Ireland

Express
THERESA May has invited members of the staunch Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG) to try and come to a solution and an alternative to the Irish backstop in a desperate bid to break the deadlock. Downing Street have said that ERG deputy leader Steve Baker, former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson and Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh will be part of the Alternative Arrangements Working Group, which will meet for the first time tomorrow, Monday February 4. The ERG, which is led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, is an alliance made up of a group of backbench Conservative MPs who lobby on issues surrounding Brexit. According to a No 10 spokeswoman, the group will be joined by ministers Nicky Morgan and Damian Green and they will meet regularly with the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, as well as relevant departments and civil servants from HM Revenue and Customs.

BBC News
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, MPs and government officials will discuss alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop as three days of talks begin. The Alternative Arrangements Working Group, with Leave and Remain MPs, will meet for the first time on Monday after the Commons voted to find another way of avoiding a hard Irish border. Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said “existing technology” could be used. The Irish PM said the UK was reviewing ideas that had “already been rejected”.

Sky News
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is due to meet members of a new working group of Conservative MPs to find an alternative plan to avoid a post-Brexit hard Irish border. The Alternative Arrangements Working Group (AAWG) is being supported by officials from several government departments and membership includes hardline Brexiteers and former ministers who voted Remain. The first meeting will take place today, with further meetings planned for Tuesday and Wednesday, Downing Street said. Brexiteers Steve Baker, Marcus Fysh and Owen Paterson will join forces with pro-EU Conservatives Damian Green and Nicky Morgan to form the AAWG.

ITV News
Senior members of the hardline eurosceptic European Research Group have been drafted in by the Government to help develop an alternative to the Irish backstop, Downing Street said. ERG deputy leader Steve Baker, former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson and Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh will be part of the Alternative Arrangements Working Group, which will meet for the first time on Monday, a No 10 spokeswoman said. They will be joined by former education secretary Nicky Morgan and ex-cabinet office minister Damian Green in the group, which will meet “regularly” with Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, a No 10 spokeswoman said.

Huffington Post
Theresa May has drafted in hardline Brexiteers from her backbenches to be part of a government taskforce on the Northern Irish backstop.  Senior members of the eurosceptic ERG (European Research Group) will join high-profile Conservative Remainers to help develop an alternative to the PM’s customs plan, Downing Street has confirmed. ERG deputy leader Steve Baker, former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson and Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh will be part of the ‘alternative arrangements working group’, which meets for the first time on Monday.

Times
The Conservative Party’s fragile Brexit truce was close to collapse yesterday after hardline Brexiteers ruled out two of Theresa May’s proposals for solving the Irish backstop question. Eurosceptics said they would not accept either a unilateral withdrawal clause or an end date to the backstop as a compromise to reach a deal with Brussels. Instead, they insisted the prime minister must demand that Brussels scraps the backstop “entirely” and replace it with electronic customs and regulatory checks to avoid physical infrastructure at the border.

Express
IRELAND has been told it is on course for a hard border with Northern Ireland unless it re-opens negotiations on the Brexit backstop. Liam Fox, the UK’s International Trade Secretary, said it is in the Irish Government’s interest to renegotiate the contested back up plan. Speaking to Sky News, he said: “If Ireland won’t negotiate on the backstop they are likely to end up with a no deal, and the European Union said that’s the best route to get a hard border, so for the Irish I think is even more important than most that they are willing to talk to us about it what the alternative ways are to not achieve a hard border.”

Guardian
Hard Brexiters have warned Theresa May that the only proposal they are likely to support to break the Brexit impasse is a version of the “Malthouse compromise”, which envisages removing the backstop from the draft European Union exit treaty. Steve Baker, vice chair of the European Research Group, said that he and other Conservative Eurosceptics could not support the alternative they believed Theresa May favoured – an addendum to the existing EU withdrawal agreement. Baker is one of five backbench MPs who will meet Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, on Monday, in the first meeting of a new working group aimed at examining whether technological solutions could eliminate the backstop.

Sun
THERESA MAY was facing a bitter Brexit backlash last night as Tory MPs claimed she’s breaking her word on axing the Irish “backstop”. A fragile truce with hardline Eurosceptics shattered as they said the PM appeared to no longer be willing to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU to secure a Brexit deal. They claimed insiders had told them No.10 is instead likely to push for a “joint interpretative letter” that will allow the PM and Attorney General to claim the backstop will be time-limited or temporary.

Independent
Theresa May has been accused of “wasting valuable time” in the countdown to Britain’s exit from the EU as she announced plans to establish a Commons group probing alternative plans for the Irish border post-Brexit. Despite the prime minister’s hopes of reopening the withdrawal agreement already being dashed by EU leaders with just 53 days to go until Brexit, the new committee made up of senior Tory MPs will meet for the first time on Monday.

GE

Telegraph
Downing Street preparations for a snap election in June may be a useful “scare tactic” to persuade MPs to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal, Boris Johnson has suggested. The former foreign secretary said the idea of an election this year was “lunacy” because the Government still has no coherent Brexit plan. Reports surfaced over the weekend of No 10 officials making contingency plans for a possible election on June 6, and Mr Johnson is not alone in warning that such a move would be a disaster.

Independent
Sajid Javid has said the last thing the country needs is an early general election, as he warned: “The people would never forgive us for it”. His remarks come amid reports that Downing Street strategists have discussed 6 June as potential date for Theresa May to call a vote as the party’s headquarters also hiked its spending on digital advertising. The warning from the home secretary also follows a fresh poll giving the Conservatives a seven-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour after a week in which the prime minister managed to secure a temporary truce with the hardline Brexiteers in her party.

Guardian
Sajid Javid has said “the last thing we want is a general election”, emphasising that the government is still hoping to secure a time limit or unilateral exit mechanism for the Irish border backstop. The home secretary dismissed newspaper reports that Downing Street strategists were considering holding a snap general election on 6 June, if Theresa May cannot get her Brexit deal through parliament before the 29 March deadline. “The last thing we want is a general election, the people will never forgive us for it,” Javid told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

Sun
THERESA May has been told to hold a snap election this summer if she gets Brexit done and dusted. The PM’s top civil servant recommended that she call a snap vote in June if she succeeds in getting her agreement past in the next few weeks, it’s been revealed today. Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill has been telling Whitehall to get ready for another vote, the Sunday Times reported. And one of those options is the first Thursday in June – the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazis.

Times
Two cabinet ministers have dismissed the prospect of an early election after reports that preparations were being made for a June poll. Sajid Javid, the home secretary, said that voters would “never forgive” the Conservative Party if it called an early general election before or after Brexit. Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, who described another poll as “the last thing we need”. Reports suggested that Downing Street strategists had considered the prospect of an election in June

EU

Express
A GROUNDBREAKING plan to avoid financial chaos if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal has been revealed by Nigel Farage in Brussels. Mr Farage, the former leader of Ukip, shared the Brexit solution for both the UK and EU to escape economic uncertainty in a no-deal scenario in a speech to fellow MEPs this week. Mr Farage revealed the plan to stoney-faced European colleagues, which would provide for a two-year period where there would be no tariffs, no quotas and no restrictions of any kind.

Times
“Exit from Brexit” is Germany’s preferred option over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union next month but the chances of it are extraordinarily low, the country’s foreign minister has said. Heiko Maas told the Funke media group that he hoped Britain would cancel Brexit over the coming weeks as Theresa May failed to secure new concessions and the prospect of no-deal Brexit loomed. “That’s what I’d like the most,” he said. “But we should have no illusions about this. The likelihood of an exit from Brexit is extraordinarily low.”

Express
GUY Verhofstadt has claimed the European Union is “threatened” after Brexit and could be “destroyed”. The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator called on EU voters to back pro-EU Liberal and Democrat parties in May’s European elections. It comes as Mrs May prepares to return to Brussels to push for concessions on the Irish backstop. And with the clock ticking on Britain’s March 29 exit from the single bloc, Mr Verhofstadt urged EU voters to reject populist parties across the continent. Mr Verhofstadt tweeted: “Europe is more united than ever before, but has also never been more threatened. “Those who do not wish to see it destroyed should support Liberals & Democrats in May! “Are you with us?”

Conservative Party

Telegraph
The fragile Tory truce brokered by Theresa May over her plan B for Brexit appeared to be fracturing as Eurosceptics voiced suspicion that she will sell them short. Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, said Mrs May was heading for “a further substantial defeat” in Parliament if she fails to honour her commitment to re-open the EU Withdrawal Agreement. Members of the ERG suspect Mrs May is preparing to accept a legal annexe to the Brexit deal rather than rewriting the deal itself to remove or alter the Northern Ireland backstop.

Labour Party

Telegraph
Rebel Labour MPs are threatening to quit and form their own party amid growing disaffection with Jeremy Corbyn as a new opinion poll puts the Tories seven points ahead. At least six members of the Opposition have been drawing up plans to resign the Labour whip and form a new centrist party, with a larger group prepared to break away after Brexit if Mr Corbyn fails to block Theresa May’s EU withdrawal plans. An Opinium poll of voting intention for the Observer newspaper on Sunday put the Tories on 41 per cent and Labour on 34 per cent, following a separate poll last week that showed Mr Corbyn’s opaque Brexit policy has cost him support.

Guardian
A group of disaffected Labour MPs is preparing to quit the party and form a breakaway movement on the political centre ground amid growing discontent with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership on Brexit and other key issues including immigration, foreign policy and antisemitism. The Observer has been told by multiple sources that at least six MPs have been drawing up plans to resign the whip and leave the party soon. There have also been discussions involving senior figures about a potentially far larger group splitting off at some point after Brexit, if Corbyn fails to do everything possible to oppose Theresa May’s plans for taking the UK out of the EU.

Times
A group of Labour MPs are discussing plans to split from the party and set up a centrist political group in opposition to Jeremy Corbyn. One Labour MP, who is among those discussing the move, told The Times that such a split was inevitable but not imminent. “There is an incredible amount of unhappiness that has led to these conversations,” they said. “It is not just Corbyn’s position on Brexit, it’s Venezuela, antisemitism, immigration, asylum. Then there is the sense that anyone who is not a purist is going to get thrown out of the party before the next election anyway.

LibDems

Independent
Sir Vince Cable has promised the Liberal Democrats will “work with” rebel MPs as he claimed there is a “real chance” of a group of Labour MPs breaking away from the party. The comments from the leader of the unashamedly pro-EU party follow claims that at least six disaffected MPs are preparing to quit Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party over key policy disagreements, including Brexit and immigration. Speaking on Sunday, Sir Vince also suggested it was “very likely” he would lead his party into any early general election – despite outlining plans to resign as leader at his party’s autumn conference last year.

Migrants

Mail
Migrants are paying fixers to help them cheat in citizenship tests to win the right to stay in Britain. Undercover footage shows how lax security lets criminals feed their ‘customers’ the right answers via tiny earpieces. The scam, exposed by BBC London News, is the latest in a string of frauds designed to help migrants pass the much-maligned Life In The UK test. Critics of security at test centres say elaborate schemes may have allowed thousands to fraudulently win British citizenship.

Health

Times
Almost 300,000 patients a year miss out on surgery because of delays and inefficiencies in operating theatres, an NHS watchdog report has concluded. A third of operations start late because staff do not turn up at the same time, equipment is missing, beds cannot be found or there are other administrative problems, NHS Improvement found. Hospitals could boost the number of routine operations by 17 per cent through basic efficiencies and some surgical teams could be treating more than half as many patients again, it said. More than four million patients are on waiting lists for non-urgent procedures such as hip replacements.

Mail
The NHS is to use energy smart meters to monitor dementia patients in their homes. The devices will track patients’ daily routines, such as when they boil the kettle, cook dinner or turn the washing machine on. They will flag up any sudden change in behaviour which could indicate an illness, a fall or a decline in their mental state. The meters will be able to send alerts to family members or carers, who can pop round to check if the patient is all right. Experts say the devices will enable patients to live independently for longer without going into care, and prevent avoidable admissions to A&E.

Times
A ten-year plan for the NHS was at risk of failing because ministers were still cutting services that prevent illness, health service leaders said. Doctors, nurses, charity chiefs and senior managers emphasised that efforts to prevent disease were being undermined by repeated budget raids. Last month the NHS presented a long-term plan that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said would involve a fundamental shift towards preventing illness.

Guardian
Campaigners are calling on the government to urgently intervene over the cost of a drug that could extend the lives of thousands of children but which manufacturers have set at £105,000 per patient per year, a price the NHS cannot afford. For more than two years an emotive battle has been raging over Orkambi, which tackles the cause of cystic fibrosis. Previously, children with the genetic disorder did not often survive to adulthood and even today, half will be dead before the age of 32. Orkambi could extend lives, but negotiations over the price the NHS should pay have been in stalemate since July, with the pharma company that makes it refusing to reduce the price.

Times
Rates of cancers caused by obesity are rising fastest in the young, American scientists say. Kidney cancer rates in people in their twenties are rising by 6 per cent a year, according to researchers who suggested that extra fat during key stages of youth could lead to deadly diseases. While absolute numbers of cancer cases are still much higher in the elderly, researchers warned that faster increases in the young could be storing up serious problems as an unhealthy generation gets older. British obesity rates are not far behind the US.

Education

Times
Schools “off-rolling” pupils to prevent their poor exam results from showing in league tables have been accused of causing a surge in the number of children educated at home. Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, blamed the practice for pushing the number of children who were home-schooled to almost 60,000 last year, up 27 per cent from the previous year. The number has risen by at least 20 per cent for each of the past five years. A report published by Ms Longfield said that there was a big rise in children being taken out of secondary schools. The number increased by 71 per cent in 11 local authorities that it looked at.

Motoring

Mail
Have you ever had to stop your car on a motorway without a hard shoulder? I had to do so last month, and it is one of the most terrifying experiences any motorist can face, made worse by the fact that my wife, children and two dogs were on board. Our unplanned halt took place on a stretch of the M25 which is designated as a piece of ‘smart motorway’ — a section that uses various traffic management strategies to reduce congestion and increase capacity. In this case, that meant using the hard shoulder as another lane. But after what happened to us, I can only ever regard smart motorways as being very, very dumb indeed.

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