Brexit

Express
THERESA May is facing calls to stop Parliament from blocking a no-deal Brexit by holding a general election immediately after the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union. The Prime Minister is widely expected to lose a crucial vote on her much-maligned divorce deal next week, but a high-stakes strategy which reportedly has the backing of Brexiteers could see her outmanoeuvre MPs demanding no-deal be taken off the table. The plan could see the Prime Minister use her powers to call a national vote for April 4 – just six days after Brexit Day on March 29. This would have the effect of dissolving Parliament for 17 working days before polling day, meaning no MPs would be sitting to oppose the Government’s no-deal contingency plans from coming into force, MailOnline reports. Mrs May is said to be under huge pressure from senior ministers to stand up to rebel MPs in her own party who have threatened to bring down the Government if it forges ahead with a no-deal Brexit by supporting a motion of no confidence from the opposition benches.

Times
Theresa May’s Brexit strategy was in tatters last night after Tory Remainer rebels opened talks with Labour over an alternative to her deal. The prime minister suffered another Commons defeat yesterday and will now be forced to produce a plan B within three days of Tuesday’s meaningful vote, which she is expected to lose. It also emerged last night that Mrs May was holding her own private meetings with Labour MPs to try to secure their backing. John Bercow, the Speaker, outraged ministers by overruling advice from officials in order to help an alliance of rebel Tories and opposition MPs to inflict the defeat, the second for the government in 24 hours.

Mirror
Theresa May is set to be forced to reveal her Brexit Plan B within just three days after she lost a damaging Commons vote. MPs voted 308-297 to make the Prime Minister return to Parliament by January 21 if her Brexit deal is defeated next Tuesday.  That would give her just three working days to come up with a plan. It is the second time in two days the government has been defeated over Brexit in the House of Commons. Last night, MPs inflicted the first Budget Bill defeat since 1978 when they voted 303-296 for a “guerrilla war” bid to block a No Deal Brexit .

Express
A “WOBBLY” Theresa May was “not convincing anyone” when she met with no-deal-hating Labour MPs on Tuesday in a desperate bid to win them over ahead of their January 14 vote on her Brexit deal, it has been claimed. The Prime Minister held a crisis charm offensive in the Boothroyd Room of the House of Commons. It was a last ditch attempt to curry favour with a group of mostly Labour backbenchers. Numerous MPs have spoken to criticise Mrs May over the meeting.

Mail
Remainers today said it is nearly inevitable that Brexit will be delayed – as Theresa may suffered her second humiliating Commons defeat on 24 hours.  MPs passed an amendment by 308 votes to 297 to force the PM to come up with a Plan B within days if her package fails to get through in a showdown next week.  It paves the way for MPs to give the government instructions on what they want to happen next – meaning they could block a no deal or demand another referendum.

Independent
Theresa May is on a fresh collision course with Brussels after the government said it would give MPs the chance to override a key part of the exit deal agreed with the European Union. In a new bid to win over Tory rebels, ministers announced they would support moves to ensure parliament is given a vote in 2020 on whether or not to enter the controversial Northern Ireland backstop. That could see MPs vote to block the UK entering the backstop, even though it would be legally bound to do so under the terms of the withdrawal agreement.

Sky News
Theresa May is considering backing an amendment that would keep EU rules on pay and conditions, health and safety, and environmental standards in an attempt to shore up support for her Brexit deal. It follows a second House of Commons defeat for the prime minister within 24 hours as MPs moved to force her to reveal her Brexit plan B sooner, if her EU divorce deal is rejected next week. Government sources told the Press Association that enshrining EU standards on workers’ rights was under consideration in order to get at least some labour MPs on her side.

Guardian
Theresa May’s room for manoeuvre should her Brexit deal be rejected next week was further constrained on Wednesday night, after the government  lost a second dramatic parliamentary showdown in as many days. An increasingly boxed-in prime minister must now set out her plan B within three working days of a defeat next Tuesday, after the rebel amendment passed. There were furious scenes in the House of Commons as the Speaker, John Bercow, took the controversial decision to allow a vote on the amendment, tabled by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve. A string of MPs, including the leader of the house,  Andrea Leadsom, repeatedly intervened to question the Speaker’s approach.

Mail
Theresa May is being urged to stop MPs blocking a no-deal Brexit by the ‘nuclear option’ of dissolving Parliament while it takes place. The PM is on track for a catastrophic Commons defeat next week on the package she has thrashed out with Brussels – with attention already focusing on what happens next.  MailOnline understands she is under massive pressure from senior ministers to face down Tory rebels who are threatening to kill off the government in order to avoid crashing out of the EU. More than a dozen Conservatives MPs have made clear they would back a no-confidence vote and force an election if Mrs May tried to leave without an agreement in place.

Independent
Theresa May is being urged to wield her powers as prime minister to ensure Brexit is forced through – regardless of whether there is a successful vote of no confidence against her government. Brexiteer ministers have indicated that even if the no-confidence vote planned by Labour goes against her, it would be in her gift to set the date of an ensuing election after Brexit day on 29 March. One cabinet minister backing the plan told The Independent it would mean Ms May could steer the country out of the EU with or without a deal before going to the polls in early April, adding: “The public are saying, ‘just f***ing get on with it’.”

WTO rules

Breitbart
Deputy Calais Mayor Jean-Marc Puissesseau has dismantled scare stories that Britain will have to reroute freight or that there will be massive delays at ports in the event of a “No Deal” Brexit. “We have been preparing for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit [for] one year in Calais. From the 29th of March, we will be ready,” Mr Puissesseau told Mishal Husain on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday. “When [France’s transport minister] came to Calais, we told him we would be ready. “As Great Britain has decided not to check any trucks in export and not to check any trucks in import, we will not check the trucks more than we are doing today [for illegal migrants].

Westmonster
A Conservative Association has broken ranks and declared that its members now clearly favour a No Deal Brexit. The Rochester and Strood Conservative Association revealed that three-quarters of members are in favour of leaving the EU without a deal. Just 16% back Theresa May’s deal. They tweeted: “Rochester and Strood Constituency Conservative Association members 76% are in favour of WTO Brexit. 16% in favour of May’s Withdrawal Agreement.”  This is broadly in line with the opinion of grassroots Conservatives nationally.

Breitbart
The Chief Executive of NHS England has confirmed that Britain should not face any shortages of medicine after Brexit, despite scaremongering by EU loyalists. Asked if he could say “there won’t be any shortages of medicines” on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, top administrator Simon Stevens confirmed that, “as the Health Secretary said… if everyone does what they are being asked to do, particularly around the transport and logistics infrastructure, then yes that will be the case [that there will be no shortages].”

Bercow

Times
Senior government figures plotted revenge on John Bercow while clerks declared the Speaker “patently out of order” after he rejected their advice on a pivotal Brexit ruling yesterday. Mr Bercow ignored the counsel of Sir David Natzler, the clerk of the House, when he tore up precedent to allow MPs to vote to force the government’s hand on the Brexit timetable. Mr Bercow stunned ministers by allowing amendments to a business motion that set out the government’s Commons timetable for Brexit.

BBC News
John Bercow has been accused of “unilaterally changing” parliamentary rules in the wake of a row over a government Brexit defeat in Parliament.  Critics of the Commons Speaker say he broke with precedent and ignored the advice of officials when he approved a vote on the PM’s “Plan B” response, which ministers lost by 11 votes. Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said his actions were “extremely concerning”.

Breitbart
Members of Parliament have challenged Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow for allowing a vote on an amendment intended to derail a “No Deal” Brexit, in what may be construed as a breach of Commons precedent. It is widely expected that Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement will be voted down next week, which would leave No Deal as the default Brexit option. Current rules dictate that Mrs May would have to make a statement within 21 days on the Government’s plan of action, with a Commons vote in the following seven days.

Telegraph
John Bercow seized control of the Brexit process from Theresa May and handed it to MPs as the Prime Minister suffered her second humiliating Commons defeat in as many days. The Speaker ignored legal advice, and Parliamentary precedent, to allow a vote that gives Mrs May just three days to present a Plan B for Brexit if she loses the “meaningful vote” on her deal next Tuesday. MPs voted by 308-297 for an amendment that was tabled by Tory arch-rebel Dominic Grieve and backed by 16 other Conservatives, including former ministers Sir Oliver Letwin, Justine Greening and Ken Clarke.

Times
Yesterday’s session of prime minister’s questions was a low-key affair compared with what followed. With most of the cabinet, including Theresa May, still in their seats, waves of Conservative MPs railed at John Bercow’s decision to allow a vote on Dominic Grieve’s amendment, punctuated by the occasional defence from a pro-EU Conservative or a Labour MP. The opening salvo came from an unusual quarter.

Mail
John Bercow was accused of anti-Brexit bias last night after helping secure a major Government defeat in the Commons, just weeks after being branded a ‘pure and simply bully’ by a senior Tory whip. The Speaker has clashed with Conservative colleagues repeatedly in the last month over his conduct in the House.  This week, he tore up parliamentary procedures and over-ruled his own officials to permit a vote designed to tie Downing Street’s hands. His decision led to a stand-up row behind the scenes with Tory chief whip Julian Smith, who accused him of trying to frustrate Brexit.

Sun
A FRESH Commons clash between John Bercow and the Government erupted last month after a frontbencher branded him a “pure and simple bully,” The Sun can reveal. Footage shows the Government’s deputy chief whip Christopher Pincher fixing the Speaker with a firm stare before calling him a “bully” three times after he lectured Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom over procedure.  Mr Pincher then muttered “terrible man” while the Government chief whip Julian Smith shook his head in disgust.

BBC News by Mark D’Arcy
Boom! After a humdrum, almost completely unrevealing Prime Minister’s Questions, the Commons erupted over Speaker John Bercow’s decision to allow an attempt to change the rules for the resumed “meaningful vote” debate. This is no mere technicality. The amendment proposed by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve would require the government to come back within three days, rather than 21, to debate the implications of not having a Brexit deal – if the prime minister’s deal is indeed voted down next Tuesday. Under the previous rules, that debate would be kicked back to late February, with the Brexit clock ticking remorselessly in the background.

Labour Party

Mail
Labour appeared to be ready to push for a delay to Brexit tonight as  Jeremy Corbyn demanded a general election and his Brexit spokesman is said to have advised him that a second referendum might be the only way to prevent no-deal. Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said earlier that he doubted whether the process of leaving could be completed by March 29 if MPs rejected Theresa May‘s deal next week. Sir Keir has now reportedly warned Corbyn that a second referendum might be the only way to prevent the government steering Britain on a crash course towards no-deal.

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn will say a general election is the only way to heal the deep divisions caused by Brexit, in a speech where he will insist Labour could negotiate “a better deal” with the EU. The Labour leader will step up pressure on Theresa May to call an election to break the Brexit deadlock and declare that “the real divide is between the many, who do the work, create the wealth and pay taxes, and the few, who set the rules, reap the rewards and so often dodge taxes”.

BBC News
A general election is the most democratic way of breaking the Brexit deadlock, Jeremy Corbyn is to argue. The Labour leader will tell activists in Yorkshire that only a government with a “renewed mandate” will get public support for a withdrawal deal. His party will oppose Theresa May’s deal next week, and push for a vote of no confidence if it is rejected by MPs. The PM is considering trying to win over some Labour MPs to the deal by offering extra protection to workers.

South Thanet

Times
A Conservative Party official has been found guilty of falsifying expenses during the 2015 election campaign to stop Nigel Farage becoming an MP. Marion Little, 63, who was described by a judge as a “friend to prime ministers”, authorised spending above legal limits in the South Thanet constituency. The MP for the seat, Craig Mackinlay, was cleared of breaking election law at the same trial. “I await a statement from the Electoral Commission, the CPS and Kent police as to how they justify millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in pursuing me in a political show trial,” he said.

NHS

Telegraph
Four in 10 NHS organisations do not have a grip on their spending, a damming report suggests. The study by the National Audit Office (NAO) shows a steep rise in the number of organisations missing financial targets and failing to balance the books. The head of the watchdog said he was shocked by the “unacceptable” failings which were risking taxpayers’ money and public confidence in services.

Times
The first new drug designed to treat migraines in 20 years has been rejected by the NHS medicines watchdog on cost grounds. Charities representing the millions of migraine sufferers in the UK said that they were disappointed by the decision from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice). It had been hoped that erenumab, made by the pharmaceutical company Novartis under the brand name Aimovig, would become available on the NHS to half a million people who suffer chronic migraines at least every other day.

Pollution

Times
Pollution on the London Underground is up to 49 times higher than the national average on the street, a study has found. Passengers were exposed to far worse pollution on the tube than at the side of busy roads because of poor ventilation and the age of stations, according to research commissioned by Transport for London. It quoted papers that showed levels of particulate matter (PM) were 492 micrograms per cubic metre of air (mg/m3) at Hampstead on the Northern Line, the deepest station on the network.

Education

Telegraph
Grammar schools are sending more black and minority ethnic (BME) students to Cambridge University than all the other state schools in the country combined, a new analysis reveals. Children from the most disadvantaged 20 per cent of households are more than twice as likely to get a place at Oxford or Cambridge if they live in an area with grammar schools, according to the report. The paper, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), examines the impact of selective schooling on state educated pupils’ progression to top universities.

Armed forces

Sun
TORY MPs yesterday launched a fresh bid to free British troops of hated human rights laws. A draft law introduced by former British Army officer Leo Docherty calls for the British Armed Forces to be exempt from prosecution under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Currently soldiers can be chased years after they finish serving over breaches to the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporated the convention into UK law. Mr Docherty warned that it paralyses troops on the battlefield as they fear being prosecuted for their actions years later.

Telegraph
The RAF’s new stealth jet is expected to be declared ready for combat in time to counter the “resurgent Russian threat”. Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, is thought to say today that the F-35B Lightning, the latest addition to the RAF’s fighter jet fleet, is capable of launching combat missions. Details of what the ‘Initial Operating Capability’ (IOC) entails is expected to be announced by the Secretary of State later today at RAF Marham, Norfolk, the home to the F-35s and the Tornado, the RAF’s workhorse since the 1970s.

Times
A Ministry of Defence IT modernisation programme that provides “mission critical” services is about £210 million over budget and more than two years late, according to a leaked report. The global connectivity programme that underpins almost every significant information service used by the department is in trouble, an independent 43-page review that has been obtained by The Times concludes. In 2015 Fujitsu, the IT services provider, was awarded a five-year contract.

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