Top story: ‘A leader of our game and a mentor’
Hello, Warren Murray here to open the week that will close Britain’s EU chapter.
The world of professional sport is in mourning after Kobe Bryant, the US basketball legend, died in a helicopter crash at the age of 41. Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, is also believed to have died – she was among the eight others on board, and no survivors were reported. The helicopter crashed at 10am on Sunday near Calabasas, 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles, in foggy weather. Bryant lived in the area most of his life and often used helicopters because of LA’s heavy road traffic.
Bryant played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, having gone straight from school to the NBA instead of college. In that time they won five championships and he was named an All-Star 18 times. Bryant’s reputation was tarnished in 2003 when he was arrested over rape allegations that he later settled out of court. Fans have been holding vigils to pay tribute. One of Bryant’s fellow Lakers greats, Magic Johnson, said: “It’s hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players.”
Virus death toll jumps – China’s premier has visited Wuhan as the country substantially raised its coronavirus death toll to 80, up from 56 on Sunday. Its National Health Commission has said there are more than 2,700 infections recorded and 6,000 suspected – it has included Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan in these numbers. The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was flying to Beijing to discuss the outbreak with authorities. As China shuts down transport networks to try to limit the spread of the virus, some countries are preparing to help their citizens leave. You can find out the latest at our live blog.
Peril of hard-shoulder driving – Britain’s use of “smart motorways” where cars can be driven on the hard shoulder is being urgently reviewed after findings that it resulted in 20 times more near-misses on the M25 alone. The death toll on such motorways has reached 38 in the last five years, including many that motoring organisations believe were avoidable after breakdowns happened in amongst fast-moving traffic. A BBC Panorama investigation to be broadcast tonight found that in five years a section of the M25 went from 72 near-misses to 1,485. The former government minister Sir Mike Penning agreed to smart motorways’ expansion but now he and other MPs will publish a report accusing Highways England of “a shocking degree of carelessness” in implementing them. Penning said: “There are people that are being killed and seriously injured on these roads, and it should never have happened.”
Grenfell inquiry resumes – Companies that wrapped Grenfell Tower in combustible cladding will face public scrutiny when the inquiry restarts this week. About 200,000 unseen documents, from private emails to phone transcripts and commercial agreements, will be released during 18 months of hearings examining decisions taken in the months and years before the fire, its immediate aftermath and the role of the UK government. This second phase will open with statements from lawyers for the architects, Studio E, the builders, Rydon and Harley Facades, Celotex, which made the combustible insulation, and Arconic. They will be followed by the tower’s owner and manager at the time of the fire, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.
Still too few Bame police – Police chiefs have admitted they have been too slow to boost diversity in the ranks, almost 21 years since a landmark report on race and policing triggered promises of radical change. A study has found black police officer numbers have barely increased since the middle of the previous decade, rising by 86 officers across the 44 forces of England and Wales between 2007 and 2018. Just 7% of officers are from ethnic minorities compared with 14% of the population. The report by the Police Foundation thinktank holds out hope the government’s promise of thousands of new officers will help: “The planned 20,000 uplift in police officer numbers over the next three years offers policing in England and Wales a once-in-a-generation opportunity to dramatically improve the diversity of its police officer workforce.”
Music’s night of nights – Billie Eilish has swept the “big four” of best new artist, album, record and song of the year at the 2020 Grammys.
Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus scored best pop duo for Old Town Road. Lizzo won best pop solo performance for Truth Hurts. Here is our list of winners.
Today in Focus podcast: Life after Auschwitz
Ivor Perl and Susan Pollack were 12 and 13 when they were transported to Auschwitz. On the 75th anniversary of the concentration camp’s liberation, they tell their stories. Separately on the Guardian today, Kate Connolly reports on the more than 200 survivors gathering at the former Nazi extermination camp for a sombre commemoration.
Lunchtime read: Britain on the exit ramp
When the clock strikes midnight in Brussels on Friday, Britain’s 47 years in the EU will be over. But what actually changes on Friday? Life will carry on as normal for individuals with one key change – UK citizens, from 11pm, will no longer be EU citizens. British passport holders will continue to be able to travel and work in the EU because the country remains in the single market for the transition period up to 31 December and the freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital over borders applies until then.
The main change is legal and institutional. Friday is the point of no return to the EU. The UK will continue to follow EU rules but have no say in making them, and British ministers right up to Boris Johnson will cease to take part in the EU law-making process. The UK’s 73 MEPs will be sent home with one of the parliament’s union jacks dispatched to the EU-funded House of History. The UK had “the best possible world”, concluded one veteran French diplomat. Now that world will disappear.
Jürgen Klopp did not seek to make excuses after his side were held in the FA Cup by League One Shrewsbury, though he did indicate that the date of the replay will be a problem for Liverpool, as senior players have been given time off for a winter break. Ole Gunnar Solskjær sarcastically thanked the Tranmere goalkeeper, Scott Davies, for firing up his Manchester United players ahead of their emphatic 6-0 FA Cup fourth-round victory at Prenton Park.
Chris Woakes’s improvement has gone under the radar but recent performances suggest his struggles overseas are behind him, after England set South Africa 466 to win the fourth Test over the final two days at the Wanderers. Doubts are growing over whether the World Indoor Athletics championships will be staged in Nanjing in March after China’s leader, Xi Jinping, warned of the “accelerating spread” of the coronavirus in the country. And the Women’s Six Nations begins with one big question lingering over it: can anyone lay a glove on England?
Stocks have tumbled with investors anxious about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China. The Nikkei average suffered a steep 1.8% loss while US S&P 500 mini futures fell 1.3% in early Asian trade. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was off 0.2%, although trade in the region had already slowed for the Lunar New Year and other holidays, with financial markets in China, Hong Kong and Australia closed on Monday. The pound is worth $1.306 and €1.184 this morning while the FTSE is trending down by 1.25% ahead of the open.
A number of papers pay tribute to Kobe Bryant on their front pages – “Sport legend Kobe killed in copter crash” says the Mirror. The Metro’s lead is “Trapped in virus city”, about Britons who are trying to get out of Wuhan in China. In a similar vein in the i: “Stranded Brits beg to be rescued from virus crisis city”. “Experts fear 100,000 may have new virus worldwide,” says the Guardian.
The Telegraph has a last-minute intervention by the Trump administration arguing that “Huawei is threat to UK sovereignty” – here is how the Guardian is covering it. The FT’s version – “UK set to give Huawei the go-ahead for 5G network” – also mentions pressure from the White House.
The Express has “Dementia patients let down by failing care”, about the one in five homes that are said to be “leaving sufferers at risk”. “Britain open to world’s best talent, says Johnson” – that’s the Times on a new visa scheme the government is keen to talk up given what is about to happen. The Mail lauds “20,000 spring clean heroes” who have joined its anti-litter drive. The Sun paraphrases the Duchess of Sussex’s estranged father this morning: “See you in court Meg”.
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