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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 1 February 2023

1

Brexit breakthrough in Northern Ireland

Britain and the EU have agreed a customs deal that could “pave the way to ending years of post-Brexit wrangling over Northern Ireland”, said The Times. The EU has reportedly accepted a proposal that would avoid the need for routine checks on products destined for the province and conceded that the European Court of Justice could rule on issues relating to the province only if a case was referred by the Northern Irish courts. This “marks a critical step towards ending the impasse over the Northern Ireland protocol”, said the paper.

The Northern Ireland Protocol explained

2

Striking teachers ‘could be paid’

Teachers who strike could still claim pay, claimed The Telegraph. As more than 100,000 members of the National Education Union are expected to walk out in the most disruptive teachers’ strike in more than a decade, schools have chosen to close without knowing which teachers will actually be on strike because of laws that mean union members cannot be forced to tell their bosses. It is believed striking teachers may be allowed to claim that they are working and therefore be paid.

Which public sector workers are striking – and when?

3

Hunt rules out tax cuts

Divisions have deepened between Jeremy Hunt and Tory MPs demanding tax cuts in the upcoming Budget after dire forecasts of a looming recession. Speaking to an audience of Conservative MPs last night, Hunt delivered the message that “it’s bad but it’s going to get better” and said it was too early to start loosening the public finances. Sky News said Hunt faced a twin assault on tax cuts and fuel duty from those present with party grandee Sir Edward Leigh calling on Hunt to cut taxes. “People are depressed. You’ve got to give them hope,” he told the broadcaster.

UK economic woes: are tax cuts the answer?

4

Firefighters shared images of dead bodies

Firefighters at Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service photographed dead bodies of women at the scene of car accidents, reported ITV News. The images were shared on a WhatsApp group in which male firefighters allegedly made degrading comments about victims. “Retrieving the body of someone dead should tear you apart, not make you want to take photos of it, just to joke about it later because that’s someone’s loved one, isn’t it?” a female firefighter told the broadcaster. The service is commissioning an independent investigation.

5

Heroin decriminalised in Vancouver

“Addicts are celebrating” after heroin was decriminalised in Vancouver, said The Telegraph. Under a radical new policy introduced by British Columbia, adults in possession of 2.5g of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine or ecstasy will not be arrested or even have their drugs seized. Police “simply walk past drug users” despite 2,272 deaths from illicit substances last year in the liberal province, said the paper. Federal Addictions and Mental Health Minister Carolyn Bennett said British Columbia’s exemption is “a monumental shift in drug policy that favours fostering trust and supportive relationships in health and social services over further criminalisation.” 

Overdose prevention centres: do they work?

6

Girl dies after dog attack

A four-year-old girl has died after a dog attack in Milton Keynes. Emergency services were called shortly after 5pm on Tuesday after a report that a dog had attacked a child in the back garden of a property in Broadlands, Netherfield. Residents were ordered to stay indoors as 10 police cars and heavily armed officers arrived, said the Milton Keynes Citizen. The child died soon afterwards and the dog has been put to sleep.

7

Police apology for Hillsborough failures

The national body for police chief constables has apologised for the “pain and suffering” caused by police failures that led to the unlawful killing of 97 people in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, issued the apology at the launch of a report setting out senior police officers’ commitments to learn lessons from the failures. Lou Brookes, whose brother Andrew was one of the 97 victims, told the Liverpool Echo she did not accept the apologies as they were just “promises on a piece of paper”.

Hillsborough timeline: what has happened in 30 years since 1989 disaster

8

Coffey promises to clean up coasts

The environment secretary has insisted that the issue of water pollution is a priority for her. “I want to tell people that I do care about the sewage in our waters. Actually I really do give an S, asterisk, asterisk, T,” Thérèse Coffey joked in a speech yesterday. The state of Britain’s waterways and coasts and the infrastructure that should be keeping them clean “has dogged Defra for years, with criticism intensifying over the last year”, said the i news site. Coffey made the quip while launching the wide-ranging Environmental Improvement Plan, which promises to end discharges into rivers and the coastline by 2050.

OCT 21: Why sewage is causing a political stink

9

Diana regretted ‘ugly’ divorce

Previously unseen letters have revealed that Princess Diana told friends “she never would have gone through with her divorce” if she knew how “desperate and ugly” the experience would be. In a collection of 32 letters, put up for auction by Diana’s close confidantes Susie and Tarek Kassem, the Princess describes how negotiations over the terms of the divorce left her “on her knees”. The letters, which are being sold individually, are expected to fetch around £90,000.

10

High street caffeine levels vary significantly

Caffeine levels in high street coffee varies wildly, according to testing. After measuring the caffeine in cappuccino, espresso and filter coffee at Caffè Nero, Costa, Greggs, Pret a Manger and Starbucks, the consumer group Which? found Pret’s single espresso had six times as much caffeine as Starbucks’s. Costa had the strongest medium cappuccino with 325mg of caffeine and a Starbucks cappuccino contained the least at 66mg – less than the 75mg in a single tea bag. “Our research shows you may be consuming significantly more, or less, caffeine than you bargained for,” said a spokesperson.

The pros and cons of drinking coffee

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