Dominic Cummings row: Statement made things even WORSE for Boris’ chief adviser – poll

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Boris Johnson’s special adviser is under pressure after details of his 260-mile trip to Durham emerged last week, at a time when Britons were being told to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. The survey, published by YouGov today, suggested 71 percent of interviewees believed Mr Cummings had broken the rules, up three points compared with a similar poll released on Saturday. Additionally, 59 percent of people now believe Mr Cummings should resign, up seven percent on the 52 percent who felt he should quit before he spoke in the rose garden of Number 10 yesterday.

In addition to 88 percent of Labour voters and 86 percent of Lib Dems, the majority of Tories – 56 percent – now believe Mr Cummings should leave his post.

Remain voters emphatically agree, with 81 percent saying he should go – but a solid majority of Leave votes – 63 percent – agree.

The second survey involved 1160 UK adults interviewed on May 25 and 26, all of them once Mr Cummings had stopped speaking.

Chris Curtis, Political Research Manager at YouGov, said: “If Downing Street was hoping Cummings’ statement would turn public opinion then it’s fair to say it’s not worked.

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Only time will tell though if this row starts to hurt the government electorally but if it does the pressure is only going to mount from Tory MPs for Cummings to go

Chris Curtis

“Over the weekend the public told us they thought that Cummings was both in breach of lockdown rules and should resign and despite a lengthy press conference and a detailed statement the public haven’t changed their mind.

“Only time will tell though if this row starts to hurt the government electorally but if it does the pressure is only going to mount from Tory MPs for Cummings to go.”

The fallout from Mr Cummings’ lockdown trip continues to overshadow the Government’s agenda.

Junior Scottish minister Douglas Ross today resigned from the Government, saying: “I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the Government.

“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the Government was right.”

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Mark Harper said Dominic Cummings “should have offered to resign, and the Prime Minister should have accepted his resignation”.

He added: “As for Mr Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle on 12 April, an apology should have been made and a level of regret expressed.

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“I was disappointed that Mr Cummings did neither.”

Speaking to Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said his own postbag showed “many people still disagree” with the actions of Dominic Cummings.

He said: “I think people can understand the interests he had at heart, which were to protect his sick wife and his young child – and can at least understand now why he made those decisions.”

Pressed on whether further ministers would resign or whether Mr Cummings would survive in post, Mr Jenrick replied: “I don’t know.”

Downing Street has also been unable to explain why it said in a statement on Saturday that Dominic Cummings’ wife had been infected with suspected coronavirus, which the aide later contradicted.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “He set out his account of what had happened yesterday.

“I think it was a very full and detailed account and there’s nothing for me to add to it.”

The spokesman also defended having previously told journalists Dominic Cummings was isolating at home during the lockdown, saying he had not known of his actual location at the time but had been pointing out he was not working at Number 10.

Asked if he meant Mr Cummings was in London, the spokesman said: “No, and the context of my answer was pointing out he wasn’t at work.”

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Theresa May’s ex-EU advisor has plan to solve Brexit stalemate – will anger Leave voters

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The UK Government has been urged to carve out a middle way and implement a conditional extension to the EU transition period to ensure Brexit uncertainty is mitigated for businesses who have already been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The move has been proposed by Raoul Ruparel, Theresa May’s former special advisor on Europe, who argues such a measure would “allow everyone to prepare for any deal reached”.

Mr Ruparel’s suggestion differs to an outright extension of the Brexit transition period, which is due to end on December 31, 2020.

A conditional extension, known as a Preparation, Ratification and Engagement Period (PREP), would not extend the negotiation period and could only be used if a deal has been reached between the UK and the EU.

Instead, the PREP would allow both sides to engage with businesses on how to implement the deal – to ensure they are prepared for any changes that will be implemented.

It is hoped such a move would help mitigate an economic fallout, especially when many businesses will still be dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus.

Writing for Politico, Mr Ruparel said the extended period would: “Be used for UK and EU governments to engage with business on how to implement the deal, for all involved to prepare for the coming changes and for the final ratification steps to be taken.

“Such time to prepare is common for big legal changes, from new financial regulations to free-trade agreements, often via a phase-in period.”

He added: “Crucially, this PREP time wouldn’t create more time for negotiating, simply more time to implement whatever had been agreed in the existing negotiating period.”

The political adviser said a conditional extension could be in place for just a handful of months to ensure the process isn’t delayed too much.

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He said the PREP would be vitally important for many businesses, as they may feel unprepared for any changes to be implemented because they have been focused on mitigating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Ruparel said: “Almost all government and business resource has been diverted away from preparing for Brexit and onto dealing with COVID-19, meaning necessary arrangements for implementing a deal are unlikely to be in place even if one is reached.

“The PREP would provide extra time to prepare and would do so while providing clarity about the political agreement that has been reached.

“As it stands, the value of any potential deal is being steadily reduced since, if one is reached very late in the day, no-one involved on either side would have had the time or capacity to implement it.”

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The political adviser said it was important to note a PREP would not extend the negotiations and a conditional extension could only be implemented if a deal had already been reached.

As a result, Mr Johnson’s aims of continuing to ramp up pressure on the EU to make compromises will still be in place.

Mr Ruparel said the main beneficiaries of a PREP would be businesses.

He wrote: “Such a conditional extension would reduce uncertainty rather than create more of it.

“It would provide a clear date from which the new agreement will be in place and allow firms certainty that they have time to prepare.

“More importantly though, it would narrow down the potential scenarios which both government and business have to prepare for at the end of this year.”

But approving a PREP would mean the UK would have to contribute to the EU budget next year, something the UK Government has been keen to avoid.

Mr Ruparel said the additional cost is justified however, as the benefits of the PREP far outweighs the cost.

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Sajid Javid calls for lockdown end in first interview since stepping down as chancellor

Mr Javid said the government “rightly put public health first”, but he added that Boris Johnson should now focus on restoring the economy. The former chancellor expressed doubts over Bank of England’s claims that the economy will overcome what it anticipates will be the deepest recession in 300 years.

“I think a V-shaped recovery will be challenging. And I know the Bank of England has said it’s possible,” Mr Javid said.

“It has made a whole set of assumptions around relaxing the lockdown and ending it completely in three months. And it says itself that it’s at best uncertain.

“I do think it’s just like the virus itself, let’s hope for the best but let’s plan for the worst, and that means you’re taking whatever action you think is necessary and possible right now to make sure we do get the fastest recovery possible.”

Mr Javid expressed his support for his protege and current Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who he said was “absolutely right” to “use fiscal firepower to intervene and mitigate” in the short term.

But the former chancellor and investment banker said the efforts should now be directed towards ensuring the health of the banking system to restore the economy.

He also urged ministers to “run the economy hot” in order to balance controlling the pandemic with the broader damage of an extended lockdown.

Speaking of the banking system, the Mr Javid said he is “worried about the health of our banks” and said they might have to raise more capital to ensure they do not just face losses but also continue lending.

“Because of the action that has taken place over the last 10 years since the last financial crisis, the banks are capitalised, they’ve got more sort of buffers, as it were, than ever before, so they can absorb the expected losses based on the Bank of England scenario.

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“But we don’t need banks that are just able to absorb losses. We need banks that are able to lend to British businesses particularly our SMEs, over half of SMEs rely only on bank loans they’re their main source of debt.

“So, we need to have banks that aren’t taking let’s say sort of a ‘safety-first crash position’.

“We have to stand up tall, be confident and lend to British business. That’s what I’m concerned about.”

Ministers might also need to ensure banks have support for their worst-performing loans.

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“The second thing is that maybe the government should dust off some of the plans that existed after the last financial crisis on what was called a sort of ‘bad bank’ policy, which was never properly implemented in the end because it wasn’t needed,” he said.

“You might need something. You have some kind of support for banks with some of the worst-performing loans and try to help the banks in that way, so that they can in turn help the economy and lend.”

Mr Javid is the most prominent Conservative to also publicly call for lockdown to be lifted as soon as possible while but also ensuring the NHS the capacity to cope with ongoing infections.

“We’re going to have to co-exist with this virus for I think many months, if not potentially years.

“But we’ve got to find a way forward and that does mean you’re relaxing, as much as you can,” he said.

“Running the economy hot you could say, in a way that you are trying to take into account, not just the sort of necessity to control the virus, but also the wider impact on society – those job losses, those opportunities foregone, particularly for younger people.

“The rise of domestic violence, child abuse, of mental health cases. All of that needs to be taken into account.”

He is publicly making the argument that the current chancellor and Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, have been reportedly been making privately in recently – voicing the concerns of Conservative MPs and donors.

Mr Javid believes that the government should begin easing lockdown measures if the R number is below 1 – the rate that show the number of new cases is no longer increasing – rather than waiting until the virus has been completely eradicated.

“As well as listening to the scientists we also need to think carefully about the impact on the rest of society and the economy and jobs and wider social impacts and that does mean, I think, that when it comes to opening up you want to go as far and as quick as you can,” the former chancellor said.

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EU feud threatens to erupt over coronavirus as eurozone expected to PLUMMET by 15%

The warning comes from Dr Kerstin Braun, President of Stenn Group, a global trade finance provider, who claimed the coronavirus crisis will exacerbate disagreements between member states in the eurozone. She said: “Like the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank has taken unprecedented emergency actions to protect economies and markets amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Their actions have calmed nerves and steadied financial markets. Christine Lagarde should be applauded for stepping up at a time when politicians hesitate over fiscal relief.

“Crises can exacerbate family squabbles, and the EU is not immune to disagreement over the extent of the ECB’s actions.

“With the Eurozone expected to shrink by as much as 15 percent this year, ECB asset purchases could top €1 trillion, potentially crossing a thorny threshold regarding the amount of debt it can take on from each nation.

“Even so, this amount, along with the €500 million pledge by governments for business and household liquidity, probably won’t be enough to stop the economic damage from the pandemic.

“Getting more relief will undoubtedly cause a familiar family feud between the rich and poor country members.

“However, letting the weaker economies implode would be much worse for the EU in the long run.”

The coronavirus pandemic has sent the eurozone’s economy into an “unprecedented decline” that is likely to steepen before a recovery phase kicks in, ECB President Christine Lagarde said on Thursday.

The trend pointed to “rapidly deteriorating labour markets” and “a significant contraction in economic activity” during the period of the pandemic, whose duration could not yet be determined.

ECB staff projections suggested euro area GDP could fall by between 5 and 12 percent this year, she told the bank’s post-policy meeting news conference.

The ECB kept much of its remaining powder dry on Thursday, reaffirming its already vast bond purchase scheme but holding back on any big policy move as it is already hoovering up debt at a record pace.

Just weeks after unveiling its biggest stimulus scheme to date, the ECB said it would buy 1.1 trillion euros of debt this year and kept the door open to even more as the euro zone economy is shrinking faster than already depressed expectations.

The bank said it would lower interest rates on its long term loan for banks to as little as minus 1 percent and launch a new loan scheme called Pandemic Emergency Longer-Term Refinancing Operations or PELTROs.

But it did not change its asset purchase programmes, including its new Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, also known as PEPP.

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“The Governing Council is fully prepared to increase the size of the PEPP and adjust its composition, by as much as necessary and for as long as needed,” the ECB said.

“In any case, it stands ready to adjust all of its instruments, as appropriate, to ensure that inflation moves towards its aim in a sustained manner, in line with its commitment to symmetry.”

With much of Europe locked down indefinitely to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the 19-country currency bloc’s economy could shrink by 10 percent this year. Governments are borrowing record amounts to keep firms afloat until restrictions are lifted.

The ECB is unlikely to stay on the sidelines for long as it is on track to exhaust its current bond purchase quota by autumn and jittery financial markets are demanding a further show of commitment.

But having acted early, the ECB can afford to wait now and keep some pressure on Europe’s political leaders, who have so far fumbled a fiscal response, leaving the ECB in a familiar role as the currency union’s chief crisis fighter.

By the ECB’s next regular meeting on June 4, the outlines of a broadly agreed deal on a 1 trillion euro reconstruction fund should also be clearer, making it easier for the central bank to do its part.

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Coronavirus death surge: Americans told to brace for ‘Pearl Harbor’ moment in grim warning

The US has currently the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases, with over 300,000 of its citizens infected with the lethal virus. Almost 10,000 have lost their lives since the beginning of the outbreak, as the number of fatalities fast approach those of Spain, the second worst affected country in the world. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Dr Jerome M Adams told the programme’s host: “The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment. It’s going to be our 9/11 moment.

“It’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives.”

Dr Adams’ grim prediction was echoed by the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who told the nation to brace themselves for a very rough ride.

Dr Anthony Fauci told CBS’s Face the Nation: “This is going to be a bad week.

“It’s going to be shocking to some, it certainly is really disturbing to see that, but that’s what’s going to happen before it turns around.”

Dr Fauci acknowledged that the various mitigation strategies had started to have an impact on the spread of the virus, but rejected any suggestions that the crisis was under control yet.

He said: “I’m not saying we have it under control. That would be a false statement.

“We are struggling to get it under control.”

On Saturday, Donald Trump also warned US public to expect “a lot of death” during a White House press conference.

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He told assembled reporters: “This will be probably the toughest week, between this week and next week.

“And there will be a lot of death unfortunately.”

The US president cancelled a press briefing on Sunday and started the day by tweeting messages about Palm Sunday holiday.

It comes as governors from a number of US states took to the airwaves to plead for more federal support in their fights against the COVID-19 contagion.

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Illinois’s governor J B Pritzker accused the Trump administration of failing to act on intelligence warnings of the seriousness of the virus in January and February.

In a scathing indictment, he told CNN’s State of the Union programme: “If they had started in February building ventilators, getting ready for this pandemic, we would not have the problems we are having today.

“And quite frankly, very many fewer people would die.”

Illinois currently has 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and recorded 250 deaths to date.

The governor, who expects the crisis to peak by the end of April, has requested 4,000 ventilators to help treat seriously ill patients.

He argued that individual states did not have the same power as the federal government, especially when it came to the use of the federal Defense Production Act.

Mr Pritzker said: “There’s no way that we can stockpile in anticipation of a pandemic that no one anticipated.

“And yet the federal government is responsible for doing precisely that.”

The governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, also warned that his state would runout of ventilators by Thursday, as it prepared to open a field hospital with 1,000 beds on Monday.

The state is fast becoming a new epicentre for the coronavirus, with some 477 fatalities already recorded.

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