TWO more senior Conservative MPs are at risk of deselection votes at the party’s annual meeting as hardline Eurosceptics gain momentum. Sir Alan Duncan is facing a motion of no confidence at the meeting while chair of the health select committee, Sarah Wollaston, will have an extraordinary meeting, according to The Daily Telegraph. The news comes as Nigel Farage announced recently that more than 100,000 people have signed up to support his new Brexit party in just eight days which is almost as many as the 124,000 members of the Conservative party. The new party is claimed to have 201 members in Dr Wollaston’s constituency association and another 16 supporters in Dominic Grieve’s association. Arron Banks, the former Ukip donor behind the campaign, said: “In the coming weeks these new members will have a direct say in adoption of these MPs or not – stop Brexit and we will do everything to stop you, now or at the next General Election.” Sir Alan, a senior foreign office minister, has been critical of Eurosceptic Tories. He is facing a vote of no confidence at the party’s AGM on March 15. While in Dr Wollaston’s constituency, 50 members have signed a letter calling for an extraordinary meeting to deselect the MP.
Pro-EU Tory MPs are panicking over a grassroots campaign for their local constituency associations to deselect them as parliamentary candidates. Some EU loyalists within the Tory parliamentary party, effectively led by former Attorney-General Dominic Grieve MP, have gone a step further than their largely Remain-voting colleagues by openly repudiating the British people’s vote to Leave the European Union and calling for a second referendum. They could now face the axe at the hands of ordinary party members in annual local association meetings which must be held by the end of March, when the United Kingdom is scheduled to formally leave the European Union — at least for now.
Two more senior moderate Conservative MPs are facing deselection votes at their annual meetings as the “purple momentum” assault on them by hardline Eurosceptics gathers pace. Sir Alan Duncan is facing a motion of no confidence at his annual meeting, while Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the Health select committee, is facing a challenge at either an extraordinary meeting in the next fortnight or an AGM. The news came as Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, is due in Brussels on Monday for talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, ahead of a key speech on Mrs May’s Brexit deal by Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, on Tuesday.
Theresa May is braced for “howls of rage” as ministers finalise tariffs that would apply if there is no Brexit deal. Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, wants a move to zero tariffs in as many areas as possible, but other ministers are demanding protection for producers, including farmers, who would struggle to compete with cheaper imports from outside the EU. The row will come to a head this week after attempts by Mrs May to win concessions from the EU over the Irish backstop.
HARDLINE Brexiteers from the Conservative Party’s European Research Group (ERG) want Theresa May to stand down as Prime Minister as the price for backing her Brexit divorce deal, with Boris Johnson being lined up to replace her. And one MP has said many of his colleagues in the Eurosceptic Tory faction were ready to act as a result of being deeply opposed to Mrs May taking charge of the next phase of negotiations, to thrash out a workable trade deal with the bloc, if and when her withdrawal agreement does get through the Commons.
Theresa May is facing a fresh showdown with Eurosceptic Conservative MPs after a cabinet minister suggested she may put her Brexit deal to parliament again without having secured a change to the withdrawal text. Before talks between May and EU leaders, the culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, said the prime minister’s aim was to solve the Northern Ireland backstop issue but the “mechanism” of the change did not matter. His words caused alarm among some Eurosceptic Tory MPs, who have repeatedly made clear they would not vote for a deal that did not remove an indefinite Northern Ireland backstop – a clause that could bind the UK into a permanent customs union with the EU.
A CABINET minister angered Tory Eurosceptics by suggesting Theresa May had given up on her attempt to reopen her Brexit deal in her negotiations with EU leaders. In a BBC interview, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright indicated that the Prime Minister was looking at adding a time limit to the so-called “backstop” border proposal by attaching a legal supplement to her EU Withdrawal Agreement. Such a move is likely to be seen as falling short of the redrafting of key passages in the 585-page document to rip out the backstop demanded by Brexiteers in his party.
THERESA May is planning a Brexit crusade across Europe where the Prime Minister will speak to every EU leader in her bid to seek changes to her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. The Tory leader will also meet EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker where she will seek changes to the Irish backstop, one of the most contentious parts of the withdrawal agreement she agreed in November. Theresa May has told EU leaders she could pass her deal with concessions primarily around the backstop – a guarantee that there can be no return to border controls between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.
BREXITEERS have reacted with fury at claims that Theresa May could backtrack on her Brexit promises to MPs and might NOT seek to re-open the deal with Brussels. Jeremy Wright said today that the PM might u-turn and simply accept legal changes to the deal instead, which has angered Leavers in the Tory party yet again. They have demanded that the hated Northern Ireland backstop be ripped out entirely, and refuse to accept any moderate tweaks to the deal. The Culture Secretary told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning: “I don’t think it’s the mechanism that matters, it’s the objective.
REMAINER Tony Blair has demanded a new Brexit referendum during a speech in Munich that saw the former Labour Prime Minister call Britain’s exit from the EU a “terrible mistake”. In a two-day EU conference that saw the subject of Brexit absorb most of the agenda, Mr Blair warned that should the UK leave the EU, Britons would be powerless on its own against “giants” the US and China. In a special segment of the conference, the 65-year-old addressed Germany as part of the ‘Speakers Series’ that saw him call Brexit a “terrible historical mistake” before condemning the promises of Brexit advocates as being “100 percent wrong”. He added: “If I were Prime Minister, I would try to make it clear to the British that they only have the choice between a futile and a painful Brexit.”
Labour MPs considering a breakaway party risk keeping the Conservatives in power for another decade, John McDonnell has said. The shadow chancellor also backed activists’ calls for Labour MPs to sign a loyalty pledge to Jeremy Corbyn. Mr McDonnell was criticised this month for urging Luciana Berger, the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, to rule out joining a new party after her local party tabled a motion of no confidence in her. He retreated after a backlash among other MPs and activists. Ms Berger, 37, who is heavily pregnant, is a persistent critic of Mr Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism in Labour.
A small group of Labour MPs look set to announce their resignations from the party, senior party sources have said. Several backbenchers, who disagree with the Labour leadership over its handling of Brexit and the anti-Semitism row, are expected to break away. But Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, a vocal critic of leader Jeremy Corbyn, has urged them to “stay in and fight”. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said on Sunday he did not see “any need for anybody to split from the party”. “Those saying we’ll split if we don’t get a ‘People’s Vote’ [another referendum on the final Brexit deal] – well, we’ve still kept that option on the table and it might come about,” he said.
Labour is edging towards a bitter split as up to a hundred MPs face the threat of a deselection battle. Plans for a breakaway group have been accelerated by fears of a mass wave of challenges to sitting MPs. Moderates believe party grandees including Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman, Yvette Cooper and Dame Margaret Beckett will all face attempts to oust them, along with Labour frontbenchers Diane Abbott and Dan Carden. It is anticipated that around a quarter of the 100 MPs expected to be subject to a contest will lose, removing them as Labour candidates for the next election.
John McDonnell has warned Labour MPs on the verge of quitting they could cause a decade of Thatcherite Tory rule, adding there was no need for a split over Brexit because the party may still back a second referendum. The shadow chancellor said MPs thinking of leaving could be responsible for losing seats to the Conservatives, as happened in the 1980s when four senior party figures quit to form the Social Democratic party (SDP). “It would be like the 1980s. In my constituency in Hayes and Harlington we had a Labour MP join the SDP and we lost the seat to the Conservatives,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
John McDonnell has warned that splitting the Labour Party could keep the Tories in power for a decade. The Shadow Chancellor said those who stand against Labour MPs at the next general election would split the vote like those who joined the SDP did in the 1980s. “It basically installed Mrs Thatcher in power for that decade,” he said Mr McDonnell appealed to MPs considering quitting telling them there was no need to do so over Brexit . “I don’t see why there’s a need to because on all the issues that people have raised where there’s potential for a split we’re dealing with.
Former Labour vice chairman Michael Dugher has said he is intending to leave the party, saying he now regards it as “institutionally antisemitic”. Mr Dugher, who was elected as MP for Barnsley East in 2010 and left Parliament in May 2017, claimed the party he joined nearly three decades ago “no longer exists”. He served as vice chairman of the party under Ed Miliband between 2011 and 2014 and later became shadow secretary for transport and culture. Labour disclosed this week it had received 673 allegations of antisemitism by its members over the past 10 months, leading to 12 individuals being expelled.
GERMANY has vowed to block British requests to arrest German nationals after Brexit. In a move that undermines challenges for Britain and Brussels to maintain a joint security cooperation, Berlin vowed to snub the mission regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a trade deal with the bloc. The European Commission received the decision from Germany last week, the Financial Times reports, adding it is a slap in the face for European Arrest Warrant maintained by the EU and UK. An EU official familiar with the case said that the German notification on extradition was “not a surprise” before adding it was a “sign of things to come” when Prime Minister Theresa May is relentlessly battling to secure an agreement with Brussels.
European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker has changed the rules governing the political activity of European Union Commissioners, allowing them to actively campaign in the upcoming EU Parliament elections. Formerly the EU Commission, an unelected body which acts as the bloc’s executive and is the sole initiator of EU-level laws, was regarded as technocratic rather than overtly political, and not supposed to take partisan political stances of its own volition — at least in theory. But the new rules will allow the Commission to campaign with, endorse, and support candidates and parties ahead of the European Parliament elections set to be held in May, Il Giornale reports.
A Spanish warship with its guns manned ordered commercial ships to leave British Gibraltar waters on Sunday, the territory’s government said. The warship’s crew can be heard in an audio recording of a radio exchange telling vessels anchored at the Rock to “leave Spanish territorial waters”. Royal Navy boats were deployed in response to the incident. Boats which were ordered to leave remained at the port during the incident, which was branded “foolish” by a spokesman for Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar.
A Spanish navy warship ordered two commercial ships to leave British waters off Gibraltar yesterday, the territory’s government has said. The crew of the Spanish patrol boat Tornado can be heard in a recording of a radio exchange telling the vessels to “leave Spanish territorial waters”, even though they were anchored well inside British waters. The two merchant vessels, the Ivor Accord and the Great Victory, had been awaiting orders in waters under the control of the Gibraltar Port Authority. They did not leave the area during the incident. Two Royal Navy boats were deployed in response.
A SPANISH warship ordered commercial ships to leave Gibraltar’s British waters on Sunday – with its guns primed for action. The Tornado’s crew can be heard in an audio recording of a radio exchange telling vessels anchored at the Rock to “leave Spanish territorial waters”. Royal Navy boats were quickly deployed in response to the incident – the latest in a string of stand-offs involving Spanish and British ships. Boats which were ordered to leave – including the Ivor Accord and the Great Victory – remained at the port during the incident, which was branded “foolish” by the Government of Gibraltar. “There is only nuisance value to these foolish games being played by those who don’t accept unimpeachable British sovereignty over the waters around Gibraltar as recognised by the whole world in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” a spokesman said.
Britain’s electoral law is “not fit for purpose” and should be updated to tackle the growing use of social media and online micro-targeting of voters by political campaigners, the Culture Committee recommends. The committee pointed to warnings by the Information Commissioner of a “disturbing disregard for voters’ personal privacy” in the way their personal information was being used in political campaigns. It also follows the scandal over Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy that worked for Donald Trump, which improperly obtained the personal data of 50m Facebook users.
The affordability of housing in Britain is improving at the fastest rate since 2011, according to analysis. The latest monthly index by Rightmove, the property website, showed that houses were being newly advertised at prices that on average were 0.2 per cent higher than 12 months earlier. This is the weakest growth at this time of year since 2009, as sellers price homes cautiously in a slow market. However, Rightmove also said that the UK’s average annual wage growth of 3.4 per cent was outstripping asking prices by its fastest rate in eight years, suggesting that incomes are slowly starting to catch up with home values.
Passengers may no longer have to buy split tickets to get the cheapest fares for some journeys under an overhaul proposed by the rail companies. The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the companies, has advanced a new system under which travellers would be charged the best value fare. It would end the practice where passengers have to buy multiple tickets for different portions of their route often from different companies in order to guarantee the cheapest option
Rail bosses plan to replace peak and off-peak fares with ticket prices that change throughout the day. In a bid to end the crush at rush hours and encourage more passengers to travel during quiet periods, rail companies have called for the two tiers to be scrapped – but critics claim that it could make the ticket system even more confusing. As peak tickets are much more expensive than off-peak – for example, a rush-hour ticket from London to Manchester can cost £175 compared to £88 off-peak – trains just outside peak hours are often overcrowded as passengers try to save money
Traditional peak-time rail fares face the axe under the biggest reform of the ticketing system in more than 20 years. A report published today recommends that the present “cliff edge” between peak and off-peak fares be abolished in favour of more regular pricing throughout the day. It says that slightly cheaper peak-time fares would slash demand for the first subsequent off-peak service, reducing overcrowding by up to a third on very busy trains. Some passengers would pay more, the report says, but up to 80 per cent of trains at quieter times would have lower walk-on fares to encourage more to travel without the need to book weeks in advance.
Eurostar trains to Paris were cancelled, a motorway closed and nearly 2,000 people evacuated from their homes on Sunday as police detonated a huge unexploded bomb believed to have been dropped by the RAF in 1944. The 1000 lb bomb, initially thought to be harmless, was discovered earlier this month by workmen at a construction site at Porte de la Chapelle, near the Gare du Nord. It was then found to be still at risk of exploding despite having lain dormant for 75 years. The railway station, which houses the Eurostar terminal, was shut for several hours and people within a two mile radius were told to leave the area. Sections of the nearby A1 motorway and the Paris ring road were closed, and Métro and other train services were also halted.
Air passengers could be forced to pay a £2.50 surcharge to enable collapsed airlines to carry on flying, after frustrated customers were left stranded across Europe following the collapse of British carrier Flybmi. The charge, which currently applies to ATOL-protected package holidays, could be extended to individual flights to prevent passengers being stuck overseas. The budget airline went into administration yesterday blaming rising fuel costs and Britain’s uncertain future after Brexit, throwing holiday plans into chaos as schools break up for the February half term.