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Khan: Government put 'dogma ahead of national interest' over Brexit

Sam Francis

BBC News, London

Sadiq Khan
PA Wire

The mayor of London has accused the government of "putting dogma ahead of the national interest" by re-starting Brexit negotiations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Talks about securing a post-Brexit trade agreement between the UK and EU began on Monday, with negotiations expected to last around a week.

Sadiq Khan called for an extension to the 31 December deadline for Brexit trade talks between the UK and EU, in a letter to Michael Gove.

Mr Khan said that trade barriers and disruption caused by a no-deal Brexit would be “needless and hazardous”.

“The last thing the country needs as it tries to find a way back from the devastation wreaked by coronavirus is more chaos and uncertainty,” he wrote.

"Most Londoners will be deeply disappointed that at a time of crisis, the government is putting dogma ahead of the national interest.

“I urge the government to put political ideology aside and pursue the pragmatic route of seeking an extension to the negotiations so that we and our European partners can focus on recovery from Covid-19.”

A government spokesperson said: "We have taken unprecedented action to support businesses through this pandemic and to ensure the UK’s economic recovery is as strong and as swift as possible.

“An extension to the transition period would bind us into future EU legislation, without us having any say in designing it, but still having to foot the bill as we would still have to make payments into the EU budget."

The Cabinet Office said it will respond to Mr Khan's letter "in due course."

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New advice to people shielding is optional, says first minister

New advice to people in Wales shielding from coronavirus that they can meet others from a different household outdoors is optional, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Under the new guidance people who have been shielding can now take exercise, and meet people from another household outdoors but they must not share food.

At the Welsh Government press conference, Mr Drakeford acknowledged that some will have “mixed feelings” about the change of advice.

“Some will welcome it, others will naturally be apprehensive,” he said.

Mr Drakeford said it is based on increased knowledge of how the virus behaves outdoors.

“We know it only survives for minutes on surfaces outdoors compared to hours indoors,” he said.

“This is not an instruction for the shielded group to go outdoors if they don’t want to - it’s an option.”

Mr Drakeford said the chief medical officer will this week be writing to the 130,000 people in the shielded group to set the advice out in full, and the next steps.

Mark Drakeford