EU

Westmonster
The European Union have been caught out on the hated EU backstop trap. Oh dear. Things have begun to unravel, with the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier letting the cat out of the bag. He said that when it comes to the Irish border if there’s a No Deal: “We will have to find an operational way of carrying out checks and controls without putting in place a border.” The Irish government have made clear themselves that: “We will not accept a hard border on this island and therefore we are not planning for one.” In comments elsewhere Barnier also said: “My team have worked hard to study how controls can be made paperless or decentralised.” The Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent has since followed up these comments and put them directly to the European Commission’s Chief Spokesman Margaritis Schinas.

Telegraph
Brussels has spent years scoffing at Brexiteers’ solutions to the Irish border, dismissing their ideas as nothing more than “unicorn hunting” or “magical thinking”. But recently it has been the European Commission’s turn to wriggle on the hook of the divisive Irish border backstop, which it has now publicly undermined. No less an august person than Michel Barnier himself was reduced to hunting for “EUnicorns”, as he appeared to back the very solutions advanced by Brexiteers for the Irish border if there is a no deal Brexit.

Westmonster
MEPs in the European Parliament have threatened to veto any EU deal with the UK. This is important as the Euro Parliament will eventually have to vote on any Withdrawal Agreement under Article 50. The European Parliament’s ‘Brexit Steering Group’, which is chaired by the fanatically pro-EU Guy Verhofstadt, today issued a statement reading: “The BSG insists that, without such an ‘all-weather’ backstop-insurance, the European Parliament will not give its consent to the Withdrawal Agreement.” They also say that “the Withdrawal Agreement is fair and cannot be re-negotiated”. Brexiteers rightly disagree, Theresa May’s defeated deal was a £39 billion trap.

Sky News
The UK will leave the European Union without a deal unless it makes positive proposals”, the bloc’s chief negotiator has warned. Michel Barnier said the withdrawal agreement between the government and the EU was the best one available given Prime Minister Theresa May’s “famous red lines”. They include an end to freedom of movement and to membership of the single market – the European trade bloc which guarantees the free movement of goods, capital, services and labour. According to Reuters, Mr Barnier told German radio station DLF that if no “positive proposals” are made by Britain “it will be [a] no-deal Brexit”.

Telegraph
Emmanuel Macron said the promises of Brexit “can’t be delivered” on Thursday night, claiming the referendum to leave the EU had “torn society apart”. In his latest intervention in Britain’s affairs, the French President dismissed anger at Europe as “rubbish” and said many of the claims made about the EU during the campaign were “entirely false”. Mr Macron, the focus of the populists’ anger in France, is in campaign mode as he looks to calm passions stirred up by the Yellow Vest protests.

Mail
French President Emmanuel Macron tonight launched a furious attack on Brexit – saying ‘it can’t be delivered’ and had ‘torn society apart’. Rubbishing the June 2016 referendum in which a majority of the British voted to exit the EU, the head of state said: ‘Be aware of people who sell you dreams, that tell you all your anger can be solved by a referendum. I’m scared of people who manipulate you with miracle ideas.’ Mr Macron was speaking on Thursday evening to an audience in Bourg-de-Peage, south of Lyon, in a ‘people’s debate’. Some were so-called Yellow Vest anti-government campaigners who themselves want France to leave the EU.

Express
YELLOW Vest protesters behind the Europe-wide uprising and mass revolt against French President Emmanuel Macron are launching their own political party to stand for the European elections in May. Following violent and angry demonstrations in EU member states such as Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, the movement announced single mother Ingrid Levavasseur, 31, will head the party which is yet to be named. The nurse from Normandy, northern France, was one of the founders of the uprising, which began in Paris in November over Mr Macron’s 23 percent fuel hike

BBC News
Some EU countries are pushing for the European Union’s no-deal legislation to be more generous to the UK. The European Commission has proposed “bare bones” arrangements on aviation and road haulage if there is no deal. The legislation would allow British truckers to carry goods into the EU and British airlines to fly in and out of the EU, from 29 March to 31 December. But a group of countries want to give UK hauliers the right to operate within the EU as well, known as cabotage.  Some also want British airlines to be able to offer connecting flights within the EU.

£39bn

Express
PRIME Minister Theresa May has nine ways available to her to get a better Brexit deal for Britain – and she is currently considering one of them, according to her chief EU advisor Olly Robbins. As the prospect of Brexit being delayed becomes more likely by the day thanks to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announcing his party would join forces with Conservative Party Remainers to block Britain leaving the EU, a collection of options are on the table for Mrs May to secure a better deal for the UK. One is for Britain to withhold the £39billion withdrawal agreement sum until Britain gets a suitable deal from Brussels. This, according to Mr Robbins, is already being considered by Mrs May. Alongside this, other options include negotiating a “unilateral” exit mechanism from the Irish backstop and putting a firm end date on it.

No deal

Express
EMERGENCY preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit were being ramped up by Government officials last night. Whitehall mandarins have triggered the final stages of critical contingency planning – codenamed Operation Yellowhammer – as expectations grow that Britain will leave the EU on March 29 without a deal in place. Thousands of Civil Servants have been briefed that the protocol – usually used in emergencies such as a flu pandemic – is being significantly stepped up with only 63 days (from Friday) to go until Brexit day. Some 100 new specialist ‘No deal’ civil service roles have been created including jobs in Poland, France and other European countries to help with the transition. More than 12,000 civil servants are take on key tasks.

Breitbart
Government Remainers are moving to squash any chance of a clean, No Deal Brexit from the European Union, with the one minister openly denouncing it as a “total disaster” and inviting the Prime Minister to sack him if she doesn’t like it. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the sister of “People’s Vote” campaign chief Roland Rudd who barely clung on to her Leave-voting constituency in the 2017 snap election, appears to be fronting the insurrection, taking to the broadcast media to declare she is “committed to making sure we avoid” a clean Brexit, wants MPs to get a free vote on blocking it, and will not rule out resigning if it is pursued.

Second referendum

Times
The leaders of a cross-party group pushing for a second referendum have abandoned their attempts to win support for their plan when MPs vote next week. The parliamentary backers of the People’s Vote campaign said yesterday that without Labour frontbench support they would not have enough MPs to have any prospect of forcing the government’s hand. Instead, they will support a move led by Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP and chairwoman of the home affairs committee, and two former Tory cabinet ministers to give parliament the power to extend Article 50 for up to a year. MPs are due to vote on options on the way ahead for Brexit next Tuesday after the government was forced to lay an amendable motion before the Commons.

Sun
REBEL MPs are on course to delay Brexit by as much as nine months as support grows for a wrecking motion in the Commons. No10 has concluded that ministers are unable to block an amendment tabled by Yvette Cooper which takes No Deal off the table. But they are fighting back by supporting a last-ditch bid to fix the hated Irish backstop. Today Theresa May is hosting union bosses in Downing Street and asking them to help her get her Brexit deal over the line. It comes before Tuesday’s crunch vote where MPs will get a chance to vote on the way forward. A bumper 14 motions have been tabled by MPs keen to secure their favoured outcome.

Guardian
A cross-party amendment to push for a second EU referendum will not be tabled in the Commons as it would have little chance of being passed without formal support from Labour, the MPs organising it have announced. Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP who has led efforts on a so-called “people’s vote” amendment, said that without the backing of Jeremy Corbyn, “at the moment we would not have the numbers”. However, the Liberal Democrats have tabled a similar amendment and have called for Labour to back the idea. Speaking outside parliament alongside the Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna, Wollaston urged Corbyn to think again.

Mail
Remainer MPs today dropped their bid to force a parliamentary vote demanding a second referendum – admitting they do not have enough support to back it. The gang of Labour and Tory MPs who were backing a so-called People’s Vote blasted Jeremy Corbyn for killing off their chances of winning. Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston had planned to table the ‘doctor’s amendment’ to next Tuesday’s crunch Brexit motion to demand a second referendum. But stood outside Parliament this morning flanked by pro-EU Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna, she announced a U-turn.

BBC News
Members of the cross-party People’s Vote campaign have admitted they don’t yet have enough support from MPs to get another EU referendum. The MPs have dropped plans to table an amendment to next week’s Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Instead, they will throw their weight behind a series of other delaying moves, to prevent a no-deal Brexit. They conceded they had little chance of getting a referendum without Jeremy Corbyn telling Labour MPs to back it.

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn faces a revolt from Labour MPs backing a new Brexit referendum, who will launch a drive to rewrite his proposals for the next phase of withdrawal. The move from three MPs to redraft his strategy, so it ties Labour unambiguously to giving Britain a Final Say referendum, once again thrusts the party’s deep Brexit divisions into the spotlight. Hours earlier four other Labour MPs had joined Tory counterparts at a press conference, with one accusing Mr Corbyn of “standing in the way” of a people’s vote. While Mr Corbyn’s office declined to comment on Thursday, the leader’s social media outriders launched a counter-attack on the Labour rebels whom they accused of dishonesty.

Migrants

Breitbart
The Italian secret service has warned that people-smugglers in the Mediterranean may seek to engineer a mass drowning in order to garner Western sympathy and resume the flow of migration. According to Italian newspaper Il Giornale, the Italian secret services, referred to by the publication as “our 007”, are warning of the possibility of people-smugglers purposely causing a disaster at sea in order to garner sympathy from the West and resume their illegal trade, which has been declining over the last year. Such a move could be a repeat of other major humanitarian disasters such as a shipwreck which killed around 700 migrants on April 18th, 2015, and led to the commencement of Operation Sophia and an outpouring of support for migrant ferry NGOs operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

Fox News
Italy’s nationalist-populist government on Thursday told an NGO migrant rescue boat that it would be refused entry to Italy’s shores, and directed it to France instead — the latest in an escalating feud between the two countries. 5-Star Movement leader and Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said that the Sea Watch ship, which he said is currently sailing toward Siciliy, will be given medical support from the Italian government, but the asylum seekers on board will not be allowed to disembark.  “After that, I invite it to point the bow towards Marseilles and land people on French soil instead of waiting unncecessarily in Italian waters for days.” Di Maio said via Facebook.

The Queen

Telegraph
The Queen appeared to send a message to politicians deadlocked over Brexit on Thursday as she spoke of “coming together to seek out the common ground”. Her Majesty used a speech to the Sandringham Women’s Institute to emphasise the need for people to be respectful of “different points of view”. Although the monarch is expected to be politically neutral, she has a track record of making her feelings known at times of national crisis, having subtly intervened in the Scottish independence referendum. The Queen was speaking at the centenary celebrations of her local WI in Norfolk, of which she is a long-term member.

Times
The Queen has urged the country to “seek out the common ground” in a sign of royal nervousness over the divisions caused by Brexit. Delivering a rebuke to warring politicians, she urged them to respect, not attack, one another while “never losing sight of the bigger picture”. Her intervention came 64 days before Britain is due to leave the European Union, with no settled plan on how it will be achieved. There are expected to be more interventions with a similar tone and message from other members of the royal family in the coming days, suggesting a concerted attempt to narrow the divisions in politics and society.

Guardian
The Queen has called for “common ground” and “never losing sight of the bigger picture” in a speech to mark the centenary of the Sandringham Women’s Institute (WI), which is likely to be interpreted as a veiled reference to the toxic debate around Brexit. She spoke of the virtues of “respecting” the other person’s point of view, as parliament remains deeply divided over the issue of Britain leaving the EU. The Queen, who as head of state constitutionally remains publicly politically neutral, reflected in her speech on a year of change, during which it was clear the qualities of the WI endure, she said. She added: “The continued emphasis on patience, friendship, a strong community-focus and considering the needs of others are as important today as they were when the group was founded all those years ago.

High streets

Times
An online sales tax to help high street shops has in effect been ruled out by the Treasury because it would fall foul of EU rules. The Times has learnt that Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, has written to Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the Treasury select committee, to say there was a “high risk” that any such tax would breach the bloc’s state aid rules. The UK is due to leave the European Union on March 29 but under the draft withdrawal agreement Britain has accepted “dynamic alignment” with Brussels on state-aid rules.

Cancer

Times
Breast and prostate cancer patients who receive an early diagnosis are now just as likely as healthy people to be alive a year later, according to official figures. Men who have early-stage prostate cancer diagnosed are slightly more likely to live at least five years than those without tumours, perhaps because they are better looked after by doctors. The Office for National Statistics data highlights the importance of catching cancer early, with late diagnosis halving the chances of living long term for many common forms of the disease. About half of cancer patients now live at least a decade after a diagnosis but survival in Britain still lags behind other rich countries.

Star
CANCER can be prevented before it starts by a process in the body which causes the death of old cells, scientists have discovered. As cells get older, the ends of their DNA get shorter and shorter because a little is lost each time it replicates. The end of DNA strands are protected by non-coding tips called telomeres, in a similar way to how plastic protects the end of your shoelaces from getting frayed. Once the telomeres are used up, the cell should die to avoid mistakes in replication which lead to the mutations which cause cancer. The research by Salk Institute scientists indicates that treatments to block the process — known as autophagy — in established cancer could actually promote mutations.

Education

Times
Only one in six pupils passed a core set of GCSE subjects last year, government figures show. There was a sharp drop in the number of pupils achieving a strong pass in English, maths, a science, a language and either history or geography. Ministers want 90 per cent of children to take these subjects, which make up the English Baccalaureate or Ebacc. Only 38.4 per cent did so last year. The proportion of all pupils who achieved at least a C or grade 5 in these subjects fell from 21.3 per cent to 16.7 per cent, or one in six, in a year. The Ebacc was one of Michael Gove’s key policies as education secretary.

Mail
White children are the least likely of all ethnic groups to make good progress during secondary school, new official statistics suggest. Data from this summer’s GCSE results shows white pupils made on average less headway between the ages of 11 and 16 than any other group. Chinese pupils were way ahead of their peers on this measure, followed by Asian, then black, then mixed-race youngsters. The data, published yesterday by the Department for Education (DfE), adds weight to arguments that people with migrant heritage are more likely to drive themselves forward.

Mail
More than a quarter-of-a-million children are being taught at under-performing secondary schools, according to official figures. The data suggests that 11.6 per cent of state-funded mainstream schools – 346 in total – fell below the Government’s minimum standards in 2018. This means 282,603 schoolchildren are now being taught at under-performing secondaries – about 9.3 per cent. Schools fall below the Government’s performance threshold if pupils fail to make enough progress across eight subjects, with particular weight given to English and maths. In 2017, 365 schools fell below the floor standard, but the figures are not directly comparable.

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