BREAKING NEWS  BREAKING NEWS  BREAKING NEWS

The BBC is reporting that Mrs May has written to the EU Council president Donald Tusk requesting a delay in Article 50 until June 30.

Brexit

Mail
Theresa May is poised to formally request a fresh delay to Brexit today to prevent Britain leaving the EU without a deal next week – but Brussels will demand a year-long ‘flextension’. The Prime Minister will write to EU Council President Donald Tusk to request an extension to Article 50 that will delay the UK’s departure beyond April 12, Government sources said. Mrs May will seek a ‘termination clause’, which would allow the UK to leave on May 22 – the day before European elections – if a deal can be pushed through the UK Parliament. But if this fails, the delay is likely to extend until at least the end of the year.

Independent
Brexit is on course to be delayed until next year, the attorney general has warned, as cross-party talks to end the crisis remained deadlocked. Geoffrey Cox risked blowing apart the fragile cabinet truce over an Article 50 extension by suggesting it would be more than “just a few weeks or months”  – unless Theresa May and  Jeremy Corbyn strike a deal. The prime minister is still clinging to the hope of carrying out EU withdrawal by 22 May, but Mr Cox acknowledged that hope was fading before a crunch summit of EU leaders next Wednesday.

Reuters
European Council President Donald Tusk is proposing to make an offer of a 12-month “flexible” extension to the UK’s Brexit date, the BBC reported on Friday, citing a senior European Union source. The plan would let UK leave sooner if the British parliament ratifies a deal but will need to be agreed by EU leaders next week at a summit, the BBC said. After her EU withdrawal deal was rejected three times by lawmakers, British Prime Minister Theresa May invited opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for talks in parliament to try to plot a way out of the crisis.

BBC News
European Council President Donald Tusk is proposing to offer the UK a 12-month “flexible” extension to its Brexit date, according to a senior EU source. His plan would allow the UK to leave sooner if Parliament ratifies a deal, but it would need to be agreed by EU leaders at a summit next week. The UK’s Conservatives and Labour Party are set to continue Brexit talks later

EU

Times
Angela Merkel has said Germany will stand with Ireland “every step of the way” after her meeting with Leo Varadkar in Dublin yesterday. The German chancellor’s visit for talks with the Irish prime minister at such a crucial point in the Brexit impasse is seen as a significant intervention with a week to go before a potential no-deal scenario unfolds. Before their meeting the pair had a round-table discussion with a panel of 15 people from Protestant and Catholic communities, made up of unionists and nationalists, from both sides of the border.

Mail
Angela Merkel compared the hard border in Northern Ireland to living behind the Iron Curtain as she praised rebel MPs who passed a bill to stop No Deal Brexit today. After a summit with Irish premier Leo Varadkar in Dublin, the German chancellor said she was following the passage of the Cooper-Letwin backbench bill and said their actions may lead the way to an ‘orderly’ UK departure.

Guardian
Angela Merkel has pledged the European Union’s support for averting a hard border on the island of Ireland despite concern this could undermine the single market in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The German chancellor expressed solidarity with the Irish government in a visit to Dublin on Thursday and urged the UK to present a viable plan to avert crashing out of the EU next week. Asked if averting a border was compatible with protecting the single market, Merkel told a press conference: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way … we simply have to do this, we simply have to be successful.”

BBC News
The European Union has agreed in principle that British citizens visiting the EU for short periods after Brexit will not need a visa. The three-month visa waiver would apply whether or not there is a Brexit deal. However it would be conditional on the UK granting the same rights to EU citizens in return. The legislation containing the offer had been delayed over its description of Gibraltar as a “colony”. The European Parliament approved the law on Thursday, meaning it will come into effect once EU states have given it the final sign-off.

Express
Leo Varadkar has rejected efforts from the House of Commons to come up with a Brexit plan this week, insisting EU leaders will not negotiate with the UK’s MPs. The Taoiseach was speaking at a press conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he met in Dublin this afternoon, with Brexit top of the agenda.

Express
POLAND and Romania are in hot water with the EU once again with allegations of growing authoritarianism in the two member states and Brussels demanding tougher measures to protect the rule of law. European Commission first vice-president Frans Timmermans has launched fresh action against Warsaw over its controversial judicial reform and warned Romania faces censure over its bid to overturn the corruption convictions of senior politicians.

Second referendum

Telegraph
Theresa May’s ministers have discussed the possibility of giving MPs a vote on a second referendum during talks aimed at agreeing a Brexit deal with Jeremy Corbyn, it has emerged. A team of four ministers led by David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, held four and a half hours of talks with their Labour counterparts on Thursday during which the idea of offering a second referendum was discussed as an option. Labour’s Keir Starmer is believed to have said that a second referendum had to be one of the options put to MPs in a series of so-called indicative votes which will take place next week if a cross-party deal cannot be agreed.

Independent
Cabinet ministers have openly clashed over the prospect of a new Brexit referendum after chancellor Philip Hammond suggested a fresh vote was a “perfectly credible” proposal. Health secretary Matt Hancock set himself against his cabinet colleague, saying he was “very, very strongly against” a Final Say vote to break the Brexit deadlock. Mr Hammond risked Brexiteer fury when he said there was a “perfectly credible” case for a new referendum and signalled support for a move towards a softer Brexit.

Customs union

Times
Senior ministers told their Labour counterparts yesterday that Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union already includes a customs union “in all but name”. In a disclosure that will infuriate Tory backbenchers, a team of ministers led by Mrs May’s deputy, David Lidington, attempted to persuade Labour to back the deal because the small print already contains many of their demands.

BBC News
The DUP has accused the government of preparing for a Brexit U-turn after the chancellor suggested another referendum would be a “credible proposition”. The DUP has also insisted that it does not support the UK joining a customs union with the EU. On Wednesday, chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson hinted the DUP might be open to a customs union. But on Thursday, he criticised “halfway houses” and “staging posts”, saying it was not the Brexit people voted for.

Cabinet resignations

Times
Cabinet ministers are seeking to block Theresa May from agreeing a Brexit delay of up to a year. The prime minister has not yet secured cabinet support for a long extension but ministers fear that she will press ahead anyway. Mrs May is due to set out her intention to delay Brexit in a letter to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, in the next few days. No 10 has declined to say whether she will consult the cabinet before the letter is sent. EU leaders will meet to decide whether to give Britain an extension — and how long it could be — on Wednesday night.

Telegraph
Ministers have held discussions about staging a mass walkout in protest over a soft Brexit and long Article 50 extension following a meeting of the “Pizza Club” made up of senior Eurosceptics. Plans to resign en masse have been suggested because “death by a thousand cuts isn’t working,” ministers said, pointing out the trickle of resignations has not affected Theresa May. Cabinet ministers met junior colleagues twice on Wednesday after the Prime Minister softened her red lines and opened talks with Jeremy Corbyn on a customs union.

Conservative Party

Telegraph
Grassroots Conservative activists are “quitting in their droves”, it has been claimed, as new polling shows that more than 90 per cent disagree with Theresa May’s decision to open talks with Jeremy Corbyn. Don Porter, a former head of the Tory party’s grassroots body National Conservative Convention, said Mrs May’s talks with the Labour leader were doing “lasting damage” to the Tory party. Mr Porter said volunteers, members and candidates were quitting, with real fears that he way has been cleared for Mr Corbyn to become Prime Minister.

Independent
The Conservatives would be “wiped out” and Jeremy Corbyn would become prime minister if there is a snap general election, a Tory MP has said. Johnny Mercer, who is tipped as a future leadership candidate, said the Tories would “just get left behind” if the Brexit crisis results in an election in the coming months. It comes amid speculation that Theresa May could call a snap poll if she is unable to get a Brexit deal through parliament.

Times
As the Conservatives’ grass roots grow anxious about the Brexit impasse, there are some leaders of local parties who are standing by Theresa May. The prime minister’s negotiations with Jeremy Corbyn and an unwillingness to deliver a no-deal Brexit have led to rank-and-file Tories posting photographs on social media of their cut-up party membership cards.

Labour Party

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn
 has been told to ignore calls for a new referendum and ‘go the extra step’ to achieve a deal with Theresa May in a letter that will reignite Labour’s bitter Brexit split. A group of 25 backbenchers from mostly Leave-voting areas have urged the Labour leader to make every effort to compromise with the Prime Minister if it would lead to an agreement that facilitated Brexit. The group, which includes Rosie Cooper, Caroline Flint and Kevin Barron, who all voted for the PM’s Brexit deal last week, also claimed that a new public vote was not part of Labour policy, in the letter obtained by Reuters.

Morning Star
LABOUR chairman Ian Lavery warned today that the party could be “finished” if it backs a second referendum. Mr Lavery reportedly told leader Jeremy Corbyn that Labour’s future was bleak if it failed to deliver on the result of the 2016 vote during a shadow cabinet meeting. The Labour leader and the Prime Minister were engaged in a second round of talks today to seek a consensus position ahead of a crunch summit in Brussels on April 10.

The Brexit Party

Westmonster
A snap poll of Westmonster’s readers found that two-thirds of those who follow us on Twitter would back Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party. With the disgraceful prospect of European Elections now on the horizon, we asked our readers whether they would vote Tory, Labour, Brexit Party or UKIP if they are made to elect new MEPs to the European Parliament. Interestingly, our pro-Leave audience much favours the brand new Brexit Party to UKIP. 65% of the 16,003 who responded said they’d vote for the Brexit Party, compared to 27% for UKIP and just 4% each backed the Conservatives or Labour.

Legal action

Express
THE UK is no longer a member of the EU and delaying Brexit is illegal, a former appeal judge has shockingly claimed. The date the UK was meant to leave the Brussels bloc was March 29 but an extension has been granted until April 12. However, English Democrats leader Robin Tilbrook claims the new exit date should have been passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords before it was approved. Mr Tilbrook has launched a High Court battle claiming the UK has already left the EU.

Times
Legal experts are at odds over the potential role of the Queen should she be drawn into the Brexit deadlock. Top constitutional lawyers and academics have been debating what would happen if ministers advised the monarch to withhold royal assent to a new bill passed by parliament. The legislation is unusual because parliament is instructing the executive government on a course of action that is contrary to its wishes on setting an Article 50 extension date. Lord Pannick, QC, a Times Law columnist, wrote to The Times this week along with professors from several leading universities to say that urging the Queen to withhold her assent would be “utterly without precedent”.

By election

Telegraph
Labour has retained Newport West in a by-election marred by low turnout and held against a background of Brexit chaos. The battle for the Commons seat saw turnout slump with Labour’s Ruth Jones taking 9,308 votes, giving her a majority of 1,951 over the Tories. Ukip’s Neil Hamilton took third place with 2,023 votes as the party saw support increase from its showing at the 2017 general election. The contest was triggered by the death of veteran MP Paul Flynn.

Mail
Labour has won the Newport West by-election – but support for both them and the Tory party has collapsed, with UKIP in third place. Ruth Jones won the election with 39.6 per cent of the vote – but that was down 12.7 per cent on the result of the veteran MP Paul Flynn who died in February.  The city has long been a Labour stronghold and voted Leave by a margin of 56 per cent to 44 per cent in the 2016 in-out referendum.

House of Commons

Telegraph
The Commons has been suspended for the day after water came pouring into the chamber, prompting calls for a leak inquiry. Deputy Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle called a halt to proceedings on Thursday afternoon after the leak started above the press gallery in the upper tier of the chamber. MPs were distracted as they discussed their concerns about the loan charge when water began pouring from the ceiling. Conservative former minister Justine Greening had been speaking when the leak began.

Independent
Debates in the House of Commons have finished two hours earlier than planned after a major leak in the roof forced the chamber to be closed. Water flooded into the press gallery at one end of the Commons during a debate on loan charges, prompting deputy speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to call a halt to the debate. The leak began during a speech by former education secretary Justine Greening and the debate continued for several minutes before Sir Lindsay suspended proceedings, with the noise of the water clearly audible.

Guardian
The House of Commons has been suspended for the day after water began pouring into the chamber from the ceiling, soaking a section of the press gallery. During a backbench debate on HMRC’s methods of recouping unpaid tax and national insurance, a torrent of water started to come down as the Conservative MP Justine Greening spoke, prompting her to pause and look up. The water soaked benches and the carpet in the far corner of the lower press gallery, where journalists watch proceedings, and filled ceiling light fittings in the corridor outside.

Times
She has survived a series of damaging leaks but this one may actually have scuppered Theresa May’s chances of securing a parliamentary Brexit breakthrough. And it wasn’t even political. Yesterday the Commons was suspended early for the day after water started pouring into the chamber from a leak in the roof shortly after lunch. Although it prompted wisecracks on everything from leak inquiries to a shortage of Polish plumbers it actually has a rather more serious consequence: it is now too late for the government to table a Brexit debate on Monday.

House of Lords

Times
Brexiteer Lords attempted last night to talk out a bill that could force Theresa May to ask for a long extension to Article 50 next week. After MPs backed a bill brought by Yvette Cooper on Wednesday by one vote, Labour introduced a timetabling motion to allow the legislation to be completed in one sitting of the Lords. However, peers opposed to a Brexit delay and backed by the government tried to filibuster the bill by introducing a raft of amendments and speaking at length on each one. It meant that Lords did not move on to discussing the bill until after 7pm — nearly eight hours after they began their debate.

Education

Times
The government has put pressure on two dozen universities by naming and shaming them over the worst form of unconditional offer, a practice condemned as unethical and unacceptable. Under the arrangements, known as conditional unconditionals, students are guaranteed a place regardless of their A-level grades — provided they reject all other offers. Damian Hinds, the education secretary, told The Times there was no justification for the practice and it “backs students into a corner”, with applicants pressured into taking a place at less selective establishments when they could do better.

Morning Star
A PRIMARY school head has introduced a weekly “dark day” when the school’s lights are left off to save on electricity bills, the Morning Star can reveal. The Yorkshire school, which has not been named, has been forced to take the extreme measure in response to a funding crisis which is affecting educators nationwide. Other schools are closing at lunchtime on Fridays to cut running costs, while some head teachers are working shifts at schools other than their own to raise money for essentials. Some heads are cleaning school toilets and facilities, as well as doing the job of caretakers, as cuts have seen both caretakers and cleaning staff given the chop.

NHS

Mail
Gipsies and travellers should get priority for NHS spending, a Tory-led committee of MPs said yesterday. Health chiefs should be ordered to ‘direct resources towards gipsy, Roma and traveller communities who have the worst health outcomes of any ethnic group’, it said. There should also be heavy public spending on a new national computerised database listing every school child, to ensure that traveller children do not disappear from school rolls, the Commons women and equalities committee said. The register would be a revival of a system introduced in the 2000s.

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