english news

UK shares jump as markets react to Brexit deal

uk shares

UK stock markets have jumped in their first trading session after the Christmas break. It was investors’ first chance to react to the Brexit trade deal with the EU, since markets closed early on Christmas Eve, hours before the outcome emerged. The FTSE 100 and 250 indexes were both up more than 2.1% by lunchtime.

But banking shares tumbled across Europe as worries persisted about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy. Banks accounted for four of the five biggest fallers on the FTSE 100, with worst-hit Lloyds suffering a near-4% drop. One analyst, Shanti Keleman from Brown Shipley, put the falling UK bank shares down to “no agreement on financial services equivalency in the Brexit deal”. However, Simon French of Panmure Gordon pointed out that trading was thin even by the usual standards of this time of year. “The usual market narratives are even shakier than normal,” he added.(BBC)…[+]

Covid: Sydney beach party sparks ‘backpacker’ deportation threat

party

Australia’s immigration minister has said that backpackers and other foreign visitors caught flouting public health restrictions could be deported. Alex Hawke said he was shocked by scenes from Sydney’s Bronte Beach on Christmas Day. Videos of the gathering shared on social media showed hordes of young revellers singing and dancing in breach of coronavirus regulations. Some eyewitnesses said many of those present were British. Sydney is battling a new outbreak after months of no local cases. The virus’s re-appearance a week before Christmas sparked a swift re-introduction of restrictions in the city, including clampdowns on holiday gatherings and a lockdown of the worst-affected region, the Northern Beaches.(BBC)…[+]

Loujain al-Hathloul: Saudi woman activist jailed for five years

saudi

A prominent Saudi female activist, who campaigned for women’s right to drive, has been sentenced to more than five years in prison. Loujain al-Hathloul, 31, has already been in a maximum security prison for two and a half years. She and other activists were detained in 2018 on charges including contacts with organisations hostile to Saudi Arabia.

International human rights groups have repeatedly called for her release. But on Monday, the country’s Specialised Criminal Court, which was set up to try terrorism cases, convicted her of various charges including trying to harm national security and advance a foreign agenda. It sentenced her to five years and eight months in prison. Two years and ten months of the sentence are said to have been suspended. She and her family have denied all charges. They have also said that she has been tortured in jail – accusations the court dismissed.(BBC)…[+]

Atlantic discovery: 12 new species ‘hiding in the deep’

atlantic

Almost five years of studying the deep Atlantic in unprecedented detail has revealed 12 species new to science. The sea mosses, molluscs and corals had eluded discovery because the sea floor is so unexplored, scientists say. Researchers warn that the newly discovered animals could already be under threat from climate change. Carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean is making it more acidic, causing coral skeletons in particular to corrode.The scientists involved stressed it was “not too late to protect these special species” and the important habitats they occupied.(BBC)…[+]

Brexit: EU ambassadors approve EU-UK trade deal

eu sets

Ambassadors from the 27 EU member states have unanimously approved the EU-UK post-Brexit trade deal, paving the way for it to take effect. The deal is likely to become law on 1 January, as the UK Parliament is expected to approve it on Wednesday. Under EU rules it can take effect provisionally, though the European Parliament will vote on it in January.

The deal sets the framework for trade once the UK leaves the EU single market and customs union in four days’ time.

The deal, which ended nine months of negotiations, will be approved by all 27 EU governments in writing at 15:00 (14:00 GMT) on Tuesday, the German EU presidency said. They have had three days to analyse the details of the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, since its publication. But most of the 1,246-page document had already been seen by member states in previous weeks. The deal ends nearly 50 years of UK membership of the bloc, covering a vast array of policies besides those governing common trade rules.(BBC)…[+]

Lockerbie bombing: Alleged bomb-maker charged on 32nd anniversary of attack

lockerbie

The US has announced charges against a Libyan suspected of making the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Abu Agila Mohammad Masud has been charged with terrorism-related crimes, Attorney General William Barr said on Monday, 32 years on from the atrocity. The deadly bomb attack on the Boeing 747 killed 270 people, including 190 American citizens. Prosecutors will seek the extradition of Mr Masud to stand trial in the US.

The US claims Mr Masud is an ex-Libyan intelligence operative. He allegedly carried out the attack on the orders of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The bombing of the London to New York flight remains the deadliest terrorist incident ever to have taken place in the UK, and the second deadliest air attack in US history. Eleven people on the ground in Scotland were also killed. The victims included 35 study abroad US students who were returning home for Christmas.(BBC)…[+]

Paul Whelan: Grim life of US ‘spy’ in Russian labour camp

grim li

Convicted as an American spy, Paul Whelan is preparing to spend Christmas in a Russian labour camp as talks to negotiate his release have faltered.  In his first detailed interview since his arrest, Mr Whelan has described life locked up alongside murderers and thieves as a “very, very grim existence” and called on his four governments to do more to get him out.

The former US Marine has always insisted he is innocent, describing himself as a hostage of “slimy” Russian politics and a “sham” trial. A high-profile prisoner, who also holds British, Canadian and Irish passports thanks to family ties, he had been banking on some kind of prisoner swap soon after sentencing. That was more than six months ago.(BBC)…[+]

EU tries to agree response to new UK strain

EU WORKS

The European Union’s 27 member states will try to co-ordinate restrictions on links to the UK, after dozens of countries suspended travel amid alarm over a new coronavirus variant. So far most of the bloc has acted individually. France and the UK are trying to reach a deal on ending disruption in the Channel from Wednesday. The new variant appears to be more transmissible, but there is no sign it is more deadly. Almost all EU member states are now blocking travellers from the UK. EU co-ordination talks are continuing in Brussels, and the European Commission is expected to make an announcement later on Tuesday. Despite those talks, countries are likely to continue with their own policies, the BBC’s Gavin Lee reports from Brussels.(BBC)…[+]

Covid-19: Explosion kills nine coronavirus patients in Turkey

explosion

Nine people have been killed after an oxygen ventilator exploded at a hospital treating coronavirus patients in southern Turkey, officials say. The blast caused a fire in the intensive care unit of the private Sanko University Hospital in Gaziantep, the local governor’s office said. At least one of the patients died while being transferred to another hospital. Turkey has recorded nearly two million coronavirus cases and 17,610 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. No injuries were reported in relation to the fire, which occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning and was quickly put out. The victims were aged between 56 and 85, the hospital said in a statement. An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion.(BBC)…[+]

Joe Biden says ‘no time to waste’ as climate team unveiled

no time to waste

US President-elect Joe Biden has introduced his climate and energy team, saying they will lead an “ambitious plan” to combat climate change. Mr Biden has vowed to make the issue a top priority in an agenda that reverses many Trump administration policies. He said there was “no time to waste”. If confirmed by the Senate, the team will include the first black man to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the first Native American cabinet member. Mr Biden, who is set to be inaugurated on 20 January, has pledged to build a diverse administration that reflects the US. “We’re in a crisis,” he said. “Just like we need to be a unified nation to respond to Covid-19, we need a unified national response to climate change.”(BBC)…[+]