The UK and European Union announced this evening that they have reached a trade deal ending months of negotiations. In a press conference in Brussels EU Commisson president Ursula von der Leyen said it was a "fair and balanced" deal. She added that now was "time to turn the page and look to the future" and that the UK "remains a trusted partner". She said that there will be a five-and-a-half year transition period for the fishing industry. EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier said that "today is a day of relief, but tinged by some sadness."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a statement in London saying that the deal will allow exporters to do even more business with the EU. He said that co-operation will continue on issues including climate change, energy, security and transport. The Prime Minister said that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end and that under the agreement "for the first time since 1973 we will be an independent costal state with full control of our waters". He said that it was "a comprehensive Canada-style deal between the UK and the EU. A deal that will protect jobs across this country, that will enable UK goods to be sold without tariffs, without quotas in the EU market."
Reacting to the announcement of the agreement, President Macron said that "european unity and steadfastness" have paid off. He said that the agreement with the UK "is essential to protect our citizens, our fishermen, our producers" and that "Europe is moving forward and can look to the future, united, sovereign and strong".
The French High Authority for Health has given its approval for the use of the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine in France. The decision, announced earlier today, means that the first vaccinations can go ahead as planned from this Sunday. The Authority confirmed its recommendations for prioritizing the most vulnerable people and those most exposed to the risk of Covid-19 in phases 1, 2 and 3 of the vaccination programme. It also published recommendations intended for general practitioners to guide them in carrying out a pre-vaccination consultation. Minister of Health Olivier Veran said earlier this week that the first vaccinations on Sunday would be given to a few dozen residents in two or three homes for the elderly.
President Macron is no longer in isolation and is no longer showing symptoms of Covid-19 according to a statement from the Elysee this morning. The statement added that during his illness, "he was able to remain mobilized on the main current issues" in France and to hold scheduled meetings and that he will continue those activities in the same way "in the hours and days to come".
The Monaco government has said that it will apply a 0% rate of TVA on screening tests and vaccines for COVID-19. The measure will apply until December 31, 2022. Similar measures have also been introduced in France.
Household rubbish is beginning to building up on the streets in three areas of Marseille as a result of industrial action at a refuse company whose employees are in a dispute with management. The strike has been affecting bin collections in the 2nd, 15th and 16th arrondissements. The Aix-Marseille-Provence Métropole has asked the Prefect of Bouches-du-Rhône to intervene on public health grounds.
A Christmas Eve mass is being celebrated in Gap this evening in unusual surroundings because of coronavirus restrictions. The mass is taking place outdoors in the town's ice rink which can accomodate about seven hundred people. The town hall authorized the event which is being held in compliance with coronavirus protocols.
UK stock markets have closed for the Christmas break as an announcement regarding a Brexit trade deal was awaited. The prospects of a trade deal helped the FTSE Small Cap Index hit a record high, rising by 0.8% today. The FTSE 250 rose by 1.16% but the the blue-chip FTSE 100 ended the day's trading virtually unchanged, rising by only a few points.
China's State Administration for Market Regulation has announced that it's placing tech company Alibaba under investigation for alleged monopolistic practices. Reports say the investigation centres on the practice of requiring merchants to sign exclusive co-operation pacts, preventing them from offering products on rival platforms.
The State of California has authorised a commercial driverless delivery service for the first time. Robotics company Nuro has previously tested driverless vehicles in California and plans to start deliveries to customers as early as next year. Vehicles will be limited to 35mph and will only be allowed to operate in "fair weather" conditions.
Rugby Union... It's been decided to postpone the Pro14 game between Munster and Leinster on 26 December. Leinster are "investigating the outcomes of some of the results" from the latest round of Covid-19 testing and organizers said that the results of the investigations won't be returned in time to meet health guidelines. Potential dates are now being explored to reschedule the game to early next year.
Football... In the English Premier League this weekend, on Saturday Leicester City play Manchester United at lunchtime. In the afternoon Aston Villa host Crystal Palace, Fulham play Southampton and the evening matches will see Arsenal face Chelsea, Manchester City play Newcastle United and Sheffield United host Everton. On Sunday Leeds play Burnley in the lunchtime fixture, followed by West Ham against Brighton, Liverpool are at home to West Bromwich and Wolverhampton play Tottenham. And then on Monday Crystal palace play Leicester, Chelsea play Aston Villa and Everton play Manchester City.