Boris

Telegraph
Boris Johnson has warned that Britain could end up “locked in orbit around the EU” in his most critical comments to date of the Prime Minister’s handling of Brexit. The Foreign Secretary told Tory donors that the UK could end up effectively “in the customs union and to a large extent still in the single market” unless the Government had the “guts” to pursue the right policies. He even joked that if Donald Trump was in charge of Brexit “actually you might get somewhere”. He said it was “beyond belief” that the Northern Ireland border issue had been allowed to dictate policy, describing it as “allowing the tail to wag the dog”.

Times
Boris Johnson has described Philip Hammond’s Treasury as “the heart of Remain” and accused it of sacrificing the benefits of Brexit to avoid short-term disruption. The Brexiteer foreign secretary told Tory figures at a dinner on Wednesday that there was a “very, very difficult” struggle at the centre of government but added that Britain would “take the fight to the enemy”. He said that Theresa May was about to enter a phase of being “much more combative with Brussels” and that relations with the EU could go into meltdown, according to a recording of his remarks passed to The Times. The decision to disband the official Brexit campaign group Vote Leave and to cease campaigning after the EU referendum was an “absolutely fatal mistake”.

Mail
Boris Johnson has admitted he ‘increasingly admires’ Donald Trump‘s approach to international politics, adding the US president’s ‘might get somewhere’ if he were to lead Brexit negotiations. Speaking to a group of Thatherite Conservative activists at a private gathering on Wednesday evening, the Foreign Secretary revealed his innermost private thoughts regarding the UK’s foreign policy, Brexit, Russia and Donald Trump. In what has been interpreted as a thinly veiled swipe at British Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr Johnson said of Mr Trump: ‘Imagine Trump doing Brexit. He’d go in bloody hard… There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos.  ‘Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.’

Independent
Boris Johnson has joked that Donald Trump would do a good job of handling Brexit in a leaked recording where he also took aim at Theresa May’s plans. The foreign secretary confessed he was “increasingly admiring” of Mr Trump and suggested “you might get somewhere” if the US president was leading the negotiations. Speaking at a private dinner with Tory supporters, Mr Johnson warned there could be a Brexit ”meltdown” as the UK prepares to take a tougher line with Brussels. His comments emerged as Ms May managed to broker a fragile truce with David Davis, the Brexit secretary, who reportedly threatened to resign over her “backstop” plan for future customs arrangements.

Hammond

Mail
The Cabinet was in open warfare last night after Boris Johnson  accused the Chancellor of trying to block Brexit. In an extraordinary intervention, the Foreign Secretary branded Philip Hammond‘s Treasury ‘the heart of Remain’. The comments will pile pressure on the Prime Minister to sack her Chancellor. Mr Johnson also warned that the Government was in danger of delivering a Brexit betrayal and dismissed Treasury warnings about the economic impact of leaving as ‘mumbo jumbo’. And, in a swipe at Theresa May, he suggested Donald Trump would make a better job of negotiating Brexit, saying: ‘He’d go in bloody hard… There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere.’

Brexit

Times
Theresa May published her long-delayed blueprint for a fallback Brexit customs arrangement yesterday — a plan that could block free trade deals for years, might mean billions more for Brussels and which the prime minister herself admitted was unpalatable. She faced down a cabinet revolt led by David Davis, 
agreeing minor concessions to a plan that could keep Britain tied to parts of the European Union after Brexit. She bowed to threats of resignation from the Brexit secretary by agreeing to put a specific time limit of December 2021 on her “backstop” proposal. No 10 had resisted this as recently as yesterday, although the concession has no legal force and last night, speaking to reporters accompanying her to the G7 summit,

BBC News
Theresa May has refused to give a guarantee that the government’s “backstop” plan on customs after Brexit will not extend beyond December 2021. The prime minister was forced to agree a cut-off date after Brexit Secretary David Davis threatened to resign. But speaking to reporters on her flight to the G7 summit in Canada, she twice refused to give a “cast-iron guarantee” that the end date would not slip. The proposal would see the UK match EU trade tariffs temporarily. It would be used if a permanent customs deal is not in place at the end of the 21-month Brexit transition period, with the aim of avoiding a hard Irish border. In response to whether she would be able to guarantee the December 2021 end date, Mrs May said the government was “very clear” that it expected to have a customs arrangement in place “at the very latest” by December 2021.

Sky News
The prime minister has refused to guarantee her proposed Brexit “backstop” will end in December 2021, despite the date being stated as an expectation in a government negotiating paper. The need for a backstop follows an agreement reached in December that, in the event that the final trade arrangement between the EU and the UK failed to avoid a hard Irish border, the UK would maintain full alignment with EU rules to preserve an open border. The inclusion of the December 2021 date in the latest government document on the Temporary Customs Arrangement, as it has become officially known, is thought to have been a response to demands for a clear time limit from Brexit Secretary David Davis. Earlier in Westminster, he came close to resigning over the issue.

Independent
Theresa May has sidestepped a potentially catastrophic row by persuading her Brexit secretary to sign up to a last-minute compromise on a critical part of the UK’s negotiating position. Despite overnight threats that David Davis was going to resign, Ms May and her minister managed to agree a customs plan that prevented a wider fallout after a dramatic day of talks. The row centres on Mr Davis’s demands for a time-limit on the “backstop” option that would keep the UK in parts of the customs union until a solution is found to the border issue in Northern Ireland. The prime minister gave way to Brexiteers by making last-minute amendments to the plan, ensuring the backstop does not extend beyond December 2021, which critics say would keep Britain too closely tied to Brussels.

Express
ALMOST six in ten Scottish voters are Brexiteers with only just over one in three identifying as Remainers, figures have revealed which could spell disaster for Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP. According to a report for the National Centre for Social Research “Brexit has made both independence and the SNP relatively less popular” while Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives “have profited from a swing among Leave voters”. Leading statistician Sir John Curtice said there is “a new divide” in the Scottish nationalist movement when it comes to Europe. Sir John and Ian Montague said Nicola Sturgeon’s support for remaining in the EU had lost her votes and seats in last year’s unplanned General Election. Sir John said after the release of the report: “Nicola Sturgeon anticipated that Brexit would increase support for independence

EU

Independent
The European Parliament’s Brexit chief has poured cold water on Theresa May’s plan to solve the Northern Ireland border issue, just hours after the PM released revised proposals designed to placate both Brussels and Brexiteers in her own Cabinet. Reaction from the European Commission to the UK’s white paper has been polite but cautious, with chief negotiator Michel Barnier saying they would examine the proposals to see whether they were up to scratch. Mr Barnier said the plan would have to respect the integrity of the single market, and be a “workable solution” to the border of an “all-weather” character. But Guy Verhofstadt, who has taken the role as a vocal outrider for Brussels during Brexit negotiations, said on Thursday afternoon that the plan did not look workable. He warned that it was “difficult to see how [the] UK proposal on customs aspects of the Ireland/Northern Ireland backstop will deliver a workable solution to avoid a hard border and respect integrity of the single market and customs union”, adding that “a backstop that is temporary is not a backstop, unless the definitive arrangement is the same as the backstop”.

Telegraph (by Fraser Nelson)

Michel Barnier will, 
by now, be used to reading British political news with 
a mixture of amazement and gratitude. This time last year he had quite a tough adversary: a country with enough self-confidence to vote 
to leave the European Union led by a hugely popular Prime Minister. Then, one year ago, she held an election in which she lost her majority and her authority. Her party has been feuding ever since. David Davis, her Brexit negotiator, spent Thursday wondering whether 
 to resign on the grounds that his negotiating position has become now laughably weak. As he knows, Mr Barnier will be doing the laughing.

Breitbart
With the prospect of passing a common asylum law slipping away, leaders of European nations are in talks to house third world migrants in camps outside the EU. The governments of Austria and Denmark are among those looking to develop a system that would offer protection to people in a place unattractive to people smugglers while their asylum application is processed. Speaking in Copenhagen on Tuesday, Danish leader Lars Lokke Rasmussen said camps in a third country would have “a strong deterrent effect” on would-be asylum seekers if they know they will be deported upon having their application refused. The project, which also involves officials from Germany and the Netherlands, would see the proposed camps situated on the continent of Europe but outside the EU, and placed in a “not particularly attractive country”, according to the Danish prime minister.

Abortion

Times
Ministers are under pressure to change the strict abortion laws in Northern Ireland after the UK’s highest court said that they were incompatible with human rights. Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, said the judges’ robust comments would be “clearly heard by this House and politicians in Northern Ireland” but that more time was needed to consider the complex judgment. A majority of the seven justices said that preventing women from seeking abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to a private and family life.

Sky News
Abortion restrictions in Northern Ireland have caused “ongoing suffering” and are “incompatible” with human rights laws, the Supreme Court has said. The highest court in the UK delivered its judgment on Thursday morning as pressure continued to mount on the prime minister to intervene on the issue. The court said it did not have the jurisdiction to make a formal declaration that the law should be changed, and ruled that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) had no right to bring its case against the abortion law. But a majority of justices agreed that the law was in breach of article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Heathrow

Times
A former transport minister has claimed that Heathrow may be able to recover “billions of pounds” from the taxpayer if the government shelves the airport’s third runway. Justine Greening warned that a clause in the government’s agreement with Heathrow Airport Limited (Hal) in 2016 could result in the taxpayer footing the bill “when things go wrong”. The government announced on Tuesday that it was pushing ahead with plans for the new two-mile runway. Heathrow is proposing to spend £14 billion on the project, which would create space for 260,000 extra take-offs and landings each year. It will open by late 2025 or early 2026 under current plans.

Sky News
Heathrow Airport could sue taxpayers for “billions of pounds” if the third runway expansion goes wrong, Justine Greening has suggested. The former transport secretary, whose Putney constituency lies under the flight path, said a clause in the Department for Transport’s agreement with Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) would mean the taxpayer footing the bill “when things go wrong”. After years of wrangling over the London hub airport’s expansion, Theresa May’s Cabinet made the decision to press ahead with the plan on Tuesday. Ms Greening secured an urgent question on the issue on Thursday after raising it during Prime Minister’s Questions the day before. Quoting the clause in question, she said it sets out that HAL reserves the right “to pursue any and all legal and equitable remedies” in the event of an alternative scheme being preferred by the Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, or withdrawal of the government’s support.

World Cup

Times
England football fans face an increased risk of violence during the World Cup in Russia because of deteriorating diplomatic relations after the Salisbury poisoning, MPs warned today. Supporters are considered particularly at risk of attacks by hooligans, racists and homophobes away from the stadiums hosting England’s games, which will be heavily guarded by “paramilitary” security forces. The Commons’ foreign affairs committee has told the government to be prepared “to act fast and decisively” to inform fans if the security situation deteriorates. They may be told not to travel to the World Cup, to flee the country or to stay in the safety of their hotels. The warnings come as more than 10,000 England fans prepare to travel to Russia for the tournament.

Independent
Fears over “heightened risks” faced by LGBT+ and ethnic minority football fans if they attend the World Cup in   
Russia  have been raised by an influential committee of MPs​. Up to 10,000 British fans are expected to travel to Moscow for the tournament amid concerns over possible racist and homophobic intimidation, as well as the threat of violence and anti-British sentiment from Russian football hooligans. Relations with Moscow have become frosty following the attempted poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, in March, which led to a global wave of expulsions of Russian diplomats. A new report by the Foreign Affairs Committee raises concerns about fan safety on non-match days and warns that tit-for-tat expulsion of British diplomats may have dented preparations by the Foreign Office. MPs remain particularly concerned about lack of “specific provisions” to protect BAME and LGBT+ football fans, who already face additional risks of attack and persecution in a country whose government has taken “little action to combat homophobia”, the report said.

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