THE Government has successfully seen off the latest raft of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill in what has been a tense second day in the House of Commons. A series of slim-majority victories enabled the Government to quell a rebellion that had been threatening to upset Theresa May’s Brexit plans. Labour’s bid to change the Bill to make it harder for ministers after Brexit to alter EU-based employment, equality, and health and safety rights, and consumer and environmental standards, was defeated by 299 votes to 311, Government majority 12. A bid by MPs to make ministers spell out technical provisions of existing EU law that could be changed by processes which undergo less scrutiny than full Parliamentary Bills was defeated by 311 votes to 295, majority 16.
Theresa May has hinted at further U-turns on the Brexit legislation, as she defended the right of MPs to oppose her in a “lively debate”. The Prime Minister told the Commons she was “listening carefully to those who wish to improve the bill”, as a further, damaging Conservative revolt brews. Around 15 backbench Tories are threatening to rebel on her plan to enshrine a precise Brexit date in British law, fearing it increases the risk of a disastrous no-deal exit. During Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms May defended the right of those MPs to challenge her on the issue, after they were branded “mutineers” on the front page of The Daily Telegraph. “There is, of course, a lively debate going on in this place, and that’s right and proper and that’s important,” she said.
Theresa May is close to offering a deal on money that would unlock the Brexit negotiations, according to the head of Europe’s centre-right MEPs, who said he had received “positive messages” during a meeting in Downing Street on Wednesday. Manfred Weber, a German leader of the European People’s party (EPP) who is also a close ally of chancellor Angela Merkel, said he had witnessed a substantial shift in the British approach which might now allow EU leaders to move on to the next stage of negotiations. “I am one of the more sceptical partners from the European parliament side [about the] Brexit negotiations and ongoing progress but I have to say that after my meetings today my main message is that I am more optimistic that there is progress; that there is the will to see progress,” Weber told reporters after meeting May, David Davis and Amber Rudd for separate talks.
A group of 15 pro-European Tory MP rebels have insisted they are not trying to frustrate Brexit but warned that Theresa May’s plans to enshrine a leaving date in law risks “harming our country’s interests”. In a letter to The Telegraph, they warn that the Prime Minister’s plan to fix a date when Britain leaves the EU in law is “too rigid” and say more time may be needed to negotiate. It comes amid growing fears among ministers that the scale of the rebellion, which is now thought to have risen to more than 20 Tory MPs and includes several former ministers, means they will have to withdraw the amendment. The group, labelled the “Brexit mutineers”, have told senior party figures that they will join forces with Labour to block measures to enshrine the date of Brexit in law.
The number of MPs ready to defy the government over its Brexit legislation rose to more than 20 yesterday as Tory rebels accused Downing Street of outing them as “mutineers”. The group plans to vote against Theresa May’s attempt to enshrine in law that Britain will leave the EU at 11pm on March 29, 2019. On Monday Julian Smith, the new chief whip, held a “stormy” meeting with Tory backbenchers who reiterated their concerns about the plans. A similar group of rebels then held a further meeting without him before opposing the government when the EU (Withdrawal) Bill debate returned to the Commons on Tuesday. The rebels are also using a WhatsApp group to co-ordinate their responses.
Tory ‘mutineers’ faced a grassroots backlash last night after threatening to frustrate Brexit in Parliament. Fifteen rebels have told party whips they may vote against a bid to enshrine in law the date for leaving the EU. Sources believe the number could top 20 – enough to overturn Theresa May’s slender Commons majority when the issue comes to a vote next month. Tory councillors and voters in the rebels’ constituencies – many of which voted to leave the EU last year – warned this could usher in a Labour government. The rebels yesterday claimed they were being bullied because of their stance. But David Campbell Bannerman, a Eurosceptic Tory MEP, said they were in ‘contempt of democracy’ and should be kicked out of the party.
REBEL Tory MPs should be thrown out of the party if they defy voters by blocking Theresa May’s Brexit timetable, a senior MEP has said. As the Commons battle over the departure from the EU deepened, David Campbell Bannerman rounded on Conservative colleagues threatening to block the Government’s attempt to enshrine the exit date into law. They should lose the party whip in the Commons and face deselection as Conservative election candidates if they side with Labour in a forthcoming Commons vote confirming March 29 2019 as the Brexit date.
The European Parliament says it has “serious concerns” about democracy and freedom of the press in Malta following the apparently assassination of a journalist who was investigating the government. Increasing pressure on the Maltese government opens a new front for Brussels in its struggles to maintain the rule of law across the EU, where the European Commission is already threatening to censure the Polish government over a move to centralise judicial power. A resolution passed overwhelmingly by the EU body on Wednesday was backed by 466 votes in the 751-member parliament and urged the European Commission to launch an investigation into the Maltese government over the killing. MEPs say that “several serious allegations of corruption and breach of anti-money laundering and banking supervision obligations” have not been investigated by the police in the member state.
The absurd position of Brexit Britain still bowing down to foreign judges is sadly alive and well, with the European Court of Justice overruling the government on EU migrants bringing over non-EU partners and spouses. Luxembourg’s ECJ overruled a Home Office decision not to allow an illegal migrant from Algeria to live in Britain because his partner was a dual British-Spanish national. It effectively means that EU migrants who take up British citizenship will be free to bring over partners from non-EU countries. Regardless of what people think of the actual case, it demonstrates why the government must push on with Brexit. The decision of the Home Office and elected politicians in the UK is still being overruled by the European Court of Justice, something the British people voted to end on 23rd June 2016.
THE leaders of Bulgaria and Italy have admitted concerns about the progress of Brexit negotiations with just weeks to go before a major European Union summit. It had been hoped that EU leaders would agree next month that enough progress has been made in the divorce talks to move on to post-Brexit trade relations, but recent comments by Bulgarian PM Bojko Borissov and his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni suggest the UK Government may have to wait. Speaking in Rome after a meeting, Mr Borissov said: “Regarding Brexit, the negotiation is arduous. I’m not optimistic.
The number of EU citizens working in Britain rose to a record high in the year after the Brexit referendum, official figures revealed yesterday. Despite fears of a so-called Brexodus, 2.37 million migrants from EU states were employed between July and September, an increase of 112,000 on the same period last year. After an initial drop in the three months after the vote in June 2016, the number of EU citizens employed has risen in every quarter this year. This month the National Farmers’ Union said that fruit and vegetables were being left to rot because of a shortage of seasonal workers, suggesting that more were needed for unskilled roles.
Record levels of EU nationals are now working in the UK, official figures have revealed. An estimated 2.38 million employees from other EU member states were working in Britain from July to September this year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found. This is the highest number recorded since comparable records started 20 years ago. In the same period last year there were 112,000 fewer EU employees. It marks the first time year-on-year comparisons of employment levels based on nationality have be made following the EU referendum in June last year. While EU employment rose, overall UK employment fell by 14,000 to just over 32 million in the three months to September, according to the ONS.
The government has been forced to abandon plans for Europe’s biggest lorry park despite having already spent £15 million. The park, intended to hold 3,600 HGVs and ease pressure on Channel ports and roads in Kent — considered particularly important after Brexit — was shelved by the Department for Transport after a planning blunder. The DfT was forced to admit yesterday that the park — the size of 90 football pitches and the second largest in the world after one in Qatar — had been scrapped weeks before a judicial review of the plans in the High Court. The government had failed to assess the environmental impact of the park, which was to be built west of the village of Stanford, near Folkestone in Kent.
The cross-Channel transport chaos of three summers ago could return “on steroids” if the Government botches post-Brexit customs planning, an influential group of MPs has warned. In a new report, the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Committee has highlighted the mayhem on Kent’s motorways during July 2015 as it raised “serious concerns” about contingency planning for Britain leaving the EU. The cross-party committee is warning of possible major border disruption unless urgent action is taken. Criticising the “insufficient” work of ministers to prepare for the possibility of Brexit without a divorce deal, the MPs also cite a lack of coordination on the issue across Government.
SPENDING just half of Britain’s bloated foreign aid budget on the NHS and social care could save almost 100 lives a day. Underfunding of the health service could lead to the deaths of 30,000 people between now and 2020, says a report. But plugging this “mortality gap” would cost just £6.3billion a year. The foreign aid budget is £13.3billion. It comes as the Daily Express Stop The Foreign Aid Crusade piles pressure on the Government to immediately redirect billions of pounds in Official Development Assistance to underfunded frontline services. Lawrence King, Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge and study co-author, called the underfunding of the NHS and social care system “a public health disaster”.
Scottish “booze cruises” have been predicted as experts say new minimum pricing are likely to lead to people taking trips into England for cheaper alcohol. Experts said the trips were a likely consequence of a Supreme Court ruling that new price rules passed by the Scottish Parliament five years ago could become law. Off-licenses just south of the border said they were preparing for an influx of Scottish drinkers looking for cheaper drinks in the wake of the pricing change. Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said the trips, similar to holidays to the continent taken by English drinkers looking for cheap French wine, were “certain”. “The only question is to what extent,” he added.
Scots are readying themselves for booze cruise pilgrimages to England after the Supreme Court cleared the way for a minimum alcohol price north of the border. Off licenses in the north of England are said to be stocking up on beers, spirits and wines as they prepare for an influx of drinkers looking to buy cheaper alcohol in bulk. Costs are set to soar in Scotland as it becomes the first country in the world to impose a minimum price for alcohol which experts believe will open the floodgates to those on the hunt for bargains. The Supreme Court in Scotland yesterday backed the controversial measure in what ministers in Edinburgh hailed as an ‘historic and far-reaching judgment’.
Theresa May and Philip Hammond were locked in a stand-off over housing last night after the Prime Minister publicly vetoed the idea of more building on the Green Belt. Just a week ahead of the Budget, Mrs May told MPs yesterday that she was ‘very clear’ about the need to protect Green Belt land. But last night, Mr Hammond warned there was no ‘silver bullet’ to fix the housing crisis and signalled there was a limit to what he was willing to do next week to tackle the ‘very complex challenge’. Today. the Prime Minister will pledge to take ‘personal charge’ of tackling the housing crisis, which many believe is essential to reconnecting the Tories with the under-40s. The Prime Minister will pledge to ‘fix the broken housing market’ as she visits a new development in London. She will say she has ‘made it my mission to build the homes the country needs and take personal charge of the Government’s response.’
THERESA May will today insist building “more homes, more quickly” is her new personal mission – as she frees up housing associations to borrow more. The PM will rip up red tape that forces the groups to get their loans first signed off by the Treasury. Association bosses have complained for years that the extra tier of bureaucracy delays their new development plans by months. Mrs May will today admit that Tory and Labour governments “simply have not been building enough homes, nor quickly enough”. But she will insist that ministers “will be going further” in the following weeks to fix Britain’s housing crisis – starting with the Chancellor’s hotly awaited Budget in six days time.
A NEWLY discovered planet with strikingly similar features to Earth could be “the closest known comfortable abode for possible life”, scientists have remarkably revealed. At just 11 light years away from Earth, the planet, named Ross 128b, is thought to have a “mild climate” capable of supporting life. Temperatures on the planet range between an icy minus 60C and balmy 20C, meaning oceans and lakes harbouring life may exist. In just 79,000 years the planet, which is moving closer to Earth, is expected to be within reach of spacecraft. Similar to Earth, the “exoplanet” orbits a sun, or a red dwarf star, named Ross 128 at distance that is beneficial for the development of life. Crucially, the planet falls within a “habitable zone” – a relatively small area in which water can exist as liquid.