Brexit

Telegraph
Britain will be presented with a £50 billion “exit bill” by the European Union as soon as Theresa May triggers Article 50, the chief negotiator for Brussels is warning. Michel Barnier has told colleagues that the UK must keep paying “tens of billions” annually into the EU budget until 2020. The bill would include the UK’s share of outstanding pensions liabilities, loan guarantees and spending on UK-based projects. The demands, which came as the Prime Minister held meetings with other European leaders before being excluded from a dinner at an EU summit, were dismissed by senior Conservatives who refuted the idea of paying such a bill. Others shrugged off the demands and claimed they were simply the EU’s opening position in an attempted negotiation.

Express
BRITAIN could be forced to pay £50 billion to exit the European Union to settle its membership ‘bill’, sources have claimed. The European Commission’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is working on the basis the UK would have to pay a settlement fee of £42 to £50 billion for its outstanding liabilities. The bill, worth “tens of billions of euros”, is likely to be one of “the first things coming up” in the Brexit negotiation after Theresa May triggers Article 50, an EU government minister has revealed. Mr Barnier has previously mentioned the figure to EU leaders in his tour of EU capitals, while the same figure was also mentioned to diplomats in a meeting last month. Theresa May is currently in Brussels meeting with fellow EU leaders, but has been excluded from a talk to be held later tonight.

Mail
The European Commission’s chief negotiator has reportedly warned that Britain will be left with a £50billion bill as soon as it triggers Brexit. Former French minister Michel Barnier is believed to have told EU leaders of the figure during his tour of EU capitals. And it is reportedly the same figure that was mentioned to Brussels-based diplomats during a meeting last month. An EU government minister told Sky News that the bill will be one of the first hurdles that is discussed as soon as Theresa May triggers Article 50. Meanwhile, a separate EU source also told the network: ‘We were told 50-60 billion euros. We were told informally at sherpa level.’ It is believed the bill has been calculated to include the obligation for Britain to pay into the EU budget until the end of 2020. Other associated costs include outstanding pensions liabilities, and payments in connection with loan guarantees. However, a Downing Street spokesman insisted that any future costs to Britain will be ‘open to negotiation.’

Independent
A £50bn “Brexit bill” that Britain must pay will be “one of the first issues on the table” in the negotiations, Theresa May has been warned. Michel Barnier, the European Commission chief negotiator, has confirmed the UK will have to pay the fee for outstanding liabilities, EU leaders said. The sum is believed to include the obligation for the UK to pay into the EU Budget until the end of 2020, as well as pensions liabilities and payments linked to loan guarantees. The Czech Republic’s Europe minister said the issue would be near the top of the list when the exit talks get underway next year. Tomas Prouza told
Sky News: “This is agreeing the bills that the UK has already agreed to pay. “We’re talking about payments to the existing budget that the UK already voted for, pensions of British citizens working at the EU. “This is only things the UK has already committed itself to paying.”

ITV News
Theresa May wants an early deal on the status of Britons living in the EU and European citizens in the UK after Brexit. The Prime Minister addressed the other 27 European Union leaders amid concern from many of them about the rights of their nationals in the UK after Brexit. Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny revealed the PM’s comments after the European Council summit meeting in Brussels. He told reporters: “She would like to have the question of UK citizens living in Europe and European citizens living in the UK dealt with in the early part of discussions that take place.” Mr Kenny’s comments came after Mrs May left the summit in Brussels without answering any questions on the UK’s break from the EU. The other 27 EU leaders had carried on their discussions
without her and finalised their approach to the negotiations for the UK’s divorce from Brussels.

EU

Reuters
European Union leaders agreed their plan for Brexit negotiations on Thursday, pledging to move swiftly and stick together to ensure Britain does not cherry pick a sweet deal that might inspire others to unstitch the bloc. Prime Minister Theresa May left before the other 27 leaders met briefly to formalise their plan for how to run Brexit talks. Before heading home, diplomats said May had assured her European partners that she would launch the two-year process by the end of March despite how London judges rule in a constitutional court case that some say might jeopardise her timetable. “It’s right that the other leaders prepare for those negotiations as we have been preparing,” May told reporters. The 27 issued a statement saying they were “determined to see the Union succeed”, and were ready to negotiate quickly to “tackle the uncertainties” raised by the prospect of Brexit.

Express
MARTIN Schulz has threatened to sabotage Brexit as he accused the European Council of freezing the European Parliament out of talks. The president of the European Parliament posted an astonishing series of tweets ahead of his speech to the European Council this afternoon. The furious politician said attempts by the council to sideline Parliament in favour of the European Commission could put the whole Brexit deal at risk. His tirade continued throughout his speech and during his final press conference as President of the European Parliament as he made the importance of Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt being fully involved in Brexit negotiations the main theme of his outburst. He initially tweeted: “Council’s attempt to sideline #EP on #Brexit would risk seriously imperilling EP’s ability to give consent to final agreement #EUCO”.

Independent
Ukip could be handed a decisive role in the outcome of Brexit unless the European Parliament is involved in negotiations, its outgoing President has warned. Martin Schulz set out the consequences of moves to make the European Commission the lead negotiator – suggesting the votes of Nigel Farage’s MEPs could suddenly become crucial if opposition to a deal grew in the parliament. He spoke out at a press conference in Brussels, after it was revealed that the Commission planned to shut MEPs out of the talks and key preparatory meetings. Mr Schulz said all negotiated proposals must be ratified by MEPs, adding: “If you want to get a majority, then it’s meaningful to include the European Parliament. If, at the end, the European Parliament is split, let’s say 330 in favour and 330 against, and Ukip is deciding about Brexit, is that what you want? “Therefore my advice is to include the European Parliament – the constructive elements of the parliament – in all the relevant steps.”

Independent
Britain should expect to be faced with “complexities and difficulties” as it tries to extricate itself from the European Union, Theresa May has been warned, as Downing Street continued to put a positive spin on the Brexit process. In a 20-minute meeting before the official start of an EU summit in Brussels, senior members of the European Parliament told the Prime Minister they nonetheless want to work towards a “viable solution” in the coming months and years. The UK has promised to trigger Article 50 and formally announce its intention to leave the EU by the end of March, after which it will have two years to both agree both the “divorce deal” and come up with a new trade deal with the remaining members of the bloc. Downing Street sources said Ms May spoke to European Parliament president Martin Schulz and the former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who has been appointed the Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator.

Independent
As a summit involving EU heads of state prepared to get underway in Brussels on Thursday, EU leaders were already at odds over how the bloc should proceed with Brexit negotiations. Theresa May is set to attend the first stage of the Brussels talks but, in a first for the bloc, will then be excluded from a dinner meeting of the other 27 leaders where Brexit will be discussed. Yet while the European Council – the body comprising the heads of state of all members – is keen to start preparing the EU’s Brexit negotiating position, news of the informal dinner has sparked anger among representatives of the bloc’s other branches. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chosen lead for talks over Britain’s exit, attacked the Council for unilaterally pushing ahead with the talks. Speaking in a plenary meeting on Wednesday, the former Belgian Prime Minister accused heads of state of trying to sideline Parliament’s role in Brexit, and even threatened to launch “parallel negotiations” with Britain.

Reuters
The European Parliament could block a Brexit deal for Britain if EU leaders exclude lawmakers from the negotiating process, its outgoing speaker warned on Thursday as the legislature pushes for a bigger role in the talks. In a tweet as he addressed the European Council summit of the national leaders behind closed doors, Martin Schulz said: “Council’s attempt to sideline EP on Brexit would risk seriously imperilling EP’s ability to give consent to final agreement.” He earlier told reporters he was “really surprised” by a draft plan for negotiations with London, which Britain’s 27 EU partners are due to agree over a post-summit dinner. Parliament must ratify any divorce deal needed to ensure an orderly Brexit.

Express
A LEAKED document has exposed the European Union’s hand when it comes to Brexit negotiations and it has emerged Brussels big wigs will do everything within their power to make sure Britain continues to take in thousands of EU migrants. The supposedly secret letter reveals European Council President Donald Tusk will be in charge of negotiations and he will invite his close ally Jean-Claude Juncker to act as chief negotiator – which suggests Britain will be treated in an uncompromising manner. It also shows the EU’s hardline stance when it comes to single market access – Britain must adopt all of the Union’s core freedoms, including the free movement of workers, goods and capital. The statement reads: “We reiterate that any agreement will have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations, and that access to the Single Market requires acceptance of all four freedoms.”

Guardian
European Union leaders devoted just twenty minutes to discussing Brexit at a late night meeting in Brussels on Thursday, after Theresa May returned to London. May’s fellow leaders had been set to consider how best to tackle Britain’s departure from the 28-member bloc over a three-course dinner to which the prime minister had not been invited. But after talks about a series of other pressing issues, including the refugee crisis and ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine, dragged on late into the night, the dinner was cancelled in favour of a brief discussion. May cancelled a planned press conference, instead making a few prepared remarks on camera about the Syrian crisis, before being whisked away to fly back to London. The prime minister refused to be drawn on her hopes for a Brexit deal, and left her fellow leaders behind to rubber-stamp a series of technical decisions about how the Brexit negotiations will be conducted.

Express
THE proposed lavish dinner where European Union (EU) leaders were due to discuss Britain’s exit from Brussels has been called off, diplomats have revealed. Indications coming out of Brussels are that the European Council leaders will now hold a simple discussion instead. Only recently was the EU budget approved with the figure for next year standing at €157.9billion (£132.5bn). The change of plans, which had excluded Theresa May, comes after the Prime Minister pledged a further £20million to help those who remain in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Mrs May made a short statement having left the European Council meeting in Brussels which discussed a number of issues, including the situation in Syria. She said: “We discussed a number of issues, the most important is the situation in Syria,” she said. “The UK will provide a further £20 million to help those who remain [in Aleppo].”

Geldof

Mail
He was one of the highest-profile celebrity pro-EU campaigners during the Brexit referendum and famously led a flotilla on the River Thames. But Bob Geldof today unleashed a blistering attack on the European Union – saying it does not work and that Brussels quickly needs a radical overhaul. Speaking at Trinity College Dublin, Geldof also said there could be a European war within a generation or two as the West moves towards nationalism and populism. ‘Europe needs reform – it is sclerotic,’ he told the TCD’s Law Society, which awarded him its Praeses Elit medal for his ‘contribution to music and the greater good’. ‘The whole system is constipated. It needs a laxative to clear it out.’ Geldof said half of Europe is desperately unhappy.

Star
ANTI-Brexit campaigner Bob Geldof has pulled a U-turn over the EU. The musician was a staunch critic of the Leave movement in the run-up to the June referendum. He even led a protest that fired water cannon at a flotilla of boats led by then-Ukip boss Nigel Farage. But last night the Irish rocker appeared to have switched sides after he launched a tirade at the Union. He lashed out, saying that Brussels “doesn’t function” and needs reforming. He also claimed that the EU’s austerity policy that has ravaged its member states could kick off a war. And he even paid tribute to anti-EU heavyweight Mr Farage for being an “immensely-dedicated populist”.

GPs

Mail
Tens of millions of patients still cannot see a GP out of hours despite a major drive for longer opening times. Fewer than a fifth of surgeries in England offer appointments during evenings and weekends, NHS figures reveal. And patients lucky enough to live in areas where out-of-hours slots are available are almost always seen by an unfamiliar doctor. Most practices running ‘extended access’ schemes are part of local groups where only one stays open beyond normal office times. The figures will fuel concern the Government pledge to offer out-of-hours appointments nationwide by 2020 is wildly off course. Ministers have repeatedly promised to extend surgery hours in the hope of preventing rising numbers of patients going to A&E. But senior GPs oppose the schemes and claim they have neither the funds nor staff to provide more appointments.

Sky News
Only around one in five GP surgeries offer extended hours to patients seven days a week, according to official data. The Government has pledged to improve access to GPs in the evenings and at weekends through surgeries offering extra sessions where appointments can be pre-booked. Previous research has suggested demand from patients for weekend appointments is low, but the Department of Health says it expects demand to grow as weekend opening becomes “normalised”. The new survey of just over 7,000 GP practices for NHS England found 6,164 practices (86% of the total) provide partial or full extended access, covering 49.51 million patients in England.

Social care

Independent
The Government has announced it will create a new £240m fund for adult social care and at the same time bring forward the increase in the so-called social care precept, creating what it says will be an additional £900m for social care over the next two years. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid told the house the new fund would come from savings made by reforms to the New Homes Bonus, a scheme that incentivises local authorities to build more housing. Mr Javid said allowing councils to raise taxes earlier than planned and using the money for social care – the social care precept – will add “£1 a month” to most council tax bills. Labour said the sums would not come close to filling the “social care black hole”, which has been estimated at more than £2bn.

Mirror
Tory ministers have finally coughed up cash to plug the social care crisis after desperate calls by charities, Labour and Tory MPs. A new £240m grant for care homes will be dished out in 2017/18 “according to relative need”, it was announced today. But the money will still be raided from council budgets – because it will come from a different scheme that is set to be cut. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said the entire grant will be made by reducing money paid to councils under the New Homes Bonus. The scheme was set up in 2011 and encourages councils to build new homes by matching council tax payments on them for six years. Now the money will only be paid if housing in an area increases by more than 0.4% a year – apparently to stop “normal growth” being caught up in the scheme.

BBC News
Councils say it is “hugely disappointing” that the government has not given them extra money to tackle shortfalls in social care funding. Ministers will let local authorities bring forward council tax rises, and money cut from a housing scheme will be spent on social care instead. The government said it would create a “sustainable” system for everyone who needs social care. But the Local Government Association said the measures “fall well short”. LGA chairman Lord Porter said an “urgent injection of genuinely new additional government funding” was needed.

Times
Brexit claimed its first corporate victim yesterday as the maker of Pink Panther wafer biscuits plunged into administration after a sharp rise in costs following the fall in the pound. Rivington Biscuits made 99 of its 123 staff redundant yesterday. The remaining staff will stay on to keep the business running and to fulfil Christmas and new year orders while the administrator FRP Advisory tries to sell the business as a going concern. The company is based in Wigan but is owned by Van Delft, one of the largest biscuit manufacturers in the Netherlands. Its products also include Count Down granola bars, but it is best-known for its wafers sold under the Pink Panther brand.

Education

Morning Star
ALMOST 200,000 children are at “underperforming” primary schools following controversial changes to SATs tests, official figures showed yesterday. In total, 665 mainstream primaries in England fell below the government’s lowest acceptable standard this year, according to the Department for Education (DfE). But teaching unions warned that the figures were unreliable because of the changes, which they labelled “chaotic” and “badly implemented.” Schools are considered to be underperforming if fewer than 65 per cent of pupils fail to reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, or if they fail to make sufficient progress in these three key areas. The findings follow a turbulent year for primary assessment, including the introduction of major changes to “toughen up” the tests and concerns raised by teachers and school leaders about pressure on pupils.

Farage

Telegraph
Nigel Farage visited Donald Trump’s New York headquarters on Thursday night raising further speculation that he could be offered a job by the President-elect. US political reporters on watch outside Trump Tower in New York confirmed night Mr Farage entered the lift in the skyscraper which takes him to Mr Trump’s office. He left around an hour later without comment. If, as expected, Mr Farage met with Mr Trump it will have been their third meeting since Mr Trump was elected US President just a month ago.

Express
NIGEL Farage has had a third meeting with Donald Trump in New York, according to a source close to the Brexit mastermind. Mr Farage has previously denied claims he is about to meet “the great man” yet again, but an insider revealed to Express.co.uk the former Ukip boss was scheduled for discussions with Mr Trump at midnight (GMT) today. The meeting is another snub for Theresa May, who is yet to meet the Republican and was belittled in the wake of Mr Trump’s victory by being only the seventh world leader he called. 
Downing Street has declined to comment.Express.co.uk understands Mr Farage and his core team flew to America on Tuesday and were due to arrive at Trump Tower last night.

Star wars

Star
THE Star Wars film saga actually took place thousands of years ago and is true, it has been sensationally claimed. Rogue One is the latest film in the series coming out this week and it revisits the rebellion against the evil Empire. Brit Felicity Jones leads a star cast and it has been getting some great reviews. But while many will see it as a science fiction adventure, you may not know that many believe it is actually real. A website, written by Jah, says George Lucas was influenced by The Force to write the first three installments of the series. And this is because he thinks the events actually took place. He writes: “Although Star Wars Episodes 4-6 is set as science fiction and in a distant galaxy to make it entertaining, it actually refers to this galaxy and life on Earth. “There actually was a real star war thousands of human years ago, in this galaxy.”

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