Northern Ireland

Times
Britain will refuse to pay its multibillion-pound Brexit divorce bill until Brussels backs down on attempts to keep Northern Ireland  subject to European Union rules, David Davis  warned last night. In an uncompromising letter sent to Tory MPs, the Brexit secretary said that Britain would not finalise financial payments to the EU until “all the issues” of concern to Britain had been addressed. It came hours after the EU said that Northern Ireland should remain in the customs union to avoid a hard border with the Republic. Mr Davis added that the government would refuse to sign up to proposals by the European Commission to give the bloc’s highest court the power to rule on Brexit disputes and that it would not accept “punitive sanctions”.

Sun
BRITAIN will refuse to pay its multi-billion-pound Brexit divorce bill until Brussels backs down over Northern Ireland’s border, David Davis has reportedly warned. The Brexit minister is said to have written a hard-hitting letter to Tory MPs telling them the UK won’t hand over cash unless the Government gets its way. It comes after the EU enraged Theresa May yesterday by suggesting Northern Ireland could remain in the customs union, effectively creating a new border in the Irish Sea. Mrs May insisted no PM could ever agree to that because it would threaten the UK’s constitutional integrity. She said she would be making her opposition to it “crystal clear”. Mr Davis’s letter was reportedly issued just hours later. He vowed that Britain would not finalise payments to the EU until “all the issues” of concern to Britain had been addressed, according to The Times.

Express
CONSERVATIVE MP Bill Cash has furiously accused the EU of manipulating the Brexit negotiations to engineer a constitutional crisis in the UK, during an interview on BBC Newsnight. The accusation of foul play by Brussels bureaucrats came after the EU published their 20-page draft Brexit treaty which outlines the procedures of the process behind their plot to keep Northern Ireland aligned with the bloc. The head of Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee argued the position put forward by the EU27 was deliberately aimed at causing political chaos in the UK. He said: “Basically what they’ve said in this draft legal text that my European Scrutiny Committee is looking into now, is that they’re trying to do is make a constitutional crisis in the UK. “I mean this is basically the EU seeking to achieve a hard border when actually, they’ve said they don’t want it, we have also said we don’t want it, and the Irish Government has said they don’t want it.”

Morning Star
DOES European Union negotiator Michel Barnier have a vested interest in boosting Theresa May’s credibility as a defender of UK national interests? What other conclusion explains Barnier’s insistence on publishing his draft legal document on a “common regulatory area” between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland that would consider the six counties as “part of the customs territory” of the EU? Nothing could be more calculated to wind up the Democratic Unionist Party MPs on which May’s government depends for support. Nor should it have been difficult to imagine the Prime Minister replying to the provocation in Parliament by declaring her adamant rejection of any suggestion of a customs border between Northern Ireland and Britain.

Mail
Theresa May flatly rejected an EU power grab over Northern Ireland today after Brussels unveiled plans for the province to obey Brussels rules. The Prime Minister gave an angry response as Eurocrats were accused of tabling demands that would effectively ‘annex’ Northern Ireland. Mrs May said the proposals would ‘undermine’ the integrity and constitution of the UK. ‘No UK Prime Minister could ever agree to it,’ she told the House of Commons.  The backlash came after EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier published ‘concrete’ plans to avoid a hard Irish border amid a huge political row. The blueprint would create a ‘common regulatory area’ on the island of Ireland covering areas such as customs, VAT, energy, environment, agriculture.

UKIP
UKIP Leader Gerard Batten said: “The EU is trying to divide Northern Ireland away from the UK and attempting to undermine and reverse the referendum decision. “Every party in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Irish Republic, along with both governments have said they wish to avoid a hard border.  “The only party saying they will put a hard border in place is the European Commission, ie Michel Barnier. The European Commission must not be allowed to annexe Northern Ireland or put a disruptive hard border in place. There are a number of solutions to the Irish border issue.” Irexit – Ireland leaves the EU and has a free trade deal with the UK. Ireland is given special trade status by the WTO due to its unique trading links and history with the UK. There is a bespoke technological solution at the border, without customs posts etc. This was the preferred earlier solution of the UK governmen

Independent
Northern Ireland must continue to abide by EU regulations after Brexit in order to guarantee there will not be a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, Guy Verhofstadt has said. The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator said there should be “no divergence” between Northern Ireland and its southern neighbour. Instead, “norms, rules and standards” must stay the same after  Brexit, he said. The warning will come as a blow to Theresa May after senior Cabinet ministers agreed plans for “ambitious managed divergence” from EU rules after Brexit. Mr Verhofstadt said this was “unacceptable” to EU leaders.

Westmonster
Michel Barnier has proposed an outrageous land grab over Northern Ireland – he wants NI to remain part of the Customs Union and under ECJ rule. This is a major threat to British sovereign territory. Theresa May simply can’t accept a section of British sovereign territory not being under the full control of the British government. It’s all well and good for Michel Barnier to say that his proposals wouldn’t have an impact on British sovereignty, but that’s a stretch by anyone’s imagination: Barnier insists having NI subject to Customs Union and EU regulation and judges “does not call into question the constitutional order of the UK. We respect that.” The solutions are “pragmatic, practical and in a legal fashion”. There’s clearly a push here by Brussels to use the Northern Ireland border issue to try to keep the UK in the European Union. They’re banking on Theresa May making some concession over Northern Ireland, which would potentially bring down her coalition with the DUP, meaning she wouldn’t have a majority.

Express
MICHEL Barnier set out the EU’s draft Brexit treaty today with the bloc’s demands to align Northern Ireland with its own rules – including the customs union – in order to avoid a hard border, threatening to derail an agreement with the UK. The EU’s Ireland plans could cause havoc in Westminster, with Theresa May’s partners the DUP set against divergence from the rest of the UK. Mr Barnier said today there were “no surprises” in the 120-page draft document, which includes procedures for putting into operation the “alignment” of Northern Irish regulations with the EU rulebook, which will be needed if no technological solution is found to keep the border with the Republic open after Brexit. The European Commission’s draft text for the UK’s withdrawal agreement sets out in legal terms plans for the establishment of a “common regulatory area” between the EU and Northern Ireland.

Telegraph
Boris Johnson believes the Irish border is being used by Remainers to fight a “proxy war” to thwart Brexit as two former prime ministers raise the prospect of a second referendum. The Foreign Secretary fears “ultra-Remainers” in Parliament and Whitehall are among those taking part in the conspiracy as Theresa May prepares to make her third major Brexit speech on Friday. On the day that the Prime Minister vehemently rejected Brussels’ proposal for the EU Withdrawal Agreement, Sir John Major made an unprecedented attack on his fellow Conservative with a speech that accused her of “bad politics”.

Sun
FUMING Tory Brexiteers have torn into Sir John Major for trying to force Theresa May into holding ANOTHER EU referendum. In an explosive intervention today, the former Prime Minister infuriated Leave-voters by saying 2016’s vote was just “advisory” and that the people should have the chance to change their minds. In a speech this afternoon to the Creative Industries Federation, Sir John said that the promises made in the referendum “cannot be met” and electors “know they were misled”. And he told Theresa May not to deliver Brexit if it makes Britain worse off. The ex-premier claimed that he believed gloomy economic forecasts made by pessimistic officials and experts, which say we will be worse off after we leave.

Migration

Telegraph
EU migrants who arrive in the UK after Brexit during a two-year transition period will be allowed to stay permanently, the Government has announced. In a significant climbdown ministers have made a unilateral offer to the EU which will guarantee that citizens arriving after March 2019 will be able to lawfully stay in the UK. The Government has yet to secure similar assurances for British citizens living in the European Union, and are instead hoping that they will “mirror the UK’s offer” in their own arrangements. The Home Office policy paper was slipped out on Wednesday afternoon after major speeches by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, and Sir John Major.

Mirror
Hundreds of thousands of EU citizens who arrive in Britain after  Brexit Day will be offered the chance to stay permanently in a major Tory climbdown. The sweeping policy was revealed today for EU citizens who arrive during a ‘transition period’ – expected to last two years after 29 March 2019. Arrivals who register before June 2019 will get a special temporary status that lets them stay in Britain for five years, the Home Office said. After that they can apply for indefinite leave for remain – as long as they have stayed in the UK working, studying or being “self-sufficient”. It comes despite Theresa May pledging to end free movement after March 2019, and insisting EU citizens who arrived after that date would not get the same rights as those already here.

Westmonster
Theresa May looks set to go back on a key promise by allowing EU nationals who arrive in Britain during the Brexit ‘transition period’ – set to last until at least 2021 – to gain permanent residency for both them and their family. According to a Home Office document: “EU citizens and their family members who arrived during (the transition period)…will be able to stay on and ultimately settle under UK law.” EU migrants who arrive after March 2019 will be given a five-year temporary residence permit, not the two-year one that was previously proposed by Ministers, a massive backtrack and was a key red line for Brexiteers: This is yet another example of Theresa May having no clear Brexit vision and actually betraying Leave voters. Unacceptable. The British people voted to take back control of borders, not allow mass migration to go on for years to come.

Independent
Theresa May has abandoned another of her Brexit “red lines”, by agreeing that EU citizens who arrive during her planned transition period can settle in the UK. The Prime Minister had vowed to fight Brussels’ demand for residency rights be granted to its nationals who move in the period – of about two years – when the UK will still abide by EU rules. In January, she insisted the rights offered had to be “different” because those people would be “coming to a UK they know will be outside the EU”. But Downing Street has now quietly dropped that stance, after the EU warned it would prevent talks beginning on a future trade deal. An announcement, posted on the Government’s website, said: “EU citizens and their family members will be able to move to the UK during the implementation period on the same basis as they do today”. The move is certain to further enrage hard Brexit supporters on the Tory benches who had insisted the EU’s proposal for the transition period was unacceptable.

Times
Ministers have been accused of a capitulation after abandoning attempts to stop EU citizens arriving during the transition from staying indefinitely. Theresa May had cheered Brexiteers in January when she declared there would be a “clear difference” for EU migrants who arrived after March 2019 and only those who arrived before could “continue their life” in the UK. It took ministers and businesses by surprise and was rejected by the EU, which warned it could jeopardise the transition period, which the government wants agreed in the March EU council. Yesterday ministers confirmed they were abandoning Mrs May’s position, issuing a declaration stating Britain would maintain near-identical rights for EU citizens in the transition period.

Trade

Independent
Rebel Tory MPs have launched an attempt to prevent the Government signing new trade deals after Brexit without Parliament’s approval. Fresh amendments tabled to a key Brexit bill would force ministers to give MPs and peers the power to amend or veto dozens of potential deals, amid fears ministers are planning to force them through without parliamentary scrutiny. The MPs, who are also seeking to force the Government to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU, believe they are likely to secure the support needed to pass the amendments, if opposition parties back them. Government ministers have said they want to “roll over” roughly 100 trade deals the EU has with around 60 countries into bilateral agreements between the UK and those countries after Brexit. They insist these would be on existing terms and so would not require fresh parliamentary approval.

Independent
Philip Hammond will try to rescue Britain’s hopes for a “comprehensive” trade deal with the European Union after Brexit, when he delivers a major speech next week. The Chancellor will insist that services, including those of the financial sector, must be included in any agreement – rejecting the EU Brexit negotiator’s view that the option “doesn’t exist”. Michel Barnier’s stance means the UK could face the prospect of a “Canada-style” deal and a possible exodus of financial services firms from the City of London, with a dramatic loss of tax revenue. Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hammond said the UK would not view any proposed deal with the EU as “fair” unless Brussels gave way on services. “We are clear that a future comprehensive trade partnership with the European Union must include goods as well as services,” he told MPs.

BBC News
Theresa May will meet top EU official Donald Tusk on Thursday, 24 hours before a major speech on British relations with the bloc after Brexit. Her talks with the European Council president come amid tensions over the EU’s draft withdrawal treaty. Mrs May has said the EU’s proposals on Northern Ireland threaten the UK’s constitutional integrity. The EU says the UK needs to come up a workable alternative to their proposals – which it describes as a “backstop”. Mrs May, due to chair a meeting of the cabinet before her talks with Mr Tusk, has already pledged not to accept the draft treaty as it stands. The treaty proposes a “common regulatory area” after Brexit on the island of Ireland – in effect keeping Northern Ireland in a customs union – if no other solution is found.

Sky News
Theresa May will meet EU Council President Donald Tusk in Downing Street later, as Brexit tensions ratchet up over the question of how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. On Wednesday the Prime Minister warned the EU that a draft legal text proposing a ‘common regulatory area’ on the island of Ireland, which would in effect keep Northern Ireland in EU Customs Union, would risk the constitutional integrity of the UK. The proposals were the first draft of the EU’s legal articulation of an agreement reached between the UK and EU in December, which included a UK commitment to maintain full regulatory alignment with the EU’s single market and custom union to prevent a hard border if that goal is not achieved by either a trade agreement or other technical solutions.

EU

Telegraph
Brussels has demanded that EU customs officers are allowed to operate in the UK in what would be an unprecedented arrangement for a sovereign country.  European Union plans to prevent an Irish hard border after Brexit will mean customs checks on goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Britain, Michel Barnier admitted in Brussels.  The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator was speaking after the European Commission published the 118 page draft Withdrawal Agreement, which translates into legally binding language the “Joint Report” agreed by the UK and EU in  December last year.  The document calls for the creation of a “common regulatory area” between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Express
EU CHIEFS have threatened to suspend the membership benefits of the UK if the Government fails to abide by the rules of its institutions during the transition period, according to a draft Brexit treaty drawn up in Brussels. The hugely controversial draft withdrawal agreement from the European Commission was revealed in all today. The text puts into legal terms the Joint Report agreed by Mrs May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in December, and is due to be agreed by the remaining 27 EU states next month. Under the Brexit treaty, the UK must agree to abide by the powers of the EU’s bodies, in particular the Court of Justice of the EU, during the implementation period. And, in a clampdown on the Government’s freedom to make its own decisions during that period, Article 165 of the document makes clear what could happen if the UK fails to follow EU law.

Reuters
The European Union on Wednesday laid out how it would regulate Northern Ireland’s trade if no better solution was found in the fast-closing window before Britain’s departure from the EU, prompting furious reactions in London and Belfast. Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier, presenting the EU’s draft of an exit treaty for Britain, denied that the proposal, intended to avoid a disruptive EU-UK “hard border” on the island of Ireland, would loosen Northern Ireland’s constitutional ties to the rest of the United Kingdom. But British leader Theresa May told her parliament that no prime minister could ever agree to these terms as they would “threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK”. The hardline Democratic Unionist (DUP) allies in Belfast on whom she relies for a slim majority denounced the EU draft as “constitutionally unacceptable” and “economically catastrophic” as it would distance Northern Ireland from mainland Britain. 
Establishing a “common regulatory area” with Ireland and 26 other EU states, as the draft treaty proposes, would in effect keep the British province in a customs union with the bloc.

NHS

Times
The NHS is losing nurses and GPs while senior managers are the fastest-growing group of staff, official figures show. Demoralised frontline workers are quitting and there are not enough trained doctors and nurses to replace them, unions have warned. Data from NHS Digital shows the equivalent of 283,853 full-time nurses in hospitals at the end of September last year, down 435 from 12 months earlier. There is mounting concern about higher numbers of nurses quitting the NHS because of rising workloads and stagnant pay. GP numbers were down 742 to 33,062 despite a government pledge of a 5,000 boost to the workforce by 2020. Figures showed that public satisfaction with GP services hit a record low last year.

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