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Boris visits Scotland, while post-Brexit talks reach an impasse

By Gareth Jones
23 July 2020

By Gareth Jones, Newgate Public Affairs

Today, Boris Johnson visited Scotland in a push to talk up the benefits of the Union. The Prime Minister visited Orkney and the north of Scotland and, in speaking to the media, pledged “to be a prime minister for every corner of the United Kingdom" and emphasised the combined role that the United Kingdom played in responding to the pandemic, such as the Treasury job retention scheme in supporting Scottish jobs and businesses. He highlighted the new role that hydrogen technology is playing in the area and pledged £50m additional central government funding to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles over the next 15 years.

His visit, the first to Scotland since last December’s election, comes as recent polls show there is growing support for a second Scottish independence vote. The SNP said the visit showed Mr Johnson was "in a panic" about rising support for Scottish independence, with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon stating that Mr Johnson’s presence highlighted that Scotland is “having our future decided by politicians we didn’t vote for”. Addressing the issue of independence, Mr Johnson vowed he will not approve a rerun of the 2014 vote.

Elsewhere today, Brexit negotiations reached an impasse with both EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost, stating that the two sides are some way off reaching a post-Brexit trade agreement. The key areas of disagreement are largely unchanged, with the most contentious issues revolving around fishing rights and ‘level playing field’ provisions (ie how closely the UK will stick to EU rules on things like workers' rights, environmental regulations and state aid, or subsidies for business). The UK government had previously stated that it wanted a headline UK-EU trade deal agreed by the end of July. However, it now looks like that talks will continue into September and October.

Lastly, the government published full guidance today on wearing face coverings in shops in England, before the new rules come into force tomorrow. Face coverings will be mandatory in enclosed public spaces including supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, transport hubs, banks and post offices.