New website

BBC News
Arron Banks, the former UKIP donor who bankrolled the campaign for Britain to  leave the European Union, is making a move into the media sector by backing an anti-establishment news website that launches tomorrow. I can reveal that Westmonster is co-owned by Michael Heaver, former press adviser to Nigel Farage. The 27-year-old, who together with Mr Banks will own 50% of the website, will edit it day to day. Modelled on the Drudge Report, the American aggregator site that generates huge traffic, Westmonster will be powered by the social media reach of Leave.EU, the campaign to which Mr Banks gave close to £7m – the largest donation in British political history. Leave.EU has nearly 800,000 followers on Facebook and Mr Heaver believes he can use that base to generate substantial traffic from day one. Westmonster will publish some original news, and Mr Heaver hopes to enlist more celebrity writers than backbench MPs.

Brexit

Times
When Theresa May set out her vision for Britain’s relationship with the European Union she said she wanted a “new customs agreement” and the “greatest possible access” to the single market. Such demands are not perhaps as radical as they first appear because the EU has a range of varying and little-understood trading and customs arrangements with a host of countries. None of them in their entirety would work for the UK as an off-the-shelf solution – but it shows that flexibility is possible and that a bespoke UK deal based on past precedent may be achievable. So what are they, how do they work and could they be relevant to the UK?

Independent
There could be a one in three chance that Brexit negotiations will end with no deal between the UK and the European Union, resulting in “serious economic disruption and a degree of legal chaos”, the author of Article 50 has warned. Lord Kerr also suggested that leaving the EU could result in a “decade of delay and disruption” for Britain, which would damage investment, economic growth and employment. The former diplomat, who negotiated European deals for both Margaret Thatcher and John Major, made the comments as he considered a number of possible outcomes for the UK following the vote to leave in 2016. 
Lord Kerr, who has served as UK ambassador to both the EU and the US, warned if no agreement was reached on the terms of Brexit, and no extension to the talks was agreed, the UK would have to leave the EU anyway.

Independent
The Supreme Court will announce next Tuesday if Theresa May must get the consent of MPs and peers before she starts Brexit. The eagerly-awaited ruling – on whether the Prime Minister has the power to bypass Parliament before triggering the Article 50 exit clause – will come at 9.30am. If, as expected, the Government loses, a Bill is likely to be rushed through Parliament within days to comply with the judgement. Ms May has insisted a defeat will not derail her timetable to invoke Article 50 by the end of March – kick-starting a two-year exit process. However, the need for legislation could give pro-EU MPs and peers the opportunity to table amendments, to try to influence the Government’s course. 
The Liberal Democrats have vowed they will attempt to force through a second referendum on the final Brexit deal, but lack Labour support.

Immigration

Express
THE European Union is facing oblivion and may not survive a fresh migrant influx this spring unless it takes radical action to crack down on stratospheric levels of economic migration immediately, Malta warned today. Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of the tiny island which is on the frontline of Europe’s immigration crisis, blasted Brussels for its “inadequate” response to the chaos and said the bloc must finally get its act together before it is too late. And he said the days of simply relying on Germany to host the millions of asylum seekers streaming into the bloc is over, insisting not even the EU’s most wealthy country can cope with another repeat of the last two years.

EU

Times
The prime minister was told yesterday that she will have to sign up to EU divorce terms for Brexit, including a bill of up to £60 billion, before talks on a future trade agreement can begin. Joseph Muscat, the Maltese prime minister who will chair the EU’s rotating presidency for the next six months, made it clear that those divorce terms would be prioritised over trade after Britain invokes the Article 50 exit clause in March. Setting out the “mechanics” of Brexit to MEPs, he warned Theresa May not to belittle the difficulty of the talks to leave the EU: “It will be an arduous task, as our recent experiences with trade agreements suggest. There should never be an underestimation of this task.”

Independent
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s senior adviser has warned that Theresa May’s proposed Brexit plan is impossible. Ms May used a speech on Tuesday to tell international leaders that she would take the UK out of the single market, but still wanted to negotiate access to it. Yet German politician Michael Fuchs said the Conservatives plan was “not possible” because “you can’t eat a cake without paying for it”. The Prime Minister has said the UK is prepared to default to World Trade Organisation rules if the EU does not cut a favourable agreement for Britain during Brexit negotiations, claiming: “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal”. But Mr Fuchs told Sky News: “I did not really get it out of this speech that she wants to give up something. “It was a little bit like cherry picking. So to speak: you can’t eat a cake without paying for it.

Express
ANGELA MERKEL today vowed the EU will “ensure” it is not left divided by Brexit ahead of divorce talks with Britain. The German chancellor this morning met with new Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni in Berlin after Theresa May yesterday set out her Brexit blueprint. Mrs Merkel welcomed the Prime Minister’s speech setting out her strategy for the UK’s EU exit but insisted the EU would present a united front in Article 50 negotiations. Mrs May had warned the EU to learn the “lesson” of Brexit and provide greater flexibility for individual European countries in order to avoid “crushing” nation states or risking the future of the bloc.

Guardian
European politicians and multinational bosses lined up to warn Theresa May the UK’s exit from the European Union will be fraught with difficulty, as the prime minister flew out to deliver her “global Britain” message to business leaders in Davos. Key Brussels negotiators told the prime minister she was being over-optimistic in her hope to achieve a quick, clean break from the EU – and industrialists said her Brexit speech had left UK jobs at risk. Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit negotiator, cast doubts on a central tenet of May’s plan when he warned that Britain should not expect continued tariff-free access to EU customers while simultaneously rejecting other key elements of the single market, including free movement.

Express
JEAN-CLAUDE Juncker dropped a huge hint about the EU’s strategy for the upcoming Brexit talks by suggesting Britain may continue to be part of Brussels’ club beyond the country’s official departure date. The EU Commission president raised the possibility that the UK will carry on being full members of Europe’s political institutions even after official negotiations on divorce proceedings have been concluded. Strikingly a markedly conciliatory tone the Brussels boss insisted he wanted a “fair deal” with Britain which was in the best interests of both sides, and revealed he had told Theresa May there was no “hostility” towards the UK from within the EU. But it was his unguarded remarks about the possibility of British MEPs taking part in the next European Parliament elections, which are slated in for after the UK’s official departure date from the EU, which will get chins wagging in Whitehall.

Express
A GERMAN politician has issued an extraordinary threat to Britain over its economic future by revealing his party will vote down any Brexit deal which preserves London’s status as the world’s global financial centre. Firebrand MEP Manfred Weber, who is head of the powerful European People’s Party (EPP) grouping in the EU Parliament, expressed outrage at Theresa May’s pledge to cut corporate tax rates if Brussels does not offer the UK a good deal. And he said the bloc would fight fire with fire by pulling the rug from under London’s thriving financial services industry, revoking its status as the world’s leading centre for clearing operations for the euro currency.

Breitbart
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker promised Wednesday to seek a “balanced” deal for Britain’s exit from the EU, after Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled her Brexit plan. “For my part, I will do everything so that the negotiations reach a balanced solution, with full respect for our rules,” Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. “I welcome the clarifications given by Mrs May, but I said to her last night that a speech will not launch the negotiations,” he said, adding that could only happen when Britain triggers formal divorce proceedings. May has promised to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty by the end of March but set out key proposals in her speech in London on Tuesday, including Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union’s single market.

Independent
The EU has already won the first round of the Brexit battle by forcing Britain out of the single market, Theresa May has been warned. Sir Andrew Cahn, a former UK single market adviser, also poured cold water on hopes of a smooth exit, predicting a “bitter divorce” at potential huge economic cost. The Prime Minister was adopting a “have cake and eat it” strategy – although, unlike Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, she was too tactful to put it like that. Sir Andrew pointed out that the Treasury had forecast a 7.5 per cent slump in GDP if Britain crashes out of the EU with no fresh trade deal – falling back on World Trade Organisation tariffs. On Ms May’s threat to walk away with “no deal” if the EU refuses her demands, he said: “It is quite a risk to take.”

Foreign aid

Express
BRITAIN must rethink its pledge to spend a set percentage of income on overseas aid amid waste and greed scandals and pressure on UK finances, an influential thinktank has said. And it warned there was a risk of squandering yet more hard-pressed taxpayers’ cash after Brexit if the Government simply ploughs all the money we now send to European Union aid programmes back into our own. The call for a radical rethink came in a report from the Centre for Policy Studies, a pro-market think-tank with a particular history of influencing Conservative Party policy. Britain’s aid budget ballooned under David Cameron‘s premiership to over £12billion a year, despite big austerity cuts elsewhere, after the then-Prime Minister insisted on making the UK one of a handful of countries which meets the United Nations target of devoting 0.7 per cent of national income to aid.

International trade

Telegraph
Britain has already begun informal trade negotiations with 12 countries across the world, Liam Fox reveals as he says Brexit is “key to British prosperity”. Writing in The Telegraph, the International Trade Secretary says that Britain is conducting “trade audits” in order to prepare deals that can be announced as soon as the UK quits the European Union in 2019. It is understood that ministers and officials are already in talks with countries including China, India, Australia and South Korea as well as Middle Eastern nations such as Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Westmonster
Far from us going to the “back of the queue” as was warned by an unfriendly President Obama, it looks like there will be a long old queue of countries wanting to do a deal with Brexit Britain. In today’s Telegraph the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, reveals that “dozens of countries are preparing to expand their trading links to the UK” all keen for a mutually beneficial economic deal. Some of the countries keen reportedly include everyone from China and Australia. Oh and don’t forget, we also have an incoming US President who wants the UK front of the queue for a transatlantic deal as well. Yuge!

UKIP

Independent
Ukip leader Paul Nuttall is to become the party’s candidate in the Stoke Central by-election this year, it has been reported. According to a political correspondent for ITV, Mr Nuttall will “definitely” contest the seat in the West Midlands.A source said Mr Nuttall’s campaign is to be announced in the city at an event on the weekend, ITV’s Alison Mackenzie said. But Ukip has refused to confirm the reports, s
aying the selection process is not yet complete. A source within the party also told The Independent the claims are completely unfounded. Labour MP Tristam Hunt gave up the seat earlier in January, saying he had accepted a role as director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Mr Nuttall had come under pressure from party colleagues to stand for the seat and capitalise on Labour’s poor favorability ratings.

Breitbart
UKIP leader Paul Nuttall is set to stand in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, as the party seeks to win the seat from Labour. Party sources told an ITV News reporter that the MEP is “definitely” going to stand for the Midlands seat, and he is expected to be announced as UKIP’s candidate at an event on Saturday. Labour MP and former Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt vacated the seat earlier this month after he accepted a new job as the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. UKIP and the Conservatives were effectively tied at the last election, with UKIP winning just 33 more votes than the Tories. Labour’s share of the vote in the constituency has been falling for some years, and both rivals need just an 8.6 per cent swing to snatch it from Labour.

Express
UKIP officials tonight dismissed a report that party leader will “definitely” stand at the forthcoming Stoke Central by-election. The anti-Brussels party will unveil its candidate to fight for the Commons seat at an event in the city this Saturday, sources confirmed. Mr Nuttall was understood to be considering taking up the challenge in the constituency vacated by the resignation of Labour MP Tristram Hunt. And today ITN quoted Ukip sources saying he was “definitely” going to be the candidate. But a Ukip spokesman said: “That report is rubbish – no decision has been taken.” Party chiefs are currently overseeing a selection process to determine the candidate to be announced on Saturday, the spokesman said.

Scotland

BBC News
Nicola Sturgeon said that plans to take the UK out of the EU’s single market brought a second Scottish independence referendum “undoubtedly” closer. The first minister was speaking after Prime Minister Theresa May outlined her government’s thinking on Brexit. Ms Sturgeon, in a BBC interview, agreed that another vote on independence was “all but inevitable”. She believed that Scotland should be able to choose a “different future” to the one outlined by Mrs May. The Scottish government has repeatedly raised the prospect of a vote on independence if Scotland’s membership of the single market was threatened by a so-called hard Brexit.

NHS

Times
A fifth of new drugs will be rationed under tighter NHS cost-cutting plans, meaning that patients will suffer longer delays for medication. Sufferers of cancer, diabetes and asthma could have to queue for treatment as health chiefs are handed powers to restrict access to medicines to save money, even if they have been ruled cost-effective by doctors. Drug companies say that they will no longer launch drugs early in Britain if bureaucrats are given power to stop them from reaching patients for purely financial reasons. Campaigners warned that the plans would put Britain further behind the rest of Europe in offering cutting-edge therapies and more people would die while waiting for medicines.

Mail
Ambulance bosses are hiring paramedics from Poland and Finland in a desperate bid to fill jobs. More than 70 European paramedics are being drafted in to the North West Ambulance Service, which is failing to meet response times. The staffing shortage is so severe that one branch had as many as one in six posts empty. A Care Quality Commission report today says that, if the posts are not filled, ambulances will struggle to reach emergencies in time. The service, which has one of England’s worst response rates, serves 7million in the North West.

Times
Cancer could become untreatable, the chief medical officer has warned after a woman died from a superbug resistant to 26 antibiotics. Professor Dame Sally Davies, who is leading a global fight against antibiotic-resistant infections, warned that more people would die of diseases that are treatable at present if the world did not act against the growing threat. Overuse of antibiotics is speeding up the rate at which bacteria evolve to defeat them, making common infections more difficult to treat. Professor Davies has warned in the past of “apocalyptic” consequences if antibiotics stop working. There is a global effort to cut down on use of the drugs and find ways to encourage companies to develop alternatives.

Morning Star
TORY plans to “slash, trash and privatise” the NHS have been dealt another blow after a north-east London borough refused to agree to the government’s cuts programme. Waltham Forest Council’s cabinet threw out the dangerous North East London Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) on Tuesday night. It is the latest in a growing list of local authorities that have refused to sign up to the STPs — which campaigners say mean “slash, trash and privatise.” Cabinet member for health and wellbeing Ahsan Khan warned of a crisis in the NHS as he recommended that the cabinet reject the plans. “The plans are being rushed through with lack of consultation and democratic oversight,” he said. “We need to see adequate funding for social care from central government.”

Waste collections

Mail
The nightmare of monthly bin collections was exposed by furious households yesterday. Families told of having to burn rubbish or beg older neighbours to take in their waste. Some say they have to stand in bins, compacting the contents to save space. The residents live in Conwy, north Wales, one of the first areas to have general waste collected only once every four weeks. But many councils – including in Somerset, mid-Wales and parts of Northern Ireland – have similar plans. A Scottish local authority has moved permanently to a four-weekly system. Among others reportedly switching to three-week schedules are Oldham, North Devon, several in Scotland and Anglesey in Wales. 
Councils are under extreme financial pressures, especially over social care, and are faced with EU targets that demand at least half of household waste is recycled by 2020. Failure risks fines of up to £500,000 a day. The residents of Conwy complain the four-week policy is making their lives a misery, particularly at Christmas. They say they have to leave nappy bags outside their homes because special bins have not been delivered.

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