HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Britons enter the year of Brexit in stoical spirits with half believing that their personal finances will remain the same or improve, a poll for The Times has found. With 87 days to go before the country’s exit from the EU and the fate of Theresa May’s deal with Brussels in the balance, the chances of a chaotic departure are rising fast. However, warnings of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, including the Bank of England saying that it could cause a recession worse than the 2008 financial crisis, have so far had little impact on voters’ economic confidence.
Theresa May has been calling European Union leaders in an attempt to push her derailed Brexit deal through parliament. The prime minister, who is expected to return from Chequers to No 10 this week, has been seeking changes to satisfy critics, including the Democratic Unionist Party. Downing Street would not reveal the names of those she spoke to but Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish prime minister, received a call. MPs return to parliament on Monday with a debate on the Brexit deal due to start on January 9 before a vote the following week
Theresa May has launched a fresh diplomatic blitz on EU leaders – as No10 admitted she still has not managed to get concessions to help sell her Brexit deal to MPs. The PM has been ringing round counterparts as she tries to obtain ‘legally binding’ assurances that the UK will not be stuck in the Irish border backstop. The frantic New Year push comes with just over a fortnight to go until the Commons is due to hold a crunch vote on the package thrashed out with Brussels. The EU has flatly dismissed the idea of reopening the Withdrawal Agreement painstakingly put together over two years of negotiations
Theresa May has been in contact with EU leaders over Christmas to try to seek the reassurances she hopes will persuade enough MPs to back her Brexit deal in January, Downing Street has said. “She has been in contact with European counterparts over the break, and you can expect more of that to continue over the week,” the prime minister’s spokeswoman said. “I haven’t got a list for you, but she has been in touch with European leaders, and that will continue in the lead-up to the vote.” MPs will resume debating May’s proposed Brexit deal on 9 January, with the vote due to take place the following week.
Theresa May has made a new year plea for MPs to back her Brexit deal, arguing that Britain will be able to “turn a corner” in 2019 if they support her. The prime minister used her New Year’s Day message to put pressure on politicians who have vowed to oppose her plans in a crunch vote expected in the first two weeks of January. But even as she did, her DUP partners in government warned that unless there were significant changes to her plans they would vote against them. MPs return to parliament next week, with debate on the Brexit deal due to start on 9 January before a “meaningful vote” the following week.
Theresa May has claimed 2019 is the year “we can put our differences aside” over Brexit to allow the UK to “turn a corner”. The prime minister used her New Year’s message to again make the case for her Brexit deal, which is set to finally be voted on by MPs within the next three weeks. Downing Street has admitted “there is still work to do” for Mrs May to win fresh assurances from the EU over the terms of her agreement, as demanded by sceptical MPs. The prime minister has spent her Christmas break holding talks with European leaders and will continue to be in contact in the lead-up to the House of Commons vote on her deal, scheduled for the week beginning 14 January.
THERESA May has “more work to do” after holding diplomatic talks with EU Leaders over her contested Withdrawal Agreement, with just nine days left to offer waring MPs in her cabinet a fresh approach as a Parliamentary meaningful vote looms. The Prime Minister spoke to the European leaders over the Christmas break while Parliament broke up for its annual recess. A Downing Street spokeswoman said that while discussions between the UK and EU had continued, she was still working on getting the “legal and political assurances” required. MPs are due to debate the Withdrawal Agreement hammered out with Brussels on January 9 before a meaningful vote the following week.
The US ambassador to the UK has said the kind of comprehensive trade deal with Britain sought by Donald Trump does not look possible under Theresa May’s Brexit plans. Woody Johnson cast doubt on whether negotiating a “quick” and “massive” trade deal between the US and UK is feasible if the prime minister’s approach is approved. He said he detected a “defeatism” about Brexit in the UK and, in words that could be seen as a swipe at the prime minister, said the country was “in need of leadership”.
President Trump wants a “quick, very massive bilateral trade deal” with the UK post-Brexit but that wouldn’t be possible under Theresa May’s plan, according to US Ambassador Woody Johnson. In an intervention that once again underlines the damage that the current UK-EU proposal would do, the US Ambassador to the UK once again reiterated that President Trump is “looking forward to and hoping” for a mega trade deal with Brexit Britain. But he made clear that “the UK is in need of leadership” and to decide whether it is to become a fully independent country or not. “If it goes in a way that allows these kinds of agreements to occur then I think that would be very positive in the President’s eyes,” Ambassador Johnson told the BBC’s Today programme. If May’s plan does goes through though, such a US-UK deal “doesn’t look like it would be possible”, Johnson confirmed. As he also said, the future for the UK is “extremely positive, extremely bright” and that is why a proper Brexit must be delivered.
Donald Trump’s man in Britain dealt a fresh hammer blow to Theresa May’s hopes of a US trade deal today – and claimed the UK needed leadership. US Ambassador Woody Johnson warned the Prime Minister her pact with Brussels made a transatlantic trade deal less likely. He told the BBC: “It doesn’t look like it would be possible.” Mr Johnson hinted the President could finally pay a full State Visit to the UK in May 2019, just weeks after Brexit. But in a thinly-veiled rebuke to the PM, he said that having toured the UK since his appointment in August 2017, “I’m feeling the country is in need of leadership.” Mr Johnson said he was “very impressed by people I’ve talked to” but added: “You can see the frustration in the members of parliament in trying to navigate what the people wanted in the referendum.”
Jean-Claude Juncker used private jets for nearly half his worldwide ‘missions’ this year, official figures reveal. These ‘air taxis’ should only be used when no suitable commercial flights can be found, according to EU Commission rules. But Mr Juncker chartered private jets for 21 out of 43 official trips between January and November, racking up a bill that is likely to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, a Daily Mail analysis reveals. The revelation sparked calls last night for the EU Commission president to be investigated over his allegedly ‘excessive’ use of private flights, which are funded by EU taxpayers.
Angela Merkel has vowed to “stand up and fight” for the global order as she primed Germany for a more assertive role to counter President Trump. In a speech bristling with lightly concealed rebukes to the US president, the German chancellor said that her country would struggle ever more strongly against the slide towards nationalism. She pledged to forge the European Union into a “tougher and more decisive” unit and to maintain close ties with Britain regardless of Brexit. Today Germany takes up a two-year seat on the UN security council at a time when relations between Berlin and Washington have reached their lowest ebb in at least four decades.
Jean-Claude Juncker has told the UK to “get its act together” in the run-up to the delayed House of Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The European commission president said the EU could not be expected to resolve the problems that continue to make it likely the British government will suffer a heavy defeat. “I find it entirely unreasonable for parts of the British public to believe that it is for the EU alone to propose a solution for all future British problems,” Juncker said in a wide-ranging interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “My appeal is this. Get your act together and then tell us what it is you want. Our proposed solutions have been on the table for months.”
JEAN-Claude Juncker has infuriated Downing Street by declaring MPs no longer trust Theresa May. The EU Commission chief issued the extraordinary diplomatic breach as he also slammed the government’s handling on Brexit, telling it: “Get your act together”. His broadside came as it also emerged last night that two weeks of talks to try to improve Theresa May’s Brexit deal have failed to produce a breakthrough. The PM has just nine days to go to win enough concessions on the hated Irish backstop to persuade Tory MPs to back her when the Commons debates it again. But Whitehall sources admitted last night that while officials in Brussels are still talking, there has been “no significant progress”. Mr Juncker’s latest rant is a bitter blow to No10, who had been pinning their hopes on the commission president to broker an addition to the agreement. It also comes two weeks after his ugly confrontation with Mrs May at a Brussels summit when he dubbed her “nebulous”.
Sajid Javid has bowed to pressure from Tory MPs as he announced that two more cutters will be sent to the English Channel to help deal with the migrant crisis. In a significant escalation of Britain’s approach to the situation, the Home Secretary announced that three boats will patrol the English Channel to help ensure that migrants attempting to make the crossing do not drown, with two redeployed from the Mediterranean. He has previously resisted calls to bring more cutters to the Channel amid concern they will act as a “magnet” for migrants. Announcing the change in his position, Mr Javid said he also wanted to make clear to those attempting to make the crossing that Britain will do “everything we can” to ensure their journey “is not a success”, including returning them to France.
Sajid Javid appeared to cave in to political pressure over his response to the surge of migrants crossing the Channel by recalling two Border Force cutters from overseas yesterday. The home secretary said that the vessels were to return from Gibraltar and the Aegean Sea to patrol Britain’s waters. Mr Javid had claimed on Saturday that such a move would attract migrants. He made the decision after cutting short his South African holiday and holding talks with officials at the National Crime Agency, Border Force and security agencies. Conservative MPs had been calling for tougher action to deter migrants, many of them Iranian, from trying to cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
As migrants risk their lives trying to cross the Channel in small boats, around ten people a night are still getting into Britain illegally in lorries, fellow refugees said yesterday. Using a method last witnessed in large numbers before the closure of the Calais ‘Jungle’ two years ago, migrants living rough around Dunkirk in northern France – now said to number 1,000 – are dismissive of their chances on dinghies, instead opting to hide on trucks. Britain’s National Crime Agency warned at the weekend that most people are still smuggled into the country on HGVs rather than in small boats.
THE government must not use Britain’s armed forces to deal with the small number of migrant boats crossing the Channel from Calais, activists have warned. They were responding to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s statement that “our navy, air force and army stand ready to assist.” Although the Home Office has not asked the military for support, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has declared the boat arrivals a “major incident.” Mr Javid cut short his luxury safari holiday, reportedly costing £840 per night, to return to Britain. Five refugee boats carrying just 40 people crossed the Channel on Christmas Day. A handful more boats have since made the short voyage.
Asserting that “every person is precious”, the Church of England has urged Britain to welcome the boatloads of illegal migrants crossing the Channel. As ministers called on the Home Office to take action against an unprecedented influx of boats carrying migrants from the third world, the bishop of Dover told the Observer it was “crucial that we all remember that we are dealing with human beings here”. Speaking with the backing of the church, the newspaper reports, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott said: “Across the nation, we have been celebrating the season of hope and goodwill as we remember Christ’s birth — let’s not forget so soon that every person is precious.”
SOLDIERS are living in death-trap barracks due to repeated budget cuts and a woeful decline in safety drills, the MoD watchdog warns. Thousands of unmarried troops live in rundown quarters, including a 33-storey block taller than Grenfell Tower. Two serious fires have hit the Army’s single living accommodation in 16 months. But dire warnings in a report by the Defence Safety Authority (DSA) have been covered up, says a whistleblower. The senior defence source said: “Young soldiers are going to burn to death in their beds. “Everybody knows that it won’t be long before things get so bad that people are killed. “That’s why no senior civil servant wants his name on the door when it happens. “It’s sheer cowardice and a betrayal of every man and woman serving in uniform.”
Chemotherapy may cause breast cancer to spread, alarming research suggests. The commonly prescribed chemo drugs paclitaxel and doxorubicin cause breast tumours to release proteins that then circulate in the blood until they reach the lungs, triggering the disease’s onset in a new part of the body. When scientists blocked this protein in a lab model, the cancer did not spread. They hope their findings will help make chemotherapy more effective. The study was carried out by the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research and led by Professor Michele De Palma, head of the lab. Chemotherapy is often given to breast-cancer patients before surgery to shrink their tumours and make them easier to remove.
Households will no longer face “unjustified” increases to their energy bills, the government has promised, after its price cap came into effect today. The policy should deliver an initial reduction in prices for about 11 million households on standard tariffs, who have been promised average savings of £76 each a year. Consumer groups urged people to keep shopping around for better deals and said that households could save a further £200 a year by switching to the cheapest tariffs on offer. Experts also reiterated warnings that the cap would not end price rises, with the regulator expected to authorise companies to increase prices in April.
THERESA May last night pledged further crackdowns to prevent consumers being overcharged by big businesses as the energy price cap came into force. From today the maximum annual rate an energy firm can charge for a standard variable tariff (SVT) will be £1,137. The average household will save around £75 a year from the move. The annual cap will remain in place until 2020 and could be extended to 2023 if the energy market does not become competitive enough. The Government says the crackdown will cut the amount customers overpay to the “Big Six” suppliers by around £1 billion per year. Ahead of the cap coming into effect the PM promised similar action in other markets. She said: “Our energy price cap will cut bills for millions of families and people across the UK who have been ripped off by energy companies for far too long. “From today, money will go straight back into the pockets of loyal consumers, including the elderly and those on lower incomes who feel the pinch more acutely. “But work to tackle this issue doesn’t stop there. We’re working with regulators and industry to ensure that consumers are not unfairly overcharged in the future – whether on their phone bills or their insurance premiums.”
Hundreds of families whose bins are now emptied only once a month by their council are paying up to £450 a year for private collections. They had been left with overflowing bins following the reduction to services in Conwy, North Wales. In September it became the first council in England and Wales to switch to collecting rubbish every four weeks. Graham Jones, 48, from Llandudno, is among more than 700 homeowners using private firms. He pays Waste Concern £37.32 a month for an extra fortnightly collection.
It was an unhappy New Year for commuters as they found the cost of season tickets had soared by as much as £2,000 in a decade – while punctuality has plunged to the lowest level in 13 years. New Year’s Eve celebrations for many travellers across the South of England were marred by yet another rail strike yesterday. And millions returning to work tomorrow will be hit by a fresh round of inflation-busting fare hikes. The latest increase of up to 3.2 per cent – described as a ‘kick in the teeth’ for workers – will add more than £100 to the price of many annual tickets. But an audit by the Daily Mail has laid bare the crippling rise in the price of rail travel over the longer term, placing huge pressure on household budgets.