EU

Express
ANGELA Merkel has suggested countries should be willing to give up control over their own affairs and let organisations such as the European Union have more power in a veiled swipe at Brexit, as the German Chancellor threatens to derail Britain’s exit from the bloc. Speaking at an event organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin today, the outgoing leader of the Christian Democratic Union argued that countries should be prepared to make concessions in an “orderly procedure”. She said parliaments should make the decision to sign such contracts, reports German news channel Welt.

Express
ITALIAN coalition leaders have presented a united front as they prepare for a weekend showdown with the European Union over the country’s contested draft budget. The European Union has demanded Italy revise its budget debt forecasts to a smaller percentage of GDP growth in line with the bloc’s rules and threatened Italy with billions of euros worth of fines if they fail to fall into line. However Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has called the budget “solid” and vowed not to move on his plan of reforms when he meets EU officials in Brussels on Saturday.

Breitbart
The European Commission has shown the enormous power it holds over member states, rejecting the Italian government’s budget and opening up the possibility of intervention and sanctions. The Commission officially rejected the budget, which they had previously demanded the Italians change on Wednesday, passing the case over to the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) which will vote on whether or not to begin the process that could lead to heavy fines and potential sanctions, Il Giornale reports.

Brexit

Times
Theresa May warned MPs that the public wanted Brexit “settled” as she faced bitter opposition from her own party to her EU exit deal yesterday. The prime minister presented the draft agreement on a future relationship with Europe to a largely hostile Commons after closing a 17-month negotiation earlier than expected. Claiming that her deal delivered the referendum result while protecting jobs and security, she told opponents that she had the backing of a public weary of division and desperate to return to domestic issues.

Telegraph
Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been rejected by a string of senior Tory MPs in the Commons as it emerged that half of her backbenchers could vote against it. The Prime Minister was told by MPs, including Boris Johnson, to “junk” her backstop plan for keeping the Irish border open, which he said “makes a nonsense of Brexit”. The Prime Minister attempted to rally Tory MPs after signing off a 26-page future relationship with the EU that commits both sides to an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership”.

Guardian
Theresa May is fighting on two fronts to save her Brexit negotiating strategy, with her own backbenchers lining up to describe it as unacceptable and European leaders warning that there could be no question of further concessions to the UK. The embattled prime minister heard repeated calls to renegotiate her Brexit deal from rebel Tories during a heated Commons debate, after it emerged that the second half of the Brexit deal, the political declaration, had been finalised. Iain Duncan Smith, Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab led the demands for a rethink as May faced MPs in a two-and-half-hour session on Thursday, in which the prime minister insisted that a final Brexit deal “is now within our grasp”.

Sun
THERESA May’s Brexit deal was branded a “sell-out” yesterday — after it emerged Britain may have to pay billions of pounds more to Brussels. She outlined the rough terms of a future trade deal in a 26-page political declaration — but also revealed that a post-Brexit transition deal could be extended until December 2022. That is two years longer than originally suggested and would cost Britain an estimated £800million for every month — on top of the £39billion divorce bill we must already pay to leave the EU.

Mail
Theresa May appealed over the heads of her rebellious MPs yesterday as she urged business and the public to back her Brexit deal. In another defiant message outside Downing Street the PM announced she had secured agreement with the EU on the second half of her Brexit deal, as she set out plans for the UK’s future relationship with Brussels.  But Mrs May faces an uphill battle to sell it to her own party, with 88 Tory MPs – about half of her backbench – publicly committed to rejecting it when it comes before Parliament next month. 

Fisheries

Telegraph
Brussels has warned Britain that Brexit will stop its people eating fish and chips unless the UK caves to EU demands to fish its waters. Theresa May on Thursday told Mps she had “firmly rejected” a demand for access to fisheries in return for a UK-EU trade deal. Minutes later, Sabine Weyand, the European Union’s deputy Brexit negotiator, tweeted that a fisheries agreement was “in the best interests of both sides” and shared research that showed Britain needs EU imports of cod and haddock to keep eating fish and chips.

Mail
Furious Scottish Tories accused Theresa May of selling out Britain’s fishermen today claiming her new Brexit pact paved the way for EU states to be given rights to trawl in UK waters. The Prime Minister has repeatedly vowed to take the UK out of the hated Commons Fisheries Policy and reclaim its rights as an independent coastal state. But the Brexit political declaration commits the UK to thrash out a new fishing agreement that is set to include access to waters and quotas. 

Conservative Party

Times
Theresa May faced bruising clashes in the Commons yesterday with some of the growing number of Tory backbenchers who publicly oppose her Brexit deal. About 25 Conservatives confronted the prime minister over aspects of the draft deal that they dislike. They were among 88 of the party’s 147 backbenchers — more than half — who have raised objections. Of those, 56 are Brexiteers who have signed the pledges on the “Stand up 4 Brexit” campaign website, and eight support remaining in the EU and want a second referendum.

Mirror
Theresa May’s new Brexit deal faces defeat after leading Tory MPs lined up to reject it. Britain’s EU departure was plunged into chaos again today – despite Mrs May a new 26-page ‘declaration’ on future trade with Brussels. Mrs May had hoped the new pact, her rabbit out of a hat, would persuade Tory Brexit-backers to swing behind her deal. Even tonight No10 insisted there was “strong support” for the deal from the Cabinet and Mrs May would win a Commons vote.

Huffington Post
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister presented to Parliament the outcome of eighteen months negotiation with the European Union. Unsurprisingly, she received a dusty reception in the House of Commons. The proposed withdrawal agreement is frankly a capitulation. The British people voted overwhelmingly in the 2016 Referendum to take back control over borders, laws and money. It does not deliver on these demands. The proposed Withdrawal Agreement means the UK will not really be leaving in March.

Mail
Theresa May faced a brutal assault from Brexiteers today as she declared she had ‘honoured the referendum’ by sealing a deal with Brussels. During furious Commons clashes, the Prime Minister hailed the outcome after negotiators reached agreement on the final element of the package – covering future trade after a transition period ends in December 2020. ‘This is a good deal for our country, for our partners in the EU,’ she told MPs. ‘It ends free movement once and for all.’ She said a new immigration system would give people access based on ‘what they can contribute to the UK’, there would be no more ‘sending vast sums of money to the EU’, and the jurisdiction of the European court will end.

Gibraltar

Times
A senior Spanish diplomat shouted at his German counterpart as tensions over Brexit talks between European Union countries reached snapping point this week. Pablo García-Berdoy, the Spanish permanent representative to the EU, compared British sovereignty over Gibraltar to the Soviet Union’s creation of East Germany, according to diplomatic accounts. Yesterday Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish prime minister, further entrenched his country’s position when he said that having spoken to Theresa May, he would “veto Brexit” unless there were changes to the deal.

Sky News
Spain’s prime minister has threatened to scupper Theresa May’s Brexit deal – with a warning that “our positions remain far away” on the issue of Gibraltar. Pedro Sanchez spoke to his British counterpart on Wednesday night, and Mrs May subsequently said she was “confident that we’ll be able to agree a deal that delivers for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar”. But in a late-night tweet on Thursday, Mr Sanchez appeared to disagree, writing: “After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away.

Westmonster
Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, has tonight lashed out and threatened to “veto Brexit”. He has reportedly been annoyed about Brexit and the arrangement for the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, but seems to have totally lost the plot. Writing on Twitter, Sanchez said:” After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away. My Government will always defend the interests of Spain. “If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit.” Except Spain can’t veto the agreement alone and the UK will be leaving with or without a deal anyway. See ya!

Mail
A top Spanish bureaucrat compared British sovereignty over Gibraltar to the Soviet Union’s control of East Germany during angry exchanges over Brexit, it was reported this morning. Pablo Garcia-Berdoy ‘shouted’ at his German counterpart as permanent representative to the EU, Michael Clauss, as Mr Clauss urged Madrid not to derail Brexit over Gibraltar. Last night tensions over The Rock rose as Spain’s Prime Minister vowed to ‘veto’ Brexit unless the UK made concessions before a summit of Eu leaders on Sunday. 

Express
SPAIN has vowed to block Britain’s Brexit deal unless Theresa May agrees to Madrid’s demands over Gibraltar. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned he would vote against the draft withdrawal agreement unless urgent changes are made before a special summit this weekend. Leaders from the EU27 were expected to sign off on Mrs May’s deal at the emergency meeting on Sunday. But Mr Sanchez reiterated this evening that he would not support the divorce terms unless his demands over the future of the Rock are met.

BBC News
EU officials are meeting to finalise the Brexit deal and address last-minute demands from Spain for a say on future decisions about Gibraltar. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has repeated his opposition to the deal, which is expected to be signed off by member states on Sunday. No single member state has the power to veto the deal but Brussels wants unanimous approval. Prime Minister Theresa May has said a deal is “within our grasp”. The prime minister will take calls on the BBC News Channel and BBC Radio 5 live later, in a special programme presented by Emma Barnett. People can text questions to 85058 or use the hashtag #BBCAskThis ahead of the programme’s live broadcast between 12:30 and 13:00 GMT.

Guardian
The UK has been accused by Spain of “treachery” and acting “under the cover of darkness” in an escalation of a war of words over the future of Gibraltar that risks derailing Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Marco Aguiriano, Spain’s secretary of state for the EU, said on Thursday that his government could “stop the clock” on the negotiations and force May and the other EU leaders to come back in December unless it gets its way in the next 48 hours. Madrid has insisted from the start of the Brexit negotiations that it would not tolerate the Rock, a disputed territory, benefiting from agreements made in the talks without Spain’s consent.

Immigration

Times
Migrants are rushing to reach Britain in small boats amid claims by people-traffickers that the crossing will become more difficult after Brexit. Although the claims are almost certainly groundless, they have led to a surge in attempts to cross the Channel in recent weeks, according to Pascal Marconville, the state prosecutor in Boulogne-sur-Mer near Calais. Yesterday 25 migrants were stopped in three small dinghies trying to cross the Channel overnight. Two of the boats, each carrying seven migrants who said they were Iranian, were intercepted by UK authorities off the Kent coast and one boat of 11 was picked up by the French near Calais.

Breitbart
A recently closed legal migrant route encouraging “high skilled” individuals to come to the UK was “heavily abused” with huge numbers using it potentially lying about their incomes, a review by the Homes Office has found. Many migrants said their earnings were higher to immigration authorities than to tax authorities, with the highest recorded difference £154,159 and the average £27,600, across all cases looked at. The government has used a “paragraph 322(5)” clause to block applications from those found cheating, prompting six protests backed by Labour and SNP MPs, who linked it to the government’s “hostile environment” policy.

Smart meters

Telegraph
The government’s smart meter roll out is in chaos and could end up costing every British household £100 more than first expected, spending watchdogs have said. 
Multiple failings including delays and technical problems are threatening to add nearly £3bn, or around a quarter, to the cost of the project, according to a National Audit Office study published today.  Originally Ministers had said the total cost would be £11bn, or £374 per household, paid for by consumers through higher energy bills.

ITV News
The Government’s target of installing smart meters in every home by 2020 will not be met and the cost of the rollout is likely to “escalate” beyond expectations, the spending watchdog has warned. The National Audit Office (NAO) said the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) latest 2016 estimate that the programme will cost £11 billion – the equivalent of £374 per dual fuel household – “under-estimates the true cost of rolling out smart meters”, which had since increased by at least half a billion pounds or the equivalent of an extra £17 per household.

Mail
Plans to fit smart meters in every home by 2020 are doomed to fail – but will still cost families at least £500million more than expected, a report reveals today. The rollout is running over budget and behind schedule, and the devices may not deliver promised energy bill savings, the spending watchdog said. The National Audit Office (NAO) accused ministers of rushing the plan. Smart meters show customers the cost of their energy in real time and allow suppliers to collect readings remotely, putting an end to estimated bills.

NHS

Sun
MILLIONS of patients will access cutting-edge treatments up to six months earlier under an innovative new medicines deal. Matt Hancock said it will also help cut £930 million a year from the NHS drugs bill. The Health Secretary hailed the new deal with pharma industry as “good for patients”. Under the agreement, there will be a cap on how much drug firms get paid by the NHS for branded treatments – with any additional spending refunded. In exchange, officials have promised to fast-track new medicines and carry out more early appraisals than ever before.

ITV News
The NHS will save almost £1 billion on medicines next year under a new scheme fast-tracking “cutting-edge and best value medicines” through the approval process, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has announced. The deal, which is being finalised with the pharmaceutical industry, will mean patients could have access to new medicines up to six months earlier. The new Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access will also lead to a more flexible and streamlined commercial process, which Mr Hancock said will make UK more attractive to investors.

Express
A BREXIT cash boost will help fund health care reforms that keep more patients out of hospital by treating them in their own homes, Theresa May has announced. Round-the-clock rapid response squads will be set up across the country and extra support for care home residents is being put in place. The £3.5 billion a year plan will cut needless admissions and mean more patients that do need to be treated on a ward are home sooner. Around a third of hospital patients stay in longer than they need to but it can have a devastating impact on older people, with just a ten day stay causing the equivalent of a decade in muscle ageing.

Education

BBC News
Less than half of the tuition fee paid by students in England can be spent on the cost of teaching, says research from a university think tank. The Higher Education Policy Institute says the rest is spent on buildings, IT and libraries, administration, or welfare such as mental health support. It comes as a review is scrutinising the cost of student fees and loans. A separate public spending watchdog report warns that the sale of student loans is providing poor value. The Public Accounts Committee says that student loans with a face value of £3.5bn were sold last year to private investors for £1.7bn – with MPs unconvinced this was a good deal for taxpayers.

Mental heath

Times
Hundreds of thousands of toddlers have mental health problems, with one in 18 suffering a disorder, a study suggests. The rate rose to one in ten as children went through primary school and one in seven during secondary education. By late teens the figure was one in six.
The research, published by NHS Digital, is the first survey into children’s mental health in England since 2004 and includes two to four-year-olds for the first time. The most common types of problem were behavioural, evident in 2.5 per cent of pre-schoolers, mostly consisting of “oppositional defiant disorder”. These children were often aggressive.

Inheritance tax

Times
As many as 250,000 people a year could avoid the distress of dealing with a confusing mass of paperwork when a loved one dies if the government introduces a simple, streamlined, digital system for inheritance tax — similar to that for renewing road tax. The tax office also needs to start acknowledging receipt of information and the money it receives, according to the first review of inheritance tax, commissioned by the chancellor in January. Philip Hammond described the tax as “particularly complex”. The review by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) shows that confusion over the system and trying to cope with a mass of paperwork and tax bills, which can involve up to 20 forms, caused many bereaved people stress.

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