India added to red list hours after Boris Johnson cancels trip – Telegraph.co.uk

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India has been added to the red list, Matt Hancock has confirmed. 

The move, announced just hours after Boris Johnson cancelled his long-awaited trip to the country, comes after 103 cases of the Indian variant had been identified in the UK, of which the “vast majority have links to international travel”.

Samples have been analysed to see if the new variant has any “concerning characteristics” such as greater transmissibility or resistance to treatments and vaccines.

The Health Secretary added: “After studying the data, and on a precautionary basis, we’ve made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the red list.”

“This means anyone who is not a UK or Irish citizen… cannot enter the UK if they have been in India in the previous 10 days,” he told MPs. UK citizens will have to complete a hotel quarantine. 

The new rules will come into force from Friday.  

India recorded 273,810 infections on Monday – the fifth consecutive day of more than 200,000 cases, with 25,500 new cases reported in Delhi alone.  

Read the latest updates below.

And that’s it for another day…

It was always inevitable – but did the Government act fast enough? And is putting India on the red list enough to keep the new variant out?

These are the questions that will no doubt be asked of Boris Johnson, after he pulled out of his much-delayed trip this morning. Just hours later – despite the Prime Minister insisting it was not the Government’s call – the Health Secretary announced a full travel ban. 

There are now 103 cases in the UK, up from 77 on Friday. The hope is that this will not spiral out of control as it has done in India, reversing the lockdown and resulting in more chaos and deaths. 

This also raises questions for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who was confronted during a walkabout in Bath about not having been a better opposition. The man involved in the altercation was a lockdown sceptic who argued the economy had been sunk because “old people are dying”.

While the incident itself might not be the final nail in Sir Keir’s leadership hopes, it does speak to the challenges he has faced in trying to navigate the political seas in the pandemic’s uncharted territory.

No doubt the Prime Minister will have something to say about it when they next meet – just don’t ask him to name the Conservative West of England mayor

Matt Hancock rejects call to impose global travel ban

The SNP’s Phillipa Whitford asks if the Government will extend the travel ban to all countries, noting that travellers from red list countries can avoid the ban by going via another country. 

She notes that South African and Brazilian variants are increasing in European countries, which do not have to go through the hotel quarantine process. 

“More infectious or vaccine-resistent variants could arise in any country and we wouldn’t know about it until it is too late,” she adds. “The pandemic is still accelerating and… it clearly poses a threat to the UK.”

But Matt Hancock said while international collaboration on vaccines was vital – particularly “amongst like-minded democracies” – the authorities were “restricting yet further” the chance of the Indian variant entering the UK. 

“But the majority of the cases we have seen in the UK have been picked up by the testing we have in place for every single travellers entering the country – that is a sign it is working,” he added. 

India red list decision ‘not taken lightly’, says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has said he welcomes Labour’s support for putting India on the red list, saying it “isn’t a decision we do lightly”. 

The Health Secretary confirms that there will be surge testing “to make sure we limit the spread as much as possible”. 

However he doesn’t confirm whether it has been designated a variant of concern yet. 

On the question of the third wave, Mr Hancock says the best way to avoid it “if we can” is by sticking to the rules – including the “cautious” roadmap.

Matt Hancock urged to ‘act fast’ before Indian variant becomes ‘uncontrollable’

The Indian variant is the fastest growing form of Covid in the UK, Jonathan Ashworth notes. 

“Most of those are imported, so we welcome the announcement about adding India to the red list… but we also now have cases in the community not linked to international travel.

“Surely we now need to start surge testing and designate it a variant of concern,” he adds. 

“If we have learned anything in the last 12 months it is that this virus ruthlessly exploits ambiguities. We must act fast when the situation is controllable because in a few weeks time it might not be.”

Government urged to fix sick pay ahead of third wave

Jonathan Ashworth says that new variants represent the biggest risk to the country as there will always be “significant parts of the population” who are unvaccinated, even with high take up. 

Sage is modelling a third wave this summer – how do we avoid it, the Labour frontbencher asks, suggesting that better sick pay could help. 

“We shouldn’t just glibly accept these health inequities.. for the millionth time of asking will he please fix sick pay?”

India added to red list, says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock also reveals that there are now 103 cases of the Indian variant in the UK, of which the “vast majority have links to international travel”.

The variant has been being analysed to see if it needs to be listed as a variant of concern. 

That means they have taken the “difficult but vital decision” to add India to the red list, he says. 

“This means anyone who is not a UK or Irish citizen cannot enter the UK if they have been in India in the previous 10 days,” he says. 

UK citizens will have to complete a hotel quarantine. 

The new rules will come into force from Friday. 

Matt Hancock: 557 cases of South African variant now detected

Matt Hancock reveals that there have been 557 cases of the South African variant in England, including a “cluster” of cases inSouth London. 

There have been single cases elsewhere, and two-thirds of cases are related to travel, but there has been “a small amount of community transmission”, which has been met with surge testing and isolation. 

Everyone who lives in those areas should be tested regularly. 

He also confirms a pilot scheme for free tests that can be picked up from a pharmacy has now been rolled out to “nine in 10 pharmacies” across the country. 

Government ‘ramping up plans’ for booster shots

The UK’s vaccination programme has already saved 10,000 lives and will prevent “many many more” deaths from Covid, Matt Hancock says. 

He confirms that more than 10 million people have now had both jabs, including four-fifths of over-80s. 

The Health Secretary highlights the consultation launched last week into mandatory vaccines for care home workers,  saying the Government has “a duty of care” to protect the most vulnerable. 

“We must also turn or attention to what comes next – the biggest risk t our progress here in the UK is a new variant that the vaccine does not work so well against,” he adds. 

That is why the Government is “ramping up our plans” for booster shots, which will begin later this year, that will protect people against new variants. 

Covid deaths down 98pc from peak, says Matt Hancock 

Matt Hancock has kicked off his Commons update by confirming that daily deaths are down to “the levels we saw in September”, with hospital numbers down 94 per cent from the peak. 

Covid deaths are now averaging 25 a day – down 98 per cent from the peak. 

“It is brilliant to see the high streets bustling with life once again,” he adds, praising the return “towards normal life”. 

The UK is on track to offer a vaccine to all adults by the end of July, the Health Secretary says as he notes that the roadmap is going ahead as schedule and “we want this road to be one-way”. 

The latest data shows that 98 per cent of people aged 70-84 now have Covid antibodies. 

Housing Secretary chastised for suggesting MP was ‘handed question by Labour whips’

The Housing Secretary has been wrapped on the knuckles for suggesting that a Labour MP had been “handed a question by the Labour whips, which he doesn’t know anything about”.

Virendra Sharma, MP for Ealing, Southall, asked Robert Jenrick about Dame Alison Nimmo, who was recently appointed to the board of the MHCLG.

She “is a director at Berkeley Group, accused of endangering the health of thousands in my constituency with the Southall Gas Works development,” Mr Sharma said. “How can I have confidence in his department’s ability to regulate Berkeley Group?”

Mr Jenrick said he was “disappointed” by the remarks, adding: “Casting aspersions over the integrity of Dame Alison Nimmo is a new low for the opposition. We are fortunate to benefit from her experience, commitment and her public service.”

He added that Mr Sharma was “completely wrong, because he was no doubt handed a question by the Labour whips which he doesn’t know anything about, but nonetheless, it is very poor”. 

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle intervened to say: “I don’t think the Secretary of State needs to cast aspersions on where he got his question from, it’s from his own constituency.”

Voters urged to register by midnight for May 6 elections

Voters have been urged to ensure they are registered to take part in the forthcoming local elections, with the cut-off looming at midnight tonight. 

Craig Westwood, director of communications, policy and research at the Electoral Commission, said: “You can’t vote in the elections this May unless you are registered to vote. 

“It only takes five minutes to register– time that you might otherwise spend waiting for the kettle to boil or your dinner to cook. So if you want to make sure your voice is heard and you’re not already registered, go online and register now.” 

Committee sets out plans for Greensill probe ‘without fear or favour’

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) has formally set out the plans for a probe into “matters of public interest around the Greenshill controversy”.  

It is expected that the PACAC investigation will be the most wide-ranging of the Parliament-led inquiries and could see former prime ministers including Tony Blair and David Cameron give evidence. 

William Wragg, the chair of PACAC and a Conservative MP said:  “Standards in public life are vitally important, and I think most politicians and civil servants fulfil their roles honourably. Maintaining and defending that honourable position matters – that’s precisely why this affair has to be scrutinised.

“We will look in to whether the rules need tightening up and clarifying and we will make any necessary recommendations without fear or favour.”    

The call for evidence is available here. 

‘No apology forthcoming’ over Starmer’s Bath altercation

Labour sources have claimed that the man involved in an altercation with Sir Keir Starmer earlier today “physically manhandled a female member of staff”, according to a fellow lobby journalist. 

Tom Newton Dunn says far from apologising for the Labour leader’s security detail appearing to push Rod Humphris during the incident at the Raven, the pub’s owner has apparently apologised for his behaviour.  

Labour sources say that, as well as shouting at Starmer, this man also physically manhandled a female member of staff, hence why he was restrained. No apology forthcoming – in fact the pub’s owner has apparently apologised to Labour for the man’s behaviour.

— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) April 19, 2021

Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock hail ‘fantastic’ milestone on vaccinations

Boris Johnson said it is “fantastic” that more than 10 million people in the UK have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

“This is another remarkable milestone in our vaccination programme, which has already saved thousands of lives,” the Prime Minister said.

“I want to thank the brilliant staff and volunteers involved in the rollout, and urge all those who are called to keep coming forward.”

Matt Hancock has also praised the team involved in reaching this “milestone”. 

Over 10 million second vaccine doses have been administered across the UK 🇬🇧

This milestone shows how far we’ve come in our fight against this virus & I want to pay tribute to the whole team involved. pic.twitter.com/mRjjPM6TuW

— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) April 19, 2021

Boris Johnson admits confusion as he can’t name West of England mayor

Boris Johnson appeared unable to name the current West of England mayor, despite the regional leader being a Conservative.

The Prime Minister was asked during a campaign visit to Gloucestershire if he was able to name Tim Bowles, the incumbent mayor who was elected to the post in 2017.  The Conservative mayor announced he will step down from the post at the end of his first term, with four candidates running to be his successor in next month’s election.

Asked if he knew who the regional mayor was, Mr Johnson said: “I’m very much in favour of powerful mayors in the West of England and elsewhere. But what I want to see is a strong Conservative mayor in London and across the West Midlands and West of England and across the whole of the country.”

He admitted it was “confusing”, saying “the very simple solution is to vote Conservative”. 

Boris Johnson has appeared unable to name the current West of England mayor – despite the regional leader being a Conservative.

The Prime Minister was asked during a campaign visit to Gloucestershire if he was able to name Tim Bowles, who was elected to the post in 2017 pic.twitter.com/SCosooB8vW

— PA Media (@PA) April 19, 2021

More than 10m people ‘fully vaccinated’ in UK

More than 10 million people in the UK have now received their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to Government figures.

Matt Hancock is likely to make much of this during his Commons update shortly. 

It is likely he will also be grilled about when supplies will pick up steam again, after fewer than 70,000 people received their first dose yesterday (see 2: 42pm).

Labour will not ‘amplify’ clip of altercation over ‘misinformation’ 

The Labour Party press office said on Twitter that it would “not be amplifying” the footage of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer being confronted by the landlord.

The tweets said: “A clip circulating online shows Keir Starmer being confronted by someone spreading dangerous misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We will not be amplifying it.

“Keir argued that our NHS staff have been working tirelessly to protect public health and that restrictions – while painful – have been absolutely necessary to save lives.”

A clip circulating online shows Keir Starmer being confronted by someone spreading dangerous misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic. We will not be amplifying it. 1/2

— Labour Press (@labourpress) April 19, 2021

UK vaccination programme continues to limp through April

A further 265,069 vaccinations have been given in England yesterday – of which fewer than 70,000 were first doses. 

A total of 36,147,077 Covid-19 vaccinations have taken place in England since the programme began on December 8, according to NHS England data, including first and second doses.

NHS England said 27,628,579 were the first dose of a vaccine, a rise of 69,198 on the previous day, while 8,518,498 were a second dose, an increase of 195,871.

Ministers have warned that April would be a slow month, more dedicated to second doses than first. 

Matt Hancock is due to speak in the Commons within the next hour, when he will give an update on the latest in the fight against Covid.

Boris Johnson shrugs off suggestions that post-Brexit red tape is hindering business

Boris Johnson has shrugged off suggestions small and medium-sized businesses are “drowning” in post-Brexit red tape by describing the UK’s exit from the European Union as a “huge opportunity”.

Speaking during a campaign visit to the West Midlands, Boris Johnson said: “You are seeing an increase in trade with the EU again after what was obviously going to be a difficult time in the new year.

“We’ve seen what we’ve been able to do differently with the rollout of the vaccinations – you’ve seen what we can do now with freeports.

“In the end, there’s a huge opportunity also for this country to do things differently, to do things better, regulate in the interests of British business and British manufacturing.”

‘Hats off to pub landlord’, says former MEP

Predictably, the Bath altercation is dividing opinion – along the usual culture war lines. 

Speaking after the incident Rod Humphris, landlord of The Raven in Bath city centre, said he gave Sir Keir a “piece of my mind”, adding: “I would say this to any politician – it’s not a partisan matter.”

But the video has split opinion with lockdown sceptics and Corbynites backing the landlord while others back the Labour leader. 

Campaigner and journalist Owen Jones said: “Always fascinating to see anti-lockdown keyboard warriors out and about in real life. They are generally exactly how you expect them to be.”

Laurence Fox, who is campaigning as an independent candidate for London mayor, tweeted: “This man is a hero. Keir Starmer confronted with facts and his failure to provide a viable opposition.”

Former MEP Martin Daubney tweeted: “Hats off to pub landlord Rod Humphrys [sic] for throwing Keir Starmer  out of his boozer.  The Labour  leader – who wanted harder, sooner, longer lockdowns – had the temerity to visit Bath to talk about reinvigorating high streets.”

Nigel Farage blasts ‘idiot’ team after Sir Keir Starmer’s altercation

Milkshaked: Nigel Farage knows a thing or two about public altercations

Credit:
Reuters

Nigel Farage is no stranger to a public altercation, having taken a milkshake or two to the face during his time campaigning for Brexit. 

But he has damned Sir Keir Starmer’s team as “idiots” for having not done their homework on the Bath pub before his walkabout ended in a very public slanging match.

And there’s more… 

More footage is emerging of the incident in Bath, in which Sir Keir Starmer was thrown out of a pub.

Landlord Rod Humphris tells the Labour leader “we have f—–  our economy because old people are dying”, before accusing him of having “failed me”. 

He adds: “Thousands of people have died because you have failed to do your job and ask the real questions.”

Watch: ‘Failed’ Sir Keir Starmer thrown out of pub 

A bog-standard visit to Bath has been disrupted by an incident in which Sir Keir Starmer has been told forced out of a pub. 

“That man is not allowed in my pub,” Rod Humphris, landlord of the Raven pub, is heard shouting while grappling with a member of the Labour leader’s team. “That’s assault,” he shouts at one point. 

As Sir Keir leaves, a bystander adds “bring back David Cameron, I say”.

In a clip from just moments before the confrontation, the Labour leader tells him his wife has been “on the frontline” during the pandemic, adding: “I really don’t need lectures from you about this pandemic”. 

Watch the moment below in full.  

Sir Keir Starmer ‘utterly failed us’, says pub landlord after altercation

Rod Humphris, landlord of the Raven pub, grapples with a member of Keir Starmer’s team

Credit:
PA

Rod Humphris, landlord of the Raven pub, which is located in the centre of Bath, appeared to be held back by security guards during the incident with Sir Keir Starmer.

On why he kicked the Labour leader out of the pub, the 54-year-old told the PA news agency: “I had heard that the Labour Party were coming round and he turned up and I told him what I thought of him, basically.

“I think he has utterly failed us as the leader of the Opposition, he has completely failed to ask the questions that needed asking, like, why did we throw away our previous pandemic preparedness?

“Why have we just accepted lockdown? Why have we just accepted the loss of all our freedoms?”

UN group  ‘grossly misrepresenting’ race report, says commission

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has hit out at a UN working group for having “grossly misrepresented” its report on race and inequality in the UK. 

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent claimed the conclusions of the report “normalise white supremacy” and called on Boris Johnson to reject it (see 12: 29pm)

In a statement released by the Cabinet Office, a spokesman for the commission said: “We are disappointed that the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent has grossly misrepresented the report’s findings, and appears to be a response to negative press coverage rather than the substance of its content.

“The misleading claims they have made risk fostering division on the subject of race, rather than constructive discussion on the issues.

“We urge the UK Government to implement the 24 practical recommendations we have made. These will improve the lives of millions and help deliver a fairer society for all races and ethnicities in the UK.”

Sir Keir Starmer thrown out of pub by landlord

Rod Humphris, landlord of the Raven pub, grapples with a member of Keir Starmer’s team after refusing entry to the Labour leader

Credit:
PA

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has been told to leave a pub in Bath by its landlord, while on a walkabout in the city.

The landlord shouted “that man is not allowed in my pub” and “get out of my pub” as Sir Keir, wearing a black face mask, walked out of the door, with the incident captured on camera by reporters.

It comes just days after a YouGov poll put Labour 14 percentage points behind the Tories – the biggest gap since he became leader last year.

Ejected: Sir Keir Starmer leaves the Raven pub after the landlord refused him entry

Credit:
PA

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson takes sexual harassment ‘incredibly seriously’

Rob Roberts, MP for Delyn, faced allegations over WhatsApp texts inviting a young intern to “fool around” with him.

Credit:
London Portrait Photographer

The Prime Minister takes allegations of inappropriate behaviour “incredibly seriously” after an MP was rebuked following an internal investigation, his press secretary has said.

Rob Roberts, MP for Delyn, faced allegations over WhatsApp texts inviting a young female intern to “fool around” with him, and also his behaviour towards a male Parliament worker.

Asked what message the Conservative Party’s response sent to victims of sexual harassment, Boris Johnson’s Allegra Stratton said: “We take it incredibly seriously. His conduct was found to be unacceptable under the party’s code of conduct and he has been strongly rebuked.

“He has apologised for his behaviour and was instructed to undertake safeguarding and social media protection training. It’s something the party takes incredibly seriously and has dealt with accordingly.”

Asked if the Prime Minister was happy for Mr Roberts to continue representing the party, Ms Stratton said: “That’s the action that we have taken.”

Have your say: Should Boris Johnson add India to the red list?

Downing Street has insisted the decision about whether India will be added to the ‘red list’ – meaning travel to and from the country will be further restricted – will be made independently, despite Boris Johnson having cancelled his own plans today. 

Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of both Sage and Nervtag, said ministers should “act sooner rather than later” in shutting the borders, but stressed that it was a “political decision”. However that was contradicted by the Prime Minister and his team. 

Meanwhile Labour’s Yvette Cooper has berated Boris Johnson for dragging his heels yet again, warning that our progress could yet be undermined.

So should Mr Johnson force the issue and bring in a travel ban – or should he leave it to the independent experts? Have your say in the poll below. 

Lobby latest: No answer on whether Boris Johnson will visit Scotland

Boris Johnson with Douglas Ross during the 2019 election campaign

Credit:
Reuters

The Prime Minister’s aides have refused to confirm whether Boris Johnson will campaign in Scotland ahead of the Holyrood elections.

Douglas Ross this morning suggested a visit was not “likely” because of coronavirus – despite Mr Johnson making a visit earlier this year, when cases were much higher. 

This afternoon, his advisers said coronavirus restrictions made campaign visits more “challenging”.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said: “The key thing here is that because of Covid, the pandemic is making these visits more challenging than they would be otherwise.

“But rest assured we will update you in the usual way as and when a campaign trip is going to be made by the Prime Minister.”

Lobby latest: Boris Johnson considering ‘range of options to tackle European Super League

Boris Johnson is considering a “range of options” to prevent the breakaway European Super League going ahead as proposed, including fan-ownership of clubs and clawing back coronavirus support loans.

His official spokesman said he was not “getting into each one”,when asked if the Prime Minister backed a move towards a German-style system in which fans own 51 per cent of their club.

“We’re considering a range of options and the Prime Minister wants to look at everything we can do here to make sure these proposals don’t go ahead as proposed.”

The spokesman was also asked about a proposal of clawing back taxpayer money given to clubs in coronavirus loans.

“Again, another suggestion put forward. We want to look at everything possible, we’re not ruling anything in or out, we want to look at the options,” the spokesman said.

Asked about new legislation or existing competition regulations being used, he said: “We’re not looking to rule anything out at this stage.”

Lobby latest: India trip cancelled for ‘variety of factors’

Downing Street has said there were a variety of factors that led to Boris Johnson cancelling his trip to India – not just the new variant or the fact the country has recorded more than 200,000 cases for five days in a row.

During a briefing with journalists, Number 10 was asked why travel restrictions were not now being imposed on the country which is seeing record highs of coronavirus cases, and why it would be safe for others to go but not the Prime Minister. 

The official spokesman said: “It was a joint decision. We have spoken to our Indian counterparts and both the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Modi agreed that in the current situation it wasn’t right for the trip to go ahead – there wasn’t one single factor.”

Pressed on what the factors were, he cited the “epidemiology” in India but said he would not give a full list “but obviously the situation is challenging over there”.

Lobby latest: Downing Street rejects ‘white supremacy’ criticism of race report

Downing Street has rejected criticism from the United Nations over the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Cred) (see 12: 29pm).

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “Our view is that this report misrepresents the findings.

“We remain proud of the UK’s long history as a human rights champion and we encourage everyone to read the original report in full.”

When it was put to him that the UN panel warned that the Cred report could “normalise white supremacy”, the No 10 spokesman said: “Absolutely not.

“This report in no way condones racist behaviour and in fact it highlights that racism and inequality are still problems for our country.”

Lobby latest: India ‘red list’ decision not linked to PM’s trip cancellation, says No 10 

Downing Street has insisted there is no connection between Boris Johnson’s decision not to travel to India and the country being added to the “red list” for travel restrictions.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The decision isn’t triggered at all by the Prime Minister’s trip; the decision takes into account a number of factors which the JBC (Joint Biosecurity Centre) predominantly lead on and then feed into Government, and that’s considered in the normal way.

“I understand the interest in the red list but I don’t think it’s right for me to speculate on when the JBC and others are going to be feeding in that information.”

More than half UK back second referendum if SNP wins majority

Nicola Sturgeon is pressing the case for a second independence referendum

Credit:
Reuters

More than half of the UK public believe a second Scottish independence referendum should take place if the SNP gains a Holyrood majority.

Support is highest among those in Northern Ireland (66 per cent) and Scotland (56 per cent), while a majority of those in England and Wales also believe the party should be able to hold another ballot (51 per cent), Ipsos Mori found. 

In total, 51 per cent of people across the UK would support a second referendum if the SNP wins a majority, with 40 per cent saying they would not. 

Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos Mori Scotland, said the May 6 elections were “a critical point in the future of the Union”.

“Should the SNP win a majority of seats, as looks likely if current levels of support hold, it will be much more difficult for the UK Government to refuse a second referendum on independence,” she added.  

UN human rights group calls on Boris Johnson to reject race report

A report into racial disparities attempts to “normalise white supremacy” and the Government should reject its findings, human rights experts from the UN have warned.

The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said it “categorically rejects and condemns” the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Cred), and called for the commission to be “disbanded or reconstituted”.

In a statement released by the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, the experts said the report “repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies”.

They continued: “This attempt to normalise white supremacy despite considerable research and evidence of institutional racism is an unfortunate sidestepping of the opportunity to acknowledge the atrocities of the past and the contributions of all in order to move forward.” 

Boris Johnson has previously called the review a “very interesting piece of work” but stressed he did not agree “with absolutely everything in it”.

Former MP showed ‘lack of remorse’ over sexual misconduct breach

Jared O’Mara took Sheffield Halam from Nick Clegg in 2017

Credit:
UK Parliament

A former MP has been found to have breached Parliament’s sexual misconduct policy, after an employee complained of receiving inappropriate messages.

Jared O’Mara showed a “lack of remorse” and a “refusal to engage” over the allegation, a committee of the Commons Independent Expert Panel said in a report published on Monday.

Ex-employee Jennifer Barnes raised a formal complaint after saying she received inappropriate messages and approaches from the then MP in July 2019.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone concluded that his behaviour breached the sexual misconduct policy and “amounted to an abuse of power”, according to the report.

Mr O’Mara did not defend his seat, therefore limiting the panel’s disciplinary options to removal of the right to hold a former member’s pass to access Parliament. Panel chairman Sir Stephen Irwin advised that Mr O’Mara was stripped of the right, a recommendation backed by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. 

Welsh Government’s legal action over Internal Market Act blocked 

The Welsh Government has been refused permission for a High Court legal challenge against the UK Government over the Internal Market Act.

Counsel General for Wales Jeremy Miles tried to bring a full High Court challenge over the Act, which he argued “severely curtails” the powers of the Senedd.

At a hearing last week, Mr Miles asked the High Court to allow the case to proceed to a full hearing later this year.

But, in a ruling on Monday, the court refused permission, saying: “This claim for judicial review is premature.”

Lord Justice Lewis, sitting with Mrs Justice Steyn, said: “A claim concerning the meaning or effect of provisions of Senedd legislation, or whether the legislation is properly within the Senedd’s legislative competence, is better addressed in the context of specific legislative proposals.

“It is inappropriate to seek to address such issues in the absence of specific circumstances giving rise to the arguments raised by the claimant and a specific legislative context in which to test and assess those arguments.”

EU hits out at plans for ‘rich and powerful’ Super League

The move by some of Europe’s biggest clubs to set up a breakaway ‘closed-shop’ league has done the (almost) unthinkable and united Westminster with Brussels in condemnation of the plans. 

With cross-party criticism from domestic politicians ranging from Boris Johnson to Sir Keir Starmer, the EU has also hit out against the elitist proposals. 

European Commission vice president Margaritis Schinas said: “We must defend a values-driven European model of sport based on diversity and inclusion.

“There is no scope for reserving it for the few rich and powerful clubs who want to sever links with everything associations stand for.”

Russia ‘taking advantage of Western weakness’, says senior Tory

Tobias Ellwod has urged the West to come together to tackled Russia’s “bolder, more confident” actions, after the two suspects in the 2018 Skripal case were linked to deadly explosions in 2014 in the Czech Republic. 

The chair of the defence committee told Sky News: “Russia is taking advantage perhaps of our weakness, the lack of solidarity across the West.”

The use of the same agents in Britain and the Czech Republic “does reflect a bolder, more confident Russia, willing to stand up to the West, which is pretty much divided on how to deal with Russia’s energy and enthusiasm to expand its own influence”. 

The worst outcome would be “to push Russia into China’s hands”, he added, stressing that it was “Putin that is the challenge here, not the people themselves.”

But France had an “ambiguous” position towards the Kremlin while Germany is “subservient to Russia” because ot its reliance on the Nordstream 2 pipeline. “We need a much more robust position,” Mr Ellwood said. 

DCMS committee calls for football probe with ‘real teeth’ 

The chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said a fan-led review with “real teeth” should investigate the way football is run.

Julian Knight, the Conservative MP for Solihull, said: “This is a dark day for football – a deal done behind closed doors apparently with no regard for supporters. 

“Though this idea was mooted several months ago, what’s shocking is the speed at which this breakaway league has been announced. What’s needed is a fan-led review of football with real teeth and here we have more evidence to strengthen the case for it.

“Football needs a reset, but this is not the way to do it. The interests of community clubs must be put at the heart of any future plans.

“We, the committee, will be discussing this when we meet tomorrow in a private session.”

Boris Johnson not spoken to David Cameron ‘recently’

Boris has not recently called Call Me Dave

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Reuters

Boris Johnson has said he has not spoken to David Cameron “recently”, as questions about the extent of the former prime minister’s lobbying efforts continue. 

Mr Cameron texted Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, and met with Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, to discuss matters related to Greensill Capital, it has emerged. 

But the Prime Minister has not yet confirmed when he last spoke with his former colleague and frenemy, telling a Labour MP last week he could not remember. 

Asked again today if he had spoken to his former boss recently, Mr Johnson said: “The answer is no…”

Pressed on the same question, he told journalists: “It’s a no on that one.”

In pictures: Boris the Builder (can he fix it?)

Boris Johnson is on his first proper visit since the mourning period for Prince Philip came to an end after the Duke’s funeral at the weekend. 

And the Prime Minister is throwing himself into the photo opp with his usual gusto. Hard hat – tick.  High vis – tick. Soundbite-friendly pictures – tick. 

Boris Johnson visits Barratt Homes Development to launch the government’s Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, in Great Oldbury

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Reuters

Boris Johnson visits a residential housing development in Stonehouse, southwest England

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AFP

Boris Johnson helps to build a wall

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PA

Ministers should not resign for every breach of code, Boris Johnson told

Boris Johnson has a full inbox today – but dealing with the row over the plans for a “closed shop” football league is no doubt a welcome distraction. 

Clearly the European Super League plans have caused genuine upset. But, with politicians across the spectrum lining up to give the big six clubs a kicking, it is also a convenient opportunity to point the finger away from Westminster for once. However the lobbying scandal continues to rumble away in the background. 

Over the weekend, Lord Evans, the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life has written to Boris Johnson, asking the Prime Minister to ensure his new adviser on ministerial standards “be given authority to initiate investigations where, in their judgement, this is necessary in order to establish the facts surrounding allegations that the Ministerial Code had been breached”.

The findings should be published, he added. 

Lord Evans also recommends that the Prime Minister “retain the right to decide on any sanction following a breach of the Code”, but notes that “the current expectation that any breach of the ministerial code should lead to resignation is disproportionate”, and should only be used “where a serious breach has occurred”.

The adviser should be appointed for a non-renewable five-year term, the committee adds. Sources last week suggested an announcement would be coming early this week – so we will be keeping an eye out.

UK ‘cannot miss this opportunity’ to legislate on football ownership, says Labour MP

The UK “cannot miss this opportunity” to introduce better legislation governing football, Labour’s shadow sports minister

Alison McGovern told Sky News that the European Super League would “lock out” competition, adding: “This fundamentally changes the terms of competition in the game.”

She noted that for several years “MPs from all political parties have been saying ‘this is not right, we need better legislation in football’ and there is anger is that we haven’t got there before now.”

The Labour MP added: “We cannot miss this opportunity because people care deeply about football… it has got to be run well [so that] any team through sporting prowess can get to the top.”

She said the opposition would be looking to hear what Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, would be saying in his statement at 5pm today. 

Football clubs “are not like businesses like any other and we can’t treat them in that way,” she added. 

Government ‘not learning lessons’ on borders, says senior Labour MP

The Government is “not learning lessons” over its delay in adding India to the red list, a senior Labour MP has said. 

Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee – who has over the last year repeatedly challenged ministers including Boris Johnson and Priti Patel over border controls during the pandemic – noted that “evidence on India & Covid has been growing for weeks.” 

Evidence on India & Covid has been growing for weeks. Health Canada reported high Covid cases on flights from India since early March. New India variant cases rose sharply in UK thru March.

Yet UK repeatedly delayed updating red list. Not learning lessons https://t.co/ezzqTBPdRn

— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) April 19, 2021

Foreign Secretary to (finally) give evidence on international aid

The Foreign Secretary will finally appear before the international development committee, months after taking on responsibility for the remit.

Dominic Raab and the FCDO’s permanent undersecretary Sir Philip Barton have not given evidence to the committee since the Department for International Development (Dfid) was scrapped and responsibilities rolled into the Foreign Office.

The pair will appear on Thursday morning.

Ms Champion, a Labour MP, said: “Cuts to aid is a real lesson in govt incompetence. A lack of transparency, conflicting info, no consultation nor proper strategy…the list goes on.

“We may get some answers but sadly the damage is already done.”

Cuts to aid is a real lesson in govt incompetence. A lack of transparency, conflicting info, no consultation nor proper strategy…the list goes on. With Dominic Raab @CommonsIDC on Thurs we may get some answers but sadly the damage is already done. https://t.co/uG6MZx5QHQ

— Sarah Champion (@SarahChampionMP) April 19, 2021

Boris Johnson defends ‘fantastic’ civil service over lobbyist row

Boris Johnson said the civil service hasn’t got ‘loads of people who are double-hatting’

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Boris Johnson has defended the civil service and insisted it “just isn’t true” that many working within it have a second job, amid criticism of the relationship between Whitehall and private sector lobbyists.

When asked about the upcoming review into the Greensill row during a visit to Gloucestershire, the Prime Minister told broadcasters: “What we have done is got Nigel Boardman to look at the whole thing.

“I just want to stress one thing to people who are sort of vaguely tuning in to this.

“People should not, in my view, form the impression that the upper echelons of the British civil service have got loads of people who are double-hatting, as it were, doing two jobs – it just isn’t true.

“We’ve got one of the best civil services in the world.

“They are fantastically hard working people, they have been doing an amazing job throughout this Covid pandemic, apart from anything else, and I just wouldn’t want people to get that impression. It is simply not the case.”

Boris Johnson looking at ‘everything we can do’ over Super League row

Boris Johnson was speaking ahead of a Commons statement from the Culture Secretary

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Boris Johnson said football clubs were more than “great global brands”, they needed to have a link with their fans and communities.

Asked if teams such as Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal joining the breakaway European Super League could be compelled to pay back state-backed coronavirus loans, Mr Johnson said: “We are going to look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed.

“I don’t think that it’s good news for fans, I don’t think it’s good news for football in this country.”

Speaking to reporters during a campaign visit to Gloucestershire he said: “These clubs are not just great global brands – of course they’re great global brands – they’re also clubs that have originated historically from their towns, from their cities, from their local communities, they should have a link with those fans, and with the fan base in their community.

“So it is very, very important that that continues to be the case. I don’t like the look of these proposals, and we’ll be consulting about what we can do.”

Nick Timothy: The conduct of David Cameron is a case study in shamelessness

David Cameron should have asked questions, and had qualms, about his mission

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Getty

Having set out to “detoxify” the Tories, and disassociate himself from the shame of many Conservatives in the 1990s, David Cameron increasingly exemplifies what he once sought to purge, writes Nick Timothy. 

His recent conduct is a case study of the rapaciousness and shamelessness he used to condemn.The Greensill affair, and the controversies spinning out from it, is complex. But the theme that runs through each subplot is the abuse of the supposedly noble calling of public service.There remain many unanswered questions and much information we do not yet know, but the facts established tell a miserable story of public servants tempted by the prospect of private gain, and private interests masquerading as public service.

Read the rest of Nick’s column here. 

Ministers in urgent talks over ‘elite’ European Super League

The Government is in urgent talks over plans to create an ‘elite’ European Super League, after six of England’s biggest clubs announced they would be joining the new closed tournament. 

Boris Johnson last night said the clubs involved – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur – “must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps”. 

This morning Christopher Pincher, the housing minister, confirmed that conversations would be taking place with the Champions League, the FA, and “all the players involved, but urged against a “knee-jerk reaction” to the news which broke last night. 

He told Sky News: “We are on the side of the fans… we will ensure the fans are properly represented. We don’t want to see a footballing elite, which is by the elite, for the elite, of the elite.”

The minister told LBC radio the Government was “going to look at all the options”.

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, who condemned the “closed shop” tournament last night is expected to make a statement in the Commons later today. 

Boris Johnson cancels India trip amid surge in cases

The trip, which had already been scaled down from the original plans, would have been Bori Johnson’s first major bilateral visit to another country

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AFP

Boris Johnson has cancelled his trip to India, amid the rising surge in cases. 

A spokesperson said: “In the light of the current coronavirus situation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be able to travel to India next week.

“Instead, Prime Ministers Modi and Johnson will speak later this month to agree and launch their ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India. They will remain in regular contact beyond this, and look forward to meeting in person later this year.”

Indian capital announces lockdown – coinciding with Boris Johnson’s visit

India’s capital New Delhi will impose a week-long lockdown from Monday night – meaning restrictions will be in place for Boris Johnson’s expected visit.  

Businesses will be shut and movement around the northern city of 20 million limited to essential services after 25,500 newcases were reported in Delhi alone. India recorded 273,810 infections on Monday, officials confirmed – the fifth consecutive day of more than 200,000 cases.  

“Delhi’s health system is at a tipping point. The Covid-19 situation is pretty critical,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a televised address. “If we don’t impose a lockdown now, we will be looking at a bigger disaster. From tonight there will be a lockdown until next Monday.”

“The lockdown doesn’t end the pandemic but just slows it. We will use this week-long lockdown to improve our healthcare,” he said. 

Russia responsible for Alexei Navalny’s ill-health, says EU

Mr Navalny’s personal physician said he was in critical condition because of “catastrophically high” potassium levels 

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European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc holds Russia “responsible” for the health of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, as fears grow over his condition.

“We make the Russian authorities responsible for the health situation of Mr Navalny,” Borrell said ahead of a virtual meeting by EU foreign ministers, which he said would also discuss the “very dangerous” situation around Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border.

Allies of the jailed opposition leader have called for mass protests in response to medical warnings he could die “at any minute”. 

Read the latest on the situation here.

What’s on the agenda today?

As ever with Mondays, the day’s business gets announced a little later – but the Commons has now confirmed that Oliver Dowden will be giving a statement on the European Super League this afternoon. 

The Culture Secretary will be speaking from around 5pm, after Cabinet colleague Matt Hancock has given an update on Covid. 

 The Commons will sit from 2.30pm, with housing, communities and local government questions,

Just 10pc of Russian activities in Europe are known, says former MI6 boss

Two men using the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who have been linked to both the Salisbury poisoning and an explosion in the Czech Republic

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Reuters

A former MI6 chief has estimated that only 10 per cent of Russian aggressive intelligence activities across Europe are known about after the Czech Republic levelled fresh allegations against the suspects in the Salisbury poisonings.

Sir John Sawers told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It shouldn’t be a surprise that Russian intelligence are very active across Europe, and I think the Czechs have pieced this together really rather well…

“It all has the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence operation, and I think the Czechs have got these two people who tried to assassinate Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, I think they’ve got them bang to rights.”

Sir John said many more operations are taking place without ever coming to light.

“We see the extent of Russian aggressive intelligence activities across Europe, we probably only know 10 per cent of what they’re doing. There will be a great deal that intelligence services do that we’re simply not aware of,” he said.

Boris Johnson not travelling to Scotland during election – despite cases falling since last trip

Boris Johnson is not “likely” to visit Scotland during the Holyrood election, the Scottish Tories leader has said, because of Covid restrictions around campaigning.

The Prime Minister has visited the nation when cases were much higher – and travel was restricted. 

He is also travelling to India early next week, which is currently undergoing a massive spike in coronavirus cases.  

Douglas Ross told the Today programme that the Prime Minister “has been very clear that when the country should be focused on the recovery we should not be distracted y another divisive independence referendum”. 

“Our priority must be recovery, rebuilding, protecting jobs investing in the NHS, recruiting more teachers,” he added. “The SNP have said they would ignore that.. the have said they would go ahead with an illegal wildcat referendum.”

SNP will focus on referendum rather than recovery, claims Scots Tories leader

The Scots Tories leader has said the SNP would focus on campaigning for a second independence referendum “instead of protecting jobs and protecting businesses” during the recovery period. 

“That is absolutely the wrong priority”, Douglas Ross told the Today programme.

“When people are worried about their jobs, when they are worried about our health service and how it will be able to deal with the backlog of appointments and treatments that have been delayed, they just find it incredible that the the First Leader and the leader of the SNP thinks it should be a priority to focus on that referendum campaign, rather than rebuilding Scotland.”

He stressed that people “had seen the strength of the union” throughout the pandemic. 

Got a question about the European Super League? Get in touch!

Do you have a question about the European Super League?

Email [email protected] or leave a comment below and your question could be answered in a Q&A with one of our reporters later today.

Senior Tory calls for clubs to be expelled from Premier League over ‘grubby’ move

A senior Conservative has suggested teams who participate in the breakaway football tournament should be expelled from the Premier League for this year.

Huw Merriman, chair of the transport select committee told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour it was a “grubby” move, saying he was “ashamed” that his team Arsenal was involved. 

“We could nip it in the bud straight away: either those six clubs disassociate themselves from this idea or expel them immediately from the Premier League competition for this year,” he added.

“They’ll soon backtrack. It’s grubby, it’s absolutely disgraceful. It has no regard for the culture of our game … It’s outrageous. And my own club Arsenal are part of it: I’m absolutely ashamed.”

European Super League is ‘greed personified’, says Lib Dem leader

The creation of a closed-shop European Super League is “greed personified”, the leader of the Liberal Democrats has claimed. 

Sir Ed Davey said: “This is greed personified, ripping the heart out of the English game, leaving clubs up and down the country to suffer after an awful year.

“The consequences of these plans reach far and wide. The Government must step in to prevent a small number of greedy, rich owners destroying the game we all love.”

Time for ‘meaningful change’ on lobbying, says senior Tory

Tony Blair and David Cameron will be among those giving evidence to William Wragg’s committee

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PA

The Conservative MP  overseeing an investigation into lobbying has said there is bipartisan support for “meaningful change” in the wake of the Greensill Capital controversy.

William Wragg, chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, is leading what is likely to be the most wide-ranging of the series of probes, as he hauls every living prime minister who has quit politics to give evidence. 

“There’s an understanding that something must be done, but as often in politics we have to translate that natural understanding into tangible proposals,” Mr Wragg told the BBC.

“I think we can all approach this in a fairly consensual, cross-party way to make sure that we do have meaningful change,” he added.

Read more: William Wragg writes for the Telegraph on the need for safeguards

Boris Johnson attacks ‘very damaging’ closed-shop European Super League

Football clubs who have agreed to join a European Super League “must answer to their fans” before going ahead with the “very damaging” change, the Prime Minister has said.

Boris Johnson last night publicly criticised the move by six English clubs to join a breakaway closed-shop, from which they can not be relegated.  

Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action.

They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. (1/2)

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 18, 2021

“Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action,” said Mr Johnson. “They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country.”

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, also attacked the plans, saying: “Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football. “

Football supporters are the heartbeat of our national sport and any major decisions made should have their backing. (1/3)

— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) April 18, 2021

Indian variant ‘not top tier of concerns’, says genomics expert

The Indian variant should be “watched carefully” but it is “probably not at the top tier of mutations that generate the most concern”, a genomics expert has said. 

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the first cases of the variant were identified late last year.

“This variant has a couple of mutations that are among those that we think are important that should be watched carefully, but they’re actually probably not at the very kind of top tier of mutations, for example in the B117 – or Kent variant – or the South African variant, that generate the most concern.

“And in terms of spread, clearly this variant has increased in frequency in India around the same time as their very large and tragic recent wave, but I just don’t think we know yet whether there’s a cause and effect relationship – is this variant driving that spread? Or is it happening at the same time perhaps due to a coincidence?”

He added: “And one thing to note is that there were some sequences of this variant B1.617 seen late last year. And so in some sense, if it really is driving this wave, the fuse has been burning for quite a long time, which would make it look, probably less transmissible than B117.”

Government must ‘act sooner rather than later’ on India, says expert

India has registered a record high of 234,692 daily cases of Covid during its latest surge

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Shutterstock

A Government scientist has said minsters should “act sooner rather than later” to impose travel restrictions on India, where “a number of variants” have caused a surge in Covid.

Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of both Sage and Nervtag, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there were “a number of concerning features” about the situation in India, although noted that evidence was still being gathered to determine how serious the new variant was. 

But he added: “Some countries have taken the view that is enough for them to be concerned – Hong Kong have put on a two week travel ban, which will allow them to find out a little bit more.

“This is a balance of harms and benefits, and the challenge of that is the level of harm is quite high – India is a country that we are highly connected with… but on the other hand what we have is an unknown level of risk.

Asked if the Government should put India on the red list, he replied: “My own preference is to err on side of caution and act sooner rather than later.”

Indian mutation likely to be named ‘variant of concern’ soon, says expert

The Indian mutation will soon be determined a “variant of concern”, putting the country on the Government’s “red list” of hotel quarantine countries, an expert has said. 

So far the new strain has only been named a “variant under investigation”.  

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told Good Morning Britain that some people in the population are still vulnerable who can “still be caught out by variants like this”.

Prof Altmann added: “At the moment, this particular variant (from India) is called a variant under investigation, not a variant of concern because it hasn’t been escalated to that level yet.

“My assumption from everything I’ve seen is that it will become a variant of concern. When it becomes a variant of concern, I’d be quite surprised if India wasn’t on the red list.”

Boris Johnson is due to travel to India a week today (Monday 26 April).

Scots Tories leader blasts ‘deeply regrettable’ European Super League

The leader of the Scottish Tories has said he has “serious, serious reservations” about the new  European Super League announced late last night. 

The move, which represents a seismic challenge to the Premier League, the Football Association and Uefa, paves the way for the biggest shake-up of club football in a generation. It would create highly selective and largely closed tournament that would effectively replace the Champions League.

Douglas Ross, who is an assistant referee, told BBC Breakfast it was “a deeply regrettable move”.

“It would have a massive effect on football, and the danger is that fans would be left with something poorer for this,” he added.

Prime Minister takes on football giants over new super league plan

Boris Johnson attacked England’s biggest football clubs on Sunday night for planning a breakaway European Super League that would “strike at the heart of the domestic game”.

The Prime Minister joined the Premier League and Uefa in condemning the proposal, warning that the clubs involved “must answer to their fans” and the wider footballing community before taking further steps.

His intervention came after Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur joined as “founding clubs” to a breakaway super league.

Mr Johnson said: “Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action.”

Labour called on the clubs to rethink and on ministers to start a fan-led review of football governance.

Let’s not forget that geoFence blocks unwanted traffic and disables remote access from FSAs and I believe your mother would agree.

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