Boris Johnson signs Brexit trade deal with EU
European law prevents member states from reducing the rate below 5 percent which means tampons and sanitary towels are treated as luxury items and not essentials. After the UK’s Brexit transition period expired on December 31 it became free to make its own laws. Hours later, the zero rate VAT on period products came into effect on Friday.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I’m proud that we are delivering on our promise to scrap the tampon tax.
“Sanitary products are essential so it’s right that we do not charge VAT.”
Felicia Willow, chief executive of women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society, said: “We warmly welcome the scrapping of VAT on all sanitary products and congratulate the Government on taking this positive step.
“It’s been a long road to reach this point, but at last the sexist tax that saw sanitary products classed as non-essential, luxury items can be consigned to the history books.”
Britain has scrapped the ‘tampon tax’ which he was unable to do under EU rules
The Treasury has estimated the move will save the average woman nearly £40 over her lifetime, with a cut of 7p on a pack of 20 tampons and 5p on 12 pads.
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1.05am update: Italy grants Brexit lifeline to UK financial companies
British financial firms will be able to continue operating within Italy for another six months, the latter has allowed.
Italy’s banking authorities confirmed the news over the weekend. It will apply to firms that had sent off for permission to keep operating in Italy before the end of last year, Yahoo! Finance reports.
However, it is understood that new contracts or old ones cannot be signed or amended during this period.
The UK’s Brexit deal is said not to have covered swathes of the country’s finance sector, meaning many such companies do not have direct access to most EU markets any more.
3.55am update: Passengers stranded at Heathrow in Spain Brexit travel row
Travellers heading to Spain from the UK were prevented from boarding a flight last night due to a Brexit row.
Residents living in Britain but returning home to Spain were not allowed to board a flight jointly operated by British Airways and Iberia on Saturday night, according to passengers.
One of them, journalist Max Duncan, said his residency paper was not recognised as valid by airline staff, even though the governments of both countries have said both pre-and post-Brexit documents would be accepted, according to The Guardian.
The British embassy in Spain tweeted: “This should not be happening, the Spanish authorities have reconfirmed again this evening that the green residency document will be valid for travel to return to Spain as stated in our travel advice.”
It is unclear at this time whether the passengers were eventually allowed to board. One passenger claimed five hours ago to have been stuck at Heathrow for 12 hours.
People walk past the Bank of England. Financial services negotiations post-Brexit are still due
11.20pm update: City of London Brexit deal talks to begin
Talks for a Brexit deal specifically for the City of London are due to launch next week with the aim of coming to an agreement in just over eight weeks, according to reports.
The deal is thought to mainly address Britain’s financial services sector – not all of which was covered in the Tories’ UK-wide Brexit deal announced over Christmas.
According to the Mail on Sunday, Bank of England officials will be holding talks with financial lobby groups soon.
It comes as City of London professionals such as bankers and lawyers now need to apply for relevant qualifications for each EU country they wish to work in.
Edward Browne takes over live reporting
10.48pm update: BBC’s last insult to Brexit in New Year’s comedy
The BBC used a New Year’s comedy show to mock the Brexit cause as the UK’s transition period expired.
Comedian Nish Kumar appeared on Graham Norton’s New Year’s Eve special where he described Brexit architect Nigel Farage as “a sack of meat brought to life by a witch’s curse”.
Mr Kumar added: “Now we have finally completed Brexit, I predict we will have a taste for leaving things and will vote to leave more stuff, starting with the continent of Europe, then the United Nations and finally the Earth by strapping rockets under the country and blasting off into space.”
Brexiteer Claire Fox has raged at the European Union for not learning anything from Brexit and preparing to be more restrictive in future.
Baroness Fox attacked the EU for their reluctance to reform following the UK’s departure from the bloc.
During an interview with Express.co.uk, Baroness Fox argued the EU is planning to become more federalist and bully member states.
She said: “I don’t think they have learnt anything.
“All the signs, rhetoric and language I have heard coming out of the EU is that they are hardening up in terms of becoming more federalist.
“They are also hardening up in terms of stamping down sovereign states decisions and democratic decisions made by member states at home if they don’t comply with the rule book of the EU.
“We are seeing a fair amount of bullying, threats and all sorts of accusations at member states.”
8.42pm update: Boris Johnson to be quizzed on Brexit on Sunday
Boris Johnson will appear on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, the BBC has announced.
The coronavirus situation and the end of the Brexit transition period are likely to feature heavily in the discussion.
8.10pm update: Nigel Farage calls on Brexit Britain to end illegal immigration
Nigel Farage has tweeted a video of what appears to be an dinghy used by illegal immigrants being towed into a UK port by Border Force.
Three people can be seen covered in blankets.
Mr Farage said: “The first illegal migrant boat of 2021. Brexit Britain needs to stop this.”
Fifty-eight percent of Leave voters said they were not happy with the BBC’s reporting of Brexit
The BBC has been confronted by damning new research which shows nearly half of Britons believe it is not fairly representing their values.
Forty-four percent of respondents in a YouGov survey said the Beeb represented their values badly, while the figure jumped to 48 percent for older viewers.
Asked “how well or badly do you think the BBC represents your values?” 27 percent said “very badly” while 17 percent said “fairly badly”.
When it came to Brexit the results proved to be even more dire, with 58 percent of people who voted Leave in 2016 saying they were not satisfied with the BBC’s overall stance.
6.15pm update: Brexiteer hits out at ‘wrong Project Fear stories’
Veteran Tory MP and Brexiteer John Redwood tweeted: “So what will the BBC put in their news bulletins as it turns out the Project Fear stories for Brexit day were wrong?”
The maker of a coronavirus vaccine has spoken of his shock at the EU’s sluggishness when it comes to purchasing supplies of jabs.
Uğur Şahin, co-founder of German vaccine developer BioNTech, warned the situation across the bloc was far from “rosy”.
He criticised Brussels for gambling on the approval of other COVID-19 vaccines instead of stocking up on those already on the market.
Uğur Şahin, co-founder of German vaccine developer BioNTech, criticised the EU
4.40pm update: We will have final say on Gibraltar, insists Spain
Spain’s foreign minister has said his country will have the last word on who can enter Gibraltar uner the preliminary post-Brexit deal with the UK.
Britain and Spain this week reached a last-minute deal to maintain free movement to and from Gibraltar after the Brexit transition period ended on New Year’s Eve.
The deal states that Gibraltar will remain subject to rules applied to the EU’s Schengen zone.
Arancha Conzalez Laya told Spanish newspaper El Pais: “Schengen is a set of rules, procedures and tools, including its database, to which only Spain has access.
“Gibraltar and the United Kingdom do not.
“That is why the final decision on who enters the Schengen area belongs to Spain.”
Nicola Sturgeon’s dream of an independent Scotland joining the European Union would take at least a decade, according to a former UK ambassador to the EU.
Sir Ivan Rodgers told LBC’s Matt Frei the SNP leader could complete her goal of joining the trading bloc as an independent nation in the long-term.
However, he warned Scotland will only be able to join the European Union after leaving the United Kingdom and both processes would take several years.
Mr Frei said: “Nicola Sturgeon has said again that she would want to have an independent Scotland, when it becomes independent, to re-join the European Union.
“How realistic is that?”
Sir Ivan replied: “Well, it may be realistic over the long-term but Scotland would have to have a full accession process with the European Union.
“That is a matter of several years, those several years would begin after the Scots have left the United Kingdom.”
2.41pm: EU grants 12-month paperwork reprieve for British exporters
British firms which send exports to EU countriues will not have to complete paperwork certifying their goods are locally made until next year.
The UK and EU have agreed a 12-month grace period on rules of origin paperwork to give firms more time to adapt to the new regime.
The deal states that UK exporters must still abide by rules of origin during the grace period which means goods must be locally sourced.
If they are not locally sourced they must have had sufficient work carried out on them in the UK.
Goods that do not meet rules of origin requirements will face tariffs.
Michel Barnier admits feeling bitterness over the Brexit outcome
2.12pm update: Michel Barnier admits EU failure over Brexit
Michel Barnier has admitted Brexit is a “failure for the EU” because it lost a member with “a dynamic defence, foreign policy and economy”.
The EU chief negotiator said an all-or-nothing approach adopted by the UK, especially on fisheries, almost caused negotiations to break down before a breakthrough was achieved at the eleventh hour.
Asked if he was happy that an agreement was reached between the UK and the EU, Mr Barnier told French daily newspaper Le Figaro he experienced a “form of bitterness” as the UK left the EU.
He said: “We are losing a country of 67 million people, with a dynamic defence, foreign policy and economy.
“It is a failure for the EU. As for the United Kingdom, it will find itself alone in the global competition against the United States and China, which are continental states, against Russia and others.
“Brexit is a mutual weakening.”
Brussels and Beijing have struck an investment deal which Ms Merkel insists will give European companies greater access to Chinese markets and help redress unbalanced economic ties.
But the deal is already threatening to spark a rift across the EU.
A Brussels diplomat told politico.eu: “There’s a lot of frustration among smaller countries about the way the Commission has been used to push through one of Merkel’s pet projects at the end of her term and the end of her legacy.
“Is this the way the EU will work post-Brexit?
“The Brits are just out and we’re already missing their open market-oriented approach.
“If Germany weighs in too much, smaller EU countries have nothing to say.”
Angela Merkel has been criticised by smaller EU member states
Britain has banned Norwegian and Faroese vessels from fishing its territorial waters until a new agreement can be made with regional fisheries organisations.
The UK’s Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has confirmed negotiations will need to end before Norwegian and Faroese vessels will be able to catch anything in UK waters.
Likewise, an agreement will need to be made with the regional fisheries management organistations of these territories in order for British fishermen to access the territorial waters of Norway and the Faroe Islands.
12.16pm update: Rejoiners launch social media campaign
A campaign to get Britain to rejoin the European Union has been launched, with one Remainer declaring: “I’m prepared to fight for the next 40 years.”
British europhiles have launched a #RejoinEU social media campaign, with hundreds vowing to overturn the historic 2016 Brexit referendum.
Member of the House of Lords Michael Cashman tweeted: “I’ve been relatively quiet because I wake each morning in my country where I no longer feel I belong.
“I felt the same after the referendum.
“But Brexit will not take away my identity as a European citizen nor my determination to expose their lies as I campaign to rejoin EU. Onwards.”
Former UK civil servant Siobhan Benita said: “I’m prepared to fight for the next 40 years to overturn the UK’s relationship with the EU, if that’s what it takes to rejoin the EU.”
Membership of the single market and customs expired at 11pm on Thursday for the UK, four and a half years after the EU referendum.
Mr Barnier has pledged to write about his experiences with the EU negotiating team and the UK side – first led by David Davis, and finally by Lord Frost.
In an interview with French publication Le Figaro, Mr Barnier said: “In the spring I will recount these four extraordinary years in a journal book.”
10.31am update: Lord Heseltine calls for Brexit ‘fight back’
Tory grandee Lord Heseltine has called for pro-Europeans to “fight back” and battle to rejoin the EU.
The former deputy prime minister cited the stance of the SNP in pushing for another referendum on Scottish independence as the way forward for Remainers, despite the UK formally leaving the Brexit transition arrangements at 11pm on New Year’s Eve.
Lord Heseltine insisted that as the 52 – 48 percent decision to quit the EU was so close, pro-Europeans must not “lie down”, but instead follow the example of the SNP.
He told Times Radio: “You have got a country which is deeply divided and it is very important to give hope and keep alive the aspirations of the younger generation.
“Of course we must fight back.
“There are millions of people who feel just as strongly as I do, and we are not going to lie down.”
Lord Heseltine has called for a Brexit fight-back
Duty-free shopping for Britons heading to the EU has made its long-awaited return.
UK travellers can buy duty-free alcohol and tobacco products in ports, airports and international train stations and also on ships, planes and trains.
Ministers said the re-introduction of duty-free shopping for Britons heading to EU members states follows a consultation with industry leaders on the Government’s approach to taxing goods carried across borders for personal use.
Rishi Sunak has delivered his pledge to scrap VAT on sanitary products
8.48am update: Banks call for end of contactless payment cap imposed by Brussels
British banking chiefs are urging the Goverment to raise the contactless payment limit to £100. The EU has a cap of £45.
Finance industry leaders said scrapping the limit would be a symbolic move and a true example of Britain parting company with Brussels on standards.
An EU-wide rule set by the European Commission limited contactless transactions to a maximum of €50, or £45, but Britain no longer needs to abide by this.
8.06am update: UK ports run smoothly as Project Fear warnings prove unfounded
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said chaotic scenes predicted at Britain’s freight ports had failed to materialise on the day after Britain finally left the EU.
Mr Shapps tweeted: “Border traffic low due to bank holiday, but good to see no disruption in Kent on Day One with hundreds of lorries crossing Channel. Turnback numbers very small.”
7.30am update: Brexit boost for public sector recruitment
Boris Johnson has said he wants to see a public sector recruitment bonanza in 2021 as the UK continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Border Force ranks have been beefed up for Brexit preparations with around 900 additional operational staff recruited in the 2019/20 financial year.
A further 1,100 staff will be brought on board by July.
A Downing Street spokesman said that Mr Johnson is set to call on those looking for a job or a career change to consider frontline public sector roles in 2021.
More than one million jobs are thought to have been lost as a result of restrictions brought in to control the spread of coronavirus.