Top story: Final Brexit proposals to go to EU within days
Good morning and welcome to the morning briefing with Alison Rourke on this very busy news week.
A proposal to solve the quagmire of the Irish backstop has drawn scorn from Ireland’s deputy PM, Simon Coveney, who dismissed it as a “non-starter”. The plans, seen by the broadcaster RTÉ, involve border checks and real-time tracking devices on lorries and are part of four unofficial papers submitted by the UK to Brussels by Boris Johnson’s team. They include customs clearance sites five to 10 miles to the north and south of the Irish border, a U-turn on previous commitments. Traders would have the choice of lodging their papers at these sites, similar to the ones that existed before the single market came into existence, or electing to be tracked electronically in an online “transit” arrangement. A spokesman for Downing Street dismissed the claims: “Nothing we are proposing involves checks or controls at the border. That is an absolute commitment.” The proposals were also dismissed by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Labour. The leak comes as Johnson puts his finishing touches on formal written proposals on a revised Brexit deal that is due to go to Brussels in the next week.
About face – The BBC has reversed its decision to sanction its presenter Naga Munchetty for breaking impartiality guidelines over her comments about Donald Trump. The director general, Tony Hall, said the complaints unit had made the wrong call. The U-turn came after the Guardian obtained leaked internal correspondence that showed the original complaint had been about both presenters involved in the segment – Munchetty and co-host Dan Walker – but only Munchetty was sanctioned. The BBC’s editorial standards director, David Jordan, had said Walker could not have been investigated because the single viewer complaint which led to the ruling did not mention him, despite the complaint being titled “blatant political bias from both presenters”. It also described Walker as “very unprofessional” and made it clear that they blamed the male presenter for leading Munchetty into making the comments. “These two presenters have never made any secret of their left-wing and anti-Trump bias,” the complaint said.
Trump impeachment – In a fast-moving day of developments in Washington, new reports have revealed a wider role for the attorney general, William Barr, and secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in the unfolding scandal. Both men participated in contacts between Trump and leaders of at least four foreign countries, aimed at producing stories that could damage the president’s likely 2020 opponent, Joe Biden, or undermine the Russia-Mueller probe. Pompeo is also reported to have taken part in Trump’s now infamous call with the Ukrainian president that set off the impeachment inquiry and Barr flew to London and Italy to ask for help in “investigating” the roots of the Russia investigation, the Washington Post reported. Meanwhile it emerged that Trump himself asked Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, for help in discrediting the Mueller inquiry into 2016 election tampering, and Morrison agreed. The developments came after Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudi Guiliani, was subpoenaed by House congressional committees to produce documents related to his and Trump’s alleged attempt to coerce Ukraine into investigating Biden and his son.
‘Great nation’ – China has held a massive military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Communist rule. Addressing crowds from Tiananmen Square, president Xi Jinping led tributes to “revolutionary heroes and martyrs” and said no force could “shake this great nation”. In reference to Taiwan, Xi said Beijing would “continue to strive for the complete reunification of our country”. On Hong Kong, he said China must remain “committed to the strategy of peaceful reunification and one country, two systems”. Shortly after his speech, pro-democracy crowds began gathering in Hong Kong for what are expected to be large protests.
Doctors at risk – One in five doctors has been sexually harassed or witnessed sexual harassment at work, a survey has revealed. Harassment of medics includes explicit text messages or emails, being groped, propositioned or repeatedly asked to go on a date. The perpetrators are mostly patients (17%) but sometimes fellow medics or nurses (3%), according to a survey of 1,378 hospital doctors and GPs. In one in eight incidents involving patients, doctors were asked to meet for a sexual encounter.
Antarctic break off – An iceberg the size of Greater London has calved off the Amery ice shelf in east Antarctica. Scientists say it is not connected to climate change, but is part of the normal process of the continent’s evolution, where ice thins out at the very edge of shelves, sitting on top of water instead of being attached all the way to the ocean floor. According to Ben Galton-Fenzi, a glaciologist with the Australian Antarctic Program, the calving won’t directly affect sea levels “because the ice shelf was already floating, much like an ice cube in a glass of water”.
Today in Focus podcast: Could this impeachment inquiry end Trump’s presidency?
In a July phone call between US president Donald Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate former vice president Joe Biden. An intelligence official decided to blow the whistle on the call. Lauren Gambino discusses how this has led to an impeachment inquiry. And: Joseph Harker on the start of Black History Month.
Lunchtime read: Debbie Harry on heroin, rape, robbery
Few women have been objectified as much as Debbie Harry. In her Blondie memoir, Face It, she reveals her addiction, a brutal robbery-turned-assault and why she still feels lucky. In the 1970s after a gig she and her boyfriend (and Blondie co-founder, Chris Stein) were held at knifepoint in their apartment by a man looking for drugs, who tied her up and raped her. She didn’t let it define her. “I had to consider what was important to me, and being a victim was really not who I wanted to be.” Perhaps minimising it has helped protect her from it? She smiles. “Yeah. Absolutely.”
Her biggest mistake in her life, she says, was money. “That I didn’t pay more attention to business, and that I was really only interested in making music and performing.” In the 80s she and Stein lost everything. Their 1976 debut album, the eponymous Blondie, saw them tour the world for years, but they lost their New York townhouse and the IRS even took some of her clothes. Heroin was a big part of their lives , but she she got off it “just the way anybody does – go to a programme, or go into therapy. It’s not easy.” At 74, how does she feel about getting older? “It sucks,” she says with a laugh. There isn’t much she would have done differently in her life, she says. “We all make mistakes, but the thing is to learn from them. And make different mistakes.”
The US Anti-Doping Agency has banned American Alberto Salazar, who has coached some of the world’s top distance runners including British Olympian track champion Mo Farah, for four years for doping violations. Ole Gunnar Solskjær insisted he was still confident of Manchester United having a successful year after a 1-1 draw with Arsenal condemned the 20-times Premier League champions to their worst start to a season for 30 years. Dina Asher-Smith insists she is not feeling the pressure to follow her 100m silver with a 200m world title – despite finishing fastest of all in the first round in Doha. The championships, blighted by small crowds, have so far been a PR disaster for athletics, for the sport’s president, Sebastian Coe, and for Qatar, writes Sean Ingle. England are backing their forward “tank” to propel them past Argentina this weekend and confirm their place in the last eight of the Rugby World Cup. Ardie Savea will make a small slice of history when he runs out for the All Blacks against Canada on Wednesday to become the first player to wear goggles in a World Cup match, a move the New Zealand forward says could save him from going blind. And it took nine-year-old Kade Lovell longer than expected to finish his 5km race in Minnesota, but only because he was busy accidentally winning a separate 10km event.
The shared workspace operator WeWork has pulled plans for a share sale after ousting its founder and amid investor scepticism over its sky-high valuation. The decision leaves the rental company facing a cash crunch as its new bosses prepare to make deep cuts to stem its massive losses. WeWork had planned to start an investor roadshow earlier this month before an IPO. But the company, which had been valued at $47bn earlier this year, found investors worried by its valuation and by corporate governance issues. It was forced to slash its valuation by more than half.
The pound is buying $1.229 and €1.128.
The papers devote plenty of space to Boris Johnson again today. The Telegraph leads with “Johnson to reveal his Brexit plan” to EU leaders in the next day or so. The paper says his alternative to the Irish backstop is an “all-Ireland economic zone”. The Times has “Block Brexit delay, says Johnson”, which says the PM has asked the EU to rule out an extension of Article 50. The Guardian has “Ministers defend PM on groping allegations” (but reserves its splash for “BBC caves in over censure of TV presenter in Trump racism row”). The Mirror splashes on what it calls a “new bombshell”, with a headline referring to US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri: “Boris’ ‘lover’ in fear over her stolen laptop”. The i reports “Government of national unity – talks begin” over a picture of Jo Swinson, Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon. The FT has “Johnson to ‘know by the weekend’ whether he has chance of Brexit deal”, (but reserves its lead for “Riyadh woos Aramco investors by dangling $75bn yearly payout”, a reference to the Saudi state-owned energy group).
The Express ignores Brexit with a story about the home secretary, Pritti Patel, pledging a crackdown on crime: “Criminals we are coming after you” is its headline. The Mail also splashes on that story, with “End of the soft prison sentence”.
The Sun appeals to those sitting down to breakfast: “Bacon’s safe … No ifs or butties”, citing Canadian research that bacon and other processed meats are safe.
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