You will get a family Christmas, says No 10 - that's 'wishful thinking', says Sage expert

Cat Neilan
·37-min read
Picnic for St Nick? Sage expert says a 'normal' Christmas is 'wishful thinking' - Christopher Pledger
Picnic for St Nick? Sage expert says a 'normal' Christmas is 'wishful thinking' - Christopher Pledger

People may be able to celebrate Christmas "as a family" this year, Downing Street has insisted, as a Sage scientist claimed this was "wishful thinking". 

There are growing warning that the festive season could be at risk unless there is some form of mini-lockdown, whether it be a circuit breaker or firebreak. 

However this afternoon a Number 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "The PM has been clear previously that he is hopeful that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas.

"As I say, we've been clear about the ambition to ensure that people may celebrate Christmas as a family this year."

Earlier today Sage scientist Professor John Edmunds said "radical action" would be needed for that to happen.

"The only way that we can have a relatively safe and normal Christmas is if we take radical action now to reduce incidence - at the very least in high incidence areas - and keep the incidence low across the country by implementing a package of measures to reduce social contacts," he told PA.

"The notion that we can carry on as we are and have a Christmas that we can celebrate normally with friends and family is wishful thinking in the extreme."

This morning Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething said the nation's firebreak, which comes in from today, was the best shot at ensuring people can have "company at Christmas".

Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, said it was a "common endeavour" to keep Christmas as close to normal as possible. 

Follow the latest updates below.

03:16 PM

And that's it for another day...

The Government has the makings of a national row on its hands, after hundreds of businesses and organisations including churches and charities said they would provide free school meals next week. 

Cash-strapped councils across the country have stepped into the breach after ministers refused to budge on the issue, despite England footballer Marcus Rashford's growing campaign

He has sparked a tsunami of support by retweeting messages from small businesses from some of the hardest-hit parts of England. But asked four times if Boris Johnson welcomed this philanthropy, his deputy spokesman declined to answer. 

Looking longer term, things could get worse for Mr Johnson if he becomes the Prime Minister who cancelled Christmas after a Sage expert said any kind of normality was "wishful thinking" if he doesn't take "radical action". 

We asked and you answered...

Nearly 1,000 of you responded to today's poll, but it makes for bleak reading, with 41 per cent saying they are bracing for the Grinch. A further 36 per sent said Test & Trace was the answer - although as we have seen this week, things are going in the wrong direction there - while 17 per cent called for more enforcement.

Just six per cent backed a circuit breaker like the one that Wales and Scotland have opted for. 

Mark Drakeford has promised that this is the only lockdown before Christmas - provided everyone follows the rules. We shall see. 

I'll be back on Monday - have a good weekend until then. 

03:06 PM

Government 'probably' should have funded half-term school meals, says Tory mayor

The Conservative West Midlands Mayor has said the Government should "of course" be leading a national approach on free school meals, after hundreds of businesses and local councils stepped into the breach. 

Birmingham City Council has said it will provide 61,000 children in the city with free school meals vouchers over the half-term.

Andy Street said: "To be clear, this is a local authority matter - I don't envy anyone having to make a decision quickly, this afternoon.

"It should not be a last-minute thing, this should be planned for, there should be a national approach on this."

"Because where we are now heading is, there is actually something of an indiscriminate arrangement as to how different people are able to respond at different times," he said.

Mr Street said the Government should make "a clear decision" on whether it would or would not fund free school meals over holidays "well in advance".

Asked if the Government should have to fund half-term meals, he said: "I think - at the last minute - you probably do have to fund it, is the answer to that."

02:47 PM

Last chance to have your say: how can the Government save Christmas?

It was back in July that Boris Johnson promised a "more significant return to normality by November" - although even then Mark Drakeford played Eeyore to the Prime Minister's Tigger. 

Fast forward a few months and the gloomsters are growing in number - and include ministers themselves, with Steve Barclay this morning saying it was now a "common endeavour" to get rates to a point where we can see families at the festive season. 

Labour says the one way to save Christmas is a circuit breaker - a view that seems to be shared by governments in Wales and Scotland.

But senior Tories such as Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt believe Test and Trace is the key. 

What do you think? Have your say in the poll below. 

02:45 PM

Coronavirus takes priority over second independence referendum, Sir Keir Starmer tells Scotland

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said coronavirus should take priority over another Scottish independence referendum.

Last week when an Ipsos Mori survey for STV found 58 per cent of people asked were in support of leaving the UK - something which the Labour leader acknowledged - although he stressed that a number of other polls had shown independence is not a priority for people in Scotland, with tackling the pandemic and the economic recovery being foremost in people's minds. 

He said: "In the middle of a pandemic, it really isn't the time to be having a discussion about independence, it's the time to be working through how we're going to respond to the pandemic."

Last week's poll showed Scottish Labour's support was at 13 per cent in the constituency and list votes, with the party remaining in third position.

The Labour leader said he is working with colleagues north of the border "every week" in preparation for next year's Holyrood election.

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer - Reuters
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer - Reuters

02:36 PM

Restaurant where Rishi Sunak worked 'for fun' giving free hot meals to school children

The restaurant where Rishi Sunak once worked “for fun” is giving free hot meals to school children over the half term. 

Southampton’s award-winning Kuti Brasserie is one of a a string of cafes, bars, restaurants and councils to step into the breach after MPs this week rejected a bid from Labour to extend free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021.

The owner has previously told local paper the Daily Echo that he had known the Chancellor "since he was a little baby" and that he had worked some shifts as a waiter “for fun” because he liked meeting people.

02:18 PM

People must 'make firebreak count' to avoid another lockdown before Christmas

The people of Wales have been urged to "make his next two weeks really count" if they want an uninterrupted run through to Christmas without another lockdown. 

The nation is entering a 17-day 'firebreak' from this evening in a bid to get coronavirus cases back under control. 

Mark Drakeford, the First Minister, told the BBC: "The advice we have had is that provided we all do the right thing and  make this next two weeks really count,  we will be able to get through to Christmas without repeating this sort of measure.

"It really does depend, not on what Government does, but everyone taking this seriously and make their contribution, to help to get the situation back under control and get through to Christmas together."

02:00 PM

Watch: What would a Joe Biden presidency mean for the UK and Brexit?

If the polls are to be believed, (and it would be right to be cautious) Joe Biden is on course to become the 46th President of the United States. But what might that mean for the UK and, crucially, Brexit? 

In theory, Mr Trump and Mr Biden’s aims are similar in that they both wish to protect and boost key US industries like agriculture and pharmaceuticals overseas - but the Democrat's team has made it clear there will be no trade deal if the Good Friday agreement is jeopardised. 

Watch the video above for more. 

01:47 PM

Further 131 people die with coronavirus in English hospitals

A further 131 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 31,558.

Patients were aged between 45 and 99 years old. All except two, aged between 77 and 91, had known underlying health conditions.

The date of death ranges from 13 September to 22 October 2020, with the majority being on or after 14 October.

The North West was the worst affected region, with 47 deaths recorded, followed by North East & Yorkshire (30), Midlands (19), London (13), South East (eight), South West (eight) and the East of England (six). 

Where are the UK's coronavirus hotspots?
Where are the UK's coronavirus hotspots?

01:44 PM

Tory MP 'delighted' by local council funding free school meals

Downing Street might not be comfortable praising local businesses and councils for stepping into the breach when it comes to free school meals - but some Tory MPs are. 

Jane Stevenson, the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton North East, said she was "delighted" that the Midlands council was funding the school meals.

"Nobody voted against children having food security," she tweeted.  

01:34 PM

Welsh Tories call for clarity over 'irresponsible' firebreak shop rules

The Welsh Conservatives have called for urgent clarity over which items are classed as essential ahead of the firebreak lockdown in Wales.

Darren Millar, shadow minister for Covid recovery, said: "With just hours to go until the Wales-wide lockdown begins, confusion is rife the length and breadth of Wales.

"Supermarkets, convenience stores and other shops have no idea which goods the Welsh Labour-led Government regards as non-essential so that they can restrict them from sale."

Mr Millar added: "Making last-minute diktats is irresponsible; ministers must issue guidance immediately so that businesses and the public know where they stand."

A window cleaner spruces up shops which will shut down for two weeks during Wales's firebreak - AFP
A window cleaner spruces up shops which will shut down for two weeks during Wales's firebreak - AFP

01:20 PM

Further 13 deaths in Wales as nation heads into firebreak

There have been a further 761 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 40,253.

Public Health Wales said 13 further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,756.

The nation is poised to enter a firebreak - also known as a circuit breaker - for 17 days from early evening. 

Three-tier postcode tool
Three-tier postcode tool

01:01 PM

What happens next: Discussions underway for post-firebreak strategy in Wales

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said discussions are under way to decide which measures will be used in Wales to tackle coronavirus after the firebreak period.

He told a press conference this included the reopening of businesses and travel arrangements.

"We'll be looking most importantly of all at how households operate. Coronavirus spreads inside households. Coronavirus loves it when people get together," Mr Drakeford said.

"We've got to find ways in which we can allow people to meet with those who are closest to them while not going back to situations where the virus has been able to spread and run away from us in the way we've seen in the last six weeks."

Mr Drakeford said such measures would be provided to people in Wales "well before" the firebreak ends on November 9.

When asked whether Wales could follow a three-tier system as implemented in England, Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government would look at "a system that works for us rather than a system that we have copied".

12:48 PM

Lobby latest: Prime Minister's spokesman declines to praise councils and businesses on free school meals

The Prime Minister's deputy official spokesman has declined to praise councils and businesses for intervening to provide free school meals during the summer holidays on four separate occasions. 

Marcus Rashford, the England footballer who has led the campaign, has spent much of the day retweeting messages from cafes and restaurants as well as councils who have committed to plugging the gap, after MPs voted against a Labour motion earlier this week.  

Asked if the Prime Minister welcomed these acts of philanthropy, his deputy official spokesman said: “We have set out our position a number of times. There is no change."

Pressed a second time, he said: “We are in a different position now with schools back open but we have done a lot to make sure the most vulnerable in our society are protected."

Questioned a third time if the PM would applaud businesses offering free food to hungry children or if he thought it was “unnecessary”, he replied: “You've had my answer on this. We have been clear of our position.”

Asked once more he said: "The PM’s answered this question himself on Wednesday. You’ve got his words from Wednesday."

12:38 PM

R-rate falls - but remains above one

The reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK still remains above 1.

Data released on Friday by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) shows the estimate for R for the whole of the UK is between 1.2 and 1.4.

Last week, the R number was between 1.3 and 1.5.

R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.

When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially.

An R number between 1.2 and 1.4 means that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 12 and 14 other people.

12:29 PM

Tom Harris: Boris Johnson's errors are retoxifying the Tory party in the North

Thanks in part to Boris Johnson’s force of personality and campaigning style, key voters, faced with the real prospect of a Corbyn government, opted to give his party the benefit of the doubt.

For an instant the social embarrassment traditionally felt by voters in working class communities about supporting the Conservatives vanished, or was at least put on hold pending further judgment.

This was a wholly healthy development in UK politics; if voters are to consider switching parties from election to election and not feel defensive about weighing up the offers from other parties, that can only strengthen our democracy and electoral process and keep the parties on their toes. The question is: has it kept Johnson and his ministers on theirs?

Judging by this week, the answer is no.

12:13 PM

Transmission rates in UK of 'serious concern', says European CDC

Transmission of coronavirus in 23 EU member states and the UK are now of "serious concern", the bloc's disease control agency has warned. 

All EU countries except Cyprus, Estonia, Finland and Greece fall into that category, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control's (ECDC) latest assessment, up from only seven countries a month ago.

"The continuing increases in Covid-19 infections... pose a major threat to public health, with most countries having a highly concerning epidemiological situation," ECDC director Andrea Ammon said in a statement.

"EU/EEA countries and the UK have implemented various non-pharmaceutical interventions but these have not been sufficiently effective in controlling transmission due to several factors: adherence to the measures was sub-optimal; the measures were not implemented quickly enough; or the measures were insufficient to reduce exposure.

"As a result, the epidemiological situation is now rapidly deteriorating in most countries. Consequently, in countries where the epidemiological situation is of serious concern, there is a high risk to the general population, and for vulnerable individuals the COVID-19 epidemiological situation represents a very high risk."

12:00 PM

Lobby latest: People will celebrate Christmas 'as a family', says Downing Street

People may be able to celebrate Christmas "as a family" this year, Downing Street has insisted. 

Sage scientists, Labour, and the Scottish and Welsh governments have all warned that it is highly unlikely that Christmas can go ahead with any semblance of normality unless there is some form of mini-lockdown, whether it be a circuit breaker or firebreak. 

A Number 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "The PM has been clear previously that he is hopeful that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas.

"As I say, we've been clear about the ambition to ensure that people may celebrate Christmas as a family this year."

Our daily poll is on this very subject - have your say below. 

11:56 AM

Lobby latest: Intensified Brexit talks to run over the weekend, says Downing Street

Intensive Brexit talks will continue over the weekend between Michel Barnier and Lord Frost, Downing Street has confirmed. 

A Number 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "Intensive talks are continuing and they will continue over the weekend until the 25th.

"We've published a set of principles for handling these intensified talks and they will continue over the weekend."

Mr Barnier and Lord Frost are expected to join the negotiations with officials.

David Frost in London this morning - AP
David Frost in London this morning - AP

11:53 AM

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson has full confidence in Test & Trace boss Dido Harding

Boris Johnson continues to have full confidence in Baroness Dido Harding, executive chairwoman of NHS Test and Trace, despite the poor performance of the system.

Yesterday the Prime Minister said he was "frustrated" by Test and Trace's slow turnaround times as the latest figures showed just one in seven people receiving Covid test results within 24 hours. It was "absolutely crucial" to improve the system as official figures showed its worst performance on record. Scientists have repeatedly said speedy isolation is key to controlling virus outbreaks. 

Asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in her, a Number 10 spokesman said: "He does."

11:49 AM

Blocking supermarkets from selling non-essential goods during firebreak 'fair play', says Mark Drakeford

Stopping supermarkets from selling non-essential goods during Wales' firebreak lockdown is "a simple matter of fair play", the First Minister has said

"We are requiring many hundreds of small businesses to close on the high street right across Wales," Mark Drakeford said.

"We cannot do that and then allow supermarkets to sell goods that those people are unable to sell.

"And we are looking to minimise the amount of time that people spend out of their homes during this two-week period.

"This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods."

11:44 AM

Celebrating Christmas as normal is 'wishful thinking in the extreme', says Sage scientist

The idea that "we can carry on as we are" and have a normal Christmas "is wishful thinking in the extreme", a Government scientific adviser has said.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said "radical action" would be needed to stem the rise in coronavirus cases, particularly in regions with high incidence of the virus.

He told the PA news agency that a circuit-breaker is needed across the whole country or at least in areas where incidence is high.

"The only way that we can have a relatively safe and normal Christmas is if we take radical action now to reduce incidence - at the very least in high incidence areas - and keep the incidence low across the country by implementing a package of measures to reduce social contacts," he said.

"The notion that we can carry on as we are and have a Christmas that we can celebrate normally with friends and family is wishful thinking in the extreme."

11:29 AM

No plans for spring-style lockdown under Scotland's five tier system

Scotland's five tiers will range from level zero to  level four, with no plans for restrictions to return to the level seen during the spring, says Nicola Sturgeon. 

The lowest level of restrictions is "the closest to normality" that is possible without improved treatments, which is "broadly comparable to the position we were in during August", 

Level one is broadly similar to the situation mid-September, with some restrictions on indoor meetings. 

The Government is aiming to get back to those two levels while treatment and vaccines are still be developed. 

Level two is where much of Scotland currently is, she adds while level three relates to tougher restrictions in central belt, with much of hospitality closed. 

Level four is the highest level "which of course we would not unless absolutely necessary", if there is a risk of the NHS being overwhelmed. It is closer to a full lockdown with non-essential shops shut, although schools and some workplaces such as factories would remain open. 

11:25 AM

Scotland taking five-tiered system to 'live with the virus', says Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland will adopt a new national framework to "live with the virus" in the coming months, Nicola Sturgeon has announced. 

Five levels of possible intervention will allow the government to take a national approach if needed, but can avoid "a one size fits all approach if it isn't warranted," the First Minister said. 

"If we allow the virus to run out of control, all the other harms will be exerbated," she explained. 

Before any measures are adopted, there will be a period of consultation in which members of the public can offer feedback, followed by a parliamentary debate and vote, said Ms Sturgeon. Public health experts will also be consulted. 

11:15 AM

Covid cases in England jump nearly 100,000 in a week

There has been a jump in nearly 100,000 coronavirus cases in England this week, according to the Office for National Statistics. 

An estimated 433,300 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between October 10 and 16, the ONS said.

This is the equivalent of around 0.79 per cent of the population.

The figures represent a jump from 336,500 people, or 0.62 per cent of the population, who were estimated to have Covid-19 in the previous week of October 2 to 8.

Coronavirus UKLA current
Coronavirus UKLA current

11:05 AM

One million more Britons to move into Tier 3 as early as Monday

One million more Britons look set to move into Tier 3 restrictions as soon as Monday, with Warrington and Nottinghamshire set to be placed under the harshest lockdown measures later today.

Nottinghamshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping said "the expectation" is that parts of the county will be in "very high" lockdown restrictions by Monday.

Meanwhile, Warrington Borough Council agreed a deal with the Government to move into the highest tier this morning.

The new rules are expected to come into force on Monday and will mirror those in neighbouring authorities Liverpool and Manchester.

Council leader Russ Bowden said: "We have got an issue in Warrington where the number of cases is stuck at a high level.

"It is a tough decision to make but we have got to that point where we need to move into Tier 3."

A package of financial help will see £4 million available for affected businesses and around £1 million given to the council to help with public health and enforcement.

Three-tier Covid lockdown map
Three-tier Covid lockdown map

10:35 AM

Christmas at risk without urgent circuit breaker, says Labour

Christmas could be at risk unless the Government implements a short-term national lockdown, Labour has suggested. 

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, told BBC that not deploying a circuit breaker now would have an "enormous economic cost" running up to Christmas, with people "changing their consumption behaviour" because they were put off going into towns and city centres. 

"The tier system so far has not worked to reduce infections," she added. "What we are looking at unfortunately - given the Government doesn't seem to be willing to shift on this when half-term holidays are coming up - what we are looking up to Christmas is an increasingly difficult situation in lots of parts of the country."

The three-tiered system created a crisis that was "drawn out and spread across the country" resulting in "many fewer people going out to buy things", she added. 

Wales' firebreak is the best prospect the nation has at ensuring people can have "company at Christmas", the health minister Vaughan Gething said this morning. 

Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, told the Today programme it was now a "common endeavour" to keep Christmas as close to normal as possible. 

10:32 AM

Anxiety and loneliness reach highest level since mid-April

Levels of anxiety, worry and loneliness are at their highest in months while life satisfaction has fallen, a survey suggests.

The proportion of adults with high levels of anxiety, who are feeling lonely and who are worried about the impact of coronavirus, has been on the rise since early September, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Anxiety levels remain at the highest recorded since April, while almost half (49 per cent) of adults said their wellbeing is being affected by the virus - the highest since mid-April.

More than three quarters of adults (76 per cent) are very or somewhat worried about the impact of Covid-19 on their lives - the highest proportion since April, the ONS said.

And more than a quarter (27 per cent) of adults said they feel lonely often, always or some of the time - the highest proportion since May.  

10:19 AM

Labour MP discharged from hospital after contracting Covid-related pneumonia

A Labour MP has been discharged from hospital where she was treated for pneumonia after testing positive for Covid-19.

Yasmin Qureshi was admitted to the Royal Bolton Hospital on Saturday after 10 days of feeling unwell.

The Bolton South East MP praised NHS staff for their "excellent care" as she announced she had been discharged.

Ms Qureshi was one of the Greater Manchester MPs arguing against Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions being imposed on the region.

10:18 AM

Donald Trump's odds to win presidential race improve after debate

Donald Trump’s performance in last night's presidential debate appears to have boosted his odds of winning - although he is still well behind rival Joe Biden. 

Mr Trump had odds of 21/10 (32 per cent) to win the 2020 election before the event began and is now 19/10 (34 per cent), while Mr Biden fell from 1/2 (68 per cent) to 8/15 (66 per cent), according to BetFair.

Some £2 million was placed on the two men during the debate, taking the total bet in the last 24 hours to more than £9 million, keeping it on course to become the biggest single betting event of all time.

Professional political gambler and Betfair’s election expert Paul Krishnamurty said: “This was Donald Trump’s best debate performance by a long way. He was much more disciplined and that’s been rewarded by the odds moving in his favour. 

"That said, Biden will be happy enough. He achieved his primary goal - avoiding any disasters. He came across as passionate and informed.”

10:05 AM

Fact check: No, there is no secret Tier 4

A rumour has been doing the rounds this morning that the Government had secretly created a fourth tier of restrictions, under which all childcare institutions would be shut. 

Under the three tiers set out by Boris Johnson last week, primary schools and early years settings such as childminders and nurseries would remain open even in the highest category rating of Tier 3.

However it turns out that this is not a cloak-and-dagger mission creep. Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, actually announced this Tier 4 contingency plan back at the end of August, when the traffic lights system was still a glint in the Prime Minister's eye. 

09:49 AM

Treasury criticised over lack of costing for Budget-level support package

The failure of the Treasury to publish any costing for the latest set of measures has been criticised by a senior economist. 

Paul Johnson, director of the independent think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told The Telegraph's Politics Live he was "surprised" at the lack of detail being published, suggesting it was because the package had been worked out "too late, too fast". 

The package could be as much as £12bn he said, "as much if not more than very many Budgets would involve", but without the usual independent assessment from the OBR. 

He said: "It is in one sense understandable given the crisis but it's not ideal...  It is not a big long term issue but I do think it is an indication of the Treasury’s own uncertainty about the scale of what they are doing and almost a lack of confidence in producing figures because the details of the schemes  were worked out at such huge speed. 

"The Government is clearly is reacting to changes in the immediate coronavirus situation and I think you could reasonably argue the Treasury should have been more ready than it appears they were."

Timeline | Financial support measures to fight coronavirus
Timeline | Financial support measures to fight coronavirus

09:40 AM

Jeremy Corbyn's anti-lockdown brother applauded as he arrives for trial

Piers Corbyn was applauded by around a dozen supporters as he arrived at Westminster Magistrates' Court for his trial over allegedly breaking coronavirus restrictions by attending public gatherings in Hyde Park.

Mr Corbyn, of East Street, Southwark, denies two counts of participating in a gathering in public of more than two people in England during the coronavirus emergency period relating to two anti-lockdown protests on May 16 and May 30.

The 73-year-old climate change denier, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, wore a dark blue shirt and tie as he appeared in court on Friday, and was told to turn his phone off by District Judge Samuel Goozee after it began ringing in court on Friday morning.

Piers Corbyn is standing trial for breaches of the coronavirus restrictions - Reuters
Piers Corbyn is standing trial for breaches of the coronavirus restrictions - Reuters

09:24 AM

Brexit: Michel Barnier says UK and EU have 'huge common responsibility' to avoid no deal

Michel Barnier said Britain and the EU had a "a huge common responsibility" to avoid a no deal Brexit as he arrived in London for the first day of rebooted trade talks on Thursday.

Number 10 warned that "significant gaps" remained between the two sides over fishing, "level playing field guarantees" and enforcement, and said it was "entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed".

EU diplomats in Brussels predicted that fishing would be the easiest of the three outstanding issues to solve in the intensive daily negotiations that will continue through the weekend and in Brussels next week.  

08:43 AM

Job cuts deepen as UK recovery loses steam

The UK's private sector has slowed its recovery from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in October, as more restrictions came into force in cities across the country.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Flash UK composite purchasing managers' index (PMI), a closely watched measure, was 52.9 in October, after hitting 56.5 a month earlier.

A score above 50 is considered to show growth. The flash data is preliminary and based on responses from about 85 per cent of the usual replies that the full data uses.

You can keep up to date with all the latest business news here

08:40 AM

Sajid Javid: Britain would be better off with Joe Biden

Donald Trump may have borrowed Ronald Reagan’s campaign slogan, but he’s abandoned his legacy, writes Sajid Javid. Reagan-era Republicanism was defined by a commitment to free trade, civil society and rule of law.

Trump’s conservatism has been marked by trade wars, divisive rhetoric and a reckless disregard for the separation of powers. On the international stage, Reagan was a hard-headed realist who executed a concentrated strategy to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. Trump has pursued a foreign policy that’s as alienating as it is unpredictable.

Read why the former chancellor believes that Britain would be better with Joe Biden

08:19 AM

Listen: Why the circuit breaker isn't a silver bullet

Millions more Britons will soon be living under tighter coronavirus restrictions, but Sadiq Khan and Sir Keir Starmer are among the Labour MPs calling for even harsher measures.

They want to see a two-week national ’circuit breaker’ lockdown, but would this diminish the problem or simply delay it?

The Telegraph’s Global Health Security Correspondent Sarah Newey joins Theodora Louloudis to discuss why the move isn't a silver bullet.

Coronavirus podcast - Time for a two week lockdown?
Coronavirus podcast - Time for a two week lockdown?

08:08 AM

"We were bombed in the Blitz and we didn’t give in. We shouldn't surrender now'

A great grandmother who captured what many people were feeling when she said she “didn’t give a sod” about coronavirus rules has said that the country should not “surrender” to the pandemic.

Maureen Eames, 83, who became an overnight celebrity after expressing her anger at the impact of Government restrictions, said that Britain was supposed to be “a free country” and “life has to go on”.

Speaking from her South Yorkshire home just before parts of the region enter tier three restrictions, she warned that it is subsequent generations who will be paying the price for the lockdown, telling Boris Johnson: “The future of the young is in your hands.”

Read her interview with the Telegraph here.

07:53 AM

Have your say on: how can the Government save Christmas?

It was back in July that Boris Johnson promised a "more significant return to normality by November" - although even then Mark Drakeford played Eeyore to the Prime Minister's Tigger. 

Fast forward a few months and the gloomsters are growing in number - and include ministers themselves, with Steve Barclay this morning saying it was now a "common endeavour" to get rates to a point where we can see families at the festive season. 

Labour says the one way to save Christmas is a circuit breaker - a view that seems to be shared by governments in Wales and Scotland.

But senior Tories such as Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt believe Test and Trace is the key. 

What do you think? Have your say in the poll below. 

07:34 AM

It will be a 'common endeavour' to see families this Christmas, says Treasury minister

A Treasury minister has failed to commit to whether families will be able to see each other other Christmas, saying it is now a "common endeavour" to keep the festive season as close to normal as possible. 

Asked how he would describe the chances of people having a "normal Christmas" despite Covid-19 restrictions, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I would describe it as a shared endeavour for all of us."

He added that "few people expect it to be as it would be normally - the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser have been very clear on that. 

"But about the ability of families to spend Christmas together that is something we all hope to do.

"All of us wants to be able to enjoy Christmas with our families. And that's why there is a common purpose here to get the virus down."

"It is a common endeavour," he added. 

07:26 AM

Better to support welfare system than use free school meals, says minister

The best way to feed children is through 'the welfare system' rather than free school meals, a Government minister has said. 

Earlier this week  a motion calling for free school meals to be given out during the October half term was defeated by 322 votes to 261 - with a majority of 61.

Asked if the Government would reconsider its position, Steve Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told BBC Breakfast: "We keep all issues under review.

"It's important we support families in need, that's why we've allocated £9 billion of additional funding through the welfare system, it's why we've spent over £200 billion as part of our response to Covid.

"We've put measures into school specifically to support disadvantaged children, and because it is absolutely core as an issue.

"The issue is what is the best way of getting support to families? And we have done that through the welfare system, through support to local authorities, targeted measures in schools and above all trying to help as many people keep their jobs through the package of measures we've set out."

07:21 AM

Minister says it is 'not true' that Government bolstered support because of London entering Tier 2

A Treasury minister has said it is "not true" that Government support has been bolstered only because London has entered higher restrictions. 

Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, told the Today programme that the Chancellor's announcement yesterday replaced the existing furlough scheme from November 1. 

But challenged about the need for some measures to be backdated, suggesting Rishi Sunak had only retrospectively realised the impact Tier 2 restrictions were having on businesses, Mr Barclay said the team had been "listening to business leaders and responding to their concerns."

He added: "This is not about one area of the country vs another. 

"There is a range of measures, what the Chancellor was talking about yesterday was as we come out of furlough and back to work...the path of virus deteriorating has made that more challenging."

07:12 AM

Vaughan Gething: This year's Christmas won't be like last year's

Wales' firebreak is the best prospect the nation has at ensuring people can have "company at Christmas", the health minister has said. 

Vaughan Gething told Sky News he was unable to confirm if it would work, saying: "We are living in a world of uncertainty so trying to giving an absolute guarantee on anything is a fool's game.

But he added: "And if we don't act, we will see more harm. We almost certainly see more cases and people coming into our hospitals over the next two weeks. What really matters is to get coronavirus back under control".

The Welsh government will not extend the lockdown beyond 9 November, he added, and that the government accepts it will not see a dramatic fall in cases and transmission rate.

But it will give us the opportunity "for a more sustained pattern" to get Wales to "the end of the year," he said.

On whether we're in for a digital Christmas this year, he said: "We are acting now so people can have company at Christmas.

"I have not be able to hug my mother for seven months now - and that's really dislocating. "I want people to have some sort of normality, but it won't be last Christmas."

07:06 AM

Chancellor 'decided' not to fix gap in support for excluded workers, claims Labour

Gaps in the Government's winter economy plan mean some workers have been excluded from support, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said people who have savings were "knocked out of support".

On the gaps in support, she said: "We didn't really see any recognition of that, I think that's very problematic.

She added: "A big issue here is the fact that our social security system could be fixed really quite quickly, it wouldn't necessarily even be particularly expensive to fix it.

"If people got a little bit of savings, which a lot of self-employed people do have, then they get knocked out of that support very quickly, they have to wait for five weeks.

"The Chancellor could've fixed that yesterday, but he decided not to do that unfortunately."

07:03 AM

Delay in new support package did not contribute to job cuts, minister says

Steve Barclay has rejected suggestions that people have lost their jobs because of a delay in Government support. 

When asked if he thought the timing had contributed to redundancies, the chief secretary to the Treasury told Breakfast "no", arguing the furlough is still in place until next week. 

However critics have argued that firms kicked off consultations or some cases have already laid people off in anticipation of furlough ending next week.  

He said: "The reality is that the winter plan that was set out on September 24 was drawn up with business leaders and trade unions, and widely supported by businesses at the time. 

"But the path of the virus has changed, it got worse. In the summer we saw consumer confidence coming back, but regrettably the path of the virus has deteriorated. It is right the Chancellor listens to that, and business concerns

"We listened again to concerns when they said there were further concerns arising ...  but we have also been honest that we can't  save every job."

06:51 AM

Sunak provides extra £13bn to keep businesses alive

Rishi Sunak will deliver £13 billion of extra support to save thousands of firms and hundreds of thousands of jobs as he said Covid restrictions had left them facing "profound uncertainty".

The Chancellor announced more money for topping up wages and additional grants for businesses and the self-employed, aimed primarily at areas in Tier 2 restrictions that currently have little or no Government help.

Boris Johnson said the six-month scheme – the third new support package in a month – was needed to keep businesses "alive" and avoid the need for a second national lockdown.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister was downbeat about the chances of a vaccine coming to the rescue, saying Britain "cannot just count on that" and had to "keep going" with extra measures – but Mr Sunak warned that announcing multi-billion pound bailouts every month was "clearly not sustainable" in the long term.