The SNP’s Westminster leader went head to head with the UK’s Prime Minister regarding the UK’s economic recovery during the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Blackford demanded Mr Johnson extend the furlough scheme in order to protect 61,000 jobs in Scotland.
Mr Blackford said: “What we are talking about is protecting the jobs of people today, it is not a definite and number has asked for that.
“The first steps to any recovery is admitting that there is a problem, even the governor of the Bank of England is telling the Prime Minister to stop and rethink.
2The solution for millions of people right now is an extension of the furlough scheme beyond October.
“The alternative is putting 61,000 jobs in Scotland at risk.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed a meeting later today with Sadiq Khan will consider whether to impose new restrictions on London. The Mayor of London has already said that London should face a new coronavirus lockdown by Monday. When asked on Times Radio today whether Londoners could be asked to work from home as soon as this week, Mr Hancock refused to rule it out.
This would mark a dramatic shift in government position, after concerted effort from ministers to get more people back into the office.
Mr Hancock told Sky News: “The first line of defence is people’s behaviour.
“But then, after that, local lockdowns are necessary, and I’ve brought in local action right across different parts of the country where cases are rising.
“I’ve had discussions this week with the Mayor of London and the teams are meeting today to discuss further what might be needed.”
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In a statement on Friday, Sadiq Khan said he was “extremely concerned” about the “accelerating speed” of new COVID-19 cases in London.
After viewing the latest coronavirus data, Mr Khan claimed that it was “increasingly likely” new restrictions would have to be imposed soon.
City Hall insiders suggest that London is only “two or three days behind” coronavirus hotspots like the North East and Greater Manchester.
Mr Khan is said to be pushing ministers for 10pm curfews on pubs and a ban on mixing households in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.
He warned that if people do not follow the rules, including the rule of six, further restrictions may be necessary.
The Health Secretary said he was “very worried” about the second wave of the virus now emerging in the UK.
Mr Hancock explained: “We have a choice. Either everybody follows the rules – the rule of six and the need to self-isolate if you have a positive test or if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace – or we will have to take more measures.”]
“I don’t want to see more measures, more restrictive measures, but if people don’t follow the rules that is how the virus spreads.”
His comments came as the Government announced people in England risk fines of up to £10,000 if they refuse an order to self-isolate.
The Prime Minister has faced a backlash from across Westminster – even from several of his own Conservative Party ministers and peers – over his proposal to override the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement signed with the EU last year, possibly breaking international law in the process. The Internal Market Bill would breach the Northern Ireland protocol of the divorce agreement that seeks to avoid a hard customs border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU-member the Republic of Ireland. The proposed legislation passed its first stage in the Commons on Monday by 340 votes to 263, and is scheduled to finish its journey through the lower house on September 29.
The Bill will then undergo scrutiny in the Lords but is not being fast-tracked by peers and could take most of October and November to consider.
Several peers in the upper chamber, including some Conservatives, have heavily criticised the Bill, but their main role is to amend and improve legislation, not to block it on principle.
There is precedent for the Lords to block legislation, but deciding to do so would spark a huge constitutional row, so peers are more likely to try and amend the Bill to remove or dilute certain parts.
But any amendments would then have to return to the Commons for approval and wouldn’t likely happen until early December – a long way past the EU’s end of September deadline to withdraw the Bill, or Mr Johnson’s October 15 deadline for a deal with the EU.
Brexit news: Boris Johnson could be set for a huge clash with the House of Lords (Image: GETTY)
Brexit news: The Prime Minister has faced opposition to the Internal Market Bill (Image: GETTY)
Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group think tank, said it’s unlikely the Lords could derail the Internal Market Bill as the Commons can pass legislation to override any opposition to it.
But he warned any attempt by peers to entirely block the legislation would “likely mark the end of the House of Lords existence”.
Mr Harris-Quinney told Express.co.uk: “It’s unlikely they could derail the Bill, but like the Monarchy, the House of Lords effectively exists with the consent of the House of Commons.
“The Commons can pass legislation that overrides any House of Lords opposition if it needs to.
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Brexit news; House of Lords peers have already expressed strong opposition to the proposed legislation (Image: GETTY)
“There should be little doubt this is exactly what the government would do in the event the Lords decided to attempt to block the legislation entirely.
“It would also very likely mark the end of the House of Lords existence.”
Alistair Jones, Associate Professor in Politics and University Teacher Fellow at De Montfort University in Leicester, warned while peers will not be able to destroy the Prime Minister’s overall Brexit plan at this stage, the same cannot be said for the Internal Market Bill.
He told this website: “Brexit will not be derailed. We have already left the EU, and are merely in a transition period – which was supposed to be time for both sides to adjust to the new relationship.
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Brexit news: The House of Lords could try to block the Internal Market Bill (Image: GETTY)
Brexit news: The EU has issued several warnings to the UK over the Bill (Image: GETTY)
“The Internal Market Bill could be derailed, but I don’t think Johnson is overly bothered.
“He has been ready for a no-deal relationship and I feel that is his real aim.
“The issue is about finding a ‘fall guy’ to take the blame should this go wrong.
“Keir Starmer has avoided this trap, as has the EU. The House of Lords may have walked into it.”
Brexit news: The transition period ends on December 31, 2020 (Image: EXPRESS)
On Thursday, former Tory leader Lord Howard slapped down a compromise between Downing Street and Conservative MPs to amend parts of the Internal Market Bill, warning it “isn’t enough” for him to back it in the House of Lords, and warned the chances of others approving it are “not great”.
The proposed changes would hand the Commons a say before powers to break international law could be used.
But Lord Howard said: “The Government is still asking Parliament to break international law.”
Earlier this month, a House of Lords spokesman defended the role peers play in the upper chamber, and told Express.co.uk: “The House of Lords is a highly effective and busy Chamber, performing a vital role of improving legislation and holding the Government to account.
Brexit news: Lord Howard has expressed strong opposition to the Internal Market Bill (Image: GETTY)
“Only today the House began detailed line-by-line examination of the Immigration and Social Security Bill which will determine how our immigration system works once the Brexit transition period ends, tomorrow we start on the Trade Bill, vital issues that require the close scrutiny for which the House is known.
“In the last financial year the House considered 779 amendments to legislation and asked the Government 6,482 written questions.
“This is the important process of improving legislation and holding the Government to account in action.”
The steps from the social media giants come after The Washington Post reported that Turning Point Action had paid teenagers to flood the platforms with conservative talking points, which included disinformation and misleading claims. The campaign, the Post reported, functioned like a troll farm but had evaded disruption because it was carried out by humans who used their own accounts without disclosing that they were posting on behalf of Turning Point Action.
“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google, told the newspaper.
Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told CNN the platform had removed multiple accounts for violating its policies on having and maintaining multiple accounts. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed multiple accounts had been removed for violations of their policies on platform manipulation and spam.
Both platforms said they are continuing to review the accounts The Washington Post said were part of Turning Point Action’s campaign.
Austin Smith, the field director of Turning Point Action, explained to the Post in a statement “like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic.”
“Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model,” he said.
Turning Point USA told CNN it has no comment on the Washington Post report.
Concerns over misinformation on social media have been at the forefront of the presidential election as platforms have struggled with how to handle a President who eagerly shares rumors, unverified viral videos and conspiracy theories.
Facebook and Twitter promised earlier this year to crack down on misinformation, but their responses over the summer to deceptively edited political videos and harmful posts about Covid-19 were often lacking — and too slow.
Additionally, Facebook announced earlier this month that people associated with the infamous St. Petersburg troll group that was part of Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election are trying to target Americans again.
The operation seems to have been shut down before it could get much traction on Facebook or the rest of the internet. That mirrors what happened around the 2018 midterm elections, when — as far as is publicly known — the Russian trolls’ online efforts were halting and small.
The trolls had far more luck gaining followers and engagement in 2016, though it is not known how much of an impact, if any, their work had on the election.
CNN’s DJ Judd and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under fire this week over the internal market bill, which aims to protect jobs and trade in the UK after the transition period with the EU ends on December 31. Part of the legislation explains how the UK will “provide financial assistance to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland with new powers to spend taxpayers’ money previously administered by the EU”. The Welsh Government reacted furiously by blasting the bill as “an attack on democracy and an affront to the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland”.
YesCymru campaign chairman Sion Jobbins warned there was growing support of Welsh independence within the country amid the Internal Market Bill being debated and voted on in Parliament this week.
Between 12.29pm and 7.20pm today, 1,608 Express readers voted on whether Wales could really go it alone as an independent country.
A whopping 1,421 (89 percent) voters said they did not believe Wales could really go it alone.
Only 169 voters (10 percent) said they thought Wales could thrive as an independent country.
And 18 people (one percent) said they did not know.
Can’t see this Brexit poll? Click here to open in your browser
Wales news: Express.co.uk readers have shut down calls for Welsh independence (Image: GETTY)
Many readers vented their frustration at the prospect of Wales separating from the rest of the UK.
One person said: “Wishful, if not delusional thinking, without unrestricted access to the rest of the UK’s internal market and the substantial transfer payments made to it, its position is much the same as Scotland’s and Northern Ireland’s.”
Another reader added: “I’m Welsh and no way should we be independent.
“Like Scotland, why cut off the hand that feeds you, we just can’t afford it.”
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Wales news: The majority of voters said Wales should not be independent (Image: APESTER)
A third agreed that people in Wales are not leaning towards independence.
They said: “I am Welsh and there is no appetite or desire for independence amongst the silent majority.”
And a fourth reader called for the UK to remain united.
They said: “Breaking up the Great Britain is the worst thing we could do and our children will pay for that mistake.
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The UK has made changes to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (Image: PA)
“Remember divided we will fall.
“We can be great together again!”
Mr Jobbins previously outlined the key ways Wales may already be “ready to be independent”.
He toldExpress.co.uk: “Our GDP per capita is higher than Spain or Portugal, our tax revenue per head is high than New Zealand’s, we have 15 percent of the whole of Europe’s tidal power, we already export twice as much electricity as we use and, are in fact, the world’s 6th biggest electricity exporter, we also have excellent brands in food and meats, a strong tourism sector and 6 universities where most of the students come in from outside Wales.
The UK is hoping to gain more control over Welsh spending (Image: EXPRESS)
“We’re recognised as an independent country in many sports – football and rugby being most obvious (where we’re totally self-financing and doing well), have some international consulates here already like Ireland and we have a strong country brand.
“Wales is better and more ready to be independent than the vast majority of countries who’ve ever become independent since the War.”
The result of a YouGov poll carried out in May showed 25 percent of 1,021 people who voted were in support of Welsh independence.
Boris Johnson debated the Internal Market Bill in the Commons this evening (Image: PA)
The UK government defended the new bill, which will give ministers more power to spend money in Wales.
The Market Bill would replace EU funding programmes that would have normally been devolved to the Welsh Government.
This includes areas such infrastructure, economic development, culture and sport.
Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “These new spending powers will mean that these decisions will now be made in the UK, focus on UK priorities and be accountable to the UK Parliament and people of the UK.”
Now, royal author Omid Scobie has said the move cements their willingness to stay in the US and build a new life. Meghan and Harry are in a probation period which will last until next month, which he suggested is “leaving the door open” for them.
However, he claimed the couple would rather “prove that it can stay shut”.
He said in The HeirPod podcast: “I think it just shows how keen they are, to truly be independent.”
The renovation of Frogmore Cottage took place between 2018 and 2019 and is estimated to have cost around £2.4 million of taxpayers’ money.
Prince Harry’s spokesman said this month the Duke had paid back the bill completely by contributing to the sovereign grant.
Mr Scobie added the royal couple did not “necessarily” owe the money back.
However, he said having the “looming” debt could have been “an excuse for other things to be used against you”.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will still be able to use Frogmore Cottage as their UK residence, it is understood.
Recently, the couple signed a multi-year production deal with video streaming giant Netflix.
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“As new parents, making inspirational family programming is also important to us, as is powerful storytelling through a truthful and relatable lens.”
Meanwhile, Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix, said the firm is “incredibly proud” to have been chosen by the Duke and Duchess as their “creative home”.
It is reported the couple also held meetings with a number of rivals to the streaming site.
Meghan has been involved in showbusiness before – she was known for starring in the US television drama Suits before her marriage to Prince Harry.
However, the Netflix deal is not the only source of income for the couple as they seek financial independence from the Royal Family.
In June, it was reported the Duke and Duchess could earn up to $1 million per speech after signing up to high-profile speaking agency Harry Walker.
Other celebrities on the agency’s roster include actors such as Matthew McConaughey, former presidents of the US, and sports stars such as Venus Williams.
The Duke and Duchess stepped down as senior royals and moved to California earlier this year.
They initially lived in Los Angeles, though they have reportedly moved to the coastal region of Santa Barbara.
The SNP has said thousands of jobs could be lost unnecessarily if the Scottish Parliament is denied the financial powers needed to protect Scotland’s economy from the impact of COVID-19. Ian Blackford, leader of the SNP at Westminster warned a “jobs disaster’” was impending if the Tories scrap the furlough scheme in October and withhold the borrowing powers being sought by Holyrood to save jobs.
But a Government source told Express.co.uk on Saturday evening millions had been given to Scotland in support stressing the comments that the SNP were just playing “party politics”.
The source added: “Boris Johnson and the UK Government are helping Scotland with significant amounts of funding due to COVID-19, the SNP are just looking for something to complain about.
“Scotland should be working together with Westminster to show the strength of the UK during this difficult time.”
The MP warned the growing threat to Scottish jobs demonstrated the need for independence, stressing that the Scottish Parliament would have extended the furlough scheme if Scotland had the normal powers of an independent country.
Whitehall dismissed Ian Blackford’s comments today (Image: Getty)
Ian Blackford called for further powers last night (Image: Getty)
The latest Treasury figures reveal that more than 936,000 jobs, a third of Scotland’s workforce have been propped up by UK Government support.
Numbers salaried under the Job Retention Scheme soared by 43,000 to 779,500 between June and July as the country moved into the third stage of Nicola Sturgeon’s more cautious exit plan.
Over the same period a further 2,000 self-employed Scots were paid out of the public purse.
It takes the total number of non-staff claims to 157,000, with Westminster backing entrepreneurs to the tune of £459 million.
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Kate Forbes previously wrote to Rishi Sunak to extend the furlough scheme (Image: Getty)
Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and other Scottish ministers have repeatedly pushed for the flexibility to borrow more and to be able to move capital underspend over to day-to-day revenue spending.
During a visit to Edinburgh in July, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said that a further £1.9 billion in funding had been given to the Scottish Government to see out the year and fund initiatives to tackle the effects of COVID-19 in lieu of granting more fiscal flexibility for Scotland.
Mr Blackford, said: “The UK faces a looming jobs disaster if the Tories cut the furlough scheme and withhold the crucial financial powers the Scottish Parliament needs to save jobs and protect our economy.
“Reckless Tory plans to cut support for jobs in the middle of a global pandemic could lead to mass unemployment – with thousands of unnecessary job losses and lasting social damage for communities across Scotland.
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Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has called for more spending powers (Image: Getty)
“The Scottish Government is doing what it can with the limited financial powers it has to protect jobs – including vital policies like the youth guarantee.
“But the hard reality is, without the normal powers of an independent country, Scotland is unable to extend the furlough scheme and deliver the scale of fiscal stimulus needed to properly protect our economy.
“By withholding these powers and refusing to act, Westminster is leaving Scotland to tackle this unprecedented crisis with one hand tied behind our back – putting thousands of Scottish jobs on the line.
“Scotland can make different choices to protect jobs but only if we have the powers that other normal countries have.
“Our European neighbours in Ireland, France and Germany are already extending their furlough schemes just as Scotland would if we were independent.
“Boris Johnson must perform an urgent U-turn, extend the furlough scheme, and devolve the powers Scotland needs.
“Scotland shouldn’t have to wait for Westminster to act. It is clearer than ever that the only way to properly protect jobs and our economy is for Scotland to become an independent country.”
However, the latest economic figures from the Scottish Government reveal Scotland faces an eye-watering public spending gap of more than £40 billion this year.
Ian Blackford stressed the importance of the furlough scheme (Image: Getty)
The official figures showed Scotland’s fiscal deficit grew to 8.6 percent of GDP in the 2019/20 financial year, with government spending £15.1 billion more than is received in revenues.
Official figures this week showed Scotland’s economy suffered one of the deepest downticks in Europe during lockdown and has bounced back far more slowly than the UK’s.
A UK government spokesperson added: “The strength of the UK has never been more important than now, which is why the UK government is doing everything possible to support all parts of the UK as we recover from the pandemic.
“The UK Government is currently supporting nearly 900,000 jobs in Scotland – a third of the workforce.
“This is just one part of a huge package of measures to get our economy back on track, on top of an extra £6.5 billion guaranteed to the Scottish Government to provide further support to individuals, businesses and public services in Scotland.
“In 2014, people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of a strong United Kingdom.
“We need to focus on issues that really matter to people – continuing to tackle the pandemic and driving forward our economic recovery.”