Nigel Farage was pranked on Cameo into wishing happy birthday to a ‘Hugh Janus’

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Nigel Farage

  • Nigel Farage has become subject to a viral prank on the video-sharing app Cameo.
  • The app is a means for fans to pay celebrities for personalized video messages.
  • The former Brexit Party leader was paid to wish a happy birthday to a “Hugh Janus.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has fallen victim to a viral prank on the video-sharing website Cameo.

The app, which is a means for fans to pay celebrities for personalized messages, has found favour among some actors, sportspeople and politicians.

In one message, which quickly went viral on social media, Farage, who charges £75 for each recording, can be seen wishing a happy birthday to a “Hugh Janus.”

“Happy birthday Hugh Janus, I’ve heard you’re a massive fan,” Farage said.

This is not the first time Farage, who has been a long-time ally of former President Trump, has fallen victim to pranksters.

In this clip from 2019, another prankster got the better of Farage on his then show on LBC radio on the subject of Brexit.

Farage recently announced that he is standing down from frontline politics, after achieving what he described as his “life’s work” of campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union.

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Brexit has been a disaster for Britain as collapsing European trade puts UK firms out of business

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Boris Johnson’s Brexit promises have so far fallen short.

  • Brexit has led to a collapse in the UK’s trade with its European neighbors.
  • The Brexit deal negotiated by Boris Johnson’s government has led to the largest ever recorded fall in UK exports to Europe.
  • Many UK businesses could soon become unviable due to the trading friction caused by Brexit.
  • “What I’m hearing a lot is that a lot of small businesses have been shut out completely,” Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the Food & Drink Federation told Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The UK government promised that Brexit would liberate Britain from European trading regulations and herald a bright new era for Britain on the world stage.

Yet despite spending years campaigning for the UK’s exit from the European Union last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his colleagues have been oddly quiet about Britain’s fortunes ever since it left.

The reason for their silence is becoming increasingly obvious. In the few short months since Britain left European trade and customs rules, there has been a dramatic decline in UK trade.

According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, trade between the EU and UK was hit hard in January, with exports down by 40.7% compared to December and imports from the EU down by 28% in the same period.

This is the biggest overall fall in exports since records began, yet the decline for some sectors has been even worse.

Analysis by the Food & Drink Federation published last week showed that exports in January dropped from £45 million to £7 million year-on-year, while whisky exports dropped from £105 million to £40 million.

This is a colossal decline. However, for some sectors, like parts of the UK’s world-renowned shellfish fishing industry, the decline could be permanent due to the EU effectively locking Britain out of its market altogether.

Brexit is hitting British businesses hard

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Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Far from liberating trade, Brexit has led to a massive increase in bureaucracy for many British businesses, due to the additional new checks now required.

In fact for some smaller businesses, the piles of paperwork, bureaucracy, and export health certificate checks that are now required to trade with Britain’s closest trading partners now make it very difficult to export anything at all.

“What I’m hearing a lot is that a lot of small businesses have been shut out completely,” Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the Food & Drink Federation, told Insider.

Brexit is not the only reason that trade between the EU nosedived in January: Part of the drop-off was the result of pre-Brexit stockpiling and the COVID-19 pandemic which has shuttered businesses across the continent, said Goudie, and a British government official told Reuters that trade in February had partially rebounded, although official figures are yet to be published.

However, many leading business figures believe that Brexit’s impact will be permanent, with Adam Marshall, the outgoing director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, telling Bloomberg last week that the impact appeared to be serious and “structural.”

A lot of small businesses have been shut out completely – Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the Food & Drink Federation,

As an island nation heavily reliant on imports, even small delays to trade can have a big impact.

“If you have a problem with one single item in that entire lorry it delays everything else,” Goudie told Insider.

“That’s the stuff that really worries me,” Goudie said. “Larger businesses are adapting, the volume should start to pick up.

“But the smaller businesses, in particular, are going to be badly hit. That’s what really concerns me in all of this.”

Sales of many lower-value items have, in many cases, simply become unviable. Simon Spurrell, the co-founder of the Cheshire Cheese Company, stopped exporting his packs of cheeses to the EU, which were priced at around £30, because each parcel needed to be accompanied by £180, he told the Guardian.

He said he had been advised by a minister to simply focus on exporting to other markets instead.

All of this is a long way from the bright new trading future promised by Johnson and the UK government.

And while the political debate in Britain has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic in recent months, the longer-term impact of the UK cutting its ties with its closest trading partners could soon become a massive political issue once again.

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The EU and UK are on the brink of a vaccine trade war as London accuses Europe of acting like an ‘enemy state’

boris johnson ursula
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

  • The European Union and the United Kingdom are on the brink of a vaccine trade war after European officials threatened to block exports to the UK.
  • UK officials are also furious at what they see as EU attempts to undermine public trust in the UK-developed Astrazeneca vaccine.
  • The row comes amid months of mounting tensions between Brussels and London over vaccines and post-Brexit trade problems.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The European Union is on the brink of an explosive vaccine trade war with the UK after officials in Brussels said they would block the export of Astrazeneca vaccines to the UK.

The development, which was briefed to outlets including Bloomberg on Sunday came amid threats of retaliation and anger in London over what officials see as reckless comments by some European leaders about the reliability of the vaccine.

Polling by YouGov this week found that trust in the Astrazeneca vaccine has collapsed in mainland Europe following interventions by European leaders questioning its effectiveness and safety.

Scientific studies in Europe, the UK and the US have all found it to be both safe and effective.

However, a total of 61% of people in France now believe AstraZeneca’s vaccine is unsafe, up 18 points from February according to the YouGov poll. The AstraZeneca row in the EU may also have contributed to a rise in mistrust about its efficacy in the UK, where 4% more people think it is unsafe compared to February, YouGov’s poll indicated.

The poll finding was met with disbelief in London with one unnamed UK government official telling Politico that Brussels was acting like an “enemy state.”

“It is one thing for the EU to risk the lives of its own people by spreading disinformation about the Oxford vaccine, that is bad enough,” the official said.

“But for that disinformation to threaten the lives of people in Britain is a seriously hostile act, the sort of which we would usually only expect from an enemy state.”

The row exploded on Sunday when one official told Bloomberg that Astrazeneca vaccines produced in the EU should be reserved for EU member states, which have fallen far behind the UK in their vaccination efforts.

European leaders will meet on Thursday to decide whether to press ahead with a vaccine export ban after European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday said British-headquartered AstraZeneca was at risk of breaching its supply obligations to European countries.

“That is the message to AstraZeneca,” she told reporters. “You fulfill your contract with Europe before you start delivering to other countries.'”

“We have the possibility to forbid planned exports.”

As a sign of growing tensions, UK minister Helen Whately on Monday refused three times to deny that the UK would introduce retaliatory measures if the EU proceeds with the ban.

UK defense minister Ben Wallace insisted on Sunday that drug companies must honor contracts and told the BBC: “The grown-up thing would be for the European Commission and some of the European leaders to not indulge in rhetoric.”

The row comes amid months of mounting tensions between Brussels and London over the supply of AstraZeneca vaccines.

There is also fury in London over the decision by thirteen European governments to suspend the use of AstraZeneca vaccines last week over misplaced fears that the jab was unsafe.

A large-scale US trial published on Monday found that the jab was both safe and highly effective, and most European governments have resumed their vaccination programs after the European Medicines Agency last week declared the vaccine safe.

But the temporary suspension of AstraZeneca’s vaccine last week over blood clot fears has led to plummeting trust its safety across Europe, according to a YouGov poll published on Monday, which was reported by Politico.

A US study this week found no evidence of a link to blood clots.

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Boris Johnson said UK should ‘ignore’ the coronavirus, before it became one of the worst hit countries in the world

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Boris Johnson told colleagues last year that the UK should just “ignore” the coronavirus.

  • Boris Johnson said the UK should just “ignore” coronavirus last year, the BBC reported.
  • The UK went on to become one of the worst-hit countries in the world during the pandemic.
  • Johnson’s government was reportedly pursuing a “herd immunity” strategy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Boris Johnson suggested last year said the UK should just “ignore” the coronavirus and it would go away, shortly before it became one of the worst hit countries in the world, the BBC reported.

The UK prime minister, who has reportedly told colleagues in recent weeks that he regrets not reacting quickly enough to the coronavirus pandemic, made the comments to colleagues on January 31, the same day the first cases of coronavirus were reported in the UK.

According to the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Johnson was overheard saying: “The best thing would be to ignore it,” and claimed that an overreaction to the virus could do more harm than good.

“The general view was it is just hysteria. It was just like a flu,” a source told the BBC of the view of coronavirus in Downing Street.

Johnson’s government was privately considering pursuing a “herd immunity” strategy, with aides even discussing encouraging so-called “chicken pox parties” to increase the speed of the virus’ spread.

“There was even talk of ‘chicken pox parties’, where healthy people might be encouraged to gather to spread the disease,” the BBC reported.

The prime minister later decided to ignore instructions by aides before the first major coronavirus press briefing on March 3 to tell members of the public to stop shaking each other’s hands, the BBC reported.

Instead, the prime minister announced at the press conference that he had shaken the hands of everybody at a hospital where patients infected with COVID-19 were being treated.

“I was at a hospital the other night where I think a few there were actually coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands,” he said.

It would not be until March 23 that Johnson introduced a full national lockdown, during which the public was barred from leaving their homes for nonessential purposes.

Johnson has repeatedly been criticized for failing to introduce a lockdown sooner, despite the fact countries including Italy – which were experiencing more advanced coronavirus outbreaks – had started canceling mass gatherings and closing schools weeks earlier than the UK.

Britain now has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe. Johnson has reportedly told close allies that he would have acted “harder, earlier, and faster” and said it was a mistake not to implement the first lockdown sooner.

Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the government’s leading advisers on coronavirus, said in June last year that the government could have saved 20,000 lives if it had introduced lockdown sooner.

“Had we introduced lockdown a week earlier we’d have reduced the final death toll by at least half,” Ferguson told members of parliament last year.

“The measures, given what we knew about the virus then, were warranted. Certainly had we introduced them earlier we’d have seen many fewer deaths.”

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A Tory MP is under new investigation by the UK’s anti-corruption watchdog after it rejected his appeal demands

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Conservative MP George Freeman is under investigation for further potential breaches of the ministerial code.

  • EXCLUSIVE: A Conservative MP and former health minister is under fresh investigation by the UK’s anti-corruption watchdog after it rejected his demands for an appeal.
  • Insider revealed last month that George Freeman broke the ministerial code by failing to seek permission before taking a role with a firm trying to sell protective equipment to the NHS.
  • In an extraordinary exchange of letters, the watchdog’s chairman has revealed that Freeman is under investigation for further potential breaches.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A Conservative member of the UK Parliament and former health minister, who was censured last month for breaking government rules in relation to his role with a company trying to sell personal protective equipment [PPE] to the National Health Service, is under fresh investigation following an extraordinary row with the UK’s anti-corruption watchdog.

Insider revealed last month that the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments found that George Freeman MP had broken the ministerial code by failing to seek their advice before accepting the position with the company Aerosol Shield, which was founded by a former UK government appointee who Freeman had worked alongside as a minister.

Following our report, Freeman wrote to ACOBA’s chair and former Conservative minister Eric Pickles to demand an apology for their findings, which he blamed for “triggering a wave of media attacks on my probity and integrity.”

Freeman told Pickles that he had been “condemned as ‘guilty’ of being in breech (sic.) of the Ministerial Code – which I take as a very serious finding – in a way which is neither fair nor reasonable.”

He told Pickles as well as his local paper that ACOBA had “apologised” to him over the issue and what he described as their “confusing” guidance.

However, in a remarkably strongly-worded reply to Freeman published on Monday, ACOBA’s Chair and former Conservative minister Eric Pickles denied that any such apology had taken place and added that Freeman was actually under investigation for further unspecified potential breaches of the ministerial code.

“I am disappointed to read in a quote attributed to you in the Eastern Daily Press (27 January 2021) that ACOBA had issued an “apology” on how your application was dealt with,” Pickles wrote to Freeman.

“After close examination, I can find no evidence of an apology being made, nor with respect, can I find any circumstances to justify issuing an apology.”

He added that Freeman’s breach of the ministerial code was “clear” and said that the watchdog was now investigating other potential breaches by the MP.

“We are currently examining other possible breaches of the Government’s Business Rules by you, and I will write to you again when our investigations are concluded,” Pickles wrote.

The opposition Labour Party’s Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Fleur Anderson MP, told Insider: “This letter confirms a breach of government rules, and it is now urgent the investigation is concluded and appropriate action taken.

“This adds yet another page to the government’s catalogue of cronyism, which they must take real and urgent steps to address. Most urgently, the government must publish details of companies winning work through the ‘VIP’ fast lane for procurement to restore some public trust.”

Freeman told Insider in a statement on Monday: “The ACOBA Rules requiring all commercial Appointments to approved in advance are rightly designed to prevent ex Ministers commercialising information gained as a result of holding office: to prevent for example a Defence Minister taking an Appointment with a Defence supplier.

He added: “In my case since leaving Department of Transport I’ve been working pro-bono to help a number of charitable or start-up projects in science & regeneration try and raise funding. I didn’t think I needed permission for that. Having received Lord Pickles letter I am working closely with his officials to go through each project in line with their guidance.”

Freeman took role with firm founded by government appointee

george freeman

Freeman’s original censure came after an update to Freeman’s Register of Members Interests revealed he had received £5,000 for 27 hours of “technology consulting” work with the company Aerosol Shield in June and July last year.

Aerosol Shield was founded by Matt Campbell-Hill who had previously worked alongside Freeman when he oversaw the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which Campbell Hill was a non-executive director of from 2015 to 2018.

Freeman says that Campbell-Hill first reached out to him in April to ask for help in getting the company’s “innovative tent” protective equipment approved for use in the NHS.

Freeman told ACOBA that he offered to help Campbell-Hill to secure approval for the equipment through “the emergency PPE Supply channels set up by the Cabinet Office.”

The awarding of government contracts for PPE became a national scandal in the UK last year after the National Audit Office (NAO), which monitors government spending, found that during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic the UK government created a “high-priority lane” to enable government officials, members of parliament, and health professionals to recommend companies providing PPE for government contracts.

The NAO found the UK government had awarded £17bn of such contracts to private companies some of whom had political or personal ties to members of the government while failing to “document any consideration of any potential conflict [of interest].”

Freeman told ACOBA that following this intervention, Campbell-Hill had in May asked Freeman to help the company in a paid position to raise long-term funding for research and development of the Aerosol tent, and to join as Chairman.

Freeman accepted, and in June and July “provided the Aerosol Shield team with commercial advice on raising funding for the R+D pipeline, their longer-term commercial Business Plan and strategy.”

However, Freeman later parted ways with Aerosol, telling ACOBA that “it quickly became clear that this role wasn’t going to work and the founders of AerosolShield and I agreed to part company and that I would invoice for the initial commercial work done in June + July.”

Freeman is not the only Conservative MP to fall foul of ACOBA’s rules in recent weeks.

As Insider also revealed earlier this month, Freeman’s colleague Stephen Hammond MP was also censured by ACOBA for an “unacceptable” breach of the ministerial code, after failing to declare his role advising an influential think tank on infrastructure and health policy.

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Boris Johnson to make televised statement on ‘further measures’ to tackle the coronavirus as he comes under pressure to impose national lockdown

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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has his temperature checked during a visit to Chase Farm Hospital in north London, Britain January 4, 2021

  • Boris Johnson says “tougher measures” are now needed as he comes under pressure to impose a national lockdown as the new faster-spreading coronavirus strain overwhelms hospitals in the UK.
  • An explosion in case numbers is forcing schools across the country to remain closed following the Christmas break.
  • Johnson has previously resisted calls for another national lockdown.
  • However, he will meet with senior members of his government and advisers on Monday to decide whether a new national lockdown should now take place.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Boris Johnson will make a televised statement on Monday evening amid growing pressure to impose a new national lockdown in England.

Speaking on Monday morning the prime minister admitted that “tougher measures” were now needed to control the virus.

A spokesperson for Johnson said on Monday afternoon that “The Prime Minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives.”

“He will set those out this evening.”

Johnson’s statement is expected at 8 pm UK time and follows the imposition of a new lockdown in Scotland, announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday.

Johnson told reporters during a visit to a hospital on Monday morning in London that: “If you look at the numbers there’s no question we will have to take tougher measures and we will be announcing those in due course.”

Opposition Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer on Sunday called for an immediate national lockdown due to an explosion in case numbers and hospitalizations over the Christmas holidays.

Families had been permitted by Johnson’s government in most parts of England to meet in small numbers on Christmas day, despite a surge in cases caused by the new strain in the virus.

However, hospitals in some parts of the country are now more than half-filled with Covid patients, with some hospitals running out of oxygen due to a surge in demand for respirators.

Johnson had repeatedly refused to consider closing schools in England following the first national lockdown last spring, with the Education Secretary threatening to sue local authorities who closed their schools early for Christmas in December.

However, secondary schools across the UK now all remain closed until at least the middle of January with primary schools in London and other parts of south-east England also shut following a series of U-turns by Johnson’s government.

Parents across many parts of England where primaries were due to open on Monday received messages from their children’s primary schools over the weekend informing them that they would also not be reopening due to a shortage of teaching staff.

Teachers across the country have been advised by the National Education Union not to attend schools due to the “serious and imminent danger” to their health caused by the virus.

Teaching unions believe that newly released papers by the UK government’s scientific advisory committee last week warning that schools would need to close in order to bring the virus under control, mean any attempt to force schools to open would be a breach of UK work safety regulations.

As Starmer warns that the situation in the UK is now “clearly out of control” Johnson will meet with senior advisers on Monday to decide what new measures should be imposed.

The surge in cases means more areas of England will likely be placed in the highest tier of restrictions, which prevent household mixing.

However, with Johnson’s own scientific advisers warning that more restrictive measures need to be taken, including the closure of schools nationwide, Johnson is reportedly under pressure from some members of his cabinet to consider a firmer national response.

Johnson on Sunday conceded that more restrictive measures needed to be taken, but did not specify what decisions would be taken or when.

“‘It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country,” he told the BBC Andrew Marr show.

“I’m fully, fully reconciled to that – and I bet the people of this country are reconciled to that because until the vaccine really comes on stream in a massive way, we’re fighting this virus with the same set of tools.”

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Brexit contains a lucky break for terrorists, Europol sources say

FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2015, file photo, a woman is being evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a shooting in Paris. France is commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Islamic State attacks in Paris. The attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, left 131 people dead at the country's national stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and bars and restaurants in the city center. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
A woman being evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a terrorist shooting in Paris on November 13, 2015. The attacks left more than 130 people dead.

  • Brexit will make it harder to check names, passports, travel history, and criminal records of terror suspects moving between the EU and the UK, sources tell Insider.

  • The Schengen system that Europol uses to track terrorists is accessed by law enforcement 1.6 million times per day. The UK no longer has access to it.
  • That’s a problem for Europe too, because the UK produces more terrorists than any other country except France. 
  • “They have chosen to make it more difficult and time-consuming to fight terrorism anywhere,” a European security source told Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The UK will no longer have access to multiple databases critical for combating transnational crime and terrorism after the first of the year because it has thus far failed to come to a Brexit agreement with European security agencies and regulators on the use of collected data.


The situation, according to EU intelligence officials, will force security officials on both sides of the channel to work much harder and less efficiently to check names, passports, travel history, criminal records, and other investigative tools to track suspects moving around Europe and between the EU and the UK.


“The Schengen system alone is accessed over 500 million times a year by UK officials, but tomorrow the daily average of 1.6 million requests for information will stop and UK officials will be forced to collect all the information from other sources,” said a senior Belgian counter-terrorism official, whose service does not allow them to speak openly to the media. “This information can certainly be found but the point of these systems and databases is speed and proper managing of huge streams of information.”

The “Schengen” area refers to the 26 European countries which have abolished all border controls.


Brexit will hurt investigations and prevention of organised crime and terrorism, security officials say

Two senior European counter-terrorism officials told Insider that the UK exit agreement’s failure to include access to the Europol systems for tracking wanted fugitives and international arrest warrants would hurt investigations and prevention of organised crime and terrorism until a new agreement was reached. The Europe system which combines Interpol’s international system with the EU’s criminal databases, as well as the extensive database of all Schengen area travelers.

“It’s rather demoralizing because in the case of the Schengen database this was a project that all EU member states have worked on closely since 2015 to close gaps in the system that were revealed in terror attacks from 2014 until 2016,” said the Belgian official. The source investigated the November 2015 attacks in Paris as well as the March 2016 attacks in Brussels by a cell of Belgian ISIS members. 


After the Paris attacks, which killed 137 people in multiple incidents including the Bataclan nightclub, EU officials were aghast to learn that the European planners had been known to law enforcement as ISIS members and had been able to return to Europe from Syria unnoticed by hiding within the huge refugee flows to Europe at the time

“The Molenbeek cell investigation covered all of Europe, from refugees coming through the Balkans via Greece, to suspected financial support from jihadis in the UK, to movements throughout all Schengen member states and the UK and Norway,” said the official about the scope of the Bataclan investigation. 

“We discovered how terrorists and criminals could use holes in the system to move freely once they arrived inside Europe and spent five years and millions of Euros fixing this system the best we could and now after all that work, the UK has walked away from the effort.” 


The UK is good at generating terrorists

A French law enforcement source, who works directly on vetting travelers entering Schengen through France, said that the UK would be able to replicate most of the system eventually but at a huge cost of efficiency until a fuller system can be developed.


The official also noted what they described as the British government’s refusal to accept that most UK terrorism is generated internally, in terms of networks and cells. The UK generates many of its own terrorists, and is often as much a vector of terrorism as a victim. 


“The irony of the Brits wanting to get away from European regulators by adopting several new layers of bureaucratic regulations that will be required whenever they want to check if someone is a terrorist, is unsettling because it affects us as well,” said the police source, who works undercover and cannot be named. 


“The only country in Europe with as many active terrorists as France is the UK”

“The only country in Europe with as many active terrorists as France is the UK,” said the police official.

“People talked during Brexit about controlling their borders, OK, fine. But the UK did control its own borders, its participation in the Europol and Schengen databases was necessary in large part to protect Europe from British terrorists … there are more attacks in Europe by jihadists with links to the UK than there ever have been attacks in the UK linked to Europe. France has this problem as well – our people have been involved in attacks around Europe. And remember Bataclan was led by Belgians not French. This is why we are serious about international cooperation: Yes, we want to keep France safe but we are also obligated to keep the rest of the world safe from French terrorists.”


“The British are in the same situation as France,” in terms of internal terror threat, said the French official. “But, at least for now, they have chosen to make it more difficult and time-consuming to fight terrorism anywhere.”

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The UK and EU finally strike a Brexit trade deal

Michel Barnier
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

  • The UK and the European Union have finally struck a Brexit trade deal.
  • The agreement comes with less than a week to go until the UK is due to leave the EU’s trade rules on 11 p.m. December 31 London time, or 12 a.m. January 1 Brussels time.
  • They struck a last-minute deal on several thorny issues to avoid the worst-case scenario — a no-deal outcome.
  • The two sides now face a race against time to put the free trade deal into law before the New Year.
  • The trade deal will allow tariff-free trade to continue between the UK and the EU, but Brits can eventually expect widespread new barriers to trade and travel with the European continent.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The UK and the European Union have struck a free-trade deal after nearly a year of talks, UK officials announced on Thursday.

With less than a week to go until the end of the Brexit transition period – which is 11 p.m. December 31 in London, or 12 a.m. January 1 in Brussels – UK and EU officials confirmed they had finally agreed on the terms a deal after weeks of intensive talks in London and Brussels. Under the terms of the agreement, there will be zero tariffs and zero quotas on goods.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly spoke on the phone with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen multiple times this week to sign off the agreement after a final day of intensive talks about fishing quotas on Thursday.

“Everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal,” said a UK official who was speaking anonymously.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said on Thursday: “It was worth fighting for this deal. We now have a fair & balanced agreement with the UK. It will protect our EU interests, ensure fair competition & provide predictability for our fishing communities. Europe is now moving on.”

Analysis: The end of Brexit uncertainty is a victory for Johnson

The deal brings to an end four years of uncertainty and delay, which economists believe have already marginally suppressed the growth rate of the British economy. It could save the UK from an even worse fate had no deal been signed: KPMG forecast British GDP growth would be 4.4% in 2021 without a deal, but could be as much as 10.1% if their trading arrangements remained largely the same.

Britain got an ugly taste of “no deal” earlier this week when France closed its side of the border with the UK to prevent the spread of the aggressive new coronavirus variant, which appears to have originated in Kent. Up to 10,000 trucks were stuck alongside the roads of Dover for the last four days. France has since reopened its border and the enormous jam is slowly clearing.

It also hands Johnson a significant political victory: He came to power on a promise of “get Brexit done” and at last the dream has become reality. The Conservative party will likely revel in the achievement. But with Brexit off the table as a political and economic issue, the coming year will probably refocus Britain on Johnson’s handling of the economy and the coronavirus crisis – two areas where he has underperformed. The UK was hit worse than most major economies during the pandemic lockdown.

Now, the details

The UK and the EU now face a race against time to put the deal into law before the New Year. The UK parliament is likely to be recalled next week for a vote on the deal, which is expected to pass comfortably given Johnson’s 80-seat majority in the Commons.

The UK negotiating team, led by David Frost, and its EU counterparts, fronted by Michel Barnier, had spent months wrangling over a handful of thorny issues including fishing rights, rules to prevent unfair competition between the two markets (known as the “level playing field”), and how the UK-EU trading relationship would be governed after Brexit.

Boris Johnson
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A no-deal outcome would have resulted in costly tariffs on a range of goods sold between the UK and the EU. That in turn would have led to price rises in UK shops and made it harder for businesses to export their products to Europe.

However, even with a free trade deal agreed, there is still set to be disruption in January due to an array of new checks at Britain’s border with its biggest trading partner.

Britain is probably unprepared for the new terms of trade

Johnson’s government has admitted that thousands of UK businesses, particularly smaller ones, have been too busy dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic to make necessary preparations for Brexit.

UK officials are bracing themselves for more long queues of lorries heading for Dover and ports elsewhere in the country early next year.

The negotiations nearly collapsed at the end of the summer when Johnson tabled legislation designed to unpick parts of Brexit Withdrawal Agreement covering Northern Ireland. His government has admitted that going ahead with the plan would break international law, prompting fury in Brussels and attracting criticism at home.

Johnson’s government agreed to remove the controversial clauses after UK and EU officials reached an agreement on how to implement the post-Brexit protocol for Northern Ireland. 

What will the trade deal mean for the UK?

Details of the deal are still emerging and the final text is expected to be over 1,000 pages in length.

However, this is what we know about the key elements of the deal.

Tariff-free trade will continue

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Lorries arrive and depart from Dover Ferry Terminal in England on April 26, 2018.

A tarriff-free deal will come as a welcome relief to many UK and EU businesses.

In a no-deal outcome, businesses in Britain and Europe would have been required to pay an additional tax on a wide range of goods imported from each one another.

This would make doing trade more expensive and led to companies raising the prices of everyday items like food and drink to make up for the extra cost.

But there will many new border checks

calais checks

However, there will be a host of new checks on goods crossing the border due to the UK’s decision to leave the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.

Starting January 1, British businesses that export to Europe will have to submit customs declarations and other paperwork in order to get their goods across the border. UK officials estimate that there will be over 400 million additional customs checks a year on goods going to and from the EU.

There’ll also be costly processes for exporters of food, plant, and animal goods to the EU, due to the bloc’s strict health & safety rules.

This mountain of new red tape is why Johnson’s government is bracing itself for delays at the border early next year.

Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said last month that “inevitably” there would be a “rise” in traffic on Britain’s motorway in January, as businesses adapt to these major new rules and regulations.

The UK government has said there could be queues of up to 7,000 HGVs in a reasonable, worst-case scenario.

It is for these reasons that departing the EU with a trade deal is still set to leave the UK significantly worse off. The country’s long-term, economic output will be reduced by four percentage points, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s most recent forecast.

Britain will gain more control of its fishing waters

British fishermen

British fishermen are expected to gain a bigger share of fish caught in British waters as a result of the trade deal.

The exact details of the new arrangement are yet to be confirmed, but UK and EU negotiators have spent weeks tussling over what percentage of the value of fish caught by EU fisherman in British waters should be returned to Britain.

Multiple reports this week said that the two sides were moving towards a compromise of EU boats being allowed to keep around two-thirds. They have also been trying to agree on the length of a transition period during which the new arrangement will gradually come into effect. 

Any agreement on fishing will have had to garner the approval of French President Emmanuel Macron, who has warned throughout the Brexit process that he would not sacrifice the rights of France’s fishing industry in a deal with the UK.

Negotiators were also trying to reach a compromise over the length of an adjustment period during which the new rules for the fishing industry would gradually come into effect.

While fishing was seemingly been a make-or-break issue in these negotiations, the industry’s contribution to the UK economy is pretty negligible at less than 1%. However, it has been a totemic issue in the Brexit debate ever since the 2016 referendum campaign, largely due its connotations with sovereignty and control.

Travelling to the EU from the UK will become harder

eu passport

The UK’s decision to leave the European Single Market doesn’t just impact the movement of goods but that of people, too. This will still be the case despite Britain and the EU striking a free trade agreement.

People making trips to the EU lasting 90 days or more will need to secure a visa, and Brits heading for the continent for any length of time will be required to have their passports stamped when they leave and re-enter the UK. 

Those driving to the EU from next year will need to obtain a “green card” and a GB sticker, and in some EU countries will need an International Driving Permit.

Travellers will also need to take out new health insurance to replace the European Health Insurance Card, as the latter will no longer be valid for most Brits from next year.

Changes will affect pets, too. Those planning to take dog, cats, and ferrets with them to the EU will need to get their pets vaccinated at least three weeks before travelling.

They’ll also need to secure Animal Health Certificates at least ten days before departure, as the EU’s pet passports will no longer apply to British travellers.

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Brexit trade deal talks deadline extended after ‘constructive’ call between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen

Boris Johnson Ursula von der Leyen
Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen.

  • Brexit trade talks will be extended following a call between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
  • Both sides had insisted that the deadline for a breakthrough in talks was Sunday, with Johnson insisting a no-deal Brexit was “very likely.”
  • The extension comes as UK shops have been told to stockpile food and other essential items ahead of a possible no-deal outcome.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Brexit trade deal talks will continue into next week following a call between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday.

Ursula von der Leyen said talks with Johnson had been “constructive and useful” and so talks could continue.

“Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile,” she said in a statement to reporters in Brussels.

In a joint statement, both leaders added that “our negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached.”

Britain is still due to leave the European Single Market without a replacement trade deal in place on December 31 unless there is a further breakthrough in talks.

Both sides had previously insisted that Sunday was the deadline for that breakthrough. On Friday, Johnson said it was “very, very likely” that Britain would fail to strike a trade deal before January.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also insisted to the BBC on Sunday that there was a “very high bar” for talks to be extended.

However, negotiations will now continue on Monday following intensive negotiations this weekend.

The announcement that talks will continue comes as Johnson’s government urges shops to begin stockpiling.

The UK could experience shortages of vegetables and other goods it sources heavily from Europe for months to come, the Sunday Times reported, with prices for consumers likely to soar due to newly-imposed EU tariffs.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted that reports of shortages in supermarkets would not come to pass, however.

“We’re not going to see shelves running bare or any of the scaremongering stories we’ve heard,” Raab told Times Radio. 

British ports and freight companies are already reporting long delays and tailbacks on either side of the English Channel due to companies stockpiling supplies ahead of Britain’s exit from the Brexit transition period.

UK shops are already experiencing shortages and delays due to congestion at ports caused by Brexit stockpiling.

Representatives from the UK toy industry told Business Insider this week that many popular children’s toys will be unavailable to consumers this Christmas because of the delays.

The British Retail Consortium’s Andrew Opie told Insider that at some ports, “we have seen a huge surge in demand for space which has created delays and hundreds of thousands of pounds in congestion charges for unloading goods.”

“Retailers now face higher costs than ever before, with some seeing 25% week-on-week rises for shipping.

“While these rates continue to rise, and the disruption at ports and in shipping continues, retailers face significant challenges with the import of some items ahead of Christmas.”

Any disruption is due to hit the UK economy hard after a year of economic pain triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson’s government is preparing to spend billions on propping up UK industries in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

Farming, fishing, and car manufacturers are expected to be especially badly hit by Britain’s sudden exit from the European single market.

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