Theresa May has divided her warring cabinet into two rival camps to fight out their differences on Brexit. Her top team is split over how Britain should manage its customs arrangements with the EU after it leaves the bloc. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has called her favoured customs partnership model “crazy”. He and other Brexiteers favour an alternative plan called “max-fac”. This is opposed by Philip Hammond, the chancellor, and others who say it would damage the economy and break Britain’s promise to avoid a hard border with Ireland.
Theresa May has split her cabinet into two groups to consider options for customs arrangements post-Brexit. One group will consider a “customs partnership” whereby the UK would collect tariffs on behalf of the EU. The other group will look at “maximum facilitation” – a solution based on using technology to minimise the need for customs checks after Brexit. Ministers failed to agree on a future customs relationship with the EU at a cabinet meeting last week.
After trying to ram through an EU Customs partnership described by Boris Johnson as “crazy” and “cretinous” by Jacob Rees-Mogg, Theresa May has finally agreed to look at the more sensible ‘Max Facilitation’ option favoured by Brexiteers. This option would use technology to ensure that the UK was finally independent – whereas the Customs partnership would would see the UK having to still charge EU customs duties on imports and refund some later. Yeah, no thanks.
INDEPENDENT MEP Steven Woolfe has argued the European Parliament’s Brexit representative Guy Verhofstadt and other Remoaner MEPs are delaying Brexit negotiations with ridiculous demands in the hope that Theresa May will eventually capitulate. The European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group and MEPs from five separate committees met with representatives from the UK Home Office in late April to demand further clarification over EU citizen’s rights post-Brexit and in particular the registration process.
THERESA May is finally planning to ditch her much contested Customs Union plan and make Boris Johnson’s ‘max-fac’ Brexit solution work, according to Cabinet insiders. The PM has given in to intense pressure and ordered two of her Remain Cabinet allies to take a look at the trade plan supported by Brexiteers including the Foreign Secretary and Michael Gove. Her proposals for a customs partnership were rejected by six votes to five at a Brexit ‘War Cabinet’ meeting last week. MPs were briefed on Wednesday night that Mrs May is “taking max fac seriously” and that the idea was “firmly on the table”, according to The Sun. Max fac – or the Maximum Facilitation proposal – will use technology to ensure that goods can be traded freely across borders.
Controversial plans for a new ‘customs partnership’ with the EU looked set to be sidelined last night after Theresa May asked David Davis to find an alternative. The Brexit Secretary is to lead a new Cabinet group designed to break the deadlock over future customs arrangements with the EU. He will work with Business Secretary Greg Clark and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to develop an alternative to the customs partnership idea, which is opposed by Eurosceptics. The trio will develop the Government’s alternative plan – known as ‘maximum facilitation’ – which focuses on using technology to streamline customs checks. The decision follows talks between the Prime Minister, Mr Davis and other senior ministers in Downing Street yesterday.
Theresa May has divided her cabinet into two groups to fight out their differences over Britain’s post-Brexit customs arrangements, intensifying speculation that she is preparing to delay her decision on the issue. No 10 sources confirmed that the prime minister had formed the working groups, which would report back on her preferred customs partnership model and the maximum-facilitation option at next Tuesday’s meeting of her inner Brexit cabinet. Her senior ministers are split over how Britain should manage its customs arrangements with the European Union after it leaves the bloc, with the issue threatening to divide the cabinet and the Tory party itself.
Labour’s Northern Irish sister party has written to all of Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs, warning them that his current approach to Brexit will not prevent a hard border with the Republic. In a letter leaked to The Independent, the SDLP beseeched Labour MPs to back a plan to stay aligned with the single market – which Mr Corbyn himself has refused to support. The SDLP’s Brexit spokesperson Claire Hanna, urged Labour MPs to act for the sake of peace in Northern Ireland and not for “British political convenience”.
Michael Gove is concerned the EU will use the Northern Ireland border issue to “hold us hostage” and keep the UK in the Single Market and Customs Union. The Environment Secretary raised concerns at a private dinner of Tory Eurosceptics that Britain may be unable to secure a customs deal with Brussels before it leaves the EU in March 2019. He believes that the EU’s Irish border “backstop” could be used as a “Trojan Horse” during negotiations in the21-month transition period after Brexit to keep Britain in the Customs Union indefinitely.
ENVIRONMENT Secretary Michael Gove has warned the EU could “hold us hostage” and force the UK to remain in the Customs Union and Single Market due to the ongoing dilemma surrounding the Irish border. Speaking at a private dinner for Conservative Brexiteers, Mr Gove expressed his concern that the UK would be unable to secure a customs deal with the EU before the final Brexit deadline of March 2019. The UK may then be obliged to follow the EU’s Irish border ‘backstop’ option, which would force Northern Ireland to remain in ‘full alignment’ with the EU, and follow the regulations of the Customs Union and Single Market in order to avoid the reimplementation of a hard border.
Brexiteer Michael Gove is worried that the EU might use the Irish border issue to ‘hold the UK hostage’ and keep it trapped in the Customs Union or Single Market. A source told The Telegraph that Gove is concerned that if Britain accepts the backstop option “we won’t have all the negotiating cards that we would want to have in that transition period”. He expressed concerns that Britain won’t be able to negotiate a customs arrangement before the transition period ends and so it may will have to resort to a hard border on the island of Ireland. This means Northern Ireland would have to retain full alignment with the EU and retain the rules of the Customs Union or Single Market to avoid the hard border scenario.
The Scottish parliament is expected to reject the UK government’s plans for sharing EU powers after Brexit, increasing pressure on Theresa May to offer further compromises. A large majority of MSPs are likely to back calls by the Scottish government to reject the EU withdrawal bill on Tuesday after Holyrood’s constitution committee said the UK government’s proposals were unacceptable. David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister who is effectively deputy prime minister, is expected to make a further appeal for a political solution on Friday when he addresses business leaders at a CBI Scotland lunch in Edinburgh.
Firebrand populists of Left and Right are poised to take power in Italy, forming the first “anti-system” government in a major West European state since the Second World War. Leaders of the radical Five Star Movement and the anti-euro Lega party have been meeting to put the finishing touches on a coalition of outsiders, the “nightmare scenario” feared by foreign investors and EU officials in equal measure. The unlikely allies vow a blizzard of contentious measures, threatening to cancel VAT rises, overturn key market reforms, introduce a universal “basic income” for the poor, and launch a fiscal blitz in open defiance of EU spending rules.
A EUROPEAN Commissioner has called for Brexit to be reversed – by urging Britons to campaign for the UK to re-join the EU by 2033. In a shock outburst, Gunther Oettinger said he wanted young people to overturn the result of the Leave vote in 2016’s historic referendum. The EU’s Budget Commissioner also mocked Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson over their handling of the Brexit process.
Emmanuel Macron has been awarded the Charlemagne Prize for his work ‘in the service of European unification’. The French President presented his vision for Europe and look ahead to what could be achieved by 2030 and even 2050 in his acceptance speech on Thursday. He called on Europe to unite and exert a self-confident ‘European sovereignty’ in the face of an increasingly complex world and unilateral American moves on issues such as climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.
Britain’s defence chiefs have lost control of their budget and cannot afford to buy all the warships, jets and submarines they need, MPs warn today. The public accounts committee says in a report that it is “highly sceptical” that a defence review, due to conclude in July, will fix a funding gap of up to £21 billion over the next decade while also equipping troops to counter new threats from cyber, chemical and electromagnetic warfare. The comments come after US defence officials urged Britain to ensure its military was sufficiently funded.
Labour will launch a fresh bid to lower the voting age today by trying to pass a law that would put a polling station in every school. Under the proposals, all 16 and 17-year-olds would be automatically signed up to the electoral roll. Fears were raised last night that teachers could influence their pupils’ decisions if ballot boxes were placed in classrooms. MPs will this morning debate the private member’s bill – put forward by Labour MP Peter Kyle – to change the voting age from 18 to 16 for parliamentary and local elections and referendums. Ministers oppose the plan, however a growing number of Conservative MPs have said they now support extending the franchise to younger people. Tory former education minister Nicky Morgan and Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb are amongst the cross-party backers of Mr Kyle’s bill.
John Bercow today signalled his intention to stay on as Commons Speaker for four more years – despite calls among some MPs for him to quit over bullying claims. The MP has come under intense pressure to quit the high profile role after a string of his former staff accused him of bullying. Tory MP James Duddridge raised the issue in the Commons today – suggesting to Mr Bercow that MPs should debate ‘who we want to replace you’. But Mr Bercow, who denies the bullying claims, hit back signalling his intention to stay in the post until the next election which is not expected for another four years.
A defiant John Bercow has signalled he intends to remain as Speaker, amid calls from MPs to debate his replacement. Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom said she did not think MPs would welcome a proposal from former Conservative minister James Duddridge to discuss what they want from a holder of the role before discussing a successor. Mr Duddridge told the Commons such a debate was needed because of Mr Bercow’s original pledge to serve no more than nine years in the job. If Mr Bercow kept to the pledge, it would mean he is due to step down this summer.
JOHN Bercow publicly defied calls from Tory MPs to quit yesterday – and then signalled his aim to stay on for FOUR more years. Tory MP James Duddridge humiliated the Speaker in the chamber yesterday by calling for a debate on “who we want to replace you” following the latest bullying claims against him. But a smirking Mr Bercow interrupted and told him he had a chance to oust him last year after the General Election. And to add insult to injury the embattled Speaker added: “If you had wanted to oppose it you could have done, but simply as a matter of fact I remind him he did not.”
Grammar schools will be handed millions of pounds to create hundreds of new places in an attempt to salvage Theresa May’s key election pledge to increase selective education. Funding of £50 million has been found for existing grammars to build new classrooms, extensions or annexes. To secure the cash, schools must show there is demand for more places in their area and submit proposals outlining how they will admit more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Conservatives were forced to abandon last year’s manifesto pledge to open a new generation of grammar schools because they did not have enough MPs to change the law.
Thousands more places at selective schools are to be created in a new revolution for grammars. Making good on the Tories’ pledge to increase choice for parents, Education Secretary Damian Hinds today approves a £50million fund for selective schools to build extra classrooms. However, grammars bidding for the money must be able to prove that they are taking action to increase admissions of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is thought that between 1,000 and 2,000 new places could be created in areas where there is high demand from parents.
EDUCATION Secretary Damian Hinds will unveil a £50million push to create thousands more grammar school places on Friday. Under the plans selective schools will get cash to expand but must find ways to boost the number of disadvantaged pupils they bring in. Announcing a new wave of free school applications, Mr Hinds said ministers wanted to give parents “greater choice” and “give children of all backgrounds access to a world-class education”. But school leaders criticised the decision, saying they were “disappointed” the Government was spending “scarce funding” on expanding grammars.
More NHS operations were cancelled at the last minute than ever before last winter, as overwhelmed hospitals banished non-emergency patients. A total of 25,475 patients had routine surgery cancelled on the day of the operation between January and March, the largest figure since records began in 1994 and the highest rate of cancellations for more than a decade. One in nine patients waited more than a month for their operations to be rearranged after hospitals were told to stop non-urgent surgery during January because wards were so full.
NHS spending on private healthcare providers has doubled under Tory rule. The bill to taxpayers was £9billion in 2016/17, soaring from £4.1billion in 2009/10, figures uncovered by Labour reveal. It comes after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt this week told private hospitals they must urgently improve after inspectors found two in five failed safety standards. Labour’s Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders accused Mr Hunt of “hypocrisy” and blasted the increase in outsourcing to the private sector as “unacceptable”. He added: “Tory privatisation has no place in our health service and yet carries on unabated.”
THE number of NHS ops cancelled at the last minute has hit a record high. A total of 25,475 patients were given less than 24 hours’ notice that their procedure had been called off between January and March. It is the first time the figure has exceeded 25,000 and the highest since quarterly records began in 1994. More than one in ten cancelled ops were not rearranged within the 28 days required under NHS rules. Ian Eardley, from the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “It is very distressing for patients who are often in pain or immobile and the delay could mean that their condition deteriorates.”
Potholes are costing motorists at least £1 million a month, with the AA warning of a sharp rise in the number of cars badly damaged by crumbling roads. Research from the motoring group suggests that 4,200 claims for damage related to potholes were lodged in the first four months of this year, which is more than the figure for the whole of 2017. The AA called the state of Britain’s roads a national disgrace. It said that some drivers had lost control of their vehicles after hitting potholes, with reports of motorists crashing into barriers, lampposts and other cars.
Potholes are costing drivers and insurers at least £1million a month in total due to massive car repair bills, according to a report. The AA said the number of pothole-related claims it had seen during the first four months of 2018 alone was more than for the whole of 2017. The broker estimated that nationally, there will have been over 4,200 claims for pothole damage so far this year compared with just over 3,500 estimated claims across last year. It described the number of potholes as an ‘epidemic’ and a ‘national embarrassment’. With an estimated average repair bill of around £1,000, the total this year so far comes to ‘an eye-watering’ £4.2 million, it said.
Ed Miliband has vowed the ‘battle goes on’ to secure a second Leveson inquiry in defiance of last night’s vote by MPs. The ex-Labour leader was humiliated by the Commons after he made an emotional plea for the Government to U-turn on its cancellation of a renewed probe. Mr Miliband was defeated in the lobbies when he tried to re-write the Data Protection Bill to force ministers to commission a new inquiry into newspapers’ behaviour. The House of Lords could return to the issue as MPs deleted a clause in the bill specifying an inquiry should be held – meaning peers could force MPs to think again. After he was defeated Mr MIiliband said: ‘Very disappointed for the victims of phone-hacking and press abuse that we did not win the vote for Leveson 2.
The Government has narrowly avoided having to commence the second half of the Leveson inquiry into “unlawful” conduct by the press. MPs voted by 304 to 295 to defeat the bid, spearheaded by former Labour leader Ed Miliband. There were cries of “shame” in the Commons chamber as the result was announced on Wednesday afternoon. Five Conservative MPs defied the Government and voted for the second half of Sir Brian Leveson’s inquiry. They were Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve, Philip Hollobone, Crispin Blunt and Peter Bone. All nine DUP MPs opposed the changes and Sky News understands several Labour MPs abstained.