Good morning and welcome to the briefing. We’re going to start with developments in Hong Kong overnight and then take a look at what we expect to see on the campaign trail today. The parties have rolled out some eye-catching election pledges. Our live coverage of the day’s political news is up and running.
Hundreds of protesters are believed to be trapped inside a university in Hong Kong this morning after the campus building they have been occupying since last week was besieged by police. In a dramatic escalation of the unrest that has gripped the city for the past five months, activists threw petrol bombs and bricks at police and set fire to a pedestrian bridge in violent overnight clashes. Protesters also fired arrows at police and officers used live rounds. When morning dawned, a group of protesters tried to escape the campus but were forced back by a volley of tear gas fired by police at various exits. Three people were treated for eye injuries and 40 suffered hypothermia after being doused with water cannon. In the courts, a ban on face masks implemented by the government was this morning ruled unconstitutional.
The drama comes after elite Chinese troops filed into the streets of the city to help clean up debris from protests on Saturday. Although dressed in shorts and T-shirts rather than combat gear, the presence of the soldiers is seen as a sign that Beijing is preparing to exert more authority in the troubled territory.
What’s going on?
Back in Britain Boris Johnson starts the week still dogged by questions about his personal life and fitness for office after it emerged that London Assembly’s standards committee, which is looking into the Tory leader’s relationship with US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri, will also review an affair that he failed to declare when he was mayor of London.
On the campaign trail, Johnson is preparing to woo business owners, announcing a range of tax cuts for businesses at the Confederation of British Industry conference. He will promise tax relief for the construction and research industries, plus a tax cut for small employers by raising the allowance for their national insurance bills from £3,000 to £4,000.
However, it will be an uphill battle for the prime minister, who has a reputation as a politician who has prioritised leaving the EU over business concerns, after he was previously reported to have said “fuck business” in relation to worries about Brexit. The CBI’s director general has also warned his plans to reduce immigration risked a skills shortage.
But Johnson will tell the business lobby group’s conference on Monday that while “big business didn’t want Brexit”, what they wanted now was “certainty”, which Johnson said he could deliver.
Ahead of the manifesto launch on Thursday, Jeremy Corbyn said he would want his government to allow “a great deal of movement” of people, but stopped short of saying free movement in its current form would continue.
The Tories have tried to make immigration a battleground issue, arguing that a Labour conference motion, which argued for the UK to “maintain and expand” free movement, would mean open borders and immigration of 840,000 people a year to the UK.
At a glance
The day ahead
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will be speaking at the CBI conference this morning.
Jo Swinson will be in Hertfordshire this morning.
There will be a high court action this morning over election debates. The Liberal Democrats are challenging ITV over the broadcaster’s exclusion of Swinson from its televised debate. Two judges in London will also hear a similar action by the SNP after being excluded from a general election leaders’ debate.
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> Prince Andrew is facing a backlash on both sides of the Atlantic over his television interview in which he attempted to defend his friendship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Critics called him “arrogant” and demanded he speak to the FBI.
> The NHS is running out of vital medicines including treatments for heart disease, cancer and epilepsy, according to an internal document seen by the Guardian.
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Gareth Southgate believes England are more advanced at this point of their Euro 2020 campaign than they were for the World Cup in 2018, after a late flurry of goals put a gloss on a 4-0 win over Kosovo. Stefanos Tsitsipas’s 2019 began on the wrong end of a thrashing from Rafael Nadal but ended with a landmark victory at the ATP Finals, where the Greek became the youngest winner of the event since 2001. What might have been a sedate win for Max Verstappen and Red Bull at the Brazilian Grand Prix was a hard fought, brilliantly executed victory, while around him high drama played out at Interlagos. Goals from Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema earned victory for Arsenal in the first Women’s Super League north London derby that attracted a league-record attendance of 38,262. Everton’s encouraging start to the WSL season continued with a victory over their neighbours at Anfield – something their male counterparts have been unable to manage so far this millennium. And a man has been arrested after the Wycombe Wanderers goalkeeper, Ryan Allsop, alleged homophobic abuse was aimed at him during Sunday’s League One game at Tranmere.
The number of houses coming up for sale in the UK has fallen at its fastest rate for 10 years, with a 15% drop in November, according to Rightmove. Average prices fell 1% amid concern about the election and Brexit. Asian shares moved higher, thanks partly to a surprise decision by Beijing to cut a key interest rate, setting off speculation that more stimulus will follow for China’s slowing economy. The FTSE100 is set to start flat while the pound edged higher to $1.293 and €1.168.
The fallout from Prince Andrew’s TV interview dominates the front pages this morning. “Andrew under fire from the Palace”, says the Telegraph, above a story saying that the Queen did not give her blessing for Prince Andrew’s Newsnight interview, contrary to some reports. The Guardian’s main story says “Apologise to Epstein’s victims now, prince told”, while the i says “Prince is pressured to meet FBI”. The Times leads with “Defiant duke stands by ‘car crash’ TV interview” and the Mail also focuses on the prince’s side with “Andrew: my regret over TV interview”. The Mirror has “Cop: Andrew’s sex alibi beggars belief”.
Only the Express leads with an election story – “Boris to trigger a Brexit boom”. The big story for the FT is the ongoing saga of the Saudi Aramco float: “Aramco pares back fundraising goal to $25bn in latest IPO hitch”.
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