Brexit

Order-order
Like most of you Guido has tried to put thoughts of Brexit away for Christmas, nevertheless something besides brussels sprouts has been nagging at him, which, whilst the news flow is slow can be explored at length. Labour remainers have of late turned a blind eye to Bercow‘s bullying, mistreatment of staff and gender specific language for one reason, they believe he will be an ally in thwarting Brexit. He has considerable leeway to do so… The common argument is that although Parliament is sovereign, if the Government holds its nerve there is nothing opponents to Brexit can do to stop the UK leaving the EU on WTO terms. However, there are many things Parliament can do to get its way:

Times
Supporters of a second Brexit referendum could curtail the government’s power to collect taxes unless Theresa May bows to their demand. The proposal appears in a report on ways to force another vote by the Best for Britain campaign group. The report is backed by Dominic Grieve, the leading pro-EU Conservative, and includes advice from David Howarth, a professor of law at Cambridge. Under present laws, if Mrs May’s deal is not approved by parliament before March 29 the UK will leave the EU without any deal. One of the four options proposed in the report is to force the government to replace no deal as its default option with a referendum.

Express
ANTI-BREXIT MPs could try to block the Government’s power to collect annual taxes unless Theresa May agrees to a second referendum. The plan is one of four options laid out by anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain in a new report. It is supported by arch-Remainer Dominic Grieve – a pro-EU Conservative -and contains advice by University of Cambridge law professor David Howarth. If Mrs May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is not passed in Parliament before March 29, 2019, Britain will leave the EU without a deal. But Remain-supporting MPs may try to pass amendments to budget legislation to make future annual taxation conditional on allowing a “People’s Vote”.

Times
Ministers have been accused of flouting government transparency rules to hide information about Brexit preparations. The departments most involved in planning for Britain’s departure from the EU are least likely to release data under freedom of information laws, Whitehall figures show. Some information withheld by the government would appear to be disclosable under the act, raising questions about the way in which the rules are being applied. Among the requests denied in the past year have been those for government surveys on business opinions on Brexit, bonuses paid to senior civil servants, and taxpayers’ money spent on management consultants. The figures were compiled by the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum.

EU

Telegraph
MPs have warned of the dangers of the Brexit transition period after it emerged that hundreds of thousands of small businesses could be forced to pay VAT for the first time after Britain leaves the European Union. Brussels is preparing to reduce the threshold at which businesses start paying VAT from a turnover of £85,000 to £76,700 in a bid to “harmonise” tax systems. MPs on the EU scrutiny committee warned Britain will have to accept the move if it comes into force after Brexit in March 2019 because it will lose its right to veto the plans. Under the terms of the Prime Minister’s deal, the UK will be required to implement the directive during the transition period.

Mail
More small businesses could be slapped with a VAT bill if Theresa May‘s   Brexit deal is approved by MPs in next month’s crunch vote, campaigners today warned. Proposed changes to EU rules would cut the threshold for small business exemption from charging VAT from an annual taxable turnover of £85,000 to £76,700. Anti Brexit group, The People’s Vote, said the change would force hundreds of thousands of traders to put VAT on their products and services for the first time. A parliamentary report, slipped out on Christmas Eve, warned if the PM’s Brexit deal is approved, the UK would be forced to lower the threshold even after Brexit.

Sun
THERESA MAY’s Brexit deal could force White Van Man and thousands more small firms to charge VAT for the first time, MPs claim. The tax bombshell was detailed in a cross-party Commons Committee report released on Christmas Eve.Bottom of Form Currently the UK exempts all small and medium sized firms with an annual turnover of less than £85,000 from charging VAT on their products and services. But the EU wants to set an upper limit across the bloc at £76,700. And under the terms of PM’s proposed 20 month post-Brexit “transition phase”, the UK will have no veto on EU rule changes – and will almost certainly have to adopt Brussels legislation. This would drag countless more SMEs into the VAT system – meaning mountains of red-tape as they are forced to spend days filing paper work to the taxman.

Westmonster
The European Union’s Budget Commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, has admitted that that his home nation of Germany would have to cough up big time if the UK leaves the bloc without a deal. He has told the German press that a No Deal, meaning no £39 billion Brexit bill, would lead to other EU countries having to stump up cash. As to how much? “That depends on whether the British would be prepared to honour their rights and obligations until the end of 2019. “If that doesn’t happen, then next year a middling-three-figure million amount will be added to Germany.”

Telegraph
The EU will have to pay out billions plug the gap if Britain leaves without a deal and refuses to pay the Brexit divorce bill, the bloc’s financial chief has admitted. Gunther Oettinger said the remaining 27 member states will face a significant bill if the UK does not pay the £39billion divorce bill it has promised. And he warned that Germany alone could have to cough up hundreds of millions of euros more to fund the shortfall. He told the German newspaper Westfälische Rundschau: “It depends on whether, following a disorderly Brexit, the British would be prepared to fulfil their rights and obligations as contributors by the end of the financial year 2019.

Mail
A no deal Brexit could leave Europeans having to fork out billions more to plug the gaping hole in the EU‘s budget, the bloc’s finance chief has warned. Gunther Oettinger said the remaining 27 member states will face a hefty bill if the UK does not pay the £39billion divorce bill it has promised. The money covers the UK’s contribution to EU annual budgets up to the end of 2020 – when the Brexit transition period is due to end. And it also covers ongoing costs Britain has agreed it owes, including a contribution to the pensions of EU workers and the cost of staying in some EU agencies. It means that if Britain decides to tear up the divorce cheque then Brussels will suddenly face a big hole in its finances.

Express
BRUSSELS has risked accusations of favouritism after turning a blind eye to golden boy Emmanuel Macron’s controversial budget deficit proposals – despite previously condemning Italy’s populist government for doing the same.  EU budget commissioner Günther Oettinger sparked outrage in Rome by admitting the bloc will accept France’s budget, despite the deficit target being above the three percent allowed by Brussels, hinting the reason is because Macron is a “strong supporter.” The move is believed to have angered Italy’s government, which had to climb down in a bitter long-running row with Brussels after the EU demanded they overhaul their budget proposals for also running a higher than permitted deficit target.

Breitbart
Emmanuel Macron has “lost authority” after offering concessions to protesters, the European Commission has complained, urging the French president to plough ahead with “crucial” neoliberal reforms. Brussels will allow France to exceed the bloc’s 3 per cent deficit limit with its budget as a one-off this year, EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger told the German press on Thursday. Asked whether Macron would remain a beacon of hope for European federalists while “his own people rise against him”, Oettinger lamented that the globalist French leader had “lost authority with his budget for 2019”, before stressing: “But he remains a strong supporter of the European Union.”

Labour Party

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn has challenged Theresa May to cut short the Christmas recess and recall parliament early in the new year in order to bring forward a critical vote on the Brexit deal. In an interview with The Independent, the Labour leader said he believed the prime minister and her allies were engaged in a “cynical manoeuvre” to run down the clock and offer MPs the “choice of the devil or the deep blue sea”. His remarks come as the Commons prepares to vote on the UK-EU deal in the week beginning 14 January – in what is being billed as the most significant moment in parliament for a generation.

Trade

Express
THERESA May’s Government should give parliament a vote on all post-Brexit trade deals when Britain leaves the EU, a committee of MPs has urged.  A report by the International Trade Select Committee demanded that the Government operate from a “presumption of transparency rather than secrecy” in negotiating the UK’s post-Brexit trade policy. Parliament must be given a “meaningful role” in negotiations to ensure MPs can give voters “fairer outcomes”. The report also suggests MPs debate a motion before trade negotiations start allowing Parliament to express any “concerns or objections”. A debate would cut the risk of parliament voting down agreements, it is hoped.

Sky News
MPs should have the power to veto post-Brexit trade deals negotiated by the government, a powerful Commons committee is demanding. The all-party International Trade Committee is calling for a “meaningful vote” on all trade agreements, a demand likely to be firmly rejected by the government. With the vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal currently deadlocked and postponed until next month, the proposal for further Commons votes on trade will dismay ministers. But the committee claims parliament, business, civil society, the devolved administrations and local government should all play a role in any post-Brexit trade policy.

NHS

Guardian
All NHS patients in England will be able to book GP appointments online, order repeat prescriptions and access their full medical history on a new cloud system as part of a shake-up of IT systems. The changes, which aim to replace outdated IT technology and improve digital coordination between parts of the healthcare system, should allow GPs, ambulance services and other primary care providers to access patient records digitally in real time. The announcement is the first major alteration to the NHS patient record system since a failed £12.7bn digitalisation project to link up the healthcare system, which was scrapped by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2011.

Migrants

Telegraph
Britain risks a humanitarian crisis unless it returns migrants rescued in the Channel immediately to France, the man who was in charge of Home Office  immigration  enforcement has said. Mr David Wood, a top civil servant who oversaw immigration rules, warned there would be a tragedy unless the government changed its policy to stop the migrants coming rather than rescuing and landing them. Nearly 300 people have been rescued from the Channel since the start of November, with more than 180 making it to Britain to seek asylum, analysis by the Telegraph has found.

Mail
Boat migrants crossing the Channel must be sent straight back to France to avert a tragedy, according to a former senior Home Office official. David Wood, who was head of immigration enforcement, warned lives would be lost unless the Government adopted a new approach. There were a further 34 attempted crossings overnight yesterday, bringing the total number rescued from the Channel since November to 300 and 82 since Christmas Day. It is feared people smugglers are targeting the holiday period because they believe there will be fewer patrols. Just one cutter is patrolling UK waters, aided by two smaller craft. ‘We have to stop this or it will grow and grow. It will escalate. The answer is to return them to France as soon as they are picked up,’ Mr Wood said. ‘If we did that straight away, they would realise that paying £5,000 to the people smugglers would achieve nothing.’

Sun
SAJID JAVID was last night urged to get a grip on the Channel migrant crisis – amid claims 450 have tried to cross in just two months. Tories demanded the Home Secretary bring ‘patrol vessels’ back from the Med, given just two are currently available to Border Force staff here. Another two are being used in the EU-wide counter trafficking operation in the Med. Charlie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover said: “It’s time to bring back our boats before there is a tragedy in the English Channel.” It came as nine more migrants were picked up Border Force officers at Sandgate, to the west of Folkestone yesterday morning.

Times
Ministers have been accused of allowing the UK to appear to be a “soft touch” for migrants crossing the Channel because they are so distracted by Brexit that they are failing to ensure that the border is properly policed. A total of 82 migrants have been detained since Christmas Day after attempting to reach Britain by boat. Nine people, including three children, were intercepted yesterday on a beach in Sandgate, Kent, after they were spotted in a 14ft long inflatable vessel. Charities said that it was a matter of time before the crossings — described by Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, as “deeply concerning” — resulted in fatalities.

Independent
The number of incidents of migrants crossing the English Channel as they try to reach Britain is “deeply concerning”, the immigration minister has said. Her comments came as nine people, including three children, were intercepted on a beach in Sandgate, Kent, after they were spotted in a small 13ft (4m) inflatable boat. This incident follows more than 40 migrants, presenting themselves as Iraqi, Iranian and Afghan, who tried to cross the Channel towards the UK on Christmas Day. Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said the number of incidents was “deeply concerning”. “Some of this is clearly facilitated by organised crime groups while other attempts appear to be opportunistic,” she said

Illegal weapons

Mail
Guns from Eastern Europe and the Balkans are fuelling a dramatic rise in the number of illegal weapons in the UK, a senior policeman has warned. The national police lead for serious and organised crime, chief constable Andy Cooke, said the number of guns on the streets rose this year and officers fear it will continue to go up in 2019. Border officials and police are struggling to hold back the tide of weapons entering the country, he told The Guardian.

Train travel

Sun
BRITS are paying TEN TIMES as much per mile as European passengers for trains, new research shows. Just a day after figures showed train delays were at a 13-year high, new analysis showed EU journeys such as Paris to Nice and Munich to Berlin are much cheaper than typical journeys here in the UK. Munich to Berlin is just 6p per mile, compared with the 68p it will cost passengers to cram on a train from Bristol to Bath. Leeds to York is 65p per mile, compared with 31p per mile for the trip from Prague to Brno in the Czech Republic. Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald stormed: “Decisions taken by Government ministers are making rail travel unaffordable for the many in favour of huge profits for the few.

ITV News
New technology will cut the number of false “on time” train descriptions, the rail industry has claimed. A GPS-led location tracking system will be installed on services run by five operators from next month, improving the accuracy of information about their trains’ progress. Train locations are currently measured at fixed points, which are more than five miles apart in some places. Chiltern, Grand Central, LNER and parts of Northern and ScotRail will be the first train firms in Britain to use the GPS technology. This will reduce instances of trains incorrectly showing as “on time” on information boards, apps and websites when they are actually delayed, industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said. GPS tracking which is accurate to a few metres is due to be delivered across the whole network by 2024.

Potholes

Mail
More than half a million potholes were reported by members of the public to local authorities for repair last year. Data released by councils following a Freedom of Information request has provided a snapshot of the crumbling state of Britain’s roads. More than 512,000 potholes were reported to the 161 authorities who provided comparable figures, up 44 per cent on the 2015 figure of 356,000 potholes from 152 councils. After extrapolating the numbers to take account of the 51 councils unable to provide data, the RAC estimated that pothole reports have increased by a third (33 per cent) over two years.

ITV News
More than half a million potholes were reported by members of the public to local authorities for repair last year, according to new research. The RAC claimed the total is “shocking” and proves that “the condition of our roads is worsening”. It obtained the data in Freedom of Information requests to the 212 councils responsible for roads in Britain. More than 512,000 potholes were reported to the 161 authorities who provided comparable figures, up 44% on the 2015 figure of 356,000 potholes from 152 councils. After extrapolating the numbers to take account of councils unable to respond with data, the RAC believes the increase in pothole reports over two years is 33%.

Ebola

Times
Patients fled from an ebola isolation centre in the Democratic Republic of Congo when it was attacked by protesters angry at their exclusion from the presidential election this weekend. Twenty-four patients absconded in the eastern city of Beni yesterday while tyres were set on fire in nearby streets and protesters clashed with riot police, who fired live rounds and tear gas. The protests erupted after electoral officials postponed voting in three cities — all opposition strongholds and with a total electorate of 1.25 million — until March, citing concerns over the ebola outbreak and ethnic violence.

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