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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 25 February 2023

1

PM ‘to announce Brexit deal on Monday’

Rishi Sunak will announce a deal “to end the protracted row over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol” as “soon as Monday”, said The Guardian. Cautiously said to have been named the “Windsor agreement”, the deal would overhaul post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland and mark an end to a two-year standoff with the EU. However, said The Times, the PM now “faces a direct clash with Tory Eurosceptics”, who have warned that his plans for the deal risk “civil war”.

2

WHO ‘really concerned’ about bird flu

The World Health Organisation said it is “really concerned” the current bird flu outbreak may now be spreading between people for the first time in more than a quarter of a century. After an 11-year-old girl died of bird flu in Cambodia this week, the WHO ordered a new bird flu vaccine. The risk of the virus infecting humans on a wider scale is “very small, but the consequences if it does are huge”, said The Times. The UKHSA is examining potential scenarios, including a Covid-like situation or an outbreak akin to Spanish flu.

3

Zelensky willing to meet Xi

Volodymyr Zelensky has said he plans to meet China’s leader Xi Jinping to discuss Beijing’s peace plan to ending the war in Ukraine. Speaking on the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, the president said: “I really want to believe that China will not supply weapons to Russia.” However, western leaders remain sceptical about the plan. US president Joe Biden said that the idea of China negotiating the outcome of the war was not acceptable. “Putin’s applauding it, so how could it be any good?” the US president told ABC News.

4

Labour ‘set for landslide’

Labour is on course for a 1997-scale landslide victory at the next general election, according to a new poll. The research for the ipaper shows Labour is preferred to the Tories on practically every policy area. Around 46% would vote for Sir Keir Starmer’s party with 29% backing the Conservatives, 9% voting for the Liberal Democrats, 6% supporting Reform UK and 4% opting for the Greens. The results “suggest that Rishi Sunak is currently failing to close the gap with Labour”, said the paper.

5

Prison plan may not be affordable

Whitehall fears that the government’s tough-on-crime policy is becoming unaffordable after it was announced that the number of people jailed in England and Wales will rise to more than 100,000 within five years. Tougher sentencing policies mean the number of people in prison at any one time will increase from about 82,000 at present to as much as 106,000 by 2027, a rise of more than 20%, said the Ministry of Justice. In 2021 government figures showed the total cost for holding each prisoner was £48,000 a year. A senior government figure said there were “serious questions” about affordability.

6

New hint that Biden will run

Jill Biden has given the clearest signal yet that Joe Biden will run for a second term, saying that there’s “pretty much” nothing left to do but figure out the time and place for the announcement. “He says he’s not done,” the First Lady said during a five-day trip to Africa. “He’s not finished what he’s started. And that’s what’s important,” she told the Associated Press. The US president has yet to officially announce a run, and has faced questions about whether he is too old to continue serving as president.

7

Ukrainian refugees ‘exploited in UK’

Refugees from Ukraine are being exploited through forced labour and “debt bondage” by the British hosts who offered them sanctuary under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, said the British Red Cross. The charity’s Anti-Trafficking and Safeguarding teams said they had witnessed “debt bondage” and people “forced to work for a landlord for free in exchange for accommodation”.  A government spokesperson confirmed that a small number of suspected modern slavery cases had been discovered but added “swift action is taken where exploitation is suspected”.

8

Tributes to ‘extraordinary’ Ingham

Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary, has died following a short illness. Ingham, who was 90, was surrounded by his family when he passed away. A former journalist, he served as Thatcher’s press secretary for all but the first few months of her premiership in 1979. The “gruff Yorkshireman” was a “workaholic” and a “highly professional public servant but he could erupt at any time if it was in his boss’s interests”, said The Telegraph. The BBC said he enjoyed an “extraordinary journey across the political spectrum” from “socialist standard-bearer” to Thatcher’s aide.

9

TSSA deal heaps pressure on Lynch

Pressure is growing on the RMT’s Mick Lynch after members of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association voted to accept a pay offer from train operators. The two-year pay deal is worth at least 9%, and as much as 13% for lower-paid workers. It also guarantees no compulsory redundancies before 2025. Mick Lynch’s RMT has been made “broadly similar offers” by Network Rail and the RDG but chose not to put the deals to members in a referendum. “The message we have received loud and clear is to reject these dreadful offers,” said Lynch.

10

Turnips sell out after minister’s statement

Supermarkets “don’t appear to be selling turnips” after the government urged shoppers to buy them amid food shortages in stores, said The Mirror. Environment Secretary Therese Coffey suggested turnip would be a suitable alternative to vegetables that are in short supply, “seemingly sparking a run on the root veg”, said the paper. Shoppers at Tesco and Sainsbury’s reported a lack of turnips in store, and other chains such as Co-op, Asda and Morrisons did not list turnips at all when searched for on their websites.

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