Britain is proposing a move towards a “pared-down free trade agreement” to end the Brexit stalemate and get a deal done by the end of October, according to well-placed sources in Brussels. During talks between British and Irish leaders Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar, moves were made towards turning the attention away from a wide-ranging withdrawal agreement, and instead towards a more straightforward free trade deal. While a free trade agreement will not resolve all of the issues that have dogged the existing UK proposals, insiders have said it is a “cleaner and more straightforward” approach that could form the foundation for a more wide-ranging deal. A free trade agreement between the UK and the EU would be likely to remove all tariffs on goods crossing between the two areas. However, it would not remove the need for all customs checks – a crucial sticking point in the talks so far.
A Brexit deal is possible by Oct 31, the Irish Prime Minister has said, as he suggested a last-minute breakthrough could be on the horizon. After a three-hour meeting, Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar said they could see a “pathway to a deal”. Reports have emerged from Ireland that Mr Johnson was preparing to give ground on the issue of Northern Ireland staying in a customs union with the EU. The focus will now shift to Brussels where on Friday Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, will meet Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. Sources said Mr Barnier would assess whether enough progress had been made to justify the EU intensifying negotiations ahead of the EU summit next week.
Boris Johnson can secure a Brexit deal as early as next week, the Irish prime minister claimed yesterday, with both men saying that they could now see the “pathway” to an agreement. In an unexpectedly upbeat assessment after three hours of talks between the two leaders, Leo Varadkar said that there was a clear basis for detailed negotiations in Brussels. The pound rose sharply after the statement and by last night was 2 per cent higher against the US dollar at $1.245, its biggest one-day gain in seven months.
Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said that a treaty agreement on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is “possible” by the end of October, amid reports of concessions from Boris Johnson ahead of next week’s make-or-break Brussels summit. The comment came after more than two hours of talks with the prime minister at a country house hotel on Merseyside, which ended with the pair agreeing they could see “a pathway to a possible deal” and would “reflect further” on the way ahead.
BORIS Johnson last night won a last-minute Brexit lifeline as he and Ireland’s leader declared they can “see a pathway” to a deal. The possible breakthrough emerged after the PM and Leo Varadkar held talks alone for two hours in a luxury hotel on the Wirral. No10 officials had been glum going into the showdown, which was seen as the very last chance to salvage an agreement ahead of next week’s EU summit. But in a surprise development, the pair emerged to tell waiting aides they had hit on a way through the bitter deadlock over Northern Ireland. Irish sources claimed the PM had shifted ground “significantly” on the key impasse area of customs.
Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar hailed a Brexit breakthrough last night following an extraordinary summit on Merseyside. After three hours of talks at a country manor on the Wirral, the Prime Minister and his Irish counterpart said they could see a ‘pathway to a possible deal’. Mr Varadkar, who has long been seen as the roadblock to an agreement, added that he even believed a deal could be ‘done by the end of October’. He described the meeting – which included more than 90 minutes where the two leaders negotiated without officials – as ‘very positive’ and said he was ‘absolutely convinced’ Mr Johnson wanted an agreement.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is to meet the EU’s chief negotiator later – after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart agreed they could “see a pathway to a possible deal”. The PM and Leo Varadkar held “detailed and constructive” talks for over two hours on Thursday at a country house. Mr Varadkar said the “very positive” meeting in north-west England meant negotiations could resume in Brussels. Mr Barclay and Michel Barnier will hold talks there later this morning. It comes ahead of a crunch summit of EU leaders on 17 and 18 October, which is seen as the last chance for the UK and the EU to agree a deal ahead of 31 October Brexit deadline.
Downing Street’s threat to take the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October is mere “bravado” and Boris Johnson will be blocked by the courts if he tries to do it, former chancellor Philip Hammond has said. The is “no way round” the legal requirement under the so-called Benn Act for the prime minister to seek an extension to Brexit negotiations if he fails to secure a deal by the end of next week, Mr Hammond insisted. He was speaking as he set out proposals for a new “super-soft Brexit” customs arrangement with Europe which he believes could be agreed with Brussels and MPs in place of Johnson’s plan, which he said “will not fly”.
Boris Johnson cannot get a majority in a general election unless he delivers Brexit on October 31, polling presented at Tory conference has shown. The Daily Telegraph has obtained a ComRes survey which was presented last week at a conference fringe event attended by Tory MPs. Mapping voter reaction to five Brexit scenarios, it showed the Tories would only win a majority in the Commons if Britain left the EU on October 31. However any delay – even if it leads to a no deal Brexit immediately after an election, or Brexit being cancelled altogether, will leave a hung Parliament.
Jeremy Corbyn is to hold talks with the head of the civil service on policies for a future Labour government within days, after Whitehall was given the go-ahead for pre-election consultations. In a letter to the opposition leader, Boris Johnson said that he had asked Sir Mark Sedwill to open discussions with Labour on its plans for the government ahead of a potential general election campaign next month. Sources suggested that Sir Mark recommended the move, given the government’s stated policy of demanding an election should the prime minister be forced to delay Brexit.
JEREMY Corbyn is facing an open revolt from his own MPs furious at his plans to back a snap election in November. The Labour boss declared he is “champing at the bit” for an election once a No Deal Brexit is ruled out. But his seething backbenchers are demanding he carries on dodging a poll and instead back their plot to hold another Brexit referendum first. Speaking at a rally in Northamptonshire, Mr Corbyn told Boris Johnson: “It’s simple – obey the law, take no-deal off the table and then let’s have the election.”
Opposition MPs and Brexit rebels are planning to ambush Boris Johnson and force him to hold a second referendum on EU membership. Labour’s Hilary Benn said he was looking at ways to get MPs to support a ‘people’s vote’ when the Commons returns for a special Saturday sitting on October 19. Those behind the plan want a lengthy Brexit extension and a new referendum by the end of March next year – with a general election only following afterwards.
Pro-remain MPs are planning a crunch vote on a second referendum during the “super Saturday” sitting of parliament, as Jeremy Corbyn comes under intense pressure from senior allies to back another Brexit vote before an election. Several MPs involved in the People’s Vote campaign said the special parliamentary session on 19 October could be the key moment when the House of Commons will test whether there is support for a second referendum. Speaking in Northampton, Corbyn brushed off a suggestion that Labour should be pushing for a second referendum before an election.
Parliamentary supporters of a Final Say referendum could hijack an emergency sitting of the Commons on 19 October to force a public vote on any Brexit outcome. The idea is being discussed behind the scenes by MPs who are increasingly confident they have a majority to enshrine a referendum in law before the deadline of the end of this month. The first Saturday sitting of the Commons since the Falklands War in 1982 comes on the same day as hundreds of thousands of people are expected to march through London to demand a People’s Vote under the banner Together for the Final Say.
Yet another new party
Three former Conservative Cabinet members are planning to start a new political group ahead of the next election, it was reported yesterday. Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond and David Gauke are said to be forming a party in all but name with a united Brexit position. If Boris Johnson pursues a No Deal Brexit manifesto at the next election, more Tory MPs would be expected to join, according to website Buzzfeed. The three are said to be holding talks with about ten rebel MPs who lost the Tory whip last month.
PHILIP Hammond last night revealed he is in talks with other Tory rebels to form a new grouping for the next election. The former Chancellor was one of 21 Tory MPs suspended by Boris Johnson for voting for a Brexit extension if there is no deal. It emerged some of the rebels, who now sit as independent Conservatives, want to pool resources, donations and polling and push the same policies on the doorstep. Former Cabinet ministers Amber Rudd and David Gauke have also joined the planning.
Philip Hammond is leading talks with a group of former Tory MPs about setting up a political grouping to stand in the next general election, it has emerged. The former chancellor is in discussions with high-profile former ministers including Amber Rudd, who was work and pensions secretary until last month, and former justice secretary David Gauke about creating a movement. It follows the decision by Boris Johnson to withdraw the whip from 21 Tory MPs after they rebelled against the Government in a crucial vote to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
JEREMY CORBYN was accused by Tories of racking up more than £1trillion in spending pledges during a speech setting out his hard-left plans for power. The Labour leader promised sweeping nationalisation of industry, hikes in benefits, free university tuition fees and plans to cover the country in wind turbines. He also confirmed he would “immediately legislate” to hold a second referendum if Labour wins the next election. Boris Johnson has given permission for Mr Corbyn’s party to hold talks with top civil service officials in a clear sign an election is looming.
The Brexit Party
Nigel Farage has challenged Boris Johnson to accept “the most generous offer ever made in British politics” – a general election pact with his Brexit Party. Mr Farage told the Daily Express the Prime Minister could be forced into an alliance to defeat opposition parties bent on keeping the UK in the European Union forever. His “non-aggression pact” would involve his party not standing against Leave-backing Tory MPs, in return for a no-deal Brexit pledge. Mr Farage also said Irish premier Leo Varadkar had “let the cat out of the bag” by suggesting the EU wanted a “treaty” rather than a deal. And he accused Commons Speaker John Bercow of collusion with the EU.
After Nigel Farage expressed renewed optimism in the direction of Brexit and the governing Tory Party, Prime Minister Boris Johnson extinguished hopes of a clean break by ruling out a no-deal election platform. Veteran pro-sovereignty campaigner and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had said he was “feeling more optimistic about Brexit than I have for a long time” after Boris Johnson’s efforts to negotiate a watered-down version of Theresa May’s soft withdrawal treaty appeared to peter out, leaving a full, genuine break with the European Union as the only way forward.
MICHAEL GOVE has claimed that the Scottish National Party (SNP) have “undermined” the whole Brexit process so they can “smash up the United Kingdom”. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made the shock claim after a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) (JMCEN) in Edinburgh. After the meeting, Mr Gove let loose on the SNP by saying that the Scottish Government had allegedly not been working in the best interests of the Scottish people by refusing to prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU.
The European Union is giving the appearance of inciting Remain MPs to act against the British government by suggesting it will only allow the Brexit extension they desire if it is used to re-run the 2016 referendum or hold another general election. President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, whose left-establishment Democratic Party (PD) lost almost half of its previous support in the recent EU elections, revealed that he had said as much in controversial direct talks with anti-Brexit Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. Sassoli was backed by Amélie de Montchalin, Europe minister under French president Emmanuel Macron, who said that “If there are new elections or a new referendum, if there is a political shift leading us to believe we could have a different dialogue from the one we have today, then an extension can be discussed” — strongly suggesting that the EU is no longer seeking a mutually agreeable deal with Boris Johnson’s government, but merely waiting for him to be ousted or politically neutered.
EU citizens face being deported if they have not applied to stay in the UK by the end of next year, the security minister has said. Brandon Lewis made the comment in an interview with a German newspaper, provoking alarm among campaigners who said it could lead to another Windrush-style scandal. He told Die Welt that EU nationals risked being deported if they had not sought settled or pre-settled status by the end of 2020.
The security minister, Brandon Lewis, has threatened EU citizens with deportation from the UK if they do not apply for settled status after Brexit. Home Office figures show a million of the estimated 3 million EU citizens in the UK have yet to apply for settled status, which will allow them to stay in the UK. In an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, Lewis said these people risked being deported if they failed to apply by the end of 2020. “If EU citizens have not registered by then without an adequate justification, the immigration rules will apply,” Lewis said.
EU citizens who live in the UK could be deported after Brexit if they do not apply for settled status and the right to remain by the deadline, a Home Office minister has said. Brandon Lewis said people may be forced to leave the UK if they do not sign up to the EU settlement scheme by the end of 2020 – even if they meet all requirements for a residence permit. His comments prompted a campaign group to warn that this was the first time the ‘grim reality’ of the government’s position had been confirmed as the Liberal Democrats branded the remarks ‘totally unacceptable’.
Michel Barnier has called on Boris Johnson to rein in the Downing Street aides responsible for attacking the German chancellor this week as the EU doubled down on its rejection of the prime minister’s proposals. As talks between British and EU officials in Brussels came to a sudden halt, the EU’s chief negotiator told the European parliament: “We’re not really in a position where we’re able to find an agreement.” Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said he would not be as “diplomatic” as the bloc’s negotiator. “I think that the proposal that Boris Johnson one week ago put forward was not serious at all,” he said. “I call it a virtual proposal, not a real proposal.”
More than a quarter of green spaces in London, including parks, gardens and playgrounds, have levels of pollution that put thousands of children at risk, research has shown. For 250,000 children in the capital, their nearest playing space has average levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) above international safety limits, according to analysis from Imperial College London and the University of Leicester. The safe limit for NO2, set by the EU in accordance with the World Health Organisation, is at an average of 40 micrograms per cubic metre per year. Victoria Embankment Gardens was the most polluted space with 59.8mcg of NO2 per cubic metre, ahead of Parliament Square, with 58.3, and New Palace Yard in Westminster with 57.7.
FOUR in ten GPs are calling for a £25 charge for each appointment in a bid to slash demand. They say the fee would put patients off visiting and make their lives easier. One even likened the fee to the plastic bag charge, which has led to an 86 per cent fall in use at supermarkets. MPs and patient groups opposed the proposal, warning people could be left dying at home if they cannot afford to pay. Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, a former health minister, said: “Comparing a GP appointment to a carrier bag is really not helpful. “Seeing a doctor may be a matter of life and death. “People on low incomes, possibly in debt, may decide not to visit their GP because of the cost and miss an early cancer diagnosis.
Free TV licences should be restored for everyone over the age of 75, MPs have said. In a report, they demanded that the BBC and ministers reach an agreement to reverse the decision to strip 3.7million pensioners of the benefit. The Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee said it was wrong to make them pay the £154.50-a-year charge from next June. The cost of funding free licences is being transferred from the Government to the corporation next year, which was agreed as part of its 2015 licence fee deal with ministers. At the moment, everyone over the age of 75 is exempt from the charge – amounting to 4.6million households.