Top story: ‘Disastrous’ consequences for business feared
Hello again – Warren Murray here to help you move through the news.
Britain is to close its borders to unskilled workers and those who can’t speak English as the government unveils an “Australian-style” points system that will end the era of cheap EU labour in factories, warehouses, hotels and restaurants. The government will say it is grasping a unique opportunity to take full control of British borders and eliminate the “distortion” caused by EU freedom of movement.
Among main criteria, anyone wanting to come to the UK to work must have a job offer with a salary threshold of £25,600 – though £20,480 will be acceptable in areas of skills shortage, such as nursing. Self-employed people need not apply – spelling the end of Polish plumbers or Romanian builders coming on their own initiative. Some highly skilled workers will be allowed in without a job offer. A limit of 10,000 places is being put on farm workers for seasonal harvesting, when the National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU) has said 70,000 such visas will be needed for 2021. Minette Batters, head of the NFU, said it was “ironic” the government was encouraging people to eat more fruit and veg while “making it harder for that fruit and veg to be produced in Britain”.
Industry leaders have accused the government of an assault on the economy, warning of “disastrous” consequences with job losses and closures in factories and the high street. But a government briefing paper is unapologetic: “UK businesses will need to adapt and adjust to the end of free movement, and we will not seek to recreate the outcomes from free movement within the points-based system.”
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Best of Brit-ish – The singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi and the rapper Dave have taken the main prizes at the Brit Awards. Capaldi won best new artist and best song for Someone You Loved, while Dave won album of the year for Psychodrama. Billie Eilish and Tyler, the Creator were among international winners at an event criticised as having too few female nominees.
South London rapper Dave accused Boris Johnson of racism as he performed the freestyle track Black, with a newly written final verse that began: “It is racist, whether or not it feels racist, the truth is our prime minister’s a real racist / They say – ‘you should be grateful, we’re the least racist’ / I say the least racist is still racist.” Alexis Petridis writes: “There’s a sense in which the actual winners of the 2020 Brits represented an attempt to convince the public it was all very much business as usual: nothing to get upset about here, kindly move along.” Ben Beaumont-Thomas reviews the night’s performances – Mabel, Capaldi, Lizzo, Rod Stewart and more.
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> Passengers have begun leaving the Diamond Princess in Japan but questions are being asked about whether quarantine measures around the ship have been strict enough, amid fears coronavirus cases could flare later among those permitted to leave. A second death has been reported in Hong Kong – more at our live blog.
> 10 Downing Street is being questioned over whether it vetted the now-sacked adviser Andrew Sabisky. Kirsty Blackman of the SNP said: “It is beyond shameful that a man with a well-documented history of unapologetically offensive, misogynistic, and racist remarks was considered by No 10 to be an appropriate hire.”
> Jurors deliberating in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial have asked to see emails in which the movie mogul highlighted the names of potential accusers and handed them to the investigators he employed to try and silence the women.
> Boris Johnson and his estranged wife, Marina Wheeler, are preparing to end their marriage after a family court judge approved a financial settlement and gave Wheeler permission to apply for a divorce decree. Johnson is believed to be the first prime minister divorced in office in modern times. He has been dating Carrie Symonds since 2019 and they live together in Downing Street.
> In the largest study of its kind, researchers have found that whether a family has more boys or girls, or an equal mix, is simply down to chance. Meanwhile a woman in France left infertile by cancer treatment is the first to give birth via a new procedure whereby her immature eggs were collected, matured in a lab, frozen and then used five years later.
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Children’s future at stake – All countries are failing to shield their children’s health and future from ecological degradation, climate change and bad diet, according to a global panel of child and adolescent health experts commissioned by the WHO. They say that despite dramatic improvements in survival, nutrition, and education over the past 20 years, today’s children face “existential threats”. Apart from the environment, predatory marketing of fast food and sugary drinks is blamed for an increase in childhood obesity from 11 million cases in 1975 to 124 million in 2016. The experts’ report rates Norway, South Korea, the Netherlands, France and Ireland as countries where a child can best flourish. The UK is ranked 10th on child flourishing but 133rd when it comes to delivering on emissions targets.
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Drug expert blocked over tweets – The chief pharmacist at an addiction service was barred from rejoining the government’s drug advisory panel after Home Office social media checks revealed he had publicly criticised Jeremy Hunt. Graham Parsons has rejected the idea that his disapproval of Hunt’s policies as health secretary would have compromised his advice. Parsons’s “excellent expertise” had been noted by an assessment panel that recommended his appointment. But Home Office emails and memos seen by the Guardian reveal it was noted that Parsons, a previous member of the panel, had posted tweets critical of Hunt. The government’s relationship with drug policy experts has become increasingly fraught at a time of record drug-related deaths, budget cuts and criticism of Conservative drugs policy.
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Bones of a theory – A cave in Iraq has given up the skeleton of a Neanderthal from 70,000 years ago, adding to evidence that modern humans’ cousins buried their dead and might even have brought flowers to their funerals.
The female who died in her 40s or 50s is dubbed Shanidar Z after the cave where her remains were found and those of others were discovered 60 years ago. “It seems clear that Shanidar was a special place, with bodies being placed just in one part of a large cave,” said Graeme Barker, a University of Cambridge archaeologist.
Today in Focus podcast: Inside Trump’s Facebook campaign
Guardian US tech reporter Julia Carrie Wong spent a year analysing Trump’s Facebook campaign. She discusses how the sophisticated social media machine is targeting voters – and explains the database the Guardian built to investigate the contents of Trump’s 218,000 different Facebook ads. Also, Leah Green reflects on the death of the former Love Island presenter Caroline Flack.
Lunchtime read: ‘Mum talked to me about justice, racism …’
The actor and activist Saffron Burrows, who stars in the Netflix hit You, discusses her teenage years as an anti-racist campaigner, modelling in Paris, #MeToo and the “sexist” films she turned down.
Jürgen Klopp accused Atlético Madrid of targeting Sadio Mané after Liverpool suffered a frustrating 1-0 defeat in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. Erling Haaland’s extraordinary scoring streak for Borussia Dortmund continued as his two goals gave them a 2-1 first-leg victory over PSG. Manchester City could face further investigations by Uefa’s financial fair play compliance body into the level of Abu Dhabi sponsorships they declared for the years since 2016.
Phil Neville has told his England squad for the SheBelieves Cup to put out of their minds the idea that the mini-tournament is an audition for TeamGB at the Tokyo Olympics. England’s Lewis Ludlam is learning how to control his intense passion and targeting a Six Nations-defining win over Ireland at Twickenham this weekend. Brian O’Driscoll has accused Eddie Jones of “scaremongering” and admitted he relished the sight of the England head coach’s comments backfiring so spectacularly in France this month. Dan Biggar and Josh Adams will be available for Wales to face France in Cardiff on Saturday, but they may be peripheral figures in the backline after the prop Wyn Jones accused the Six Nations leaders of cheating in the scrums. And Tyson Fury has never been one to underestimate his own ability, but the Mancunian giant is brimming with confidence before Saturday night’s hotly anticipated rematch with Deontay Wilder.
Asian shares have mostly risen despite overnight losses on Wall Street and the coronavirus crisis. Data for January showed Japan’s exports fell less than expected in January, its third straight month of deficit. Adding to optimism, new virus cases reported by China have been falling. Collapse in demand due to Covid-19 remains the key worry for the markets across the globe as the disease continues its spread, said Prakash Sakpal, economist for Asia at ING. The pound is trading at $1.299 and €1.203 while the FTSE is tracking 55 points higher at time of writing.
The Guardian leads with the PM’s immigration plan: “Fears for UK economy as Johnson closes border to unskilled workers”. The PM’s flood response also comes in for criticism. The Mail heralds the “Immigration revolution” and what the Express describes as “Historic new border controls”.
Metro puts it more plainly: “Ban on cheap EU workers” and the i takes a similar line: “UK closes the door to ‘low-skilled’ migrant workers”. The FT says Britain’s biggest car maker is having to fly some components over from China in suitcases to keep production going: “Jaguar Land Rover faces closure as coronavirus limits parts supply”.
The Sun carries the mugging of a former One Direction member: “Harry knife terror”. The Mirror has “Get out” as people in flood-hit areas are urged to evacuate. The Telegraph says “Lib Dems to throw out [Lord] Steel over Cyril Smith sex abuse” while the Times reports on “Fears over jihadist attacks in jail”, saying an attempt was made to stab prison staff at Winchester jail.
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