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Brexit news – live: Starmer blasts Johnson for ‘slow, slow, slow’ Covid response as Amazon halts more NI sales

Watch live: Boris Johnson faces Keir Starmer and MPs during PMQs

Labour leader Keir Starmer has blasted Boris Johnson for his “slow, slow, slow” response to the coronavirus crisis and demanded the prime minister provides answers as to why the UK has the highest Covid death rate in Europe.

It comes as Amazon halts sales of wines, beers and spirits in Northern Ireland due to complex new excise rules. The company is reportedly ready to pull more products from the province – including over-the-counter medicines – over changes brought in by the Brexit deal.

The online retailer is said to be concerned that excise duty will now have to be paid twice on shipments which are sent across the Irish Sea. Meanwhile, discontent is “growing” in loyalist communities in Northern Ireland over the protocol arrangements, a senior police officer has warned.

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The prime minister, Boris Johnson, will host a Downing Street press conference later today, Number 10 has confirmed.

Samuel Osborne27 January 2021 13:05

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Home secretary to lay out ‘tougher measures’ for border

Boris Johnson said the home secretary, Priti Patel, will lay out “tougher measures” for the border this afternoon.

The prime minister told the Commons: “Throughout this pandemic, it has been the habit of the Opposition first to support one approach and then to attack it, to twist, to turn.

“It was only recently that the shadow transport secretary was saying that quarantine measures should be relaxed.

“We have one of the toughest regimes in the world. We ask people to test 72 hours before they fly, they have to produce a passenger locator form otherwise they can be kicked off the flight.

“They already have to quarantine for 10 days and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be setting later today, if he cared to wait for that, even tougher measures for those red-list countries where we are particularly concerned about new variants.”

Samuel Osborne27 January 2021 12:49

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Starmer blasts Johnson’s ‘slow, slow, slow’ response to coronavirus crisis

Sir Keir Starmer has excoriated Boris Johnson’s response to the coronavirus crisis, repeatedly branding it”slow”.

The Labour leader also called for those coming into the UK from abroad to be required to isolate in a hotel.

 He said: “The problem with the prime minister avoiding the question of ‘why’ is that vital lessons won’t be learned.

“The reality is this: The prime minister was slow into the first lockdown last March, he was slow in getting protective equipment to the front line, slow to protect our care homes, slow on testing and tracing, slow into the second lockdown in the autumn, slow to change the Christmas mixing rules, slow again into this third lockdown delaying 13 days from 22 December before implementing it, and I fear he still hasn’t learned that lesson.

“The latest example is the continued delay in securing our borders. We’ve known about the variants of the virus since early December when it was announced in the House of Commons. We know some of those variants are coming from abroad. But we don’t know the route.

“Surely the prime minister can see that what is required now is that everybody coming into the country from anywhere in the world should be tested and subject to quarantine in a hotel?”

Samuel Osborne27 January 2021 12:35

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PM dodges Labour demand to vaccinate all teachers during half-term

Mr Johnson has dodged a Labour demand to vaccinate all teachers and school staff during February half-term to allow classrooms to reopen, political editor Andrew Woodcock reports.

The demand came as Sir Keir went on the attack over the government’s record on coronavirus in the House of Commons, repeating his call for all arrivals at UK airports and ports to be subject to mandatory quarantine in hotels.

Samuel Osborne27 January 2021 12:26

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Starmer demands Johnson answer why UK has highest coronavirus death rate in Europe

Sir Keir Starmer has demanded Boris Johnson answer why the UK has the highest coronavirus death rate in Europe.

Mr Johnson told MPs he mourns “every death” that has occurred due to the virus.

At the start of prime minister’s questions, the Labour leader said: “Yesterday we passed the tragic milestone of 100,000 Covid deaths in the United Kingdom. That is not just a statistic, behind every death is a grieving family – a mum, a dad, a sister, a brother, a friend, a colleague, a neighbour.

“The question on everyone’s lips this morning is why? The prime minister must have thought about that question a lot, so could he tell us why he thinks that the United Kingdom has ended up with a death toll of 100,000, the highest number in Europe?”

Mr Johnson replied: “Like (Sir Keir), I mourn every death in this pandemic and we share the grief of all those who have been bereaved. And let him be in no doubt and let the House be in no doubt that I and the government take full responsibility for all the actions that I have taken and that we have taken during this pandemic to fight this disease.”

Mr Johnson said that “yes there will indeed be a time when we must learn the lessons of what has happened”, adding: “I don’t think that moment is now when we are in the throes of fighting this wave of the new variant, when 37,000 people are struggling with Covid in our hospitals.”

Samuel Osborne27 January 2021 12:19

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Covid response set to dominate PMQs

PMQs is up very soon. You can follow live at the top of the page. The UK’s Covid death toll and the government’s handling of the pandemic is sure to dominate today’s encounter between Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer.

What’s been said this morning? Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said the government’s response would have been different “with the benefit of hindsight” – but also defended his boss. “Nobody has worked harder than the prime minister.”

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the mistakes had been “unforgivable” and shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said the PM had not been “up to the job” over the past 12 months.

Adam Forrest27 January 2021 11:54

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Amazon move shows ‘utter chaos’ in trading

The Best for Britain group has responded to the news Amazon is halting sales of alcohol – and possibly more product lines – over confusion about excise rules.

“When a company the size of Amazon is struggling to deal with something as fundamental as excise payments, it’s clear the present UK trading environment is in utter chaos and ministers really must get a grip now and cut Whitehall red tape for British businesses,” said chief executive Naomi Smith.

She added: “When Airbus, BMW and Siemens warned about the impact on their UK-based operations of the UK leaving the EU, Boris Johnson infamously said ‘f*** business’. Now is the time to right that wrong, and show industry that this is a pro-business government after all.”

Amazon product lines to NI in jeopardy

(AP)

Adam Forrest27 January 2021 11:38

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Eel fishermen forced to find new markets

Eel fishermen in Northern Ireland will be forced to find new markets due to post-Brexit problems.

Sector chiefs based at Lough Neagh – a freshwater lake in the province – said the new trade border in the Irish Sea meant they could no longer sell to Billingsgate Market in London (where jellied eels are sold).

Pat Close of the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative, told the BBC London had represented “very significant trade” – 20 per cent of their catch. “We find with the Northern Ireland Protocol, [Great Britain] could be in the middle of the world as far as we’re concerned.”

Adam Forrest27 January 2021 11:19

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AstraZeneca ‘pulls out of EU meeting’

The row deepens. The UK-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has pulled out from a meeting with EU officials scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the disagreement over Covid vaccine supplies, according to a Brussels official.

The official added that the EU keeps asking the company to provide further explanations about its announcement to cut vaccine deliveries to the bloc in the first quarter.

Adam Forrest27 January 2021 11:04

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Discontent ‘growing’ in Northern Ireland over protocol, says police chief

Discontent in loyalist communities in Northern Ireland is “growing” over the protocol arrangements forged as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, a senior police officer has said.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said: “We are seeing signals, there are signal incidents that have happened, particularly in recent days.”

He told MPs: “We are starting to see graffiti, we are picking up social media sentiment of a growing discontent, particularly within the Protestant-loyalist-unionist community … That has not manifested itself in any outworkings at this point.”

Adam Forrest27 January 2021 11:01

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