Brexit

Mail
A £1million campaign to stop Brexit by forcing a second referendum will be launched this weekend. Dubbed ‘The People’s Vote’ the campaign brings together nine different Remain groups and MPs from across the political divide. Tory Anna Soubry and Labour‘s Chuka Umunna are figureheads of the new campaign, which was revealed today by the Telegraph.  Arch Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash, chairman of the influential European Scrutiny Committee accused the group of defying the referendum. He told the paper: ‘They are completely defying the British people who made a decision which was given to them by parliament itself. ‘The latest polling says 65 per cent of the British people do not want a second referendum; they are living in a parallel universe.’

Independent
Thousands of activists will take to the streets on Saturday as part of a national day of action to demonstrate public support for a vote on the final Brexit deal. Several pro-EU organisations have joined forces to mount an attack on the government’s Brexit plans with more than 350 events across the country, ahead of the launch of a £1m campaign demanding the opportunity to stay in the EU if the people want to. Remain-backing groups have been emboldened by a recent shift in public support towards staying in the EU, and a number of high-profile figures have come out in favour of a second referendum, including former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair. A recent poll for the anti-Brexit group Best for Britain found that 44 per cent of people want a vote on the exit terms secured by Theresa May, while 36 per cent were against the idea of a further referendum.

Telegraph
Compromise is clearly needed if the Brexit deal is to be agreed, and European negotiators have been clear about what they feel the British must do: accept being part of a customs union post-Brexit. “That offers a significant part of the solution” to the Irish border question, Michel Barnier opined in February. A senior EU official closely involved with the negotiations told my colleague Peter Foster this week that they expected that Theresa May would have to sign up to a “camouflaged” customs union in the end.

Sun
THE LEADING Remoaner boss of Goldman Sachs – who has trolled Brexiteers since the referendum – now admits leaving the EU is “not as bad as he thought” after all. The investment bank’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein admits he got it wrong on the impact of our historic vote to leave – saying he is surprised there hasn’t been ‘more of a dramatic effect’. Speaking in London today he said: “Cassandra hasn’t been proved right. “Some people would say, ‘hasn’t been proved right, yet’.” According to Politico the 63-year-old American, who said Brexit would “stall” the City, added: “I’m at least wrong in that I thought there would have been a worse outcome by now.” He said the UK economy had “surprised on the upside”, referring to the fact economic data has been better than Project Fear had expected it to be.

Express
THERESA May has been handed another Brexit boost after Canada’s prime minister said he wanted to start work on a better trade deal than his current one with the EU the day after Britain leaves. Justin Trudeau is gearing up for a seamless transition of trade between the two nations and a “more impactful” agreement than Canada holds with the bloc. International Development Secretary Liam Fox has backed the call, saying there is “huge appetite” for increasing trade with its Commonwealth ally. Mr Trudeau said: “Trade deals are always challenging but it should be fairly easy for all of us to get to an improved approach on trade between Canada and the UK.” The Canadian leader signalled an ambitious approach to trade, saying a carbon copy of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) with the bloc was appropriate in the short-term but he wanted to “go further”.

Westmonster
The Aussies are again pushing for a trade deal with Brexit Britain that could come into effect on the very first day after the so-called ‘transition period’ ends on 31st December 2020. Australia is set to host another round of trade talks, with UK officials flying over for a ‘working group’ on a potentially lucrative free trade agreement. And their Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has addressed head on worries of any ‘flood’ of foreign migrant workers as a result of any such deal, saying:  “Those scare campaigns are disgraceful because they deliberately misrepresent the impact of FTAs on our ability to regulate foreign workers. “The fact is that we retain all the rights to regulate foreign workers, with or without an FTA. “We still regulate and require that any foreign worker meets Australian standards.”

EU

Telegraph
Vladimir Putin’s abusive stranglehold over European gas supplies has been laid bare by explosive EU documents, exposing deliberate violations of EU law and a pattern of political bullying over almost a decade. The longest investigation in EU history found that the Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom has used its enormous power to pressure vulnerable states in Eastern Europe, and to fragment the EU’s unified energy market with coercive pricing policies. The report suggests that Germany has been enjoying a sweetheart deal with Gazprom, gaining a competitive advantage in gas costs at the expense of fellow EU economies and leaving front line states at the mercy of Moscow’s strong-arm tactics.

Breitbart
The European Union (EU) will allow the UK to change its mind on a clean Brexit and stay inside the bloc’s Single Market, tied to many of its rules, for years after the Brexit date. The Commission’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told reporters on Thursday the UK would be welcomed back into the market during the planned so-called Brexit “transition period”, up until December 2021. The UK is set to formally leave the bloc in March 2019 but will remain in the Single Market and Customs Union for the 21-month transition, with mass migration continuing uncontrolled as it is now. The bloc has previously stated the UK cannot stay in the Single Market after Brexit and end open borders, and Mr. Barnier said Prime Minister Theresa May would have to drop her “red lines” on migration to do so. “

Foreign aid

Mail
New foreign aid minister Penny Mordaunt stood accused of going native last night after using her first major speech to demand that the public ‘be proud’ of the billions ploughed into projects abroad. The International Development Secretary claimed she ‘wanted a return to the priorities of the people’ – then insisted on maintaining the status quo. She underlined her commitment to the target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid, currently £14billion a year. Many critics believe the cash is wasted, but Miss Mordaunt vowed to continue spending large amounts in overseas aid, even claiming her support for the huge budget came directly from her backing for Brexit.

Express
MINISTERS must tackle public concerns about the multi-billion pound foreign aid budget by putting “British values” at the heart of international development, Penny Mordaunt insisted yesterday. The International Development Secretary promised a sweeping overhaul of the way overseas assistance is delivered to address complaints about waste and corruption. And she admitted there was a “lack of trust” from the public in the aid system following the sexual misconduct scandal that has hit Oxfam and other charities. “I hear you, I get it – I really do,” the Tory Cabinet minister said, in a speech directed at critics of the Government’s aid policies. “You want a return to the priorities of the people not the priorities of the politicians – I understand that,” she added.

Independent
International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has outlined a new approach to her department’s foreign aid spending as she told those who had concerns: “I hear you.” Ms Mordant said her department’s strategy will now include a new partnership with the City of London to “bring down the barriers to trade” and unlock investment for emerging markets in Africa and Asia. In her first major speech on Britain’s overseas aid budget since taking over the role at the end of last year, Ms Mordaunt also offered a passionate defence of the £13.9bn budget. Her speech in central London follows several months of high-level scrutiny over the department’s spending after scandals that rocked the charitable sector, including allegations of sexual abuse by aid workers in developing countries.

Guardian
UK Aid is a shield against pandemics, organised crime, poverty and terrorism, and an example of British values, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary has said. In a speech short on detail, but long on colour and allusion, Mordaunt evoked images of past glories and wartime Britain. She also announced the launch of a new “great partnership” that, she said, would “connect all that our nation has to offer, its talents, its people and communities, its expertise and knowledge, and its resource to those in the developing world”. She portrayed the UK as “the cradle for democracy, the fight against slavery and for universal suffrage”, as well as the birthplace of the Paralympics, Leonard Cheshire and Live Aid, adding that she voted for Brexit because she believed British values should be projected on to the world stage.

Syria

Mail
Satellite pictures have emerged showing how Russian warships appear to have deserted a key naval base in Syria amid fears over possible US airstrikes. Overhead Images show how at least 11 navy vessels, including the frigate Admiral Grigorovich, appear to have left the Tartus military port on the Syrian coast. A picture, said to have been taken on Wednesday, shows how only a kilo-class submarine remains in the port, which is understood to be protected by Moscow’s fearsome S-300 and S-400 missile defence systems. It comes after Donald Trump told Russia to ‘get ready’ for missile strikes in Syria with the Kremlin having threatened to shoot down any rockets – and anything that launched them. Trump and his Western allies are considering action after a horrifying chemical attack on a Syrian rebel-held town killed at least 40.

Times
The largest US air and naval strike force since the 2003 Iraq war was heading towards Syria last night as Theresa May won the backing of the cabinet to join in military action. US-led strikes after the suspected chemical weapon attack in Douma, which left as many as 40 people dead, are expected within the next three days. The prime minister continued yesterday to face down demands for a Commons vote on whether Britain should join the US in any punitive action against President Assad. Senior ministers decided it “was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged”, according to the official read-out from an emergency meeting of the cabinet yesterday. It added that they “agreed on the need to take action.

Mirror
Theresa May’s Cabinet have agreed unanimously that action is needed over the “shocking and barbaric” Syria chemical attack. Mrs May spoke to Donald Trump tonight after ministers agreed it was “highly likely” President Assad’s regime was behind the attack – and said the use of chemical weapons could not “go unchallenged”. But Downing Street made no mention of what that action will be, when it will happen, or whether MPs will get a vote. “Cabinet agreed on the need to take action to alleviate humanitarian distress and to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime,” a No10 statement said.

Mail
Theresa May’s Cabinet today agreed to ‘take action’ to ‘deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime’. Britain will also act to alleviate ‘humanitarian’ suffering in Syria. A Downing Street spokesman did not state what taking action would mean or on what what timescale it would happen. Last night, Theresa May and Donald Trump spoke and agreed to work ‘closely together’ on a response.  Mrs May met her most senior ministers for two hours today and the new statement will raise expectations Britain will join coalition strikes against President Assad.  A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘Following a discussion in which every member present made a contribution, Cabinet agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged.

ITV News
The Cabinet has “agreed on the need to take action” in response to a “highly likely” chemical weapon attack by Syrian forces. The meeting at Number 10 was held to determine whether Britain would join US-led air strikes against the regime of president Bashar Assad. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has emerged from a meeting with his national security team without a “final decision” on how to respond to Syria. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump held a meeting with his team to discuss the situation but “no final decision has been made”. She said that US officials are “continuing to assess intelligence” and are “engaged in conversations with our partners and allies”.

Times
Theresa May received unanimous cabinet backing for UK military action against Syrian regime targets after senior ministers were briefed by Sir Mark Sedwill, the national security adviser, on the intelligence case pointing to President Assad’s culpability for the Douma attack. Although the official read-out of the meeting, attended by all but three of Mrs May’s senior ministers, does not specifically mention military action, it will be seen as an endorsement for an intervention expected within days. “Following a discussion in which every member present made a contribution, cabinet agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged,” it read.

Sun
RAF JETS were today pictured primed to launch air strikes on Syria – once they get the green light from PM Theresa May. Mrs May was today trying to rally support for strikes against dictator Bashar al-Assad after the gassing of civilians in capital Damascus on Saturday.The PM suggested yesterday that the West has strong proof that Assad is responsible for the deadly chemical attack which killed dozens. And the Tornados with their deadly payload were today seen sitting on the tarmac at their RAF Marham in Norfolk. The jets are on standby awaiting a decision from the PM’s council of war at Downing Street, which will decide the role Britain will play in the US-led attack on the Syrian regime.

UKIP
Gerard Batten opposes British military action in Syria. The UKIP Leader warned that intervention would lead to a proxy war with Russia which would be, “not only dangerous to Britain, but the entire world.” Today, Prime Minister Theresa May called for a special Cabinet meeting to approve UK military action in Syria, in the wake of an alleged chemical attack by the Assad regime. Mr Batten commented: “Mrs May should not allow the UK to get sucked into a war in Syria. “There is no proof that the Assad regime is responsible for the chemical attack on civilians. “Whoever is responsible, our involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts has been disastrous for Britain and achieved nothing but further disorder in the region. By going to war with Syria, we would also be entering into a proxy war with Russia, which is not only dangerous for Britain but the entire world.

Westmonster
Angela Merkel has reportedly said she acknowledges that the Syrian government ‘obviously’ has chemical weapons, but she’s ruled out Germany engaging in military action against the Assad regime. She said: “But we see and support that everything is done to signal that this use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.” This is a major contrast to French President Emmanuel Macron who claims to have ‘proof’ that the Syrian government was behind the chemical weapons attack in Douma several days ago. May, Trump and Macron appear to be on the brink of military action, the Germans admit chemical weapons use was a possibility in Syria but are choosing to sit tight. Are the German government worried about even more Syrians seeking refuge in the country?

Cyber attack

Times
Cyberattacks backed by Russia frequently hit Britain’s infrastructure, the head of GCHQ’s cybersecurity centre said yesterday. Ciaran Martin told The Times that Britain had been “on high alert of a major attack for quite some time”. He added: “Cyberwarfare is part of the Russian state’s armoury of statecraft.” The chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said that “defensive and offensive” cybercapability was increasingly a key part of any modern state. “Cyberattack capabilities are an integral part of Russia’s national policy, of its way of asserting itself in the world,” he said.

Mail
Russia has been launching repeated cyber attacks against Britain’s essential services, a computer security chief revealed. Ciaran Martin, director of the National Cyber Security Centre, said Moscow’s attempts at hacking into the UK’s critical infrastructure were part of a ‘wider campaign to destabilise’. Critical infrastructure covers vital systems such as water supplies, electricity and gas networks, hospitals, banks and transport. Mr Martin’s warning came as Jeremy Fleming, head of the government’s GCHQ intelligence agency, made an unprecedented attack on ‘reckless’ Russia. The Kremlin did not care about ‘putting ordinary lives at risk’, he said, adding that the ‘tectonic plates’ in the Middle East were moving with the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the dispersal of Islamic State fighters and gangs smuggling migrants.

NHS

Times
Hundreds of people with kidney cancer could be spared surgery with a DNA test that can identify whether tumours are likely to be highly aggressive or relatively harmless, scientists say. The number of Britons diagnosed with the disease each year has nearly doubled since the mid-1990s to 12,600, largely because of rising obesity. It is forecast to increase by another 26 per cent over the next 17 years. While some kinds of kidney cancer grow and metastasise around the body with lethal speed, others do not appear to pose much of a threat.At present it is extremely difficult for doctors to tell the difference between the two.

Social care

Times
Pay rises for NHS staff risk undermining social care and GP surgeries by luring workers away, leaders of professional bodies have warned. A deal that will give more than a million NHS staff pay rises of at least 6.5 per cent over three years would backfire and be “hugely damaging” to efforts to look after the elderly closer to home, they said. Skilled and experienced care workers, many of whom are among the lowest paid in England, are likely to switch to NHS hospitals if councils are not able to match rises of up to 29 per cent, the new leader of Britain’s social services bosses believes. Many care homes and providers of care in people’s own homes are already struggling to recruit staff.

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