EU

Express
BRUSSELS was accused of attempting to “blackmail” Britain last night after warning of havoc for airlines, hauliers and the City of London if the UK quits the EU without a deal. Setting out contingency plans for the departure talks collapsing, EU chiefs said “major disruption” would occur on both sides of the Channel if the UK left the bloc without concluding a withdrawal agreement. Aircraft from UK-based airlines could be barred from landing at EU airports and lorries could be banned from driving on the Continent without special permits under the plans. European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said the measures were needed because of “continued uncertainty in the UK”. “This is an exercise in damage limitation,” he said. But Brexiteer MP Peter Bone said: “The EU knows that any disruption from no-deal will hurt them more than us. This is just a flavour of the blackmail we can expect in the future negotiations.”

Brexit

Reuters
The British government has removed the word “unlikely” from its official Brexit guidance telling companies and citizens how to prepare for a disorderly exit where the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. Theresa May’s government has issued a string of technical notices in recent months with advice on what needs to be done before the country leaves the world’s largest trading bloc on March 29. They cover everything from the movement of organs, blood and sperm to nuclear regulation and organic food. The notices had originally referred to the “unlikely” chance that Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

Times
The government has removed the claim that a no-deal Brexit is “unlikely” from dozens of contingency plans. Earlier this year the government released a series of technical notices to help different sectors plan for the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal. Many of the documents said it was “unlikely” that a no-deal Brexit would take place. That description has now been removed on the instructions of the Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu), the Politics Home website reported. The cabinet agreed on Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit should now be the “operational priority”.

Express
OFFICIAL guidance on how businesses and citizens can prepare for a no-deal Brexit has been amended to reflect that the outcome is no longer seen as “unlikely”. With just 99 days until Britain is due to leave the EU, the minor change to advice issued by Government departments is likely to be seen as a major indication in a shift in Whitehall’s approach. In a series of documents covering how to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, the word “unlikely” has now been removed, Theresa May’s spokesman said.

Sky News
The government is editing its own “no-deal” documents to remove the word “unlikely” in relation to Britain falling out of the EU without an agreement. Sky News understands the notices known as “technical papers” were quietly changed over the last 24 hours, as ministers activated full planning for the UK to leave the EU without a deal. One text on medicines used to read: “In the unlikely event of no deal, the UK would no longer be part of the European Medicines Agency.” The refreshed version now says: “In the event of no deal, the UK would no longer be part of the European Medicines Agency.”  Bigger changes have also been made.

Guardian
Senior Labour and Conservative MPs are to ramp up efforts to block any possibility of a no-deal Brexit ahead of the vote on Theresa May’s deal, with a plan to mandate the prime minister to extend or cancel article 50 if the prospect of crashing out looms. Efforts were kickstarted on Thursday by a cross-party group of prominent MPs led by Yvette Cooper, who tabled a new amendment to the finance bill that would only allow a no-deal exit if MPs voted to proceed with one. Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, said the risks to the UK’s economy and security were “far too high and it would be irresponsible to allow it to happen”. The MP said she believed there was no majority in parliament for a no-deal Brexit.

Guardian
The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has said the prime minister is highly unlikely to secure the meaningful changes to her Brexit deal that will be necessary for it to pass the House of Commons in January. Opening a three-hour debate on the government’s decision to ramp up no-deal planning, Starmer said that without such changes “the majority in this house are not likely to support the prime minister’s deal, whenever it is put”. Starmer accused the prime minister of pulling the vote in order to “run the clock down” and playing up the risks of no deal in the hope of convincing MPs to back her. “I really think it is the duty of the government and the PM to stand at the dispatch box and rule out no deal,” he said.

Ireland

Express
JACOB Rees-Mogg proposed a simple solution the Brexit impasse in Westminster as he pointed out there is no need for an Irish backstop if Ireland has no intention of imposing a hard border. Leo Varadkar revealed yesterday that his government has made “no preparations whatsoever” to build new infrastructure despite the looming prospect of a no-deal Brexit. After Ireland published details of its contingency planning for a hard exit, the Irish Taoiseach said: “We are not preparing for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. “We certainly do not want it to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” But leading Brexiteer Mr Rees-Mogg said that if Ireland had no intention of setting up customs checkpoints along the politically-sensitive frontier, there is no need for the contentious Irish backstop element of Theresa May’s deal.

Order-Order
Ireland have once again confirmed that they have no plans to erect a hard border on the island of Ireland even if there is no Brexit deal. The Irish Government published their contingency planning for no deal yesterday, with Foreign Minister Simon Coveney confirming that Ireland has no plans to build a hard border in the event of no deal. The backstop is spurious – there is not going to be a hard border whatever happens… What the Irish Government has been doing as part of its contingency plans – and what the UK has not to any significant degree – is buying up land around their ports in order to have the space to build new infrastructure should it be required. Change Britain’s Ross Thomson makes the point that the UK Government must start “acting responsibly” by making the “necessary preparations including at our ports”.

Conservative Party

Sky News
The deadline has been set for Theresa May to win over Tory MPs to back her Brexit deal. Debate on the agreement will kick off on Wednesday 9 January – parliament’s second day back after the Christmas break. It represents a significant marker in the countdown to Brexit, announced by House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom with just 99 days to go. Despite many backbenchers pushing the government to name a date for the final vote, she refused to. The original vote was scheduled for the start of December – but was pulled the day before by Mrs May because she feared a “significant” defeat. Sky News calculated 184 MPs were set to support it

Times
Theresa May empathised with Jacob Rees-Mogg over his negative press coverage during a “peace” meeting at No 10 on Tuesday, The Times has learnt. The prime minister invited Mr Rees-Mogg, leader of the hard-Brexit European Research Group (ERG), along with nine other Conservative MPs six days after a failed coup attempt. Mrs May called the meeting to try to heal party divisions over Brexit. “She appealed to us as long-standing Conservatives to come together and find a way through,” one of those present said. The source claimed that Mr Rees-Mogg said it was nice of the prime minister to invite him so soon after the vote of no confidence

Telegraph
Two of Theresa May’s most senior ministers have presented rival plans to her  Brexit deal as Amber Rudd became the first member of the Cabinet to voice support for a second referendum. Mrs May was struggling to maintain Cabinet discipline as Ms Rudd, one of the most staunch Europhiles in the Government, said there would be a “plausible argument” for a second referendum if Mrs May’s deal was rejected by Parliament. Meanwhile Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House, used a BBC interview to push her own agenda for a “managed no deal” exit from the EU.

Breitbart
Cabinet Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom has attacked suggestions by Cabinet Remainer Amber Rudd that there could be a “plausible argument” for a second referendum if the Withdrawal Agreement is voted down in Parliament. Speaking on ITV’s Peston Wednesday night, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd  said: “I have said I don’t want a ‘People’s Vote’, or a referendum in general, but if Parliament absolutely failed to reach a consensus, I could see there would be a plausible argument for it.” The suggestion is in direct opposition to Conservative Party and official Government policy, and flies in the face of Prime Minister Theresa May’s personal pledges that there will be no second referendum.

BBC News
Cabinet colleagues Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd have set out rival plans if Theresa May can’t get her Brexit deal through Parliament. The two ministers stressed that their top priority was securing Parliamentary backing for the prime minister’s deal. But Ms Rudd said a referendum was a “plausible” way forward if MPs were deadlocked. Mrs Leadsom said a new referendum would be “unacceptable” and argued instead for a “managed no deal”. Downing Street dismissed both suggestions. Asked if a second referendum was plausible if Parliament remains gridlocked, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “No.” Mrs May had “been very clear on the dangers of calling a second referendum.

Sun
THERESA May’s Cabinet failed to agree a Christmas truce today as they went to war again over a second Brexit referendum. Andrea Leadsom slapped down Amber Rudd this morning after she caused fury by saying a second referendum could break the Brexit deadlock. The Work and Pensions boss caused uproar after she became the first serving minister to suggest there was “an argument” for a People’s Vote on our EU exit again if MPs can’t decide. Ms Rudd told ITV’s Peston last night: “I don’t want a People’s Vote, or a referendum in general, but if Parliament absolutely failed to reach a consensus I could see there would be a plausible argument for it.”

Defence

Sun
A DEFENCE minister is urging Theresa May to up military spending by at least £8billion a year- or see Britain lose its place as a world power. Tobias Ellwood said France was on course to replace Britain as the European nation with the biggest military budget next year. And he revealed China’s navy is growing by the size of our navy each year. He wants the PM to up the military budget from 2 per cent of the UK’s economic output to between 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent. The current budget is £36billion – compared with America’s £470billion

Labour Party

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn lashed out at journalists asking him whether he branded the PM a ‘stupid woman’ today. A clearly furious Labour leader accused the media of being ‘utterly obsessed’, before posting a Twitter video with his face just inches from the camera in which he insists he called the Tory government ‘stupid people’. Asked on Thursday morning by a BBC reporter whether the language he used was ‘respectful’, he replied: ‘I muttered it to myself, actually, in Parliament and you and your colleagues in the media seem utterly obsessed with this. ‘The fact that a homeless man died outside Parliament has got no coverage whatsoever, and it should.’

Sun
ANGRY Jeremy Corbyn today accused the media of being “utterly obsessed” in a rant at a reporter who asked him about the furore over his “stupid woman” comments. The Labour Leader faced backlash after astonishingly insisting he had actually said “stupid people” in the Commons – despite lip-readers saying otherwise. Asked about the row on a visit to a homeless shelter today, he fumed: “I muttered it to myself, actually, in Parliament and you and your colleagues in the media seem utterly obsessed with this.” And he added: “The fact that a homeless man died outside Parliament has got no coverage whatsoever, and it should.” But he was mocked mercilessly after it was revealed that almost every national newspaper covered the story. The Sun, Daily Mail, The Times, Daily Express, Huffington Post, Daily Mirror, Guardian, i newspaper, Metro, The Independent and Evening Standard all wrote about the tragic tale.

Times
The Labour MP found guilty of lying to police to avoid a speeding charge has compared herself to Jesus and Moses in a defiant message to her colleagues. Fiona Onasanya, 35, was suspended and urged to quit the Commons by the Labour Party yesterday after her conviction for perverting the course of justice. The solicitor lied “persistently and deliberately” to police about who was driving her car in an attempt to avoid penalty points after it was recorded at 41mph in a 30mph zone near Thorney in her Peterborough constituency.

Mail
Fiona Onasanya compared herself to Jesus in an extraordinary message to Labour colleagues after she was found guilty of perverting the course of justice.   The 35-year-old MP said Christ was also ‘convicted by the courts of his day’, but went on to have his ‘greatest impact’ afterwards. A retrial at the Old Bailey yesterday found that Ms Onasanya lied to police to avoid a speeding charge.  With her political career in tatters, she has been formally suspended by the party and is now facing calls to resign as an MP.  But she has now posted a defiant message in a WhatsApp group with other Labour MPs, according to The Times. In it, she said she was found guilty ‘due to widespread media coverage’.

NHS

ITV News
Health experts warn the NHS is under “massive stress” as the festive season approaches, with bed occupancy in hospitals remaining at dangerous levels. NHS performance in key areas actually improved last week according to NHS England’s weekly data, with ambulance handover delays, bed occupancy and long stays all down week-on-week. But experts say the figures do not show the whole picture and said the NHS faced a “perfect storm” as the festive season approaches. A bed occupancy rate of 85% is recommended to maintain patient safety standards, but the percentage was far higher than that in the week ending December 16.

Gatwick

Telegraph
Environmental protestors were suspected of orchestrating a drone attack that shut down Gatwick airport amid questions over how they could wreak chaos for 24 hours. Security services along with the military were called in last night to help to capture the drone pilot who had tormented police armed with sniper rifles and airport authorities since 9pm on Wednesday night. The repeated appearance of the drone within Gatwick’s one-kilometre no-fly zone forced more than 760 flights to be grounded and the travel pans of 110,000 passengers five days before Christmas to be ruined.

Sun
CHAOS at Gatwick Airport has entered its third day today after an “eco-warrior” drone pilot taunted police and Army huntsmen by sending up his device AGAIN last night. Airport chiefs have told passengers to stay away “for the foreseeable future” – while cops said shooting down the rogue drone is now being considered as a “tactical option”. The saboteur has been playing cat-and-mouse with cops after shutting down Britain’s second busiest airport by flying at least one drone over the runway 50 times since Wednesday night. Police snipers and Army specialists are today continuing to try to bring down the device – while MI5 spooks were called in to track down the suspect.

Times
Passengers are facing up to three days of delays at Gatwick after “industrial”-sized drones brought it to a standstill. More than 350,000 people risk having their travel plans disrupted in the run-up to Christmas after all flights were grounded or diverted at Britain’s second-busiest airport on one of the busiest days of the year. The army was called in to Gatwick to help find the drones that have forced the closure of the runway since 9pm yesterday. Officers carrying sniper rifles were seen dotted around the airfield and more than 20 police units have been scouring the airport perimeter, but the drone’s operator has yet to be tracked down. Ministers were accused of being “too slow to act” over the threat posed by drones.

Mail
The is the first footage of the drone that has shut down Gatwick for the past 24 hours as the Army was called in to help shoot it down and the 110,000 people stranded on the ground warned the chaos could continue until Christmas Eve. Its rogue pilot is in a cat-and-mouse game with police and sent the unmanned small aircraft over the runway at 3pm, minutes after airport bosses announced they had hoped to re-open at 4pm.  The drone flights are ‘highly targeted’ and have ‘been designed to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run up to Christmas’, the airport’s chief executive officer, Stewart Wingate, said. Exclusive footage obtained by MailOnline shows the drone flying past Gatwick’s north terminal and over the runway before it dives away and lands to the east of the airport after being chased by a police helicopter.

Times
Passengers are facing days of chaos at Gatwick after a drone forced the closure of Britain’s second-biggest airport. The army was called in last night as the police appeared powerless to stop the drone. Sussex police said there had been 50 reports of a device being flown near the airfield since Wednesday. This morning the search for the operator or operators entered its third day. More than 115,000 passengers have already been affected and it is thought that as many as 350,000 could have their travel plans disrupted in the last days before Christmas after all flights were grounded or diverted.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email