Local elections

Telegraph
The prospect of a sweeping Conservative General Election victory increased this morning after early local election results showed Labour suffering losses across the country and Ukip’s vote share collapsing. Theresa May’s party has made significant gains in Wales and England,  just weeks before the country goes to the polls to decide whether she or Jeremy Corbyn takes the keys to Number 10. Ukip faces being wiped out at the ballot box after failing to hold onto a single seat at the local elections, with the Tories picking up support – a trend which would boost Mrs May’s chances of strengthening her grip on power on June 8.

Mail
Theresa May is on track for a big victory in the general election after racking up gains from Labour in local polls overnight – while the Ukip vote is crumbling. As the results flow in, the Tories have already gained around 130 council seats and seized control of Warwickshire, Lincolnshire Gloucestershire and the Isle of Wight. The party has also won the first new mayoral contest, with Tim Bowles triumphant in the West of England. Senior Labour figures have been making clear that they blame Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership for their woes. At a time when it should be adding to its tally, the Opposition has so far lost more than 100 seats. Meanwhile, Ukip has failed to retain a single seat – and the Lib Dem performance has been patchy.  

Mirror
The Tories have triumphed as the depth of Labour’s woes are exposed in the first 2017 local election results. With 88 councils up for grabs just 34 days before the general election, Theresa May’s party 
won new control of FIVE in early counting overnight. Labour lost control of Labour heartlands Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend  and  Merthyr Tydfil – the Valleys town with coal mining heritage whose MP was once party founder Keir Hardie. Labour mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones held on with an improved result in good news in the north of England. But Labour lost its status as the largest party in Cumbriawhere the Tories also ousted councillor Gillian Troughton just weeks after defeating her in the Copeland by-election too.

Sky News
The Conservatives have enjoyed a strong showing in local election results overnight, with UKIP’s vote collapsing and Labour also losing a number of seats. Votes have been cast in elections to 88 councils in England, Scotland and Wales, plus mayoral contests which include six new devolved super-regions. The Tories have control of nine of the 18 authorities declared so far in England and Wales, gaining Gloucestershire, Isle of Wight, Lincolnshire, Warwickshire and Monmouthshire. Many of the gains were at the expense of UKIP, with the party losing all of its councillors in Essex and Lincolnshire – the county where leader Paul Nuttall is hoping to win a Westminster seat next month.

Independent
Ukip has been completely wiped out in every seat it held so far. The party has lost 30 seats so far in the local elections. And that is every seat that it has looked to defend – with it failing to hold on to or gain even a single councillor. The majority of the seats have switched to the Tories. But they went to other parties too, with the Liberal Democrats taking seats from Ukip in Eastleigh, for instance. Those conservative gains have seen the party lose all its councillors in places that it previously had considerable support. In Lincolnshire alone, for instance, it lost nine seats and handed over control of the council to the Conservatives. Paul Nuttall’s party lost all its seats in Hampshire and Essex too – all key battlegrounds for Ukip at next month’s General Election.

ITV News
Labour is braced for heavy losses in the local elections just weeks before the country goes to the polls to decide who takes the keys to Number 10. Early results show the Tories are set to take a number of seats from Jeremy Corbyn’s party. The Conservatives won control of Warwickshire, Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire as results continue to be counted. Experts had forecast that the contests in parts of England and the whole of Scotland and Wales would be difficult for the Labour Party. However Welsh election expert Professor Roger Scully said so far there had been a “much smaller” swing from Labour to Conservative in Wales than in England. He said: “Labour’s worst losses in Wales have been to independents in Wrexham, Merthyr and Blaenau Gwent. 
“But Labour held up well in Newport, Cardiff and Swansea.”

Brexit

Breitbart
Downing Street is drawing up a “nuclear option” of halting all payments to Brussels immediately if Brexit talks break down. Britain is liable to pay £18 billion a year into the European Union budget until its official date of departure from the bloc, expected to take place in March 2019, and British negotiators have shown willingness to pay into the budget for a further two years, until the end of the current seven year budget cycle, to gain good will for future trade talks. But with European leaders’ demands spiraling to payments of €100 billion to cover “political commitments”, and good will rapidly dissipating between the negotiating parties, insiders are drawing up plans for Britain’s own hard-ball tactics – including pulling the plug on financial contributions completely.

Westmonster
Julian Jessop, chief economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs, has said that Britain’s Brexit bill should be nearer to zero as opposed to the €100bn figure which has been reported. Jessop’s reasoning is that the EU haven’t specified a figure yet and reported figures keep increasing over demands for ridiculous things such as funding French farms after Brexit, as well as paying loans for Eurozone countries upfront. Writing in City AM, he says: “The UK government should take a hard line. There may be a moral case for contributing to the pensions of some EU officials and a few investment projects already underway. And yes, it may also be wise to offer something extra now to smooth future negotiations. “But it is debatable whether the UK is under any legal obligation to pay a penny.” When you take into account the share of assets Britain owns in the EU, as well as money owed to us, “the United Kingdom’s net bill should be much nearer to zero than €100bn”.

Express
BRUSSELS has insisted that Britain has no right to a share of the EU’s assets as the furious row over the spiralling amount of a final Brexit bill intensifies. Eurocrats said the UK, which has been one of the bloc’s biggest net contributors for decades, does not own a stake in its sprawling empire worth hundreds of billions of pounds.  They insisted that the club’s gargantuan assets sheet, which includes buildings, loans, wine and fine art, is owned exclusively by Brussels and not the member states. The Government had been hoping to use the argument that the UK’s share of the bloc’s assets should be factored into the final Brexit bill to bring it well below the suggested £85 billion.  But senior EU officials are not prepared to budge an inch and have dismissed suggestions that a compromise should be made, insisting their legal case is watertight. 

Mail
Brussels admitted yesterday that it faces an ‘explosive’ political crisis if the UK refuses to pay a multi-billion pound Brexit bill. Michel Barnier, the EU‘s chief Brexit negotiator, warned the fragile bloc could crumble if Britain resists demands for the settlement which, say analysts, has ballooned to around 100billion euros (£85billion). His shock admission came as Brussels added more hard-line conditions to its aggressive negotiating stance. The bloc called for EU citizens who arrive in the UK just a day before Brexit to be granted full residency rights which can later extend to their families. It also demanded that millions of EU migrants in the UK should be governed by Brussels rules for decades to come – even if this means providing better benefits than Britons receive. 

Guardian
Uncertainty about who will lead Brexit divorce talks for Britain is a “very real problem”, the diplomat who helped draft article 50 has said, as he warned the UK faces a 45% chance of crashing out of the EU with no deal. John Kerr, a crossbench peer who served as the UK’s ambassador to the EU, said there was “a very real problem in the United Kingdom … that it is not clear who the negotiators are going to be”. He was speaking before the Brexit secretary, David Davis, asserted that he would be the principal facing the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. But on the day Barnier published a draft of the detailed negotiating text, senior sources in Brussels could not say who the Frenchman’s opposite number would be. “There are elections coming up,” said a senior EU official. “We are not speculating about who our interlocutor is.”

Express
BRUSSELS boss Donald Tusk tonight delivered the European Union’s strongest criticism yet of Theresa May’s extraordinary attack on the bloc, saying that ramped up rhetoric would make a good Brexit deal “impossible”. In a series of cutting remarks the EU Council president said reaching an agreement between the two parties would be “difficult enough” as it is without leaders on both sides throwing wild accusations at each other.  The Polish eurocrat said the “stakes are too high” for both Brussels and London to “let our emotions get out of hand” and urged the prime minister to tone down the nature of her comments about the rest of Europe. Last night Mrs May sparked pandemonium when she accused the EU of directly interfering in the UK election through the leaking of information and accused some eurocrats of actively attempting to sabotage the chances of a deal. 

Sky News
Senior EU figures are expected to react later to Theresa May’s combative speech in which she accused some in Brussels of “not wanting Britain to prosper”. Launching the Conservative Party’s general election campaign after the dissolution of Parliament, she suggested leaks and threats had been 
“deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election”. Two senior sources within the European Council refused to comment directly on the accusations when asked by Sky News, but MEPs gave their reaction on Wednesday evening. Mairead McGuinness, vice president of the European Parliament, warned of the damage such “emotive, electioneering language” could do to the subsequent negotiations.

BBC News
Councils along the Irish border have said they will work together to ensure their common concerns are addressed during Brexit negotiations. They met to discuss a report that sets out the risks and opportunities to the border area after the UK leaves the EU. The study found that some of the weakest economies on the island of Ireland are along the border. These areas are most in need of protection against any negative impacts of Brexit, the report added.

Westmonster
The government have been drawing up a ‘nuclear option’ which would see Britain immediately end budget contributions, should Brexit negotiations break down. The plan would be disastrous for the EU’s spending plans, given the fact that the UK is the second biggest contributor to the pot, and would see the bloc losing hundreds of millions every week. A source told The Sun: “Ceasing our contributions is not a threat No. 10 want to make yet, but it has certainly been discussed”.

EU

Breitbart
The European Union said Thursday it is preparing new regulations that could force a key financial market — and potentially thousands of jobs — to move away from London once Britain leaves the bloc. The EU’s executive Commission said it will present next month new rules on the oversight of this market, the so-called clearing of euro-denominated trades. In financial markets, clearing is the business of acting as an intermediary in a trade to reduce the risks from defaults by ensuring funds are delivered to the seller. Some 75 percent of euro-denominated interest rate derivatives are cleared in the U.K. — and tens of thousands of jobs depend on the business. Some European authorities want this euro clearing business to be located in a country in the EU, as the bloc is tightening its oversight of banks and financial services in the wake of the financial crisis.

Fox News
The European Union said Thursday it’s preparing new regulations that could force a key financial market — and potentially thousands of jobs — to move away from London once Britain leaves the bloc. The EU’s executive Commission said it will present next month new rules on the oversight of this market, the so-called clearing of euro-denominated trades. In financial markets, clearing is the business of acting as an intermediary in a trade to reduce the risks from defaults by ensuring funds are delivered to the seller. Some 75 percent of euro-denominated interest rate derivatives are cleared in the U.K. — and tens of thousands of jobs depend on the business. Some European authorities want this euro clearing business to be located in a country in the EU, as the bloc is tightening its oversight of banks and financial services in the wake of the financial crisis.

Sun
EURO boss Jean-Claude Juncker faced fresh questions over his fitness for office last night as claims emerged he was drunk during a major UN peace summit. Diplomatic sources have alleged that the EU Commission president was “very visibly pissed” during key talks in Geneva recently over Cyprus. International leaders came together to try to end decades of stalemate over the Mediterranean island, split between Turks and Greeks. Mr Juncker caused a stir during the conference with his drink-fuelled erratic behaviour. It included collisions with people and furniture, and being very familiar with junior aides. A diplomatic source told The Sun: “It was clear Juncker was very well refreshed.

Cronyism

Telegraph
Theresa May has signalled an end to cronyism in the honours system by becoming the first prime minister not to publish a dissolution honours list in more than 60 years. MPs who have chosen not to stand for re-election in June have been told not to expect an award, 
The Telegraph can disclose. Mrs May wants a clean break from the tradition of prime ministers using honours lists to reward close aides and advisers. Her predecessor, David Cameron, was accused of degrading the honours system last year when he showered awards on party donors and Downing Street staff including his wife Samantha’s stylist and two of his former drivers. Mr Cameron created 13 Tory life peers in his resignation honours, including No 10 political aides Gabrielle Bertin and Camilla Cavendish.

NHS

Morning Star
MORE than five million people in England needing surgery could be stuck on waiting lists within the next two years while their well-being and chances of survival decline, health experts warned yesterday. Documents leaked to the Health Service Journal (HSJ) show that the number of patients waiting for non-urgent operations is set to swell from 3.7 million to 5.5m unless the government takes quick action on the problem. And the number of people waiting four months or more for surgery could double to 800,000, according to estimates by NHS Improvement. NHS England boss Simon Stevens described the situation as a “trade-off” because priority would instead be given to keeping A&E waiting times within the four-hour target and to cancer care.

Booming Britain

Mail
In a major vote of confidence in Brexit Britain, Amazon announced plans last night to build a major technology hub in Cambridge. The development centre for more than 400 scientists, engineers and mathematicians is expected to open this autumn. It will increase the number of technology experts Amazon employs in the city to 550 as it steps up investment in its voice-activated Echo speaker and Prime Air delivery drones. The news – a major boost for Theresa May as she locks horns with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker over Brexit ahead of the general election – came as figures showed the British economy was picking up pace. Welcoming the Amazon investment, digital and culture minister Matt Hancock said: ‘This is fantastic. Amazon’s increased investment is another vote of confidence in the UK as a world-leading centre of invention and innovation.’

Armageddon

Star
MANKIND will be wiped out by disease and meteor strikes if we remain on Earth, according to mega-brain Stephen Hawking. The wheelchair-bound space boffin warned humans must leave Earth within the next 100 years if we are going to survive. Hawking – whose life story was told in the film The Theory of Everything – said time is running out for Earth and humans need to leave the planet to survive situations like climate change, asteroid strikes, epidemics and overpopulation. A number of asteroids have narrowly missed the Earth over the past six months – most recently last week. Global warming has been blamed for a rise in temperatures that could melt Greenland and plunge Britain into a new Ice Age. Earth’s population has ballooned to 7.3billion and global pandemics, such as bird flu, have already threatened humankind.

Star
A GIANT cosmic tsunami could swallow Earth in a matter of seconds, space experts have revealed. The group of scientists said they discovered the vast wave of hot gas in the nearby Perseus galaxy cluster. And stretching across 200,000 light years, the wave is estimated to be around twice the size of our Milky Way galaxy. It means the space phenomenon could devour Planet Earth, which is barely a fraction of the size of it. The incredible discovery was revealed in a study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Experts believe the wave formed billions of years ago after a small galaxy cluster grazed Perseus and triggered it to release its masses of gas which then started sloshing about.

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