Brexit

Telegraph
Boris Johnson wanted to use Valentine’s Day to win over those worried about Brexit. Good on him for trying, but by letting his intentions be known in advance, zealous Remainers had time to work out how they’d spurn his advances. “Remember that Boris only loves Boris”, the continuity Remainers at Open Britain  quipped. “Usually people hope to be swept off their feet on Valentine’s day but this speech was a Valentine’s day disaster,” the Soros-backed anti-Brexit campaign Best for Britain crowed. Others couldn’t think of any Valentine-related witticisms, so resorted to frothing on Twitter about how “mendacious” and “evil” they thought he was.

Times
A “punishment clause” is set to be toned down in the proposals drawn up by the European Union detailing the terms of the UK’s transition period after Brexit. The European Commission published a draft text for the arrangements governing the phase last week which demanded that Theresa May accept powers allowing the EU to ground flights, suspend single market access and impose trade tariffs on Britain during the transition phase. It would have given the EU unprecedented legal powers to punish the UK if it breached the terms of the transition, without oversight by European courts.

Mail
Brussels has cancelled a controversial plan to punish Britain during the Brexit  transition if it breaks EU rules following a furious backlash. EU negotiator Michel Barnier included the clause in a draft transition agreement last week, setting out powers to penalise the UK during the two years after Brexit begins next March. Brexit Secretary David Davis accused Mr Barnier of acting in bad faith after he insisted it was necessary to enforce the divorce agreement and make sure Britain continues to follow all EU rules during the transition. The row had threatened to overshadow Theresa May’s visit to Germany for talks with Angela Merkel tomorrow, ahead of a speech in Munich on Saturday. 

Breitbart
The European Union has backed down from its plans to insert a ‘punishment clause’ into its Brexit deal with the United Kingdom, after leading Leave campaigners including Jacob Rees-Mogg said the country would not “roll over” for Brussels. The European Commission, led by President Jean-Claude Juncker, and chief negotiator Michel Barnier wanted Britain to agree to a sanctions mechanism throughout the so-called ‘transition’ period which will — assuming a deal is made — run for roughly two years after Britain’s formal exit from the EU in 2019. The Commission’s draft proposals instructed Britain to “abstain, during the transition period, from any action or initiative which is likely to be prejudicial to the [European] Union’s interests”, and provided for the bloc to suspend Britain’s trade access without reference to the European Court of Justice in the interests of saving time.

Express
THERESA May’s push for a Brexit deal was boosted when the EU dropped demands for sweeping powers to punish Britain. Brussels sources said a clause giving the European Commission the ability to block the UK’s access to the single market had been scrubbed from a draft agreement covering the planned Brexit transition period which could last up to two years. The humiliating climbdown followed fears among EU leaders that the Prime Minister would walk out of departure negotiations and cancel the promised £39billion divorce fee from British taxpayers.  Eurosceptics welcomed the retreat by Brussels last night.  Tory MP Peter Bone said: “This was a stupid thing to propose, and it does tell us what some European bureaucrats were thinking. “Fortunately, wiser heads are beginning to prevail in the EU at last.” 

Labour Party

Guardian
More than 16,000 people have emailed Labour over the past five days, urging the party to consult members on Brexit after MPs said the topic was being ignored by its most senior policy body. The emails from party members will be examined by the party’s national policy forum (NPF), which meets this weekend in Leeds, and whose members include the shadow cabinet and trade union leaders. Labour has set up eight policy commissions since last year’s general election, to consult members and develop policy, but none focus on Brexit. The party has said Brexit is covered under the international policy commission, involving Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, but that commission is not at the moment accepting submissions on Brexit. A leaked draft of the commission’s agenda for the meeting this weekend, seen by the Guardian, shows members will be asked for views on development goals, not on Brexit.

EU

Telegraph
Theresa May visits Germany Friday, for “crunch talks” with Angela Merkel. Embattled, wounded and clinging to power, the German Chancellor has much in common with her UK counterpart. Having led the world’s fourth largest economy since 2005, Mrs Merkel 
is a political giant. But her Christian Democrats (CDU) stumbled badly in last September’s election and “Mutti” could soon be out of office. Some Brexiteers, given the tough line Berlin has taken in our Article 50 talks, take pleasure in Germany’s political misfortune. There is no English word for schadenfreude, but most of us know what it is.

BBC News
Theresa May is due to hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she seeks to make progress on negotiating Brexit. The PM will travel to Berlin for the meeting at the Chancellery. It comes a day ahead of a speech on Saturday in which she is expected to set out the “security partnership” she wants to maintain with the EU. The UK is under pressure to reveal more detail about the final relationship it wants with the EU. Mrs May and her ministers are setting out what has been dubbed “the road to Brexit” in a series of speeches.

Northern Ireland

Express
THE European Union will stubbornly refuse to change its position over the Irish border, according to Italy’s president, as the ongoing dispute threatens to derail Brexit talks. President Sergio Mattarella said the EU stands with the Republic of Ireland amid growing concerns about the post-Brexit future of the Irish border. The British and Irish governments have not yet agreed on a sustainable way to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic if the UK presses ahead with plans to quit the single market and customs union. Speaking last week, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said a hard Irish border was “inevitable” if Britain does not maintain the same trade relations with Ireland, which would effectively leave the UK in a ‘Brexit in name only’ scenario.

Sky News
Westminster involvement in Northern Ireland’s governance is now “inevitable” following the breakdown of power-sharing talks, according to a former Cabinet minister. Theresa Villiers, who was Northern Ireland secretary between 2012 and 2016, admitted the UK Parliament will need to set a budget for local authorities. It comes after the 
latest round of negotiations between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein, aimed at restoring Northern Ireland’s executive at Stormont, failed to reach a deal. DUP leader Arlene Foster claimed on Wednesday there is “no current prospect” of discussions with Sinn Fein leading to the re-establishment of Northern Ireland’s government. The DUP, who prop up the minority Conservative government at Westminster, have also called the Prime Minister’s visit to Belfast on Monday as a “distraction” during power-sharing talks.

NHS

Mail
The number of GPs in England fell by 0.6% at the end of last year, with many leaving the profession as the ‘pressure has become too much’, their professional body has said. The Royal College of GPs said the latest NHS Digital figures show the number of family doctors fell to 33,872 in December from 34,091 in September. In September 2015 the number of full-time equivalent GPs was 34,592 – a drop of 3%. RCGP chairwoman Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the workload in general practice has increased by at least 16% over the last seven years, but the number of GPs delivering care to patients has not risen in line with this. She warned that patients suffer from there being fewer family doctors and measures need to be taken to attract new GPs as well as retain existing ones.

Mirror
MPs have been urged by Britain’s leading doctors to “save hundreds of lives each year” by voting to change organ donor laws. Senior health figures spoke out after the Daily Mirror revealed 4,712 patients in 10 years died in England waiting for donor organs. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association and ­Britain’s most senior doctor, said: “We believe that Opt Out organ donation is the best way to reduce the chronic shortage of organs available for transplantation and will save hundreds of lives each year. “It will maximise the number of donations from the majority happy for their organs to be used after their death, while permitting those who object to donating their organs to opt out quickly and easily.”

Halal

Mail
Britons are inadvertently eating meat from animals slaughtered while they are still conscious, a top vet has warned. Lord Trees, who is a former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, said the meat would mainly be found in pies and ready meals. There has been a sharp rise in the number of sheep and poultry being killed without being stunned first. This has been attributed to religious practices. But Lord Trees, a crossbench peer, said it was highly probable that some unstunned meat was entering the ‘standard’ food chain as well. Writing in the journal Vet Record, he pointed out that many experts were calling for a law change so that all animals had to be stunned before being killed. 

Development

Independent
The number of homes that have not been built despite receiving planning permission has soared in the last year, new figures reveal, meaning sites for hundreds of thousands of new properties are being left undeveloped. More than 400,000 homes have been granted permission but are still waiting to be built, according to analysis published by the Local Government Association (LGA) – a rise of 16 per cent in the past year. The data also shows developers are taking significantly longer to build homes than they were four years ago. It now takes an average of 40 months from planning permission for a property to be completed – eight months longer than in 2013-14. The findings will probably raise questions over why developers are taking more than three years to complete homes, and in many cases failing to build them at all, at a time when the UK is building around 50,000 fewer properties per year than is needed to meet current demand.

UKIP

Telegraph by Nigel Farage
On Saturday, Ukip stages an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) over the continued leadership or otherwise of our present leader, Henry Bolton, at which the party’s future as a force in British politics could be determined for once and for all. This is not the first EGM to be held at which Ukip’s survival is on the line. Back in 2000, on a dramatic afternoon in Westminster’s Methodist Central Hall, the subject was also whether the leader of the time should continue in his role. On that occasion, one party member died of a heart attack and later people by the score streamed out of the doors.

Express
NIGEL Farage has admitted Ukip is close to “collapsing” as party members prepare to vote this weekend on whether current leader Henry Bolton should continue in his role. Less than two years after Ukip played a pivotal role in Britain’s decision to leave the EU, former leader Mr Farage believes the party’s days are numbered as fresh crises loom. Mr Bolton faces a battle to save his job on Saturday after the party’s ruling body triggered a vote on his continued leadership following a series of headlines about his private life. The 54-year-old left his wife for model Jo Marney, 25, shortly before Christmas. But Mr Bolton faced calls to resign after a string of highly offensive comments about Meghan Markle made by Ms Marney were leaked.

Mail
UKIP last night was on the verge of bankruptcy as it was ordered to pay up to £200,000 in legal fees after one of its MEPs was found guilty of libel. The latest crisis comes as party members will vote on Saturday on whether to get rid of its leader Henry Bolton.  Nigel Farage last night backed him, saying: ‘Whatever his flaws reforms may be, without reform Ukip will die.’ Jane Collins, an MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, last year was told to pay £162,000 in damages to three Labour MPs after she wrongly claimed they had known about child abuse in Rotherham and ignored it. The High Court yesterday ruled Ukip was liable to pay some of the trio’s £670,000 costs. Labour sources estimated the party’s share would be for around £200,000.

BBC News
UKIP “deliberately delayed” settlement of a libel case for “political advantage” ahead of the 2015 general election, the High Court has ruled. The case was brought by three Rotherham Labour MPs over comments made by UKIP MEP Jane Collins about the Rotherham child abuse scandal. Mr Justice Warby said the defamation action would have been “swiftly” settled had UKIP not interfered. 
He added the party should be held liable for some of the costs. In 2017, Ms Collins, the MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, was ordered to pay £54,000 in damages to each of the three MPs – Sir Kevin Barron, John Healey and Sarah Champion – who all represent Rotherham constituencies. She was also directed to pay costs of £196,000.

Guardian
Ukip has been edged closer to financial ruin after a judge ruled the party must contribute towards a £660,000 legal bill following a defamation action brought against one of its MEPs by three Labour MPs. Last year, Jane Collins was successfully sued by Sarah Champion, Sir Kevin Barron and John Healey, whom she had accused in 2014 of ignoring child sex abuse in Rotherham. At the time, Mr Justice Warby said Collins, the Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, should pay £54,000 in damages to each MP as well as paying their costs, with an interim payment of £120,000. Estimates suggest Ukip will have to pay at least £200,000 of a legal bill which stood at £660,000 before a further hearing on Thursday. None of the costs have so far been paid. Ukip’s financial troubles are well documented, with Henry Bolton, its embattled leader, warning recently that a new leadership election could be financially “unviable” and finish the party were he forced out.

Mirror
UKIP was facing financial disaster tonight after it was ordered to pay a legal bill – which it’s claimed could reach £200,000. The High Court ruled the cash-strapped party must fund part of the £670,000 costs of three Labour MPs who won a libel case against UKIP MEP Jane Collins. The ruling came just days after UKIP’s Treasurer John Bickley said it has been “living hand-to-mouth” since 2015 and its finances are under “great pressure”. In a leaked memo Mr Bickley told local party chiefs that three leadership contests in 18 months had “significantly impacted our income”. Despite the crisis UKIP could trigger a fourth leadership battle on Saturday when more than 1,000 members attend an emergency no confidence vote in leader Henry Bolton.

Morning Star
UKIP was hit with a six-figure legal bill at the High Court today for having prevented one of its MEPs from settling a libel case brought by three Labour MPs in order to gain “party political advantage.” Kevin Barron, Sarah Champion and John Healey were awarded £54,000 each in damages after Jane Collins claimed in her 2014 Ukip conference speech that they had known about child exploitation in Rotherham but failed to intervene. Ms Collins, who came second to Ms Champion in Rotherham at the 2015 general election, was also ordered to make a £120,000 interim payment on costs last February, before lawyers for the MPs sought costs from Ukip itself.

Rats

Mail
British households could be set for an invasion of super rats that are resistant to poison thanks to a genetic mutation dubbed L120Q. The mutation means toxins used to kill the rodents are ineffective and could potentially lead rats plaguing homes across the UK, with some scientists even fearing a population spike thanks to their immunity to poison.  Dee Ward-Thompson, from the British Pest Control Association, said: ‘There could be a significant risk to public health if left unchecked.’ The potentially explosive discovery was made by experts at the University of Reading who identified: ‘the massive extent of L120Q resistance across the whole of central southern England’. Data for the rest of the UK was not available though there are now genuine fears the deadly gene could spread to rat populations across the UK. Ms Ward-Thompson added: ‘Their study highlights that resistance is growing in rat species across a swathe of the country.’

Star
EXPERTS fear households across the UK are in danger of falling victim to a new generation of super rats. The mutant rodents are resistant to poison after developing a genetic mutation called L120Q, which renders many toxins useless. Scientists fear the rats’ immunity to poison will see the population explode. 
Dee Ward-Thompson, from the British Pest Control Association, said: “There could be a significant risk to public health if left unchecked.” The shock discovery was made in a study by University of Reading experts who identified “the massive extent of L120Q resistance across the whole of central southern England”. Data for the rest of the UK was not available.

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