EU

Express
CONCERNS over widespread chaos as a result of a hard Brexit are “exaggerated”, a top Germany economist has said, suggesting there “wouldn’t be a big mess” after Britain leaves the European Union. Holger Schmieding, chief economist of the Hamburg-based Berenberg Bank, said Prime Minister Theresa May’s crushing defeat on Tuesday as MPs voted down her Brexit divorce deal by 230 votes was actually “a step forward”, claiming its “clear rejection” offering “a little more certainty.

Reuters
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said there needed to be a discussion about reopening the draft deal for Britain’s planned exit from the European Union, but only if all EU countries supported the move. “In the end, it will be about the question whether to reopen the deal which needs the approval of all 27 member states, which means that everyone has to join in. This is what needs to be discussed now,” he told public broadcaster ZDF late on Thursday. Maas earlier on Thursday had said it was “hardly imaginable” that the Brexit withdrawal agreement would be reconsidered.

Westmonster
As a No Deal Brexit approaches, European business and industry are growing increasingly anxious. As Leavers pointed out during the referendum, they sell us more than we sell them. The Head of the German Federation Industry (BDI), Dieter Lempf, has said: “A chaotic Brexit is now in dangerous proximity. Companies are looking into the abyss these weeks. “Leaving the UK without an agreement is not an option – neither for British companies nor for companies on the continent.”

Telegraph
The frontrunner to become Germany’s next chancellor has issued an 11th hour plea for Britain to change its mind and stay in the European Union. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new head of Angela Merkel’s party, is the most senior German politician yet to openly appeal to the UK to abandon Brexit. She is among more than two dozen leading figures from German politics, industry and the arts to announce an “unprecedented” cross-party campaign to persuade Britain “from the bottom of our hearts” to remain.

Mail
The woman tipped to become Germany’s next chancellor has appealed for Britain to stay in the EU, calling it Britain’s ‘home’. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer became leader of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) last month. Last night, she became the most senior German politician to plead for the UK to cancel Brexit in an ‘unprecedented’ cross-party campaign. Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer, also known by her initials AKK, was joined by more than two dozen German politicians, artists and heads of industry in her plea.

No deal

Telegraph
Cabinet ministers have warned that Theresa May will face mass resignations if MPs are barred from trying to stop a no-deal Brexit. The Prime Minister said on Thursday that it is “impossible” to rule out a no-deal Brexit under the terms of Article 50 and warned that it “not in the Government’s power” to do so. However as many as 20 mid-ranking ministers have indicated that they are prepared to quit the Government  so they can support backbench moves to stop a no-deal Brexit. The Telegraph has learned that a delegation of five ministers from the group visited the Prime Minister in No 10 and warned her directly that they were prepared to quit.

Sky News
Theresa May has told Jeremy Corbyn it is “impossible” for her to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit, after the Labour leader sought to block his MPs from helping the government break a deadlock over Britain’s EU exit. Mr Corbyn has instructed them not to “engage” with senior ministers until the prime minister takes the threat of leaving without an agreement off the table. He asked them to “respect” his own position and “refrain” from contact designed to secure enough support from cross-party MPs to get an agreement passed through parliament.

Breitbart
Brexit-supporting Tories have slammed Chancellor Philip “Remainer Phil” Hammond’s comments on MPs blocking a “No Deal” Brexit as “treacherous” and “totally incompetent”. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, long accused of pushing for the weakest possible form of Brexit from within Cabinet and using his role at HM Treasury to stall preparations for an EU exit without a formal agreement on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, was recorded assuring corporate bosses that MPs would block No Deal in Parliament in a leaked call.

Breitbart
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip “Remainer Phil” Hammond told corporate bosses that senior MPs would stop a “No Deal” Brexit — where Britain makes a clean break from the EU — according to a leaked telephone call. The audio, obtained by The Telegraph, also outlines how the Remain-supporting Chancellor had discussed how Article 50, the treaty mechanism for leaving the EU, could be extended in a call with the 330 business people following Prime Minister Theresa May’s historic parliamentary defeat on her Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday.

Art50

Mail
Theresa May left the door open yesterday to delaying Britain’s exit from the EU. Downing Street insisted there were no plans to extend the Article 50 departure date beyond the planned March 29. But the Prime Minister failed to rule out the chance of this falling by the wayside in the wake of Tuesday’s crushing Commons defeat for her withdrawal agreement. Chancellor Philip Hammond is reported to have told business leaders the Government would not block a move by former Tory minister Nick Boles to empower Parliament to rule out No Deal and delay Article 50 by nine months.

Express
PHILIP Hammond has been branded “treacherous” by a Tory MP after the Chancellor reportedly told business leaders a no-deal Brexit could be “taken off the table” and Article 50 “rescinded”. And Leader of the House of Commons Angela Leadsom responded by hinting at her frustration at the situation. Sir Christopher Chope voiced his fury after a transcript of a leaked conference call featuring the Chancellor was obtained by The Daily Telegraph. The paper said Mr Hammond had set out how a backbench Bill could effectively be used to stop any prospect of no deal.

Leavers

Mail
Brexiteers today boasted of securing pledges from Theresa May that could see a Brexit deal passed by Parliament. Eurosceptic MPs who met her left Downing Street in upbeat mood, saying she had vowed not to bow to pressure from Cabinet Remainers to accept Labour’s idea of a permanent customs union. Nigel Evans, one of 118 Tory MPs who voted against Mrs May on Tuesday, said: ‘The Prime Minister is listening. She wants to get Brexit over the line and she is listening to our concerns.’ A former Cabinet minister added: ‘It was good and positive – we are getting onto the same page. I am more optimistic now – I think she will get a deal through

General Election

Mail
Britain was on general election alert last night after Whitehall chiefs were ordered to draw up contingency plans for a snap poll. Amid the fragile situation in Westminster, Britain’s top civil servant told Government departmental heads to be ready in case an election is needed to break the Brexit deadlock. Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill met senior mandarins this week to discuss preparations in case Theresa May decides to go to the country. Today, it also emerged that official guidance has now been drawn up on the possible timeline for a second Brexit referendum.

Second referendum

Mail
MPs holding Brexit talks with the Government today have been warned that it would take a year to hold another EU referendum. Officials in the Cabinet Office have drawn up an A4 page of advice detailing what they think would be the timescales of holding another vote. The advice was shown to MPs across the political divide who held talks with Theresa May and her ministers today as No10 tries to break the Brexit deadlock.

Mirror
The government has been slammed after producing official advice warning it would take more than a YEAR to organise a second Brexit  referendum. The shock claim is understood to be contained in one-page document handed to MPs who have been to Downing Street for cross-party talks. It is understood the guidance details the timetable of how a so-called ‘People’s Vote’ would be organised.

Express
EMBATTLED Prime Minister Theresa May is exploring how long it would take to hold a second Brexit referendum after her Conservative Party government produced a paper setting out the number of months it would take to give the British public another vote on the UK’s departure from the EU. Downing Street said the Government had requested Civil Service guidance in the form of “a very short paper setting out the factual detail on the number of months required” to hold another referendum, with the short document taking up just one side of A4 paper, it has been revealed.

Sun
CABINET ministers are ready to back a second referendum that could see Brexit cancelled altogether, Remainers have claimed today. A group of Tories launched a fresh push for another Brexit vote this morning – saying another divisive campaign was the only way to break the deadlock in Parliament. Ex-minister Phillip Lee, who quit over Brexit last year, claimed there were many more MPs who were ready to join them, but was a “big task” to get everyone on side. He said “conversations” were happening all the time but it was a “minority sport” at the moment

Customs union

Times
The DUP would be open to a soft Brexit that kept the whole of the UK in a customs union with Brussels, senior sources have told The Times. In a break from Conservative Brexiteers, leading figures in the DUP have indicated that they could sign up to a Norway-style deal with a customs union if it removed the threat of the Northern Irish backstop. The issue is understood to have been raised in meetings between the DUP and senior government ministers as part of attempts to break the Brexit impasse.

Labour Party

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn ordered his MPs not to take part in Theresa May’s desperate effort to win votes for her Brexit deal today as the stalemate in Westminster deepened.  The Labour leader has refused to meet the Prime Minister in the aftermath of Tuesday night’s devastating vote unless she rules out ever allowing a no deal Brexit to happen. Mrs May wrote to the Labour leader tonight to say she was ‘disappointed’ at his stance – reminding him he has repeatedly insisted ‘dialogue in politics’ is crucial. Mr Corbyn has been repeatedly criticised for meeting with extremists on the grounds of peace talks.

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn is in open conflict with senior Labour MPs after telling  them to boycott cross-party talks with the government over Brexit. The Labour leader – who is refusing to negotiate with Theresa May, until she drops threats of a no-deal Brexit – tried to extend the no-talks stance in an email sent to all his colleagues. But the order came as at least three Labour MPs opened talks, in a bid to find a solution to the gathering crisis after Tuesday’s devastating defeat for the prime minister’s deal. Both Yvette Cooper, the Home Affairs Committee chair, and Hilary Benn, the Brexit Committee chair, went to the Cabinet Office to meet Tory ministers, both in the morning and afternoon. Labour won’t back new Brexit referendum until ‘no-deal disaster’ looms

Guardian
Jeremy Corbyn could face up to a dozen resignations from the Labour frontbench if the party backs a second referendum as a way out of the Brexit crisis. A string of junior shadow ministers have told the Guardian they are strongly opposed to the idea of a second referendum, which they fear would expose Labour to a vicious backlash in leave-voting constituencies. The development follows another tense day of brinkmanship in Westminster between Theresa May and the Labour leader as they seek a way out of the crisis that has engulfed both major parties.

Scotland

Morning Star
NICOLA STURGEON will reveal her plans for a second Scottish independence referendum in a “matter of weeks” regardless of Brexit, she told MSPs today. The First Minister met Theresa May yesterday following the historic Commons defeat of the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement and afterwards she said she would soon announce the timing of a second independence vote. Speaking at First Minister’s Questions today, Ms Sturgeon reiterated her pledge and said: “I think it is essential, given the catastrophe that Scotland faces — to our economy, to our society, to living standards, to prospects for the next generation, to our reputation in the world — that the option of independence must be open to people in Scotland.

Bercow

Telegraph
John Bercow could be the first Speaker in 230 years not to be given a peerage after ministers urged Theresa May to block the honour as a punishment for his Brexit “bias”. Mr Bercow ignored Parliamentary precedent last week to change Commons convention and effectively allow MPs to control the Brexit process. The move was greeted with fury on the Government benches, and led to claims that Mr Bercow was abusing his position to promote his own personal stance on EU withdrawal.

Times
John Bercow is set to become the first Speaker in 230 years to have his peerage blocked after ministers moved to punish him for “bias” during Brexit debates, The Times has learnt. Commons Speakers are usually automatically offered a seat in the House of Lords after approval by No 10 but relations between Mr Bercow and the government have broken down. The Speaker tore up years of precedent on Wednesday last week to change Commons rules and allow MPs to control business of the House.

BBC News
Such is the anger with the Speaker at senior levels of government, it has been suggested he could be blocked from getting a peerage when he retires. Ministers are furious at what they see as John Bercow’s “bias” during Commons debates on Brexit. The move would break a tradition dating back 230 years that former Commons speakers are automatically offered a seat in the House of Lords. A Cabinet source said: “It’s a good job peerage nominations are in our gift.” They added: “I’m sure we’ll be thinking carefully about which individuals we would choose to elevate to the House of Lords.

Mail
John Bercow may become the first Speaker in 230 years to not automatically receive a peerage after ministers accused him of bias, it was reported last night. No10 usually approves holders of the role being granted a seat in the House of Lords, but after controversy over Mr Bercow’s recent decisions, it is understood this may not happen. The Speaker defied years of precedent last week to allow MPs to take control of House of Commons business.  One senior Tory told the Times: ‘Precedents of Speakers getting peerages don’t last forever either.’ Mr Bercow, a former Conservative MP, has been accused of favouring Labour MPs and colluding with them to stop Brexit under the guise of championing backbenchers

Sun
SPEAKER John Bercow has been branded “European of the Week” by the continental media — underlining his anti-Brexit credentials. Dutch, German and French media outlets have portrayed him as a hero with videos going viral on social media. Radio France Internationale named him European of the Week for allowing MPs to table an amendment that “thwarted the strategy” of the UK Government. But Bercow faces the threat of being thrown out of Parliament after it emerges his local Tory association has begun looking for a candidate to replace him, The Sun can reveal. Today the chairman of the Tory Buckingham association is meeting the Conservative party’s national head of candidate selection Gareth Fox to find a suitable figure to fight the seat.

Education

Times
A growing number of parents are being “coerced” into removing unruly pupils from school to be taught at home, the admissions watchdog has said. The Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) has used its annual report to shine a spotlight on why so many children are home-educated, and in particular on “off-rolling”, the practice of a school asking parents to remove a poorly performing or disruptive child without a formal exclusion process.

Times
Record numbers of first-class degrees were awarded last summer, prompting accusations of rampant grade inflation. Firsts were achieved by 28 per cent of graduates, figures show. The proportion has risen by two percentage points each year for five years. Critics say there has been severe and unjustified degree uplift since tuition fees trebled in 2012 and the cap on student numbers was removed, as universities compete for undergraduates.

NHS

Times
Cuts to public health and training coupled with the neglect of social care risk derailing the £20 billion NHS reform plan, the spending watchdog warns today. A ten-year plan focused on preventing ill health, boosting the NHS workforce and joining up care has not yet been backed by funding for these areas, the National Audit Office says. Ministers have funnelled cash into the NHS but “key areas of health spending” have so far been ignored and unless money is committed to them the health service might not be able to deliver its promises to patients, the NAO says in a report.

Independent
The NHS is financially “unsustainable” and the government’s much-trumpeted 10-year plan is inadequate to rescue cancer, mental health and social care services, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned. Years of underinvestment have resulted in longer waiting times, critical staff shortages and “substantial deficits” that have been covered up by raiding funds for long-term reform, an NAO review found.

Mail
The number of times hospitals turned ambulances away from their A&E departments soared last week to its highest level this winter. Accident and emergency performance figures this week show the NHS is feeling the strain, as snow falls across Britain and temperatures plunge to -4C. One in eight people taken to A&E in an ambulance were forced to wait at least half an hour before being handed over because hospitals were too busy. And 19 out of 20 overnight hospital beds in the entire country are full – higher than the ‘safe operating level’ and the busiest they have been all winter.

Nuclear power

Times
Plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations are in disarray after a second company in two months announced that would stop work on the projects. Hitachi said yesterday that it was suspending its nuclear development programme in Britain, placing on hold plants at Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey and Oldbury-on-Severn in south Gloucestershire. The Japanese company is writing off £2 billion spent on preparatory work and is withdrawing despite having been offered several sweeteners by the government.

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