Sturgeon warning: Scottish voters told to ditch ‘isolationist’ SNP at next election

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Layla Moran, who is standing to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats took a swipe at Nicola Sturgeon’s party claiming that many Scots are backing IndyRef2 in protest at Boris Johnson’s premiership. She said that the Conservative Party were to blame for record support for Scottish independence after the PM ruled out a second Scottish independence referendum.

It comes after a vote undertaken by Panelbase showed that 54 percent of Scots were now for independence.

But the Oxford West MP urged voters in Scotland not to “throw the Union out with the bath water”.

She said that the Lib Dems would continue to argue for Scotland to stay in the Union and added: “We believe in the family of nations.”

She added to Scotland on Sunday: “The reason why we care about it is because we care about working together with people, and that’s consistent between our position of wanting to remain a United Kingdom with all of its strengths, and also why we wanted to stop Brexit.”

Stressing about Boris Johnson, she said: “Everyone out there who is thinking about how much they dislike Boris Johnson – please, can I let them know that they have an ally in the Liberal Democrats.

“Boris Johnson is not England, and he is not this country.

“If you want to be rid of Boris Johnson, you don’t have to throw the Union out with the bath water.”

But SNP deputy leader Keith Brown, said of Scottish independence: “Majority support for independence is now the established position.

“All efforts of the Scottish Government have rightly been focused on combating the current COVID crisis but, where Nicola Sturgeon has shown exemplary leadership, the Westminster Government has lurched from blunder to blunder and the clear gulf in class is clearly not lost on Scottish voters.

“It’s no surprise the majority of Scots want to be shot of Boris Johnson and his cabinet of incompetents.”

Ms Moran also admitted that the Lib Dems were “optimistic about making gains” in next year’s “hugely important” Scottish Parliament elections.

She concluded that voters should “strike a blow against the rising tide of populism” by backing the Liberal Democrats.

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Currently, the Scottish Lib Dems have just five seats with their vote share decreasing from 17 in the first Holyrood elections in 1999.

It comes as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said he was trying to entice former Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson to run for the Scottish Parliament in next year’s election.

He said: “I would love to see Jo come to the Scottish Parliament, I think she’s talented.

“I was keen to encourage her to stay involved and for her to consider the Scottish Parliament as one of those options.

“She’s not made her mind up about that but I think she’s talented and would be great to have.

“It’s too early for her to leave the political scene – I hope she does do it.”

Ms Swinson lost her East Dumbartonshire seat to the SNP by 149 votes in December’s election.

An SNP spokesperson hit back at Ms Moran’s comments and said: “The Lib Dems lost the public’s trust after ushering in Tory austerity. Layla Moran should be apologising for her party’s role in bringing in the Bedroom Tax and betraying students over tuition fees.”

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Coronavirus: Tackle education gap or face youth violence, says ex-watchdog

Failing to make up the education time lost as a result of the pandemic will cause social unrest and unprecedented youth violence, a former schools watchdog has warned.

Cautioning over the “profound” consequences for society, Sir Michael Wilshaw stressed the need for a large-scale recovery plan for pupils, particularly those from poor backgrounds.

The former Ofsted chief made the call as he lambasted the government over its handling of the crisis facing schools, closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, branding much of it “inept”.

After the Tory administration ditched its previous reopening target, drawing widespread criticism, Boris Johnson has said it is his intention that children of all ages in England should be able to return to school on a five-days-a-week basis in September.

The prime minister has also unveiled a £1bn plan to help youngsters catch up with their learning after spending months at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

This includes £350m to fund tutoring for the most disadvantaged pupils in schools.

However, speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Sir Michael said more than two million children are getting less than one hour’s work a day and their online learning programmes were “nowhere near adequate”.

He said: “The consequences for youngsters, particularly those from poor backgrounds, the consequences for our society and for our education system is going to be profound, and we need to recognise that.

“Everyone involved in education needs to recognise that and put in large-scale recovery and remedial programmes to make sure that the great gains that we’ve made over the last few years are not lost.

“If that doesn’t happen then we will go backwards. And there will be all sorts of problems in terms of social unrest, violence amongst young people that we’ve not seen before.”

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Priti Patel accuses dozens of Labour MPs of racism in row over protest comments

Dozens of ethnic minority Labour MPs have been accused of racism by the home secretary.

Priti Patel hit back at a letter from opposition politicians which claimed that she used her “heritage and experiences of racism to gaslight the very real racism faced by black people and communities across the UK”.

Shadow communities secretary Naz Shah organised the letter in response to a statement by Ms Patel on demonstrations against racial inequality in the UK in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

She took issue with the home secretary saying at the time that “when it comes to racism, sexism, tolerance for social justice I will not take lectures from the other side of the house”.

The 32 MPs who signed it told Ms Patel that “being a person of colour does not automatically make you an authority on all form of racism”.

They urged her to “reflect on your words and to consider the impact it had towards black communities in the UK trying to highlight their voices against racism”.

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Ms Patel said she was disappointed at the claims, which she rejected.

“They clearly take the stance and the position that I just don’t conform to their preconceived idea or stereotypical view of what an ethnic minority woman should stand for and represent,” she told Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

“That in itself is racist.

“It’s very disappointing. I’m not going to dignify that letter any further.”

The government has pledged to set up a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities to look at tackling inequalities further after the Black Lives Matter protests.

But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab antagonised campaigners after he said he thought the “taking a knee” phenomenon started by a American footballer to protest racial injustice was actually from Game of Thrones.

He added it was a “symbol of subjugation and subordination”.

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Police vow to crackdown on parties as violence on streets increases

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Boris Johnson is expected to use a speech on Tuesday to lay out his vision of using infrastructure to “level up” opportunity around the nation and to fire up the economy as it emerges from the worst of the coronavirus crisis.

Dubbed Project Speed in Downing Street, his plans will create a taskforce headed by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, with the aim of removing bottlenecks and slashing the time it takes to bring schemes to realisation.

Mr Johnson has already committed to more than £250billion of projects but is to spend billions more accelerating plans for new schools, hospitals, prisons and a revamp of the road network.

It comes as the MPs who helped him sweep away Labour’s “red wall” in December issue a 10-point unofficial manifesto of what Mr Johnson needs to do to repay the trust of new Tory voters in the north of England, Midlands and Wales.

Their demands include fast broadband for every household, urgent investment in transport and high streets, a tougher approach to law and order, more apprenticeships and an acceleration of the “levelling up” agenda.

However, those MPs look set to be pleased with Mr Johnson’s announcement, as the new taskforce will ensure projects are “dramatically accelerated” to “revitalise the UK economy”.

Sources close to the Prime Minister have noted his recognition that the Government was elected on a manifesto “committed to uniting and levelling up the country”, and he has always placed high-quality infrastructure at the heart of delivering this pledge to boost jobs, productivity and growth.

He will point out in Tuesday’s speech that the UK “has a proud heritage in building outstanding infrastructure – from the Victorians’ pioneering railways, to the Thames Barrier that protects millions of Londoners from flooding”. But it is understood that he is worried that in the past, it has often taken years – if not decades – to take a project from idea to completion, so people have not seen the benefits until far too late.

The Infrastructure Delivery Taskforce will look across the full range of public investment projects and cut delivery times. It will address outdated practices and identify blocks to progress, so projects are delivered more quickly and efficiently to best meet the needs of the people they are designed for.

This approach will be applied to trailblazer projects including 40 new hospitals, 10,000 prison places and school rebuilding.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The coronavirus response has shown that it doesn’t have to take years to get essential projects off the ground – the Nightingale hospitals and ventilator challenge were up and running in weeks.

“As we recover from the pandemic we must apply that same urgency to the major projects at the foundations of this country and get them done right, to level up opportunity across the UK. There’s now no excuse for delays. Infrastructure has the power to rebuild and repair our country – and we will do it better, faster and more strategically than before.” Meanwhile, the new generation of Conservative MPs who won the trust of voters in Britain’s former industrial heartlands have set out how Mr Johnson can deliver for their communities.

Ashfield MP Lee Anderson, an ex-miner, wants Britain restored as a manufacturing powerhouse. He said: “We still have that in our DNA and we want to get back to that.” He welcomes pledges to deliver extra police and would like prisoners to serve full sentences.

Mark Fletcher, who stood against Labour firebrand Dennis Skinner, has pushed for Bolsover to be designated a “green enterprise zone” in the hope it will become a centre for low-carbon manufacturing and research.

Mansfield’s Ben Bradley wants to see the “levelling up agenda supercharged”. He wants colleges to “offer premises, staff time and expertise to support budding entrepreneurs” and calls for the creation of new courses – offered free to anyone who has lost a job – that will give them the skills they need to find work in growing parts of the economy.

Alexander Stafford, who took Rother Valley from Labour, met with the chancellor a fortnight ago and insists the Government has not lost its enthusiasm for levelling up. Esther McVey, who heads up the 169-strong group of Blue Collar Conservative MPs, has made the case to scrap business rates to save the high street and provide superfast broadband to all homes. North West Durham MP Richard Holden said: “We want to focus on that levelling-up agenda to continue repaying the trust the British people placed in us.”

Death toll has now risen to 43,514 there were 100 more coronavirus deaths recorded yesterday.

This figure is down from last Saturday’s 130 deaths.

It also represents the lowest Saturday total since March 21.

The Department of Health and Social Care says there have now been a total of 43,514 deaths.

Red Wall Tories’ Top 10 calls for action. Supercharge the levelling-up agenda and invest in the buildings and infrastructure in the North and Midlands, ending the focus on London and the South-East. Promote digital inclusion – bring high-quality broadband to every home. Save our high streets by giving them not just a facelift but a real cash injection. Replace business rates with a fairer sales tax of which Amazon pays its fair share . Massively expand the number of apprenticeships. Get tough on law and order. Build thousands of affordable homes. Invest in local transport. Make Britain the world leader in green technology. Make Britain a manufacturing powerhouse again

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Biden criticizes Trump for inaction over reported Russian bounties

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Saturday denied that President Donald Trump was briefed on reported U.S. intelligence that Russia’s military offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with Democratic rival Joe Biden criticizing Trump for failing to take action against Moscow.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement that “neither the president nor the vice president (Mike Pence) were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.” The statement, McEnany said, did not address the “merit of the alleged intelligence” reported on Friday by the New York Times.

A Russian military intelligence unit linked to assassination attempts in Europe offered rewards for successful attacks last year on American and coalition troops, the Times reported. The newspaper reported that Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, were believed to have collected some bounty money.

Trump was told about the intelligence but had not authorized steps to retaliate, the Times reported.

Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate set to challenge Trump in the Nov. 3 election, said during a virtual town hall on Saturday that the Times report, if true, represents a “truly shocking revelation,” noting in particular Trump’s reported failure to retaliate.

“Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin,” Biden said, referring to the Russian president.

Biden pledged retaliation if he becomes president.

“If I’m elected president, make no mistake about it, Vladimir Putin will be confronted and we’ll impose serious costs on Russia,” Biden said.

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Singapore GE2020: 10 constituencies to watch on July 10

Fierce fight expected in Singapore’s only opposition-held GRC

The Workers’ Party, led by Mr Low Thia Khiang (at podium), celebrating its victory in 2015. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN FILE

From the site of a historic opposition victory in 2011 to the scene of a nail-biting near-loss for the Workers’ Party’s A team in 2015, Aljunied GRC has been in the heat of battle for two elections running and looks set to be so again.

This time, the incumbents will be heading to the polls without their stalwart, former leader Low Thia Khiang, and the WP’s star catch of 2011, Mr Chen Show Mao. Both are stepping down; Mr Low – who is recovering from a fall – after 29 years as an opposition Member of Parliament, first as the MP for Hougang and then as leader of the Aljunied GRC team.

Taking no chances, given the razor-thin 50.95 per cent share of the vote that it won by, the WP has decided to field its A team of party chief Pritam Singh, party chairman Sylvia Lim, Mr Faisal Manap and two seasoned Non-Constituency MPs, Mr Leon Perera and Mr Gerald Giam, in Aljunied GRC.


No easy fight for East Coast

The Heartbeat @ Bedok complex in East Coast GRC. PHOTO: ST FILE

In the last 14 years, the Workers’ Party (WP) has tried three times to win over East Coast residents to its cause. But despite getting closer in 2011, when the national mood swung against the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), voters remained ultimately unconvinced.

This year, the WP is mounting a fresh challenge. But much has changed in both camps since the last time Singaporeans went to the polls.

For the PAP team, this year’s general election marks the end of an era. Mr Lim Swee Say, the constituency’s anchor minister, is likely to retire. But the identity of his successor is perhaps the party’s best-kept secret so far.


New GRC has the unpredictability factor

Sengkang GRC, which covers Compassvale, Rivervale and Anchorvale, is the only completely new group representation constituency. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

The peaceful neighbourhoods of Anchorvale, Compassvale and Rivervale could soon be the stage for an intense political battle between the People’s Action Party (PAP) and Workers’ Party (WP).

These areas in north-east Singapore make up the new Sengkang GRC – which contains WP stomping grounds and may well see a close fight in the July 10 general election.

As Dr Chong Ja Ian, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s political science department, explains: “It’s a new GRC, but includes areas where there has been a heavier WP presence. That means little is known about how that GRC votes, so it may allow for a more intense contest.”


West Coast GRC could see hottest fight in some time

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran at a West Coast Chingay event in 2018. PHOTO: S. ISWARAN

West Coast GRC, which hugs the south-western waterfront of the island, is set to experience some ripples this election.

With the latest electoral boundaries review, the constituency – which stretches from Tuas to Sentosa – will go from having four members to five, taking in almost 50,000 more voters.

The constituency is held by the People’s Action Party team led by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, 58. It is expected to undergo key changes, with long-time anchor and former minister Lim Hng Kiang, 66, set to step down, along with the addition of one new member.


6 single seats to watch

Single seats to watch are (clockwise, from top left) Marymount, Kebun Baru, Yio Chu Kang, Potong Pasir, Bukit Batok and Punggol West. PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO, CHONG JUN LIANG, KUA CHEE SIONG, ST FILE

The newly carved-out seat of Marymount is likely to see a straight fight between the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP).

A three-cornered fight had been brewing, until the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) announced yesterday it will not be contesting the general election.

Carved out of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, the new constituency has 23,444 voters. It covers areas Manpower Minister Josephine Teo is currently looking after. But with Mrs Teo tipped to stand in Jalan Besar GRC, one-term PAP MP Chong Kee Hiong is expected to stand in Marymount.


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BBC ROW: Beeb must be handed over to licence fee-payers – new plan unveiled

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Under his proposals the BBC would not report to “anyone other than the public”, treating licence fee payers like share holders.

His proposal has come as a survey of 3,045 Conservative Party members and supporters has revealed that 93.7 percent want the licence fee abolished while 96.2 percent believe the BBC is biassed against the Conservative Party and rightwing commentators.

The row comes after the BBC has been under the spotlight again in the wake of the Corporation being forced to apologise after Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis broke impartiality rules in the coverage of Dominc Cummings.

The BBC has also been criticised for broadcasting “experts” but failing to mention that they are Labour members and supporters.

Under Mr Wiggin’s proposals, the new owners – the licence fee-payers – would decide how the broadcaster is funded in the future.

He said: “They may not wish to pay the licence fee any more… But it seems to be very fair that we should as licence fee-payers decide that.”

Mr Wiggin envisages the BBC’s news services would be split off and be funded by the Government, with a requirement to be “as neutral and as unbiased as it possibly can be”.

He insists his proposals are not about privatising the BBC but making it accountable to the people who watch its programmes.

The North Herefordshire MP wants to see an end to the rule requiring anyone who watches live television to have a licence fee –even if they never watch the BBC.

He said: “I think that the compulsion element of it is very difficult to justify and I know that a lot of people now don’t want free-to-air television because they pay for their digital service and therefore they no longer feel that they need the BBC and if it wasn’t [compulsory] they probably wouldn’t pay for it.”

Culture minister John Whittingdale said: “The licence fee is part of a funding settlement agreed with the BBC as part of the royal charter. The Government has committed to maintain the licence fee funding model for the duration of this 11-year charter period, until the end of 2027.

“However, we have been clear that, ahead of the next charter review process, we will undertake a detailed look at the future of the TV licence model itself. TV Licensing has said that it appreciates the challenges that many people face at the moment and it is working on ways it can provide further support.”

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Tory row explodes: Therese Coffey erupts in cabinet over sack claims

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The Sunday Express has learnt that the senior minister who is told the Prime Minister and colleagues that every time her name comes up in reshuffle speculation civil servants in her Whitehall department “go slow on work” because they think there will be a reset. The revelation of the cabinet meeting showdown last Tuesday comes as Downing Street has played down speculation that there will be a summer reshuffle in the wake of coronavirus.

In particular they have dismissed speculation about Ms Coffey, justice secretary Robert Buckland and education secretary Gavin Williamson are to lose their jobs.

A senior source said: “It’s all total nonsense. None of these people are going to lose their jobs, the Prime Minister likes them a lot and is pleased with what they are doing in cabinet.”

There had been suggestions too that health secretary Matt Hancock might move department while attorney general Suella Braverman has been tipped for promotion.

The briefing from Downing Street follows reports that Boris Johnson’s chief of staff Dominic Cummings told a meeting of special advisors recently that suggestions Mr Williamson would lose his job were “invented b******s!”

There has been anger in Downing Street that briefings on a reshuffle are being made to undermine the government.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been singled out by critics as someone who will lose her job but after her impressive performances on the immigration bill and “putting Labour in its place over racism” with the Black Lives Matter protests, she is understood to be “as safe as houses”.

The rightwing of the party have also made it known they would be “very unhappy” if “a true conservative Home Secretary” was to lose her job.

Similarly, briefings have been coming out about whether the Prime Minister may quit next year and cabinet ministers are preparing for a leadership contest which have been similarly dismissed.

Boris Johnson only had his last reshuffle in February once he had “got Brexit done” and Britain had left the EU.

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Singapore GE2020: Two new faces in PAP's Sembawang GRC team, led by Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE – Two new women candidates from the People’s Action Party (PAP) are set to be fielded in Sembawang GRC for the general election on July 10.

They are Ms Poh Li San, Changi Airport Group’s vice-president for Terminal 5 Planning, and Ms Mariam Jaafar, Singapore managing director and partner at the Boston Consulting Group.

The two new faces were featured in a video posted by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Saturday (June 27 ) that paid tribute to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who is retiring from politics. Mr Khaw has anchored Sembawang GRC for 14 years.

In his post, Mr Ong said the Sembawang GRC slate was a five-man team when he joined in 2015.

“When the team was introduced publicly, Mr Khaw Boon Wan described it as the ‘boy band’. Our lead singer has retired, and we have inducted two new lady candidates. We now look more like ABBA..+1,” he said, referring to the Swedish pop group.

“We share the belief that Sembawang can be a very special place in Singapore, and must build upon the achievements of our predecessors,” he wrote.

Ms Poh, 44, a former helicopter pilot with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), is set to replace Mr Khaw in his Sembawang ward.

Ms Mariam, 43, is likely replace Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin in his Woodlands ward.

Mr Amrin is tipped to move to the new Sengkang GRC, to complete the four-man PAP slate that includes labour chief Ng Chee Meng, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min and lawyer Raymond Lye.

The new line-up for Sembawang GRC wiould then comprise of Mr Ong, Ms Poh, Ms Mariam, lawyer Vikram Nair and ophthalmologist Lim Wee Kiak.

They are set to face off against the National Solidarity Party (NSP), which contested the constituency in the 2015 election. NSP secretary-general Spencer Ng said he will be leading the party’s Sembawang team.

In 2015, the PAP team won 72.28 per cent of the vote against the NSP team formed by Mr Ng, Mr Eugene Yeo, Ms Kevryn Lim, Mr Yadzeth Haris and Mr Abdul Rasheed.

Ms Poh and Ms Mariam were officially introduced by the party last week. The former is vice-chairman of the Sembawang Citizens’ Consultative Committee, while the latter is vice-chairman of the Woodlands Community Club management committee.

Ms Poh believes women should have greater access to more opportunities and leadership roles at the workplace, especially in the emerging sectors and in STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) industries.

Ms Mariam, who grew up in a one-room rental flat, said she hopes to help others and preserve the social mobility that she had enjoyed.

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Brexiteer makes stunning prediction for UK fishing industry if Boris resists EU pressure

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The ex-MEP called on the Prime Minister to “hold firm” on fishing, which has been a major stumbling block in trade talks with Brussels. Ms Mummery predicted the UK’s fishing industry, which has been decimated by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, would be “buoyant” in just five years if Mr Johnson takes back control of Britain’s waters.

The former MEP told “Boris has the chance to put all of the wrongs right.

“We will be one of the finest fishing industries in the world if Boris gets this right.”

The EU wants to see the status quo maintained for fishing access and quotas but Ms Mummery warned that if the Prime Minister backs down it would be the “biggest betrayal”.

She said: “Boris has got to hold firm it’s as simple as that.”

Ms Mummery added that rebuilding the UK’s fishing industry would “create thousands of jobs” to boost Britain’s economy which has been badly hit by the coronavirus crisis.

She said: “If we don’t take back control we can’t rebuild the industry.

“Jobs are needed more than ever in this country.

“Boris has got to remember now this is serious.

“The question I would ask Boris is do you want to rebuild coastal communities creating thousands of jobs for future generations?”

The ex-MEP also called for the EU’s plundering supertrawlers – which can be more than 100 metres long and catch huge quantities of fish every day – to be banned with post-Brexit powers.

The presence of the factory ships in UK waters has led to environmental fears.

Ms Mummery insisted Britain’s fishing industry must be sustainable.

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She said: “Supertrawlers have got to be banned immediately. If they are not banned there will be uproar.

“We need to protect our ocean for future generations.”

Brexit formally took place on January 31 but the UK is in a transition period with Brussels until the end of the year.

The two sides are trying to negotiate a free trade deal but little progress has been made in four rounds of negotiations led by Mr Johnson’s Europe adviser David Frost and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

The Prime Minister held a virtual summit with EU leaders last week in a bid to break the deadlock and they agreed to “intensify” talks in the weeks ahead.

Following the meeting, Mr Johnson said it was “very clear what the UK needs” from a post-Brexit agreement.

He said: “We can’t have the involvement of the European Court of Justice in this country, we can’t have a system whereby we continue to have to obey EU law even when we’re out of the EU and we’ve got to get a great deal for our fish.”

The next week of negotiations are planned for Brussels on June 29, before alternating between the Belgian capital and London.

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