Top story: Liz Truss letter puts Sunak and Gove on spot
Good morning – Warren Murray here to catapult you into the heart of current events.
A cabinet row over Brexit has erupted into the open with Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, warning in a leaked letter that the PM’s border plans risk smuggling, damage to the UK’s international reputation and a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization. Truss wrote to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and Michael Gove on Wednesday warning of four “key areas of concern” over their plans for the border next January. Gove has unveiled a border regime for traders whereby customs and health checks for goods from the EU would not be imposed immediately and instead be phased in over six months. But Truss warns it would “be vulnerable” as the WTO could object to EU goods being treated differently to those from elsewhere which incur tariffs and quotas. She also raises concerns over smuggling because full checks will not be in place from 1 January.
The letter suggests the government has not addressed the complexities of distinguishing between goods moving into Northern Ireland and staying there, and others moving on to the island of Great Britain. “HMRC are planning to apply the EU tariff as a default to all imports in NI from 1 January 2021 … This is very concerning as this may call into question NI’s place in the UK customs territory,” Truss wrote. Labour’s Rachel Reeves said Truss’s letter “confirms fears that several ministers have been making things up as they go with a lack of awareness of the real world consequences of border policies they’ve had four years to develop”.
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‘Fundamental change of circumstances’ – In breaking news this morning Australia has offered Hongkongers visa extensions of five years and cancelled its extradition treaty with the city after China imposed a draconian national security regime. Canberra has also advised its citizens in Hong Kong to consider returning home. Last week Boris Johnson said Britain would also go ahead with a promise of visas and a path to citizenship for about 3 million Hong Kong citizens who hold British visa rights and their family members. The Australian PM, Scott Morrison, said in the last hour that his government believed the national security law “constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances”. Canada has announced similar measures.
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Mini-budget barely touches sides – Rishi Sunak has been warned he will need to act far more decisively to prevent mass unemployment this autumn after unveiling a £30bn mini-budget designed to kickstart spending. The chancellor announced a short-term cut in VAT for hospitality and tourism and an August “eat out to help out” discount scheme worth £10 a head. He announced measures to revive the housing market with a nine-month stamp duty holiday – raising the threshold in England and Northern Ireland to £500,000 – as well as creating subsidised jobs for young people and providing targeted support for the sectors hit hardest by the lockdown.
But economic experts, trade unions and Labour questioned whether enough is being done to tackle a looming jobs crisis. Garry Young, from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, said: “The new measures look to be badly timed and could precipitate a rapid increase in unemployment. The incentives offered to employers look too small to be effective. Many employers have been topping up the pay of furloughed workers and are expected to bear more of the cost of the scheme from next month. They will be reluctant to do this now they know that the scheme won’t be extended.”
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Coronavirus latest – The chief executive of Hillingdon hospital in Boris Johnson’s constituency, which has shut its A&E unit after a coronavirus outbreak, has blamed “irresponsible” staff for flouting the rules by not wearing face masks at work. Sarah Tedford wrote in a message to staff: “I am told some of you are not wearing appropriate masks and you are not adhering to social distancing. This has resulted in an outbreak on a ward where our staff have contracted Covid-19.” As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US reached 3m, and another daily record fell with more than 60,000 new cases, Donald Trump insisted the US was “in a good place” and admitted he “didn’t listen to my experts”. Latest developments as always at our global live blog.
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‘Palace letters’ out on Tuesday – Previously secret correspondence between the Queen and the former Australian governor general Sir John Kerr surrounding the dismissal of Gough Whitlam as prime minister will be released in full on Tuesday morning, Australia’s national archives have confirmed. The public will be able to access the entirety of the so-called palace letters, a series of more than 200 exchanges between the Queen, her private secretary and Kerr, the then governor general, in the lead-up to the politically explosive 1975 dismissal of Whitlam amid a deadlock in parliament. A historian, Jenny Hocking, won a court battle for their release. Hocking has previously found evidence that the palace knew of Kerr’s intention to dismiss Whitlam and was involved in deliberations. She believes the palace letters could reveal what the Queen said and whether she influenced Kerr’s actions.
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Pick of the board – Clacton pier has been crowned pier of the year in what its co-owner called a “perfect morale booster” at a difficult time. Clevedon pier came second and Brighton Palace pier third. The National Piers Society said the award recognised a decade of improvements made by Clacton pier’s owners, Billy and Elliot Ball.
When they bought the 1871-built pier in 2009, just over a third of the space was in use. It now boasts many rides including a helter-skelter and two-tier adventure golf course, with a rollercoaster and log flume due to be added. It is the largest pleasure pier in Europe by surface area, covering more than 26,300 sq metres, said the NPS.
Today in Focus podcast: Dirty linen of UK garment factories
A spike in cases of Covid-19 in Leicester has led Guardian reporter Archie Bland to its garment factories. He discusses a story that goes beyond the pandemic and into workers’ rights, appalling factory conditions and the ethics of fast fashion.
Lunchtime read: ‘Mama Boko Haram’ – tamer of terror
Aisha Wakil knew many of the Nigerian terror group Boko Haram’s fighters as children. Now she uses those ties to broker peace deals, mediate hostage negotiations and convince militants to put down their weapons – but as the violence escalates, her task is becoming impossible.
The crisis enveloping British Gymnastics has intensified with the Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lisa Mason calling for the resignation of the chief executive, Jane Allen, in the wake of the abuse scandal, and the four-times Olympic medallist Louis Smith accusing the governing body of not wanting to taint its image by alerting the public to complaints against coaches. Dominic Sibley went for a duck as rain dominated England’s first day against the West Indies, with the hosts notching 35 runs with only 17.4 overs possible.
Manchester City have cantered 5-0 to a win that ended Newcastle’s unbeaten four-game run since the restart of the Premier League. Jürgen Klopp said Liverpool will not take for granted breaking Manchester City’s record points tally despite edging closer to the historic target with victory at Brighton. Saracens, Harlequins, Northampton and Worcester are among the clubs with confirmed cases of coronavirus following Premiership Rugby’s first round of testing. PRL announced that of the 804 tests, six players and four members of staff have yielded positive results, bringing into sharp focus the main threat to the resumption of the season in mid-August.
Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street higher following gains for major US tech stocks. Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Australia have risen. The pound is coming in at $1.262 and €1.111 while the FTSE is set to open higher.
Rishi Sunak has unmasked his fiscal response to the coronavirus – but neglected to cover his face when he served up meals at Wagamama for a photo op, as the Guardian points out in its caption. Our paper leads with “Mass unemployment feared despite Sunak’s plan for jobs”.
There is no getting away from culinary themes for mini-budget coverage: “Grab a £10 Rishi dishi” rhymes the Metro. The i calls Sunak the “Half-price meal deal chancellor” – is the paper casting aspersions there? “Come dine with me” – says the Telegraph, letting its hair down; the Times has “Sunak serves up £30bn rescue”, ho ho.
The Express says “Rishi dishes up £30bn budget of hope”, a headline that in present company feels like it fell at the final hurdle. “Lunch is on Rishi – but we’ll ALL have to pick up the tab”, the Mail cautions. The Mirror shows its loyalties, greeting the summer statement as “Chicken feed”. Finally let’s all rinse our palates with the FT’s comparatively bland rendering: “Sunak’s scheme to revive economy will push borrowing past £350bn”. Someone’s going to be doing a lot of dishes …
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