The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, fears the refusal of member states to soften their demands over the size of Britain’s “divorce bill” could lead to a collapse in talks and the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal, minutes of a meeting of the European commission reveal. Barnier has told the commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and other senior officials that the stakes are so high because Berlin and Paris are refusing to pay more to cover the UK’s departure, while those governments who receive the most from EU funds are opposed to any cuts in spending. “Mr Barnier considered that this issue would doubtless be one of the most difficult in the negotiation,” the minutes of a top-level meeting held earlier this month note. “However, should there be no agreement on this point, he believed that the risk of failing to reach an agreement on an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom would become real, since none of the 27 member states wished to contribute more to the current multi-annual financial framework or receive less in projects financed under the framework.”
INDEPENDENT experts have thrown cold water on the EU’s claims that Britain will owe an £85billion divorce bill ahead of Brexit. Eurocrats insist the UK must hand over as much as €100billion to account for our obligations under European spending plans. But a new analysis suggests that the true amount owed may be as little as £5billion, and will not rise higher than £30billion at the most. The news will boost British officials hoping to resolve the divorce bill quickly before negotiating a free-trade deal with the EU. A report from the Institute of Chartered Accountants analysed the various obligations promised to the EU by Britain. The group divides the components of the bill into three parts: Britain’s share of European assets, development spending already committed over the next three years, and ongoing funds such as university grants. The UK and EU are likely to clash over how much money Britain owes for projects which will not take place until after Brexit, the report says.
European Commission minutes reveal today that Michel Barnier fears that hardened financial demands for a Brexit bill from Berlin and Paris could sink negotiations and lead to Britain crashing out of the EU. Minutes of a meeting of the commission on May 3 show the French EU lead negotiator’s concerns that the “European Council [EU governments] wanted a single settlement to cover all the financial relations between the EU” in a move that jeopardised the talks. France and Germany increased the scope of EU spending covered by a financial settlement for British withdrawal in April increasing the potential bill from €60 billion to €80 billion, or even €100 billion.
THERESA May has shown the EU that Britain means business, David Davis declared today. The Prime Minister’s no-nonsense approach to negotiations had proved we will not be bullied into accepting a bad Brexit deal and put European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and his allies “back in their box”, he said. Mr Davis also revealed half his time at the Department for Exiting the EU is spent preparing for the possibility of the Government walking away from Brexit talks without a deal. “We’ve shown we mean business. We won’t engage in silly games but neither will we put up with silly games,” Mr Davis said. He was speaking exclusively to the Daily Express after helping Mrs May unveil the Tory manifesto today. Her blueprint for a clean break from the EU was at the heart of the 84-page document. Mr Davis said it set out the kind of Brexit the Tories are determined to deliver, taking Britain out of the EU single market and Customs union and restoring full control over immigration. “It is very plain and very explicit. This is what we are determined to deliver,” he said, urging voters to give Mrs May a firm mandate.
BRITAIN will write a huge cheque to Brussels to clear the path to Brexit under Tory plans. Brussels chiefs are demanding up to £60bn from Britain to settle all future liabilities before entering into any trade talks. Officials on both sides fear the stand-off could derail the negotiations completely and see the UK spin out with no deal at all. In a bid to solve the impasse, the PM included a commitment in her manifesto today to agree “a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state”. The blueprint also said the move is “in accordance with the law and in the spirit of the UK’s continuing partnership with the EU”. All the manifesto ruled out any more “vast annual contributions to the European Union” – which also opened the door to smaller ones continuing. Mrs May’s move risks infuriating hard Brexiteer MPs who don’t want the UK to pay up, but making it a manifesto pledge helps to bind their hands.
THE leaders of minor parties tonight repeatedly called for Britain to stay in the EU as they took part in the first debate of the General Election campaign – without Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn. The ITV debate in Salford was thrown into farce even before it started in Salford when the two main party leaders refused to attend. That left Tim Farron, Paul Nuttall, Caroline Lucas, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood in a head-to-head clash. From the very first question, which focussed on Brexit, the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru immediately turned against Ukip boss Mr Nuttall. Ms Sturgeon described him as a “spokesperson” for the Prime Minister, and Ms Lucas proposed all the minor parties working together – but explicitly excluded Ukip. The four leaders kept agreeing with each other in the surreal debate, supporting each others’ views on issues such as grammar schools, council housing, tuition fees and public-sector pay. They blamed Mrs May for most of the country’s ills and mocked her for being “too scared” to turn up for the debate, while bemoaning Britain’s vote to leave the EU last year.
NICOLA Sturgeon has hailed the contribution of EU migrants to Britain’s economy during a live election debate. The SNP leader and Scottish First Minister dismissed calls from Ukip‘s Paul Nuttall for the Government to introduce a migrant cap. Speaking on the debate, broadcast on ITV, Mrs Sturgeon said: “The hard reality is our economy needs migration from the EU. “In Scotland alone, EU migrants contribute £7 billion every year. “Public services are under pressure. That’s not the fault of migrants, that is the fault of the austerity agenda pursued by the Tories.” But Mr Nuttall said there were “simply too many people coming to the country”. He claimed the equivalent of the population of Newcastle was added to the UK’s population last year.
The leaders of five political parties have taken part in a live TV election debate – but Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn sat it out. There was little disagreement between the leaders of the Lib Dems, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the SNP as they repeatedly clashed with UKIP’s Paul Nuttall. Brexit was a dominant theme, and the panellists also turned their fire on the absent Tory and Labour leaders. The ITV debate took place in Salford. Four of the five panellists – Lib Dem Tim Farron, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas – had backed staying in the EU.
EMMANUEL Macron’s victory in the French election will one day be seen as the final nail in the EU’s coffin with his openly federalist agenda set to guide the bloc to destruction, a leading academic has predicted. Amitai Etzioni, one of America’s leading thinkers, said the new president’s desire to centralise ever more power in Brussels will cause a revolt amongst European citizens. The German-born professor dismissed the notion of a ‘European identity’ as a myth and said the continent is really populated by patriotic people who are fiercely loyal to their own countries. As a result, he predicted hundreds of millions of voters will refuse to accept the pooling of further power in the hands of eurocrats as proposed by Mr Macron and German leader Angela Merkel.
French President Emmanuel Macron held a special security meeting, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and convened his Cabinet for the first time Thursday — all under a growing cloud of concern that his office is trying to control the press. The government, appointed Wednesday, is a carefully calibrated balance of 22 prominent and unknown figures from the left and the right, half of them women. They arrived for their first meeting Thursday with smiles, posing for photographs on the front porch of the presidential Elysee Palace. After the meeting, Macron talked by phone with Putin about possible cooperation on international issues, including the fight against terrorism. The Kremlin said in a statement that the two voiced readiness to develop “traditionally friendly” economic, political and cultural ties.
Theresa May has said the UK will remain signatories to the European Convention of Human Rights for the next Parliament. The Prime Minister was reportedly planning to make the case to leave the ECHR a central aspect of her 2020 election campaign before she called for an early election. Critics warned the move would have weakened citizens’ rights.Ms May previously said the ECHR frustrated her plans while Home Secretary to deport hate preacher Abu Qatada. The Good Friday Agreement, a key aspect of the Northern Ireland peace process, also depends on the ECHR leading critics to warn withdrawing from the Convention would be “playing with fire”. The ECHR protects freedoms such as the prohibition of torture, slavery, the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression.
Plans to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and end the European Court of Human Rights’ jurisdiction over Britain have been scrapped in the Conservative Party manifesto. The document, titled ‘Forward, Together‘, does rule out incorporating the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law, but also confirms that a Tory Government “will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway”. It also confirms that the party would “remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament”.
The Conservative Party have backslided on the UK ripping up the European Convention of Human Rights that has proven an obstacle to deporting terrorists. Under Theresa May the UK would remain inside for the entirety of the next Parliament. In the run up to the Brexit referendum that saw May back Remain, she gave a speech on the ECHR saying that: “The ECHR can bind the hands of Parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals – and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights. “So regardless of the EU referendum, my view is this: if we want to reform human rights laws in this country, it isn’t the EU we should leave but the ECHR and the jurisdiction of its court.”
Countries seeking a trade deal with the EU should meet European standards on labour law and fair competition, one of the bloc’s most senior officials has said in remarks that reinforce Brexit red lines. Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner, described the trade agreement with Canada as a model for the future because it enshrined recognition of labour standards, human rights and animal welfare. The comprehensive economic and trade agreement, known as Ceta, was signed off by the EU and Canada in 2016, after seven years of negotiation led by Vestager’s colleague, the trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström. “I think the work done by Cecilia is a model of how modern trade agreements can look,” Vestager said in an interview with the Guardian and other European newspapers. “It is about trusting the other part to do something that you find sufficient, not necessarily the same, but something that one way or another matches your own way of looking at things so that you do not import things that would not accept in your own jurisdictions.”
The author of the Conservative Party’s manifesto was one of the most anti-Brexit MPs in the entire party. Ben Gummer has written a Tory manifesto which will seek to push tough messages on Brexit and migration. But Gummer was strongly against Brexit, warning against a Leave vote on his website just days before the referendum: “All that talk about recession – it all sounds far too theoretical doesn’t it? Just a load of economists trying to predict the future? Well, I agree. So I’m going to go on a quick safari around Ipswich to show where those numbers come from, and how they are very, very real.” He went on: “When you vote on Thursday, you have a choice between two boxes. It is your choice where you place your cross. But businesses across our town want to be quite clear with you: that ‘Leave’ box – if you tick that, it means jobs lost in our town, our Ipswich. And if you tick Remain, we can get on with the work in hand: making our wonderful town and our wonderful Great Britain greater still.”
The Conservative Party manifesto, ‘Forward, Together’ unveiled Thursday represents a clear pitch to the centre-left of British politics, with its emphasis on a strong government shepherding the country forward. Peppered with sentences such as: “We know that our responsibility to one another is greater than the rights we hold as individuals,” (page 9), the manifesto is sure to raise eyebrows amongst ardent Thatcherites. But as well as being a clear and decisive departure from Lady Thatcher’s legacy, the manifesto is also a barometer of how the Tories intend to manage Brexit. Here, we run through the pledges most likely to worry Brexiteers.
Theresa May wants to change the international legal definitions of asylum and refugee status, the Conservatives manifesto reveals. The Party’s manifesto pledges to reduce the number of asylum claims to the UK but “ensure Britain remains a place of sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers”. It argues the current system is “geared towards people who are young enough, fit enough, and have the resources to get to Britain, rather than those who are most in need of our help.” The manifesto claims the Government will offer asylum and refuge “to people in parts of the world affected by conflict and oppression, rather than to those who have made it to Britain.”
The Conservatives will have to find almost £40 billion from further tax rises or spending cuts after producing an uncosted manifesto committed to eliminating the budget deficit by 2025. Senior Conservatives were scrambling to play down the prospect of post-election tax rises after Theresa May scrapped a promise not to raise income tax or national insurance. Experts warned that a new Tory government was likely to raise national insurance for the self-employed and to remove deductions on income tax and corporation tax as well as potentially broadening the base of products that qualify for 20 per cent VAT. The manifesto has unnerved some on the Conservative right, but many are reluctant to speak out during an election campaign.
Theresa May has unveiled her social care revolution that will mean no-one has to sell their home before they die. But the plans will see thousands paying more for their care into old age in future. The Conservative manifesto guarantees everyone can protect up to £100,000 to pass on after their death – more than four times the current threshold. This does include for the first time the family home meaning in some cases property will have to be sold after death to cover charges. But Mrs May said the Tory plan was the ‘first ever’ to grasp the ‘great challenge’ of building a system that works in an ageing population and gives people dignity in their old age. The manifesto set out a three point plan for the care system – making means tests the same for domiciliary care as for residential care, setting a capital ‘floor’ of £100,000 and ensuring people who need care at home can defer bills until after death.
The NHS is among one of the worst health care systems in Europe due to poor cancer investment, a major study has found. Britain has been ranked 30th in a global list of countries assessed for health care quality and access lagging behind many of its European neighbours. Experts have blamed the low score on its lack of investment in specialist cancer care. Researchers who analysed death-rate data from 195 nations judged the UK to be on a par with the Czech Republic and Portugal. But Britain was beaten by Finland, Sweden, Spain (all 90) and Italy (89), all of which have similar health systems to the NHS, said researchers.
Theresa May has been accused of failing to tackle the growing crisis in the NHS and social care, with a “smoke and mirrors” manifesto that has left future funding in doubt. Experts and campaign groups turned their fire on the Prime Minister as her promise to “get to grips with the great challenges of our time” if she returns to Downing Street drew scorn. A flagship pledge to confront the social-care time bomb was attacked by the author of a previous review of policy for the Conservatives, who said older people would be “helpless” to plan their futures.