‘Project after’

Telegraph
Britain will cut taxes and slash tariffs under secret plans drawn up by officials to kick-start the economy in the event of a no-deal Brexit.  Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, has led a cross-departmental team examining the “economic levers” that can be used to make Britain more competitive. The plans, which have been drawn up under the codename “Project After”, include a series of aggressive policies to help the UK “steal a march” on the European Union.  The most significant measures include cuts to corporation tax and VAT along with further tax relief to encourage more business investment.

Mail
Civil servants are preparing a ‘Doomsday list’ of radical tax and tariff cuts amid warnings the economy faces its worst year since the financial crash. The plans, dubbed ‘Project After’, are being drawn up to minimise the shock of a No Deal Brexit in March. One Whitehall source called the project, marshalled by Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill, a ‘Doomsday list of economic levers’ that the Government could pull to stimulate the economy.

Brexit

Telegraph
Theresa May was accused of taking Brexit “down to the wire” by setting an “insane” timetable for a deal to be agreed as talks stalled in Brussels on Thursday. Donald Tusk, the European Council President, said there was “still no breakthrough in sight” as Mrs May returned home with little more than an agreement to “take stock” at another meeting before the end of the month. As she arrived in Brussels, Mrs was asked if she was in “hell”, but her meeting with Mr Tusk had more of an icy chill about it as they failed to see eye to eye.

Delay

Reuters
France would oppose any British request to delay Brexit if London was simply delaying making a decision, but could agree if London presented a credible political solution, a French government official said on Thursday.  The warning came as British Prime Minister Theresa May held talks in Brussels with European Union leaders to plead for a change to the divorce deal she negotiated last year in the hope of getting it through the British parliament.

Mirror
Stony-faced Theresa May kicked MPs’ Brexit vote back as far as MARCH  today after struggling through “robust” talks with Brussels. EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker rebuffed her bid to reopen talks on the 585-page Brexit deal – including a controversial ‘backstop’. So the pair have now arranged further talks – but only “before the end of February”. And questioned today, a No10 spokeswoman refused to rule out putting a revised deal to MPs in March – which would be just weeks before the UK leaves the EU on March 29.

Labour’s plan

Westmonster
Senior EU MEP Guy Verhofstadt today claimed that Theresa May is not even seeking to replace the backstop and that in meetings today “she assured us there will be a backstop”.  Verhofstadt also attacked the prospect of a No Deal Brexit as “irresponsible” and welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s push for a permanent EU Customs Union. Now there’s a surprise! The only place he said the EU was looking to make changes are in the non-legally binding Political Declaration. This is a terrible deal. The UK PM cannot go along with such a stitch-up and Brexiteer MPs surely will not sign off on this.

Mail
Donald Tusk twisted the knife again during today’s brutal Brussels face-off as he told Theresa May that Jeremy Corbyn’s new plan for Brexit ‘could be a way out of the current impasse’.  A grim-faced Prime Minister returned to London tonight having achieved little beyond a new round of talks starting on Monday. Her demand the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement be reopened was blocked. And she faced a new blow as the EU Council President backed Mr Corbyn’s new position.

Express
THERESA May is considering Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit proposals, sparking fears that the UK’s departure from the EU could be derailed. The Prime Minister is looking at the Labour leader’s Brexit blueprint but there are “considerable points of difference”, according to a senior official in Mrs May’s office. Mr Corbyn today set out his five-point plan – including a permanent customs union with the EU – in a letter to the Prime Minister. The Downing Street source said: “It is welcome that the Leader of the Opposition is engaging in this. “It is important that we continue to hold discussions to find a way forward to deliver Brexit

Sky News
The EU’s Donald Tusk has told Theresa May that Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit plan offers a “promising way out” of the current Brexit stalemate, according to Sky sources. It comes after the Labour leader set out his five demands for backing the government in a letter to the prime minister, including establishing a customs union with the EU and alignment with the bloc’s single market. Mrs May said she confronted Mr Tusk over his “special place in hell” jibe as she held “robust but constructive” talks with EU leaders in Brussels. The prime minister told the European Council president, who hit out at “those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan to carry it out safely”, that his comments were “not helpful and caused widespread dismay” back home.

Express
DONALD Tusk has ignored Theresa May’s demands to renegotiate the Irish border backstop and thrown his weight behind Jeremy Corbyn’s vision for a soft Brexit. The European Council President said Labour’s plan to remain in a customs union with the EU “would be a promising way out” of the current impasse, Sky News reports. Mr Corbyn today set out the terms under which his party would support Mrs May’s deal – including remaining in a “permanent and comprehensive” customs union and close alignment with the single market.

BBC News
Jeremy Corbyn’s letter setting out his party’s demands for supporting a Brexit deal has been welcomed by the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator. Guy Verhofstadt said “the broadest possible majority” was needed for a Brexit deal in the UK. An EU source said European Council President Donald Tusk said the letter was a “promising way” out of the impasse, in talks with the PM. But Mr Corbyn’s stance has upset Labour supporters of another referendum.

Guardian
The Brexit negotiations are being pushed to the brink by Theresa May and the EU, with any last-minute offer by Brussels on the Irish backstop expected to be put to MPs just days before the UK is due to leave. In strained talks on Thursday, during which Donald Tusk suggested that Jeremy Corbyn’s plan could help resolve the Brexit crisis, Theresa May and the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, agreed to hold the next face-to-face talks by the end of February.

EU

Times
The European Union will push negotiations to the brink of no-deal, having rejected Theresa May’s pleas for change to the withdrawal agreement yesterday. The prime minister’s requests for “legally binding changes to the terms” of the Irish backstop were rebuffed repeatedly after she held talks in Brussels with Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and other senior EU officials. “Still no breakthrough in sight. Talks will continue,” Mr Tusk, the president of the European Council, said. According to officials Mrs May suggested three options for changing the backstop: a time limit on its operation, which is her preferred choice; alternative arrangements, including the use of technology to avoid a hard border in Ireland; and a unilateral exit clause.

Breitbart
Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had “robust” talks Thursday morning, which as promised by European leaders beforehand did nothing to advance the two parties towards a Brexit agreement. The British leader was pictured giving the top Eurocrat a stern glare as the pair shook hands Thursday morning, a move likely calculated to communicate a business-like attitude to British watchers of the talks. Nevertheless the negotiations, which were arranged after Britain’s Parliament voted against Theresa May’s deal and asked her to renegotiate, ultimately less resembled a negotiation and more a simple refusal by Europe to budge.

Express
THERESA May will today warn EU leaders that “legally binding” changes to her Withdrawal Agreement are the only way to prevent the UK quitting the bloc without a deal. In a series of talks with EU chiefs in Brussels, the Prime Minister will insist that she will not allow the country to be “trapped” into a customs union as part of the backstop to keep the Northern Irish border free of checks. Downing Street insiders say Mrs May is braced for a flat refusal to her request from European president Jean-Claude Juncker and other key EU figures. But they believe the discussions will begin a burst of negotiations that they hope will see the EU make the concessions needed to agree a deal that can be approved by Parliament.

Telegraph
Theresa May visits Brussels today but no-one (on either side) expects she will come away from her trip with a single substantive concession to advance the Brexit debate. With just 50 days until Brexit, you might expect that both sides would be going at negotiations hammer and tongs to get a deal, but the reality is that Brexit has now reached a political impasse. This is no longer about technical negotiations (we had two solid years of those) but about the belief on both sides that the other is failing to confront the hard political choices that the reality of Brexit presents.

Breitbart
Brexit architect Nigel Farage has said that Brussels bureaucrats are “scared” of a no-deal, clean Brexit because of the cost to European manufacturers and the looming eurozone recession. When asked on Sky News on Wednesday if he were offended by European Council President Donald Tusk saying there was a “special place in hell” for Brexiteers, the Leave Means Leave vice-chairman said, “No, not particularly. They’re scared, they’re rattled. They really worried. “I was in the parliament last Wednesday, I said that their arrogance and the behaviour of the unelected elites was driving British public opinion towards a WTO ‘No Deal’ Brexit. “And I saw the fear in Juncker’s face, in Barnier’s face, and it was interesting — before that comment, what Tusk was saying what that we must not have a no-deal Brexit.

Westmonster
Brexit is likely to be the first departure of many from the European Union, hence why Brussels are currently doing all they can to preserve their crumbling Union. Don’t believe us? Just look at what’s happening in France right now. The latest Ifop poll has support for Frexit at 40%. Not bad given that few politicians in France openly advocate exiting the EU. One who does it pro-Frexit MEP Florian Philipott writes for Westmonster today: “Brexit is a wonderful opportunity for the United Kingdom but I think Frexit will be even better for France. “We are suffering from the Schengen agreements and the effects of the Euro, a currency unsuited to our economy.”

Telegraph
France is set to challenge a controversial gas pipeline project between Germany and Russia in the first sign of a rift between Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel. Less than a month after the French and German leaders signed a new friendship treaty and pledged closer cooperation to great fanfare, France announced on Thursday that it is backing a bid to bring Germany’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline under EU regulations. The move puts Mr Macron’s government on a collision course with Germany, which has been trying to prevent the move in Brussels.

Ambassadors

Westmonster
The French government have recalled their Ambassador for Italy amid increasing friction between Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s anti-establishment government. France’s Foreign Ministry claim that: “France has been, for several months, the target of repeated, baseless attacks and outrageous statements. Adding: “All of these actions are creating a serious situation which is raising questions about the Italian government’s intentions towards France.” “Having disagreements is one thing, but manipulating the relationship for electoral aims is another,” a French statement read.

Reuters
France recalled its ambassador to Italy on Thursday amid rising tensions after Italy’s deputy prime minister met with French anti-government protesters and Italian leaders made critical public comments about French President Emmanuel Macron’s government. French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said the ambassador was being brought back for “consultations” and urged Italy in a statement to work to restore friendly relations worthy of “our common destiny.” Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio met with supporters of France’s yellow vest protest movement running as candidates for the European Parliament.

Labour Party

Telegraph
Luciana Berger, a prominent Jewish MP, has been threatened with deselection by hard-Left constituency members over her criticism of Jeremy Corbyn and his handling of Labour’s anti-Semitism row. Labour MPs on Thursday night rallied behind Ms Berger, who has been subjected to a torrent of racist abuse in recent weeks, as it emerged that supporters of Mr Corbyn have begun laying the groundwork for ousting her. It comes after the Liverpool Wavertree MP this week hit out at the Labour leadership over its failure to rid the party of anti-Semites, warning that abuse directed at Jewish members was increasingly “going unchecked”.

Times
Luciana Berger faces a no-confidence motion from her local Labour Party for criticising Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the party’s antisemitism crisis. The Jewish Chronicle reported that Ms Berger, a prominent Jewish MP, was facing the censure motion in her Liverpool Wavertree constituency on February 17. The motion accuses her of “continually using the media to criticise the man we all want to be prime minister”. Ms Berger has been an outspoken critic of the party’s failure to deal with antisemitism in its ranks and has said that the party’s “disgusting” antisemitism was “going unchecked”.

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn is facing a furious backlash from pro-EU MPs after making no mention of a fresh referendum as he set out Labour’s fresh Brexit terms. The Labour leader’s letter to Theresa May comes as the prime minister attempts to negotiate new concessions with the EU in her first visit to Brussels since her deal was defeated by a historic margin in Westminster. But Mr Corbyn’s demands provoked anger from Remain-supporting backbenchers who were hoping to persuade the leadership to give its unequivocal backing to a Final Say referendum – one of the policy options on the table since the party’s conference.

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn is battling to calm a growing Labour civil war over his refusal to support a fresh Brexit referendum, as some of his MPs threatened to quit the party in protest. The Labour leader was forced to justify his intentions after his new offer to help Theresa May deliver Brexit triggered accusations that he had torpedoed his party’s policy of keeping a public vote on the table. Amid growing tensions, Mr Corbyn wrote to party members to insist that party backing for a Final Say referendum remained an option – hours after furious Labour MPs accused their leader of helping enable Brexit.

Guardian
A trade union affiliated with the Labour party has claimed that Jeremy Corbyn’s party could lose an additional 45 seats in a snap election if it fails to take an anti-Brexit position, in a leaked report. The report, drawn up by the transport union TSSA and including extensive polling, was sent to the leftwing pressure group Momentum. It appears to be an attempt to pile pressure on the Labour leader over Brexit. It claims that “Brexit energises Labour remain voters” disproportionately, and warns: “There is no middle way policy which gets support from both sides of the debate.” The Guardian understands that while the report was sent to Momentum, it was not commissioned or requested by the group. Sources inside the party stressed that there were risks from turning either way on Brexit – and other polls showed a different picture.

Mail
Labour’s strained unity over Brexit shattered today after Jeremy Corbyn told Therssa May his price for supporting her deal a Norway-style relationship. The Labour leader wrote to the Prime Minister setting out changes she could seek to the political deal on the future UK-EU relationship to get his support. Crucially the changes Mr Corbyn wants are not to the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement – meaning a version of them might be achievable in Brussels. Remain supporting MPs reacted with horror to the plan, which is designed to appeal to some Tory MPs and show voters Labour is willing to compromise to get a deal.  Former leadership contender Owen Smith even suggested he could quit Labour altogether if the party helps deliver Brexit.

Education

Times
Lancaster University is opening a campus in Germany in an attempt to protect itself from the impact of Brexit. While other universities have signed tie-ups, partnerships and joint research projects with EU universities since the referendum in 2016, this is the first campus to be started from scratch, and will open this year in Leipzig. It will offer degrees in business and management, accounting and finance, software engineering, and computing for up to 2,000 students. These were the skills that the government of Saxony said its economy needed, and formed part of the negotiations.

Times
Universities are failing to get significantly more poor students and state school pupils through their doors. Data on the proportion of students from state schools and “low-participation neighbourhoods” in 2017-18 shows that little has changed in four years. The proportion of new arrivals at universities who attended state schools was 89.8 per cent in the last academic year, down 0.2 percentage points on the previous year and the same as in 2014-15. Fifteen institutions took less than 70 per cent of their intake from state schools.

Health

ITV News
Trucks in supermarket car parks will offer lung cancer checks under a new scheme to be rolled out across England. Hundreds of thousands of people are to be screened over the next four years, as part of an NHS drive to catch the disease early and improve chances of survival. The £70 million initiative, which includes 10 projects nationally, will target areas recording the highest death rates for lung cancer. Around 600,000 people are expected to benefit over the next four years, and an estimated 3,400 cancers could be detected as a result, NHS England said. “Catching more cancers early is a cornerstone of the NHS Long Term Plan to save a further 55,000 lives a year and targeted lung health checks is one of the first projects to roll out following publication,” Cally Palmer, national cancer director at NHS England, said.

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