Tuesday briefing: Manchester make or break, Wales 'firebreak'

·7 min read
<span>Photograph: PjrNews/Alamy</span>
Photograph: PjrNews/Alamy

Top story: England left going it alone

Hello, Warren Murray putting it down for you to pick up.

The strictest Covid restrictions will be imposed on nearly 3 million people across Greater Manchester if no deal is reached by midday today, the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, said last night. Earlier a government meeting with Greater Manchester leaders ended in chaos and confusion, with Jenrick warning them afterwards that if they fail to agree to pub closures and a ban on household mixing, the tier 3 measures will be brought in unilaterally.

The Welsh government has brought to an end the search for an alternative to “circuit breaker” by announcing a two-week “firebreak” lockdown beginning on Friday. Schools, shops, pubs and hotels will close and citizens will be told to stay at home, to prevent thousands more deaths and the NHS becoming overwhelmed, the first minister, Mark Drakeford, has announced. It means England is the only part of the UK not bringing in such extensive measures as recommended by experts. The Republic of Ireland is enacting a 5km travel limit as it moves into some of the most severe restrictions in Europe. Non-essential shops will close and people will be asked to stay at home from midnight on Wednesday. There are to be no gatherings except for tightly controlled weddings and funerals. More coronavirus news from all quarters at our global live blog.

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Brexit rebuff – Boris Johnson’s government does seem to be in the mood for brinkmanship after apparently telling the EU that trade talks are off, despite Brussels having accepted key demands from No 10 for their continuation. Both the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, have also said they are willing to compromise on the most contentious issues of domestic subsidy control and EU access to British fishing waters. The knockback means the Brexit standoff continues with just four weeks left for worthwhile negotiations before parliament would need to start ratifying a deal.

Theresa May has appeared to say “Utter rubbish!” during Commons proceedings in which Michael Gove claimed British law enforcement would work better outside the EU than in. Her reaction was caught on camera.

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US election – Donald Trump and Joe Biden will have their microphones muted to prevent them interrupting during their final debate on Thursday. Each candidate gets two minutes to speak on a topic before both mics are unmuted for open discussion. The supreme court is allowing Pennsylvania to count ballots received up to three days after the election, in a consequential ruling that will likely mean thousands more votes are counted in one of the most critical battlegrounds. It is a win for Democrats who sought the extension and a loss for Republicans who tried to have it blocked. After an attack on Anthony Fauci from Trump, Biden has leapt to the Covid expert’s defence, telling the president that Americans are “tired of your lies about this virus”. For the psephologically minded, here is the poll tracker that really counts: who is leading in the swing states.

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Push for half-term school meals – Pressure is mounting on Downing Street to support families entitled to free school meals throughout the half-term and Christmas holidays in England. Labour is writing to every backbench Tory MP on the issue while a petition by the England and Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford has been signed by more than 290,000 people. A repeat of the summer break “Covid food fund” has so far been ruled out for half-term next week. Labour has promised to call a vote on the issue in the Commons on Wednesday if ministers have not changed their minds. Boris Johnson’s spokesman on Monday said: “Free school meals have only ever been intended to support eligible pupils attending school during term time. We think that it’s important these arrangements return.”

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Hard drugs over counter – Cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines should be “nationalised” and sold legally in government-run pharmacies to over-18s to end the “unwinnable war against drugs”, the UK drugs reform charity Transform has recommended in a new book. Asked whether there were any moves to reconsider drug laws, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Absolutely not.” The spokesperson added the government remained opposed to legalising cannabis “because it is detrimental to health and mental health”.

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Even crater coverage – Nokia has announced a deal with Nasa to install the first mobile phone network on the moon. The “ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened” wireless 4G network is part of the US space agency’s plan to establish a long-term human presence by 2030. Nokia says its equipment will be installed remotely on the moon’s surface using a “lunar hopper” built by Intuitive Machines in late 2022, and will be upgradeable to 5G.

Today in Focus podcast: Biden, Trump and paths to power

Lauren Gambino, political correspondent for Guardian US, discusses which states Biden will need to win to take the White House, and what Trump will need to do to retain the presidency.

Lunchtime read: ‘I have been quiet for 50 years’

From the 1960s onwards Celtic Boys Club was regarded as the elite youth football side in Scotland, and a potential entry into life as a full-time professional for thousands of young players. But for more than two decades it was also a magnet for paedophiles.

At least six men connected with the club have come under investigation for sexually assaulting boys between the late 1960s and the early 90s. Three of them have been convicted and have served prison sentences. Now a number of survivors and their families claim that officials at Celtic knew about the abuse but did nothing.

Sport

Russian military intelligence services were planning a cyber-attack on the Japanese-hosted Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo this summer in an attempt to disrupt the world’s premier sporting event, the UK National Cyber Security Centre has revealed. Raúl Jiménez scored his third goal of the season as Wolves beat Leeds 1-0 at Elland Road to move from 15th to sixth in the Premier League. Eoin Morgan believes the strain of bubble life will see England players begin to withdraw from tours on mental health grounds and insists any such decisions will need to be accepted without prejudice.

Three more Wasps players have tested positive for Covid-19, taking the total in the past five days to seven, but a decision on whether the club will take part in the Premiership final against Exeter on Saturday has been put back to Wednesday. Manchester United face the daunting task of keeping out Paris Saint‑Germain without their captain on Tuesday after leaving the injured Harry Maguire at home. And Arsène Wenger, the former Arsenal manager, has talked with Donald McRae about his 22 years in charge of the club, how hurt he was by malicious rumours when he first arrived and how he has managed to move on from his life’s obsession.

Business

Asian shares have fallen moderately, tracking Wall Street’s overnight decline as hopes faded Washington will come through with badly needed aid for the US economy before the presidential election. The Nikkei 225 declined 0.3% while South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.2%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell nearly 0.3%, the Hang Seng inched down less than 0.1% and the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.3%. The FTSE is tracking 0.3% down ahead of the open while sterling is worth $1.294 and €1.098 at time of writing.

The papers

The Guardian leads with “Wales orders ‘firebreak’ lockdown and leaves England going in alone”. The Express has “Act now to save hidden victims of virus”, as “thousands die at home instead of seeking help” – the Metro’s version is “Death tolls soar … not from Covid”.

The Mail has “William: Covid mental health ‘catastrophe’” with the “future king” warning of the pandemic’s impact. The Mirror says “9 million on edge” as No 10 targets “virus hotspots in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the North East”. “Shielding is the answer, Manchester MPs insist” – that’s the Telegraph as the impasse persists. The i says Britain is “heading to lockdown by back door”.

The Times goes with the Tokyo 2020 hacking attempt: “UK thwarted Russian plot to disrupt Olympics”. The Sun comes up with “The Ex Fracture” showing Simon Cowell walking “10 weeks after breaking his back in an electric bicycle crash”. The Financial Times leads with “Eurozone heads for €1tn deficit amid efforts to control pandemic”.

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