Newspaper headlines: Covid-19 vaccine 'giant leap' and Johnson heads to Brussels

By BBC News

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Ms Keenan was vaccinated in Coventry at 6:31 GMT on Tuesday

There is a celebratory mood in Wednesday's newspapers, with many front pages carrying pictures of 90-year-old Margaret Keenan being clapped by hospital staff after becoming the first person in the world to receive the newly-approved Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.

"One small jab for Maggie, one giant leap for all of us" is the headline in the Daily Express.

The paper says Ms Keenan set a splendid example for us all to follow and the paper is optimistic that "this epic vaccine programme will win us back the life we all want to lead".

"Heroes" is how the Daily Mail describes the first people to receive the jab - many of them elderly.

The paper says they've made Britain proud and is confident that "this vaccine is the key to setting Britain free from its Covid chains".

For the Daily Star, the start of the vaccine rollout brings "new hope", while the Daily Mirror says "let us rejoice that help is on its way". But the Mirror sounds a note of caution with its headline: "One down, 54 million to go".

The Financial Times is more cautious, pointing out that big logistical challenges remain.

And the Daily Telegraph also puts a bit of a dampener on any feelings of optimism, with a warning from the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance. He says we might have to wear masks for another year because of a lack of evidence that vaccines prevent transmission.

Brexit latest

Brexit - and the prospects for a trade deal with Europe - is the other big story appearing on the front pages.

The i newspaper calls Boris Johnson's trip to Brussels for talks with the EU Commission's president a "showdown on the future of the UK", while the Times says it is a "last ditch push" for a deal and that Mr Johnson faces "an uphill battle".

"Don't buckle Boris" is the message for the prime minister from the Daily Mail. The paper says it does not desire a painful no deal - but the prime minister must not give in to unreasonable demands by the EU which, it says, refuses to accept that Britain wants unencumbered sovereignty.

The Sun agrees, saying "Boris Johnson must not falter over Brexit".

The Daily Express also says Britain must regain sovereignty - but that a failure to secure mutual prosperity because of EU intransigence would be a sickening disappointment.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Boris Johnson will fly to Brussels later for talks with the EU's Ursula von der Leyen

In the i newspaper, commentator John Rentoul predicts that the British side will have to make the main concessions - but that Mr Johnson will portray the outcome as a triumph.

The Guardian suggests that Britain's relationship with Europe now hangs on the success of a three-course dinner between the prime minister and the European Commission president.

The Telegraph claims the EU will have officials stationed in a permanent office in Northern Ireland from 1 January, as part of a deal to settle outstanding trade disputes.

The paper calls this "a major concession that rang alarm bells with Brexiteers" and quotes the Democratic Unionist Party as saying the move is "unnecessary" and "concerning".

Meanwhile, the Times also reports that a secret "nightmare scenario" unit has been set up at Downing Street to co-ordinate the response if a no-deal Brexit coincides with a massive spike in coronavirus and extreme winter weather such as flooding.

The cell will provide daily briefings to the prime minister, the paper says, to avoid the government being "taken by surprise".

And the Financial Times focuses on government plans to end punitive tariffs against the US over aircraft subsidies - paving the way for a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington.

The paper says the decision will be seen as an attempt to win favour with the incoming president, Joe Biden.

But, it believes, the UK is likely to face a struggle after Mr Biden said last week that he was in no rush to sign any new trade deals and would be prioritising domestic issues.

Royal train tour

Prince William and Kate's train tour of Britain - aimed at boosting morale during the pandemic - is defended in the face of a less than enthusiastic reception from Nicola Sturgeon and the Welsh minister Vaughan Gething who has questioned whether the trip broke Covid rules.

In its editorial comment, the Daily Mail brands the politicians' response "sour" and "churlish" and says they misjudged the public mood.

The Daily Telegraph says the couple made every effort to ensure that no-one's health was compromised and that the tut-tutting about unnecessary journeys shows the ministers to be a joyless bunch.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Prince William and Catherine have been travelling around Great Britain to thank key workers for their efforts

The Sun and the Telegraph report that members of an English Civil War re-enactment society had their Facebook pages suspended when they were mistaken for a US right-wing militia group.

Wimborne Militia recreates 17th century battles in Dorset - but members were accused by the social media giant of "contravening community standards".

The society's founder, Chris Brown, says they use 17th century weapons with shotgun licences and operate under strict health and safety rules.

He says if Facebook had checked, "it would have been fairly obvious we aren't a dangerous political group". Facebook has now relented and restored the accounts.

And the Guardian records the latest casualty of Covid - the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award aimed at dissuading authors from including "unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels".

The organisers, from the magazine the Literary Review, say they took the decision to cancel the award because "the judges felt that the public had been subjected to too many bad things this year to justify exposing it to bad sex as well".