EU

Express
TENSIONS are running high in Brussels as EU leaders gather for a specially-convened budget summit in a bid to thrash out the bloc’s finances for the next seven years. Emmanuel Macron has been loudly calling for member states to the pour more cash into the coffers although has kept France’s planned contribution close to his chest. Wealthier EU nations are urging prudence amid fears they will be leaned upon to fill a £63bn shortfall caused by Britain’s departure from the bloc and want their contributions capped at 1 percent of gross national income (GNI).  Mr Macron also wants to see EU rebates scrapped in a post-Brexit shake-up while fellow net-contributors are keen to keep hold of the complex mechanism of cash transfers to and from Brussels. Rebates will pose one of the biggest political hurdles faced by European Council boss Charles Michel as he tried to find support for his “miracle budget”.

BBC News
EU leaders are meeting in Brussels this week to discuss the bloc’s future budget plans. These negotiations are always challenging, tending to pit net payers against net beneficiaries. There are proposals from the European Commission and the Parliament that some countries think involve spending too much. This time, the talks are further complicated by the departure of the UK, which was a large net contributor. The talks are about the EU’s long term budget or financial framework. It will set out the total spending level and the amount to be spent on particular areas over the next seven years.

Telegraph
Brexit cannot be used as an excuse to cut the EU’s trillion euro budget or limit the European Project, Emmanuel Macron warned his fellow leaders at an acrimonious summit in Brussels on Thursday night. Heads of state and government are bitterly divided over how to compensate for the loss of the €75 billion (£63 bn) Britain would have paid over seven years from 2021 if the UK was still a member state. “It is unacceptable to think that because the UK is no longer part of the EU, we need to give up on our ambitions,” Mr Macron said as he arrived at the first summit since the UK left the bloc on January 31.

Express
ANGELA MERKEL and the EU are under mounting pressure after the post-Brexit budget sparked panic throughout the bloc with the German Chancellor admitting Brussels faces “tough and difficult times”. The German chancellor cried of “very tough and difficult negotiations” on the new seven-year plan. She’s desperate that the EU needs a quick agreement to ensure that funding can start in 2021. But she worries if it’ll be easy. “I do not yet know whether this will be successful,” she said. “Because we feel that our concerns have not yet been sufficiently taken into account in many places.”

Guido
The EU’s attempt to row back from offering a Canada Style FTA backfired last night as senior academics slammed a new “horribly misleading” and “indefensible” graph from the Commission. The EU tried arguing the UK could not have a normal FTA because it does too much trade with the EU. As a result, they’re demanding we accept a subservient rule-taking relationship… Unfortunately for the EU, the graphic they used to make their point massively distorts the data – showing artificially small bubbles representing the amount of EU trade with countries that are further afield.

Express
ANGELA MERKEL took a thinly veiled swipe at French President Emmanuel Macron as the German Chancellor said her country isn’t happy with the current EU budget negotiations at an emergency summit in Brussels on Thursday. Angela Merkel  insisted Germany hopes to find a solution despite not knowing whether the next EU budget will work. European Council summits on the bloc’s long-term financial arrangements are often acrimonious. But the gaping hole left by Brexit puts this year’s budget clash on a path to be even more brutal. In a sign of tensions among European leaders, the German Chancellor argued Germany puts in more money into the budget than it gets back.

Ireland

Mail
Irish leader Leo Varadkar resigned tonight after suffering a crushing defeat in a parliamentary vote. No clear successor emerged from political wrangling today designed to decide who will lead the country following a near three-way tie in a general election two weeks ago. Varadkar lost a vote to remain taoiseach today, and told parliament he would resign as a result.  The Fine Gael party boss added he would stay on as caretaker leader after he tended his resignation to Irish President Michael Higgins.

Sun
IRISH leader Leo Varadkar has resigned following a crushing defeat in the country’s recent general election. Varadkar, who has been Taoiseach since 2017, has said he will stay on as a caretaker role until a new leader is elected. It comes after no single party secured an outright majority in a general election earlier this month, with Mr Varadkar’s Fine Gael party coming third behind Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein. Talks are currently under way to try to form a coalition government, but the two main parties are refusing to govern with Sinn Fein, which saw a surprising surge of support at the ballot box.

Bercow

Express
JOHN BERCOW will get a peerage in time as Conservative MP Greg Smith said it “would be right” for the former Speaker of the House of Commons to go to the House of Lords. John Bercow  was nominated for the peerage by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after not receiving one from Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But the ex-Speaker of the House of Commons peerage has been put on hold after former Clerk of the House, Lord Lisvane, made a formal complaint of bullying against him. Conservative Greg Smith MP believes this won’t stop Mr Bercow from getting a peerage. Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Smith said: “It’s convention that outgoing Speakers of the House of Commons get a peerage. “John Bercow broke a few conventions himself.

Child grooming

Sun
AN Asian grooming gang victim has told a court how she was raped by 300 men before turning 15 and was often attacked by around 10 men at a time. The girl, who is now an adult, was plied with drink and drugs before being driven around for sex with older men across the north of England. She was a victim of a seven-strong gang from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, found guilty of raping two girls from the age of 13 and 14 in a campaign of abuse lasting more than 10 years from 1995. Leeds Crown Court heard how the young teenager was raped on ‘grubby mattresses’, in parked cars and in local parks. Giving evidence from behind a screen, she said the seven defendants were the only men she could identify out of around 300 she’d been forced to have sex with as a teenager.

Antibiotics

Mail
Scientists have discovered a new antibiotic that can kill even the toughest superbugs that have become resistant to all other known drugs, a new study reveals.  Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers ran about 6,000 molecules through their artificial intelligence program, searching for those that could kill E. coli.  Of all those, the AI picked out exactly one that appeared most effective against the bacteria and didn’t structurally resemble any of the 1,700 FDA-approved compounds included in their library.  When the MIT team tested the newly-identified compound in the lab, its potency was remarkable. The drug killed dozens of types of bacteria, including strains that have proven resistant to all known antibiotics.

Social care

Times
Social care workers from the EU could be allowed to enter Britain on short-term visas from 2022 amid concerns that a points-based immigration system could lead to significant staff shortages. The system will kick in at the end of the transition period in December after the government announced the end of low-skilled migration. Business leaders have criticised the proposals. They warned that they would lead to shortages in the social care and agricultural sectors and would be “disastrous” for the hospitality industry. However, ministers have drawn up plans for “phase 2” of the migration system a year after it is introduced in case there are significant issues in any affected sector.

Flooding

Times
Parts of Britain were battered by a month’s worth of rain yesterday and it was revealed that Storm Dennis had claimed its sixth victim. Nine rivers have reached record levels this week and the country has already suffered 144 per cent of its normal rainfall for February, with more downpours forecast. Yesterday the Environment Agency warned that further flooding was likely for communities along the River Severn and that there could be significant flooding in northern England as heavy rain continued. More than 250 flood alerts were in place across England and Wales last night, including six “danger to life” warnings in Shropshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

Climate change

Telegraph
Domestic coal and certain types of wood are to be banned from sale from next year in a bid to cut air pollution, ministers will announce on Friday. The Environment Secretary said the move was necessary as wood-burning stoves and open fires were now considered “the most harmful pollutant” affecting people in this country. The announcement comes just weeks after a ban on the sale of new diesel, petrol and hybrid cars from 2035 was announced. It is also expected that the 10-year freeze on fuel duty will end next year under plans that could be set out as soon as next month’s budget.

Sun
SALES of the most polluting fuels burnt in stoves and open fires will be phased out from next year, the Government says. Plans to stop house coal and wet wood have been confirmed to tackle pollutants known as PM2.5. Wood-burning stoves and coal fires contribute three times as much pollution as road transport, the Environment Department said. Sales of wet wood and house coal will be phased out from 2021 to 2023 in order to give householders and suppliers time to move to cleaner alternatives.

Times
The sale of bags of coal and wet wood for domestic fires will be banned in England from February next year under plans to remove a huge source of air pollution. Ministers will announce today that the most polluting fuels will be phased out completely by 2023 in a victory for The Times’s Clean Air for All campaign. Wood-burning stoves and coal fires are the single largest source of fine particles, which are the most dangerous form of air pollution because their microscopic size allows them to penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream.

Mail
Homeowners will be stopped from buying coal and wet wood logs from next year as part of a Government clampdown on toxic air pollution. An estimated 2.5million homes in the UK have hearths with open fires or woodburning stoves. But from 2021, traditional coal and wet wood, used by thousands across Britain, will be phased out amid concerns that tiny pollutant particles emitted when they burn can lead to serious health conditions.  The move could force scores of households to switch to more expensive alternatives – with critics last night warning that some would be left unable to heat their homes.

Covid-19

Mail
A British honeymooner who caught coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship has blamed crew for spreading the disease to more than 600 people on board. Alan Steele, 58, described the quarantine process as a ‘joke’ and said the problem was exacerbated by staff ignoring infection control measures.  At least 634 out of 3,700 passengers and crew have tested positive for the virus since the vessel was moored in Yokohama Bay, near Tokyo, and put on lockdown on February 5.  Lorry driver Mr Steele, from Wolverhampton, said Japanese medical staff who came on board to help control the outbreak were also to blame.

Sun
CHINESE officials have been rounding up beloved pets family by family and executing them to stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to animal activists. The World Health Organization has said there is no evidence to suggest the virus is being transmitted to pets. Fears over pets spreading the virus circulated last month after a Chinese health expert claimed animals needed to be quarantined. Community officers the southwestern Sichuan Province in China reportedly knocked on doors and ordered residents to give up their pets before slaughtering them. Distressing video shared by Nanchong Missing Animal Aid Group shows a number of bloodied dogs, believed to be dead, lying in the back of the truck.

Mail
Scientists at Greffex, a Houston, Texas-based genetic engineering company, claim they’ve created a coronavirus  vaccine.  The company told the Houston Business Journal that it had completed development of the vaccine and it is ready for animal testing and review by US regulators.  It comes after UK scientists announced they’d begun testing their shot, and researchers at the University of Texas at Austin announced they’d made compound they believe can serve as a vaccine.  Countless scientists around the world are racing to the do the same, though they’re taking many different approaches.

Huawei

Mail
Senior Tory MPs have demanded ministers act on ‘deadly serious’ warnings from the US that the involvement of Huawei in the construction of the UK’s 5G network will put intelligence sharing at risk.  Owen Paterson, the former Cabinet minister, said the government’s attitude to the Chinese tech giant was ‘incomprehensible’ given White House opposition to using the firm. Mr Paterson is one of many Conservative MPs who are urging Downing Street to reverse its backing for Huawei and his intervention came after Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff had crunch talks on the issue in Number 10 today.

Fuel duty

Mail
The new Chancellor is being pressed not to put up fuel duty in next month’s Budget. Rishi Sunak is said to be considering cancelling the freeze in the levy, which has been in place since 2010. But Tory MPs plan to write to him calling for it to stay the same or be cut – highlighting Boris Johnson‘s election pledge that he had no intention of raising it. The increase is said to be being explored by the Prime Minister’s powerful chief aide Dominic Cummings, who wants to raise £4billion to fund infrastructure improvements. The cost of a litre of petrol and diesel would go up by 2p if there is a rise along with inflation.

Guardian
A group of Tory MPs is planning to warn the Treasury against a mooted rise in fuel duty at the budget, amid wider alarm within the party that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are prepared to raise taxes on 11 March. Backbench MPs plan to write to the chancellor calling for a fuel duty cut or freeze and highlighting Johnson’s claims during the election campaign that he had “no intention” of raising fuel duty, which was repeatedly frozen  during George Osborne’s years as chancellor.

Council tax

Times
Council tax will rise by an above-inflation average of £70 for nine in ten large local authorities in April. The increase of 4 per cent, more than double the 1.8 per cent rate of inflation, will be made by 116 local authorities out of the 133 that have responsibility for social care, a survey by the County Councils Network (CCN) found. The average bill for a band D property will rise by £70 to £1,889. Bills for band D properties will cross the £2,000 threshold in Wealden and Lewes in East Sussex, Hartlepool, Newark and Sherwood in Nottinghamshire, Dorset, Nottingham and Rutland.

BBC News
Households in England face further council tax rises from April, according to research. The County Councils Network said the majority of councils that run social care services would be raising council tax by the full amount allowed – 3.99%. But it said councils faced a funding shortfall of £19bn over the next five years and it has called for more cash. The government said councils would have access to £49.2bn next year, including £1.5bn for social care. New Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out the Budget on 11 March.

Mail
Council tax is set to rise by £70 a year for nine in ten local authorities as some councils prepare to face a £19.1 billion funding gap by 2025. 116 local authorities out of the 133 that have responsibility for social care will raise the tax by four percent, which is more than double the current 1.8 per cent rate of inflation. According to a survey by the County Councils Network (CCN) the average bill for a band D property will go up to £1,889, a £70 increase. As many services across communities in the UK such as Sure Start children’s centres and waste collection are left under-resourced, the rise in tax may seem like a kick in the teeth for many residents who have seen the facilities available to them continuously deplete.

Windrush

Times
A report that concluded the Home Office was “institutionally racist” over its “hostile environment” policy towards migrants has been toned down, The Times has been told. The Windrush  review, commissioned in 2018 after Caribbean migrants were detained or deported despite having the right to live in Britain, was originally intended for publication at the end of March last year. The phrase “institutionally racist” was included in an early draft of the report but no longer appears in more recent versions, according to sources familiar with the review.

Independent
A warning not to water down a review into the Windrush scandal has been issued after it was reported a portion branding the Home Office “institutionally racist” was stripped out. The delayed independent review was commissioned after people with a right to live in the UK were wrongfully detained or deported to the Caribbean. The Times reported sources saying the phrase “institutionally racist” was included in an earlier draft of the Windrush review led by inspector of constabulary Wendy Williams, but had subsequently been removed.

Mail
A report which concluded that the Home Office was ‘institutionally racist’ over its ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy has been watered down, it was revealed last night. The review into the Government’s policy towards migrants has seen the claim edited out of the final draft. It was commissioned in 2018 after Caribbean migrants were detained or deported despite having the right to remain in Britain. The report was expected to be published at the end of March last year but has been subject to delay.

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