Politics latest news: ‘Sausage wars’ not even ‘handbags at dawn’ compared with what’s to come, MPs told

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Maros Sefcovic and Lord Frost narrowly avoided a full blown sausage war - but worse is yet to come - PA Wire
Maros Sefcovic and Lord Frost narrowly avoided a full blown sausage war – but worse is yet to come – PA Wire
  • Matt Hancock CCTV leak: Police seize ‘electronic devices’ from two homes

  • PM: Levelling up won’t make South poorer

  • Cars and flights to be hit with green taxes

  • Douglas Murray: UK faces perpetual Covid tyranny

  • Restaurants, pubs and bars urged to consider Covid passports

  • Coronavirus latest news: NHS Covid app ‘pings’ over half a million in a week

The so-called “sausage war” between the UK and EU was “not even handbags at dawn” compared to what is coming down the line, MPs have been told.

Aodhan Connolly, from the NI Retail Consortium, claimed the dispute over chilled meats was “peripheral” and that much bigger problems for traders and consumers were anticipated this autumn.

He told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee: “If people think that is what a trade war is they are really going to be surprised when there is an actual war. That was not a trade war, that wasn’t even a trade handbags at dawn.”

He added: “We are heading towards a perfect storm in October when we will need export health certificates. We simply don’t know if there is going to be the veterinary capacity, we simply don’t know what the cost implications of that will be.”

Victor Chestnutt, director of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, agreed the chilled meats row was a “red herring”.

He said: “There has been this unwillingness politically for Europe and the UK to engage on small issues that are very real on farms, and community tension therefore in NI is rising.”

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said: “The challenge that is identified there is that despite reports leading up to the end of 2020 that the EU was ready for no deal, there hasn’t been that education programme in the EU that explains to suppliers and customers that goods destined for Northern Ireland are meant to freely flow.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

02:47 PM

Sugar tax won’t punish ‘hardworking people’, says food strategy author

The author of the national food strategy has said he “couldn’t agree more” with Boris Johnson in his rejection of “extra taxes for hardworking people” (see 3:01pm).

Henry Dimbleby, whose report was published this morning said: “The sugar and salt reformulation tax is not about pushing up costs for hardworking people.

“It is designed to force manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar and salt in their products, which are causing enormous harm to the people of this country and putting intolerable strain on the NHS.

“It is time to act and solve this crisis and I am delighted that the Prime Minister has said he will carefully study the findings of the National Food Strategy report.”

02:44 PM

Matt Hancock CCTV footage leak should be dealt with by police, say commissioners

Police should take charge of the investigation over leaked CCTV footage of Matt Hancock, three police and crime commissioners (PCC) have said.

Marc Jones, PCC for Lincolnshire and chairman of the professional association, told reporters: “If there’s any suggestion that a crime had been committed then it’s absolutely right that’s investigated. Nobody is above the law.

“It does make a difference to our standing internationally, if we can’t keep our own Government buildings secure then that has implications. So it’s really important that this is dealt with appropriately, professionally and that Government can have confidence that it can go about its business on all of our behalves.”

Festus Akinbusoye, the Conservative PCC for Bedfordshire , agreed. “There’s a serious issue here as to the security breach and it’s important that Government ministers are able to do their job without having to worry about being filmed, especially in what should be a secure environment,” he said.

Kim McGuinness, Labour PCC for Northumbria, said: “If it’s a crime, it’s a police matter. Yes it should be referred to the police.”

02:31 PM

Boris Johnson refuses to confirm when mask guidance will end

Boris Johnson has failed to give any hope of a deadline for wearing face masks, despite legal restrictions on coverings coming to an end from Monday.

During a press conference in Coventry setting out his vision for levelling up, the Prime Minister was asked to confirm that July 19 was still seen as “freedom day” – or whether we will have to wait until next year to throw our masks away.

But he failed to answer the question directly, instead saying the country was in a “far, far better position” than before in the pandemic thanks to the vaccine.

He added: “Alas the pandemic is still with us, but we are able to go ahead in the cautious way I have described… the guidance has to remain in place for the time being.”

Watch the Q&A above.

02:30 PM

MP raises concerns of Government’s ‘undue influence’ on BBC

An SNP MP has written to the director general of the BBC to ask why Robbie Gibb “tried to veto” the appointment of a journalist.

John Nicolson, the party’s spokesman for culture, media and sport, called on Tim Davie to confirm the extent of the former adviser to Theresa May’s involvement in the process, noting that “few people will be aware of Sir Robbie’s party political affiliations” but that it might fuel the suspicion that “the UK Government is attempting to exert undue influence” on the broadcaster.

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02:21 PM

Sausage war was ‘not even handbags at dawn’, MPs told

The “sausage war” post-Brexit trade dispute between the UK and EU was “not even handbags at dawn” compared to what is coming, MPs have been told.

Aodhan Connolly, from the NI Retail Consortium, warned that the region was “heading for a perfect storm in October” when export health certificates will be required.

Mr Connolly told the Northern Ireland affairs committee: “If people think that is what a trade war is they are really going to be surprised when there is an actual war. That was not a trade war – that wasn’t even a trade handbags at dawn.”

Victor Chestnutt, director of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, agreed the row was a “red herring”. He said: “There has been this unwillingness politically for Europe and the UK to engage on small issues that are very real on farms, and community tension therefore in NI is rising.”

02:09 PM

Face masks ‘doing care home residents more harm than good’

Face masks are doing more harm than good to the welfare of care home residents, a major social care provider has warned.

The need for the current level of Covid infection control measures in homes where the vaccine has been rolled out among residents and staff is “increasingly diminishing”, according to Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare.

The group, which has 45 homes across England and one in Wales, has written to Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, warning that some of these measures are now damaging the well-being of care home residents.

Read more about that story here.

02:01 PM

Snack attack: Boris Johnson rules out sugar tax on day report is published

The Prime Minister has already ruled out a sugar tax, despite it being the recommendation of a Government-commissioned report into the nation’s relationship with food.

During a question-and-answer session following a speech in Coventry, Boris Johnson said: “I will study the report. I think it is an independent report. I think there are doubtless some good ideas in it.

“I am not, I must say, attracted to the idea of extra taxes on hard working people.”

Watch his response in full above.

01:59 PM

Lobby latest: County mayors will create ‘new model of devolution’

Boris Johnson’s call for county mayors was a “new model” of devolution which “supports levelling up”, Number 10 has said.

“They enable local people to come together with powers exercised at the right level to make a difference for their communities,” his spokesman told reporters following the Prime Minister’s speech today. “In return for that greater control, what we expect back is improvements in government, governance and efficiency.”

Pressed on whether this would afford additional powers upon the county deals formula, the No 10 spokesman added: “This is a recognition that central government can’t do all this work on its own – we want to see more county deals established up and down the country.

“These are a new model of local devolution and we want to see people take advantage of them.”

01:53 PM

Could Polexit be on the horizon?

Poland’s membership of the EU has been plunged into uncertainty after its judges defied a European court order to reverse some of its controversial judicial reforms.

Stanisław Piotrowicz, a senior Polish judge, said that interim measures by the EU’s highest court, which ordered Warsaw to suspend the reforms, were “not in line” with the Polish constitution.

The defiant ruling is the first of two verdicts due to be issued this week by Polish judges which appear to question a fundamental requirement of EU membership: that EU law takes precedence over national laws.

The ruling prompted Guy Verhofstadt, a prominent MEP and former chief Brexit coordinator, to warn that Poland’s eurosceptic government was trying to drag the country out of the bloc.

“Will anyone act to stop them before it is too late?” he added.

Read more here.

01:38 PM

Labour: Do we have adequate testing capacity to cope with surge in cases?

Labour has questioned whether there are enough tests to deal with the surge in infections ahead of Monday’s unlocking.

The availability of PCR tests has declined in recent days, with Jon Ashworth, shadow health secretary, revealing that there are none available in any English region.

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01:34 PM

Boris Johnson promising ‘jam tomorrow’ on levelling up, says Keir Starmer

It's scone: Starmer attacks 'jam tomorrow' speech - Getty
It’s scone: Starmer attacks ‘jam tomorrow’ speech – Getty

Sir Keir Starmer has dismissed Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” speech saying the Government lacked a proper regional strategy.

During a visit to Blackpool, the Labour leader said: “It is all soundbites and no substance, which is absolutely typical of this Prime Minister. He has given a speech on levelling up which has got nothing in it.

“He promises jam tomorrow – that is what this Prime Minister does – but there is no delivery. The Government has been in power for 11 years. They need to be judged on that record.

“The words ‘levelling up’ are no substitute for a regional strategy that brings money, resource, infrastructure, skills all together around a regional plan. That is what Labour would do. The Prime Minister has got two words and nothing behind them.”

01:31 PM

Al fresco dining licences extended for 12 months ahead of permanent change

Licences allowing al fresco dining will be extended for 12 months across England, with an intention to make the change permanent, under new plans unveiled by the Government today.

Permissions for the outdoor sale of alcohol will also be extended for 12 months, allowing takeaway pints to continue.

It comes alongside a plan to create ‘mini-Holland’ schemes, encouraging cycling and walking by installing segregated cycle lanes on main roads, expanding space for pedestrians and creating low-traffic neighbourhoods. The Government will tackle graffiti and litter across town centres, and a new taskforce to remove chewing gum from the streets.

Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, said: “We are transforming our high streets across the UK into the kind of vibrant places we will want to visit, work and call home for generations to come.”

The changes would allow communities to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year “in style.”

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01:22 PM

Face masks must be worn in all NHS settings, says chief nurse

Staff, patients and visitors in all NHS settings must continue to wear face coverings and observe social distancing, after legal restrictions end on Monday, England’s chief nurse has said.

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said these measures would remain “so that the most vulnerable people can continue to safely attend” all services.

She added: “As restrictions are lifted in many places on Monday everyone has a part to play in helping to control Covid by getting vaccinated and acting responsibly.

“It is vital that in healthcare settings we do all we can to reduce the risk of infection for those working in our services and those who need our care.”

01:18 PM

MPs will decide when to wear face masks in Commons chamber, says Jacob Rees-Mogg

Jacob Rees-Mogg has rejected calls to maintain face masks in the Commons chamber after legal requirements fall away, saying MPs will decide based on how crowded it is.

Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow leader, encouraged her colleagues to stick with face coverings and social distancing warning of “rising rates, and especially given that young people in particular are not double-vaccinated.”

But Mr Rees-Mogg insisted that MPs should be allowed to make choices.

“Looking around now, I think it’d be pretty safe not to be wearing masks – this chamber is not very full,” the leader said. “If, on the other hand, we were to have a Budget Day special…. people might feel the closeness, the proximity of the House would make a mask sensible.”

Asked whether he would wear his mask next week, Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “Wait and see.”

01:11 PM

Labour MP vows to wear mask after July 19

Dame Angela Eagle has said she will continue to wear her face mask on the Parliamentary estate after July 19, following new guidance saying MPs will be encouraged to do so.

Several Conservative MPs and ministers have vowed to “ditch” their covering as soon as they’re able – but with the public eye on SW1A, it seems likely that several will keep masking up even when they’re no longer legally required.

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01:04 PM

ICO investigating whether Hancock CCTV was ‘unlawfully obtained’

One of the people leading the investigation into the leak of the CCTV footage showing Matt Hancock in an embrace with his aide has said the probe is assessing whether it was “unlawfully obtained”.

Computers and electronic devices have been seized after raids on two homes in the South of England today, the Information Commissioner’s Office has confirmed.

Steve Eckersley, director of investigations at the ICO said: “It’s vital that all people, including employees and visitors to public buildings, have trust and confidence in the protection of their personal data captured by CCTV.

“In these circumstances, the ICO aims to react swiftly and effectively to investigate where there is a risk that other people may have unlawfully obtained personal data. We have an ongoing investigation into criminal matters and will not be commenting further until it is concluded.”

12:57 PM

Computers and devices seized as part of Matt Hancock investigation

The probe was launched after CCTV footage was leaked showing Matt Hancock in an embrace with his aide Gina Coladangelo - AFP
The probe was launched after CCTV footage was leaked showing Matt Hancock in an embrace with his aide Gina Coladangelo – AFP

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has seized computers and electronic devices in an investigation into the leak of CCTV images of Matt Hancock, which was published in the Sun newspaper and led to his resignation as health secretary.

An ICO statement said: “As part of the investigation, ICO teams searched two residential properties in the south of England on Thursday July 15 2021.

“Personal computer equipment and electronic devices were seized as part of the operation and the ICO’s enquiries into alleged breaches of section 170 of the Data Protection Act 2018 continue.”

12:43 PM

MPs can’t be forced to wear a mask – but they might not get to speak in Commons

MPs will no longer be required to wear face masks from July 19 - Jessica Taylor
MPs will no longer be required to wear face masks from July 19 – Jessica Taylor

MPs cannot be forced to wear masks on the Parliamentary Estate, but they may not be allowed to speak in the chamber, Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle told union officials that while he was encouraging members to continue to wear masks, “I have no power to prevent democratically elected members from coming onto the Estate when the House is sitting. As such, there is no meaningful way to enforce a requirement on members to wear a face covering.”

However, he added: “A member who is inappropriately dressed may not be called to speak, or may be asked to withdraw, but the ejection of a member from the chamber is only enforceable by the House itself.”

MPs’ staff are not subject to the same rules and therefore “may be excluded at the Speaker’s discretion”.

Sir Lindsay stressed that the Commons “will not be returning to business as usual from next week”, with proxy voting and hybrid participation remaining in place until recess. Staff are being encouraged to work from home until September.

12:30 PM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson to consider food report – but not taxes

Boris Johnson will “carefully consider” the National Food Strategy report, which recommended taxing salt and sugar, Number 10 has said.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had “definitely ruled out” additional food taxes, his official spokesman told reporters: “I think you’ve got his words.” (see 11:52am).

“Obviously, as regard to the full report, we want to carefully consider its conclusions and we’ll respond with our white paper in six months.”

Pressed on whether Mr Johnson supported British shoppers having to pay an additional £172 for groceries, the spokesman added: “You’ve got his words and I think they speak for themselves around that specific point around speculation around taxes in regard to salt and extra sugar.”

Read more here.

12:27 PM

Lobby latest: No 10 rejects suggestion that England is an ‘outlier’ on masks

Number 10 has rejected Mark Drakeford’s description of England as an “outlier” when it came to mask wearing (see 8:28am).

Asked about the comments made by Wales’ First Minister, highlighting the different approach being taken by the devolved powers, Boris Johnson’s spokesman replied: “I would simply say that we are taking the approach which we feel is suitable at this stage of the pandemic given our success with vaccinations.

“Obviously we are proceeding with a great deal of caution and I think that’s clear.”

12:24 PM

Lobby latest: Move to keep masks for police officers ‘what was envisaged’

The decision for police officers to continue to wear face coverings after July 19 was in line with “what was envisaged” in its guidance , Number 10 has said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “We are moving away from a system of top-down rules and it is right that individual organisations, in this case police forces, make decisions based on what’s right for them.

“That is entirely the right approach and what was envisaged when we set out this guidance.”

See 10:29am for more.

12:13 PM

Unconservative: Tory MP defends criticism of party stance on taking the knee

Steve Baker, the Conservative MP who called out the party for its stance towards taking the knee, has defended his stance following “surprise” that he did so.

“It is not unconservative to care about people,” the former Brexit minister said. “It is not unconservative to be kind and respectful. It is not unconservative to recognise some suffer abuse we’ve not experienced – those in BAME, LGBT+ & other communities.”

Racism must be defeated “but booing footballers won’t help”, he added.

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11:58 AM

Asda and Waitrose urge shoppers to wear masks after July 19

Asda and Waitrose have become the latest retailers to say they will encourage customers and shop workers to continue wearing masks in their supermarkets from July 19.

Asda will have signage and announcements to encourage customers to follow Government guidance and will continue to provide face coverings in shops for people who wish to use them.

A spokesman said: “We encourage customers to be respectful to each other and to follow the Government guidance on face coverings when shopping in our stores after July 19.”

Staff and customers at Waitrose and John Lewis have also been recommended to continue wearing masks but said it will ultimately be up to individual judgment.

They follow Tesco (see 12:18am) and Sainsbury’s in doing so.

11:56 AM

Have your say: Can Boris Johnson keep the Blue Wall happy along with the Red?

Boris Johnson’s levelling up speech today was light on substance, but he will hope the message that it will benefit the affluent South as much as the poorer North will have landed well among Blue Wall voters.

The Prime Minister has been blamed for turning his back on Tory heartland voters, with many MPs making a direct link between his focus on the Red Wall and their historic loss of Chesham and Amersham.

The speech sought to address this, by saying the plan will reduce pressure on the “overheated” capital and spread opportunity UK-wide. But can the Prime Minister keep both parts of the country happy – or does he have to get off the fence and pick a wall?

Have your say in the poll below

11:48 AM

Dominic Cummings gives withering verdict on levelling up speech

Boris Johnson’s levelling up speech may have been an attempt to rally southern voters, but it has fallen flat so far – largely because it didn’t really contain anything new.

Even the Prime Minister had to admit it only contained the “skeleton” of a plan (see 11:52am).

Dominic Cummings is predictably withering.

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11:37 AM

Boris Johnson’s levelling up speech won’t wash with ‘disillusioned’ Blue Wall voters

Boris Johnson’s bid to win back the Conservative heartland with his levelling up speech won’t wash with “disillusioned” Blue Wall voters, Tory MPs have warned.

“It might be an attempt, but it’s not what I hear from my Blue Wall voters,” said one former Cabinet minister. “Their disillusionment with the party is that they don’t think we are very conservative… The leadership jars with our traditional voters…. back to being the nasty party.”

This was echoed by another MP, who said: “He has a big problem in the Blue Wall, largely because he is not very popular in seats that are very traditionally Tory.”

Andrew Mitchell, the former minister who raised a warning about electoral defeat during the foreign aid debate this week, said: “Those of us who have been in Parliament a while have learned the hard way that if you are not a broad church and turn your back on a key part of your DNA and voter appeal, it takes you 23 years to recover and win an overall majority.

“Boris has brilliantly secured the election of a number of fine colleagues from the Red Wall seats – we need to be careful we don’t start losing people off the other end.”

11:35 AM

Project kowtow: Government in ‘unholy mess’ over Chinese takeover of microchip firm

Ministers have been accused of running a “project kowtow” by failing to block the sale of a British microchip manufacturer to a Chinese-backed company.

Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the Government was in an “unholy mess” over the proposed takeover of Newport Wafer Fab by Chinese-owned Nexperia.

Sir Iain said: “The idea that a semi-conductor is not strategic when the technology in there will be used in almost everything we do, everything that we produce that is electronic, my simple case is this: Are we now in the position of a kind of project kowtow, where we simply say ‘We just have to do business with the Chinese no matter what’?

“This is outrageous,” he added. “We should have used the [National Security and Investment Act] and blocked this deal.”

But Amanda Solloway, the business minister, replied: “The Government has looked closely at this transaction and doesn’t consider it appropriate to intervene at the current time. The Prime Minister has made it clear at the liaison committee last week that he has asked the national security adviser to review this.”

11:18 AM

Tesco will require face masks after July 19

Every little helps: Face masks to be required in Tesco - AFP
Every little helps: Face masks to be required in Tesco – AFP

Tesco has said it will encourage its customers and shop workers to continue wearing masks in its supermarkets from July 19.

Last week, the supermarket started an internal review regarding its mask-wearing policies ahead of the latest easing of restrictions.

The firm said it will continue to have capacity limits in its stores, protective screens at checkouts, hand sanitiser stations and regular cleaning after speaking with customers and colleagues.

11:14 AM

Levelling up is ‘label on empty jar’, says Labour

Boris Johnson’s levelling up speech “doesn’t come close” to what is needed, Labour has said.

Liam Byrne, the Labour MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, told Sky News that the country needed a “strategy that was genuinely going to close the gap” but received a “Bullingdon Club approach to economics”.

He added: “The Prime Minister wants to throw a few quid to improve the high street… that’s not going to level up and solve some of the burning injustices that Theresa May used to talk about.

“He was making the right noises, and a good label gets you a long way in politics. But it’s like the ‘Big Society’. If the label is on an empty jar, we expect more than that.”

11:05 AM

Levelling up will only work with private sector support, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson delivers his levelling up speech - David Rose
Boris Johnson delivers his levelling up speech – David Rose

Boris Johnson is asked about vaccination rates and risk of rising cases where there is low take-up.

He says people must be encouraged to come forward and “the way to do that is by engaging with local leaders”, reinforcing his earlier arguments. “It is simply a question of encouraging people to take it up.”

Asked about the prospect of funding to support the creation of a gigafactory in the West Midlands, he says very people have been “as successful as Andy in extorting money out of the Treasury”.

He adds that the Government is “there to support and give strategic direction, but levelling up only works when the private sector comes in as well”.

11:01 AM

Levelling up must not be ‘lopsided’, says Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister is asked about past comments he made suggesting investment in London was better than in Strathclyde.

Boris Johnson says his vision is not about diverting funds from the capital but there must not be a “lopsided” approach to investment. It will be “socially, morally” the right thing to invest across the country.

Asked about austerity, he says he was “never one of those politicians who banged on about austerity”.

11:00 AM

Boris Johnson apologies for prior insensitive comments

Boris Johnson is then asked about his comments describing the “loony left” as he said he wanted the “right” kind of leaders (see 11:39am).

He says he will “deal with anybody… we want local leaders to come forward, but with these powers must come responsibility and accountability”.

The Prime Minister is also asked to fully apologise for prior insensitive remarks.

He says: “I have absolutely apologised in the past, I continue to apologise for them, and what people really want to see from Government are practical steps to stamp out racism”.

10:57 AM

Boris Johnson refuses to say when face masks will no longer be needed

Boris Johnson would not give a deadline - David Rose
Boris Johnson would not give a deadline – David Rose

Boris Johnson is then asked whether Monday should be seen as “freedom day” – or whether we will have to wait until next year to throw our masks away.

The Prime Minister says the country is in a “far, far better position” than before in the pandemic thanks to the vaccine.

“Alas the pandemic is still with us, but we are able to go ahead in the cautious way I have described… the guidance has to remain in place for the time being.”

He is also asked about the social care plan, which Mr Johnson says will be published “before too long”.

10:54 AM

Boris Johnson: Covid guidance to business is ‘very clear’

Boris Johnson is then asked about the decision to end legal mandation for masks but requested that people do so anyway – suggesting this shows a lack of leadership.

“What can you learn from Gareth Southgate,” he is asked.

The Prime Minister says businesses are “perfectly capable of understanding what we are doing” int he move away from legal compulsion.

“The guidance is very clear, and I think everyone understands that,” he adds. “The situation will, we hope, eventually change.”

Mr Johnson says he is “lost in admiration” for the England manager.

10:52 AM

Boris Johnson rejects sugar tax ‘on hard-working people’

The next question is a request for new detail for a levelling up strategy to tackle entrenched inequality, and how he will define success.

Boris Johnson says the reporter should “go back over some of what I said because there was at least a skeleton of what to do”.

But he notes that the most important thing is to achieve “a sense of pride and ambition” among local leaders.

“Just imagine the potential of this country if all its areas were as productive as the most productive parts,” he adds.

Asked about the food strategy published today, he says there are good ideas in it “but I am not attracted to the idea of extra taxes on hard-working people”.

10:48 AM

Boris Johnson shrugs off suggestions of ‘divisive politics’

Boris Johnson then turns to questions from journalists, the first of which is about him and his ministers stoking division over taking the knee and other “divisive politics”.

The Prime Minister is asked what he will do to change his image – but Mr Johnson says he disagrees, saying he supported the England team. “I have always said it was wrong to boo the England players.”

“What we all want to do is take practical steps to prevent racism in all its forms,” he adds, pointing to the football banning order as one element.

“But we have got to go further,” he adds, highlighting plans to fine social media giants for not acting on racist abuse. “They do have the technology to sort this out.”

10:42 AM

Local leaders must ‘project their story to the world’

Boris Johnson visits the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry. - David Rose
Boris Johnson visits the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry. – David Rose

Boris Johnson says business and local leadership must work together “to hold up a mirror to that part of the country.. and say this is the narrative about us”.

The Prime Minister says this is why he puts the emphasis on leadership to “bring people together and project the story to the world”.

10:39 AM

Boris Johnson pledges to get behind ‘the right local leaders’

Boris Johnson says “we must get the right local leaders”, warning that “the loony let remains pretty loony”.

The Government will not be proceeding with a “one size fits all template”, Power could be devolved for a specific purpose, such as to improve local bus services, he suggests.

He urges anyone who sees a role for themselves in local leadership to come to him or levelling up adviser Neil O’Brien and they will “give you the tools” to make it happen.

“There is no place in this country that does not have something special about it… they don’t think they are left behind, and they are right. They think they could be the future – and they’re right about that too.”

He pledges to “get behind them”.

10:36 AM

Boris Johnson hints at greater devolution

Boris Johnson says that progress is being made in decentralising government, praising Andy Street, the West Midlands Mayor, as the “Kissinger” of the region.

“After 20 years of trial and error we are starting to see the results of this devolution,” he says, noting it is “not a coincidence” that the declines are being reversed.

“The political geography of this country is as rich and diverse as the country itself.. but where there are obvious communities of identity and affinity, there is a chance to encourage local leadership.”

In the past central Government “crushed” regional leaders, because they threatened local prosperity, but metro mayors now “hustle for their home town”.

10:32 AM

Boris Johnson signals plan to boost incentives for overseas investment

 Boris Johnson (L) looks at a single battery cell during a visit to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry - AFP
Boris Johnson (L) looks at a single battery cell during a visit to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry – AFP

Boris Johnson says “high tech, high wage jobs” can be created around the country without affecting the “golden triangle” of Oxford, Cambridge and London.

He highlights the Government’s 10-point plan for green investment, and the business moves such as the new gigafactory for batteries that was confirmed recently.

“Now is the time to scrutinise the incentives we offer as a country, against those offered by others,” he adds.

“Business chooses Britain above other countries for plenty of reasons… but now is the time to do even better.”

There is “one final ingredient.. the yeast that lifts the magic dough” and that is leadership, he says.

10:30 AM

Government is ‘obsessed with skilling up’ the country

Boris Johnson has said the Government is “obsessed with skilling up” the country.

“Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, Rob Jenrick – everybody,” he says.

“As we improve skills, cut crime, improve transport and bring…. electronic tendrils into every home in the country, by that process we want to make the whole country more attractive for investment,” he says.

10:24 AM

Government must foster business confidence to create better paid jobs, says PM

Boris Johnson then turns to investment in grassroots sports and his obesity strategy, as well as investment in nurses and other frontline workers.

In addition, he says the biggest thing the Government can do “to give them the serotonin that everyone needs to see them through the day” is better paid jobs.

“We must create the conditions to create business confidence,” he adds.

The lack of productivity in the West Midlands has been “the basic difficulty of getting to your home to your place of work”, Mr Johnson says, confirming there will be funding to make city region transport networks “as good as London’s”.

10:20 AM

Levelling up will help ‘overheated’ London, says Boris Johnson

This focus has forced people into London resulting in longer commutes, more expensive housing and less time with their family, Boris Johnson says.

Levelling up with “alleviate pressure in those parts of the country that are overheating”, he explains.

“Does anyone seriously believe it has been bad for London to see the BBC growing and flourishing in Manchester?,” he asks.

Levelling up is not “zero-sum – it’s win-win”, the Prime Minister says.

10:18 AM

Governments have failed to deal with long-term decline, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson says the UK should “look at our own history, and the ability of places to regenerate and recover”.

The former mayor of London notes that the capital suffered 50 years of decline, resulting in a situation where you could travel from West to East on the Jubilee line “losing a year of life expectancy with every Tube stop”.

The Prime Minister says he doesn’t believe you can make the poor parts richer by making the rich parts poorer. attacking Labour for its “ludicrous” 1960s plan, and subsequent initiatives that have failed to deal with the “long-term trends” of decline.

He says the approach has always been to “hang around the goal mouth rather than being the play maker” – before admitting he doesn’t know anything about football.

10:15 AM

Inequality is ‘squandering human capital’, says Boris Johnson

Germany has succeeded in levelling up after reunification “where we have not”, Boris Johnson says.

Speaking from Coventry, the Prime Minister notes the discrepancy in income, employment, life expectancy or qualifications across the country, saying talent and flair are “evenly spread” but opportunity is not.

It is not just morally right, but “we are simply squandering vast reserves of human capital… and we are holding our country back”.

10:13 AM

‘Geography turns out to be destiny’ because of UK inequality, says Boris Johnson

The UK has a more unbalanced economy than pretty much every major economy, Boris Johnson says.

“For too many people geography turns out to be destiny”, he says. adding it is “an outrage” that life expectancy is 10 years lower in Glasgow than Rutland.

“There is a glaring imbalance,” the Prime Minister adds, noting that children on free school meals in London are more than twice as likely to get into university as those outside London.

10:09 AM

Boris Johnson opens speech telling people not to ‘throw caution to the wind’

Opening his levelling up speech, Boris Johnson says it is “highly probable the worst is behind us”, but urges people not to “throw cautions to the wind”.

The Prime Minister says that as every day goes by, the wall of protection built by the vaccine “grows higher”, meaning the economy is “slowly and cautiously picking itself up off the floor”.

People are slowly returning to the office and increasingly will find themselves “back on their daily commute”, he says.

The economy could recover “like a poised spring”, which means “we need now to work double hard” to overturn inequalities “so we build back better across the whole of the UK”.

09:59 AM

Appointments watchdog branded ‘toothless’ after waving through Lord Hammond’s Saudi job

The former chancellor and defence secretary is helping Saudi Arabia modernise its finance system. - John Nguyen/JNVisuals
The former chancellor and defence secretary is helping Saudi Arabia modernise its finance system. – John Nguyen/JNVisuals

Labour has branded the lobbying watchdog “toothless” after it gave the green light for former chancellor Lord Hammond to take up a role advising the Saudi Arabia finance ministry.

Lord Pickles, Acoba chairman, said there were concerns that Lord Hammond’s inside knowledge could put Saudi Arabia at an “unfair advantage”. But the Treasury stressed he had been out of office for 22 months and would “not be privy to any live policy issues” and the appointment was waved through.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “This is yet more evidence that the system of rules and regulations that is supposed to prevent the revolving door between government office and lobbying is completely unfit for purpose.

“The Acoba system is pointless and toothless. If anything, it causes more harm than good by giving a veil of respectability to the rampant cronyism, sleaze and dodgy lobbying that is polluting our democracy under the Tories.”

09:53 AM

Covid app isolation alerts just 46 per cent

The NHS Covid app sent the highest number of alerts since data was first published in January last week, official figures show.

A total of 520,194 alerts were sent to users of the NHS Covid-19 app in England in the week to July 7, telling them they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.

This is up from 356,677 the previous week – a jump of 46 per cent.

09:41 AM

Minister rejects suggestion Covid rules have become ‘total shambles’

A Cabinet minister has rejected claims that the Government’s Covid rules have become a “total shambles”, after guidance published last night said shoppers will still be expected to wear face masks and table service should continue in pubs and bars.

The move has been condemned by unions, industry figures and Tory backbenchers as confusing and contradictory.

Asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain if the policy has become a “total shambles”, Robert Jenrick said: “No, I don’t accept that. As a result of the vaccine rollout we are able to move into a new phase and that’s one where we all exercise our own personal judgment.

“But also businesses and those people who are operating public transport networks, for example, will also make judgments about what is right for their settings. I think that is a sensible way forward.”

09:36 AM

Douglas Murray: Britain is sleepwalking into a state of perpetual Covid tyranny

Britain and America always had a lot dividing us, including our national sports, diet and language, writes Douglas Murray. But in the last year one particular difference has asserted itself. Our differing national attitudes towards freedom.

In the UK, ever since the start of the coronavirus, the political class has demanded ever more of our freedoms. Things that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago have become routine. Stay in your house when the Government tells you to? Check. Allow the police to visit at any time of the day or night to see that you are where you say you are? Check. Carry papers to allow you to be permitted certain activities? Check. In Britain all this and more has flowed by without any significant political opposition.

By contrast the US, throughout the pandemic, has seen the government challenged not only from the point of view of greater security but also from that of greater freedom.

Read more from Douglas here.

09:29 AM

Police to wear face masks after July 19, representative body warns

Police will continue to wear face masks after July 19 - AFP
Police will continue to wear face masks after July 19 – AFP

Police will still wear face masks after Monday, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has said.

The body has written to all forces advising that existing infection control measures should continue, issuing guidance to officers and staff to still use personal protective equipment (PPE).

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: “As employers, chief constables have a responsibility to do everything they can to keep their staff and officers safe.

“The nature of policing means officers are often in close contact with members of the public, are dealing with vulnerable people and going into different homes. That’s why we will continue for now with our current infection control measures, like the use of face masks.

“We also want to ensure our officers and staff are as protected as possible so they can be there for the public and we minimise the risk of large numbers either being off sick or self-isolating.”

09:24 AM

Trade with EU back to pre-pandemic levels, minister says

Trade levels with the EU are back to pre-pandemic levels, a minister has said.

Exports minister Graham Stuart made the claim in answer to a question on how trade was recovering from Alba Party MP Kenny MacAskill.

Mr Stuart said: “EU volumes are back to the highest level in May since, I think, October 2019. So, we are back to pre-pandemic levels with the EU, the teething problems are being dealt with, the other problems are being minimised and Government support is there.”

Mr MacAskill has said: “Food production businesses in my constituency face a loss of trade, they face challenges with customs, they face damage to their supply chains, they are required to operate in today’s land, not some promised land that their business might never survive to be able to see.

“They need butter today, not promise of jam tomorrow.”

09:06 AM

Government urged to act or ‘risk turning the clock back’ on working mums

Almost two in three working mothers with primary school age children do not have enough childcare for the school summer holidays, TUC research suggests.

Working mothers across the public and private sector reported huge challenges in balancing work and childcare, with three in five (60 per cent) saying they would find it more difficult during holidays this year than previously, a survey indicated.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “While restrictions may be lifting and ministers talk about us getting back to normal, working mums are still feeling the impact of the pandemic.

“Most mums told us they don’t have enough childcare for the upcoming school holidays and are now facing a huge challenge managing their work and caring responsibilities this summer.

“It shouldn’t be this difficult. If ministers don’t act, we risk turning the clock back on generations of progress women have made at work.”

08:54 AM

Levelling up is not ‘North v South’, Communities Secretary insists

Levelling is not about pitting the North against the South, a Cabinet minister has insisted this morning, ahead of the Prime Minister’s major speech outlining his vision for the policy.

Boris Johnson is expected to reject suggestions that his flagship pledge will divert funding away from the so-called Blue Wall, promising not to “decapitate the tall poppies” or “rob Peter to pay Paul”.

The defensive stance follows the Conservative loss in Chesham and Amersham, which many MPs blamed on an anti-south agenda from No 10.

But Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, told Sky News: “This is not about North v South, taking down the richer areas in order to build up the poorer ones.”

However, reflecting the contradiction at the heart of the policy, he also said levelling up was designed to spread opportunity beyond the “overheated south-east”, telling Times Radio the UK was “one of the most economically unequal countries in the developed world”.

Labour has attacked the plans as just throwing money at a problem of their creating, with former Treasury minister Liam Byrne claiming it was “Bullingdon Club economics”.

08:42 AM

Nearly 100pc of fully-vaccinated adults have Covid antibodies, React study finds

Nearly 100 per cent of people who had received both doses of the Covid vaccine tested positive for antibodies 14 or more days after their second jab, a new study has found.

Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI have today published their latest antibody surveillance report showing the high level of antibodies following a second dose of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine.

Prevalence of antibodies was 30 per cent lower in men than women, partly because of lower uptake of the vaccine vaccine as 75 per cent of women had received at least one vaccine dose compared to 70 per cent of men. However, women also showed a higher antibody positivity after a single dose of vaccine in comparison to men.

Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said: ““It is incredibly reassuring to see nearly every single person who took part in the React study developed detectable antibodies following two doses of the vaccine. It goes to show once again how two doses are vital for the best possible protection.”

08:30 AM

Almost half of Britons fear Covid’s long-lasting impact on children’s mental health

Almost half of Britons believe worse mental health among children will be the longest lasting outcome of the pandemic, according to a new poll.

A survey by Ipsos Mori found that 45 believe children’s emotional wellbeing will be affected well after Covid is in retreat, while a third (34 per cent) think the pandemic’s legacy will be underdeveloped social skills or issues.

A further 32 per centworry about children being unable to make up for missed formal education.

However, 68 per cent of Britons say they still believe it was right to close schools, with just 16 per cent saying they disagree.

Kelly Beaver, managing director of public affairs at Ipsos MORI said: “Children and young people have been significantly impacted by the pandemic… This will undoubtedly have impacted many of them considerably and only time will tell the lasting impacts of this.

“When we do enter the recovery period, it is clear that the public place education in their list of priorities for spending.”

08:18 AM

Have your say: Can Boris Johnson keep the Blue Wall happy along with the Red?

Boris Johnson’s levelling up speech today will be addressed to those in the affluent South as it is the prior, poorer, audience, in a bid to stem the ebbing of support among Blue Wall voters.

The Prime Minister has been blamed for turning his back on Tory heartland voters, with many MPs making a direct link between his focus on the Red Wall and their historic loss of Chesham and Amersham.

There were, of course, other factors – including Matt Hancock’s Covid rule-breaching affair – but it is undeniable that as Red Wall support has risen, it has declined in other parts of the country.

So can the Prime Minister keep both parts of the country happy – or does he have to get off the fence and pick a wall?

Have your say in the poll below

08:06 AM

Sugar tax will not increase cost of groceries, food strategy author insists

Leon founder Henry Dimbleby believes producers will cut sugar content instead - Jeff Gilbert
Leon founder Henry Dimbleby believes producers will cut sugar content instead – Jeff Gilbert

Taxes on sugar recommended are unlikely to have an impact on ordinary consumers, the author of a new food strategy report has argued.

Henry Dimbleby, the food entrepreneur behind the Government-commissioned report, told BBC Breakfast that most products could simply reduce sugar content, rather than prices being increased.

“There’s been a sort of arms race for sugar and our tolerance for sugar – we’ve needed more and more – and we’re just trying to take that down and get the sugar out of the system,” he said.

“There are two parts to the strategy – one is about changing our long-term culture, making us eat more fresh nutritious food, and the other is about reducing the harm of that processed food and reducing the addictive nature of it.”

07:57 AM

Planet Normal: Why rural areas ‘will see mask-wearing drop off entirely’

Face masks are arguably the most divisive aspect of the last fifteen months and the row isn’t going anywhere come 19 July, when nearly all legal restrictions on social contact will be lifted.

“This is not nothing’, Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson tells this week’s Planet Normal podcast. “It changes the character and the feel of society. Getting back to normal is presented as the reckless thing. On the contrary, I think being too cautious is rapidly becoming the reckless thing.”

The debate is cultural as well as scientific, she argues. “I do think we’re going to see the Labour strongholds, the cities, masked up, pretending they’re morally superior to the rest of us, and outside the M25 and more ‘normal’ areas, shall we say, mask-wearing will drop off entirely.”

Listen to the latest episode of Planet Normal below.

07:54 AM

Analaysis: Will Boris Johnson be able to reassure Blue Wall Tories on levelling up?

Boris Johnson will be giving a key speech this morning, setting out his levelling up agenda – but haven’t we heard this many times before?

The timing – and framing – of today’s speech is about reassuring Blue Wall Tories, both voters and MPs, that he will not leave them behind, after the shock loss of Chesham and Amersham, which many blame on his tunnel vision when it comes to the Red Wall.

But while he will promise not to “rob Peter to pay Paul”, the erosion of the Blue Wall is as much about culture as it is about money.

Some in the Tory heartlands have been left uncomfortable by some of the culture war rhetoric that has become a Downing Street feature in recent years. This week’s row over taking the knee is only the most recent example of an approach that is driving a further wedge between the Party and those never bought into the PM’s buccaneering Brexit spirit

During the foreign aid debate this week Andrew Mitchell raised the spectre of the nasty party, warning of the years spent in the political wilderness as a result. If Number 10 is serious about bringing the Blue Wall with it, they must look to more than just vague promises on investment.

07:37 AM

Government ‘concerned about absences’ caused by NHS app, admits minister

The Government is “concerned” about the number of people off work as a result of being “pinged” by the NHS Covid app, Robert Jenrick has admitted.

The Communities Secretary told LBC radio: “It is important that we have the app, that we take it seriously, that when we do get those messages we act accordingly. But we are going to give further thought to how we can ensure it is a proportionate response.

“We have indicated that for those who have been double vaccinated there are opportunities to take a more proportionate approach.

“We are concerned about absences as a result of being pinged, for example. That is one of the reasons why we do need to move to a more proportionate approach.”

07:28 AM

Boris Johnson is ‘outlier’ on face masks, says Wales’ First Minister

Boris Johnson’s Government is the “outlier” in withdrawing the legal obligation to wear face masks, which will make it ” difficult for people in England”, Mark Drakeford has said.

Wales’ First Minister said it would be “clearer and simpler for everybody” if the UK Government followed decisions made in Wales and Scotland to make wearing masks mandatory, because there was “no ambiguity about it”.

He told Good Morning Britain: “It’s not simply good advice – it’s what every one of us will be required to do.”

Mr Drakeford added: “I’ve often been told by the UK Government that we should work to have a four-nation approach to coronavirus and I don’t disagree with that at all. But on this issue, the mask wearing issue, we should be clear.

“It is the UK Government that is the outlier and if they were prepared to bring themselves into line with the decisions that have been made in Scotland and in Wales, for example, that would be clearer and simpler for everybody.”

07:17 AM

Employment figures rise – but remain 200,000 below pre-pandemic levels

The Chancellor has said he is looking “forward to seeing more people back at work”, after official figures revealed another increase in employment.

The number of UK workers on payrolls rose by 356,000 between May and June but has fallen by 206,000 since the pandemic struck, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Rishi Sunak said: “As we approach the final stages of reopening the economy, I look forward to seeing more people back at work and the economy continuing to rebound.

“We are bouncing back – the number of employees on payrolls is at its highest level since last April and the number of people on furlough halved in the three months to May.”

07:12 AM

Law, not advice: English travellers must wear face mask on entering Wales

People entering Wales from England by train will be required to don a face mask as soon as they cross the border, Mark Drakeford has confirmed.

“The people who run the transport system will make sure that people are aware that as they come into Wales different rules apply,” the First Minister told BBC Breakfast.

“If you travel into Wales by road now you will see signs that say ‘Welsh rules apply’. That will be true on trains and other forms of transport as well.

“I hope people will observe the clear advice of the prime minister in England, that they should continue to wear face coverings on public transport,” he added. “Here in Wales the rule will be clear, it isn’t simply advice, it’s what the law will require.”

07:09 AM

How you behave affects safety of others, Wales’ First Minister warns

Wales’ First Minister has told the public that “the responsibility is not simply to ourselves”, as restrictions begin to ease.

Mark Drakeford told BBC Breakfast he would relax measures “in a careful step by step way, thinking all the time about those people who remain clinically vulnerable,” .

He added: “We certainly haven’t forgotten the lessons here in Wales and that is why our approach continues to be one in which we will not be going for a free-for-all end to restrictions….

“The way we behave, the way we go about our daily lives makes a difference to the safety of other people and I think that has been a striking hallmark of the way that people in Wales have responded to the pandemic.”

07:06 AM

Holiday at home this year, Welsh First Minister says

Wales’ First Minister has urged people to take a holiday at home and not travel abroad this summer.

“Our advice to people in Wales hasn’t changed. This is the year to take your holiday at home,” Mark Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Visiting other countries, even on the amber list, will pose risks to you and to others. Risks of re-importing the virus into Wales, risks of new variants that are occurring in other parts of the world could make their way back to the UK.

“Unless you have a compelling reason to travel abroad, surely this year is the year to enjoy everything that Wales has to offer,” he added. “That’s been our message to people in Wales throughout.”

07:05 AM

Change to quarantine rules risks reimporting Covid, warns Mark Drakeford

The UK Government’s changes to rules on international quarantine run the risk of “re-importation” of coronavirus back into the country, Mark Drakeford has said.

“I do regret the fact that the Prime Minister has decided that people returning from amber list countries do not require to self-isolate,” the Welsh First Minister told BBC Breakfast.

“I think it runs the risk of re-importation of the virus into the United Kingdom, I think it runs the risk of new variants cropping up elsewhere in the world coming into the UK and into Wales.

“I think the previous regime was a more sensible and proportionate one.”

07:03 AM

Minister distances himself from food strategy report amid concerns over soaring grocery bills

The Government will consider the findings of the National Food Strategy report before bringing forward its own proposals, a senior minister has said.

New taxes on sugar and salt have been proposed by the Government’s food tsar, amid warnings the move could add £170 a year to the average family’s shopping basket.

Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, told Sky News: “This is an independent review. It was commissioned by government a couple of years ago but we haven’t had any control over the findings.

“They are interesting findings that the Environment Secretary (George Eustice) is going to consider and then bring forward our own strategy in the coming months.”

06:56 AM

People must be cautious when restrictions lift, says minister

Robert Jenrick has urged the public to be “cautious” when Covid lockdown restrictions are lifted in England on Monday.

“Although we are in an immeasurably better position thanks to the vaccine programme, we are still very much living with the virus and we are going to be for a long time, so we do need to exercise caution,” the Communities Secretary told Sky News.

“We are asking every member of the public to be cautious, to come to sensible judgments about, for example, the wearing of masks in close contact in indoor spaces and to businesses as well to consider whether they need to apply those restrictions.

06:53 AM

Government is not passing the buck to businesses on Covid restrictions, minister insists

A Cabinet minister has rejected criticism over new guidance for hospitality and leisure businesses, issued late last night, amid fears it is causing confusion and ‘passing the buck’.

Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, insisted it allowed for “the kind of discretion [businesses] want”.

Asked about claims the Government was simply passing the buck, he told Sky News: “I disagree with that…We trust businesses, just as we trust members of the public.”

He added: “Having talked to hundreds of businesses over the course of the last year, this is the sort of discretion they want reflecting the fact that businesses are in a very different situation and a one-size-fits-all approach backed by the force of the law isn’t sensible when we are moving into a period now where, in all likelihood, we are going to be living with the virus for a long time.”

06:41 AM

PM: Levelling up won’t make South poorer

Boris Johnson will on Thursday promise voters in the South that his flagship strategy to “level up” the nation will not make them poorer.

Mr Johnson will frame his vision to boost the North and the Midlands as beneficial for all regions, relieving pressure on the “overheated” South.

In a landmark speech in the West Midlands, he will insist that “levelling up is not a jam-spreading operation. It’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s not zero sum – it’s win-win”.

It comes in the wake of the Tories’ shock by-election defeat in Chesham and Amersham last month.

06:40 AM

Good Morning

It’s another busy day – but the focus is in the West Midlands, where Boris Johnson will be giving a major speech on his levelling up agenda (again).

This time however the Prime Minister will be looking to reassure Blue Wall Tories (both voters and MPs) that they won’t be left behind. But will it be enough?

Meanwhile the Government is under fire for releasing late-night guidance for hospitality and leisure firms that advises face masks, table service and even Covid passports.

Here’s today’s front page.

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