Customs union

Divisions in the cabinet were exposed again yesterday as Jeremy Hunt told fellow ministers to trust Theresa May’s Brexit plan but Michael Gove said that there were “significant question marks” over her preferred customs model.
The prime minister’s Brexit sub-committee, which meets tomorrow, is split over what Britain’s customs arrangements should be after it leaves the customs union in 2021. David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, are among critics of the customs partnership model that Mrs May favours but which Mr Johnson has called “crazy”. They want a scheme called “max-fac”; its opponents, including Philip Hammond, the chancellor, believe it would damage the economy.

Theresa May faces deadlock over the key controversy of  customs rules 
after Brexit, after senior politicians rubbished both of the options being studied by her warring cabinet. Michael Gove – picked by the prime minister to examine her preferred “customs partnership” model – warned there were “significant question marks over the deliverability of it”. Meanwhile, the Irish deputy prime minister insisted Dublin would block a Brexit withdrawal agreement if she pursued an alternative technology-based solution, saying: “It won’t work.” The warnings left Ms May with few apparent options to resolve the impasse, with a deadline set by the EU just six weeks away.

PRIME Minister Theresa May is facing a cabinet revolt over her plans for a customs partnership with the European Union.
At least 12 of Mrs May’s 28-strong cabinet are opposed to Mrs May’s controversial idea, with the number possibly as high as 15. And worryingly for the PM, the Telegraph reports that rebels are drawn from those who campaigned to stay in the EU as well as those who argued that the UK should quit the block in the 2016 referendum. Mrs May is on record as saying the UK will quit the Customs Union – which permits tariff-free trade between EU member states – upon leaving the bloc next year. She wants to replace it with a system whereby Britain collects tariffs on behalf of the EU, with companies having have to claim back rebates to benefit from any lower rates on goods which end up in this country. 

Sky News
Michael Gove has cast doubt on the viability of Theresa May’s proposed customs partnership with the EU after Brexit, telling the BBC it has “flaws”.
The environment secretary said there were “significant question marks” about whether the model, described as crazy by Boris Johnson, was deliverable. The PM, whose ministers are considering two customs options, says “compromises” will be needed but she will “deliver”. But Labour said the lack of a decision on the critical issue was “farcical”. The UK is committed to leaving the current customs union when it exits the EU on 29 March 2019 and ministers are under pressure to agree soon on a successor arrangement amid divisions in cabinet.

Michael Gove has cast fresh doubt on the possibility of a breakthrough in the cabinet customs deadlock, saying there were “significant question marks” about proposals for a customs partnership.
The environment secretary expressed scepticism about the merits of Theresa May’s preferred customs partnership model, saying the proposal had flaws and needed to be tested. Gove indicated he had some sympathy for the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who called the proposal “crazy” this week. “Because it’s novel, because no model like this exists there have to be significant questions about the deliverability of it on time,” Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

MICHAEL Gove savaged Theresa May’s “flawed” plan for an EU customs partnership yesterday. The Environment Secretary also piled pressure on the PM by urging her to “crack on” with Brexit.
He trashed calls to extend the transition period for the UK’s exit beyond December 2020. Quizzed on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Mr Gove said there were significant question marks as to how Mrs May’s preferred option of a new customs partnership would work. He favours the use of technology to monitor goods and borders — dubbed “Max Fac” — but agreed neither model was perfect. It follows Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s condemnation of Mrs May’s favoured option as “crazy”.

Theresa May has been warned BOTH her Brexit Customs plans face being rejected – even as top Tories work furiously to kill one of them off.
The Prime Minister is embroiled in a “farce” as the row drags on over how to deal with goods crossing the border into Europe. Mrs May still hasn’t chosen between two ideas, a ‘customs partnership’ with close ties to the EU on one hand and a more distant ‘max fac’ plan on the other. She split ministers into two groups to do more work, despite massive pressure to solve the deadlock and warnings that border checks could bring violence back to Northern Ireland. Today Michael Gove blasted the ‘partnership’, said to be Mrs May’s Plan A, as he joined a line of top Brexiteers signalling that option should be killed off.

Theresa May’s customs partnership fudge could spark a cabinet rebellion and lead to another election, says Westmonster’s Michael Heaver. The PM seems to think people will simply accept a customs partnership on the basis that it’s not called ‘a customs union’, but news broke today that between 12 and 15 cabinet ministers are happy to vote down May’s proposals. Boris Johnson has called it ‘crazy’ and Jacob Rees-Mogg thinks it’s ‘cretinous’, and it’s believed several Remain ministers just want the PM to do Brexit ‘properly’.
Heaver said: “Theresa May is in a quite vulnerable position. If Boris Johnson was to resign and Jacob Rees-Mogg turned his fire on the government then I think they’d be in big trouble. Can the government get their stated policy through parliament, because I’m not convinced? “I think we could be heading for a general election.”

House of Lords

BREXIT rebels who vote against the Government on its landmark European Withdrawal Bill could inadvertently trigger a General Election, Sir Bill Cash has warned.
The prominent Brexiteer said if Tory dissidents in the Commons back amendments to the Brexit Bill passed in the House of Lords, it could lead to Theresa May being toppled and ultimately the split from Brussels being undermined. Calling on would-be Conservative rebels, Sir Bill urged them to consider the fact they voted in favour of giving the British people a say in the EU referendum and were elected on a manifesto which endorsed the subsequent result.

THE leader of the House of Lords today delivered a scathing assessment of Remainer peers, charging them with going “too far” in undermining Brexit.
The leader of the House of Lords Baroness Evans has launched a stinging attack on the Lords’ attempts to thwart Brexit Speaking to Robert Peston on ITV, Baroness Evans  claimed the peers had gone “too far” in their fervent efforts to embarrass the Government during its EU negotiations. Her remarks come as peers delivered the fourteenth defeat to the Government’s EU withdrawal bill, as they backed staying in the European Economic Area (EEA). This vote to retain key aspects of the EU’s single market was in defiance of both the Government and Opposition frontbenches.


FRENCH Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called on the European Union to set a “final deadline” for the UK to finalise its plans on the ongoing Irish border issue, which is threatening to delay Brexit negotiations.
The UK is committed to avoiding a reimplementation of a hard border with checkpoints between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which all sides regard as being vital to upholding the 1998 Good Friday agreement. Speaking to the press in Dublin prior to a meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, Mr Le Drian said: “What we want is for things to go quickly and a June deadline chosen as the final deadline otherwise the withdrawal agreement will be more complicated. “The June deadline is the deadline that must be seen as the ultimate deadline.” Despite Brexit Secretary David Davis previously describing the EU’s demand for sufficient progress to be made on the issue by June as an “artificial deadline”, Mr Le Drian said the issue could not be delayed.

IRELAND’S tánaiste (deputy prime-minister) has warned of a “difficult summer ahead” amid fears the Irish border could completely derail Brexit talks.
Simon Coveney, who is also Ireland‘s foreign minister, said the backstop border agreement originally agreed to by Theresa May in December needed to be respected. He said the  Brexit  agreement, which would see the economic alignment of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, couldn’t be ignored. And he said any attempt to backtrack on December’s agreement, which aims to avoid a hard border on the island, would result in disaster for Brexit talks. Mr Coveney also hit out at Boris Johnson, who previously dismissed attempts by Mrs May to find a workaround for the Irish border.


John Bercow must quit within weeks, his leading critics have said after reports that the Speaker plans to stand down next year.
Mr Bercow’s position has come under intense pressure over the past fortnight, after he was accused of bullying by two former senior Westminster officials. He denies the allegations. Mr Bercow, 55, was elected to the role by MPs in 2009 and is already the longest-serving postwar Speaker. He originally said that he would serve no longer than nine years, a period that elapses on June 22, although he later backtracked. In the Commons last week he dropped a strong hint that he planned to stay on until 2022, telling MPs that they had an opportunity to change the Speaker after general elections.

Press freedom

Peers were accused last night of a ‘cynical attempt’ to undermine Press freedom by forcing MPs to vote again on a defeated amendment to a Bill.
Tory MPs accused the Lords of trying to split the Government vote by picking off the Democratic Unionist Party, which has an agreement to back the Conservatives. A new amendment to the Data Protection Bill by crossbench peer Baroness Hollins makes concessions for the Northern Irish party so it has no incentive to vote with the Government. But MPs said the attempt would fail and that the Upper House had no right to ‘pervert’ the nature of the Bill. The Lords will vote today on whether to open a new version of the Leveson inquiry on Press standards and regulation.


The head of MI5 will appeal to European leaders on Monday not to put at risk their “shared strength” by weakening security and intelligence sharing after Brexit.
In a speech to European security chiefs, Andrew Parker, MI5’s Director General, will tell them that continued cooperation has never been more crucial in the face of Russia’s “aggressive and pernicious actions”. Mr Parker’s intervention made pointedly in Berlin – the first time a serving head of MI5 has given a public speech on foreign soil – comes at a critical time in Brexit negotiations. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is expected to lay out Brussels’ vision on security at a conference on the same day.

Britain’s role as a major player in worldwide defence and security
operations will be weakened by Brexit, a parliamentary inquiry concludes today. The country will “lose influence” when it is ejected from the EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP), the report by a House of Lords  committee warns. The UK “may be able to continue participating” in missions but “will not have the influence it currently enjoys in the development, planning and leadership” of those operations. In particular, the report points to the EU’s successful mission to combat  piracy in the Horn of Africa – led by the UK – and operations in Kosovo  and the Western Balkans.

Cooperation between the UK and other European intelligence services has never been as important as it is now in facing up to twin threats posed by terror groups such as Islamic State and states such as Russia, Andrew Parker, the head of MI5, will warn on Monday.
In the first public speech delivered overseas by a head of MI5, Parker will say that intelligence sharing within Europe is now at an unprecedented level and that an effective security partnership between the UK and the rest of Europe is more operationally vital than ever before. “In today’s uncertain world we need that shared strength more than ever,” he will tell his audience in Berlin, according to a draft. MI5 and the other two main UK intelligence agencies, MI6 and GCHQ, are all anxious to maintain a close working relationship with their European counterparts after Brexit.


The head of MI5 is to deliver Britain’s strongest condemnation yet of
Russia as he criticises its “flagrant breaches” of international law in a rare public attack on a foreign power. Andrew Parker, director-general of the Security Service, will blame the Kremlin today for the Salisbury poisonings for the first time and condemn its campaign of disinformation that aims to weaken western democracies. Mr Parker’s speech in Berlin to European security chiefs is expected to be one of the most forceful public interventions against the Russian state and marks his first public comments since the nerve agent attack on the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, more than two months ago.

The head of MI5 will launch an excoriating blast at  Russia today, accusing 
Vladimir Putin’s regime of flagrant breaches of international law. Andrew Parker will use his first public speech outside the UK to take aim at the Russian president and his ‘aggressive and pernicious’ agenda. He will tell European security chiefs that the Salisbury poisonings were a deliberate and malign act that could turn Russia into a ‘more isolated pariah’. And he will launch a strident attack on the ‘fog of lies, half truths and obfuscation’ that pours out of Mr Putin’s propaganda machine. Mr Parker’s speech in Berlin will be the first time he has spoken publicly since the attempted assassination in Salisbury of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in March.

BBC News
The Salisbury nerve agent attack was a “deliberate and targeted” act, the head of MI5 will declare on Monday.
In his first public comments since the poisoning in March, Andrew Parker will accuse the Kremlin of “flagrant breaches of international rules” and warn that the Russian government is pursuing an agenda through “aggressive and pernicious actions” by its military and intelligence services. The director general of the Security Service will also highlight the persistent danger from terrorism, revealing that 12 plots have been foiled by UK authorities in just over a year. Giving the first public speech outside the UK by a serving head of MI5, Mr Parker will join the international chorus of condemnation levelled at Moscow in the wake of Salisbury.

Britain and the European Union must build a close security partnership after Brexit to foil Islamic State militant attacks and counter Russia’s malign attempts to subvert Western democracies, the head of Britain’s domestic spy agency said.
Britain, as Europe’s preeminent intelligence power, is seeking a new security pact with the bloc to ensure it gets continued access to secrets from major EU countries as it seeks to clinch a broader Brexit deal. In the first public speech outside Britain by a serving head of MI5, Andrew Parker will tell an event in Berlin hosted by Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence service that Islamic State militants are plotting “devastating and more complex attacks.” “European intelligence cooperation today is simply unrecognisable to what it looked like five years ago,” MI5 Director General Parker will say on Monday, according to excerpts of his speech made available to Reuters.


NHS TRUSTS in England spent more than £1.4 billion last year on temporary nursing staff which is the equivalent salary of nearly 70,000 newly qualified nurses due to shortages, a study has found.
The bill was enough to pay the salaries of an estimated 66,000 newly qualified nurses and more than fill the 38,000 existing vacancies in nursing jobs, a report by The Open University claims. Temporary agency and bank nurses were brought in to plug the gaps in staffing for a total of 79 million hours last year and were paid 61 per cent above the hourly rate of a newly qualified nurse. Jan Draper, professor of nursing at The Open University, said relying on temporary nurses was a “sticking a plaster over the problem” and cost “considerably more” than filling vacancies permanently.

In an extract from his disturbing new book in Saturday’s Mail, Dr James Le Fanu argued that doctors are doling out too many pills. He said that ever-greater levels of medication could be harming us and even shortening our lives. Today, he
explains why the elderly in particular can be adversely affected. Most of us probably think that in terms of our health, there’s never been a better time to be getting older. After all, so many of the tribulations of later life — from angina to cataracts, and arthritis to heart failure — can now be vanquished with a simple medical procedure or a prescription of pills. So, particularly if you are over 70, there is much to be grateful to modern medicine for. But I’m afraid there is also much to be worried about. Because the shocking truth is that the  NHS is guilty of a terrible betrayal of our elderly — people who have trusted their doctors, without question, their entire lives.

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