Brexit

Westmonster
Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon has got hold of the European Union’s plan for the so-called ‘transition’ or ‘implementation’ phase set to last until at least 2021 – and it ain’t pretty. As Gibbon sets out: “the UK nonetheless has to follow all EU laws including any new ones that might pop up”. It shows once again how if the British government go along with this plan, EU membership would effectively continue into the 2020s. Open borders, current EU laws and new ones all being applicable despite the UK having technically left in 2019. This comes the day after Jacob Rees-Mogg skewered the government, exposing how Britain being outside the EU but having to apply the aspects of membership risked the UK becoming a “vassal state”.

Sky News
Leave-supporting Tory MPs have privately indicated to the Government they are willing to mount their first rebellion over a new post-Brexit customs union, Sky News understands. Conservative Brexiteers have let it be known to ministers they will table amendments to a piece of Treasury legislation, which provides fast-track powers for the Government to remain in a customs union with the EU. It would be the first time Leave-backing Tories will have rebelled on Brexit legislation. So far, rebellions have only come from the Conservatives’ europhile wing. The legislation, part of the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill currently going through the House of Commons, is a key bit of law for establishing a domestic customs system post-Brexit.

ITV News
David Davis will assure Tory Eurosceptics that Britain will be able to sign trade deals with other countries during the transition period after leaving the European Union in March 2019. The Brexit Secretary’s speech on Friday will come amid a row over the Government’s approach to Brexit. Downing Street rebuked Chancellor Philip Hammond on Thursday after he said he hoped Brexit would only result in the UK and EU moving “very modestly” apart in trade terms. Influential Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg responded by urging ministers not to be “timid and cowering” in their approach to EU withdrawal. In a speech in Middlesbrough David will say: “As an independent country, no longer a member of the European Union – the United Kingdom will once again have its own trading policy.

EU

Sun
BRUSSELS has issued Theresa May with a four-week deadline to table concrete proposals on new trade agreement or face a Brexit crisis. EU diplomats have told The Sun they are becoming increasingly alarmed by a lack of clarity from Britain. They are now urging the PM to make a major announcement on the future relationshipbefore the end of February. If she doesn’t, member states say they will only be in a position to draw up plans for their most “basic” free trade agreement. One diplomat warned the bloc needs “at least three to four weeks” notice of the UK’s demands ahead of its next summit, which starts on March 22. They said: “Otherwise, the EU will have to base its decision on current UK red lines which means the EU probably would not be in a position to offer something more than a basic FTA.”

Independent
Britain will have no right to even be in the room while EU laws are made, despite having to implement them in full during the Brexit transition period, according to leaked negotiating guidelines drawn up by Brussels. Updated guidelines for chief negotiator Michel Barnier dated 22 January 2018 specifically state that “as a general rule, the UK will not attend meetings” of key committees involved in drafting European regulations. EU negotiators are set to insist that “exceptionally, on case-by-case basis” other EU states could “invite” Britain to observe a meeting without any right to influence its content – but only if it is in the interests of the EU, or the issue is solely about the UK. The as yet unfinalised guidelines are likely to rile up hardline Brexiteers even further, some of whom were already incensed by the idea the UK would have to follow EU laws without voting rights in EU institutions like the council and parliament.

Express
THE European Union’s proposed framework for how a Brexit transition period will work strips Britain of voting power while forcing the UK to obey Brussels regulations. There is only a limited right for Britain’s representatives to even attend meetings of EU member states, and it will not have any voting rights. The legal framework is set out in an official document which stipulates: “On a case-by-case basis, the United Kingdom could be invited to attend without voting rights.” However this would only be in the event that the discussion either directly affects the UK, or that the UK’s presence is in the interests of the EU, Channel 4 revealed. Despite having no democratic rights in the transition period, the UK will have to follow all EU laws, including any new ones that might be made during the contingency period.

Channel 4 News
The transition on offer is every bit as annoying to Jacob Rees-Mogg and fellow Brexiteers as he was signalling at the Brexit Select Committee yesterday. There is only a limited right for Britain to even make an appearance at meetings where the U.K. will have no voting rights. The U.K. nonetheless has to follow all EU laws including any new ones that might pop up (the government says the EU law-making process is so slow there won’t be any surprises on that front – Mr Rees-Mogg begs to differ). The document also makes clear that the U.K. has to abide by existing EU agreements with third countries, which covers many areas but not least among them are the 50 or so trade agreements that have been signed by third countries with the EU. The U.K. has said it would like to continue the current arrangements which countries like South Korea and Canada have with the EU28 when the EU is only 27.

Express
THE political collapse of a united Europe is “almost bound to happen”, claims Jonathan Ruffer, co-founder and chairman of Ruffer Investments. He also warned that the EU is “asking for trouble” by trying to act as one voice. In a note to clients seen by Investment Week, Mr Ruffer warned the “world feels more dangerous, and very much more uncertain” now due to a rise in geopolitical tensions. Mr Ruffer seems unconcerned about the effects of Brexit on the UK economy. He said: “The shocking thing is that the Brexit deal does not, in the long run, matter very much.  “Yes, crashing out may cost us five years’ growth, but unless you are a citizen of the world, and in charge, that is not a key thing, at least in economic terms.”

Breitbart
European Union (EU) migrants arriving during the agreed so-called “Brexit transition period” will not automatically be allowed to stay in the UK indefinitely, ministers have been privately claiming. Just over a week ago, it was reported that Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, had drawn up guidelines demanding mass migration continues after Brexit, contradicting an agreement struck with the UK in December. “The deal in December did specify March 2019 for free movement rights. That was then. Now as part of the discussion on transitional arrangements that has changed,” an EU source said at the time. The UK had initially wanted  the cut-off date to be the day of the Brexit vote in 2016, and the EU’s shifting stance caused alarm among Brexit supporters. Then, last week, a report claimed that if the prime minister caved to the EU’s new demands, over a million more migrants could come to live in the UK.

BBC

Times
Campaigners who accuse the BBC of anti-Brexit bias have raised the prospect of seeking a judicial review of the corporation’s complaints process. A report published today claims to have found evidence that pro-Brexit views are under-represented on the BBC’s flagship news programmes. Just nine of 97 people interviewed about EU-related topics on Radio 4’s Today in October and November last year were long-term supporters of Brexit, according to the Civitas think tank. The BBC pushed back against the report, which draws on research by Newswatch, which campaigns largely against what it sees as anti-Brexit media bias and has connections to leading anti-EU figures.

Express
BBC flagship news programmes have under-represented anti-Brussels views for decades, a report published by a leading social policy think tank claimed last night. In-depth analysis of broadcasting output since 1999 based on monitoring by the watchdog News-Watch found Euro-sceptic voices were “marginalised” by the corporation. And the alleged bias has continued following the national referendum vote to quit the EU in 2016, the report said. “The clear preference of a large section of the population for withdrawal, and the reasons for so many people taking this stance, have been continually under-represented in the news coverage of the BBC,” the report said. The findings were set out in “Brussels Broadcasting Corporation?” published by the think tank Civitas. Since the European Parliament elections in 1999, News-watch has compiled 38 mainly half-yearly reports, based on 8,000 programme transcripts covering almost 300 hundred hours of EU content.

Mail
Pro-Brexit voices are being drowned out on the BBC’s news programming, an analysis has claimed. Only a very small proportion of speakers on Radio 4’s Today programme are long-term supporters of leaving the EU, the Civitas think-tank said in a report. The authors claimed the BBC has been unable to supply an example of a single programme since the June 2016 referendum which has examined the opportunities of Brexit. Last night the BBC described the analysis as flawed and insisted it was ‘covering the process towards Brexit in a responsible and impartial way’. The Civitas report, entitled The Brussels Broadcasting Corporation?, said that for the past 20 years the BBC has consistently viewed the issue of withdrawing from the EU through the prism of splits in the Conservative Party.

Conservative Party

Telegraph
Theresa May is facing a challenge to her leadership and  Brexit strategy from leave-supporting Conservative MPs who fear she is too “timid” to make a clean break from Brussels. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of a Tory group representing 60 Brexit-supporting MPs, made a speech on Thursday in which he warned that the Government’s tone on EU withdrawal needs to “fundamentally change”. Alarm bells rang for Brexiteer Cabinet ministers and Tory backbenchers when Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, called for only “very modest” change after the UK leaves the EU in a keynote speech in Davos. Downing Street was so concerned about a backlash that aides intervened to tone down a major Brexit speech by David Davis to be delivered on Friday, amid fears its contents would spark a challenge to her leadership.

Mail
Theresa May faces the threat of a leadership challenge as a group of 60 Eurosceptic MPs warned her to make a clean break from Brussels or they would scupper her premiership. The Tories were plunged into war by Philip Hammond saying leaving the EU would result in only ‘very modest’ change. The Chancellor sparked uproar among Eurosceptic MPs after he said Britain would stay in a ‘customs arrangement’ with the EU – and suggested free movement might continue in all but name. The ferocious backlash led No 10 to disown the remarks and forced Mr Hammond to issue a partial ‘clarification’, insisting he stood by Tory pledges to make a clean break with the EU. It came amid claims that at least 40 MPs have sent letters to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, expressing no confidence in Mrs May. 

Times
Theresa May could lose the backing of 50 Brexit-supporting MPs if Whitehall wins the looming battle over the future customs arrangement with the European Union. Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteer Conservatives, told The Times that any attempt to form a customs union with the EU after Britain left was unacceptable. In a speech last night he also said that the government’s tone on Brexit needed to change fundamentally to stop giving the sense of a damage-limitation exercise. Allies of Mrs May have warned that only a few Tory MPs were needed to force a vote of no confidence in her leadership.

Independent
A fresh outbreak of Tory infighting is threatening Theresa May’s leadership after Philip Hammond vowed to keep Britain interlocked with the EU – while hard Brexit supporters staged an open revolt. The Prime Minister was accused of “losing control of the Brexit process” as the two wings of her party fought over her withdrawal policy, which Eurosceptics increasingly see as a sellout. In Davos, the Chancellor inflamed tensions with a dramatic call for only “very modest” changes to the UK’s trading rules with the EU, setting out the risks of trying to break free. 
He went out of his way to praise the plea by the CBI  employers’ organisation for the “closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK post-Brexit” – days after it called for permanent membership of the customs union.

Times
Theresa May rebuked the chancellor last night after he predicted “very modest” changes to Britain’s relationship with the EU after Brexit. Philip Hammond broke a fragile truce over Brussels talks and risked triggering a Brexiteer rebellion by giving a speech to the CBI in Davos in which he appeared to endorse the business group’s call for the “closest possible relationship” with the bloc. Shortly after Mrs May returned from the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Switzerland, the chancellor was forced to issue two tweets saying he was “clear” that Britain was leaving the single market and customs union. A Downing Street source spelt out Mrs May’s displeasure at the text of the speech that was not fully cleared by No 10.

Guardian
Theresa May has bowed to pressure from Eurosceptic MPs and disowned remarks by the chancellor, Philip Hammond, as she struggled to quell a fresh Tory revolt over Brexit that could threaten her leadership. Hammond enraged leave MPs in his own party on Thursday by telling business leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos that the government would seek only “modest” changes in its relationship with the European Union. “Instead of doing what we’re normally doing in the trade negotiations – taking two divergent economies with low levels of trade and trying to bring them closer together to enhance that trade, we are taking two completely interconnected and aligned economies with high levels of trade between them, and selectively moving them, hopefully very modestly, apart,” Hammond said.

NHS

Times
The flu outbreak appears to be levelling off but hospitals and GPs are still seeing thousands of cases a week. GP visits for suspected flu rose only 2 per cent last week after a surge since the start of the month. Admissions to hospital fell 14 per cent last week, to about 4,000. However, 20 more deaths have been confirmed, meaning that at least 155 people are known to have died of flu this winter. Doctors said that it was too soon to know whether the outbreak had peaked. Hospitals remain dangerously full, with a steep rise in norovirus increasing the pressure. Wards were 94.8 per cent full last week, barely down from the week before.

Mail
Doctors have been ordered to stop giving antibiotics to patients with sore throats and to tell them to buy paracetamol instead. Officials say antibiotics don’t work for the vast majority of sore throats, but GPs still dole them out in their millions. Experts believe this is contributing to the superbug crisis, with bacteria evolving to become resistant to the drugs. Guidance by NHS watchdog NICE and Public Health England says GPs should be clear with their patients that antibiotics are unlikely to work. Sore throats are one of the most common complaints seen by GPs, and in most cases are triggered by a virus against which antibiotics are useless. Yet 60 per cent of patients who complain about a sore throat are given antibiotics, NICE said.

Independent
Theresa May has again been accused of using deliberately misleading statistics to play down the severity of the winter crisis in the NHS. Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has written to the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) about the Prime Minister’s “selective misuse” of data following her attempt to deflect criticism of the health service’s performance onto the Welsh NHS at Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Jones’ intervention is the second time the Government has been  called up on its use of statistics, with senior Tory MPs  condemning the “disingenuous” use of data to stifle the much needed discussion about NHS pressures. In the Commons on Wednesday Ms May claimed the number of patients forced to wait more than 12 hours in A&E in Wales, which has a Labour government, is nearly eight times higher than in England. However hospitals in England only measure 12 hour waits from the time a senior clinician has seen the patient and made a decision that they should be admitted.

UKIP

Sun
NIGEL Farage has been blamed for trying to bring down Ukip as furious officials say he’s still “pulling the strings” inside the party. Ukip is currently in a state of turmoil over its under-fire leader Henry Bolton, 54, who is refusing to resign over his handling of his affair with racist 25-year-old Jo Marney, who he left his wife and two kids for. Senior figures have pointed the finger to Mr Farage, 53, the former leader,  believing him to have seized the chance to pull the strings behind the scenes and settle a few scores. Earlier this week he came out to defend current leader Mr Bolton’s plans to try and reform the party’s National Executive Body. But he has repeatedly dismissed rumours he wants to return to leading the party – or set up a movement of his own. MEP Mike Hookem told Sun Online: “Nothing in the history of UKIP has been without Nigel’s hand in it. Nigel’s now pulling a few strings and settling a few old scores.”

Russia

Telegraph
Russia could cause “thousands and thousands and thousands” of deaths in Britain with an attack which would cripple the UK’s infrastructure and energy supply, the Defence Secretary has warned. In an interview with the Telegraph, Gavin Williamson says Moscow has been researching the UK’s critical national infrastructure and how it connects to continental power supplies with a view to creating “panic” and “chaos”. Delivering his assessment of the threat from what he calls an increasingly assertive Kremlin, he said it was willing to take action “that any other nation would see as completely unacceptable”.

Times
Russia could cause many thousands of deaths in Britain by attacking the country’s infrastructure and energy supply, the defence secretary warned last night. Gavin Williamson said that sabotage could come through a cyberattack, the targeting of underwater communications cables or even a missile. President Putin’s regime was willing to take action “that any other nation would see as completely unacceptable”, he said. His comments in an interview with The Daily Telegraph came as the government launched a review of the armed forces. Mr Williamson, who is being touted as a possible future Tory leader, told MPs that pen-pushers, poor contracts and bureaucracy would be targeted in the exercise and savings would be invested in the front line.

Express
RUSSIA is forming plans for an assault on the UK’s infrastructure that could “kill thousands and thousands” as they plunge the country into “chaos”, the Defence Secretary has warned. Vladimir Putin’s forces are not preparing for a ground invasion of the UK but have planned a brutal assault on critical services including the National Grid, Gavin Williamson has claimed. Mr Williamson said: “What they are looking at doing is they are going to be thinking ‘How can we just cause so much pain to Britain?’. “Damage its economy, rip its infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths, but actually have an element of creating total chaos within the country.”

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