Theresa May is battling to salvage her Brexit strategy and facing a fresh Tory revolt after being humiliated by European leaders yesterday. In an ambush that blindsided British officials, Donald Tusk, the European Council president, dismissed her Chequers proposals as unworkable after a private meeting of national leaders. President Macron of France warned the prime minister that she must come up with “new propositions” if she wanted to rescue a deal. The rejection at the Salzburg meeting triggered a crisis in government, with some cabinet ministers considering attempting to bounce Mrs May into abandoning Chequers within days.
European Union leaders have issued a humiliating put-down to Theresa May’s Brexit plans by declaring that her Chequers proposal will not work. The prime minister had hoped to secure warm words about her Brexit vision at the EU summit in Salzburg but was instead warned that she must find a solution for the Irish border issue within three weeks or risk a no-deal Brexit. Mrs May reacted with defiance, insisting in a tetchy press conference that her model of a UK-EU free-trade area was the only serious and credible proposal on the table. In the past few days France and Germany have offered stiff political resistance to a softening of tone.
Theresa May was left fighting to save her Chequers Brexit plan and with it her authority as prime minister after she was ambushed at the end of the Salzburg summit when EU leaders unexpectedly declared that her proposals would not work. The prime minister was thrown on to the defensive – just over a week before the Conservative party conference – when EU leaders led by Donald Tusk and Emmanuel Macron rejected her Chequers plan as it stood, prompting hard Brexit Conservatives to demand it be abandoned. May was also set an October deadline for a solution on the Irish border issue just hours after informing Leo Varadkar, the Irish taoiseach, in a private breakfast meeting that she felt it would be impossible to come to a compromise within such a timescale.
A visibly furious Theresa May rounded on EU leaders for hanging her our to dry yesterday as she battled to keep her Chequers Brexit plan alive in the face of fierce Tory criticism. At an extraordinary press conference in Salzburg, Mrs May said she still believed a deal was possible, and offered a fresh concession on Northern Ireland – but acknowledged there was ‘a lot of hard work to be done’. It came after Brussels issued a calculated snub to her Chequers plan, saying it was a non-starter. EU chief Donald Tusk said the other 27 leaders ‘all agreed’ that the complex plans at the heart of the Chequers deal ‘will not work’. It forced Mrs May to declare she was closer than ever to walking away without a deal.
EU Council President Donald Tusk has just told a press conference that Chequers “will not work.” By Guido’s count almost half of MPs in the Commons agree with him. Noes are up by 260 since last week… Over 47% of MPs have publicly indicated they will vote against the Chequers plan. May loyalist Sir Mike Penning announced today that he will vote against it, and over the weekend Keir Starmer announced Labour will vote against any deal based on Theresa May’s Chequers proposals. Labour’s moderates and Corbynistas have explicitly said they will not vote for Chequers. Guido so far only counts 132 MPs who have firmly expressed an intention to back Chequers.
EUROPEAN Union leaders will try to ‘camouflage’ their controversial Irish border plan so it appears more palatable to unionists, a top diplomat has revealed. Reaching agreement on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic – which will stay in the EU after Brexit – is proving to be one of the thorniest issues in negotiations. The EU’s so-called ‘backstop’ plan, which would involve the creation of a physical customs border on the Irish Sea, has been rejected by unionist politicians in the north and the UK Prime Minister. Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier indicated earlier this week that he would look at compromising on the topic.
Emmanuel Macron has branded the leaders of the campaign for Brexit “liars”, in an extraordinary attack at the close of the Salzburg summit. The Leave victory was “pushed by those who predicted easy solutions”, the French president said, adding: “Those people are liars. They left the next day so they didn’t have to manage it.” At the press conference, Mr Macron also made clear he would not accept a “blind deal” – which would leave the nature of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU to be decided after departure day. The stance is another blow to Theresa May, given that the EU’s rejection of her Chequers plan has increasingly left a “blind Brexit” as the only possible agreement.
Ahead of the informal summit in Salzburg, Swedish leader Stefan Löfven angrily insisted he will argue for mandatory asylum seeker quotas, reportedly showing “anger” at current EU Presidency chair Austria’s declaring the policy dead. “I will continue to pursue the issue of compelling countries to accept a quota of refugees coming to Europe because all countries have a responsibility to receive asylum seekers,” Sweden’s prime minister told Aftonbladet. Responding to the suggestion that this would be pointless, as the newspaper pointed out resistance to mandatory migrant quotas has been “growing rather than subsiding” — not only in Hungary but now across other countries in Europe — Löfven insisted that the arguments for forcing third world migrants on unwilling nations were as strong as ever.
THERESA May has fired a warning to European Union leaders that it is the Chequers deal or no deal – and said Britain is fully prepared to quit the bloc WITHOUT an agreement. Mrs May was speaking in Salzburg at the current EU summit where Donald Tusk and German leader Angela Merkel insisted the UK Prime Minister’s plans would fail as they undermine the single market. The summit which started yesterday September 19th and concludes today September 20th is an informal meeting of heads of EU states with the intention of discussing migration, immigration and security. Mrs May also said the EU must compromise so the two sides can reach a “successful conclusion”.
Cabinet minister Chris Grayling has said there will be no deal with the EU on Brexit if it does not soften its position on the Irish border. He said the UK would not abandon its Chequers plan, despite EU leaders rejecting it at their Salzburg summit. EU chief Donald Tusk said a key part of that plan “will not work” but Theresa May said it was the only credible way to avoid a hard Irish border. Mr Grayling told the BBC “tough language” was to be expected. He said he was still confident a deal could be done. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. Both sides are trying to reach a deal in time and want to avoid a hard border – meaning any physical infrastructure like cameras or guard posts – between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic but cannot agree on how.
A ROCK solid group of 40 pro-Brexit MPs will vote against Theresa May’s controversial Chequers plan for Brexit. The warning tonight by David Davis came in an interview with the Huffington Post where he also made it clear that Brexiteers on the Tory benches have no fear of a “no deal” with the EU and relying on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms dismissing Treasury doom mongering as “b******s”. Mr Davis earlier this year quit the cabinet because the Chequers proposals were drawn up by civil servants led by the controversial Olly Robins without his knowledge as Brexit Secretary.
THE Labour Party is making emergency plans so it can restrict the powers of the deputy leader Tom Watson if Jeremy Corbyn were to resign, it has been claimed. The proposed changes would restrict the acting leader’s rights as their actions would need to be approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC). This would put the NEC in charge of the Labour Party rather than the acting leader. The crackdown, revealed by Huffington Post, has been brought in as if Mr Corbyn were to resign, Mr Watson would become the acting leader until another leader was elected. The new contingency plans have sparked speculation that the Labour Party think that Mr Corbyn could be on the edge of resigning.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party will be at a disadvantage if it goes into the next general election being seen as extreme, according to a new study. The research suggested that parties seen as “fairly” and “very” left- or right-wing are less likely to be seen as competent – by 9 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. It means the same would apply to the Conservative Party if it moved to the right under the possible future leadership of Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg. The research, by Professor Rob Johns of the University of Essex and Ann-Kristin Kölln of Aarhus University, finds that the “competence penalty” is the same for extreme parties of the left and the right. By contrast, “centre left”, “centre” and “centre right” parties are all seen as equally competent.
Jeremy Corbyn has said he is “not ruling out” giving consent for a second referendum on Scottish independence if he were to become prime minister. The Labour leader said he would decide on the issue “at the time”, but insisted that another vote on independence is not a good idea. Mr Corbyn made the comments in an interview with BBC Scotland ahead of his party’s conference, which gets under way in Liverpool this weekend. Scottish Conservatives have described the remarks as a “gaffe”, while the Liberal Democrats branded Mr Corbyn’s stance “extraordinary”. The Scottish National Party said it would be a “democratic outrage” for any prime minister to block giving Scots a choice over their future.
Pledging to give the British people a final say on Brexit would see a surge in Labour support that would carry it to the brink of government, according to two separate new polls. One by YouGov found promising a People’s Vote referendum would mean Jeremy Corbyn’s party takes an additional 1.5 million votes, potentially gaining dozens of commons seats. A second unconnected study by ICM of specific constituencies indicated such a pledge would see Labour win enough votes to hold and make gains in marginal constituencies – even in those that backed leaving the EU.
A referendum on the Brexit deal would take at least six months to organise legally, making it very difficult to have a second vote before the UK is scheduled to exit the EU on 29 March next year, constitutional experts have said. As EU leaders including the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, called on Theresa May to change firm government policy and put a vote to the people, academics said there was not enough time if article 50 is enacted as scheduled. There are indications that a delay to the enactment of article 50 could be acceptable to the EU, but without this agreement time stands in the way of a second referendum, experts believe.
UKIP would scrap the prosecution of hate crime and repeal anti-discrimination legislation if they gained power, the party will announce today. New leader Gerard Batten will unveil the policy as part of a string in UKIP’s ‘interim manifesto’ at today’s 25th annual conference in Birmingham. But many more traditional party members will be uncomfortable with the extreme, populist direction in which Batten is taking the party. He drew fire last month for backing a plan to allow EDL founder Tommy Robinson to join the party, and for welcoming right-wing bloggers and their followers with open arms.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has denounced Russia’s ‘act of aggression’ after RAF planes were forced to intercept the Kremlin’s bombers, who were approaching UK airspace today. RAF planes and French military aircraft scrambled to the North Sea today amid reports Russian planes were heading unannounced towards the UK. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘Russian bombers probing UK airspace is another reminder of the very serious military challenge that Russia poses us today. ‘We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression. ‘Once again the rapid reactions of our RAF have demonstrated how vital our Armed Forces are in protecting Britain.’ Handout photographs show the RAF Typhoon fighter going out to intercept two Russian Long Range Blackjack bombers and escort them from British airspace.
BRITISH Typhoons were this afternoon scrambled to intercept Russian bombers over the North Sea. The two Blackjack jets, capable of carrying nukes, were escorted by RAF planes launched from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, after the Russians refused to respond to air traffic control. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson vowed to protect Britian in the face of the “very serious” military threat posed by Russia. He said: “We will not hesitate to continually defend out skies from acts of aggression.” The news of Russian planes near the British coast is the latest example of aggression by Vladimir Putin’s administration.
BRITISH and French warplanes have been scrambled to intercept Russian bombers over the North Sea. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed the military jets had been dispatched to monitor the Blackjack bombers. The Russian aircraft were passing through a UK “area of interest” over the North Sea but were escorted away from the area by RAF fighters. Flight radar information shows the Russian aircraft took off from airbases south-east of Moscow before heading north around Finland and Sweden. At least one British fighter and a refuelling tanker were deployed shortly before 3pm.
An offensive cyber-force to combat hostile states, terrorist groups and domestic gangs will be set up by the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ, The Times understands. The £250 million unit will comprise about 2,000 digital warriors, with experts recruited from the military, security services and industry. It will quadruple the number of personnel in offensive cyber-roles and marks a step change in the nation’s ability to disrupt and destroy computer networks and internet-connected devices. The creation of the force comes as the threat from Russia is escalating and follows successful UK cyber-attacks against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Recruits will also target criminal gangs, including people-traffickers and paedophile rings.
Britain is significantly increasing its ability to wage war in cyberspace with the creation of a new offensive cyber force of up to 2,000 personnel, Sky News understands. The new force – expected to be announced soon – would represent a near four-fold increase in manpower focused on offensive cyber operations. Made up of GCHQ officials, military personnel and contractors, it looks set to receive more than £250m in funding, according to one source. A second source said that the figure would likely be higher. General Sir Richard Barrons, a former commander of Joint Forces Command, which is responsible for military cyber, said enhancing the UK’s ability to launch cyber attacks is paramount at a time when countries such as Russia are already on the offensive.
BRITS face waiting years for non-urgent NHS operations after bosses admitted they had given up trying to hit targets. Hospital chiefs claim a shortage of staff and money makes it impossible to meet goals for A&E, cancer care and routine surgery at the same time. They say they have been forced to prioritise A&E and cancer services in a bid to save lives and their own jobs. At least one trust is considering stopping non-urgent – or “elective” – procedures all together to makes ends meet. But it means more patients will have to wait longer than the 18 week target for the likes of hip and knee replacements. Many will be in crippling pain and unable to lead normal lives while they wait to be seen.
Patients could have to start booking appointments in A&E units, and those with only minor ailments wait many hours before they are seen, under a proposed shakeup of NHS targets. NHS England chiefs are examining whether to relax the longstanding obligation to see 95% of A&E patients within four hours. They are also under growing pressure from hospital bosses to ease another key NHS waiting time target – the duty to give patients non-urgent surgery within 18 weeks of being referred by their GP. NHS England is reviewing its major service-wide treatment targets and will include any changes in its forthcoming 10-year plan.
THE NHS is struggling to offer a 24/7 service as “snowflake” young medics refuse to work nights and weekends. Health bosses also warn job security, regular training and a good pension are not enough to attract recruits. A shortage of trainees means managers have to cave in to demands for flexible working and sky-high overtime rates or face losing them. The situation is so bad that it has caused a rift between younger staff and their more experienced colleagues, who are said to have a better work ethic.
The head of the prison service was asked to step aside amid concern over the growing crisis of drugs and violence. It is understood that Michael Spurr, chief executive of the Prison and Probation Service, was asked to stand down after discussion with Richard Heaton, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice. Earlier in the day a Whitehall spokeswoman told The Times that he “has not resigned and he has not been sacked”. Mr Spurr, who will leave his post in the spring after 35 years in the service and nearly nine years as leader, had faced pressure over soaring levels of violence in prisons.
THE boss of England’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is to step down as prisons across the country spiral into further chaos and violence. Michael Spurr was reportedly “asked to step down” by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) today as violence in prisons and incidents of self-harm continue to climb to unprecedented levels. His departure comes a month after Prisons Minister Rory Stewart admitted acute problems with drugs and violence in jails and said that he would himself resign if the situation was not improved within a year.