EUROPEAN leaders are demanding that Britain puts at least £44 billion on the table before they are prepared to start talking about a trade deal, it emerged today. German media reported that a group of EU countries, led by Angela Merkel, are taking a tough line over the Brexit bill ahead of December’s crunch EU Council summit. On top of Britain’s commitment to cover its share of contributions up to the end of 2020 they want a firm cash offer on pensions and projects stretching into the future. This would add at least an extra £26 billion to the bill, according to EU calculations, taking the total amount pledged by Britain up to an eye-watering £44 billion. However, sources close to the negotiations also revealed that the bloc will attempt to soften the blow by withdrawing its demand that London covers the cost of relocating two EU agencies to the continent.
Countries which “do not want to open the door” to Muslim migrants and try to “protect Christianity” could “destroy Europe”, claims the EU’s longest-serving foreign minister. Veteran europhile Jean Asselborn, who has been in his post since 2004, made the extraordinary remarks in an interview with the German-language Tiroler Tageszeitungnewspaper, which is published in Austria. Asked for his thoughts on Central European countries fighting the EU’s attempts to impose compulsory migrant quotas across the bloc, the 68-year-old declared that “countries that do not want to open the door to refugees from the south, who speak Arabic and are Muslim, ignore the values … the EU actually represents.”
BRUSSELS’ justice chief today called for EU funding to be directly linked to countries accepting European law – in direct contradiction to her boss Jean-Claude Juncker. Czech commissioner Vera Jourova said there should be a “stronger conditionality” between member states complying with the club’s rules and their access to cash. Speaking in the Finnish capital Helsinki, she took a tough line on the action’s of Eastern European states including Poland and Hungary who are flouting Rule of Law guidelines. Her remarks will once again open up what is becoming a deepening rift within Europe, which is facing unprecedented challenges to its legal order as well as the financial hit from Brexit. They directly contradict recent statements by her boss, Mr Juncker, who has said that linking development funds to political compliance would be “poison for the continent”.
Whitehall’s spending watchdog will scrutinise Britain’s Brexit divorce bill to make sure it represents value for taxpayers’ money, ministers have been told. Sir Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, told the Treasury select committee that he will examine whether the bill, which is estimated to cost anything between £30bn and £90bn, represents value for money. In a rare appearance before MPs, Britain’s most senior auditor also urged the government to give HM Revenue and Customs extra resources to ensure that a back-up customs system can be put in place before March 2019. He also warned ministers to stop suffering from “optimism bias” over the number of major projects that they plan to implement whilst trying to leave the European Union.
One of the trio of Remoaners who went to meet with the EU’s Chief Negotiator is openly talking about ‘halting Brexit’. Labour’s Lord Adonis today tweeted that Parliament “must now take control & halt Brexit”. “Mistake for Parliament to have authorised Art 50 without clear HMG plan for Brexit. Parlt must now take control & halt Brexit.” He also made it crystal clear that his discussions with the EU’s Michel Barnier involved the ability of stopping the UK leaving the EU before March and that “we should do so”. “Clear from discussions in Brussels on Monday that UK can stop process of leaving EU whenever it likes before end March 2019. We should do so.” Total disrespect and contempt for the British people.
A TRIO of high-profile Remainers accused of trying to “undermine” Theresa May asked senior eurocrats how they can reverse Brexit during top-level meetings in Brussels, it emerged today. Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, Labour peer Andrew Adonis and Tory backbencher Ken Clarke jetted in for talks with senior EU officials on Monday in an incendiary move that enraged eurosceptics. Top Brexiteers accused the trio of attempting to “undermine” Mrs May in Brussels by making her look weak and even leaking details of Britain’s negotiating strategy to the EU side. And today it emerged that they did ask eurocrats for advice about how Brexit can be completely cancelled – a revelation that will further heighten eurosceptic fears that a “Remainer coup” is under way.
Britain’s election watchdog has begun an inquiry into whether Russia interfered in the Brexit referendum campaign. The Electoral Commission told The Times that it was “in dialogue” with Facebook and Twitter in response to allegations that Russia tried to influence the US presidential result. Its inquiry will also examine the growing role of social media in election campaigns amid concerns from the intelligence and security agencies that Russia is trying to destabilise the democratic process in Britain. “We are asking questions of Facebook and Twitter and this work is ongoing,” Bob Posner, the commission’s director of political finance and regulation, said. “We don’t just sit back and see what lands on our doorstep.”
Buckingham Palace is understood to be “not happy” after Labour MPs tried to drag the Queen into a row about Brexit yesterday, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. Labour MPs last night used a Parliamentary convention called a “humble Address” to try to force the Government to release Whitehall documents about the impact of leaving the European Union on the UK economy. Humble Addresses are binding on the Government and are normally used to debate non-controversial topics such as welcoming the Queen’s diamond jubilee, and not for airing contentious political issues. The motion was passed unanimously by MPs after the Tories sat on their hands, effectively forcing it to disclose elements of the assessments of the impact of Brexit on the UK. However, the Queen by convention has to respond to humble Addresses once they are passed by MPs.
Theresa May pulled the plug on Sir Michael Fallon last night after he warned there could be further revelations about his conduct with women as he was compared to ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ while drinking. In a resignation statement, the Defence Secretary, 65, said his past behaviour had ‘fallen below the high standards we require of the Armed Forces’. He also admitted to the BBC last night: ‘What might have been acceptable 15, 10 years ago is clearly not acceptable now’. His resignation came just 36 hours after it emerged he had repeatedly put his hand on the knee of journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer at a lunch 15 years ago and she threatened to punch him in the face unless he stopped.
Theresa May’s Government was thrown into crisis last night after the Defence Secretary became the first minister to resign over the sex scandal engulfing Parliament. Sir Michael Fallon said that his conduct may have fallen below the standards now expected of those in public life. He did not detail his misdemeanours but said that the “culture has changed over the years”. The resignation last night came less than 24 hours after Downing Street announced a Cabinet Office inquiry into whether another senior minister – Damian Green – had acted inappropriately towards a younger woman.
Sir Michael Fallon has become the first major scalp claimed by the growing Westminster sexual harassment scandal, resigning from his cabinet job amid expected further allegations of inappropriate behaviour. The ex-Defence Secretary who has been one of Theresa May’s most steadfast allies, admitted that in the past his actions fell “below the high standards” required of the armed forces he represented. In an ominous sign for other ministers caught up in the sexual harassment scandal, he added: “We’ve all got to look back now at the past.” Explaining his departure he said behaviour acceptable a decade ago no longer is, and the Prime Minister had made clear she wants staff protected and allegations of misconduct investigated, adding that from now on “it has to apply to all of us”.
Theresa May is expected to name a new defence secretary after the resignation of Sir Michael Fallon on Wednesday. He stood down saying his conduct had “fallen short” of standards, in the wake of allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said a “radical reshuffle” was not expected, but instead a “sideways move or single shuffle up”. Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said the “tone of politics had changed”. Sir Michael is the first politician to quit following recently revealed claims of serious sexual abuse in Parliament. He told the BBC that what had been “acceptable 15, 10 years ago is clearly not acceptable now”.
A US senator has warned that Russian cyber operatives are “setting up shop” in Scotland to foment support for a second independence referendum. Senator Angus King told a Washington hearing into Russian interference in last year’s US presidential election that Scotland was also on the Kremlin’s target list. He told the Senate Intelligence Committee: “We know the Russians were involved in the French election. We know that they were involved in the German elections. We are now learning they were involved in the separation of Spain. “And my understanding is they’ve set up shop in Scotland which is talking about an independence vote from Great Britain. This is a sophisticated worldwide strategy. It hasn’t stopped and it won’t stop.”
One in ten EU nurses left their jobs in Britain last year as a 67 per cent rise in Europeans quitting the profession fuels concerns over a staffing crisis. An exodus of nurses is accelerating, with increasing numbers of British staff also leaving, and the workforce shrinking faster than even a few months ago. Earlier this year regulators found that more nurses were leaving the profession than joining for the first time in a decade. That gap has widened, with 27 per cent more nurses leaving than joining in the year to September, up from 20 per cent in the year to March.
Dentists are inventing patients and billing the NHS for work that was never done, health officials have warned. Along with false claims by patients, the scam is helping fuel fraud that is costing the health service nearly £1.3billion a year. The head of the new NHS Counter Fraud Authority revealed yesterday that bogus claims by dentists are estimated at £121million a year, £70million of it for non-existent work. Cheating GPs are estimated to cost £81million, while NHS payroll and identity fraud account for £91million. Patients falsely claim £397million a year for exemptions for dental fees and prescription charges. The authority promised to investigate ‘without fear or favour’ to protect the NHS from the ‘despicable’ actions.
Fraud is costing the NHS in England more than £1 billion a year, according to a watchdog established yesterday. The NHS Counter Fraud Authority has promised to develop new strategies for fighting fake prescription claims and other “despicable” practices. Its analysis found that £1.25 billion a year — just over 1 per cent of the English NHS budget — was lost to bribery, corruption and fraud. Patients who falsely claim exemption from the prescription charge have been estimated to cost the taxpayer more than £200 million a year, with only £23 million recouped in fines. The latest figures put an official total on the cost of fraud for the first time, but the agency has warned that the true amount could be even higher.
The NHS today launched its first dedicated counter-fraud team with a mission to cut the more than £1bn health sector funding lost to fraudulent prescriptions and false claims. The NHS Counter Fraud Agency (NHSCFA) has said £1.25bn was a conservative estimate of the annual cost of fraud to the health service. And this is funding lost to the frontline which could pay for “40,000 extra nurses or 5,000 ambulances”, it said. Prescription and entitlement fraud, which is largely attributed to patients and the public, is one major area the agency will be tackling – with an estimated annual cost of £217m. Scams against GP practices and dentists, where a fraudster poses as a regular supplier and tricks the business into paying them, is also a target for the agency.
CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond must loosen the purse strings on the NHS in his upcoming budget, Unite argued yesterday as an alarming number of nurses are leaving the profession. Around 10 per cent of nurses from Britain have left the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register over the last 12 months, the union said. It comes after it was reported in July that 20 per cent more people left than joined it between 2016-17. The NMC figures come amid reports that Mr Hammond wants any increase in NHS funding tied to “higher productivity.” Unite lead professional officer for regulation Jane Beach said: “Our nurse members tell us that they are struggling to manage financially and Unite branches have had to make emergency payments so registered nurses can make ends meet.
Thousands of terminally ill patients risk dying in hospital when they could be at home because of ‘unacceptable’ delays accessing urgent care support and funding, according to a study. The report by end-of-life nursing charity Marie Curie estimates 57,000 patients who are terminally ill, or progressing to a terminal stage of their illness, are not receiving timely home terminal-care support. The charity found fewer than a third (28 per cent) of NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) hit national targets on providing fast-track Continuing Healthcare (CHC) support within 48 hours. Of the two thirds missing the target, a third (32 per cent) of CCGs reported patients waited more than a week, with some areas even reporting two week waits for this support.