes of eels – just months before the start of the season.

    The fish from Lough Neagh would’ve have been exported to Billingsgate market in London and sold as jellied eels, The BBC reports.

    European eels are considered an endangered species and the EU has banned sales with any country outside the trading bloc.

    A total of 80 per cent of the catch goes to EU markets – predominately the Netherlands.

  • Chris Bradford

    MAJORITY OF CALAIS REFUGEES ‘THINK BREXIT WILL MAKE GETTING UK ASYLUM EASIER’

    Refugees living in Calais believe Brexit has made it easier to secure asylum in the UK, a new poll has found.

    About 1,000 people are staying in makeshift camps along the French coast, with many intending to try to cross to Britain.

    A survey of migrants in Calais revealed that more than half (55 per cent) think they have a better chance of getting asylum in the UK since December 31, with only 18 per cent thinking they had a worse chance.

    The poll also revealed widespread fears, with a majority saying they felt less safe in 2021.

    The Government vowed to “take back control” of its borders but a majority of migrants in Calais believe they have a better chance of getting asylum in the UK than before it left the single market on December 31.

  • Chris Bradford

    NISSAN TO CUT 160 OFFICE-BASED JOBS IN UK

    Nissan will cut around 160 office-based jobs in Britain as the Japanese company faces reduced sales amid plans to turn around its performance.

    Last week, it committed to its north-east England factory and will source more batteries locally to avoid tariffs on electric cars after the UK’s trade deal with the EU, calling the Brexit agreement an “opportunity” for the Sunderland site.

    Nissan opened what is now Britain’s biggest car plant in 1986 and made nearly 350,000 vehicles there in 2019.

    Globally it has faced a torrid time in recent years and is cutting production capacity, model numbers and operating expenses.

    “We continually adapt our business to maximise efficiency in line with market conditions and we are currently in consultation with some of our office based staff,” the company said in a statement.

  • Chris Bradford

    WILL A MEETING GO AHEAD?

    It remains to be seen whether AstraZeneca officials will meet with Brussels bureaucrats to discuss delayed vaccine commitments.

    Earlier reports suggested that the pharmaceutical company had "pulled" out of a meeting, according to an EU official.

  • Chris Bradford

    BREXIT-THEMED TEXT SCAM CIRCULATING UK

    Brits are being urged to be vigilant as a Brexit-themed text scam reportedly makes it’s way around the UK.

    The Chartered Standards Trading Institute reported receiving evidence of a text scam, themed around the UK’s exit from the European Union.

    The message read: “we need to verify your identity to keep up with EU standards”.

    It then instructed the recipient that “to avoid restrictions” they must visit a website to upload their personal details. 

    Lead officer at CTSI, Katherine Hart, urged recipients of the message to report it to authorities.

  • Chris Bradford

    TRAWLER FIRM SAYS ONE-OFF TRIP IS 'STICKING PLASTER' AS UK-NORWAY FISHING DEAL IS NEEDED

    A supertrawler which normally catches around 10 per cent of all the fish sold in the UK's chip shops has left port for a one-off voyage to the sub-Arctic as talks continue with Norway over post-Brexit distant waters fishing rights.

    Kirkella – which has been described as the pride of the UK's distant-waters fishing fleet – has been tied up in St George's Dock, Hull, since returning from her last trip at the beginning of December, leaving her 100-strong crew at home.

    Despite much of debate on the Christmas Eve Brexit trade deal concentrating on the UK-EU fishing relationships, detailed agreements are still needed with the non-EU countries involved in the distant waters arrangements, including Norway.

    Today, Kirkella left Hull for a trip to the icy waters around the island of Svalbard which the vessel's owner, UK Fisheries, has described as a "sticking plaster".

    UK Fisheries says its licence means the number of fish it can catch will only allow this one trip. But this is about 10% of what it would have been allowed under the pre-Brexit regime.

  • Chris Bradford

    RIOTS IN NETHERLANDS COULD SPILL OVER INTO BELGIUM, MINISTER WARNS

    Riots in the Netherlands over coronavirus restrictions could spark similar protests in neighbouring Belgium, a minister has warned.

    The country has been rocked by three successive nights of rioting the worst to hit the EU nation in years that began with the torching of a coronavirus testing facility in a Dutch fishing village on Saturday night.

    The violence has stretched the Dutch police and led at times to the deployment of military police.

    Calls for protests against Belgium's tough lockdown and its 9 p.m. curfew have mounted on social media.

    The office of interior minister Annelies Verlindens said: "The violent demonstrations that degenerated in the Netherlands have apparently incited certain people to call, also in our country, for demonstrations against the health measures."

    Belgium, host of the headquarters for the 27-nation EU, has had one of Europe's worst outbreaks. The nation of 11 million has seen over 20,800 confirmed virus deaths.

  • Chris Bradford

    EU OFFICIAL: ASTRAZENECA PULLS OUT OF VACCINE DELIVERY TALKS

    AstraZeneca has pulled out of meeting with the European Union to discuss delayed vaccine commitments to the bloc, an EU official said.

    The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks, said the EU would insist on them coming back to the negotiating table to explain the delay in deliveries once the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine gets approved for use by the European Medicines Agency.

    Today’s talks with the EU Commission and member states were due to be the third held in as many days, as Brussels demands an explanation about the delays.

    On Monday, the EU threatened to impose tight export controls within days on COVID-19 vaccines made in the bloc.

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