Thursday, 28 May 2020: Tory MPs defy Johnson’s call to move on, EU Commission wants to borrow 750 billion euros to aid economic recovery, UK’s Brexit negotiator says deal is unlikely by deadline, Lufthansa board rejects EU conditions on bailout


Tory MPs defy Johnson’s call to move on: More than 60 Conservative MPs have continued to defy Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s calls to move on from the Dominic Cummings crisis. Government advisor Cummings is accused of breaking lockdown rules by travelling from London to County Durham. Penny Mordaunt, a former defence secretary who now holds the ministerial post of paymaster general, said there were inconsistencies in Cummings’ account. In an email sent to constituents, Mordaunt said Cummings’ continued position was a matter for the prime minister but she could fully understand how angry people were and believed there was no doubt that Cummings took risks. At an appearance before the liaison committee of senior MPs, Johnson had declined to answer most questions about Cummings, saying repeatedly it was time to “move on”. Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said Johnson had given no credible explanation why evidence had not been passed on to the cabinet secretary to investigate. The Labour MP added that the prime minister’s handling of the story had undermined the public health message he was trying to put forward. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said everyone could drive across the country and relocate their households to seek childcare in the same way that Cummings did, but there would be no review of fines imposed on people who have done that before now.,,

Johnson announces test and trace plan for England: A new coronavirus test and quarantine regime will be launched in England this Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday. People in England who test positive for Covid-19 will be contacted by the NHS and be expected to share information about anyone they have had significant contact with. Close contacts will be defined as those who come within a metre of someone who has tested positive or been within one and two metres of this infected individual for 15 minutes or more without protective equipment. The contact must have occurred two days before the person developed symptoms or up to seven days after they have developed symptoms. Those who have been in contact with a victim will be asked to quarantine at home for 14 days. The service will not initially include the app that is key to finding anonymous contacts. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the app, which is being trialled on the Isle of Wight, would be rolled out when the system was bedded in.,

Minister accepts Isle of Dogs housing development was unlawful: Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has accepted he approved a £1bn east London housing development unlawfully. The 1,500-home development on the Isle of Dogs, Tower Hamlets, was approved on 14 January – the day before community charges placed on developments were increased. The timing of the decision meant Conservative Party donor Richard Desmond avoided paying around £40m. Jenrick accepted his decision was unlawful but denies any bias. Documents related to the consent order for the development show that the minister was aware that a council-imposed community infrastructure levy would have been introduced on 15 January this year.,

Vietnamese migrant deaths in lorry spark 26 arrests: Police in Belgium and France on Wednesday announced the arrests of 26 people suspected of human trafficking in the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants who were found in a refrigerated truck in Britain last year. Belgian prosecutors said the suspects had probably transported up to several dozen people every day for several months. A number of people had earlier been arrested in connection with the deaths, including several in Vietnam. The driver of the lorry, Maurice Robinson, pleaded guilty last month to 39 counts of manslaughter.,

Treasury: Furlough scheme now covers 8.4 million workers
Conservatives: Government accused of cronyism after ex-Tory MPs given tourism roles
Climate: MPs call for extra £30bn to aid green recovery from Covid-19


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EU Commission wants to borrow 750 billion euros to aid economic recovery: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has unveiled plans for a 750 billion euro recovery fund as the EU faces the worst economic crisis since the 1930s due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 750 billion euros includes 500 billion euros in grants and 250 billion euros in loans to member states. Out of the 500 billion euros in loans, 310 billion will be invested in the green and digital transitions. The Commission will borrow the funds and then disburse them via the European budget. They will be repaid by 2058. Von der Leyen said the fund, which is dubbed Next Generation EU, is providing an ambitious answer. She said the virus had shaken Europe and the world to its core, testing healthcare and welfare systems. To protect lives and livelihoods, repair the European Single Market, as well as to build a lasting recovery, the Commission was proposing to harness the full potential of the EU budget. National EU leaders will discuss the plan at a summit on 19 June. “Everything should be done to reach an agreement before the summer break,” said the chairman of EU leaders, Charles Michel.,,,

UK’s Brexit negotiator says deal is unlikely by deadline: The UK left the EU on 31 January but the main terms of its membership remain in place during a transition period until the end of this year, allowing it time to negotiate a new free trade deal with the EU. Brussels wants an overall agreement with the UK, but Britain wants separate agreements on individual topics such as fisheries, police cooperation or the status of Northern Ireland. On Wednesday, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said it was unlikely that Britain and the EU would finalise a fisheries agreement by a July deadline. The „Times“ reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will resume Brexit talks in Brussels next month.,,

ECB anticipates drastic economic downturn: The euro-area economy is faring worse than hoped, facing a recession as bad as the European Central Bank’s more pessimistic forecasts. Output is set to shrink between 8% and 12%, ECB President Christine Lagarde said on Wednesday. “We’ll have a better sense in a few days as we publish our numbers in early June, but it’s likely we will be in between the medium and severe scenarios,” Lagarde said when asked about the outlook in an online question-and-answer session. Meanwhile, ECB Executive Board member Isabel Schnabel has said the German constitutional court’s ruling against the ECB’s bond-buying scheme will not directly affect the ECB and will not lead to Germany’s Bundesbank having to exit the scheme.,

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European External Action Service: EU’s diplomatic service launches probe over China disinformation leak
Belarus: EU concludes agreements on visa facilitation and readmission
Investment plan: First EIB support for solar energy project in Poland
Hong Kong activist: EU should hurry up on Magnitsky Act to save Hong Kong
UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls: US states manipulating pandemic to restrict abortion access


Sweden has always insisted that the fund should focus on lending, which provides stronger incentives for the effective use of money.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has rejected the EU recovery fund worth 750 billion euros to help countries weather a recession triggered by the coronavirus.


Lufthansa board rejects EU conditions on bailout: Coronavirus-hit airline Lufthansa on Wednesday said its supervisory board was unable to approve a €9 billion rescue plan from the German government because of fears that conditions imposed by the EU over accepting the support might be too stringent. The bailout plan nevertheless remains the only viable alternative to insolvency, Lufthansa said, and negotiations will continue over EU demands that would lead to a weakening of its airport hubs as well as its ability to repay loans. Terms discussed with the EU included the forfeiture of 72 slots used by 12 of 300 jets based at the two airports. But whereas Lufthansa wanted to reclaim the slots after repaying aid, the EU Commission sought permanent concessions, a source familiar with the matter said. German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said after the board announcement he still expected the EU to approve the rescue package. “It’s not only in Germany’s interests but also in the European Union’s interests to avoid a sell-off of strategic interests in the industrial sector as a result of this pandemic,” Altmaier added.,

Austria searches for alleged niece of Russian oligarch: Twelve months have passed since the „Ibiza video“ triggered the dramatic end of the coalition government in Austria and with it the fall from grace of former FPÖ leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache. In the video, Strache appears to be discussing the purchase of Austria’s most popular daily newspaper, the Kronen Zeitung, with a supposed Russian oligarch’s niece. The Vienna public prosecutor’s office now announced that the Austrian Federal Criminal Police Office has confiscated the entire Ibiza video, which is about 12 hours long, the equipment as well as audio material. Police released photos of a woman who passed herself off as „Alyona Makarova,“ niece of the oligarch Igor Makarov. The investigators hope to find out more about the background of the production and preparation of the video.,

French economy to shrink by 20% in second quarter: France’s economy is on course to contract 20% in the second quarter from the previous three months as the country emerges from a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, the Insee official statistics agency estimated on Wednesday. That would mark a sharp deterioration in France’s recession after the euro zone’s second-biggest economy contracted 5.8% in the first quarter. Households‘ concerns about the general economy remained in May at levels unseen since the survey began in 1972, while unemployment fears were the highest since the global financial crisis in 2009.

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Switzerland and Poland relax virus curbs: Switzerland said on Wednesday it would lift curbs on larger public gatherings next month and free up travel within then Schengen zone by 6 July, further easing restrictions on public life as the coronavirus outbreak ebbs. Summer camps, cinemas, theatres and concert halls can reopen under a decision to allow public events of up to 300 people once again from 6 June. Spontaneous gatherings of up to 30 people can start on 30 May, up from a limit of five now. Poles will be allowed to go outside without protective masks from 30 May and cinemas, theatres and gyms will reopen on 6 June, the Polish government said on Wednesday. (Switzerland), (Poland)

France 1: Lawmakers endorse the country’s virus tracing app
France 2: Alarm at Covid-linked pollution
Germany sees rise in anti-Semitic, political crimes
Greece: Doctors use GPS, dinghies to screen Greek islands for virus
Poland: Ruling party sees 28 June as deadline for presidential vote


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Swedes risk being excluded from travelling abroad: The Nordic countries are preparing to reopen their borders, but they seem to want Swedish travellers to remain at their doorstep. Finnish Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said that reaching an agreement to allow travel between Scandinavian countries could prove difficult. “Norway, Denmark and Iceland have managed to stabilise the situation. In Sweden, the situation is more worrying,” Ohisalo stressed, suggesting that Finland could implement differentiated policies regarding its borders with Estonia and Sweden, depending on the situation in each country.


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