Brexit

Times
A Brussels demand for full, automatic and permanent residency rights for all European Union nationals coming to Britain for almost two years after Brexit is “not negotiable”, Guy Verhofstadt said today. The European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator has responded to Theresa May after the prime minister insisted that European migrants coming during a transition period after Britain leaves the EU would not have full rights. “The maintenance of EU citizens’ rights during the transition is not negotiable,” Mr Verhofstadt said, reminding Mrs May that MEPs have a veto over a final deal. “We will not accept that there are two sets of rights for EU citizens. For the transition to work, it must mean a continuation of the existing acquis [EU law] with no exceptions.”

Independent
The European Parliament’s Brexit chief has accused  Theresa May of being embroiled in negotiations with her own Cabinet, after she signalled she would not accept an extension of free movement to Britain under apparent pressure from hardline Brexiteers. The Prime Minister appeared to relent to anger from Tory right-wingers earlier this week while on a visit to China, when she announced she would not guarantee the rights of EU citizens who come to the UK during the Brexit transition period until 2021 – a key EU demand. She instead wants the cut-off date for citizens protected under the withdrawal agreement to be anyone who arrives before March 2019. But speaking on Thursday Guy Verhofstadt said the rights of EU citizens were “not negotiable” and that the Parliament, which has a veto on the final deal, would not accept the PM’s proposal.

Sky News
EU citizens arriving in Britain after Brexit must have different rights to those here before the cut off date, Downing Street has announced. Under the UK’s plans, anyone who arrives in the country before it leaves the EU will be allowed to apply for permanent “settled status”. They must have lived or go on to live in the UK for five years to receive it. But Theresa May wants to change the rights of those who arrive after the official divorce date – expected to be 29 March 2019 – so they would be subject to the new post-Brexit immigration scheme. That would likely mean visas, registration on arrival and an ability to add caps on benefits to EU migrants. Brussels insists otherwise – saying freedom of movement should continue until the transition ends when Britain formally quits the customs union.

Times
EU migrants must be treated “differently” as soon as Britain leaves the EU, Theresa May said yesterday, putting the UK at odds with Brussels for the start of transition negotiations next week. The prime minister insisted that Brexit supporters “didn’t vote for nothing to change” as she fought back against the EU’s hardening stance. In the preliminary withdrawal deal struck before Christmas, the EU appeared to agree that the cut-off date after which EU migrants to the UK would no longer be granted permanent residence would be March 29, 2019 — the date that Britain formally leaves the bloc. But European negotiators are now insisting that the date should be the end of the transitional period in 2020.

Mail
Treasury officials are ‘determined’ to thwart a clean break from the EU by keeping Britain inside the customs union, it was claimed last night. An extraordinary row broke out after a recording revealed that Tory MPs have been warned that civil servants secretly want to keep the country tied to Brussels. At a private lunch held at the party’s conference in October, a European Union expert raised the prospect that Britain would not leave the customs union – which allows tariff-free trade between EU countries – because of the resolve of civil servants. Remaining in the customs union is controversial with Brexiteers because it would force Britain to adopt the EU’s external trade tariffs, making it almost impossible to agree bilateral trade deals with other countries.

Telegraph
Treasury officials have developed bleak economic forecasts about Brexit in a bid to try to keep Britain in the Customs Union, ministers have been told. Steve Baker, a Brexit minister, confirmed he had been told that the Treasury had developed an economic model “to show that all options other than staying in the Customs union were bad”. He said that the allegations are “quite extraordinary” and that the Government will proceed with “great caution” on the claims because it wants to “uphold and support the impartiality of the civil service”. During a debate in the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, a senior eurosceptic Tory MP, said: “Will my hon. friend the minister confirm that he heard from Charles Grant that officials in the Treasury had deliberately developed a model to show that all options other than staying in the customs union were bad and that officials intended to use this to influence policy?

Independent
Civil servants may be secretly distorting evidence to “influence” the Government to stay in the EU’s customs union, a Brexit minister has suggested. Steve Baker  floated the conspiracy claim on the floor of the House of Commons, telling MPs he did not necessarily believe it – but did not rule it out. “I think it would be quite extraordinary if it turned out that such a thing had happened,” the hard Brexit supporter said. Mr Baker said he “considered it implausible” when the allegation was put to him by the head of an influential think-tank on EU policy. But he added: “What I would say is we need to proceed with great caution, because it is essential we continue to uphold and support the impartiality of the civil service.” The comments blindsided Downing Street, which said it was unaware that the allegation had been aired and declined to comment on it immediately.

Express
NEW evidence has emerged that pro-EU Treasury officials are attempting to force Britain to stay under Brussels rule after Brexit. A recording of comments made by Charles Grant, the director for the Centre of European Reform, has been published where he outlined how the Treasury is attempting to persuade Britain to stay in the EU’s customs union. The revelation follows months of concern that Chancellor Philip Hammond is trying to force Britain to stay under Brussels rule and last night a leading  Brexit group Leave Means Leave demanded an inquiry into the Treasury. Remaining in the customs union means that Britain would not be allowed to have its own trade policy and be dictated to from rules drawn up by Eurocrats in Brussels.

Customs union

Times
Britain should not be involved in any customs union with the EU after Brexit, Liam Fox has said in comments which will further complicate Theresa May’s attempt to broker a truce among warring Tory MPs. The international trade secretary said Britain could only “take control” by seeking trade deals across the world which are impossible within EU arrangements. The prime minister has committed to leaving the customs union but nerves are growing among Conservative Brexiteers that the government, and especially the Treasury, are pushing for a deal that effectively replicates its rules in key areas. This would limit the government’s ability to sign trade agreements with new global partners.

Sky News
The Prime Minister has insisted the UK will leave the EU’s Customs Union and negotiate a free-trade agreement that will be good for Britain and Europe. Speaking to Sky News Political Editor Faisal Islam, she said: “We are leaving the Customs Union. Then we are going to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the EU. “It’ll be a separate agreement we can negotiate,” the PM added. “That means we can get on with the job of enhancing trade round the world – important for prosperity and jobs.” Her comments will be seen as an attempt to assuage fears of those Tory MPs who fear a ‘soft’ Brexit and as a rebuke to colleagues such as Chancellor Philip Hammond, who last week suggested the UK-EU economic relationship would change only “very modestly”.

Immigration

Sun
JUST one in five EU migrants currently coming to the UK will be stopped after Brexit, shocking leaked plans revealed last night. Controversial Brexit impact studies  show a mere 40,000 newcomers will be slashed from the 230,000 EU citizens that come to Britain each year. And secret government plans show EU citizens will continue to be given VIP access to the UK despite Brexit in 2019. According to documents seen by the Telegraph Ministers plan to water down a promised Brexit immigration clampdown. Last month Tory unknown Caroline Nokes was promoted to Immigration Minister who attends Theresa May’s Cabinet, but has yet to set out her views on Britain’s borders after Brexit. However the leaked government warnings were said to claim a hit to immigration may not be offset by a boost to trade elsewhere with the world – but Ministers hotly disputed the numbers.

Telegraph
Ministers are drawing up plans for a post-Brexit immigration policy which would see just 40,000 fewer EU migrants a year come to UK, a leaked impact assessment suggests. The Telegraph can disclose the economic analysis, drawn up with the support of Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, suggests that EU workers will be given “preferential” treatment if Britain secures a free trade deal. Under a “flexible migration” scenario, described as a “midway point between strict policy and continued Labour mobility”, EU workers would have to earn £20,500 to come to the UK. More than 230,000 EU migrants currently come to the UK every year. The analysis suggests that migration controls will be far tougher if  Britain leaves the EU without a deal, leading to 90,000 fewer EU workers a year. 

EU

Express
EUROPEAN UNION negotiators will take a hard line in upcoming trade talks as they seek to limit the UK’s financial sector after Brexit in order to boost their own finance firms. Britain wants to put its financial sector at the heart of trade talks as it looks to protect the City of 
London – a key source of revenue for the Government. The EU commission predicts a smaller UK financial sector would create stability across Europe and allow for the development of markets within the bloc. Brussels is fearful that in a financial emergency Britain could prioritise companies UK operations over the firms’ activities in the rest of the EU. EU chiefs believe doing so could result in the withdrawal of capital and vital services from within the union.

Mail
Britain will have to pay money to Brussels‘s coffers to pay for single market access for the financial services, according to reports.  London‘s booming City contributes billions of pounds to the EU economy but some in Brussels have threatened to limit its access to the single market. EU diplomats are said to be plotting a ‘pay per access’ model for the UK’s financial services sector. Under the plans, the sector would be allowed access to the EU’s single market but only if the British taxpayer continues to pay into the EU budget.  Theresa May has ruled out paying vast quantities into the EU budget after Brexit and it remains how much cash the EU will demand under the model, which was revealed by the Politico website.

Times
Sanctions are being threatened by the European Union to prevent Britain undermining the bloc’s economy after  Brexit. Penalties against companies that receive state subsidies and putting Britain on a tax blacklist of unco-operative jurisdictions are among proposals contained in a strategy paper published this week by the European Commission. The plans are designed to maintain a “level playing field” and counter the risk of the UK slashing taxes or cutting red tape to attract business and investment after leaving the bloc. The document was released before reports emerged that Downing Street advisers are privately considering a customs deal with the EU that covers trade in goods.

Mail
Britain must threaten to deregulate the City if Brussels blocks a Brexit trade deal giving its financial services access to EU markets, a Tory MP has warned. Bim Afolami said ministers should tell the EU they will slash financial rules to let the City take on Paris and Frankfurt following any attempt to snatch business from London. The Tory MP, who was an HSBC executive in the City before being elected in June, said playing hardball was the only way to change the EU’s uncompromising stance. Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, says no free trade deal can include financial services. However, Mr Afolami told an event organised by the Politeia think-tank: ‘I voted Remain in the EU referendum, but I believe we need to get on with Brexit and get it right.

Express
BRUSSELS is planning to punish Britain with tax blacklists and sanctions post-Brexit in a bid to stop the UK undercutting the European Union’s economy, leaked papers have revealed. EU chiefs claimed in a presentation last week they wanted a “level playing field” to ensure they counter “clear risks” to stop the UK slashing taxes and relaxing regulation.  But astonishing papers reveal eurocrats believe the UK is too big and too close to treat it like a normal trading partner, so they are keen to enforce restrictions on state aid. The document, seen by the Financial Times, reads: “International rules do not adequately address the [potential] distortive effects of subsidies on investment, trade and competition.  “The EU-UK agreement will have to include robust provisions on state aid to ensure a level playing field.”

Westmonster
Trade Secretary Liam Fox has admitted that as things stand, Britain can’t even negotiate, “never mind sign” any trade agreements until the European Union gives the go-ahead. The EU wants Britain to enter into a ‘status quo’ transition period until the last day of 2020, during which the UK will have to accept free movement of people, ECJ rulings and new EU rules and regs. Basically, EU membership. And, of course, the UK won’t be able to sign trade deals with countries around the world…but now it’s seemingly been confirmed Britain can’t even NEGOTIATE deals. Fox said: “As everybody knows, we can’t negotiate never mind sign any agreements while we’re still in the EU and that’s likely to be extended if we were to have an implementation period, which business seems to want us to give them in terms of stability.

Reuters
British Trade Minister Liam Fox said on Friday it would be very difficult for Britain to remain in any kind of customs union with the European Union after Brexit. “It is very difficult to see how being in a customs union is compatible with having an independent trade policy because we would therefore be dependent on what the EU negotiated in terms of its trading policies and we’d be following behind that,” Fox told Bloomberg TV in China. “We have to be outside of that to take advantage of those growing markets. One of the reasons we are leaving the European Union is to take control and that’s not possible with a common external tariff.”

NHS

Times
The NHS crisis will continue well beyond winter, the Royal College of Nursing has warned, after the latest performance figure revealed hospitals without a single bed free. Weekly data published by NHS England showed there were four days last week when more than 95 per cent of hospital beds were occupied. Levels over 85 per cent raise serious safety concerns. Eight hospital trusts recorded bed occupancy levels of 100 per cent on some days. Donna Kinnair, director of nursing, policy and practice at the RCN, said: “When this happens, it becomes extremely difficult for A&E departments to get new patients admitted as emergencies, which leads to huge backlogs in A&E.”

Mail
The flu death toll in the UK has now reached 231, latest statistics shows as officials claim the killer outbreak is now ‘stabilising’. Some 193 deaths have been recorded in England, 26 are known to have died in Scotland and 12 in Northern Ireland. No precise data exists for Wales.  However, a fifth of the new fatalities are from previous weeks and have only just come to light, as cases have already peaked and are on the decline.  Thousands have been hospitalised by flu across the home nations, as four strains of the killer virus attack the population, including ‘Aussie’ and ‘Japanese’. But new infections have fallen across the UK, with the number of people reporting flu-like symptoms having fallen for the first time this winter – halving in a week. 

Telegraph
Victims of NHS blunders should receive smaller compensation payouts or the “staggering” costs of Britain’s negligence bills will bankrupt the health service, the Justice Secretary has been told. Health service leaders have written to the Government, calling for cuts to payments for patients who suffer devastating injuries as a result of medical errors. The controversial demand follows years of rising negligence payments, with current liability now at £65bn – a rise from £29 billion in 2014/15. The leaders of the NHS Confederation, the British Medical Assocation and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said recent changes in the law have had a “disastrous effect” in inflating payouts to those who have come to harm.

Mail
Ministers should raid the overseas aid budget to end the ‘stealth tax’ of hospital car parking charges, a senior MP demanded yesterday. MPs lined up in the Commons to criticise the scandal of vulnerable patients being forced to pay up to £4 an hour to visit their local hospital. Rob Halfon, an ex-minister and chairman of an influential select committee, revealed that families with cancer-stricken children are being forced to pay £37 a week on average, with some spending £10 a day. Some parents are having to pay £250 if their baby stays in a neonatal unit for eight weeks; and kidney dialysis patients are having to pay large amounts.

Sun
THE Government has been accused of ignoring an ongoing campaign to scrap hospital car parking charges yesterday after losing a Commons debate. Senior Tory and former minister Rob Halfon said he was “incredibly disappointed” after ministers claimed axing the “stealth tax” could have “unintended consequences”. Theresa May faces growing pressure to force NHS trusts to ditch all hospital car parking charges after a cross party bid to get ministers to tackle the issue. Backbencher Mr Halfon won the debate demanding the Government to intervene and scrap the fees, describing them as a “stealth tax” on the elderly, disabled and relatives of the sick. But Health Minister Steve Barclay claimed athough ditching the fees was desirable, it could have unintended consequences.

Guardian
The NHS will not be privatised because public support for it is so strong that any government seeking to change its funding model would be committing “political suicide”, an analysis has claimed. The research by the influential King’s Fund health thinktank dismisses fears – voiced by Labour and NHS campaigners including Prof Stephen Hawking – that the health service will be turned into a US-style private system. It reached its conclusions after analysing 34 years of British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey data, which show that the NHS has enjoyed consistently stronger backing from voters than education or welfare. “The public remains extremely supportive of the principles and core purpose of the NHS with a consistency in its responses since 1983 that is remarkable,” said Richard Murray, the fund’s director of policy, in a blog published on Thursday.

Mirror
A report in to the biggest loss of NHS medical letters has revealed they included 1,811 “high priority items” such as screening or urgent test results. The Government spending watchdog today releases the damning report after it emerged 702,000 pieces of paperwork had gone astray last October. They include 162,000 medical documents that had been mistakenly sent to the outsourcing firm Capita by Gps. It was feared the lost letters could include patient records, cancer tests, treatment plans and details of changes to the drugs patients should be taking. It comes after some NHS back office functions were outsourced to Capita including the transfer of some patient records.

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