Brexit

Express
JACOB Rees-Mogg has warned Theresa May if she accepts EU demands to keep the UK tied to Brussels rules and regulations if trade talks collapse it could lead to the collapse of the Government, it has been reported. The Prime Minister said she will accept EU demands for a “backstop” on issues relating to the Irish border. But she slammed the proposed text by Brussels as “unacceptable” as it includes proposals for Northern Ireland to remain aligned to EU rules on issues like farming and energy no trade deal is struck. Last month the PM warned it would “threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK”. She said: “The work we are undertaking with the Commission will include that on the final so-called backstop, which will form part of the withdrawal agreement. “That cannot be the text that the Commission has proposed, which, as I have said, is unacceptable.

Times
Britain will be free to sign trade deals during the Brexit transition period without permission from the European Union after a climbdown by Brussels, The Times has learnt. EU negotiators have accepted the UK’s demand that it should be able to pursue an independent trade policy while remaining inside the customs union and single market. Publicly, the EU’s negotiating guidelines still state that Britain will not be able to implement trade deals “unless authorised to do so by the union”. Behind closed doors the position taken by Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator, is understood to have softened significantly. The latest draft of a potential transition deal says that Britain will be able to both negotiate and sign trade deals during the period.

Mail
Britain will be free to sign trade deals during the Brexit  transition period without permission from the European Union, it was claimed last night. EU negotiators have accepted the UK’s demand to pursue an independent trade policy while remaining inside the customs union and single market, according to reports. The Times newspaper claimed that despite EU’s negotiating guidelines that Britain will not be able to implement trade deals ‘unless authorised to do so by the union’, Michel Barnier’s position had softened. The claim comes after the EU revised its draft negotiating stance offer to call for a comprehensive trade deal.

Sun
THE EU has softened its hardline stance towards Britain in a big Brexit boost to Theresa May. Brussels has put forward fresh concessions for the transition period which will allow Britain to be consulted on new EU laws and fishing quotas. And it has dropped resistance to the UK being able to opt in to certain security measures during the transition. It came as Peter Ptassek, Germany’s Brexit envoy, said “a lot of progress” was being made. The EU’s draft negotiating guidelines now call for a “balanced, ambitious and wide-ranging” UK trade deal.

EU

Express
BREXIT threatens Jean-Claude Juncker’s vision for a European Union superstate, according to a German MEP who dismantled the chief eurocrat’s ideology. Ulrik Trebesius argued the EU’s trade could benefit from creativity and competition, something a more integrated Europe won’t provide. While Brexit should be seen as a “threat”, but Britain’s divorce should also be seen as an “opportunity” as well. Ms Trebesuis, who is part of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, was speaking as part of a debate of the future of Europe. Antonio Costa, the Portuguese prime minister, had just addressed MEPs, urging more integration inside the EU, in order to resolve issues with the bloc’s single currency and outside trade war threat from Donald Trump. However, Ms Trebesuis put across a theory the bloc could actually benefit from Brexit, instead of treating it as a threat.

Telegraph
Europe’s political uprising is shifting to a second front. Once-silent intellectuals are starting to challenge the core assumption of EU ideology, indicting the project for moral vandalism and a reckless attack on the democratic nation state. It is almost as if a counter “doxa” is emerging in the cultural capitals of the Continent. Theorists and professors are proclaiming the virtues of the nation – the precious liberal nation, inspired by the universal and redemptive values of the French and American revolutions – in a way we have hardly heard in recent times. They defend it as the only real vehicle of democracy known to man.

Westmonster
French President Emmanuel Macron is looking to expand the movement that brought him to power as his team set their sights on the European Elections next year. The ardent Europhile has been planting seeds of a post-party political system within the EU, previously saying he would like to see transnational lists of MEPs to take up the 73 MEP seats Britain will leave behind when we finally quit the bloc. Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, the young politician who heads up the President’s European Task Force, said: “We founded En Marche! in France, and we are now going to found it in Europe. We will be the new force in Europe.” Anglade explained in an interview recently: “Political groups are divided over what they want for, and from, Europe…Our ambition is to set foot in several countries and create a European-level ambition for a reforming agenda.”

Ireland

Guardian
Ireland’s prime minister has warned that Brexit threatens the Good Friday agreement and could “drive a wedge” between Britain and Ireland. Leo Varadkar  also sought to reassure unionists, who fear that his government is using the moment to push for a united Ireland, that he does not have “a hidden agenda”. The taoiseach was joined on Tuesday by the former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and the British ambassador, Kim Darroch, at an event in Washington to mark the 20th anniversary of the peace deal. Reflections on the scale of that “historic achievement” fell under the shadow of Britain’s planned exit from the EU. Brexit had “undoubtedly changed the political weather”, Varadkar told an audience including US politicians at the Library of Congress.

Fisheries

Express
LABOUR party MEPs have been accused of betraying the UK’s national interest after they helped defeat a motion in the European Parliament aimed at protecting UK fisheries. The anti-Brussels Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) Group tabled a motion to the Framework of the future EU-UK relationship Bill that aimed to protect the UK from being forced into accepting a deal to give EU fishers access to UK waters. However, the Labour party were whipped into rejecting the proposal. In a furious response to the socialist party’s actions, the EFDD accused Labour MEPs of voting against amendments which “undoubtedly served the British national interest”. Interim Ukip leader, and EFDD member, Gerard Batten said: “The European Commission is demanding an unconditional surrender and the Labour party have replaced the red in their flag with white.

Russia

Telegraph
The Sergei Skripal affair has plunged the confrontation between Britain and Russia into a realm of “insanity” that is more dangerous than the Cold War, one of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy spokesmen has said. Evgenny Primakov Jr, a designated “trusted representative” of Mr Putin authorised to speak on behalf of his campaign during the Russian presidential election, called British allegations that Russia was involved in the attempted murder of Colonel Skripal “nonsense”. But in an exclusive interview, he warned that UK-Russian relations would struggle to recover from the current crisis and urged both sides to “make a step backwards and calm down a bit”.

Times
France undermined Theresa May’s attempts to build a consensus for punitive action against Russia last night by accusing her of punishing the regime prematurely. President Macron’s spokesman derided Mrs May’s decision to act against Moscow after the Salisbury poisonings as “fantasy politics”. Shortly after the prime minister announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and the suspension of bilateral talks, Benjamin Griveaux told a news conference in Paris: “Once the elements are proven then the time will come for decisions to be made.” He said that the poisoning of  Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a “serious act” on a strategic ally but France would await evidence of Russian involvement before taking a position.

Mirror
France undermined Theresa May’s hopes of a united European response to the Sergei Skripal nerve agent attack – accusing her of “fantasy politics”. The intervention came just hours after Britain announced plans to expel 23 Russian diplomats . President Emmanuel Macron’s spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said it was too early for Paris to decide whether action should be taken and it’s too soon to prove Russian involvement. He said: “We don’t do fantasy politics. Once the elements are proven, then the time will come for decisions to be made.” Griveaux said France was waiting for “definitive conclusions” and evidence that the “facts were completely true” before taking a position.

Independent
European Union national leaders are set to discuss the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal using a nerve agent at a summit in Brussels next week. European Council president Donald Tusk said he was ready to put the issue on the agenda at the planned European Council meeting on 22 and 23 March. “I express my full solidarity with PM Theresa May in the face of the brutal attack inspired, most likely, by Moscow. I’m ready to put the issue on next week’s European Council agenda,” he said. Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday Theresa May said the Government had come to the conclusion that the Russian government was be behind the poisoning and that it amount to “an unlawful use of force” on British soil. “It is essential that we now come together with our allies to defend our security, to stand up for our values, and to send a clear issues to those who would seek to undermine them,” she said.

BBC News
The White House says it “stands in solidarity” with “its closest ally” the UK and supports its decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats. PM Theresa May said the diplomats would be expelled after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on a former spy in the UK. Moscow continues to deny any involvement in the attack. US President Trump’s spokeswoman accused Russia of undermining the security of countries worldwide. BBC North American editor Jon Sopel said the White House statement was notable in the unqualified support it offers Theresa May. He said it was also significant because of the way President Trump was prepared to talk about Russia – using language that has not been heard from the White House before.

ITV News
The US on Wednesday threw its diplomatic weight behind Theresa May’s retaliation against Moscow following the Salisbury nerve agent attack. In a significant intervention following some concern over the stance of US President Donald Trump, the White House stated: “The United States stands in solidarity with its closest ally, the United Kingdom. “The United States shares the United Kingdom’s assessment that Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter, and we support the United Kingdom’s decision to expel Russian diplomats as a just response. “This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behaviour in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes.”

Deaths

Mail
More than 10,000 extra people died in the first few weeks of 2018 than is usual for the time of year. Experts say the additional deaths in England and Wales – the equivalent of one every seven minutes – are not the result of flu or bad weather. 
Health officials have acknowledged the 12 per cent rise but have so far given no indication of any possible causes. Researchers at Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are calling for an investigation into the rising death rates.

Times
Ten thousand more people died in the first seven weeks of this year than would be expected, the biggest difference since the Second World War. Loneliness, overstretched hospitals and the crumbling elderly care system could all be contributing to a sharp increase in deaths, which suggests that British life expectancy is about to start falling, academics say. They have called for an urgent investigation after the latest in a string of figures that show older people are dying earlier than expected. Infant mortality has also risen, with dozens more babies dying in 2016 than the previous year.

Education

Mail
Islamic schools where children only study religion all day and graduate with no skills or qualifications will be outlawed under new proposals. The Government wants to make it illegal to run full-time schools which focus solely on religious studies and leave pupils vulnerable to brainwashing by extremists. The schools would be required to register with the Government and to broaden the curriculum to comply with Ofsted standards. The law would apply to people of all faiths – including Muslims, Jews and Christians – and would allow the authorities to prosecute anyone running a full-time religious studies school. Currently, a loophole exists which allows full-time schools to operate under the radar as long as they provide only religious education.

Sun
ALL full-time religion-only schools will be outlawed under fresh Government integration plans. Schools that teach only religious texts such as the Torah or Koran will be forced to register with local authorities. Currently they do not have to do so because of a legal loophole — but the Government has now made moves to close it. Once schools are registered, heads will be made to teach the full curriculum including sex education and science subjects. And inspectors Ofsted will be given extra powers to seize evidence of poor education in potentially illegal sch
ools. A report said it was “unacceptable” that some schools are not registered  because of the “restricted range of their curriculum”. It said registration would “protect the welfare and education of the children involved”.

Gas

Mail
A cold snap next week could leave the country at the mercy of Russian gas suppliers, experts have warned. Plunging temperatures on Sunday and Monday are likely to send demand for gas soaring across the UK and Europe to heat and light homes. A report from the analysts S&P Platts warns that relying on Russia  may be the only option for European nations if they suddenly need more as other suppliers are already running at or near capacity. Gas reserves across the continent are at record lows after cold spells and the closure of British storage facilities. But the report said: ‘Gas demand is set to rise again from the end of the week across north-western Europe, bringing potential large-scale gas withdrawals back into play and prompting a likely increase in nominations for Russian gas imports.

University strikes

Times
Lecturers are planning to coincide their strikes with final year exams to cause maximum disruption, The Times has learnt. The lecturers’ union is drawing up a spreadsheet of when finals are taking place at dozens of universities so that strikes can be held on the busiest days. Unlike the first wave of strikes, where almost all the lecturers taking action walked out on the same 14 days, the second wave is more likely to result in smaller groups of universities taking industrial action on different days. There is little teaching in the summer term, and union organisers do not want to waste their strike days when there is little to disrupt.

Guardian
Strikes at UK universities are to continue after staff overwhelmingly rejected a revised offer on their pensions. The University and College Union was forced to throw out the deal it had negotiated with university employers after members voted against it. The union will now draw up detailed plans aimed at disrupting summer examinations in an escalation of the industrial action, which is now in its fourth week. The deal, which had been reached on Monday night after six days of talks at the conciliation service Acas, was thrown out when the UCU’s higher education committee met on Tuesday after local branches had rejected it. The union is now calling for urgent negotiations with employers, represented by Universities UK (UUK), aimed at ending the dispute, which has caused widespread disruption at more than 60 universities.

Morning Star
UNIVERSITY strikes over pensions remain on after a bosses’ proposal was rejected yesterday. More than 40,000 University and College Union (UCU) members have been involved in strikes stemming from the pensions dispute. Talks at advisory service Acas on Monday resulted in a proposed compromise, with both employers and employees required to pay higher pension contributions, which has now been rejected. The union is calling for urgent negotiations with the universities’ representatives Universities UK aimed at resolving the dispute. UCU said the strikes and action short of a strike remain on and it would now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period. The union warned last week that universities would be hit with a second wave of 14 strike days targeted at exams and assessment if the dispute was not resolved.

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