Brexit

Express
MINISTERS are gearing up for a walkout from Brexit talks if Brussels continues to play hardball. A senior cabinet source has revealed that plans for scenarios including no deal and the EU refusing to let Britain rejoin its agencies are more advanced than many people realise. The minister has said that the strategy is “to be better and compete” with the 
EU on all fronts. The revelation comes as a string of chief executives from EU countries took part in a round table discussion in Downing Street today. The meeting with Theresa May comes amid reports that industry in Germany is “beginning to panic” that the European Commission tactics will lead to Britain walking away from talks damaging their biggest export market for cars.

Telegraph
Boris Johnson has said a “no deal” Brexit should not hold any “terrors” for Britain because the country would “do very well” under World Trade Organisation rules. The Foreign Secretary insisted that the Government remains “prepared” to walk away from Brexit negotiations if Brussels refuses to agree to a good deal but no-one should be “apprehensive” about such an outcome. Theresa May came close to suggesting that walking away without a deal was no longer an option in her Mansion House speech last week, saying she would not be “buffeted by the demands to…threaten a walk out”. But Mr Johnson insisted that preparations for no deal continued, and that it remained an option.

Guardian
The UK government is to table its new offer on post-Brexit powers for Scotland and Wales in the Lords within days after the three governments failed to reach a deal. The long-running dispute between the three sides is threatening to come to a head just as Theresa May meets Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, and Carwyn Jones, her Welsh counterpart, for talks on Brexit at Downing Street next week. David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, said it was imperative that the Lords had a chance to debate his amendments to the EU withdrawal bill, even though the Scottish and Welsh governments had not yet agreed to it. The government was running out of parliamentary time, he said.

Fisheries

Westmonster
Tory Chancellor Philip Hammond has admitted that EU fishermen could retain access to British waters after Brexit, after Brussels insisted that they want to maintain the devastating status quo. In a confusing contradiction he said yesterday:  “Fishing is an ironically important British industry, and we’re very clear that we’re taking control of our waters.” He then hinted at a sell-out, saying: “We will be open to discussing with our EU partners the appropriate arrangements for reciprocal access for our fishermen to EU waters and for EU fishermen to ours. “We would negotiate the basis on which such an arrangement would be fair and appropriate for us.”

Breitbart
Cabinet Remainer-in-Chief Philip Hammond has sparked anxiety in Britain’s coastal communities by casually announcing that the country’s fisheries could be sold out as part of a Brexit deal. Speaking shortly after Brussels said it would demand continued access to British fishing waters as the price of a limited free trade deal covering physical goods, overseen by EU institutions, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said: “Of course we would be open to discussing with our EU partners about the appropriate arrangements for reciprocal access for our fishermen to EU waters and for EU fishermen to our waters.”

Express
PHILIP Hammond has sparked furious outrage after suggesting he could allow the EU access to UK fishing waters as a bargaining chip to ensure a good deal for the city of London post-Brexit, it has been reported. Mr Gove and the Chancellor have been at loggerheads over putting fishing waters on the negotiating table. A source close to the Environment Secretary Michael Gove said giving EU members states access to the British waters would betray the result of the referendum. The source said: “Michael has been clear that we need to take back control of our waters.

EU

Telegraph
The European Central Bank has dropped its long-standing pledge to boost stimulus if conditions deteriorate, signalling the triumph of German-led hawks and marking a major turning point in the eurozone’s monetary regime. The approaching end to the QE-era  pulls away the protective shield for Italy and the high-debt Latin states, and for thousands of “zombie companies” kept afloat on monetary life-support. Mario Draghi, the ECB’s president, successfully deflected attention from the policy shift by breaching central bank etiquette and attacking the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel.

Independent
The European Union has rejected the Chancellor’s bid to include an unprecedented section on financial services in the post-Brexit trade deal, warning that “life will be different” for banks once Britain leaves. Philip Hammond  on Wednesday told an audience in the City of London that “sceptics” of including financial services in a free trade deal were wrong and that such an approach was not only “possible” but “in our mutual interest”. But speaking in Dublin on Thursday Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, directly rebuffed Mr Hammond’s call, hinting that the UK’s impending departure from the single market, customs union, and jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice made such an approach difficult.

Guardian
Philip Hammond has put Britain on a fresh collision course with Brussels after he warned the government could reject any Brexit trade deal not including financial services. Speaking in Canary Wharf at the headquarters of HSBC on Wednesday afternoon, the chancellor said a trade deal would only happen if it balanced the interests of both the UK and the EU. “It’s hard to see any deal that did not include financial services can look like a fair and balanced deal,” he said. The latest speech from a senior member of Theresa May’s cabinet will move talks with Brussels to yet another impasse, after the EU council president Donald Tusk warned earlier on Wednesday that the UK would not be allowed to “cherry pick” what it liked in trade talks.

Express
DONALD Tusk has slapped down Chancellor Philip Hammond’s demands for a special financial services deal for London, telling him not to speak on the behalf of Brussels. The president of the European Council issued a cutting take-down of the Chancellor during a visit to Dublin today – his third such trip in three months. Speaking with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mr Tusk referenced Mr Hammond’s comments on a financial services deal, something the Chancellor said would benefit the UK and EU. However instead of accepting the  Brexit olive branch, Mr Tusk rejected the claim and bristled at the suggestion such a deal would help Brussels. He said: “I heard the Chancellor’s words about financial services being very much in the mutual interest of the UK and the EU.

Sky News
The European Commission has demanded more than £2.4bn from Britain over unpaid customs duties on cheap Chinese fashion imports. It relates to shoes and clothes that have arrived in UK ports from China since 2007. Their value was under-reported by importers to minimise the customs duties collected and subsequently paid to Brussels. The EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, found that UK authorities took no action despite being informed of the risk of customs evasion and asked to take appropriate measures. Failing to stamp out the “undervaluation fraud scheme” meant a loss to the EU budget of €2.7bn (£2.4bn), the commission calculated.

Times
The European Commission fined Britain £2.4 billion yesterday, accusing the government of turning a blind eye to widespread customs fraud at ports. In a provocative move before the start of Brexit trade negotiations Brussels has written to the government demanding payment after an investigation by Olaf, the EU’s anti-fraud unit. It accused the UK of allowing Chinese criminal gangs to systematically undervalue goods imported into the EU through Dover and Felixstowe, avoiding billions of pounds in customs duty and VAT that should have been paid to Brussels.

Express
THERESA May has attacked the European Commission after it demanded Britain pays more than £2.4billion (€2.7bn) in customs duties apparently lost to fraud. The Commission, led by Jean-Claude Juncker, sent the UK a demand for £2.4bn of underpaid customs duties on cheap Chinese fashion imports. But Theresa May‘s spokesman said the UK Government “does not recognise” the figure, claiming it was vastly inflated. The massive financial demand relates to shoes and clothes which have arrived in UK ports from China since 2007.

Breitbart
Days after abrasive Europhile airline boss Michael O’Leary announced his intention to force Brits to see the Brexit debate from his point of view by grounding his aircraft, the Ryanair chief of marketing has spoken out to confirm the company will not actually be deliberately sabotaging its own business out of spite over the EU membership vote. Claiming the comments by the outspoken O’Leary had been “misreported” and that the airline would not be engaging in any stunts, Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs told City A.M.: “We want both sides to do a deal and we support the British Government in doing a deal quickly so we know what’s happening.

Northern Ireland

Independent
The EU has thrown down an ultimatum to Theresa May in
 Brexit talks, warning that it will not open discussions about trade or other issues until the Irish border question is solved. Speaking in Dublin alongside the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, European Council President Donald Tusk said talks would be a case of “Ireland first” and that “the risk of destabilising the fragile peace process must be avoided at all costs”. “We know today that the UK Government rejects a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, the EU single market, and the customs union,” the Mr Tusk said. “While we must respect this position, we also expect the UK to propose a specific and realistic solution to avoid a hard border. 

Sky News
A top EU figure has told Britain there must be an “Ireland first” approach to the Brexit talks, dismissing suggestions the contentious issue can be put off until later in the negotiations. European Council president Donald Tusk said progress could be put in jeopardy if there was any “backsliding” by the UK on the deal agreed between London and Brussels in December. Prime Minister Theresa May has 
angrily dismissed EU proposals which would mean Northern Ireland effectively remaining in the bloc’s customs union.

Guardian
EU chiefs have been compared by Liam Fox and Arlene Foster to gang leaders who are “throwing threats of violence around” to get what they want on Brexit. During a charged series of speeches to the British Chambers of Commerce, Fox, the UK international trade secretary, and Foster, the Democratic Unionist party [DUP] leader, attacked the EU’s hardening stance on both trade and the Irish border. In a speech criticising the European commission’s “bad faith” on the border issue, Foster hit out at the view of Brussels leaders that not accepting proposals for keeping the border open would encourage a return of terrorism – which, she said, was tantamount to a threat.

Sun
BORIS Johnson has publicly admitted there would be new controls at the Irish border after Brexit but insisted they would be “minimal”. The Foreign Secretary  argued that there was “no need” for a “hard border” as it “will be possible to have very, very minimal controls at the border”. But MPs on all sides of the Brexit debate and in Dublin have demanded that there be no return to any physical border on the island of Ireland when Britain quits the EU next year. Mr Johnson’s comments echo a memo he wrote to Theresa May that partly leaked last week urging Downing Street to change their language when discussing the thorny to reflect the fact some form of customs checks will be necessary.

BBC News
The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has told the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, that Ireland’s interests come first in the Brexit negotiations. Speaking in Dublin, Mr Tusk said nothing must be done to risk the peace process or the Good Friday Agreement. He said every EU leader he has met has expressed support for Ireland’s position. He called on the British government to produce a “realistic solution” to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Mr Tusk said: “If in London someone assumes that the negotiations will deal with other issues first before moving to the Irish issue, my response would be ‘Ireland First’.” Responding to Theresa May’s criticism of the draft Withdrawal Agreement which the Commission published on 28 February, Mr Tusk said: “We also have to be clear that any backsliding on the commitment made so far would create the risk to further progress in Brexit negotiations.”

Mail
Arlene Foster yesterday condemned Tony Blair and Sir John Major for stoking fears about the return of violence in Northern Ireland. The DUP leader said their warnings over how Brexit could threaten the peace process were an ‘insult’ to voters in the region. The former prime ministers have voiced concerns about the possibility of border controls being reinstated between the North and the Irish Republic. Speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference in London, Mrs Foster said: ‘I object in the strongest possible terms to people who have limited experience of the Troubles in Northern Ireland throwing threats of violence around as some kind of bargaining chip in this negotiating process.

Sky News
Warnings of post-Brexit violence in Northern Ireland are being used as a “bargaining chip” in negotiations, the DUP’s leader has claimed. Arlene Foster accused those “throwing threats of violence around” of insulting the people of Northern Ireland, amid an impasse over the Irish border issue in the UK’s divorce talks. The UK Government and EU27 are currently in dispute over Brussels’ proposals to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, should it not be resolved as part of the future UK-EU trade relationship. Both the Prime Minister and Ms Foster have rejected the EU’s plans for Northern Ireland to remain in a “common regulatory area” with the bloc, warning such a scheme would threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK.

NHS

Telegraph
Half of the adult population would be put on blood pressure drugs under new proposals being considered by NHS watchdogs. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is considering evidence which has led the US to change its advice, making millions more patients eligible for daily drugs to cut their heart attack risk. The recommendations follow trials which found that aggressively lowering the targets for blood pressure could reduce death risks among over 50s by almost one quarter.

Guardian
Patients whose lives are at risk are being turned away from their local hospitals because of a lack of intensive care beds, doctors who work in those units have revealed. Four in five intensive care units (ICUs) are having to send patients to other hospitals as a result of chronic bed and  staff shortages. Units are so beleaguered that some may no longer be able to care properly for the NHS’s sickest patients, the leader of the intensive care speciality has warned. Intensive care consultants have disclosed that patients are being transferred from one ICU to another for non-clinical reasons in 80% of hospitals, and in 21% of units that happens at least once a month. Six in 10 (62%) ICUs cannot function normally because they are so short of nurses.

Westmonster
Pressure on the National Health Service continues to build, with Accident and Emergency waiting times hitting new highs. Demand for NHS services is growing as Britain goes on with net migration in the hundreds of thousands each year. Just 85% of patients were seen within 4 hours in England, with nearly 23,000 operations cancelled. Chief Executive of NHS Improvement, Ian Dalton, has said: “These figures show the continued and unprecedented pressure facing NHS services. “Staff have coped with substantial growth in demand for emergency care during the month of February, alongside a spike in flu cases.” The previous worst months on record? December 2017 and January 2018. As why this is happening? Perhaps it has something to do with the UK having just seen the largest annual population growth for 70 years – 538,000, largely fuelled by mass migration.

BBC News
NHS chiefs and health unions in England are understood to be close to agreeing a three-year pay deal. Talks on an award for all health staff – except for doctors and dentists – are said to be constructive and going well. The government has already said it would scrap the 1% cap on public sector pay, with the chancellor indicating more funding for higher wages. Health unions are keen to negotiate a pay deal well above the cap imposed by ministers in recent years. But BBC health editor Hugh Pym says he understands that the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS Employers – the group representing healthcare bosses – are concerned about recruitment problems and ready to agree an award that makes up some of the lost ground.

US trade

Telegraph
The UK would face a better prospect of avoiding US tariffs on steel and aluminium after leaving the European Union, Donald Trump indicated last night. 
Mr Trump announced a 25 per cent tariff on steel, and 10 per cent on aluminium, to begin in two weeks’ time. He exempted, at least temporarily, Mexico and Canada, and suggested the “great country” of Australia would also be spared, along with “possibly other countries as well” who were “real friends”. Mr Trump indicated those nations spending more on defence would be better positioned, and White House officials indicated “carve outs” would be decided on a “country by country” basis. The UK is one of only half a dozen Nato countries that meets the requirement of spending two per cent of GDP on defence. The others are the US, Poland, Estonia, Greece and Romania.

Times
President Trump imposed steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports last night but said that American defence allies could be spared. The tariffs will start at 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium. They will come into effect in 14 days, but trading and military partners of the US could be exempted. Allies could also escape the tariffs if their defence spending met acceptable levels, he suggested. There would be a reduction in tariffs for countries that “treat us fairly”, he said, but added “many of the countries that treat us the worst on trade and on military are our allies”, singling out Germany, which spends 1.2 per cent of its GDP on defence.

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