For readers looking forward to Viv Evans’
Daily Brexit piece, she has asked me to say
it won’t be appearing as she is unwell.

Brexit

Mail
Theresa May suffered another Brexit humiliation tonight as she was brutally savaged by Tory MPs from both wings of her party. The PM had tabled an apparently bland motion that was designed to give her a mandate to push on with her plan to return to the EU and get more concessions on the Irish border backstop.  But it was interpreted in wildly different ways by the warring factions in Parliament, and Mrs May crashed to defeat by a huge margin of 303 to 258. Furious Eurosceptics abstained claiming she was sneakily trying to take no deal off the table.  As any hopes of a Tory love-in for Valentine’s Day were shattered, Remainers also snubbed her for the opposite reason, that she was not dismissing the idea of crashing out. In total 66 Tories went missing for the showdown, while five actively opposed her.    Summing up the pincer movement Mrs May found herself caught in, both arch-Brexiteer Boris Johnson and his pro-EU brother Jo abstained.

Guardian
Theresa May has suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of hardline Eurosceptics, plunging her hopes of uniting the Conservatives around a renegotiated Brexit deal into chaos. The prime minister failed to win support for her EU strategy after the European Research Group (ERG), led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, abstained on a government motion because it appeared to rule out a no-deal Brexit. The defeat marks the end of a temporary truce over Brexit among Conservative MPs, who had voted last month in favour of May’s strategy if she could obtain some concessions from Brussels on the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop.

Telegraph
Theresa May has said a no-deal Brexit is “more likely” after Tory Eurosceptics condemned her to another humiliating Commons defeat. The brief Tory truce over Brexit was shattered as 66 Conservatives – including Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab – abstained in a vote over the Government’s way forward, which Mrs May lost by 303 votes to 258.

Mirror
Theresa May has been dealt a major defeat over her Brexit strategy after 71 Tory Leavers openly rebelled in a Commons vote. MPs voted 303-258 not to “reiterate” backing for her strategy to secure changes to the ‘backstop’ in the 585-page Brexit deal. It’s not legally binding – but leaves Mrs May weakened just as she had to put up a united front against Brussels. Mrs May hoped tonight’s vote would give her more time and a mandate return renegotiate parts of her deal, 43 days before we leave the EU on March 29. But rebels led by Jacob Rees-Mogg abstained on tonight’s motion, because they said it effectively endorsed a promise to “reject” no-deal Brexit.

Huffington Post
MPs racing to stop a no-deal Brexit could force Theresa May to hand back control to parliament in mid-March if the UK is still on course to crash out.  Labour MP Yvette Cooper, with a cross-party alliance that includes Tory Sir Oliver Letwin, is aiming to carve out parliamentary time for a Brexit plan B, which could see Article 50 suspended and leaving the bloc delayed. The government is due to table a motion by February 25 setting out the next steps on Brexit, with the PM trying to renegotiate her Brexit deal with the EU so that it will be acceptable to Tory hardliners and the DUP. Cooper has said if May fails to present a viable plan then she and others will try to amend that motion and ask MPs to back her private members’ bill plan.

Huffington Post
A cross-party attempt to take control of Brexit and rule out no deal is a “Trojan horse” for stopping Britain’s exit from the EU, a senior Labour MP has said. Caroline Flint said the Yvette Cooper-led move could open the door to “game playing” by politicians who want to overturn the 2016 referendum result, and criticised the Labour leadership’s “high handed” decision to back it in the February 27 ‘high noon’ Brexit votes without consulting MPs. Appearing on HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast, Flint said the so-called “Cooper 2” amendment was “even worse” than her party colleague’s first attempt, which was rejected by a majority of 23 last month after a Labour rebellion led by the Don Valley MP.  Flint, who backed Remain but has been holding talks with government ministers about supporting the Brexit deal, also urged Jeremy Corbyn to give Labour a free vote on EU withdrawal to keep hold of MPs who are “hellbent” on leaving the party.

Independent
The majority of the country’s Brexit experts believe Theresa May will get her deal through the House of Commons, a new poll seen by The Independent reveals. The Brexit policy panel, a cross-disciplinary group of some of the 100 most prominent academics on the issue, were asked to forecast what would happen in the coming months as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.  A total of 60 per cent of respondents said they believed Ms May was likely to get her deal approved by MPs, the survey by The UK in a Changing Europe initiative found, a significant increase from previous polls. Interestingly only 40 per cent of the panel believed the prime minister would be able to secure support by 29 March – the date Britain is set to the leave the European Union – indicating a significant proportion believe an extension to Article 50 might be required.

Reuters
British Prime Minister Theresa May will continue to seek changes to her Brexit deal, a spokesman for her office said, after she suffered a symbolic defeat in parliament on her strategy. “The government will continue to pursue this with the EU to ensure we leave on time on 29th March,” the spokesman said. The spokesman said May believed her Conservative lawmakers still wanted her to renegotiate the deal, but had voted against her on Thursday because they were concerned about the prospect of taking a ‘no deal’ off the table at this stage.

‘Project Fear’

Star
BREXIT may lead to a military confrontation in Europe, warned a top Labour politician. Britain’s future generations could be forced into battle due to mistakes by politicians today, claimed Shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis. He said: “My fear is this, if we walk away from Europe now my children, your children, or possibly our grandchildren but probably our children could be back in Europe in a few years’ time – but in uniform. “And I don’t want to see that happen.” Speaking at a “Love socialism, hate Brexit” event, he said Labour were at risk of being “utterly and comprehensively destroyed” at the next general election if they allow Theresa May’s Brexit deal to pass. While refusing to turn on Jeremy Corbyn he did say that the party are “sending some mixed messages out there and that is truly dangerous.”

Irish backstop

Times
Britain will soften its demand that the EU reopen the Brexit withdrawal agreement to solve the Irish backstop issue, The Times has learnt. The Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay suggested to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier during talks this week that the government could accept legal guarantees that fell short of renegotiating the draft withdrawal treaty. The revelation will enrage Brexiteers, who inflicted another defeat on Theresa May last night before she has further talks in Brussels next week. MPs rejected a motion supporting the government’s EU negotiating strategy by a majority of 45. There was a coordinated show of strength by the Tory Brexiteer European Research Group that meant more than 50 Brexiteers withheld their support.

EU

Independent
Brussels is to move forward with plans for a new European Labour Agency that would police work standards for immigrants across the bloc. The new EU authority will help crack down on undeclared work by EU migrants – a practice sometimes accused of driving down conditions and wages for foreign and domestic workers alike. The authority will also help member states resolve cross-border disputes, provide information for workers and employees alike about cross-border working, and help enforce EU law. There are estimated around 17 million EU nationals working in EU countries other than their own. Under the proposals agreed by negotiators for the European Parliament and European Council participation in the authority will be voluntary. The plan must be formally signed off by member states and MEPs.

Express
A GERMAN European Commissioner has criticised Angela Merkel’s government for not committing enough to the EU. Günther Oettinger has accused his country, which is the EU’s largest economy, of a lack of commitment to funding for Brussels which the ruling coalition had pledged in 2018. Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is sharing power with the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) and the left wing Social Democrats (SPD). Mr Oettinger told Austrian finance news website he feels “relatively little” about the German government’s promises on a new beginning for Europe laid out in the coalition contract.

Westmonster
The economic outlook in Germany continues to look pretty dismal, with the country only narrowly avoiding a fall into recession. The German economy dipped by -0.2% in the third quarter of 2018, and flatlined at 0.0% by the end of the year. The country is now teetering on the brink of a recession, with German industry desperately anxious about the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a trade deal. Italy is in recession and European economies need a deal with Britain. The UK government must hold its nerve, demand changes to any deal and be prepared to walk away.

Labour Party

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn will visit Brussels next week for talks in a bid to circumvent the Brexit deadlock in Westminster. The Labour leader is expected to meet EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier and European Parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt. The visit – far from Mr Corbyn’s first to the EU capital – comes after senior EU figures have spoken out to welcome Labour’s proposals for a softer Brexit than the one planned by Theresa May. Mr Barnier’s deputy Sabine Weyand said earlier this week that Labour’s plans deserved to be examined, while European Council president Donald Tusk is said to have spoken well of the proposals in a private meeting with Theresa May.

Guardian
Jeremy Corbyn will hold talks in Brussels next week with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, as he seeks to break the Brexit impasse and persuade Theresa May to sign up to a customs union. The visit is likely to be highly unwelcome in Downing Street, and risks accusations that Labour is pursuing its own shadow negotiations, undermining the prime minister’s hopes of fresh EU concessions. May will be in Brussels in the same week to meet the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. The UK attorney-general, Geoffrey Cox, is expected to travel with her.

Express
Labour is braced for a walkout of eight Remainer MPs as early as Monday after the party was plunged into fresh conflict over Brexit. Rebels are gearing up to form a breakaway group as tensions flare over Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Britain’s departure from the EU. It comes as up to ten shadow ministers are reportedly planning to resign from the frontbench if the Labour leader refuses to back a second referendum. Party splits boiled over in a heated outburst in the Commons from Chris Leslie, one of the backbenchers believed to be involved in planning a new party. In a public attack on Mr Corbyn, he claimed “we are being played for fools by the leadership of the Labour Party” and told MPs the divisions over Brexit were “heartbreaking.” Mr Leslie criticised the wording of his party leadership’s proposals to change Theresa May’s next steps Brexit plan because it did not include the option of another Brexit referendum.

Times
Fears of a split in the Labour Party grew yesterday as a shadow minister predicted retribution from voters if the party facilitated a Conservative Brexit deal. Clive Lewis, a shadow Treasury minister who is on the left of the party, said that Labour could suffer severe ramifications if it helped pass Theresa May’s agreement in the Commons. Labour MPs who support another EU referendum said that the chances of a split had risen after growing antagonism between backbenchers and the leadership over Brexit and the handling of antisemitism claims. Last night more than 40 Labour MPs rebelled to support an SNP amendment to extend the Article 50 process, which commits Britain to leaving the European Union by March 29.

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn suffered a major revolt when 41 Labour MPs backed an SNP call for an “immediate” move to delay Brexit by extending Article 50. The Labour leader ordered his MPs to abstain – but he was defied by the 41 who voted with the Scottish Nationalists for a suspension of “no fewer than three months”, past 29 March. The revolt came after fresh confusion about Mr Corbyn’s stance on seeking an Article 50 extension, which would have to be agreed by all other 27 EU countries. It came moments before Theresa May was hit by another humiliating defeat, when hardline anti-EU Tories refused to back her “approach to leaving the EU”. The European Research Group (ERG) sparked a fresh crisis for the prime minister, refusing to “reiterate” support because they feared she would use it to rule out a no-deal Brexit.  It left her unable to claim she has a Commons mandate for her attempt to renegotiate the Irish backstop – something the EU has refused to do so far.

Mail
Theresa May hit back at Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell last night after he refused to apologise for calling Winston Churchill a ‘villain’. The Prime Minister, who has a portrait of Churchill on the wall of her study, hailed Britain’s wartime PM for his ‘leadership and determination’. She argued his ‘unwavering personality’ had ‘inspired our country through our darkest hour’. Mr McDonnell had branded Sir Winston a ‘villain’ on Wednesday night and blamed him for sending troops to deal with rioting Welsh miners in Tonypandy in 1910 when he was home secretary. Mr McDonnell appeared to argue that the incident eclipsed Churchill’s World War II heroics in saving Britain — and Europe — from Nazism.

Times
John McDonnell has defended his description of Winston Churchill as a villain over his role on the Tonypandy riots, saying he was just being honest. Mr McDonnell did acknowledge that Churchill was a war hero but said there was “another side” to him that should be taught more often. Chris Williamson, another Labour MP, agreed that Churchill was a “villain” who had been “in the right place at the right time” during the Second World War. Mr McDonnell has come under pressure to withdraw comments he made on Wednesday when he was asked at an event hosted by the Politico website whether Churchill was a hero or villain. “Tonypandy: villain,” he replied.

Health

Times
NHS staff suffer from “learned helplessness” in a dysfunctional system, the chairman of NHS England has said in an attack on 25 years of flawed health policies. As accident and emergency units reported their worst waiting times on record, Lord Prior of Brampton gave a scathing assessment of the system over which he presides. He said that such targets had “had their day” and that they contributed to the erosion of the vocational culture of the NHS. He said that targets, competition and reliance on inspectors had all led to a disjointed system and demoralised staff. A series of NHS reforms that have broken up the health service into autonomous hospitals “makes driving an integrated strategy across the NHS almost impossible”, he added.

Mirror
A&E waiting times in England have reached their worst level since records began, data shows. Figures from NHS England show that, during January, just 84.4% of patients were treated or admitted in four hours, against a 95% target. This means nearly 330,000 patients waited longer than they should, and comes despite lower levels of flu and norovirus than last year. The data shows that 83,519 people in January endured very long waits – often called trolley waits – to be admitted to hospital. After a decision had been taken to admit them, this group waited four hours or more before a ward bed was found for them. The last time the 95% target – which was introduced in 2004 – was hit was in July 2015.

Sun
HALF of dementia sufferers may be helped by a cannabis-based mouth spray, experts claim. British researchers want to test whether the peppermint-flavoured treatment can reduce agitation experienced by many with the disease.  Around 850,000 Brits currently have dementia – and the figure is expected to hit one million within a decade. There is currently no cure, although some drugs can limit the symptoms. As well as memory problems and confusion, half of dementia  victims experience challenging behaviour, such as raised aggression. Alzheimer’s Research UK is funding a £300,000 trial into whether the drug Sativex can help ease these changes. The cannabis-based drug is currently licensed for use in the UK for treating patients with MS. Scientists from King’s College London are now recruiting volunteers with Alzheimer’s who are living in care homes and have symptoms of agitation.

Education

Times
Less than 5 per cent of students at most universities are poor and white, according to a report that says only Gypsies are less likely to get a place. There would be almost 10,000 more students in higher education if all universities ensured that at least 5 per cent of their intake was white and from a “low-participation neighbourhood”, the National Education Opportunities Network (Neon) said. These are students from areas with little history of university entrance and are usually economically deprived. The network suggested that 54 per cent of institutions met the 5 per cent figure. Further education colleges are a more common destination for young people from poor backgrounds taking higher education courses.

Jihadi bride

Times
Shamima Begum will be viewed as a security threat, a target for right-wing extremists and a magnet for Islamist hardliners if she is able to return to Britain, counterterrorism officials said yesterday. Police and security agencies are assessing how best to deal with the jihadi bride should she achieve her wish to return home and live a quiet life with the child she is expecting imminently. The initial reaction of the authorities would be to decide whether to prosecute her for terrorism offences. Scotland Yard has conducted an assessment of the activities of all those known to have travelled to join Islamic State and whether they can bring charges.

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