Damian Green

Telegraph
Damian Green was tonight ordered to resign as First Secretary of State after a Cabinet Office investigation found he had misled the public and MPs over what he knew about pornography found on an office computer. The Prime Minister’s de facto deputy and closest ally was told to resign by Theresa May after she told him his conduct had breached the ministerial code of conduct and “fallen short” of the behaviour expected of ministers. He is the third Cabinet minister to be forced from office in the past two months and means that Mrs May ends the year with another crisis after she had appeared to turn around her fortunes with success in the Brexit talks. A seven-week inquiry, originally launched after a complaint of inappropriate behaviour towards women,  found that he had misled the public in two statements he made last month denying the police had ever told him about the material being found in a raid on his office in 2008.

Mail
Theresa May last night sacked her deputy Damian Green after a sleaze inquiry found he had failed to tell the truth about pornography found on his computer. The Cabinet Office investigation said he had issued two ‘inaccurate and misleading’ statements, denying he knew about the discovery made in a botched police raid on his Commons office in 2008. Sir Alex Allen, Theresa May’s adviser on ministerial interests, said the lack of candour amounted to two breaches of the ministerial code. This left the PM with no choice but to ask her friend of 30 years and deputy to resign. Mr Green, 61, who was first secretary of state, became the third Cabinet minister to resign in two months, following the exits of Sir Michael Fallon and Priti Patel. His fall from high office is the culmination of a decade-long feud with former Met Police chief Bob Quick, who revealed that ‘extreme’ porn was found on Mr Green’s Commons computer during a raid on his parliamentary office back in 2008.  

Times
Theresa May forced Damian Green, her deputy and closest ally, to resign last night after he admitted making “inaccurate and misleading” statements about pornography found on his parliamentary computer. In the biggest resignation of the Westminster sex scandal, Mr Green was found to have lied when he denied knowledge of material discovered on his Commons computer by police in 2008. 
A Cabinet Office inquiry also concluded that allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards Kate Maltby, a Tory activist and journalist 30 years his junior, were “plausible”.

Brexit

Sun
PHILIP Hammond is drawing up no-deal plans for Britain’s banking sector to continue to boom after Brexit. Ministers are preparing a draft finance bill – “if necessary” – to give bodies extra powers to make sure European banks can stay in Britain after we leave the bloc. Under plans released today, European banks won’t need to go through the lengthy and complicated process of setting up official offices in Britain. Banks offering money and services to each other and businesses are to operate under the same rules – even if we don’t get a deal with Brussels. Currently banks anywhere in the EU can sell their services to anywhere else in the bloc thanks to rules known as a financial services passport. Philip Hammond said today that no-deal was “unlikely”. He added: “I am confident that we will agree a deep and special partnership for the future with the EU27 and that we will soon finalise the terms of an implementation period that will ‎provide continuity as we move to that new partnership.”

Mail
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator delighted Eurosceptics yesterday by declaring that Britain’s transition out of the bloc must be completed by the end of 2020. Michel Barnier ruled out a lengthy transition period, saying Brussels would not allow it to last for more than 21 months after the UK formally leaves in March 2019. His intervention was welcomed by Eurosceptic MPs worried that it could take years for the UK to finally extricate itself from the EU. However, Mr Barnier also delivered a stark warning on trade, claiming that the UK could not rely on the EU to help it continue around 750 EU international agreements – including dozens of free trade deals – during the transition period. He said it would not be ‘logical’ to extend Britain’s effective membership of the EU beyond December 2020 when the current seven-year budget period runs out.

Independent
Downing Street has dismissed a warning from the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator that there will be no special deal for the City during future trade talks. Michel Barnier struck a blow to Theresa May’s hopes of a bespoke deal with Brussels, when he said there was “no place” for financial services in any post-Brexit trade deal. In a briefing after the first full Cabinet discussion of future relationship with the EU, her official spokesman hit back at the claims, saying the Government was “confident” of a good deal for financial services. Asked about Mr Barnier’s comments, the PM’s spokesman said: “As we’ve said throughout, we are confident at negotiating a deep and special economic partnership that will include a good deal for financial services. “As we’ve always been clear, that will be in the EU’s best interests as well as ours.” The spokesman added that it was to be expected that the European Commission would set out its position at the start of the second phase of negotiations, which are now underway after EU leaders decided last week that sufficient progress had been made on issues related to the divorce bill, the Irish border and EU citizens rights.

Express
MICHEL Barnier today backtracked on his tough talk under reported pressure from EU member states and agreed Britain will be offered a “tailor-made” trade deal with the EU. The bloc’s chief negotiator made the conciliatory remarks after he was slapped down by officials representing the EU27 over his insistence that the UK will not get an agreement on financial services.  They came after his deputy, Belgian official Stefaan De Rynck, told an event in London earlier this week that Britain’s new relationship would be bespoke, seemingly undermining his boss.  Mr Barnier has repeatedly spoken about how the only option available to Britain is a Canada-style free trade deal because of Theresa May’s red lines over free movement and the ECJ. In an interview this week he went further in spelling out what that would entail, in particular raising eyebrows with his comments over the lack of services access the UK can expect post-Brexit.  

Independent
The United Kingdom’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU will be “along the same lines” as the ones signed between the union and countries like South Korea, Japan, and Canada, the European Commission’s chief negotiator has said.  Michel Barnier said Theresa May’s red lines to take Britain out of the customs union and single market, and to reject the jurisdiction of European courts, meant a close relationship similar to the ones the EU has with other non-EU European countries was off the table. The statement is an explicit knock-back for Downing Street, which said only the day before that it wanted a “bespoke deal” with the EU that was “significantly more ambitious deal than the EU’s agreement with Canada”. “Logically, for the economic side of our partnership, we’ll be working on the basis of a free-trade agreement – along the same lines of what we negotiated and signed with Canada, South Korea, and Japan,” Mr Barnier told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. “There are of course differences between these different models, because each of these trade models is of course tailor-made and specific to these countries when we sign these agreements. 

Independent
Almost a quarter of Labour MPs have defied Jeremy Corbyn  and voted to keep the UK in the customs union after Brexit. The Labour leader had instructed MPs to abstain on the issue, but 63 MPs rebelled and voted for an amendment, tabled by Labour’s Chris Leslie, that would have seen the UK retain its customs union membership. Three Brexit-supporting Labour MPs – Frank Field, Dennis Skinner and Kate Hoey – also defied the party whip and sided with the Conservatives to vote against the amendment. Almost a quarter of Labour MPs have defied Jeremy Corbyn and voted to keep the UK in the customs union after Brexit. The Labour leader had instructed MPs to abstain on the issue, but 63 MPs rebelled and voted for an amendment, tabled by Labour’s Chris Leslie, that would have seen the UK retain its customs union membership.

EU

Express
BRITAIN must sign up to another two years in the controversial Common Fisheries Policy but will get no vote on how quotas are set during the transition, new EU proposals reveal today. Michel Barnier laid out the uncompromising position as the Commission put forward new directives, which need to be signed off by EU leaders, for a bridging period on membership terms.  The Frenchman stressed that “all community policies”, including the heavily criticised CFP and its agricultural equivalent the CAP, will “continue to apply” for the duration of a transition.  However, Britain will formally leave the EU institutions on March 30, 2019 meaning it will no longer have a seat on the Fisheries Council where mandatory quotas are set.  That means the UK will not get a vote when the limits for catches in our waters are set, though Brussels is planning a mechanism so Downing Street can be “consulted” on such decisions. 

Sun
THERESA May yesterday refused a fresh Spanish bid to hold a Brexit transition deal to ransom over Gibraltar. The Madrid government persuaded EU bosses to include a last minute demand in its negotiating position over the two year period about the Rock. Under it, a separate agreement must be struck between the UK and Spain if the territory is to be covered by transition arrangements and not cast out on Brexit day. Madrid wants to use Brexit to force joint sovereignty on the British outpost, as well as make a grab for its airport and lucrative off-shore businesses. Quizzed on the attempted power grab during PMQs, Mrs May shot down the request to insist Gibraltar will leave the EU at the same time and on the same terms as the whole of the UK. The PM said: “We are not going to exclude Gibraltar from our negotiations from either the implementation period or the future agreement.”

Independent
The European Commission has taken the unprecedented step of recommending a move towards political sanctions against  Poland to stop the drift towards authoritarianism in the EU member state. Over the last two years Polish government has passed 13 laws that would help it stuff “the entire structure of the justice system” with political appointees, including courts that decide the validity of election results. It comes amid a growing nationalist movement in the country operating with the tacit support of the government. After years of warnings about the changes, the Commission on Wednesday said it was moving to invoke Article 7.1 of the EU treaty for the first time ever – starting a legal process whose end would see Poland stripped of its voting rights at EU level. 
Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission, told reporters in Brussels that the Commission was invoking the treaty clause “with a heavy heart”. “If you put an end or limit the separation of powers, you break down the rule of law, and that means breaking down the smooth functioning of the Union as a whole,” he said.

Breitbart
As Theresa May prepares to visit Poland and the European Commission prepares to launch sanctions against it, the European Parliament’s chosen Brexit negotiator is demanding the Prime Minister condemn Warsaw to prove Britain’s loyalty to “EU values”. Former Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt told 
The Telegraph he expects the British premier to demonstrate her country will remain loyal to “European liberal democratic values” — as defined by EU insiders like himself — after Brexit. “The current Polish government is guilty of backsliding on the rule of law and undermining European democratic values,”  alleged the 64-year-old MEP. “I hope Theresa May will firmly raise this issue in Warsaw. This visit is an important first test of the UK’s pledge to defend European liberal democratic values, as we move forward together to build a strong security partnership,” he said.

Westmonster
Guy Verhofstadt has told Theresa May to prove that she’s committed to ‘European values’ by going to Poland and  condemning the government for wanting to be in charge of its own legal system and implementing internal reform. The MEP is now setting the British PM tasks to prove her worth – as if Brussels still thinks it can tell the British government what to do! Theresa May has, after many months, agreed a Brexit transition period that doesn’t end free movement of people and continues to put Britain under the thumb of the ECJ. The EU are having it all their own way in the negotiations. What more does Verhofstadt want?! This sums up the arrogance of Europhiles. Nothing other than total subservience will ever be good enough for Brussels big wigs.

NHS

Mail
Staff on NHS maternity wards make blunders during one in every five births, figures show today. They reveal almost 280,000 errors on NHS maternity units in the last two years amid pressure from a rising birth rate fuelled by migrants, and a shortage of midwives. Although many of the mistakes did not endanger mother or baby, almost 64,000 resulted in some kind of ‘harm’ – while nearly 800 caused brain damage or death. The figures from regulator NHS Improvement equate to almost 400 errors a day as maternity wards struggle to deal with the rise in older mothers, the high birth rate and staff shortages. Increasing numbers of women are having their babies in their 30s and 40s, increasing the likelihood of complications. Many are also undergoing IVF and so having twins or triplets while, on top of this, half of all women giving birth are either overweight or obese. Meanwhile, the number of births has risen significantly in the last two decades, with rising immigration contributing to the increase.

Independent
More than 2.3 million older people are missing out on vital  social care to help them with basic tasks, with deprived communities most likely to lose out, new analysis shows. Labour warned that the “quality of care is on a precipice” as providers face significant financial pressures, with cuts on council funding due to spiral to £6.3bn by next year amid increasing demand from the ageing population. Older people in the most deprived areas were significantly more likely to have unmet care needs than their more affluent peers, according to analysis of an official survey of thousands of people in England. It comes amid warnings of intense pressures on the wider health service, as increased demand, tightening budgets and poor working conditions have seen  more than 100,000 NHS jobs lying vacant.

Migration

Mail
Mass migration has helped price the young out of the housing market over last decade, a new report has warned. High levels of net migration have fuelled demand for rental properties which means young people are ‘paying the price’ through higher rents. In turn, this has made it more difficult for them to save a deposit to get on the housing ladder, according to a paper by a think-tank.
Migrationwatch accused ministers of ‘indefensibly ignoring or downplaying’ the fact that migration is a ‘major component’ driving demand for homes in Britain. It said: ‘There seems little doubt that population growth, fuelled by immigration is increasing demand for homes and this will be having an impact on house prices which have increased dramatically in England in recent years, pushing them beyond the reach of many young people and others who did not already own property.’ In the last ten years net migration – the difference between those leaving and arriving in Britain – has totalled 2.5million.

North Korea

Telegraph
America is drawing up plans for a “bloody nose” military attack on North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons programme, The Telegraph understands. The White House has “dramatically” stepped up preparation for a military solution in recent months amid fears diplomacy is not working, well-placed sources said. One option is destroying a launch site before it is used by the regime for a new missile test. Stockpiles of weapons could also be targeted.  The hope is that military force would show Kim Jong-un that America is “serious” about stopping further nuclear development and trigger negotiations.  Three sources – two former US officials familiar with current thinking and a third figure in the administration – confirmed military options were being worked up. 

Sun
NORTH Korea’s neighbours say the rogue state is now conducting illegal biological weapons tests to see if it can load anthrax-laden warheads onto its missiles. The shocking report – out of Japan today  – cites top-level contacts within the South Korean intelligence service. The Asahi newspaper report said the US government is aware of the tests, which were meant to ascertain whether the anthrax bacteria could survive the high temperatures that occur when warheads re-enter from space. North Korea has a stockpile of between  2,500 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, and is capable of producing biological agents such as anthrax and smallpox, South Korea stated. The terrifying revelations come a day after the White House published its National Security Strategy, a document that said Pyongyang is “pursuing chemical and biological weapons which could also be delivered by missile”. “North Korea – a country that starves its own people – has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that could threaten our homeland,” the report said.

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