Brexit

Telegraph
Theresa May faces a fresh legal challenge to her Brexit plans on Friday when a High Court judge will be told that MPs must be given a vote on leaving the European Economic Area. The Single Market Justice campaign will argue that because Britain joined the EEA separately from joining the EU, with a law in Parliament, it also has to leave the EEA with another law passed by MPs. This could see the Prime Minister having to ask MPs to agree to triggering Article 127 of the EEA Treaty, which gives notice of the UK’s intention to leave. On Thursday David Davis, the Brexit secretary, refused to rule out a vote on leaving the EEA when he was asked about it in the Commons by Labour MP Heidi Alexander. He replied: “Once we are outside the EU, the question of whether we automatically cease to be a member of the EEA becomes a legal empty vessel. “We will look at that. If we do propose to withdraw from the EEA, we will come back and tell the House.”

Independent
Parliament has “remained sovereign throughout our membership to the EU” despite people “not always feeling like that”, the Brexit White Paper says. The statement contradicts a key message from the campaign to leave the European Union, which argued ending the UK’s membership to the EU would “bring back sovereignty” to Parliament and end Brussels’ control over national laws. But in a section titled “taking control of our own laws”, the White Paper states: “The sovereignty of Parliament is a fundamental principle of the UK constitution. Whilst Parliament has remained sovereign throughout our membership of the EU, it has not always felt like that.”

ITV News
The High Court is set to rule today on whether Theresa May needs Parliament’s consent to trigger Article 127, the exit mechanism for Britain’s membership of the European Economic Area (EEA). Campaigners Single Market Justice argue leaving the EEA after Brexit is separate to EU membership. The applicants, who include both Leave and Remain voters, launched the legal challenge in a bid to prevent a hard Brexit and keep Britain in the single market. They say the Government could be acting unlawfully by assuming leaving the EU means the UK’s automatic departure from the single market.

Guardian
The government’s Brexit strategy faces a fresh legal challenge in the high court on Friday when campaigners argue that parliament must separately legislate to remove the UK from the European Economic Area (EEA) and the single market. After months of resisting – and ultimately losing – a series of courtroom battles over ministers’ use of their executive powers to trigger article 50 and leave the EU, government lawyers may be forced to launch a renewed defence of the royal prerogative. The government is partially resisting the judicial review application on the grounds that no decision to leave the EEA has yet been made and that is is therefore not a decision that is open to challenge.

Westmonster
The Brexit Bill may have been overwhelmingly backed in the House of Commons, but the House of Lords will have its say too. Crammed with cronies and friends of former Prime Ministers, the Lords has been even more pro-EU than the Commons over the years. Former Labour MP and now Peer in the Lords Peter Hain has been fast out of the gate to boast that he will be voting to block Brexit. This unelected set of politicians wouldn’t dare block the wishes of the British people to leave the anti-democratic European Union. Would they?

EU

Mail
The national emblem an athlete wears on their chest can trigger raw power and emotion – not to mention patriotism. But now famous sporting insignia, such as England’s Three Lions, could take on a dramatically different appearance thanks to an audacious plan concocted by officials in Brussels. In a highly controversial move, eurocrats have demanded that the EU’s gold and blue flag should be given equal billing alongside each country’s own famous motifs at major sporting occasions. Under the plans, competing nations at events such as the Olympics or the World Cup would be required to prominently display the EU’s logos on their jerseys. It would also mean that national flags displayed around a stadium or when teams take to the field would need to be accompanied by the European symbol.

BBC News
The UK prime minister is to urge EU Nato members to spend more on defence, at an informal summit in Malta. Theresa May will brief leaders on her talks in the US with Donald Trump, when he indicated his commitment to Nato. The UK is one of the few alliance members to meet pledges to spend a minimum of 2% of GDP on defence. Mrs May will also pledge continued UK help with Europe’s migrant crisis – a focus for the summit – and to be a “reliable partner” after Brexit. She will argue that she wants a “new, positive and constructive” relationship with the EU after Brexit, Downing Street said. She is also expected to stress that a strong EU is in the interests of the UK.

Guardian
The European parliament’s main political parties are making an unprecedented attempt to block Donald Trump’s likely choice as ambassador to the European Union from EU buildings, describing him as hostile and malevolent. In a startling move that threatens a major diplomatic row, the leaders of the conservative, socialist and liberal groups in Brussels have written to the European commission and the European council, whose members represent the 28 EU states, to reject the appointment of Ted Malloch. Malloch, a businessman who stridently supported Brexit ahead of the vote in June, is said to have been interviewed for the post by Trump. When recently asked by the BBC why he was interested in moving to Brussels, Malloch replied: “I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped bring down the Soviet Union. So maybe there’s another union that needs a little taming.”

Sky News
Prime Minister Theresa May will promise that the UK will remain a “reliable partner” when she meets her EU counterparts in Malta today. Mrs May will attend only attend part of the EU Presidency Summit in Valletta but will not be present when the rest of the leaders discuss Brexit. However, she will hold meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy and Austria’s Christian Kern. The main topic on the summit agenda will be how to deal with the continuing migration crisis in the Mediterranean. A Downing Street spokesman added that she would pledge her commitment to the “long-term” challenge both before and after Brexit. Mrs May will also meet the Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat.

Express
THE former President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy has stuck his oar in over the renewed ties between Britain and the US saying Donald Trump was “offensive to the European Union”. The 69-year-old, who was described as having “the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk” by Nigel Farage, told Belgian current affairs programme Terzake the relationship between Prime Minister Theresa May and the US President was “quite sad” because Mr Trump was “so offensive to the EU”. In a swipe at the UK, Mr Van Rompuy, who was head of the council between 2009 and 2014, said: “No one, except for some people in the UK, really believes that anyone will benefit from Brexit.” The former Prime Minister of Belgium, also stated it was “unworthy” of the UK to invite Mr Trump for a state visit.

Mail
European Parliament leaders have urged the EU to reject Ted Malloch if he is named as US President Donald Trump‘s ambassador to Brussels. The leaders of the main parliamentary groups said Malloch, whom they called Trump’s likely choice, is ‘hostile to the bloc’. They claimed he has openly backed the dissolution of the 28-nation European Union, much like the collapse of the Soviet Union. The leaders of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group in the parliament, the Socialists and Democrats and the liberal ALDE group wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk urging him not to accept Malloch’s credentials if he is appointed ambassador. EPP chairman Manfred Weber and ALDE President Guy Verhofstadt said in their letter: ‘The prospective nominee… eloquently supported dissolution of the European Union and explicitly bet on the demise of the common currency within months,’ ‘These statements reveal outrageous malevolence regarding the values that define this European Union.’

Express
THERESA May was today accused of dishing out a “slap in the face” to working families across Europe after Britain blocked attempts to draw up an EU hit list of notorious tax havens. Brussels politicians acted with fury after the UK government wielded its influence to water down proposals by eurocrats to go after nations which protect corporate fat cats. Furious MEPs accused Britain of trying to protect its tax havens of Jersey and Guernsey after Mrs May threatened to start a tax war with the rest of Europe over Brexit. The UK has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in Europe and the Government has vowed to slash it even further after the decision to leave the EU, enraging leaders on the continent. And now it has emerged that the UK, along with tax havens Luxembourg and Ireland, have moved to water down proposals by the EU Commission to crack down on tax avoidance.

Labour Party

Mirror
Jeremy Corbyn is set to offer Ed Miliband a sensational return to frontline politics when he reshuffles his shadow cabinet next week. The veteran Labour leader is keen to appoint his predecessor Mr Miliband as his new shadow business secretary if incumbent Clive Lewis quits over Brexit. Rising star Mr Lewis has vowed to vote against Article 50 when the Brexit Bill returns to the Commons next week if the Tory Government does not accept a series of Labour amendments – which they are refusing to do. “If they’re determined to go ahead with this in the way that they are… then I won’t in all good conscience be able to vote for it,” Mr Lewis said. “And if that means I walk from the Shadow Cabinet – I don’t want to, but this is a point of principle.” Mr Corbyn has made clear shadow cabinet members will have to quit if they vote against Brexit, and has already lost three members of his top team over the past week.

NHS

Mail
A revolutionary drug considered ‘the closest thing to a cure’ ever developed for breast cancer is set to be rejected for use on the NHS, officials have announced. 
Experts said the decision highlights a serious problem at the heart of England’ s drug appraisal system – and called for an urgent overhaul of the NHS drugs watchdog. Palbociclib halts the most common form of breast cancer in its tracks, freezing the growth of aggressive tumours. This delays the need for gruelling chemotherapy, enabling women to lead normal lives for years at a time. Experts describe the development of the daily pill as the most important advance in 20 years – yet NHS patients are unlikely to ever benefit. Rationing watchdog NICE last night published a draft decision rejecting the drug due to its £38,350-a-year cost.

Times
An NHS body has suspended all hip replacements, cataract operations and other non-urgent surgeries for more than two months in an attempt to save more than £3 million. Patients in Kent will be denied elective surgery for up to 102 days in an unprecedented move that doctors have condemned as unfair and damaging. 
West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) delayed all non-urgent surgeries from December 20 last year until the new financial year begins in April as they attempt to recoup £3.2 million. News of the policy, which will put about 1,700 people at risk of their condition worsening and leave many in pain, emerged in board papers published this week.

Mail
Millions of patients are being left in the hands of nurses and paramedics out-of-hours instead of GPs, an investigation has found. A tenth of health trusts admitted they were unable to find GPs for overnight or weekend shifts on at least one occasion last year. They cover a population of about four million but the true figure is likely to be even higher because some areas did not supply figures. The revelation will fuel concerns that problems in the GP system are adding to the pressure on A&E departments. Managers in Tower Hamlets, east London, admitted a quarter of a million patients had been left without a doctor on 12 separate occasions during 2016. Patients were told to contact the community night team which is staffed by nurses or paramedics, or go to the nearest A&E.

Scotland

Mail
Nicola Sturgeon reacted with fury today after a Cabinet minister told her to ‘forget’ a second independence referendum. Sir Michael Fallon signalled that the government would block any bid to call a fresh vote on whether to split the UK – saying she must ‘respect’ the result from 2014. But the SNP leader, who has been ramping up her threats to call another referendum over Brexit, insisted that standing in her way would be a ‘democratic outrage’. Asked if the Westminster government would facilitate another referendum before 2020, Sir Michael told the Herald newspaper: ‘No, forget it. The respect agenda is two-way. ‘She is constantly asking us to respect the SNP Government but she has to respect the decision of Scotland to stay inside the UK in 2014 and the decision of the UK to leave the EU. ‘Respect works two ways.’ However, he appeared to backpedal on the issue during a radio interview this morning.

Express
ALEX SALMOND has demanded Tories treat Scotland with “a bit more respect” after MPs overwhelmingly voted to trigger Article 50. The former first minister, who voted against granting Theresa May the power to start the process of taking the UK out of the European Union, also said Scotland should be allowed to remain in the single market. The Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill cleared its first Parliamentary hurdle with the backing of 498 MPs on Wednesday evening, despite 114 MPs ignoring the will of the British people. Brexiteers hailed the vote as a great victory for democracy with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage declaring: “We have done it.” Despite Parliament only voting in line with the EU referendum result, Mr Salmond raged in defeat as he declared Mrs May did not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the union.

BBC News
The question of Scottish independence was settled by the referendum in 2014, Downing Street has said. It came after the UK defence secretary told BBC Scotland that the SNP should “forget” about holding a second referendum. But Sir Michael Fallon would not be drawn on reports he had suggested the UK government would block a vote. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that Sir Michael had “seriously backpedalled” on the issue. A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May later said that the referendum in 2014, when Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to remain in the UK, was “legal, fair and decisive”.

Diesel

Telegraph
A scrappage scheme for diesel cars could be introduced within months as part of a plan to lower emissions and improve air quality across the country, the Telegraph understands. Work is underway by officials in the Department for Transport and Defra on a scheme to offer cashback or a discount on low emission cars if people trade in their old polluting vehicles. A Government source confirmed that talks have taken place with the Treasury, which would finance the plan, and officials are developing a scheme which could focus on geographical areas around the country where pollution is worst. Chris Grayling reportedly told industry experts that he supports plans for a scrappage scheme during a private meeting earlier this month, but that it must be properly targeted.

Rail strike

Times
The most damaging rail dispute in two decades is about to end after union bosses won a significant concession over the modernisation of the network. Train drivers called off strike action on Southern Rail yesterday when the operator gave guarantees that a second staff member would be on every train — the sticking point at the centre of the row. The move comes despite the fact that driver-only trains have repeatedly been deemed safe by the independent regulators. The concession represents a partial victory for Aslef, the drivers’ union that has staged a series of strikes since December. The move will raise concerns that unions will press ahead with strikes on other networks in the hope of winning the same staff guarantees.

Morning Star
TRAIN DRIVERS announced that they had resolved their differences with Southern yesterday, but conductors remain in dispute. The private operator has faced strikes by both sets of workers in long-running disputes over the expansion of driver-only trains and the deskilling of conductors’ roles. After 10 days of talks, drivers’ union Aslef and Southern’s owner Govia Thameslink Railway announced a deal outside Congress House yesterday afternoon, subject to the union’s members approving it in a ballot. Neither party would disclose the detail of the agreement on the record, but the Star understands it involves drivers taking responsibility for closing train doors and performing safety checks before departing stations. Southern have in return offered an improved “programme to address [safety] concerns” over the quality of CCTV images in drivers’ cabs, according to an Aslef source.

New world

Star
SPACE boffins may have discovered an alien homeland after finding water on a nearby planet Water – which is believed to be key to supporting life – has been discovered in the atmosphere of a planet with the catchy name 51 Pegasi b. The planet – also known as Dimidium – was the first planet discovered to be orbiting a star similar to our Sun and is just 50 lightyears away from Earth. It could also be a potential new home for the human race if Earth is wiped out by nuclear war. The University of Colorado team behind the discovery believe it could help identify a number of habitable worlds for the human race. Team member Mateo Broghi said: “The detection is pretty rock solid. “It’s also an important step towards detecting water molecules in smaller, more habitable worlds.” Space boffins watched the system for around four hours, gaining data about radiation bouncing off the star. They then spotted a watery signature from the atmosphere. But the new world may be too hot to support life.

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