LIVE updates as Boris Johnson says EU is being 'unreasonable' and vows to 'do best' to get NE out of tier 3 in visit to region
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made a visit to our region in the wake of an announcement which could bring 8,000 new jobs to the North East.
The Conservative leader is in Blyth, Northumberland, today, Friday, December 11, as he marks one year on from the General Election, which saw his party win with an 80 seat majority.
It comes after confirmation the UK’s first gigaplant, which will produce lithium-ion batteries for future electrified vehicles, will be set up on the former power station site in the town.
His visit also follows on from discussions with the EU in Belgium, which failed to result in a final trade deal for the UK following the decision to leave the union.
Keep refreshing for live updates from his visit.
Updates as Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes visit to the North East
- Visit comes after announcement of huge investment into battery plant which could create up to 8,000 jobs
- PM heads to region in wake of meeting with EU which failed to strike a final Brexit deal
- Event marks a year since the Conservatives won the General Election - with Blyth among seats won from Labour
- Boris Johnson vows to ‘do best’ to move North East out of tier 3 restrictions
Boris Johnson said the government would be looking at data in the coming days before making a decision on if the region would be able to move out of tier 3 on December 16.
He said: “I know that will be frustrating, particular for areas where they’ve got it coming down but they’re near areas where it’s not coming down so fast, and who feel they are being unfairly dragged into a higher tier. I do really appreciate that sense of frustration and unfairness.
“We’ll do our best to sort it out, but what we can’t have is another big spike in the coming weeks. Everyone instinctively understands where we’ve got to in the fight, we all know the salvation, the cavalry is over the hill and the vaccines are already being rolled out, but it will take time.
“We’ll do our best on the 16th, we’ll be as fair as we possibly can, but we can’t afford to let the virus get out of control.”
Boris Johnson spoke of the potential of a ‘green industrial revolution’ as he visited a key site in the North East today.
Amid Brexit worries and covid devastation, the Prime Minister urged people to look at the future potential of the renewable energy industry for the region.
He went on to say that all businesses need to prepare for an increasingly-likely no-deal Brexit.
He said: "The North East is already the biggest net exporting region in the whole UK and has got an amazing future whatever trading arrangements we have with the EU.
“I think there’s a big opportunity for companies to think not just in European terms – where markets will remain open and our markets will remain open to our European friends – but also more globally.
“In the North East, I see a region which, yes, has had a knock-back from Covid, as we all have, but I think can bounce back very strongly. What we’re going to do is continue with our agenda of uniting and levelling up.”
He added: “One thing I would stress is whatever your business, it’s vital that whether it’s Canada or Australia (style trading agreements), we have to get ready, because there will be change coming.”
Boris Johnson was asked why just two hospitals in the North East have been supplied with the covid vaccine as the vaccine scheme is rolled out.
The coronavirus vaccine roll-out began on Tuesday December 8, with 50 hospital hubs starting to immunise the most vulnerable.
Three more hospitals were added to the list on Thursday, December 10, but in the North East region just The Newcastle Hospitals Trust and James Cook Hospital Trust have a supply of the vaccine.
The Prime Minister said that the scheme ‘has to go slowly’ as it is new and the vaccine must be kept at-70.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it is “very, very likely” that the UK will fail to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union and leave the bloc on World Trade Organisation terms.
Mr Johnson told reporters on a visit to Blyth in Northumberland that EU countries were being unreasonable.
He said: “We are always hopeful, and as you know the negotiations are continuing and we’ve got our teams still out there in Brussels.
“And if there is a big offer, a big change in what they are saying then I must say that I’ve yet to see it."
He continued: “Unfortunately at the moment, as you know, there are two key things where we just can’t seem to make progress and that’s this kind of ratchet clause they’ve got in to keep the UK locked in to whatever they want to do in terms of legislation, which obviously doesn’t work.
“And then there is the whole issue of fish where we’ve got to be able to take back control of our waters. So there is a way to go – we’re hopeful that progress can be made.
“But I’ve got to tell that from where I stand now, here in Blyth, it is looking very, very likely that we will have to go for a solution that I think would be wonderful for the UK, and we’d be able to do exactly what we want from January 1 – it obviously would be different from what we’d set out to achieve but I have no doubt this country can get ready and, as I say, come out on World Trade terms.”
Renewable energy is a key industry for Northumberland and for the country's green growth ambitions.
When asked about the likelihood of the region moving out of tier three next week, Boris Johnson said: “We will do our best, we will be fair, but we can't let it get out of control.”
He insisted that decisions on tiers have to be justified by the science.
The whole of the North East including the Tees Valley and Northumberland is currently under tier 3 restrictions, despite cases rates in many areas being lower than some areas in the south of England which are under tier 2.
A look back at last year’s General Election - and how it showed a shift in Blyth’s political allegiance
Last December, on the promise the Tories would “Get Brexit done”, the party won the General Election with a massive 80 seat majority.
Among those constituencies taken from previous Labour areas was Blyth, where Ian Levy took on the role of MP, becoming the first Tory MP since the constituency’s formation in 1950.
He secured 17,440 votes, beating Labour’s Susan Dungworth, the leader of the opposition group on Northumberland County Council, by around 700 votes.
A source linked to the Sunderland factory has said there is no plan B if a trade deal is not struck with the EU.
But that is what the PM has warned is likely to happen, although there has been a promise negotiations will continue up until December 31.
The car manufacturer has invested £400 million into the Wearside site as it prepares to produce the new Qashqai model, including an electric version, from next year.