Final push to break stalemate over post-Brexit trade deal

Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will assess whether a deal can be salvaged.

Brexit: Talks will continue on Monday. Amer Ghazzal via Getty Images
Brexit: Talks will continue on Monday.

Talks will continue in Brussels on Monday in a final push to break the stalemate over a post-Brexit trade deal.

Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will assess whether a deal can be salvaged following a weekend of tense negotiations.

The two leaders will speak on Monday evening – their second call in a little over 48 hours – after their top negotiators spent Sunday locked in detailed talks.

Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier were ordered back to the negotiating table.

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However, Irish premier Micheal Martin, who has been closely following the talks process, warned that they remained on a “knife edge”.

He said there appeared to be a “very challenging issue” still to be resolved over the so-called “level playing field” rules on fair competition.

“Things are on a knife edge and it is serious. My gut instinct is that it is 50-50 right now. I don’t think one can be overly optimistic about a resolution emerging,” he told RTE.

The talks are set to continue in Brussels on Monday after Barnier briefed a breakfast meeting of ambassadors from the 27 EU member states on the state of play.

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In the febrile mood surrounding the negotiation, British sources denied reports on Sunday that there had been a breakthrough on the thorny issue of future fishing rights.

Reports suggested they had agreed to a transition period for phasing in changes for access for EU boats to UK waters of between five and seven years.

However, a UK Government source said: “There’s been no breakthrough on fish. Nothing new has been achieved on this today.”

Meanwhile, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove will meet his counterpart on the UK-EU joint committee in Brussels on Monday, the UK Government said.

A spokesman said: “The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will meet vice president Sefcovic today in Brussels to discuss issues related to their work as co-chairs of the Withdrawal Agreement joint committee.

“The Withdrawal Agreement joint committee oversees UK and EU implementation, application and interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“The work of the joint committee is separate from the ongoing FTA negotiations.”

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EU negotiators are reported to be insisting on a “ratchet clause” under which the UK would face additional tariffs if it failed to mirror changes to EU rules on issues like environmental standards and workers’ rights.

During a round of broadcast interviews, environment secretary George Eustice warned the UK could not accept any conditions which “fundamentally violates our sovereignty”.

“Where it becomes difficult is where the EU starts to say things like, ‘unless you clear your agreement and regulations with us before, we reserve the right to pull certain parts of the agreement and to undermine what’s been agreed,’” he told Sky News.

Following their earlier call on Saturday, Johnson and Von der Leyen acknowledged that there were still “serious differences” to be resolved on fisheries and the mechanism for resolving disputes as well as competition rules.

While the two sides have been circling round the same issues for months, it is unclear whether the intervention of the leaders has created the political space for the negotiators finally to bridge the gap.

What is agreed is that time is rapidly running out.

If there is no deal by the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the month, then Britain will leave the single market and the customs union and begin trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms, with the imposition of tariffs and quotas.

Before then it has to be ratified by both Houses of Parliament in the UK and the European parliament as well as signed off by the EU leaders.

There had been hopes that could happen at a two-day summit in the Belgian capital starting on Thursday – their final scheduled gathering of the year – but the timetable is looking increasingly tight.

France has publicly warned that it will veto any deal if it is unhappy with the terms, amid signs President Emmanuel Macron is anxious that Barnier is preparing to give too much ground in his determination to get a deal.

French assembly member Alexandre Holroyd, who represents French citizens living in northern Europe including the UK and is part of Macron’s party, said the talk of a deadline being in the coming days was hard to follow.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “I think it would be very difficult to explain to constituents if there is agreement say, on December 15, well apologies it’s too late because we’ve got two weeks and we don’t have enough to find a way to put it in place.

“So I think there is one deadline which is set in absolute stone which is December 31 and that is the absolute deadline.”

The mood around the negotiations is unlikely to be improved by the government’s decision to bring back to the Commons legislation enabling ministers to override elements of the “divorce” settlement with Brussels in breach of international law.

It means that on Monday – when Johnson and Von der Leyen are due to be speaking – MPs will vote on whether to overturn amendments by the House of Lords which removed the provisions in the UK Internal Market Bill relating to the Irish border.

On Wednesday, MPs will then go on to consider the Taxation (Post-Transition Period) Bill which contains further similar provisions, which have infuriated the EU.

An alert system has been set up in case a no-deal Brexit causes shortages in medicine supply, constitution secretary Michael Russell has said.

Talks with health boards are ongoing to make sure they are prepared for any disruption, he added.

Russell also said it was “inconceivable” that the SNP would vote for any Bexit deal in the House of Commons, despite saying the UK Government should come to an arrangement with the EU for the future beyond the transition period.

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, he said the Scottish Government was discussing its no-deal planning for a third time.

He said: “We have put in place something called medicine supply alert notices which will flag up if there are any shortages coming down the track, and we’ll be able to address those.

“We’re working with the health boards and others on resilience and indeed there is another event this week.”

Russell said he would outline further issues of Brexit preparedness in a statement to Holyrood on Tuesday.

The UK Government was only looking for a “low deal” outcome from the ongoing talks, he said, which would lead to disruption on January 1.

He continued: “Having said that, and I am certainly no fan of Brexit at all, it is better to have some sort of arrangement than no sort of arrangement.

“Because with no sort of arrangement it is impossible to say what will happen next.”

Saying the SNP would not vote for a deal if the Prime Minister brought it to the House of Commons, Russell added: “It would be extraordinary if we were voting to give away all the rights that we have and all the things we have enjoyed for almost 50 years.

“That would be inconceivable.”

These are the next possible steps:

Monday, December 7:

The UK Internal Markets Bill returns to the House of Commons. 

Ministers are seeking to overturn amendments by the Lords removing provisions enabling them to override measures in the Brexit “divorce” settlement relating to Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will speak by telephone – possibly as MPs are voting in the Commons – to assess the chances of an agreement.

Wednesday, December 9:

Second reading debate in the House of Commons for the Taxation (Post-Transition Period) Bill with further measures giving ministers the power to override the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Thursday, December 10:

EU leaders meet in Brussels for a two-day summit where they could sign off on a deal if the two sides can overcome their remaining differences.

Thursday, December 31:

If there is no deal by then, the Brexit transition period will end and the UK will leave the single market and the customs union and move to trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation rules with the imposition of tariffs and quotas.

If there is a deal, it will have to have been approved by both Houses of Parliament in the UK and by the European parliament, although there may be just a bit of wriggle room.

EU law would allow the provisional application of the agreement from January 1, provided it has been signed off by leaders, while in Britain, ministers have suggested “you can always find more time” as long as the fundamental issues have been resolved.


Coronavirus: Another 18 Omicron cases recorded in Scotland

Scottish Government data shows one coronavirus-linked death and 2067 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours.

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A total of 48 people have contracted the Omicron variant in Scotland.

A total of 18 new cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours, taking the overall number to 48.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the largest rise, with 12 more cases, taking its total to 23.

NHS Lanarkshire recorded four new cases in 24 hours and has 13 overall.

One more case was confirmed in the Forth Valley health board area, taking the total to six.

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A case of the new variant was recorded in NHS Lothian for the first time. Case numbers in NHS Highland and NHS Grampian remain at three and two respectively.

Scotland has also recorded one coronavirus-linked death and 2067 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data.

The Scottish Government said Public Health Scotland is aware of an “ongoing processing issue with UK Government lab tests which may impact on cases and tests” in the daily figures and investigations are under way to resolve the problem.

The death toll under the daily measure, of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days, is 9649, but the Scottish Government said registry office are generally closed at the weekend which can impact figures.

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The daily test positivity rate was 9.6%, up from 7.6% the previous day.

There were 586 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 as of Saturday night and, of these, 45 were in intensive care.

So far, 4,352,104 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, 3,958,162 have had a second, and 1,859,735 have been given a third dose or booster.

Body found in the search for missing 28-year-old man

The family of Joel McDiarmid has been informed of the discovery.

Police Scotland
Joel McDiarmid went missing in the Bathgate area last month.

A body has been found in the search for a 28-year-old man who went missing in West Lothian last month.

The family of Joel McDiarmid from Bathgate has been informed of the discovery, although formal identification is yet to take place.

There are no suspicious circumstances and a report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.


Mountain rescue teams battle blizzard after man injured in avalanche

They assisted a man who injured his leg during an avalanche.

Cairngorm MT via Facebook

A climber who injured his leg during an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands was rescued as mountain teams faced heavy blizzard conditions.

In dramatic footage posted by Cairngorm MRT, rescuers can be seen battling the elements to assist the man.

The climbers were able to self-rescue down to the floor of Coire an t-Sneachda where they were met by rescuers and stretchered back to the ski area.

The footage was captured on Saturday, with multiple reports of avalanches.

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In a Facebook post, Cairngorm MRT wrote: “MRT just back from a call out for an male with a lower leg injury sustained during an avalanche. The climbers were able to self rescue down to the coire floor, where they were met by team members and stretchered back to the Cairngorm ski area.

“There were multiple reports of avalanches in Coire an t-Sneachda this afternoon.

“Many thanks to Cairngorm Mountain for their assistance duringWe rely on public donations to fund the work that we do, if you would like to contribute, you can also go to our website – https://cmrt.org.uk

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 12.50pm on Saturday, December 4, we received a report of two people falling in an avalanche at Coire A S-Sneachda.

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“Officers and the Cairngorms Mountain Rescue Team were dispatched, and the man and woman were later traced at a nearby rescue post.”

“The man was stretchered off the hill and transported to Raigmore Hospital for treatment to a leg injury.”


Teenagers arrested after 21-year-old man stabbed in city centre

The incident took place on Saturday afternoon.

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Police say that the teenagers will appear in court at a later date, whilst the investigation continues.

Two teenagers have been arrested and charged by police after a 21-year-old was stabbed in Glasgow City Centre.

Officers responded to a report of a man being stabbed on Ingram Street at around 3.30pm on Saturday, December 4.

The man was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary and remains there with “serious injuries”.

Police say that the teenagers will appear in court at a later date, whilst the investigation continues.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We were called to a report of a man being stabbed on Ingram Street around 3.30pm on Saturday 4 December 2021.

“A 21-year-old man was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where he remains with serious injuries.

“Two 17-year-old males have been arrested and charged in connection with the incident, and will appear in court at a later date.

“The investigation is continuing.”


Growing concern for missing man after belongings found at loch

Lawrence Penswick was last seen on Babylon Road in Bellshill in the early hours of Friday morning.

Police Scotland
Lawrence Penswick was last seen in the early hours of Friday morning.

Police in North Lanarkshire are appealing for help to find a missing man whose belongings were recovered near Strathclyde Loch.

Officers are looking for 57-year-old Lawrence Penswick, who was last seen around 2.40am on Friday at Babylon Road in Bellshill.

It’s believed he has travelled to Strathclyde Country Park after some of his belongings were recovered near the south side of Strathclyde Loch.

Lawrence is described as a black male, 5ft 10 inches tall, of a medium build and with short black hair.

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He was last seen wearing a grey “bubble” style jacket and a dark-coloured baseball cap.

His family are growing increasingly concerned for his welfare and anyone with information is asked to call 101, citing reference number 2311 of 4 December.

More on:

Three people in hospital after multi-vehicle smash on the A9

The two men and a woman were taken to Raigmore Hospital.

© Google Maps 2020
Police have appealed for information who may have information about the incident to contact them.

Two men and a woman were taken to hospital following a three-vehicle crash in the Highlands.

The collision took place on Friday, December 3, at around 6.36pm on the A9 at Cuach, north of Dalwhinnie.

A Black Vauxhall Zafira, a red Audi A3 and a silver Volkswagon Touran were the vehicles involved.

The two men and the woman were taken to Raigmore Hospital where they were treated for their injuries.

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None are believed to be life threatening. 

Police are now appealing for anyone who may have information about the incident to contact them.

Sergeant Neil MacDonald of Roads Policing Unit said: “Our enquiries into the cause of this crash are ongoing and we are appealing to anyone who was in the area at the time to please get in touch.

“In particular, we are keen to speak to anyone who saw the cars or who may have dash-cam footage that can help with our investigation.

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“If you can help, please contact us on 101, quoting reference 2819 of December 3.”


Man arrested over driving offences following pensioner’s death

Police say a man was arrested and then released pending further enquiries after the death of Douglas Forbes.

Police Scotland
Police are investigating the death of Douglas Forbes.

A man has been arrested in relation to driving offences following the death of a pensioner in Edinburgh.

Police Scotland said a 69-year-old man was arrested ater Douglas Forbes, 78, was found fatally injured at Academy Park in the Leith area of the city at around 8.50pm on Thursday night.

The man under arrest has since been released and enquiries are ongoing.

Forbes was pronounced dead at the scene on Thursday.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Following the death of 78-year-old Douglas Forbes, at Academy Park in Edinburgh, on Thursday 2 December, we can confirm a 69-year old man has been arrested in relation to driving offences.

“He’s been released pending further enquiries and the investigation continues.”

Anyone with information can contact 101, quoting incident number 3329 of 2 December 2021.


Final push to restore power to homes impacted by Storm Arwen

Around 30 properties were left without power overnight on Saturday.

STV News
Significant damage was caused by Storm Arwen, with many homes left without power for several days.

Work is being undertaken to connect the final few homes in Scotland left without power as a result of Storm Arwen.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) said that bad weather had hampered progress for repair teams on Saturday, which left around 30 properties without power overnight.

It comes after more than 100 military personnel were deployed to assist those without power.

Mark Rough, SSEN’s director of operations, said that field staff are working to reconnect the final homes “as quickly and safely as possible”.

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“The weather conditions have been really challenging for our teams today, but we are continuing to work throughout Saturday night to safely connect the final few homes,” he said.

“Our localised network has sustained significant damage and through a combination of repairs and mobile generation we will continue to work until all power is restored.

“We have over 700 field staff working with support from other network operators and contractors from across Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and everyone is making a real effort to reconnect the final homes as quickly and safely as possible.”

“I’d like to thank customers for their continued patience and apologise for the disruption caused.

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“We continue to work closely with local authorities and local resilience partnerships in Aberdeenshire to support welfare checks to those who remain off supply.” 


‘When they dig it up, hopefully Covid will be gone’

Time capsule buried to mark a major milestone in the development of Scotland's largest offshore windfarm.

STV News

Face masks, hand sanitiser and fidget spinners were among the items loaded into a time capsule and buried to mark Scotland’s largest offshore windfarm.

Various mementos, including newspapers, magazines and toys, will remain under the Seagreen windfarm maintenance hub at Montrose Port for a generation.

It’s hoped that when the time capsule is dug up at the end of the windfarm’s 25-year lifespan, memories of Covid will be dim and distant, and that the turbines will have generated a greener society.

Construction of the giant £3bn windfarm is well underway off the Angus coast and will feature 114 turbines generating enough energy to power two-thirds of Scotland’s homes.

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Steven Reid, Seagreen onshore project manager, said: “This is an extremely big milestone of the project to set up our operation and maintenance facility.

“It is going to be key to maintaining and operating the 114 turbines that we’re putting out in the water.

“This base will have up to 120 people in full-time roles once we have all the turbines in place and switched on.”

A piper-led special ceremony also saw the onshore base officially named, thanks to nine-year-old local schoolgirl Lily Hill, whose suggestion of ‘Windy Waves House’ was chosen from a number of competition entries.

STV News
Lily Hill was stunned to learn she had named the windfarm’s maintenance hub.
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“We’ve been learning about plastic pollution at school and green energy, and how the wind will be used to make electricity,” Lily said.

“It’s so exciting to have won the competition, I can’t believe it and didn’t expect it at all.”

Fellow pupil Olivia Coull, who put some modern-day essentials into the time capsule, hopes the items won’t be needed when they’re dug up.

“We picked masks and sanitisers because of Covid and hopefully in 25 years it won’t be a big thing anymore,” she said.


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