War of the flags
BREXIT-backing Brits got up at the crack of dawn today to make sure their flags were up in Parliament square before the Remainers arrived. David Ireland, 41, and three of his mates got to Westminster’s Parliament Square hours before the others at around 6am today. They swiftly moved 34 Union flags into the background of the TV cameras parked outside the Palace of Westminster. The Remain campaigners only rocked up at 7.30am, by which time their work had already been done. Mr Ireland said today: “People turn on the TV and see this entire wall covered in EU flags; some people want to be in the EU but there’s also some people who don’t want to be in the EU, so we’ve come along and done our flags. “What the Remain voters do is shun all the Leave campaigners into the irrelevant middle ground and dominate the TV space.
A daring group of Brexiteers reportedly went down to parliament square at the crack of dawn to remove the starred EU flags that have dominated for weeks. The pro-Brexit mission replacing them with 34 British flags, which now dominate the view behind the cameras. Campaign group Leaver’s of Britain, who are on the scene, told the Daily Star Online the action was all in good spirits. “The flag war is a bit of fun, as well as being encouraging for millions of people across the UK who voted for Brexit,” they said. Joking, the group added: “Yellow and blue is an awful colour scheme anyway.”
Yanis Varoufakis has compared the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal to something a defeated nation would be forced to sign. The former Greek finance minister did not hit back when he laid the blame for the current impasse firmly at the door of Theresa May . Speaking on Question Time Mr Varoufakis said: “Whether you are a Brexiteer or a Remainer a nation signs only after having been defeated at war. “This is not a deal which is built for purpose for any sovereign country.”
YANIS VAROUFAKIS said Theresa May’s deal is one “a nation signs after having been defeated at war”. The show, which was broadcast in Sheffield this week, primarily focused on who is to blame for the Brexit delay. The audience unanimously agreed Theresa May was at fault. Host Fiona Bruce asked Mr Varoufakis: “Who is to blame for where we are now? The fact that we’re not leaving tomorrow.”
TORY junior ministers ran a secret operation to destroy a Commons bid to choose an alternative Brexit, it has emerged. Frustrated at No10’s “weak” decision to offer MPs a free vote on Sir Oliver Letwin’s controversial Indicative Votes process on Thursday night, the ministers devised a plan of their own to frustrate it. The Sun can reveal they persuaded dozens of fellow Tory MPs to vote down all eight alternative options, from a customs union to a second referendum.
Strictly speaking, Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union, now once again the focus of attention, comprises two main parts. The difference between the EU-UK withdrawal agreement and the future trade and other relationships, at present only a draft political declaration, is the difference between a legally binding defined “divorce agreement”, on the one side, and a rather more imprecise declaration of future intentions – a sort of pre-nup that cannot be enforced in a court –on the other side.
Theresa May will ask MPs to vote again on Brexit – but it won’t be another meaningful vote. The Prime Minister hoped to force the Commons to host another Meaningful Vote on her hated Withdrawal Agreement in an emergency sitting on Friday to meet a crunch EU deadline. But the PM – who announced plans to quit so Tory hardliners could back her pact – had to scrap the bid to have “MV3” after being warned she was doomed to a hat-trick of crushing three figure losses. Instead, Downing Street plans to split the Withdrawal Agreement the Political Declaration, which outlines plans for a future UK-EU relationship.
Theresa May will challenge MPs to finally back Brexit this afternoon – on the day Britain was supposed to leave the EU. In a high-stakes gamble, Mrs May will throw down the gauntlet to Labour and her own Eurosceptic MPs, amid fears that she risks a third, and possibly final, defeat. If she does lose – and Parliament tries to make her accept a customs union and second referendum – allies fear she could be forced to call a General Election as early as next week.
REBEL Tories are plotting to team up with top Labour MPs in a new unity government to force through a soft Brexit, it has been claimed. If the PM’s Brexit deal is rejected for a third time then some Tories have plans to boot out Theresa May and replace her with a stand-in. The Tories would then reach out to Labour moderates like Tom Watson and Yvette Cooper and would force through a soft Brexit, the Daily Mail reported.
THERESA MAY’s hopes of getting MPs to back her withdrawal agreement suffered another huge blow last night after a leading Brexiteer labelled her deal “a trap”. Andrew Bridgen has condemned the Government’s decision to separate the withdrawal agreement from the political declaration insisting the UK now had no means to exit the Irish backstop. The Tory backbencher stated the Prime Minister’s deal is now “more dangerous” and would create a “legal nightmare” for the Government.
Britain faces another year in the European Union if MPs refuse to approve a central part of Theresa May’s deal during an emergency sitting of parliament today. On the date the country was due to leave the bloc, the Commons will be asked to vote in favour of a stripped-down version of the deal, consisting of only the withdrawal agreement. Approving this is an essential condition set by the EU for a short extension of the Article 50 process. However, as protesters led by Nigel Farage gather outside parliament, there seems little chance that the vote will succeed, with Jeremy Corbyn and the DUP rejecting the idea.
BRITAIN faces being trapped in the European Union for another year if Theresa May fails to win a crunch vote on her Brexit deal today. On the very day the UK had supposed to be leaving the bloc, MPs will vote on whether to support or back the PM’s divorce agreement with the EU. But with Labour and the DUP unlikely to back May, the Times reports EU leaders are plotting to lock us in for as long as much as a year. It reports a senior Brussels official saying that unless the UK agrees to stay for months on end at a special summit on April 10, it could face crashing out without a deal.
Supporters of a soft Brexit are in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party and Scottish Nationalists about keeping Britain in the customs union and single market after the country leaves. Before another round of voting on alternative Brexit proposals in the Commons on Monday, supporters of the so-called Common Market 2.0 proposal have been asked into meetings with both party leaderships. Talks are also continuing with the Labour leadership, which encouraged its MPs to vote for the proposal on Wednesday night but stopped short of whipping for it.
The Democratic Unionist Party has hammered the final nail into the coffin of Theresa May’s deal, insisting it will not back it under “any set of circumstances”. The prime minister was warned her allies in government will not change its mind – even as talks continue – appearing to rule out a third ‘meaningful vote’ taking place on Friday. Some in Downing Street still harbour hopes of a DUP switch that would persuade more Brexiteer Tories to back the agreement and enable to get over the line in the Commons. But Jim Wells, a former DUP deputy speaker of the Northern Ireland assembly, said any deal with the trap of the Irish backstop was “totally unacceptable” to all Unionists.
Up to 30 of the most hardline pro-Brexit Tories and 10 Democratic Unionist party MPs are still planning to vote against Theresa May’s deal, despite a string of Eurosceptics backing down when she promised to resign. May now faces an uphill battle to get her EU withdrawal agreement through parliament despite promising to step down if her deal passes, which won her at least 20 Eurosceptic votes including those of Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith. A source in the pro-Brexit European Research Group said 20 to 30 MPs were still holding out and there was “no way” the deal would get through.
ARLENE Foster was last night begged to save Brexit by backing Theresa May’s deal in a crunch vote today. The PM yesterday decided to put her EU agreement back before MPs on the original Brexit day of March 29 – in one final gamble. And Tories urged the DUP leader to change her mind and hand 10 crucial votes to the Government – after she vowed her party would oppose it. One senior Tory said: “Come on Arlene – think of the national interest”.
Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure to discipline frontbenchers who defied the party whip over a second Brexit vote. Ian Lavery, the party chairman, Andrew Gwynne, shadow communities secretary, and Jon Trickett, shadow Cabinet Office minister, all rebelled and abstained for the vote on Wednesday night. Melanie Onn, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, stood down as shadow housing minister to vote against another referendum.
Labour was accused of hypocrisy last night after pledging to oppose Theresa May’s plan to split her Brexit deal in two. The Prime Minister had hoped the move would help get her deal through the Commons today. The idea would be to separate the deal into the political declaration and withdrawal agreement. Labour has previously declared its opposition to the political declaration part, because it rules out a customs union. Until now it has not opposed the other half – the withdrawal agreement, the legally-binding text which dictates the terms on which Britain will leave the EU.
The European Union will insist that Britain pays a £39 billion bill and implements the Irish backstop before beginning emergency talks to prevent an economic crash after a no-deal Brexit. European ambassadors met in restricted session yesterday for “full-on war-gaming for a no-deal”, according to one source, to dictate the terms that Britain would have to sign up to in order to open talks if it crashes out of the EU as early as April 12. The EU’s decision to step up crisis plans is a response to the political chaos in Westminster and growing pessimism about whether the government will be able to ratify the Brexit withdrawal treaty in the next two weeks.
The EU has pencilled in April Fools’ Day 2020 as a leading option for Britain’s first day outside the bloc, should the UK government ask Brussels for a lengthy extension of article 50 in three weeks’ time, it can be revealed. The date was to be offered at the leaders’ summit last week if Theresa May had followed through on her promise to request a short extension in the event of passing her Brexit deal, and a longer one should it be rejected again by the House of Commons.
IRELAND has been told Brussels expects a closer partnership and more European cooperation in exchange for solidarity during Brexit negotiations. Alexandre Holroyd, a French MP close to Emmanuel Macron, said he expects Dublin to back the French president’s aim for greater EU solidarity ahead of May’s European Parliament elections. As one of five “ambassadors” tasked with promoting Mr Macron’s idea for greater EU integration, he reminded politicians of the solidarity Europe gave Ireland during the protracted Brexit negotiations. Mr Holyroyd is travelling all over the EU and was in Dublin this week for a series of meetings, The Irish Times reports.
The European parliament has overwhelmingly backed a watershed resolution calling for reparations for crimes committed in Africa during European colonialism. The bill urges European member states to introduce a series of sweeping reforms aimed at tackling ‘structural racism’ facing millions of Afro-Europeans. It calls on the countries to implement nation-wide strategies to deal with discrimination in education, health, housing, policing, the justice system and politics.
Brussels was war-gaming for a No Deal Brexit last night amid growing concern that Theresa May’s deal will be defeated again today. Member states met Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, yesterday before discussing the high price Britain must pay to get round the table after a hard Brexit on April 12 – the next cliff-edge for Brexit. EU ambassadors said Britain would still have to pay the £39billion divorce bill agreed in Mrs May’s deal if it wanted trade talks.
The EU has moved into full crisis mode, with officials now setting the terms the UK will have to meet for Brussels to open talks on avoiding an economic meltdown in the weeks after a no-deal Brexit. In anticipation of a no-deal outcome on 12 April after MPs voted down eight Brexit options on Wednesday, and the likely rejection of the withdrawal agreement on Friday, EU ambassadors on Thursday morning opened discussions on the terms to be set for the bloc to return to the negotiating table.
Europe could face shortages of tens of thousands of medical supplies such as pacemakers and blood-test machines within days of a no-deal Brexit, the German health minister has warned. Officials fear that in a messy divorce it would no longer be legal for hospitals in the EU to buy many medicines and technologies that are quality-tested in Britain. Jens Spahn, 38, is pressing Brussels to draw up a contingency plan so the devices can still be sold in the EU.
The deputy mayor of Calais has said that he is ready for a clean, no deal Brexit, saying, “If everyone does their jobs properly, there won’t be any problems.” Jean-Marc Puissesseau told Sky News that Calais has been planning for a customs border between his EU port and Brexit Britain for over a year, introducing new customs processes including internet-based customs declarations and a revamped area for the small percentage of lorries that will need to park and be checked.
Theresa May announced on Wednesday that she will step down as Prime Minister once her Brexit deal has passed. Mrs May told the 1922 committee meeting that she will start the process of selecting a new leader once Brexit has been delivered, making way for a new Conservative Prime Minister to lead the second phase of the Brexit negotiations.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has given his strongest hint yet that he backs Boris Johnson to replace Theresa May as Conservative party leader, saying he is a “formidably able candidate”. It is the most explicit endorsement of Mr Johnson by Mr Mogg since Mrs May announced on Wednesday night that she will stand down as Tory leader and Prime Minister if her Brexit deal is voted through by MPs.
Dominic Raab has set out his stall as the “no deal Brexit” candidate for the Conservative Party leadership as he broke his silence on Theresa May’s deal. The former Brexit Secretary refused to support the Withdrawal Agreement and said he would prefer to leave the EU without a deal. More than 20 Brexiteers, including Boris Johnson, have this week switched to back her deal.
LIZ Truss dropped a heavy hint she will run to replace Theresa May yesterday by throwing her weight behind a Canada-style free trade deal backed by Brexiteers. And the Chief Secretary to the Treasury also laid out a raft of popular policies to rocket-boost the economy. She called for hated business rates to be slashed to help the High Street. Ms Truss said the Government should use some of the £18 billion a year of taxpayers’ subsidised business support cash to cut business rates.
Theresa May’s announcement that she will stand down after Brexit is delivered will trigger a battle for the succession as rival candidates jockey for position. The prime minister told a private meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs on Wednesday that she will not head the negotiations with the EU on a long-term trade deal, which will begin immediately if a withdrawal agreement is approved by the Commons.
JEREMY HUNT launched the desperate race to replace Theresa May yesterday with a rallying cry for the Tories to “be the party for everyone”. In a blatant pitch for the top job he said the Conservatives couldn’t be about “money, money, money” but had to demonstrate a “burning social mission” to unify the country. It came just hours after the PM vowed to go if her Brexit deal passes and infuriated senior Mrs May loyalists. But four other Tories also made their moves ahead of weeks of infighting among leadership contenders.
At least 10 cabinet ministers are considering putting themselves forward to take over from Theresa May as prime minister after she promised to step down if her Brexit deal passes. Sources said Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Amber Rudd, Michael Gove and Matt Hancock are all considering their options, having been urged to run by fellow MPs.
Male GPs are paid on average 33 per cent more than their female counterparts, a Government-ordered review has found. The new figures reveal family doctors have the biggest gap among NHS clinicians, despite more than half the profession being women. The difference in average earnings is nearly double the 17 per cent gender pay gap currently existing across the NHS doctor workforce as a whole. Conducted by Professor Dame Jane Dacre, interim results from the independent review also show that although two thirds of doctors in training grade are currently women, roughly two thirds of consultants, senior hospital doctors, are men.
Thousands of children are in danger because Britain’s largest police force is not doing enough to protect them from paedophiles, a damning report found yesterday. The police watchdog said a surge in online child sex abuse cases had ‘overwhelmed’ Scotland Yard. Some offenders who viewed indecent images of youngsters on the internet could be escaping justice because some units only had the capacity to examine two of their electronic devices for evidence.